Saturday, November 24, 2012


Gujarat EDN
AM 30AUG2012


Judgment dashes some hopes, but victims’ kin, survivors express satisfaction and say the battle will continue until all culprits are brought to justice

Team AM 

    Arrangements for a grand homecoming had been made at Sachin Nagindas Modi’s residence. The family was hopeful of him coming back home by Wednesday night after spending seven years in jail. Wife Bhumika along with two young sons were looking forward to being with him.
    The Modi family had decided to cook some auspicious ‘lapshi’. Ever since the Gujarat riots broke out in 2002, the family has been under distress. Sachin had not even completed 25 years when he was arrested for his role in Naroda Patiya massacre. Bhumika did not want her husband to continue with his spare parts business. Instead she wanted him to take up a job and lead a “normal, regular” life.
    Her hopes were quashed when Modi was convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, attempt to murder, rioting, vandalising, destroying public property, instigating communal tensions, all together under 15 sections of the Indian Penal Code.
    On the other hand, Shabana Bundu Qureshi, who lost her two teenage sisters and mother when fanatics ran after them, did not take up any urgent tailoring jobs for the day. She closely followed the verdict. After the verdict, there was solemn silence in the crowded Naroda Patia street. When some of the tormentors of her family were convicted, she simply looked up in the sky and went blank. Sitting in her stinking room, she said her tears dried up long ago. 2002 is still etched in her memory though she has moved on.
    Her 76-year-old father had seen daughter (Shabana’s younger sister) being raped before being killed by a local aspiring politician. She decided to fight for justice. “Today when I saw Suresh being convicted, it was justice delivered but the battle is not yet over and many culprits are still out.”
    Shabana never talks about the public rape of her sister on that fateful day in 2002. Suresh Langda, the main accused was an influential person in their locality but Shabana did not lose courage. “My battle is not over. I want the main mastermind behind this to pay for all this indignation and violence,” Shabana says with a dignity in her voice. She has already etched out her next battle. “I will fight till end. I cannot let (chief minister) Narendra Modi become the prime minister of this country” she says.
Naroda Patiya was the biggest 2002 massacre case. In all, 97 Muslims were killed. Some of them were raped, some burnt, some molested, some had their hands or legs chopped off. On Wednesday, after the verdict was read out by designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik at Old High Court Building near Income Tax, no media was allowed in but even outside there was pindrop silence. It was soon replaced by screeches of women and others who found their husbands, sons and fathers convicted. Families of 29 accused who were acquitted were overjoyed. The k a h i n k h u s h i k a h i n g a m atmosphere was apparent.
Ironically, it was a day when Modi had tried to prove his innocence in an interview to W a ll S t r e e t J o u r n a l. He found little support from his party as no central leader came out to defend him in the riots case, giving rise to speculations that this was a strategy decided at the high command level. No BJP spokesman was ready to discuss as to why was Maya Kodnani made a minister after she led a mob at Naroda Patiya. Also, Modi loyalists claimed that Modi was not keen to let Kodnani contest assembly election, much less making her a minister. But a senior central leader pushed her case. Incidentally, Gujarat police which earlier investigated the case had not even named Kodnani in it. Seeking anonymity, a Modi loyalist said he immediately removed Kodnani from the cabinet. (Actually, Modi did not remove Kodnani. She went underground but when she was arrested by SIT, she had to resign.)
    Ironically, more than 90 per cent of her clients are Muslims from Naroda Patiya and her doctor husband is someone whom Muslim women of Naroda still trust as reliable. Kodnani too, as a gynaecologist, has helped hundreds of women. Once mentored by Modi, she was apparently rewarded for her hardcore Hindutva and made a minister.
    Meanwhile, Gujarat government distanced itself from Kodnani and her misdoings. Official spokesman and Health Minister Jai Narayan Vyas claimed, “An MLA is not a state government functionary. Second, Dr Maya Kodnani was not a minister when this incident took place,” Vyas told reporters. He also ruled out Modi’s resignation as demanded by Congress. “Several ministers at the Centre will have to resign first if this is considered as a yardstick,” Vyas retorted.
Farzana was perhaps the only Muslim who cried at the verdict. She fell in love with Suresh, a Hindu, and married him. Suresh was convicted of rape (Shabana Qureshi’s younger sister), murder, criminal conspiracy and several other crimes. The Muslim wife of Suresh Langda alias Richards alias Suresh Deedawala cried uncontrollablyasthecourtpronounceditsverdict.
    Farzana Shaukat Ali alias Seema told M i r r o r that her husband was innocent and had been trapped in the case. “I married a Hindu and my community has wrongly implicated my husband in the case to exact revenge. As many as 63 persons have given statements against my husband. These allegations were made with malafide intentions despite my husband not being involved in violence. This is the highest number of witnesses against a single person. All this due to the enmity caused because of me marrying Suresh. We have a 15-year-old daughter, Rachelle, and a 12-year-oldson, Richardson. We are now alone. I do not regret having fallen in love with Suresh.”
    However, the police say Suresh is a dreaded anti-social who actively participated in the massacre.
Family members of the victims and survivors were contentwith the verdict. Siddik Mansuri, a key witness in Kodnani’s case said, “The first stone pelting incident happened around 9.30 am on February 28. Later Kodnani instigated the mobs that became uncontrollable as they also had state patronage. The conviction of Kodnani has strengthened our faith in the rule of law. Hopefully such things will never be repeated.”
    Shakina Bibi Shaikh said, “In Naroda Patiya, Hindus and Muslims lived like brethren. But outsiders having vested interests divided us and created amistrust which would live for generations. Those who disturbed this peace are now going to be behind bars. It gives me great satisfaction and consolation.”
    Salim Shaikh said, “There was a clear nexus between mantri, santri and sarkar (ministers, police and government). This has been exposed. However, it is mysterious why police officers such as K K Mysorewala and P MParkhi, who were involved in the violence, have been spared by SIT.”
    Goriben Shaikh said, “The first and foremost person who should be tried is Chief Minister Narendra Modi. It is the government’s responsibility to protect all its citizens. If they fail in maintaining peace and order it’s a serious crime.”