Amit Sengupta Delhi
In a civilised country firmly based on the principles of justice with the rule of law, ethical behaviour and social morality as normative codes of conduct of public life and good governance, the chief minister would have long resigned. That would be one crucial sign of redemption, if not a proper trial through the labyrinths of the Indian judicial system for presiding over a carnage which has been meticulously documented with evidence so transparent that justice should arrive a priori. However, it happens only in India. It happens only in Gujarat. And it is best reflected in the doublespeak of a thick-skinned party like the BJP, that its octogenarian leader undertakes yet another flop yatra, chasing PM ambitions at 84, floating a relentless rhetoric on the high standards of morality and good conduct in public life.
His own conduct has been far from exemplary, having led the mob which demolished the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, which led to a spiral of bloody violence across the country with hundreds of innocents killed, including the Shiv Sena pogrom against Muslims in Bombay, 1992-93. Besides, being a mentor of the chief minister of Gujarat has added no feathers to his cap, though this very ambitious man has himself objected to the old man's pipe dream and the cold vibes between them is a new phenomenon within the faction-ridden BJP. It's amazing that his eternally muscle-flexing party refuses to see its own cracked mirror of organised corruption and communal genocide, or the tainted, megalomaniac and narcissistic faces of leaders like the Bellary mafia, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, BS Yeddyuruppa, Narendra Modi, among other stalwarts. Modi particularly seems totally unruffled by the remotest signs of self-criticism, remorse or shame, despite the blood on his hands.
Or the fact, that he is not really loved across the secular, pluralist spectrum in India beyond the caste/class/religion paradigm, including in Gujarat where a huge chunk of people don't vote for the BJP, or don't vote at all. His ethnic cleansing credentials has not really helped him gain friends and allies, as is witnessed even in Bihar, where opportunist rump socialists, JP's followers, have tied up with the NDA, dropping all pretensions of secular ideology.
Indeed, Modi's ambitions have been repeatedly thwarted by the facts of the legacy he has left behind in polarised Gujarat, where cases of massacres keep arriving like a dark shadow of blood-soaked truth, even while the screams and torture of victims have not really been completely eliminated from the political unconscious.
From Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society to Panchmahal, Sardarpura, Dahod and Best Bakery in Vadodra; from Bilquis Bano to Zaheera Sheikh and Zakia Jaffrey, it's like a grotesque serial of organised, evidenced injustice, scripted by a state-sponsored massacre, which comes back, which will keep returning, to haunt Modi, his former mentor, LK Advani, the RSS and BJP for all times to come. The organised BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal gangs, led by the likes of Jaideep Patel, Babu Bajrangi, Mayaben Kodnani, among others, with ministers actually calling the shots from police control rooms, as phone records show, are facts documented extensively across the Indian media, civil liberty groups and high profile tribunals led by former judges. The claim of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, that in a closed door meeting with top officials, hours before the massacres began on February 28, 2002, Modi gave clear instructions to let the mobs vent their anger, has been reported in other places too, including in a people's tribunal formed by former Supreme Court and high court judges, and eminent persons like Aruna Roy. Everything was executed, designed and planned with meticulous precision as the wave of carnage ravaged Gujarat's secular fabric. Indeed, after the killings in Godhra, there was no need to bring the dead bodies to Ahmedabad. This was done precisely to inflame passions.
Clearly, the Gujarat carnage will chase Modi like a bloody ghost till the day justice is done. In normal circumstances, he should have taken moral responsibility and quit. But why would a man who reaps the harvest of a carnage, and positions himself on this grotesque realism, ever succumb to basic human values of decency, compassion and self-introspection?
Witness what this reporter wrote in Hardnews, May 2007: "Every Muslim killed in encounters has been branded a terrorist in a state where Modi and his followers have openly asked Indian Muslims to go to Pakistan. The theoretical premise of this hate lab is wonderfully designed, like an architect who plans a town: you organise State-sponsored massacres, you put Muslims in jail, you allow the killers and rapists to go scot-free because most of them are your Sangh Parivar chums, you don't punish the communalised police, you push thousands into refugee camps and leave them to their condemned fate, you dismantle the refugee camps arbitrarily leaving thousands homeless and exiled in their own land; you block or delay FIRs or judicial processes, you block their economy, you degrade them socially, you reduce them into dependant caricatures; you bribe witnesses to turn them hostile as in the Zaheera Sheikh case, you tell the survivors – take back your complaints and we will forgive you; you create demographic, geographic, ethnic divisions as in Fascist Germany or Zionist Israel, you create a total climate of phobia and terror, and push Indian Muslims into a terrorised, ghettoised corner so that there is not an iota of hope or justice, indeed, there is no hope at all. They are second class citizens in their own country and they better accept that...."
