Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002
The state government
The complicity of the state government is obvious. And, the support of the central government to the state government in all that it did is also by now a matter of common knowledge.
Within hours of the Godhra arson [when the partial incineration of a train on 27 February 2002 was blamed on Islamic militants as a pretext for the massacre that followed] an organised carnage was planned and ruthlessly executed over the next 72 hours in 15 of Gujarat’s 25 districts. It was apparent that thanks to the instructions from the state government, the administration and the police stood paralysed as the brutal massacres were clinically executed.<?xml:namespace prefix = o />
It was the Chief Minister [of the state] who declared that the Godhra incident was pre-planned when the investigating agencies had not reached such a conclusion. Shri Modi’s cabinet, notably the Minister for Home, Shri Gordhan Zadaphiya, reiterated strongly that Pakistani hands were behind the Godhra act. These statements were irresponsible, given the sensitivity of the situation and the anger that they generated. Once they generated a climate ripe for apportioning blame, for the acts of a few criminals, the entire Ghanchi Muslim community of Godhra was branded. This led to a feeling of justifying the systematic massacre, plunder, loot and cultural decimation of the entire Muslim community in Gujarat thereafter.
On February 27, hours after the Godhra tragedy, the Prime Minister said in Parliament that from the preliminary reports it appeared that the incident was the result of slogan shouting. On April 4, when he visited the Shah-e-Alam Camp, he bemoaned the burning alive of women and children, the rapes and killings and urged the Gujarat government to observe its duty. But only a fortnight later, at his party’s national executive meeting in Goa on April 22, he said the Gujarat carnage would not have occurred but for the Godhra arson. Thereafter, he bemoaned India’s loss of face in the international community. He termed the Gujarat carnage as “a blot on the nation”. His statement at his party’s national executive in Goa bears mention: “Wherever there are Muslims, there is a problem”.
The role of the then union Home Minister and now Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L K Advani appears to be patently partisan. His dogged refusal to acknowledge within the country that the Gujarat carnage was an inhuman, shameful act on the part of the communal elements among Hindus, yet accepting it as a blot on the country during his foreign jaunt in England, makes people wonder whether he is a spokesman of the party which he represents or the Home Minister/Deputy Prime Minister in the government of India?
In the past, communal riots had been mostly an urban phenomenon that did not spread to the villages. But this time, due to the sectarian politics of religion, it spread to the villages as well. One of the worst incidents was at Sardarpura village where 38 villagers were hacked and torched [to death]. This is what Shri Modi had to say about the gruesome killings on March 1: “Due to rumours, due to suspicion, due to mistrust, due to tension on both sides, there was an incident (emphasis added) in the Sardarpura village.” He took no steps to nip the rumours in the bud.
Other ministers in the state cabinet displayed the same attitude. Electoral constituencies of ministers in the state cabinet were more prone to violence; in some cases, ministers themselves were leading the mobs. The Minister for Revenue, Shri Haren Pandya, led the mobs enthusiastically in Ahmedabad. Residents of Paldi, from where Shri Pandya was elected, actually saw him lead arson attacks. Shri Pandya’s election promise the last time was “to wipe any trace of Muslims out of Paldi”.
The utter disregard for the loss of life and property and the anguish that a section of the citizenry suffered due to unprecedented violence could be seen in the fact that until Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee flew into Ahmedabad and visited the Shah-e-Alam Camp, Shri Modi had not visited a single one. This, despite the fact that there were as many as 66,000 persons, according to collector’s figures, huddled in camps in Ahmedabad, while independent assessments put the figure at close to 98,000. Instead of providing succour and assistance, which is the fundamental duty of a government towards its citizens, terror tactics through baton-wielding policemen were employed with the residents of these camps. In areas of Gujarat outside Ahmedabad, too, there were as many as 60,000 persons internally displaced, living in terrible conditions. But the government and the administration did precious little to give them prompt and adequate relief.
The attitude of the government showed it had no regard for the life, well-being and future of students from the minority community. Traumatised and distressed students had requested a postponement of the annual examinations. But the state government, and later even the Gujarat High Court, rejected their plea. On April 10, the Gujarat government took a decision to shift out all examination centres located in the minority dominated areas, out of concern for the lives of students belonging to the majority community. However, minority community children were still expected to travel to examination centres located in majority dominated areas.
