Travesty of jus­tice in In­dia

Pakistan Observer - - EDITORIALS & COMMENTS - Mo­ham­mad Jamil Email: mjamil1938@hot­

AF­TER 14 years of Gu­jarat ri­ots, a Spe­cial In­ves­tiga tion Team (SIT) court awarded life im­pris­on­ment to 11 of the 24 per­sons con­victed in the Gul­berg So­ci­ety mas­sacre of 69 peo­ple, in­clud­ing for­mer Lok Sabha mem­ber of the Con­gress Ah­san Jafri in the vi­o­lence. Twelve of the con­victs were sent to jail for seven years and one was given 10-year im­pris­on­ment. It is in­deed travesty of jus­tice. Spe­cial Court Judge P.B. De­sai in his re­marks called the Gul­berg mas­sacre as the dark­est day in the his­tory of civil so­ci­ety; yet he re­jected the de­mand for death sen­tence for all the con­victs. The pros­e­cu­tion had ar­gued that all the 24 con­victs should be given the death penalty. Zakia Jafri, the wi­dow of for­mer Con­gress MP Ah­san Jafri was not happy with the sen­tence. “This case is not over for me to­day. This is not jus­tice,” said Mrs. Jafri.

The ri­ots had started on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2002 af­ter a train coach car­ry­ing Hindu pil­grims caught fire in Godhra sta­tion in Gu­jarat. Hindu zealots had at­tacked Mus­lims with the ru­mors that Mus­lims had set afire the train coach. Within hours and with­out a shred of ev­i­dence, Naren­dera Modi had de­clared that the Pak­istani se­cret ser­vices were in­volved. He then had the charred bod­ies pa­raded in the main city of Ahmed­abad and had let his own party sup­port a state-wide strike for three days. What fol­lowed was mass blood­shed: 1,000 dead on offi- cial es­ti­mates, but more than 2,000 by in­de­pen­dent tal­lies. The vast ma­jor­ity of those who died were Mus­lim. Mobs of men dragged women and young girls out of their homes and raped them. In 2007, the in­ves­tiga­tive mag­a­zine Te­helka recorded boasts from some of the ring­leaders. One, Babu Ba­jrangi bragged about how he slit open the womb of a preg­nant woman.

In­dian state of Gu­jarat was gov­erned by then chief min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, which wit­nessed one of the coun­try’s big­gest pogroms. The ri­ots flared up again on 15 March; killing, rap­ing and loot­ing con­tin­ued un­til mid-June. More than 2,000 Mus­lims were mur­dered, and tens of thou­sands ren­dered home­less in a planned and co­or­di­nated at­tacks. The killers were re­port­edly in touch with po­lice and politi­cians and were pro­vided pro­tec­tion. Ac­cord­ing to the 2011 Am­i­cus re­port, two cab­i­net min­is­ters even sat in po­lice con­trol rooms, and Naren­dra Modi ex­plic­itly in­structed civil ser­vants and po­lice not to stand in the killers’ way. Spe­cial po­lice squads were called from Pun­jab, who had the ex­pe­ri­ence of con­trol­ling the Sikh re­bel­lion through use of bru­tal force. A se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer’s sworn state­ment to In­dia’s Supreme Court in 2011 had al­leged that Gu­jarat Chief Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi de­lib­er­ately al­lowed anti-Mus­lim ri­ots in the state.

San­jiv Bhatt, then a se­nior of­fi­cer in the Gu­jarat In­tel­li­gence Bureau said he at­tended a meet­ing at which Naren­dra Modi said that the Hin­dus should be al­lowed to vent their anger. In a sworn state­ment to the Supreme Court, he said that his po­si­tion al­lowed him to come across large amounts of in­for­ma­tion and in­tel­li­gence both be­fore and dur­ing the vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing the ac­tions of se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cials. He also al­leged that in a meet­ing in the night be­fore the ri­ots, Naren­dera Modi told of­fi­cials that the Mus­lim com­mu­nity needed to be taught a les­son fol­low­ing an at­tack on train car­ry­ing Hindu pil­grims. The pogrom was ex­ten­sively tele­vised by In­dia’s TV chan­nels. Many In­di­ans were shocked to hear how even the very young had not been spared – the slayers of Mus­lims were seen smash­ing the heads of chil­dren against rocks.

