Advani & Modi Face Legal Scanner

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

NEW DELHI:  Ironically, two dark communal spots on India’s global image have hit headlines nearly at the same time and in a similar pattern. One refers to demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on December 6, 1992, which was followed by nation-wide riots targeting Muslims. The other is the 2002-Gujarat carnage, when thousands of Muslims were attacked and killed in Gujarat by violent mobs of Hindu extremists. Legal cycle has cast shadows on the role played by two key politicians of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the cases. L.K. Advani is under scanner for having incited mobs for demolition of Babari Masjid. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been questioned for nearly 10 hours for his role in 2002-carnage (March 27).

Legal and political questions holding Advani responsible for the Ayodhya-issue and Modi for Gujarat-carnage may have still remained under the wraps, were it not for the role played by several women. Yes, the Ayodhya-ghost has raised its head again to haunt Advani primarily because of the detailed testimony given by a senior lady officer, Anju Gupta before a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh (March 26). Modi was summoned by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, following a petition filed by Zakia Jaffrey. Zakia’s husband, Ehsan Jaffrey (former legislator) was among more than 50 people burnt to death in the Gulbarga Society massacre of February 28, 2002.

In her petition, Zakia alleged that Modi, his government and administration had helped rioters during the Gujarat-carnage. She is still hopeful of the guilty being punished. On Modi being summoned by SIT, Zakia said: “I expect justice from God and Supreme Court, because it won’t let injustice happen. Since, it is Supreme Court it has been doing justice for years. I’m sure that the Supreme Court will deliver justice.”

By finally appearing before the SIT, Modi has defied speculations being circulated about his trying to escape law. He may have to appear before SIT again and also before the Supreme Court, as the case is pending there, sources said. To a degree, while Modi has silenced his critics he has provided his political colleagues some reason to express appreciation for his appearing before SIT and face such a long question-answer session. Of course, what Modi has faced before SIT is no match for what thousands of Muslims across Gujarat went through for several months in 2002. Just as the dead cannot be brought back to life, the wounds left by that carnage cannot be healed by whatever amount of compensation is handed over to survivors and even if Modi faces grilling sessions for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, that Modi finally faced the SIT certainly indicates that he has been to a degree forced to bow before the Indian legal process, primarily as the widow of one of the victims decided to knock at the doors of justice. 

Ironically, though there never has been any doubt about Advani’s role in Ayodhya-case and that of Modi in Gujarat-carnage, till date both have appeared to remain almost unapproachable even for the long arms of law and justice. The SIT summons has broken this myth for Modi just as that of Anju Gupta’s testimony for Advani. Earlier, Advani had been discharged on the plea that charges against him were based on mere suspicion. Anju’s testimony has totally changed the legal situation. She was then posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Ayodhya and was in charge of Advani’s security.

During her testimony, Anju claimed that Advani “looked euphoric” as he declared in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that a temple would be built at the site of the demolished mosque. “Advani not only looked euphoric but also declared before the huge crowds at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that the Ram temple would be built at the disputed site in the temple town,” she said. He “gave quite a provocative speech for which he was applauded by his other party colleagues and the crowds,” she said. Recalling what she saw on the day, Anju said: “There were at least 100 persons present on the dais along with Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambara, Ashok Singhal, S.C. Dikshit, and I remember their faces so distinctly that I would be able to still recognize at least 80 of them.” “There was so much excitement among the crowds that they distributed sweets after the mosque was pulled down,” she said.

Undeniably, neither the Ayodhya-case nor the Gujarat-carnage can be expected to conclude soon. It may take a fairly long time, before the hearings, counter-hearings, arguments and related processes reach the stage of judgments being pronounced. The final stage, if ever reached, may still be checked by filing of more petitions, special petitions and so forth. Nevertheless, at least, BJP leaders are finally forced to acknowledge and accept that they cannot escape law forever: -17 years have passed since the demolition and eight since Gujarat-carnage. The ones responsible for those communal phases have been forced to be on the defensive, though late but definitely! 

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Gujarat Carnage: Modi Summoned!

