Continuing to charge the Special Investigation Team (SIT) with deliberately ignoring vital evidence, counsel for Zakia Jafri, who lost her politician-husband Ehsan Jafri in the 2002 Gujarat massacre, on Friday asserted in a court here that the investigators did not bother to see the similarity and links between various major incidents that established communal conspiracy and connivance at the highest level.
Ms. Jafri has filed a protest petition here in a metropolitan court against the Supreme Court-appointed SIT that gave a clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the riots.
Mihir Desai, Ms. Jafri’s counsel, pointed out that there was massive evidence of police inaction in not only the eight major massacres that the SIT probed, but in many more incidents of violence in the State. The police, he said, had either ignored distress calls or just stood mute and allowed the riots to take place.
He cited court observations and directives in the worst massacre — the Naroda Patiya incident in Ahmedabad in which some 91 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. It may be noted that the former Gujarat Minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, Maya Kodnani, has been sentenced to life for her role in this massacre.“This is not just about one case,” Mr. Desai pointed out, “but also in the seven to eight cases that the SIT inquired. Why seven to eight, in many, many more cases the story has been similar.”
He argued that when similar incidents of mass violence targeting Muslims occurred in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage on February 27, the State administration and top officials in the State Home Department (including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was holding the Home portfolio then) did not initiate any usual measures such as imposing curfew at the right time, making preventive arrests and deploying the forces, including the Army, immediately and effectively.
Role of local media
The Chief Minister’s letters to thevernacular press for having served the cause of “humanity in a big way” and their “full support” in the hour of crisis, pointed towards a conspiracy, Mr. Desai argued. A team of the Editors Guild has already pointed out that several stories in the local press were completely provocative.
Mr. Desai cited one story in a mass-circulated Gujarat daily that claimed that a posse of Hajis were returning from the Gulf with arms and ammunition to Gujarat to “avenge” the post-Godhra incidents. “Nothing of this sort was attributed to anyone, neither did any such thing happen,” he said, and wondered why the Chief Minister would write a letter “selectively to those papers” that fanned such incendiary stories. The Editors Guild’s findings, he said, were completely ignored by the SIT.
Even the SIT has recorded that no action was taken against several “communally incisive reports” in the local vernacular press — which were recommended by field police officers and their seniors. But despite this, it concluded: “This is not capable of making out any criminal action”. Citing this, Mr. Desai asked, “If this is not, what is?”
“There were incisive stories in the local press, the police officials concerned recommended action but such an approval did not come from the top. That shows the actual conspiracy (of provoking and fanning communal violence for political interests), there is no need to go beyond that.”