Published On:12 April 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Gujarat Riots: SIT 'clean chit' a lose-lose proposition for Narendra Modi

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team has found no evidence against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 57 others in the complaint filed against them by Zakia Jafri in the 2002 Gujarat riots, but what is in store now?

A legal ‘clean chit’ of the sort that the SIT has given Modi counts for little in the political parlance. He and his supporters can claim justifiably that he has exorcised the ghost of the 2002 riots, but it won’t take him far. In that sense, it’s a lose-lose proposition for Modi.

To put it mildly, this is good news for the controversial CM. Though not technically, the declaration by the court about the SIT report will be publicised as a 'clean chit' for Modi. His already busy spin doctors will get a fresh dose of adrenalin.

Politically, this is a big boost for him as it strengthens his chances for a bigger national role within the BJP or as the much- touted PM candidate in 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Significantly, in her petition to the Supreme Court,Zakia Jafri had listed Modi as an accused, along with 61 others, for abetting the crime at Gulbarg Society.He was accused No 1 in her complaint.

Zakia had included Modi in her complaint on the grounds that her husband and former Congress MP, Ahsan Jafri, had personally informed Modi on the phone of an impending attack when the mob was closing in.

He had sought immediate police protection, which Zakia claims Modi could have provided as he was the chief minister and his instruction would have saved 69 lives. It was after Ahsan supposedly spoke to Modi that the mob killed 69 people in Gulbarg.

Legally speaking, this is not a clean chit for Modi, but he will make sure it is perceived in that way in every corner of the world. An inkling of this was seen last year in September when he kick-started the Sadbhavana fasts after the SC transferred the SIT report to the Metropolitan court in Ahmedabad. Details of the report were not available, but speculations were rife that it was a 'clean chit' to Modi. He thrived on it politically.

SIT's report is only about the allegation of abetting this particular attack on Gulbarg. It does not have any bearing on the larger allegation of a chief minister failing his 'Raj Dharma' (as articulated by then BJP prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee) to control communal violence in the state.

That allegation and debate continues. A 'clean chit' in the Gulbarg massacre case is somehow being made out to fully exonerate him of all responsibilities for the violence which engulfed the state for many months in 2002.

Unfortunately, in publicising this minor victory, the larger debate will be doused. Activists and media will be seen struggling to get the Modi establishment answer this question: how could over 2,000 people of a minority community be killed in rampant violence than went on for months and the man in command of law and order of the state not be held responsible at all?

The fine print is that the SIT report may not have found Modi and 61 others 'innocent'. It has seemingly given them the benefit of the doubt in the absence of 'evidence'.

In retrospect, Zakia's bold complaint and the whole process of an independent inquiry by the SC- monitored SIT has turned out to be a big irony.

Because SIT could not establish a criminal conspiracy by Modi, this SC-monitored 'independent' investigation has inadvertently ended up lifting all responsibility (for the riots) from his shoulder. This he would not have achieved even after another decade of heated debates and frantic international media management.

This development is not the end of the road for 73-year-old Zakia and other complainants, but the beginning of another tiresome labyrinthine judicial journey.The SC order mandates the court to hear them before any closure report is filed. SIT wants to file a closure report so the court now has to hear the aggrieved parties.

The Metropolitan court has to take into consideration the report filed by SC-appointed amicus curie Raju Ramachandran. If the court goes against SIT's findings, Modi and co will go to higher courts. And if the court upholds the SIT's findings, Zakia and company will go to higher courts. The debate is which will end first — Modi's political career or this legal battle? This is not even the beginning of the end.

This report of SIT may not have much bearing on other cases as Modi is technically not an 'accused' in any of the other eight cases. Special courts have already given a verdict in three other cases till now - 31 convicted in Godhra train burning incident, 31 convicted in Sardarpura massacre, and 23 convicted in Ode massacre.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on April 12, 2012. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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