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is in news again, but not for the reasons he or his party associates appreciate. Eight years after Gujarat-carnage, in which of thousands of Muslims in the state were killed and/or injured, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has summoned Modi. Created by Supreme Court in March 2008 to probe into 2002-Gujarat riots, the SIT has summoned Modi to appear before it on March 21. Modi, if he appears before the SIT, is expected to face questions over the murder of Congress legislator Ehsan Jaffrey. He and more than 50 other Muslims were killed by extremist Hindu rioters in Gulbarg Society, a residential complex in Ahmedabad (February 28, 2002). Modi and at least 60 others have been blamed and criticized for not doing enough to check the communal violence and protect the state’s Muslim citizens.  

“Yes, we have summoned Mr. Modi,” R.K. Raghavan, SIT head said. “On 21 March, we will ask him a few questions. Then we will send a report to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Supreme Court is taking action on a petition filed by Jaffrey’s widow, Zakia. In her petition, she named Modi and 62 others, alleging that they conspired to “let Hindus vent their anger” after the Godhra-incident. The Godhra-incident refers to fire on Sabarmati Express, in which around 60 Hindus died. While fire’s cause was said to be an accident, extremist Hindu groups alleged that it was started by Muslim protestors because of which they reacted leading to Gujarat-carnage, with Hindu rioters targeting Muslims.

Following Zakia’s petition, the Supreme Court directed SIT to probe the alleged role of persons she had named as responsible for the riots, including Modi and 62 others. Though it is not clear, whether summoning of Modi will lead to any judicial action against him or not, according to Zakia: “I have not slept properly ever since the incident. Now, he (Modi) will also have sleepless nights.” “I hope justice will be given to us. It has been a long journey. I am very happy that Modi has been summoned,” she said.

Elaborating on the petition filed against Modi, Zakia’s son Tanveer Jaffrey said: “This is a step to file an FIR (First Information Report) against Modi. Until an FIR is filed you cannot say where the investigation will lead to.” Tanveer is hopeful, that “this will open up other cases too.”

“The summoning should have happened long ago as the chief minister of Gujarat and his government presided over the worst ‘pogram’ against minorities in independent India,” Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari said in New Delhi. The Congress felt that it would be appropriate for Modi to resign as chief minister.

The Congress in Gujarat has not yet too made too much noise about Modi facing summons. Justifying the cautious stand taken by his party, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Arjun Modhvadiya said: “The SIT must have strong evidence to issue a summon. We hope that the team carries out further investigations in right earnest and bring him to justice.” Modhvadiya, former leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, also voiced demand for Modi’s resignation inside and outside the House.  Modi should tender his resignation on “moral grounds,” he said as the summons were based on Supreme Court’s directives and on the basis of evidence collected by SIT.

Dismissing Congress demand for Modi’s resignation, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The summons to Modi by SIT are a part of the legal process which shall be dealt with as per the process of law.”

The BJP is considering legal options to save Modi from facing a tough legal battle. “What our strategy is something that we don’t want to discuss on camera. But it takes long term planning in such cases,” Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said. The Congress was “day dreaming,” by thinking that Modi would resign following the summons, Vyas said. “The party may wish for anything but there is no reason for Mr. Modi to quit,” he said.

Survivors of Gujarat-carnage are fairly pessimistic on whether summoning of Modi would spell any major development in speeding action against the rioters. “What we are going to witness on March 21 is a high-voltage drama when the chief minister appears before the SIT to respond to allegations leveled against him by various witnesses. That is it. It is going to be an eyewash,” according to Mukhat Ahmad, a riot victim-turned-rights activist.

Dismissing the summons as a “hype,” a senior officer said: “What can deposition achieve? The SIT is not in a position to interrogate, grill anyone or Modi. Can it force him or anyone to say something that one chooses to hide? So what will this achieve except create a hype?” Asserting that Zakia’s petition cannot force legal action against Modi, analysts said: “There is no direct evidence against Modi.” A chief minister cannot be held as directly responsible as, they said: “There are no constitutional or legal liabilities on the CM or the political head of the state in a riot-like situation. The direct-action duty lies on the police head and local officers of the disturbed area.”

Nevertheless, all are waiting for March 21. Will Modi face the summons? If he does, what will be developments? Or will he seek a change in the date, citing some prior engagement, and thus evade the March 21 summons! 

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