Gujarat Carnage, Modi and SIT “clean chit”

After the Special Investigation Team appointed by Supreme Court submitted its report in December 2010, a front page headline in a leading daily announced that SIT gave a clean chit to Modi. This was picked up by a large section of the media to hail Modi being the man for progress of Gujarat. Industrialists’ chorus for Modi, the potential prime minister, is on for quite some time. This news of ‘clean chit’ to Modi gladdened the hearts of communal forces. Social activists could not believe what they read. A number of citizens inquiry committees reports have already worked overtime to bring forward the truth of Gujarat carnage. It is not for no reason that the Gujarat pogrom has been called as a State-sponsored carnage. The ground work of activists, interacting with the hapless victims, has already given a precise picture of what took place in Gujarat. There are scores of citizens committees reports, and also the report of the Peoples Tribunal, led by a leading legal luminary who had concluded that the carnage went on the way it did due to the proactive involvement of the Modi government which gave it the horrific character.

Despite all the reports, a substantial section of the popular perception looked at Modi in a favorable light. The way truth is undermined when it pertains to the minorities and weaker sections of society was clear in the case of Gujarat carnage. Though ‘social consciousness’ had some doubts that the carnage was not handled well, the major focus was shifted to Godhra carnage and the alleged role of Muslims was highlighted. This projected role of Muslims seemed to be giving justification to Hindu retaliation. Despite the Bannerjee Commission report saying that Godhra tragedy was not preplanned act by Muslims, it could not make a dent to the popular perceptions as already the media and other propaganda machinery led by Modi had created the image of aggressive Muslims burning the train.

Now with SIT coming to investigate some aspects of the carnage, there was a hope amongst victims and social activists that the truth of Gujarat, the truth of the State-sponsored carnage will finally come out and the guilty will be punished and victims will get justice. With this hope in the background when the perceptions were manufactured that SIT has given a clean chit to Modi, it was a fake and bitter pill for the victims and social activists doing their best to fight for the cause of justice. With so-called news of SIT giving clean chit, many further lost the faith in the system, with the feeling that probably this is the end of the road for justice in this country.

Fortunately, that is not the case. The Tehelka scoop (5th February 2011) clearly shows that the newspaper headline was a concoction. The scoop shows that the report has squarely put the blame of the carnage on Modi. All the charges against him stand vindicated in the SIT investigation report. The report practically confirms all the findings of the People’s Tribunal and other citizens committees which painstakingly investigated the Gujarat violence and called it a pogrom. The SIT report submitted to the Supreme Court confirms that Modi had tried to alter the situation in the Gulbarg society case by saying his by now most infamous words:  ‘every action has equal and opposite reaction’. The SIT report confirms that Gujarat Government had deputed ministers in the police control room, a move which gave the management of violence in the political hands making it more horrific and motivated act. It was a common knowledge that few honest police officers, who had stood by the call of their duty and prevented the aggravation of violence, were transferred to insignificant postings.

With this scoop, it stands confirmed now that the Gujarat Government had destroyed the records of wireless communications of the period of the violence. Modi did display a discriminatory attitude towards the victim minorities and he did not visit the riot-affected areas or minority victims camps till quite late during the carnage. Not only this, Gujarat Government appointed RSS-affiliated lawyers in sensitive riot cases. Modi did not take any steps to stop the Bandh call given by VHP and supported by BJP on 28th February. This move of VHP gave a big start to the massacre and the attitude of the State to the bandh gave a signal to the rioters for doing what they did. SIT confirms that the officials tried to mislead the election commission in the wake of forthcoming elections by projecting that there is peace and atmosphere is conducive for elections while the truth was that violence was simmering in the society. It also comes out of the SIT report that the Police carried out extremely shoddy investigation of Naroda Patia and Gulbarg society cases.

There are diverse reactions to the report. Social activists are asserting that this is sufficient ground for lodging FIR against Modi. The BJP on the contrary is more worried about investigating as to how the leak took place. Interestingly, while today this party is demanding a probe into the scoop, it was none but the BJP which went to town when the news ‘SIT gives clean chit to Modi’ was highlighted! Nobody in their best wisdom asked a question as to when the report is confidential how come this headline in the newspapers? In a classic display of double standards, BJP never questioned the first ‘leak’ as that suited its political purpose. Now when the boot is in the other foot, the legality of scoop is being questioned.

Meanwhile, what is happening to the victim community? They have been browbeaten into a second class citizenship status, ghettoization is going up by leaps and bounds, and the process of justice to victims of violence is prominent by its absence, the efforts of human rights activists succeeding in few cases, notwithstanding.

This raises the larger issue of how the popular perceptions are modulated, how the mass consciousness is manufactured in the society. Right since the Godhra train burning, a particular view of events put across by the murderers is dominating the media. Any doubts about the major erosion of the story have been treated with contempt by large sections of media. In the case of the headline ‘SIT gives a clean chit to Modi’, the same perception was boosted that it is the minorities and social activists who are the cause of the trouble in Gujarat and beyond. The social perceptions are very crucial in making the criminals of the of the ilk of Modi to rule with iron hand and to keep getting re-elected despite having a huge stock of skeletons in their cupboards and despite there being blood on their hands.

In this battle for the minds of society, the communal elements are having the major manipulating power at present. Goebbels is being outplayed in Gujarat. This whole episode should make us do the introspection as to how to ensure that ‘truth shall prevail’ in present circumstance. Also which are these forces? Politics-media alliance can manipulate the mass thinking at will by publishing that ‘SIT has given clean chit to Modi’? If we cannot wake up to this stark fact of our society, such popular perceptions will be laying the ground for the mass murderers to keep ruling with great appreciation form the communal forces and captains of industry and they can also manipulate the opinions of the masses in their favour.  (Issues in Secular Politics)