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Justice prevails in Gujarat…after a decade?
Maya Kodnani ki Maya…the medico, the murder, the mayhem maker
By Dr. Javid Iqbal
"
Much is being made of justice having prevailed in Gujarat, forgotten remains the fact that it got delivered that too not holistically, a decade after violence instigated by high-ups. The fact needs to be noted too, that the justice delivered was not holistically by the combined efforts of constitutional institutions called the democratic pillars…the political executive, the legislature, the judiciary, but by the efforts of citizens groups, and some spirited individuals in administrative set-up. The individuals stepped forward knowing fully well that it would be looked at with disfavour by higher-ups. The judiciary in order to reach conclusions that it eventually did has had to bank on evidence collected by citizens groups, and for the most part not on the investigative agencies of the administrative machinery. The judiciary facing an evasive state administration had to resort to amicus curie [friend of the court] outside the pale of official machinery. In the political executive, except for a few brave souls, the judiciary did not find a friend. On the contrary, hostility to judicial process was and remains the order of the day.

Gujarat communal violence of 2002 A.D, widely thought to be engineered by extremist with a go ahead signal by high-ups had Special Judge Jyotsna Yagnik deliver the verdict on 31st of August, 2012 by convicting 32 accused for the Naroda-Patiya massacre of 97 people in Gujarat. Among the prominent ones against whom justice has been delivered are MLA and former minister Maya Kodnani, and Babu Bajrangi...a Bajrang Dal activist. Maya has long been a RSS activist, and a close associate of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Take it or not, Maya is a medico-a gynecologist at that…the one who is supposed to bring forth a life rather than take one. Far from attending to the profession of her calling, which heals rather than maims, she was widely believed to be the instigator in, what has been labeled as the premeditated killing of 35 innocent children, 32 women and 30 men, including a 20-day-old infant. Maya Kondnani's maya was extended to get on a murderous trail as well as excite others to fever pitch and set them on a similar trail. This stands completely at variance with what maya implies in Indian terms-enticement to material well being…maya jaal. Instead of weaving maya jaal, she chose to weave a net of hatred and enticed many into getting trapped in that net. In the process she became mayhem maker. Babu Bajrangi boasting that he felt "like Rana Pratap" while leading violent mobs, brought into disrepute the fair name of the Rajput warrior.

Rana Pratap-the chivalrous Rajput warrior fought the Mughals, as he considered the Central Asian Mughals getting into territorial expansion in India. As these Central Asian Mughals settled in India and made it their home and hearth, as the earlier Central Asian Aryans had thousands of years ago, the Rajputs opened their hearts to them. Akbar's consort…the queen of his heart-Jodha Bhai, the daughter of brave Rajputs became the powerful Mughal queen, who could call Emperor Akbar's spade a spade. So, Babu Bajrangi while boasting to be feeling like "like Rana Pratap" must have been oblivious of sweet movements of Indian history, while a cultural synthesis was developing with a distinct Indian touch. People like Bajrangi have studied unfortunately the tailored version of Indian history. More over, it needs to be asked, whosoever was Jalal-ud-Din Mohammad Akbar-the Mughal Emperor amongst the 97 innocent victims that led to Babu Bajrangi feeling like Rana Pratap. And wasn't Emperor Akbar named 'Mahabali' by chivalrous Rajputs?

The victims were targeted from available evidence, for obvious reason of belonging to a particular religion. The religion which as per the weird thinking of extremist organizations may not have any presence in the Indian mainland, as the religion is perceived to belong to foreign lands, which no Indian worth his salt may adopt. The illogical reasoning crosses all limits, even the fact of existence of this particular religious order for more or less a millennium. It is indeed surprising to note that Ms Kodnani--the medico knowing the Patiya neighbourhood well enough is believed to have helped identify the victims and directed the mobs which burnt them to death. She is reported to have fired from a pistol and distributed arms and kerosene to the rioters. As the facts stand, she seemed to have been driven by inexplicable pathological hatred. She did what she was accused of doing and which stands judicially proved by moving against the victims knowing fully that the victims were innocent and had no responsibility in distant Godhra episode, where Kar-sevaks were burnt to death in the train. One investigation ordered by Lalu Prasad as railway minister concluded the episode to be accidental, while another concluded it to be engineered. If indeed it was the work of miscreants, they deserve to be condemned in strongest terms.