In a sting car­ried out in 2007 by the weekly mag­a­zine Te­helka, politi­cians, busi­ness­men, of­fi­cials and po­lice­men were caught on tape, de­light­edly re­call­ing how they mur­dered and raped Mus­lims with the bless­ings of their su­pe­ri­ors. Any­how, co­or­di­nated at­tacks on Mus­lims soon fol­lowed. Some 98,000 peo­ple were dis­placed in Gu­jarat by the 2002 ri­ots that were put up in re­lief colonies. Fol­low­ing the ini­tial in­ci­dent there were fur­ther out­breaks of vi­o­lence in Ahmed­abad for three weeks; statewide, there were fur­ther out­breaks of mass killings against the mi­nor­ity Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion for three months. Some com­men­ta­tors hold the view that the at­tacks had been pre-planned and well-or­ches­trated, and that the at­tack on the train was stage-man­aged. In Fe­bru­ary 2011, the trial court con­victed 31 peo­ple and ac­quit­ted 63 oth­ers based on the mur­der and con­spir­acy pro­vi­sions of the In­dian Pe­nal Code, say­ing the in­ci­dent was a pre­planned con­spir­acy.

The death penalty was awarded to 11 con­victs; twenty oth­ers were sen­tenced to life im­pris­on­ment. De­spite sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence of state’s back­ing, in 2012 Naren­dra Modi was cleared of com­plic­ity in the vi­o­lence by a Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT) ap­pointed by the Supreme Court of In­dia. In July 2013, al­le­ga­tions were made that the SIT had sup­pressed ev­i­dence; yet in April 2014, the Supreme Court ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion over the SIT’s in­ves­ti­ga­tions in nine cases re­lated to the vi­o­lence, and re­jected as baseless a plea con­test­ing the SIT re­port. This ex­plodes the myth of ju­di­ciary’s in­de­pen­dence in so­called largest democ­racy of the world. Since Naren­dra Modi’s com­ing to power, Hindu ex­trem­ists have been on the ram­page, and there have been re­ports of forced con­ver­sions of Mus­lims and Chris­tians. Last year, they killed one Mus­lim al­leg­ing that he slaugh­tered cow, and there have been cases of killings and ha­rass­ment to butch­ers.

Vi­o­lent ex­trem­ist Hin­dus had killed a Mus­lim declar­ing him Pak­istani ter­ror­ist in Kan­pur last year. In­ci­dent oc­curred three days be­fore a Mus­lim was lynched for sus­pected beef eat­ing, but In­dian me­dia main­tained si­lence over this heinous crime. In an­other in­ci­dent, Rash­tria Ri­fles dur­ing a search oper­a­tion bru­tally killed a Mus­lim young man for hav­ing a beard and de­mol­ished houses of the Mus­lims in IOK. Wide scale protests were or­ga­nized in the val­ley and Pak­istan flags were hoisted in Srinagar against atroc­i­ties of oc­cu­pied forces. In 2015, Hindu stu­dents had at­tacked Mus­lim stu­dents in Udaipur Univer­sity Ra­jhas­tan. Ear­lier, in Jan­uary 2015 three Mus­lims were burnt to death af­ter Hindu as­sailants set fire to dozens of homes of a Mus­lim com­mu­nity in an at­tack in east­ern In­dia. NDTV had re­ported that for about an hour the po­lice could not en­ter the vil­lage, as thou­sands of at­tack­ers went about de­stroy­ing prop­erty. —The writer is a se­nior jour­nal­ist based in La­hore.

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