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Narendra Modi’s ‘clean chit’: How justice failed Zakia Jafri

By Shiv Visvanathan

Justice, like news, is always Janus-faced. At one end of the Gujarat riots case sits the victim: Mrs Zakia Jafri, a housewife who has fought determinedly to include Narendra Modi in the list of people involved in her husband’s murder. She has been waiting for justice; some response from a society that seems indifferent. She sounds and feels vulnerable. She admits she is fighting as an individual. There are no large political forces or social formations behind her.

At the other end stands Narendra Modi. This has been a good year for him. Investments are being showered on Gujarat like confetti. Three major car manufacturers have “located” their plants at Sanand, which promises to be the automobile hub of the world. ‘The new Detroit’ as the press dubs it.

Due process seems to have settled its dues with Modi. AFP Photo 

On one side, power and on the other, powerlessness.

Standing between is the sense of hope, the normative power of our institutions, especially the Supreme Court. A few years ago, the SC introduced the SIT to re-investigate the riots. A year back, it asked Raju

Ramachandran, a Supreme Court lawyer, to play amicus curae, and audit the SIT investigations. There was a sense of expectancy, of due process, but most of all, waiting.

Waiting is part of justice. One waited for Ramachandran’s intervention. On Monday, the Supreme Court spoke as the supreme oracle but sounded more like a wet blanket. Justice became a relay race, with the court passing the baton. It refused to intervene and contended that the case was now the responsibility of the lower courts.

The newspapers herald it as “Relief for Modi”. It almost seems as though he is the victim, parched for justice. TV broadcasts declare a clear road for a bigger national role for Modi.

The BJP is elated. Arun Jaitley says that a decade of vilification has failed, insisting that the rituals of harassment framed as a search for justice had to stop. He claims that 10 years is a long time to hunt a man. News is a strange event. The BJP reads it like a green signal. The Congress sees orange, calls it a procedural delay which suits its wait-and-see attitude.

Modi, true to style, tweets “God is great”. Modi’s God sounds like his personal pen pal. Modi invokes God and God triggers other clichés. Satyameva Jayate is followed by Sushma Swaraj’s claim that Modi had passed his agni pariksha. Beyond these platitudes of elation, lies the sanitising power of the clean chit: antiseptic, hygienic, stain-free like a detergent ad, the promise of purity reworked as a bureaucratic certificate.

The victims are quiet and civil society activists quieter. Mrs Jafri looks dignified

but vulnerable. She knows the Ogre has gotten away, that the long battle has to rewind and be played all over at a lower court.

The magistrate now faces two documents. On one side is the SIT report which virtually claims that there is no evidence to link Modi to the Jafri murder. The SIT also dismisses Sanjay Bhatt’s claim that he was present at the historic meeting on February 27 where the CM was supposed to have asked the cops to look the other way. Standing at cross purposes is the amis curae’s report that claims that not only can Bhatt’s allegations not be set aside, but that the SIT report needs to be re-examined.

Yet it is clear that the Supreme Court is losing interest. One senses it will not monitor the cases anymore. Due process seems to have settled its dues with Modi.

Relief for Modi means no respite for Mrs Jafri and other survivors. Hope gets weak-kneed after the battering of a decade. Memory hurts, but a court’s ruling even more. It is anti-climactic, almost entropic as the battle looks jaded. There is a tiredness in the air.

While the law moves slowly, politics seems to have speeded up. There is a sense that Modi is ready for bigger things. The Modi juggernaut could move relentlessly on. Meanwhile, the survivor waits foraging in footnotes, praying to a God he cannot tweet.

Shiv Visvanathan is a Social Science nomad.

Courtousy : FirstPost

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