‘Modi was fid­dling while Gu­jarat was burn­ing’

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Kuldip Na­yar Email:kuldip­na­yar09@gmail.com

ear­lier in the day. Many years later, when I was the Rajya Sabha mem­ber, I raised the ques­tion of 1984 anti-Sikh ri­ots and wanted ap­point­ment of a high-pow­ered com­mis­sion to probe the en­tire hap­pen­ing. L.K. Ad­vani sup­ported me. Jus­tice G.T. Nana­vati, who had probed the Gu­jarat killings, was ap­pointed to head the com­mis­sion. In an other­wise fair re­port that he sub­mit­ted to the govern­ment, Jus­tice Nana­vati had evaded nam­ing the per­son be­hind the anti-Sikh ri­ots. When I met him later to com­plain that he did not name the per­son, he shrugged his shoul­ders and said that every­body knew who were be­hind the ri­ots. This is true, but if he had named them in his re­port, it would have made all the dif­fer­ence.

The head of a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT), R.K. Ragh­van, prob­ing 10 cases fol­low­ing in­struc­tions from the Supreme Court, al­lowed his ide­ol­ogy to have the bet­ter of him, although he had been an out­stand­ing po­lice of­fi­cer. Even the court has not com­mented on Naren­dra Modi, then chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat, although it had all the de­tails be­fore it. By send­ing to the trial court the case of for­mer Con­gress MP, Eshan Jafri, who along with 69 peo­ple were burnt or butchered alive at the Gul­burga So­ci­ety in Ahmed­abad, the Supreme Court had only passed on the buck. This is the same Supreme Court which com­mented on Modi: Nero was fid­dling while Rome was burn­ing.

The sort of re­port the SIT has sub­mit­ted can be made out from the ev­i­dence of two re­tired judges it had ig­nored. Both had in­ter­viewed the then Home Min­is­ter, Haren Pandya, who was murdered be­cause he had started speak­ing the truth. Ac­cord­ing to the two judges, P.B. Sawant, who was on the Supreme Court bench, and Jus­tice H. Suresh of the Bom­bay High Court, Pandya told them that the chief min­is­ter had di­rected the po­lice to give Hin­dus a free hand to vent their anger dur­ing the ri­ots.

Both judges were mem­bers of the Peo­ple’s Tri­bunal which held Modi guilty. That there is not a sin­gle FIR filed against the chief min­is­ter is not a plus point. He had cre­ated so much fear in the minds of the vic­tims that they dared not to go to the po­lice sta­tion, hardly safe for Mus­lims at that time. To in­cite peo­ple Modi also had ar­ranged to pa­rade through Ahmed­abad streets the 49 bod­ies of kar se­vaks who had been burnt alive on a train at God­hara while re­turn­ing from a pil­grim­age. This had ter­ri­ble reper­cus­sions. Even to­day, Mus­lims in Gu­jarat gen­er­ally con­fine them­selves to their lo­cal­i­ties fear­ing that they may be at­tacked.

They have not for­got­ten how 2000 from their com­mu­nity were killed and how sev­eral thou­sands were ousted from their homes and lands. Some Mus­lims have tried to re­turn, but have found that they are not wel­come to their places where they and their fore­fa­thers had lived for ages. True, the hor­ror of Gu­jarat had shaken the na­tion. Yet, no amount of con­dem­na­tion by the pub­lic and the me­dia has made Modi re­lent, much less force him to apol­o­gise. He had re­fused to say sorry and had gone about ar­rang­ing the hum­bug of sadb­ha­vana (good­will) sit­tings at big cities of the state. Modi had a lot to hide. Spe­cific in­stances of murders, when re­con­structed or proved, pin­point to the state’s plot for eth­nic cleans­ing.

Brave po­lice of­fi­cers like San­jay Bhatt have told the truth, even at the risk of an­noy­ing Modi who had un­leashed his re­pres­sive, one-sided ad­min­is­tra­tion against Bhatt. He is suf­fer­ing alone and even the Gu­jarat High Court has not come to his aid. Still Bhatt had said in an af­fi­davit that Modi in­structed his of­fi­cers to let Hin­dus vent their anger on Mus­lims. In the case of Sikhs, Prime Min­is­ter Manmohan Singh and Con­gress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi have of­fered their apolo­gies for the 1984 ri­ots. Modi and his party, BJP, have not done even that. Now that he is the Prime Min­is­ter, he should have had the grace to apol­o­gise for what he had re­port­edly done in 2002 when he was the chief min­is­ter of Gu­jarat.

Why there is so much um­brage against the anti-Mus­lim and anti-Sikh ri­ots even af­ter years of their oc­cur­rence is not yet un­der­stood ei­ther by the BJP in the first case of Gu­jarat or by the Con­gress in the sec­ond case of Sikhs. The rea­son is that there is prac­ti­cally no ac­tion against those peo­ple who had soiled their hands with blood. The BJP had saved them in Gu­jarat and the Con­gress did so in Delhi and else­where. Still worse, both par­ties do their best to pro­tect the ad­min­is­tra­tions which had planned and ex­e­cuted th­ese ri­ots. —The writer is a vet­eran In­dian jour­nal­ist, syn­di­cated colum­nist, hu­man rights ac­tivist and au­thor.

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