On March 1, the Chief Minister announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the Godhra tragedy alone, appointing retired judge Shri K G Shah at its head. Again, only after widespread protests did he announce the inclusion, in the terms of reference of inquiry of the judicial commission, of the post–Godhra carnage (on March 5). The appointment of the K G Shah Commission was the subject of serious controversy because of the conduct of this particular judge in an earlier matter and also on the simple ground that due to the situation in Gujarat, where judges, academics, professionals and others live under threat of fanatic groups who have become a law unto themselves, the criteria of a free, fair and independent inquiry demands the appointment of a senior judge (preferably judges) from outside the state.
Not only the criminal justice system, but the entire administration has failed. Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service officers who are supposed to be independent have succumbed to the pressure of the religious groups. “There is no civil service left in Gujarat,” said the former Indian cabinet secretary Shri T S R Subramanian (The Indian Express, April 10).
Role of the Chief Minister and his ministerial colleagues
The facts mentioned in this report clearly establish that Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi is the chief author and architect of all that happened in Gujarat after the arson of February 27, 2002. It is amply clear from all the evidence placed before the Tribunal that what began in Godhra, could have, given the political will, been controlled promptly at Godhra itself. Instead, the state government under Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi took an active part in leading and sponsoring the violence against minorities all over Gujarat. His words and actions throughout the developments in Gujarat show that he has been openly defying the Constitution and indulging in actions which are positively detrimental to the interests of the country.
Shri Modi was the one who took Godhra to the rest of Gujarat. He was the one who directed the police and the administration not to act.
He refused shelter and succour to the victims of the carnage.
He refused, and continues to refuse, basic human amenities and was using coercion and other tactics to wind up refugee relief camps.
He has refused to buy land and rehabilitate persons in new locations or to give transparent accounts of the Rs 150 crore [1 crore = 10 million] rehabilitation package announced by Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee during his visit to the state on April 4, 2002. He has no remorse for the rapes, the butcherings, the loss of properties, the agony of displacement and the acute insecurity and lack of belonging felt by large numbers of the people of Gujarat.
As late as September 3, 2002, the international working president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shri Ashok Singhal made a shocking statement that received wide publicity, in which he described Gujarat as a “successful experiment” and warned that it would be repeated all over India. Shri Singhal further stated that the success of the Gujarat exepriment lay in the fact that entire villages were “purged” of Islam and Muslims. This outrageous and pathetic statement was not only anti-constitutional but also in violation of the law itself, for which he could be prosecuted. But Shri Modi, by not expressing any outrage at Shri Singhal’s remarks, and by indulging in blatant minority-bashing himself, appears to have accepted Shri Singhal’s warning.
It is unfortunate that all Shri Modi’s ministerial colleagues have toed his line with no regard to the oath that they took under the Indian Constitution. They are, therefore, equally guilty of the commissions and omissions committed by the Chief Minister.
Evidence before the Tribunal clearly establishes the absolute failure of large sections of the Gujarat police to fulfil their constitutional duty and prevent mass murder, rape and arson—in short, to maintain law and order. Worst still is the evidence of their connivance and brutality, and their indulgence in vulgar and obscene conduct against women and children in full public view.
To start with, the Godhra incident would not have taken place had the police taken due precautions right from the beginning. Once the Godhra tragedy had occurred, the Gujarat police made no preventive arrests.
It was obvious that the situation was tense and could get out of hand. The minimum that the state does in similar situations is to effect preventive arrests of persons who are likely to cause violence. Section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) permits preventive arrests by the police. It reads: “151(1). A police officer knowing of a design to commit any cognizable offence may arrest, without orders from a magistrate and without a warrant, the person so designing, if it appears to such officer that the offence cannot be otherwise prevented.”
Such lists are available with all police stations. Leave alone other parts of Gujarat, the preventive arrests made on February 27 in Ahmedabad itself throw a light on the intentions of the police:
Gaekwad Haveli 0
Ellis Bridge 0
The two persons arrested at Astodia were both Muslims.
On the night of February 27, some companies of the State Reserve Police (SRP) were rustled into action, but they were split into groups of four or five personnel each, which rendered them largely ineffective against the mobs that went on the rampage on February 28.
On February 28, former Congress MP, Shri Ashan Jafri from the Gulberg society in Chamanapura, made repeated frantic calls pleading for police assistance against a huge mob in a murderous mood. He kept calling the control room for several hours, until, finally, with no one to check the mob, he was charred to death along with 65 of his relatives and neighbours. Pleading anonymity, police officials who met the Tribunal confirmed that Shri Jafri had also made frantic calls to the Director General of Police, the Police Commissioner, the Chief Secretary and the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) among others. Three mobile vans of the city police were on hand around Shri Jafri’s house but did not intervene. Finally, when he came out of his house with folded hands and appealed to the crowd to spare all the others who had taken shelter in his house, the marauders cut him to pieces and then consigned him to flames. They also set fire to the house in an attempt to burn alive all those who were in the house. It was only nine hours later that the Rapid Action Force (RAF) of the central government intervened, by which time it was far too late.
