No Clean Chit
By Teesta Setalvad
There is something distasteful about the brazenly consistent efforts made by those who stand for powerful accused misrepresenting facts to salvage what remains of their conscience. Nothing less than that is really expected from a party and an ideology that thrives on bloodletting and hatred, and worse seeks to emerge morally righteous irrespective. I shall, this week not labour on the fact that India has had the dishonor of swearing in a union home minister and a minister for human resources development who actively participated in a publicly criminal act, the demolition of a religious place of worship. The Babri Masjid, 6.12.1992 as LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi cheered and watched.
Remember also the crass victory signs that senior lawyer Ravi Shankar Prasad waved when the Allahabad high court delivered it’s highly questionable verdict in late September 2010? He did the same when, on 12.9.2011, when the Supreme Court remanded the Zakia Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace case to be heard before a Magistrate. Amicus Curaie Raju Ramachandran has in this case recommended the prosecution of chief minister Modi for criminal acts.
For this week I seek to remind readers about the concerted (if disparate) efforts to absolve the Gujarat government of any liability, legal, criminal or moral for the mass crimes of 1992. That the political party and ideology that has benefitted from this self serving hypocrisy would do it is understandable, if shameful. But why does the media, or large sections of it, electronic and print, fall in line? In failing to deconstruct the white-wash behind the claim of the clean vhit, the media does fair reportage and public memory a disservice.
The charade began in December 2010 when the matter was being heard before the Supreme Court and India’s largest English language daily ran a front page story claiming that the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) had given the Accused in this case—Narendra Modi and 59 others, a clean chit.
Within months, the SIT report was out in the public domain. It exposed the front page story to be what it was, a motivated distortion of facts. Today, in the run up to 2014, when every efforts, illegitimate and coercive are being made to prevent Zakia Jafri and CJP from filing an appeal against the 26th December 2013 judgement of the Magistrate, I shall attempt to correct this motivated misrepresentation and share the contents.
In both reports, first by the SIT, filed in May 2010 before the Supreme Court (that includes Chairman RK Raghavan's Comments separately) and the Closure report filed before the Magistrate on 8.2.2012, the SIT has held that while there is evidence and many of the allegations made in the Zakia Jafri Complaint dated 8.6.2006 are true and correct, in its own assessment, this evidence is not prosecutable. This is not a clean chit to Modi as is being propagated. Neither does It take away the moral responsibility for the crimes. The legal issue as I have said before, we shall be appealing in the appropriate court.
Modi’s Callous and Communal Mindset (chief minister and state home minister since 2002)
The SIT Report (May 2010) report says, “In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” (Page 69 of the SIT Report to the SC, May 2010)
Modi’s Discriminatory Attitude. The 2010 SIT report to the SC says Modi displayed a “discriminatory attitude by not visiting the riot-affected areas in Ahmedabad where a large number of Muslims were killed, though he went to Godhra on the same day, travelling almost 300 km on a single day.” (Page 67) The SIT chairman also comments that “Modi did not cite any specific reasons why he did not visit the affected areas in Ahmedabad city as promptly as he did in the case of the Godhra train carnage.” (Page 8 of chairman’s comments, SIT report to SC May 2010)
Sweeping and Offensive Statements by Modi. SIT Chairman RK Raghavan (May 2010 to the SC) further comments that Modi’s statement “accusing some elements in Godhra and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.” (Page 13 of SIT chairman Raghavan’s comments, SIT report to SC May 2010)
Modi Justified Killing of Innocents. The inquiry officer (AK Malhotra also notes: “His (Modi) implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community read together with an absence of a strong condemnation of the violence that followed Godhra suggest a partisan stance at a critical juncture when the state had been badly disturbed by communal violence.” (Page 153 of the SIT Report to SC, dated May 2010)
Modi’s Election Gaurav Yatra Speech at Behacharaji, Mehsana controversial and definitely hinted at a growing minority population. The explanation given by Shri Modi is unconvincing and it definitely hinted at the growing minority population. (Page 160 SIT Report to SC, May 2010). These columns have excerpted the speech in the past.
SIT Closure Report (2012): While the amicus finds the words spoken by the chief minister an offence, an incitement to violence and hatred against a particular section of the Indian people, in its closure report, the SIT finds that no criminal offence has been committed and recommends a closure of these allegations.
Modi Government Took No Steps to Stop Illegal Bandh. According to the SIT report of 2010 to the SC, the Gujarat government did not take any steps to stop the illegal bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on 28 February 2002. On the contrary the BJP had supported the bandh. (Page 69, SIT Report to SC, May 2010) (It is important to remember that it was Hindu mobs mobilised by the local VHP and BJP leaders in the name of bandhs that had carried out the horrific massacres at Naroda and Gulberg Society on 28 February 2002 and those all over the state over the next days. March 1 was a state wise bandh when massacres at Randhikpur-Sanjeli, Sardarpura, Sesan, Odh, Pandharwada and Kidiad among others took place)
Modi as Home Minister did not Act to prosecute Hate Speech. According to the SIT report of 2010 to the SC, despite detailed reports recommending strict action submitted to Modi by field officers of the State Intelligence Bureau, Modi as Home Minister failed to take action against a section of the print media that was publishing communally- inciting reports, inflaming base emotions. This had vitiated the communal situation further. (Page 79, SIT Report to SC, May 2010)
Modi as Home Minister responsible for Destruction of Crucial Records. The 2010 SIT report to the SC says “The Gujarat government has reportedly destroyed the police wireless communication of the period pertaining to the riots.” It adds, “No records, documentations or minutes of the crucial law and order meetings held by the government during the riots had been kept.” (Page 13, SIT Report to SC, May 2010)
SIT Confirms the Serious Allegation that Godhra Dead Bodies were handed over to Jaideep Patel of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in an illegal and controversial move. Jaideep Patel of the VHP was also allowed to attend an official meeting at the Collectorate, Godhra by the chief minister himself.
In the 2010 SIT Report to the SC, the SIT says, “SIT inquiry revealed that there was in fact a discussion at Godhra on the final disposal of bodies of those killed in the Godhra carnage. This was during chief minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the town on the afternoon of February 27, 2002. It was held at the collectorate. It is not clear who all were present or consulted. Apart from the district collector, the presence at least of Gordhan Zadaphiya (MoS, home) and Jaideep Patel, VHP activist, has been confirmed…..”… (pgs 19-23, SIT Report to the SC, May 2010; pgs 2-3, Chairman’s Comments, SIT report to SC May 2010). The SIT Closure Report 8.2.2012 also admits that Jaideep Patel transported the dead bodies to Ahmedabad.
A series of questionable and illegal actions have been confirmed through the SIT Investigations. Until the higher courts give their verdict on the issue, prematurely and coercively trying to throttle legitimate appeal suggests ulterior and questionable motives.
(These columns will return to Past and Prejudice next week and deal with other issues related to the ‘so called clean chit’ the week after.)