In the same instance, the killings of young Ishrat Jahan and three others on the outskirts of Ahmedabad by the crime branch on June 15, 2004, has always been under the media and civil liberties radar as yet another fake encounter engineered by the Modi government. Mission Assassination Modi seemed to be the catchphrase of the Gujarat police every time they killed some persons in cold blood. This too added to the halo of Modi as the brave, macho man who is taking on terrorists flashing patriotic, Hindutva credentials. So is this how you perfect the art of killing innocents, including girls and boys? Oh, what a brave man indeed!
Now that the SIT has clearly stated before the Gujarat High Court that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was nothing but cold-blooded murder – they were murdered before the horrible event was enacted on that spot – the inevitable truth has become a transparent moment of revelation. This is exactly what the SP Tamang report said, and this man knew his job well: he used to be the Ahmedabad metropolitan magistrate. This is also what some parents of the unfortunate youngsters have been pleading, seeking justice from pillar to post – but nothing could touch the cold-blooded hearts of BJP or its muscle man in Gujarat.
The May 2007 Hardnews report said exactly this: "Remember the cold-blooded killings of a young girl Ishrat Jahan from Mumbra and three other 'fidayeen terrorists' in Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004? We were told then that they were on a 'mission' to assassinate Modi. Here's an excerpt from the report documented by a national civil liberties fact-finding team: 'According to the police, only one "terrorist" had stepped out and there was only one AK-56 and two pistols found among the four of them. It is indeed surprising that about 20-member strong two police teams which had surrounded the car and were well armed with AK-47 rifles and several revolvers could not capture any of them. The use of force by the police has to be commensurate with the force used by the opposite group, which does not seem to be the case in this incident. This raises doubts about their intentions which seem to be directly eliminating the accused, instead of subjecting them to the due process of law for punishing the guilty... If, on the other hand, the terrorists are said to have fired 42 rounds at the police teams, as the police claim, how is it possible that there were no injuries or bullet marks on a single policeman? The absence of injury suffered by the policemen makes it difficult to establish their claim that they fired at the terrorists in self-defence..."
The most difficult truth is that sections of the administration, the communalised police who themselves operate as sinister terrorists, and the top layers in the Modi regime have been part of this mafia, as has been pointed out by the role of his former home minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case, also a fake encounter. Investigations were systematically scuttled, the judicial process was delayed, criminals were protected, and the entire machinery aligned with the killers – as had happened during and after the Gujarat genocide. Activists claim that there are more than 20 cases of encounters in Gujarat. The SIT report is a pointer that many of them could be fake. Several of them were executed by ex-ATS chief DG Vanzara, now in jail with other top cops in the Sohrabuddin murder case.
I once again quote excerpts from the May 2007 article: "Now there is evidence emerging that even Sheikh's wife Kausar Bi was 'raped and killed'. There are investigation reports that she was taken to a Gandhinagar farmhouse and killed on the night of November 28, after Sheikh was killed on November 26, 2005. Her body was later carted to Vanzara's home village of Ilol in Himmatnagar, after elaborate preparations, and burnt. Even the sole witness, Tulsiram Prajapati, has been murdered. So how come a top 'anti-terrorist' cop went about this ghastly ritual over some days and nights through some complicated procedures, across some distance, with a crane in tow and a pile of wood, and the intelligence apparatus of the Modi regime had no clue?"
The Haren Pandya murder case is also not an open and shut case. His father had directly accused Modi of the killing. Sanjiv Bhatt's testimony and reported stories of Tulsiram being used for dubious causes are also doing the rounds. They will open a new can of worms for Modi.
Indeed, if the RSS and BJP have any respect for constitutional and ethical values, they should sack Modi immediately. Because this man will never resign. Even as the wheels of injustice he has unleashed will come to haunt him every day of his life.
(Meanwhile, CPM has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Narendra Modi saying that such a cover up could not have been possible without the acquiescence of the Chief Minister and top officials in the government. The party's statement reads, "The report of the High Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) that the so-called encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan and three others by the Gujarat police in June 2004 was nothing but a cold blooded murder constitutes a severe indictment of the Narendra Modi Government which has done everything in its power to shield the criminals in uniform and to assassinate the character of the young 19 year old student. The order of the High Court to file a fresh FIR and charges of murder against the police officers must be immediately complied with. The accused must be arrested without any delay. There is another crucial question which needs to be investigated. Could such a cover-up take place without the acquiescence of the Chief Minister and top officials in the Government? It is on record that at every stage of the case the Government tried to subvert the processes of justice, just as it had done in the nine cases pending before the courts on the genocide of 2002. The investigation must cover the role of the Chief Minister in the cover-up and this will not be possible as long as Modi remains in power. Justice for the victims demands that Modi quit office. The SIT report also brings into question the role of certain senior officers of central agencies who were complicit in the faking of evidence. Their role must also be investigated. The Central Government must immediately take appropriate action on this count.")