Shadow of riots looms over Gujarat in run-up to Assembly poll

It has dominated every election since 2002, except 2017

July 17, 2022 12:07 am | Updated 12:07 am IST - AHMEDABAD

Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad | Photo Credit: File Photo

Former DGP of Gujarat R.B. Sreekumar.

Former DGP of Gujarat R.B. Sreekumar. | Photo Credit: File Photo

Exactly two decades later, the 2002 Gujarat riots is set to dominate the narrative as the State gears up for crucial Assembly polls in less than six months. 

In an affidavit filed in court on Friday, the Gujarat police claimed that late Congress veteran Ahmed Patel hatched a “larger conspiracy” with social activist Teesta Setalvad and others to “destabilise or dismiss” the then Modi government in the State by falsely implicating top functionaries. The affidavit also accuses them of fabricating evidence and resorting to forgery in the 2002 communal riots cases.

 The affidavit has been filed to oppose the bail plea of Ms. Setalvad and former IPS R.B. Sreekumar, both of whom were arrested on June 25 for attempt to falsely implicate people in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The State police have claimed there was a “larger conspiracy” by those who apparently pursued the legal and judicial means to get justice for the riot victims.

“The ruling BJP wants to fight the 2022 Assembly poll by raising the bogey of communal riots that took place under its watch in 2002,” said Gujarat Congress chief Jagdish Thakor on Saturday. The ruling party, he added, was apprehensive of facing the electorate on the issue of governance and was therefore adopting such “diversionary tactics” to polarise the voters.

“The political objective of the applicant (Setalvad) while enacting this larger conspiracy was dismissal or destabilisation of the elected government. She obtained illegal financial and other benefits and rewards from rival political party in lieu of her attempts to wrongly implicate innocent persons in Gujarat,” the Special Investigation Team (SIT) stated in the affidavit filed in the Ahmedabad court. 

It stated that Ms. Setalvad also received ₹30 lakh from Patel, and the Padma Shri conferred on her was also meant “for malicious and vexatious prosecution” of the State functionaries. 

 

Except 2017, the 2002 riots dominated the political discourse in the Assembly polls in 2002, 2007 and 2012. In 2017, it was the quota agitation by the Patidars and counter agitation by the OBC communities which dominated the polls.  

In 2007, the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi had taken on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who in her election speech had called the government as “merchants of deaths” without mentioning any name while referring the riots. 

In the 2012 Assembly election, Mr. Modi as CM in his first campaign rally from his Assembly constituency — Maninagar in Ahmedabad — had said that “if voted to power, Congress would make Ahmed miya the Chief Minister”. 

The opposition party, except in 2007 when Ms. Gandhi made the “merchant of deaths” remark, has tried to stay away from raising the communal riots narrative for fear of polarisation. 

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