Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ten-year quest for justice

Gujarat EDN
DNA  31AUG2012

A revenge-possessed mob lynched 97 people at Naroda Patia in the '02 riots. Nikunj Soni recollects their...
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave Gujarat bandh call on February 28, 2002 to protest the killing of 59 karsevaks in the Sabarmati Express carnage at Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party supported the bandh call.

Communal tension builds up: Communal tension started to build up in city and crowds started gathering. Cops started keeping a vigil and tightened security at communally sensitive areas.

Mob of over 25,000 gathers: The crowd started gathering during the early morning at Naroda Patia and surrounding areas where riots had never happened before. Soon a mob of 20-25,000 people gathered and started to target chawls where Muslims resided near Noorani Masjid. They started pelting stones and then attacked societies and chawls with wooden sticks, pipes, swords and other lethal weapons.

Police force becomes mute spectator: The police force fell short in numbers against the mob of thousands and rioters, taking advantage of this fact, took out people from their homes and started burning and killing them. Many Muslim women were subjected to assault and rape and later burnt by using petrol and diesel.

Ghastly massacre: The rioters continued to dominate over the area till late afternoon. The massacre occurred in broad daylight. Many of the injured were taken to hospital later in the evening and survived. Victims were taken to relief camps by the police and social workers.

complaint & investigation

Police sub-inspector files complaint: Police sub-inspector VK Shah of the Naroda police station became a complainant and started investigation by lodging FIR against the mob on charges of murder, attempt to murder, attack, robbery, rioting and rape.

DCB takes over probe: After much hue and cry by social activists and opposition parties, the state government entrusted the probe to the Detection of Crime Branch. IPS officer Rahul Sharma, who was the DCP of the control room, also helped in the probe.

Names of powerful accused emerge: Names of Maya Kodnani, former BJP councillor Kishan Korani, Bipin Panchal and other VHP and BJP leaders’ names emerged as the probe began.

Round of arrests: The DCB first arrested over dozen accused and sent them to jail. It then started arresting other accused. However, most of them were released on bail by the court.

Filing of charge-sheet: The first charge-sheet was filed by the DCB on June 6, 2002. Two more were filed on August 23, 2002 and November 10, 2004.

Court journey

Stay on trial: The investigation and trial of the case was stopped in November 2003 when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and others filed a plea before the Supreme Court to transfer the trial of the case outside Gujarat. The case has remained pending since then. Only a dozen accused are behind bars.

SIT appointed for re-probe: On September 18, 2008, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the nine crucial riot cases including Naroda Patia. Under chairmanship of Raghvan, the SIT started probe into the case.

CJP and victims move representations: Teesta Setalvad of the Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) moved various representations to the SIT on behalf of the victims and put forward evidence against the accused.

Name of Maya Kodnani emerges: The SIT started probe into the role of BJP's former minister Dr Maya Kodnani and summoned her for questioning. Kodnani did not turn up.

Maya moves for anticipatory bail: Dr Maya Kodnani moved a plea seeking anticipatory bail in 2009 that was granted by the lower court. However, when the SIT challenged the order before the Gujarat high court, the latter cancelled the anticipatory bail.

Maya arrested and gets bail: Maya Kodnani was arrested by the SIT from her residence in Naroda. She was lodged in jail thereafter till she was granted bail in a few days by the Gujarat high court.

25 arraigned as accused by SIT: The SIT after reinvestigating the case named 25 persons as accused, including Maya Kodnani. The probe agency collected mammoth

evidence and the Rahul Sharma CD became a major instrument in the probe. Subsequently, SIT filed charge-sheet against

the accused.

Special judge appointed: On August 5, 2009, the Gujarat high court issued a notification appointing Dr Jyotsnaben Yagnik as the designated judge of the Naroda Patia case and the trial commenced against

the accused.

Babu Bajrangi in sting operation: Babu Bajrangi, prime accused of the Naroda Patia case, fell prey to a sting operation conducted by a national level magazine. He owned up to the whole episode and narrated how he and others conspired and killed Muslims at Naroda Patia.

SIT's plea to cancel bail of Bajrangi: Though most of the accused in the case are out on bail, the SIT, in August 2010, moved a plea to cancel bail of Babu Bajrangi before the Gujarat high court on various grounds including breach of condition of bail granted earlier. However, the plea was rejected.

CJP moved plea to arraign cops as accused: The CJP moved a plea on February 25, 2010 to further investigate the role of cops in the case and arraign them as accused. The cops are the Naroda Police inspector KK Mysorewala and SRP officer KP Parekh for opening firing against the Muslim victims.

Victims' demand: Some victims had demanded that former commissioner PC Pande, JCP MK Tandon, DCP PB Gondia, Naroda PIs KK Mysorewala and VS Gohil and SRP official KP Parekh and others be arraigned. But in its verdict on August 29, the special court rejected their demand.

Journalist Ashish Khetan deposes

before the court: The journalist who conducted the sting operation named 'Operation Kalank' deposed before the court and confirmed that he met riot accused Bajrangi and Suresh Langda and they were caught on camera.

Bajrangi, Langda voice test is positive: The SIT conducted voice spectography test on Babu Bajrangi and Suresh Langda, prime accused in the case and their voices matched with those in the sting operation CD. Moreover, the CD was also authenticated by forensic laboratories in Jaipur, Chandigarh and