Delhi, November 22: In the worst-ever indictment of the Gujarat
government, the eight-member Concerned Citizens Tribunal, headed by
retired Supreme Court of India judge, Justice VR Krishna Iyer, has held
the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the western Indian state
responsible for the genocide perpetrated against Muslims earlier this
year. The tribunal included retired judges, senior advocates,
academicians, and distinguished human rights campaigners.
The tribunal report released here Friday, November 22, indicted the chief
minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, a number of his ministers, chief
secretary of the state and the director general of police as well as many
leaders from Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP-World Hindu Council) and its
militia, the Bajrang Dal, for the genocide. The VHP and Bajrang Dal are
sister organisations of BJP and are all part of the RSS family.
The 600-page report, "Crime Against Humanity", is in two
volumes, the third is to come in near future. Releasing the report at the
Press Club in Delhi, Justice PB Sawant, deputy chairman of the tribunal
said, “Aftermath of Godhra (where on February 27 this year, a rail car
was set ablaze killing 58 passengers) was not a simple communal riot but a
state-sponsored, well-scripted and directed genocide.” The genocide had
begun within hours of the arson attack.
Talking of the state's complicity in the violence, the report, released on
Thursday, said: "The post-Godhra carnage in Gujarat was an organised
crime perpetrated by the chief minister and his government." The
report is expected to be submitted to President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam
The report has not spared anybody. The media, the secular outfits or the
Central government. But it specially mentions Modi in the chapter on
'state complicity'. He is described as "the chief author and
architect of all that happened in Gujarat after February 27". The
report has also accused him of refusing relief and rehabilitation to the
The report said that cadres of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal were trained to
target Muslims "and the Godhra incident provided an
opportunity". "The uniform pattern of violence in Gujarat, the
day after the Godhra incident, showed that the killings were
pre-planned," it said.
The report mentions the shifting of the bodies of the Godhra victims to
Ahmedabad the same night, Modi's conclusion the same day that the attack
on the train was pre-planned by the ISI and the bandh call given by the
VHP and supported by the BJP the next day as "evidence of a well
thought-out scheme to extract maximum political capital out of Godhra".
The tribunal said what happened in Gujarat was a "genocide and not a
communal riot as generally perceived". "In communal riot,
communities are at war with each other while in this case, 94 per cent of
those killed were Muslims"
"The centre must bring in a new legislation to implement the Genocide
Convention which India has signed and ratified to punish all those
participating in the planning and execution of murder, destruction and
rape during communal carnages" the report said.
Charging the police and bureaucrats with "criminal deriliction of
duty during the violence", the tribunal asked the Government to adopt
"stringent and extensive measures to de-politicise and de-communalise"
The voluminous report was prepared after recording evidences from more
than 16 districts of Gujarat during field visits. The tribunal recorded
2,094 statements, written and oral in Gujarat, including over 1,500
testimonies of eye-witnesses, victims and survivors of the violence. The
tribunal has also taken into account written evidence collected by others
and placed before it.
According to the report, “The trained mob led by the BJP and VHP leaders
used gas cylinders to explode houses, hotels and business establishments
of Muslims.” The report goes on to say, “The bandh [strike] call for
February 28 and March 1, given by the VHP and supported by the BJP and
state government, made possible exactly what [chief minister] Modi and the
BJP, VHP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Bajrang Dal leadership
wanted to happen after the Godhra incident.”
Justice Sawant pointed out, “Only coach S-6 was burnt, that too from
inside and not from outside as Modi and Sangh leaders stated hundreds of
times to justify the aftermath of Godhra.”
Criticising the state government for its connivance in the genocide,
Justice Sawant said, “The distinct and similar pattern to the violence
point that it was a state-sponsored and engineered crime.”
Echoing him Justice Hosbet Suresh, member of the tribunal and a retired
judge of Mumbai High Court, said, “Modi government failed completely on
both the fronts ? in anticipating the Godhra incident and controlling the
large-scale violence which stretched for more than three months.”
He added, “Modi’s support to the statewide bandh [strike] called by
VHP was completely unconstitutional and the Centre should have interfered
into the matter.”
The tribunal report said senior ministers from Modi's cabinet met hours
after the train attack and drafted plans handed out to BJP leaders and
far-right Hindu groups "on the method and manner in which the
72-hour-long carnage that followed would be carried out."
"We have collected enough evidence in our report on the basis of
which charges of conspiracy can be framed from Narendra Modi
downwards," said a panel member, Public Union of Civil Liberties
president and senior advocate K.G. Kannabiran.
Addressing the press, KG Kannabiran said, “The riots against Sikhs in
1984 and the latest genocide of Gujarat in which Muslims were targeted
indicate that minorities are unsafe in this country.” He further said,
“Without secularism no democracy is possible in a plural society like
Advocate KG Kannabiran told reporters: "The report is comprehensive
enough for any Central agency to file charge-sheets against everybody,
from Narendra Modi downwards."
The report mentions many horrible incidents, in one of which a
six-year-old child, Irfan of Naroda-Patia, asked for water, his assailants
made him forcibly drink kerosene, or some other inflammable liquid, before
a lit match was thrown inside his gullet to make him explode.
Justice Sawant informed the press that despite serving two notices to Modi
government to testify before the tribunal none turned up.
According to the report, across Gujarat, over 1100 Muslim-owned hotels,
more than 100,000 family homes, over 15,000 small and big business
establishments of Muslims were badly damaged or completely destroyed in
The report says, “The leaders from BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS leading
the mobs running into thousands, often carried computer printouts
mentioning names and addresses of Muslims. ? Formation of arson
battalions, distribution of swords, trishuls [tridents], guns and other
weapons and explosives in advance across large tracts of the state was
clear indication of planned violence.”
Besides, the report mentions names of many BJP leaders of Gujarat who led
mobs ? Minister for Revenue Haren Pandya, Health Minister Ashok Bhat,
senior state BJP leaders Bharat Barot and Maya Kotdani, a woman MLA from
The Tribunal report makes a series of short- and long-term
recommendations. It has asked the government to implement all the
recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission and prosecute
all, including Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
Other major recommendations are:
* Ban VHP and the Bajrang Dal under the relevant provisions of the
Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
* Prohibit the distribution of trishuls [tridents] and swords since
attempts are being made to arm a section of Indian society to unleash
violence against other sections.
* Gujarat government should crackdown on arms camps being conducted by the
RSS, VHP and Bjarang Dal.
* Immediate detention and prosecution of Praveen Togadia and Ashok Singhal.
* A legal framework should be developed to institutionalise the rights of
the victims of wanton violence to compensation and restitution from the
state. Also, a legal framework should be developed to promote the rights
of victims of violence and underdevelopment.
* Central government should amend electoral laws so as to disallow parties
that espouse a particular religion.
* Centre should also bring in legislation to implement the Genocide
Convention, which India has signed and ratified.
* A standing National Crimes Tribunal be established. It should be an
independent body, the personnel of which should be selected by a committee
consisting of the Chief Justice of India, the Prime Minister of India and
the leader of the opposition.
The indictment by the Citizens Tribunal comes in the wake of similar
indictments by the National Human Rights Commission and the chief election
commissioner of India.
(Nov. 22, 2002) q