“The police tried their best, but they couldn’t stop the mobs. They were grossly outnumbered when the mobs grew,” Ahmedabad’s Police Commissioner, Shri P C Pandy had pleaded. But in most cases, inadequacy of forces is a mere excuse touted by serving police officers who fail in their primary duty. Even in Gujarat this time, in several cases where good officers held out against political pressure, the same small deployment was enough to act decisively and control the situation. In the vast majority of cases, however, the police either did not act or acted on behalf of the mob.
The Gujarat police force has finally admitted that it killed more Muslims than Hindus in its ostensible attempts to stop what was clearly targeted Hindu violence against Muslims. Of the 184 people who died in police firing since the violence began, 104 are Muslims, says a report drafted by Gujarat police force itself.
Apart from targeting sections of the Muslim population with bullets, the Gujarat police have further blackened their conduct by indiscriminate arrests of innocent young Muslims all over the state. The Tribunal has recorded details of these arrests and we estimate that at least 500 innocent Muslims languish in police lock-ups and jails of the state.
The overtly partisan behaviour of the Gujarat police can be assessed from the language contained in the charge sheets related to the major incidents of mass massacre. For instance, the charge sheet filed in the Gulberg society killings, where no less than 60-70 persons were brutally killed, virtually begins with a defence of the accused and paints the victims as instigators.
In a similar misrepresentation, the Tribunal records with horror the way the Naroda Patiya charge sheet reads: “The unruly crowd at Naroda Patiya went on the rampage after a mini-truck driven by a Muslim ran over a Hindu youth and the mutilated body of a Hindu was recovered from the area… the crowd was anguished by the incident.”
Progress of Major Cases
Sardarpura massacre, Mehsana district: Thirty-three persons, mostly women and children, were burnt alive in a small room in Sardarpura village in Mehsana district. In all, there are 46 accused and they have been released on bail following four different applications filed before the additional sessions judge, Mehsana Judge D R Shah.
Deepla Darwaja, Visnagar, Mehsana district: Eleven persons were hacked or burnt to death. Thereafter, with a view to destroy the evidence, the culprits collected their remains and dumped them in a lake situated in a Patel community area. Two cancellation of bail applications have been filed against the 43 accused who were released on bail. Predictably, the same [public prosecutor] (Shri Trivedi who is also general secretary of the district VHP) who never objects to bail applications by the VHP and the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), had registered his ‘no objection’ to bail being given to the accused.
Best Bakery Case, Vadodara district: In the Best Bakery Case in Vadodara, where 12 persons were killed by a mob of around 1000 people, the police have played a shocking role by booking one Muslim, Shri Yasin Alibhai Khokhar, among others, and charging him with murder, robbery and arson.
Police conduct after the Gujarat carnage, with regard to the registration of crimes, conducting of investigations etc., has been marked by a desire to please political bosses and an utter disregard for the law of the land. The Tribunal has evidence of the police bullying victim-survivors into filing First Information Reports wherein only mobs are mentioned, without naming the assailants and mob leaders whom the victim-survivors had clearly recognised during the incidents of violence.
The Concerned Citizens Tribunal – 2002 submitted its report on the carnage in Gujarat in Crime against humanity (Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai, 2002). The Tribunal was headed by the preeminent human rights campaigner and builder of India’s people’s tribunal movement, retired Supreme Court judge, Justice V R Krishna Iyer. Among its members was Justice H Suresh, who is also a member of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Right to Food and the Rule of Law in Asia (see article 2, vol. 2, no. 2, April 2003). For an earlier short article by Justice H Suresh on the events in Gujarat, see ‘Gujarat, a crime against humanity’, article 2, vol. 1, no. 3, June 2002, pp. 18–19.
This is the second in a series of edited excerpts from the Crime against humanity report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal being published in article 2. The first was published in article 2, vol. 2, no. 1, February 2003. The entire report is available online, at [http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal].
The Asian Legal Resource Centre is taking steps to highlight the report and the work of the Tribunal out of concern that the scale and horrendous nature of the massacre, combined with the extent of planning and state complicity, has not been adequately addressed regionally and internationally. The international community is beholden to respond.
Link to Gujarat : http://massacres.ahrchk.net/gujarat/index.php