Saturday, November 24, 2012

Just retribution

EDIT 30AUG2012

With a special court in Ahmedabad convicting 32 people, including a former minister in the Narendra  Modi government and a Bajrang Dal leader for the massacre of 97 people belonging to the minority community in Naroda Patiya area of the city in 2002, the victims of the Gujarat-wide post-Godhra pogrom, especially those in Naroda Patia, may feel they have got some justice.

Twenty-nine accused were acquitted by the court,  but the fact that a large number, including prominent personalities, were found guilty shows that the prosecution was effective in proving its case. The Naroda Patiya massacre was one of the most infamous ones to take place after the Godhra incident, and it is widely believed that the number of victims is much more than the officially recorded 97. The Gujarat high court had described the killings as ‘unparallelled in modern society.’ The victims in Gujarat are far away from full justice, but it is reassuring  that there is retribution in many cases.

Convictions have taken place in some well-known cases of massacre like those at Ode village near Anand and Sardarpura and Dipda Darwaja in Mehsana district. These cases were investigated and prosecuted by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court after the failure of the state police to effectively pursue them. The SIT has investigated nine riot-related cases and trial is still going on in some  of them. Unfortunately justice is delayed in all these cases. The main reason is the slackness of the Gujarat police in investigating the cases and the lack of interest on the part of the official machinery. But  for the pressure exerted by public-spirited persons and organisations and the intervention of the Supreme Court, most of these cases would not have reached anywhere.

The convictions in the Naroda Patiya case are, more than those in others, a setback for chief minister Narendra Modi and for the BJP. The convicted  former minister, Maya Kodnani, is a trusted lieutenant of  Modi. She was taken in the ministry even when she was facing serious charge of a direct role in the massacre. The conviction of the former minister and the Bajrang Dal leader shows how involved was the state’s political establishment in the conspiracy and killings. Modi still denies any responsibility for the killings but the last legal word on it is yet to be pronounced. The Naroda Patiya convictions show it may not be too far.