Genocide can’t be brushed aside
The other day The Hindu scooped the report of Supreme Court's amicus curiae on the Zakia Jafri's case, which stated that there was a case for prosecuting Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots. Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran has shown the courage to state the obvious when everyone has been engaging in obfuscation for the last nine years. He has not allowed himself to be swayed by the slanted conclusions of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that saw no merit in the demand for charge-sheeting Modi.
The manner in which the probe into the Gujarat riots has meandered into organised confusion is a manifestation of the control communal politics exercises over investigating agencies and the judiciary. Students of the judicial history of independent India would find innumerable instances of how majoritarian Hindu interests have found precedence over the rest of the populace. The Indian Constitution and the law of the land have been 'creatively' interpreted to stoke the embers of communalism in the country. Opening of the locks of Babri Masjid and the subsequent judgements have hurt India's secular fabric.
Mercifully, some of these controversial judgements were later overturned, but the pace of conviction of those who engage in communal acts remains slow. The inability of the Indian State to effectively uphold the secular nature of the republic has indeed become pathological.
The larger blame for this should go to Congress, which shamelessly catered to majoritarian interests by pandering to 'soft Hindutva'. Expectedly, BJP and the Sangh Parivar have taken advantage of this politics of opportunism and gone about fulfilling their Rightwing agenda aggressively. They know very well how various institutions that draw their authority from the Constitution, including the police, have been blighted by a politics that is obsessed with taking care of upper-caste interests. Minorities, surely, have to bear the brunt of this dominant mindset.
During the 1984 riots it was the Sikhs who faced the savagery of Hindu mobs. The Indian State failed in make an example out of those Congress leaders who had led these bloodthirsty crowds after the assassination of the late Indira Gandhi. Even after 27 years, many of the culprits are still at large. The immunity that politics and power gave to these worthies was never withdrawn, and hence the wheels of justice just got stuck in quicksand.
It is a matter of deep shame for the Indian State that it allows someone like Narendra Modi to remain in power even after hundreds of complaints against key people of his administration as being responsible for the pogrom in Feb-March 2002. More than a dozen Indian Police Service (IPS) officers responded to the call of their conscience and chose to speak out against their bosses in Gujarat. Even their bold defiance, however, failed to make the supposedly "secular" government at the Centre see reason and throw Modi out. UPA refused to act despite the fact that it had rode to power on the people's vote against the Gujarat pogrom and BJP's divisive politics.
Media reports in the wake of IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's complaint against Modi bring to the fore the complicated network of forces that has protected the perpetrators of genocide. Some very influential people, including editors of well-known publications, although seemingly very secular, have pooled their skills and resources to save this controversial Rightwing leader. They have taken care of everything from legal management to fixing the appointment of friendly investigators in the probe team.
Even the Supreme Court, which has been overseeing this investigation, has not managed to make much headway in countering Modi's clout as the Gujarat chief minister. Surely, unless this challenge is overcome, no free and fair investigation would be possible into the basic allegation that it was the chief minister who encouraged the Hindu majority to take revenge against the Muslim minority. Whether this allegation is true is the key question concerning justice for the survivors of the genocidal violence. But it cannot be answered with certainty as long as Modi remains in power. Amicus Curiae Ramachandran believes the merit of the allegations would have to be weighed after the cross-examination of Bhatt and others in this case. Charges against Modi cannot just be brushed aside as SIT had done.
By ensuring that he controls the investigation into the pogrom, Modi has managed to remain in power for nine years. It is the failure of our criminal justice system that he is ready to present himself now as BJP's prime ministerial candidate. Would a resurgent judiciary allow this?