Let us assume that you are evaluating Narendra Modi and his party, the BJP, for their fitness to “rule”. You have heard conflicting reports about the Gujarat riots; and about Gujarat’s development – so you are not able to decide one way or another.
This was my position a couple of years back. I did not like Modi’s PR campaign. I did not like his development policies – for both I had sound reasons.
However, I could not find the truth about the riots. On the one side were a set of people calling it a genocide; ethnic cleansing and so on. There were indirect reports (for example the murdered Haren Pandya’s statement) that Modi had allegedly told a group of police officials “to allow the mobs to vent their anger on Muslims”. On the other side were several other reports and the SIT’s “clean chit”. I could not figure out directly about Modi’s conduct before and after the riots.
So, I decided not to focus on that. Instead I set about finding some other non-controversial set of facts, that would help me get a view about the post-riots conduct of the Gujarat government. My belief is that in politics and in life, sometimes you have to look for likelihoods than certainties.
For now, let us assume that Narendra Modi played no part in the actual running of the riots. Now, let us study the following after the riots happened. These are facts that are not really in dispute.
I would you like you to keep an open mind reading the below:
1. Bharat Pandya, Gujarat government spokesperson, tells BBC “Hindus are frustrated over the role of Muslims in the on-going violence in Indian-administered Kashmir and other parts of India” on 19 March 2002.
This is the Gujarat government, saying after riots that “Hindus are frustrated over the role of Muslims”.
Where is Bharat Pandya now?
He is the BJP General Secretary in Gujarat.
Note that Godhra is forgotten in the above. Not only that, he talks about the violent people who took part in the riots as “Hindus”. This is the Gujarat government within 20 days of the riots.
2. You can read about the Naroda-Patiya massacre for which 32 people were convicted by the Special Court, two of whom were Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani, BJP Cabinet Minister. What were they convicted for? Criminal Conspiracy – the SIT report said that Kodnani, Bajrangi and other leaders had led violence as well as “instigating the mob”.
Kodnani’s telephone records revealed that she had made calls to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) on the day of the massacre and that her telephone was located at places where the violence occurred. She had also contacted numerous police officials, especially K.K. Mysorewala, the police inspector in charge of Naroda at the time of the massacre.
Her logs also revealed that she had received calls from the CMO and other police officers, the reasons for which are unknown.
Now, when the riots were happening, what did Modi say about Naroda-Patiya massacre?
On 1 March 2002, Modi, talking about the violence, said that he tried everything to control the “riots resulting from the natural and justified anger of people”, The state government stated that the massacre was “a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra train carnage and the state government and ruling party had nothing to do with it”
In other words, the massacre that Modi kept saying were “natural, spontaneous” and so on, were shown as coming out of a criminal conspiracy by a set of people, 10 years later, by the court.
Let us probe further – who was Maya Kodnani at the time of the riots?
Ok, at that time she was a BJP MLA. Not a minister.
In 2007, she was made a Cabinet Minister by Narendra Modi (by the way, Maya Kodnani had by then been “elected three times consecutively” by her constituency).
The SIT team charged her in 2009, on which she went absconding until she got anticipatory bail.
What is interesting is this – Maya Kodnani was already mentioned in several complaints ON THE NIGHT OF 28 Feb 2002!
That is, Maya Kodnani, who led a conspiracy that led to gruesome massacre in 2002; and was mentioned in several complaints in 2002, was then made Cabinet Minister in 2007. This is the massacre, which, according to Modi was resulting from “natural and justified anger”.
3. Let us now leave Maya Kodnani alone for a moment and ask this question – what happened to all these complaints?
What did the Gujarat government do, from 2002 to 2008, until the SC stepped in? What did they specifically do on Naroda-Patiya?
The answer to this should be interesting – you see, in whichever way you read it, the investigations into the specific Gujarat massacres; along with convictions for them did not even seem to occur until the SC intervened in 2008.
We seem to assume that it is somehow natural for a state government to not investigate such a huge deal as Gujarat riots, when a 1000 people were killed by official estimates alone; and the shows of extreme violence occurred. I do not accept this – I expect a “great administrator” such as Narendra Modi to swing into action and actually punish the guilty. Let us forget about punishments – what happened to investigations?
So, let us find out more on this end. Mind you, never for a moment am I saying that Modi “ordered” the riots or that the riots are state-sponsored. Assuming that these riots were “natural” I am simply trying to see what should have happened “naturally” AFTER the riots.
On 6 March 2002, Gujarat appointed Justice Shah to probe the Godhra train burning incident. In the meantime, Naroda-Patiya, Gulberg Society massacres had already happened. Yet, the Gujarat government did not investigate those at all.
Instead, 10 of these cases, among them Naroda-Patiya, Gulberg and so on were taken up by the Supreme Court, which set up the Special Investigation Team, in 26 Mar 2008.
From Feb 2002 to Mar 2008, what were the investigations done into these massacres by the Gujarat government? Who was arrested? How could the SIT come in, and finish its report in two years – particularly since the trail had gone cold?
This is the question that puzzles me – surely an efficient administrator; and the party of “accountability” should have been able to identify the same conspiracy in Naroda-Patiya? Why did the SC had to act?
In every case, such as Best Bakery; Naroda-Patiya and Gulberg Society massacres, we see a Gujarat government that essentially did nothing – it left the victims with no witness protection; it held no police officers to account. Instead, everything was left to the victims – to be the police to file FIRs; register complaints; and to take up these cases with the High Court.
Yet, they probed Godhra!
The overall narrative that comes out of the Gujarat riots from Modi’s government is:
1. Emphasize Godhra
2. Call the riots natural
3. No investigations!
May be Modi is innocent. But he sure looks pretty incompetent when it comes to the riots. He sure seems to have bad judgement when he commented about them.
This the man whom we are supposed to trust with “development”!