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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Godhra's Truth

Manufacturing explanations for communal agenda

By Ram Puniyani

Half an hour after the burning of Sabaramti Express's S-6 coach on 27th Feb. 2002, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi made a definitive statement that the burning of the coach has been the handiwork of local Muslims in collaboration with the Pakistan's ISI and the International terrorism. This was followed by a prompted 'reaction' to the 'action' (Every action has equal and opposite reaction, Newton quoted by Modi), the massive Gujarat carnage in which apart from the loss of property two thousand Muslims lost their lives. Now around two and a half years after the tragic incident, Justice U. C. Bannerjee comes out with the truth of Godhra. According to the interim report of this commission this tragedy was a mere accident and was not a preplanned one as claimed by Narendra Modi and the RSS and its progeny.

Immediately after the release of this report BJP spokesperson Arun Jaitley stated that this report is meant to cover up the criminals behind this crime. It is to appease the Muslim community. As such one can expect such a reaction from Hindu right. How else they cover up their own acts of commission. It is nothing new to come out with such distractions from the content and analysis of the reports of riots. One knows that most of the inquiry commission reports have indicted RSS progeny for being the main players in these riots, it is not for nothing that a close cousin of this progeny Shiv Sena, which as per the meticulously investigated Shrikrishna report, was the major player in the anti Muslim pogrom in Mumbai riots in 92-93, came out with a defense by saying that this report is 'Anti Hindu'. There is no analysis and no rebutting of the charges. Just a rhetorical diversion from the crux of the matter. Mr. Jaitley operating on the same wavelength, rather than analyzing the weakness of the report comes out with a subtle self defense of his party.

Immediately after the train burning Jayanti Ravi, the collector of Godhra, who knew better, said that there is no evidence of the pre-planned conspiracy, but was overruled by Modi, who calculated in a shrew way how to use this incident as a pretext to unleash anti Muslim carnage to consolidate his hold on the levers of power, to march towards 'Hindu nation in one state-Gujarat.' All the norms which were needed to be done were thrown overboard and here the NDA ally of BJP played as per the script of RSS. As per the Railways Act all major accidents have to be investigated. Sidetracking this norm the question of investigating the accident was totally ignored, the evidences contrary to 'Modi Expalnation' were put under the carpet.

Haren Pandya, the then Home minister of Gujarat, for reasons best known to him spilled the beans by telling the Citizens Tribunal that Modi in a meeting of top officials of the state on the same day told all involved with controlling law and order that the revenge of Godhra will be taken by Hindus and we should sit back and let the things take their own course, democratic laws can be put in the deep freeze. What followed was beyond the worst fears, loss of lives; violation of women; loss of property and to cap it all the semi-permanent divide between the Hindu and Muslim communities, the intensification of the process of Ghettoisation of minorities.

Modi was thoroughly backed up and defended through and through by other swayamsevaks who were supposed to ensure that states behave as per the Indian Constitution. The Central home minister Advani certified that Modi's handling of the riots is exemplary and the Prime Minister Vajpayee, while shedding the crocodile tears went on to say 'but who lit the fire?' Citizen's tribunal did come to the conclusion that there was no preplanned conspiracy. Two and a half years down the line no definitive evidence of involvement of Muslims, Muslim organizations, of ISI and International terrorirism could be produced by Modi. He took just half an hour to come to the conclusion, but despite the lag of years he has not been able to produce any evidence. He hid behind the opaqueness of POTA and imprisoned over two hundered Muslims, without any evidence.

The aggressive propaganda of RSS progeny made a large section of civil society to believe what was being dished out by them was the truth. A large section of social workers doubted this but in the din of hysteria produced they remained a marginal voice. Since Modi had adorned the cloak of national security those put behind the bars were left unattended with total violation of their democratic rights and civic rights. How does one go about in the society in such situations? The garb of national security is a convenient ploy to suppress the voice of reason. BJP used the bogey of terrorism to the hilt. It showed the burnt coach of Sabarmati express while fishing for votes in the rivers of blood to come back to power with a huge majority due to the polarization created by the violence and the way propaganda was dished out by the section of media.

The argument that the report is just for electoral purposes will not wash. No doubt a politician like Lalu may try to get benefit out of this, but the real point is the defense of truth, the suffering of those who have been jailed under POTA, those who have lost their lives in the Gujarat carnage! How long will the society give sanction to the imprisonment of the innocent one's who were supposed to have burnt the coach? Will they be released immediately? Will they be compensated for the false implication which they have suffered for last over two and half years? That's the real question for the large number of citizens of India?

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