Sunday, September 02, 2012

Naroda Patiya massacre : Justice finally served?

On August 31, 2012, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) court sentenced Mayaben Kodnani, BJP leader and former Minister for Women and Child Development of Gujarat, 28 years in Prison, and life imprisonment to Babu Bajrangi or Babubhai Patel, leader of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist organisation, in the Naroda Patiya Massacre.
On February 27, 2002, a day before the Naroda massacre, the Sabarmati Express, a train which connects Ahmedabad city in Gujarat to the city of Darbhanga in Bihar, was attacked and burnt near the Godhra Railway station, by a mob mainly consisting of Muslims. It was reported that 58 Hindus, including 25 women and 15 children were burnt to death.
This was the main incident which triggered the communal Hindu-Muslim riot in Gujarat, resulting in the deaths of 1044 people, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as well as widespread loss of property.
Gujarat or Godhra in specific has a long history of riots between the Hindu and Muslim communities going all the way back to Partition of India.
However, the reason as to why the Godhra incident actually happened is still a mystery of sorts! The Gujarat riots happened in the year 2002, a little over 10 years ago, at which time I was still a pretty young and therefore I have no recollection of this unpleasant episode.
A lot of reasons have been given as to why a train was suddenly attacked and burnt which led to the death of almost 60 Passengers. But even after a thorough research with the help of internet, I cannot find conclusive evidence or any report that can shed some light as to the real reason of this occurrence.
 The only thing common, that I could find between all the reports, was that there were a few Karsewaks (Hindu Pilgrims) travelling or rather returning from the city of Ayodhya after performing Poorna Ahuti Yagya, a sacred ritual.
After that all reports are in contradiction to one another. A lot of statements that were given earlier were retracted, facts that seemed to be genuine turned out to be false, blame was tossed around in every direction.
The Gujarat Government, at that point of time, suspected this incident as a part of conspiracy hatched by some Muslim terrorists of Jammu-Kashmir with some Muslim fundamentalists of Godhra to spread terror and create fear in the minds of people of Gujarat. According to the State Government, it was decided by the conspirators at Godhra, as a part of larger conspiracy, to attack Karsevaks who were to return from Ayodhya by this train. In pursuance of that conspiracy, this train was stopped and attacked near Godhra station with stones etc. and thereafter its coach S/6 was set on fire by throwing burning rags and petrol therein.
The earlier reports, as presented by the media, suggested that the mob which attacked the train were Muslims from the local area. It was suggested that the Karsewaks or pilgrims weren’t as innocent as portrayed but had been misbehaving throughout the whole journey. A lot of people came forward, who were present at the time of this incident, and told that even though the pilgrims were behaving badly, nothing happened till they reached the Godhra station, which some of the pilgrims, allegedly, kidnapped some girl from the station. That was the final straw. After that a few local Muslims, who had boarded the train earlier, stopped the train by pulling the emergency brakes, just after a few minutes of its departure. After that, in a few minutes, the train was on fire.
The government had set up a commission, headed by retired Supreme Court Justice G.T. Nanavati, to to enquire into the Godhra train burning and the subsequent violence and submit a report of their findings.
This Nanavati report came out largely in favor of the Gujarat government's aspect. Nanavati's evidence depended on the acquisition of 140 litres of petrol hours before the arrival of the train and the storage of the said petrol at the alleged key conspirator's, Razzak Kurkur, guest house.
On 22 February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 Muslims of the attack under Section 302 (Punishment for murder) and 120 B (Punishment of Criminal Conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and acquitted 63 Muslims, out of the people accused of conspiring and burning the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express.
On February 28, 2002, 97 people were killed in Naroda, an industrial suburb of Ahmedabad. The incident occurred during the bandh (general strike), which was called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an international Hindu organisation, whose Indian youth wing is Bajrang Dal. A mob of around 5000 Hindus attacked Naroda Patiya, a lower middle class Muslim locality in North Ahmedabad. It was the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
 The Gujarat riots violence raged during February 28 to mid July, when the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi gave his resignation, due to an overwhelming hue and cry from the opposition parties as well as three coalition partners of the BJP led government, demanding him to resign.
CM Narendra Modi asked the Governor of Gujarat to dissolve the state assembly and called for fresh elections.  The elections were held in December and Modi returned to power as BJP got clear majority.
Mayaben Kodnani still claims that she is a victim of politics.
The court has ruled that the Naroda Patiya massacre was a pre-planned conspiracy.
A lot of people still have doubts about who was the real culprit. Many are still blaming CM Narendra Modi and are still doubtful of his actions in the Gujarat riots of 2002.
But mostly the major concern among people is if Modi was part of this conspiracy, do we want him to become our next Prime Minster?

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