The Wheels Of
Justice Get Moving
22 August, 2004
are repeating history. Their main aim is not to destroy maximum possible
Hindu Temples, but to destroy Hindu Religion and Hindu culture and to
rape Hindu ladies ... If Hindus won't awake with these incidents, Hindu
religion and Hindu culture would be finished ... Hindu Youth, now it
is time to test your courage and strength. Prepare bombs, Dharias, Sticks,
prepare bows to throw burning missiles. Leave defensive policy and attack
now. Arise to avenge insult to our temples and ladies, and rush to Muslim
areas with weapons and finish them."
familiar with the highly charged communal rhetoric of the Sangh Parivar
will find nothing startling or new in the above quote. The reason for
its recall is to illustrate that its genesis shares little with Godhra
2002 and its bloody aftermath, though the sentiment evoked is very much
part of the jihadi Hindutva prescribed by the Sangh Parivar and its
affiliates. These lines, in fact, are taken from a leaflet titled "Awake
Hindus Awake Youths," distributed by the Hindu Sangram Samiti
during and after the communal riots in Gujarat in September 1969.
Despite a long history
of communal riots in Gujarat, why is it, then, that Narendra Modi and
his Government have come to represent the most diabolical form of communalism
in independent India's history?
Jan Breman, the
sociologist, writing in April 2002, succinctly describes the distinctiveness
of the riots of February-March 2002: "In Spring 2002, the religious
cleansing operation has been more severe, larger in scale and longer
lasting than on earlier occasions, mainly because the state apparatus
both the leading political party and government agencies
condoned or even facilitated the pogrom, rather than stopped it, while
it was taking place in late February and early March."
More than two years
after the Godhra incident and the riots that followed, a process of
making the State Government and Sangh Parivar politicians accountable
has ensued, entirely as a result of the tenacity of civil and human
rights groups, NGOs, and, most significantly, the Supreme Court of India.
In the context of
the Best Bakery and Bilkis Bano cases, the highest court in the land
gave significant and trendsetting judgments in individual cases.
The Court's strictures
against the Modi Government were marked by an unprecedented severity,
where the Judges called the Gujarat Government a bunch of "modern
day Neros," who were guilty of looking elsewhere when "Best
Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning."
But the April 12,
2004 judgment went a step further. It also commented on how the "modern
day Neros" were "probably deliberating how the perpetrators
of the crime can be protected." Almost five months later, the Supreme
Court has tightened the noose around those who were protecting the perpetrators
of the crime as well as those who were protected till now.
The August 17 judgment
of the apex court is singularly significant for imputing collective
responsibility on the entire State Government machinery, the criminal
investigation department and the lower courts for allowing summary dismissal
of more than half of the 4256 cases registered during and after the
riots, and asking for a reinvestigation of all such cases.
The political implications
of the August 17 judgment are far-reaching. Scores of Bharatiya Janata
Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal leaders and activists are
accused of active involvement in arson, murder and instigating riots.
The State Government machinery, till recently, went the proverbial extra
mile to protect them. Reopening more than 2000 cases makes those implicated
protection, a depletion in the BJP's political base and a resultant
demoralisation among its cadres is inevitable. Their ire is bound to
turn against Mr. Modi, whose alleged sanction was the very basis for
Mr. Modi's woes
have been compounded by simmering dissidence against him and growing
dissatisfaction among farmers, notably led by the RSS affiliate, the
Bharatiya Kisan Sangh.
The BJP, however,
faces a dilemma. The Supreme Court has inaugurated a process of restoration
of the rule of law in Gujarat that has now assumed an independent momentum.
Removing Mr. Modi is no longer a guarantee for deflecting the Court's
gaze from the systematic derailment of all norms of justice and law.
Retaining Mr. Modi, on the other hand, will help alienate the cadres
even further from the party's leadership.
Sources within the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh suggest that it was, indeed, in favour of
Mr. Modi's removal, only to be thwarted by Atal Bihari Vajpayee's outburst
against the Gujarat Chief Minister in Manali, with the unintended consequence
of giving him a fresh lease of life in power. Whether he stays or goes,
Mr. Modi has become the BJP's biggest political liability.
to the judicial commission probing Godhra and its aftermath have only
increased the discomfiture of the Modi Government. Senior police officials
have directly hinted at the complicity of politicians and senior police
officials in aiding and abetting the riots.
With a hostile Central
Government, a determined Supreme Court, and an unforgiving set of liberal
activists pitted against it, the Modi Government will find trampling
upon the rule of law and every norm of civil society difficult in the
days and weeks ahead.