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Gulbarg massacre: overlords debunk systemic inadequacies

Dissipating the energy to inflict pinpricks on individual manifestations of the system, like Modi, cannot go far. The need is to focus on the fundamental issue of shortchanging massive sections of society and denying them a meaningful role in governance argues NM Sampathkumar Iyangar
Ahmedabad: When the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in April 2009 to 'look into' the complaints of official connivance in Gulbarg Society massacre in 2002, the 'triumph of justice' was hailed by obsessive optimists. They believed that the apex court was truly initiating genuine investigation against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and several functionaries of his government. Some of them predicted the downfall of the Bhartiya Janata Party poster boy, tipped to head a BJP government in New Delhi some day.

After almost a year, it is anyone's guess if the tentative forward movement in the judicial echelons over the 100-page complaint of Zakiya Jafri, widow of the former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, has been tangible. Her complaint charged Modi, along with others in his government, of having conspired to allow a massacre by an unruly mob at Ahmedabad's Gulbarg Society in 2002. Nearly 70 people, virtually all Muslims, including the ex-MP, were burnt alive in that massacre. It was one of the gory sagas in the communal pogrom that claimed over 1000 in the state and drove tens of thousands more from their homes. Naming more than 60 bigwigs, Zakia alleged that Modi and his colleagues instructed cops and administrators not to respond to repeated pleas for help from the ex-MP who commanded a lot of influence among police and civil service mandarins.

Ironically, those who hailed the initiative as a breakthrough failed to note that SIT was a toothless wonder packed with controversial dignitaries. It was headed by a senile cop RK Raghavan, who was not new to hatchet jobs to hush up mega conspiracies to save the skin of rulers of the day. A detailed examination of the order revealed that his team had no authority, no responsibility, no accountability as per existing laws. The real motive of the entire system - mainstream political parties, judiciary and police - was to beat around the bush and bury the ghost of massacres. (See 'Justice set to 'SIT' forever over Gujarat Pogrom!' - The Milli Gazette - May 15-31, 2009). As predicted, a discernible backward movement is palpable after crores of rupees got squandered in the eyewash exercise.

First, Special Public Prosecutor RK Shah appearing in special court set up for the purpose resigned, alleging all-round noncooperation from the judge and SIT members. A three-judge bench of Gujarat High Court grandly asked the trial court to defer its hearing in the case. The HC took into cognizance a petition filed in the High Court seeking transfer of the case to another trial court judge. It is no secret that certain interests in Gujarat HC have been extremely successful in scuttling every seeming attempt to bring culprits to justice. Clever interpretation of provisions of India's voluminous but ambiguous laws in favour of the rulers is nothing new. For example, the HC thought it fit only recently to ask Nanavati Commission supposed to bring out facts of 2002 incidents, to convey if it would like to speak to the CEO of Gujarat at the time of the pogrom!

On Mar 11, another episode of the drama started unfolding when Raghavan indicated that his investigation team will be launching a semblance of investigation against the main accused. Interestingly, he would be considered a 'witness' in the bizarre scheme of things in SIT. This was four days before he was due to submit one of his typical non-progress reports to the Supreme Court. Raghavan told journalists, "We have called Mr Modi on March 21 to record his statement on the Jafri case." When asked whether SIT had any evidence against Modi, he ducked the question with, "I cannot comment on that." The SIT Chief exposed the toothless nature of the eyewash investigation: "In the normal course, we would expect that (compliance of the CM). Since a summons is being issued against Modi, he should appear in person before the SIT to record his statement. But, we will see what could be done if he does not appear in person!"

Solicitor General of India and senior advocate Harish Salve, who is supposed to assist the SC in the matter as amicus curiae, informed the bench about the resignation of the public prosecutor after making certain allegations against the presiding officer (Judge) and the SIT. Also, a BJP MLA Kalubhai Maliwad - a co-accused in mob attack - moved an application in the Apex Court challenging the role of the SIT. The Supreme Court readily decided to consider an application seeking the recall of its own order handing over the complaint to the SIT!

The writing on the wall is bold and clear. Nothing will come out of this SIT, just like nothing came out of eyewash commissions earlier to probe anti-Sikh riots, Ayodhya ignominy, post-demolition massacres in Mumbai and elsewhere. The whole hypocrisy only fattens the purse of some lawyers and keeps judicial parasites thriving in retirement.

