Asghar Ali Engineer
More than 100 innocent persons were arrested after burning of S-6 in Godhra on 27th February 2002 which in turn followed demolition of Babri Masjid on 6th December 1992. The man mainly responsible for the former was Mr. L.K.Advani who, to fulfill his ambition for power raised the slogan ‘mandir wahin banayenge’ and played with the religious sentiments of common Hindus and our secular state looked the other way. The man responsible for the later was Narendra Modi, who exploited burning of S-6 in Godhra to retain his power which otherwise he was sure to loose. And both these worthies of BJP brought utter shame to our secular tradition and secular philosophy.
As a result of this conspiracy by these two men thousands died, lakhs uprooted from their hearths and homes and many more lost everything they had and yet both are not only unpunished but are enjoying power (Advani, though could not become Prime Minister which was his ambition but became Home Minister and deputy Prime Minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji and is now a prominent opposition leader which also is a sort of power).
Narender Modi and L K Advani
Mr. Advani very promptly issues a statement that he has been vindicated the moment lower court pronounces some people guilty arrested by his or his Party’s Government even before higher court’s judgments often release them or declare them not guilty. The moment Mr. Jeelani was held guilty by the lower court in Parliament attack case, he did not hesitate to issue this statement even though he was Home Minister at the Centre. No one holding such responsible position should rush to issue such statement when the lower court has pronounced the judgment. The highest court i.e. the Supreme Court found Prof. Jeelani ‘not guilty’ and released him.
Again after the ‘Godhra Conspiracy Case’ judgment the Advani-speak was the same. He was delighted that 31 people were pronounced ‘guilty’ by the lower court although 63 were released and especially Husain Umerjee who was arrested as the ‘main conspirator’ was found not guilty by the Court. The whole conspiracy theory falls to the ground if the chief conspirator himself is found innocent. Who then plotted the conspiracy? But that was none of Advani’s concern. At least 31 have been found guilty. And it is out of question that he (Advaniji) will wait for higher courts to critically examine the judgment of the lower court.
Mr.Advani does this not because he is hasty by nature. He does it on purpose. He knows his guilt in raising emotionally surcharged issue of Ramjanambhoomi temple and getting it demolished in his august presence on 6th December, 1992 and wants to hide his guilt by pronouncing the victims themselves as guilty. Unfortunately this is the whole tragedy. Besides thousands who died due to the controversy Mr. Advani raised and lakhs who were uprooted and became refugees in their own country, hundreds suffered due to imprisonment for years.
In the Godhra case alone more than 100 persons were arrested under the charge of conspiracy some of whom died and 63, who spent 9 years in jail, were released by the court. Who will compensate them for precious loss of these years in prison? The Police in Modi Government arbitrarily picked up people and put them under POTA. I cannot forget the cries of a woman in public hearing in Hyderabad whose three sons were arrested in the so called Godhra conspiracy case and who has been released by the court. She was crying why POTA has taken away my sons, please tell POTA my sons are innocent. She swooned while crying. Obviously she did not know what the POTA was and thought it is name of some person. Her husband could not bear the tragedy and passed away after 4 years of his sons’ arrest. Every body in the audience was crying and I too could not hold up my tears when the woman was crying. Who can compensate her and her three sons for this loss?
What is more matter of concern is that while innocent people who have suffered so much already including those whose near and dear ones were burnt alive in Sabarmati Express those who are really guilty are enjoying power. Is this our secular democracy that those who incite religious sentiments enjoy power and those who sweat and toil for their daily existence loose their lives or suffer imprisonment for years? Can it fit into any human rights norms, let alone our secular political philosophy?
And what is worse Mr. L.K.Advani is not even being tried for demolition of Babri Masjid but for making provocative speech near Babri Masjid. That case was also withdrawn and now CBI has again applied for reviving the case. The CBI was as much pliant to the NDA Government as the BJP never tires of accusing the Congress of. It was under Home Ministership of Mr. Advani that such cases against him were withdrawn by the CBI.
In the first place Mr. Advani should not have been made Home Minister, much less becoming Deputy Prime Minister when he was being tried in the court of law by CBI which works under the home ministry. But anything can happen in democratic India. And still BJP has temerity of accusing the Congress of misusing CBI. This writer has nothing to do with the Congress and the Congress cannot be said to be above board at all. I am only pointing out double standards of the BJP.
Mr. Narendra Modi, less said the better. It is important to ask in his case what is good governance? To kill 2000 innocent people and rape scores of women, including pregnant women and to win power by inciting religious sentiment and to polarize people on religious grounds? For TATAs and Ambanis and other big industrialists it may amount to good governance but for common people it amounts to hell.
The Gujarat carnage, whatever Mr. Modi now does, cannot be forgotten and will go down in history as occurrence of greatest shame for secular India. Mr. Advani, who fights election from Gujarat, keeps on praising Modi on every possible occasion but it only adds to the gravity and criminality of the matter.
Even SIT (Special Investigation Team) appointed by the Supreme Court, though could not give clean chit to Mr. Modi but wriggled out by saying there is not enough evidence to try him. The SIT report published in Tehelka is damaging enough. If the SIT had proceeded further on that basis it could have surely found evidence to try Mr.Modi. Without Modi’s complicity riots could not have lasted even for 24 hours, let alone three months.
The cases of Bihar under Lalu Prasad and West Bengal under the Left Government clearly show, if any proof is needed, that no communal riot can last more than 24 hours without the state complicity. Can then Narendra Modi be exonerated of his complicity in riots? In no way. And SIT report and other investigative reports clearly indict him beyond any doubt. If his dark spot on the fair name of secularism is to be washed away the really guilty must be held accountable in any case.
Technicalities should not become an excuse to exonerate these people who have ruined the lives of thousands of people for ever. If these people can enjoy power by accusing innocent people of ‘conspiracy without any solid ground, can really guilty be not tried on very sound ground. Let us hope the Supreme Court will issue further directives to SIT or any other agencies to collect proper evidence against the guilty men of Gujarat. Most of the police high officers who did what the Government of Gujarat wanted them to do should also not be allowed to escape and must be held responsible.
These high officials cannot get away by saying they carried out orders of the Government. Their first duty is towards the Constitution of India and no unconstitutional orders can be followed. My experience in last forty five years of my work for communal harmony shows that communal violence cannot stop in this country unless the guilty people are given exemplary punishment. It is no use small fish being shown the stick and big fish enjoys all the benefits of inciting communal violence.
Let us all hope that one day it will happen and certainly so if the civil society shows proper awareness. It is fragmented civil society which allows such benefits of provoking communal sentiments by few politicians. Gujarat then certainly cannot repeat.
(Asghar Ali Engineer, Chairman, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.)