The Indian judiciary is widely alleged to be slow in delivering justice. However in the present case, perseverance has been exhibited, a determination to enforce the rule of law, especially against important political figures-despite the fact that instigators were believed to be favoured by official law and order agencies. The justice delivered has indeed been exemplary…28 years' imprisonment to Ms Kodnani-including 10 years for causing grievous hurt with dangerous weapons, followed by 18 years for murder, conspiracy and other charges-and of life terms to 31 others. Babu Bajrangi stands sentenced to be a prisoner, until the day he lives.

The verdict in Naroda-Patiya case, latest in the series of decided cases, which includes Sardarpura, Ode and Deepda Darwaza cases, has had so far 117 persons convicted for the Gujarat pogrom. Each carried a horrifying story of barbaric violence against a minority and the state's refusal to protect its citizens. Though the judicial verdict has brought some relief to the victims, the attitude of law and order authorities throughout the probe leaves much to be desired. Much more is needed from official agencies to instill faith in fair administration by state agencies. It would take a lot to work out the desirable level of faith in Gujarat, a state which has to do a lot to recover the image that it has of being the state of Gandhi…the Mahatma who abhorred violence.

With Naroda-Patiya case resolved, the pace of judicial delivery is likely to speed up, more so with other cases being tried in Maharashtra, away from prying eyes of Modi men in Gujarat. The shift in judicial avenue occurred as per Supreme Court's orders. The number of convictions in cases related to communal violence in Gujarat leaves much to be desired compared to the level of violence in Gujarat. Or, in comparison to riots in Delhi in 1984 and post 1992 Babri Masjid communal episode…the incidents that rocked the country, putting a question mark on secular credentials. The fact that some citizen's groups strove to restore it, by unearthing solid evidence while conducting more than 40 inquiries against Modi's order of things is commendable. It stands admitted that without it Supreme Court might not have reached the conclusions that it did. It was their documentation that led to the involvement of high state functionaries in instigating or permitting the violence-to begin with. The documentation evolved into judicial intervention resulting in the appointment of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) which provided the final push in investigative work. Teesta Setalvad's Citizens for Peace and Justice and public-interest lawyers like Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangharsh Manch stand out. So does Rahul Sharma-the cop with his CD of mobile-phone calls made by high-ups, amongst them Ms Kodnani. JM Lyngdoh, former Chief Election Commissioner by postponing the Assembly elections in Gujarat, gave lie to Modi's parading of his state working within Constitutional norms.

SIT in working out its investigative craft does show shortcomings. Nevertheless, the evidence it collected was used in a criminal trial to punish state functionaries entrusted with the responsibility of protecting fundamental rights, in particular the most basic right to life. Modi's "action-reaction" rationalization of the post-Godhra violence could not stand legal scrutiny, as Supreme Court appointed amicus curiae--senior lawyer Raju Ramachandran to evaluate the available evidence. Ramachandran found strong prima facie evidence that Modi instructed his officers to allow the "revenge killings", and that Ahmedabad joint police commissioner MK Tandon and deputy commissioner PB Gondia played a partisan role during the violence.

The judicial verdicts being handed out in recent times is thus a collective effort of citizen groups, conscientious officials, and above all the justices, who dwelt in all aspects of the problem and delivered the verdict. Much more is expected in days to come.

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival]

Feedback on: iqbal.javid46@gmail.com


News Updated at : Monday, October 8, 2012
 
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