Seeds were sown in India long ago for anti-minority riots and massacres - whether against Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits or Christians. Worse pogroms may be in store unless there is a categorical rejection of the unjust system imposed through deceit. There will be more gory Gulbarg scenes targeted against deprived sections who challenge the hold enjoyed by a tiny minority ordained to rule over the masses.

Ironically, this destiny has been invited upon Dalits and Muslims by their own leaders who toed the line of MK Gandhi and his tribe of high-bred lawyer-politicians. The general body of these sections was betrayed by dropping the demand for separate electorates to govern post-colonial India. Universal adult franchise for choosing lawmakers was plainly a farce of forced equality between inherently unequal sections - asking a tiger and a lamb to compete as equals! Reservation in jobs and education in lieu of separate electorate had precisely no relevance to the really oppressed sections. What is more, it perpetrates and gives virtual sanction to continue long-entrenched social chasm and constant mistrust and conflicts.

While the 'intellectuals' got juicy positions in 'free' India and were hailed as 'freedom fighters' for participating in the dummy struggle, the hold of the ruling classes has been fortified manifold. To put the fact bluntly, Ehsan Jafri too was one such beneficiary of the party of fake freedom fighters.

Incidentally, the counsel tasked with the job of managing death sentence to the SC-appointed team by the same court is Ram Jethmalani. The dignitary has been Law Minister in the regime of NDA coalition headed by BJP. His evil genius has saved many Congress ministers from being brought to justice. And, he is sure to emerge victorious in the current assignment too.

Party bigwigs standing by Modi have always maintained that he could hardly have done any better or worse under the circumstances. To some extent, they are right. It is difficult to precisely predict where and when there would be a burst in the communal cauldron that India is caught in. It was deliberately left simmering when the British colony was inherited by a system founded on deceit and inequity in the guise of outwardly equality. The BJP is openly advocating a return to pure overlordism that prevailed in medieval times and some sort of ethnic cleansing while the Congress has been contributing to the same objective on the sly.

Rajiv Pratap Rudy, BJP spokesperson, declared after the SIT development: "The government of Gujarat has made it clear that it shall act as per the law. This government has always supported and respected the law and will abide by it. It has the highest respect for the Supreme Court order." At the same time, he alleged that the whole process might be an attempt to tarnish Mr. Modi. Interestingly, the judiciary would have cried "contempt" if the imputation had come from a small fry like Zakira. The teenage witness to the burning to death of all her relatives during the 2002 pogrom was sentenced by the honorable judges for succumbing to tremendous pressure after wasting their precious time!

Modi maintained a stoic silence all through until after it was time for SIT Chief to "see what could be done" when he failed to turn up. He then turned the tables on SIT, saying, "I am not aware of anything regarding it (letter asking him to appear before SIT)." In a statement issued after a lot of "agonizing", the CM said: "After the 2002 Godhra riots, I had categorically said in the Vidhan Sabha and in public that no one is above the Indian Constitution and the law even if he happens to be the chief minister of a state. These are not mere words. My actions have reflected this statement in its true spirit. I assure you that this would be my stand in the future."

This clearly is a potent trump card to blackmail his adversaries threatening them that they should not be above law too. He has perhaps retained some legal luminary to demand constitution of SITs to "look into" complaints of commissions and omissions in earlier massacres. It would not be difficult to argue that bigwigs like Kalyan Singh, Sajjan Kumar, Bal Thackeray etc - heroes of 1984, 1992 etc - must naturally take precedence over their client.

One should not be surprised if the UPA bosses unceremoniously back off and put the SC in wilderness for exceeding its powers. After all, massacre masters in India's polity have "the highest respect for the Supreme Court order and directions" and whole-heartedly support and "respect the law and would abide by it." However, they know it is beyond the country's legal and political system to bring them to justice!

The fate of ruling party ex-MP must open the eyes of current-day intellectuals who profess loyalty to the system that shamelessly reinforces the social Darwinism. Dissipating the energy to inflict pinpricks on individual manifestations of the system, like Modi, cannot go far. The need is to focus on the fundamental issue of shortchanging massive sections of society and denying them a meaningful role in governance. This is at the root of indiscriminate targeting of Muslim youth after umpteen terror attacks -probably stage-managed. This is routinely indulged in by all regimes irrespective of political affiliations. One only hopes that the entire system would get drastically overhauled before hundreds of million people lose their faith in it and resort to tactics that could devastate the country in no time.

The author is an analyst from Ahmedabad, writing on
South Asian affairs.He may be contacted at samexotic@gmail.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 April 2010 on page no. 1

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