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Who speaks for India — Gandhi or Modi?

7 July 2011

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The News International

by Aijaz Zaka Syed

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

They say justice delayed is justice denied. In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, justice is not just delayed and denied, it’s eliminated. Nearly a decade after the worst state-sanctioned massacre of Muslims since Independence in full view of the world, the mockery of justice continues unabated.

God alone knows how many government commissions have probed the 2002 pogrom and have come up with conclusions that did not really surprise anyone. From knocking on the doors of courts in Gujarat and Maharashtra to approaching the highest court in the land, the victims have dashed their heads against every wailing wall in their quest for justice. They have however refused to give up faith in the country’s courts and justice delivery mechanism, hoping against hope that justice will be done -eventually, some day.

This is what I heard in undertones, wherever I went, during my visit to Gujarat in the summer of 2009. One of the most dynamic and enterprising communities anywhere, Gujarati Muslims have retreated into their shells since the 2002 carnage. Isolated and shunned like pariahs in their own land, they have maintained a low profile and still look over their shoulder before reluctantly revisiting the horror of a decade ago.

Fear still stalks the terrorised community. Indeed, most of those cases against top Gujarat officials have been filed by human rights groups and selfless activists such as Teesta Setalvad of Communalism Combat and Mukul Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Morcha, whom I have had the honour of interviewing during my visit, rather than the families of victims themselves.

Some of the most damning testimonies against Modi and his band of killers detailing how they ordered and executed the carefully choreographed pogrom against Muslims came not from the victims but from top cops like R B Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt, who had had a ringside view of those terrifying months in 2002. This may be why the victims have nurtured a faint, flickering hope of an eventual day of reckoning for those months of rape, murder, and every possible savagery that they suffered. They have waited and waited, silently and patiently, for justice.

Now those hopes for justice have been dashed. The evidence on which all those testimonies were based has been destroyed by an efficient government. Or so we are told. Gujarat government lawyer S B Vakil told the Justice Nanavati Commission this week that the 2002 records, including telephone call logs, police vehicle logbook and officers’ movement diaries, were destroyed in 2007 as per the “standard procedure” as most “irrelevant documents” are routinely destroyed after five years!

Incidentally, those “irrelevant documents” held the key to delivering justice and perhaps to the future of Modi and his men. So what if those “irrelevant documents” formed the crucial evidence of the 2002 pogrom and were at the heart of proceedings of Justice Nanavati Commission and Akshya Mehta Judicial Commission and numerous cases in courts against top figures in the government?

This is how Modi has functioned all these years, throwing mud at, and even eliminating those who have had the audacity to confront him and his crimes. And no one has been able to do a damn thing about it.

By summarily destroying the record of his crimes, Modi has not just mocked and taunted those who have tried to bring justice to his victims, he has ridiculed India’s claim to being a secular democracy that believes in justice and equality of all before law.

Modi is not merely guilty of mocking and trampling on the rule of law, he has heaped shame and abuse on the nation’s secular and democratic institutions and their ability to administer justice to all sections of society.

India’s Muslims have watched in silence and utter helplessness as one state institution after another has failed spectacularly to offer them justice and confront the thugs who have been caught on tape boasting about how they killed, raped, and burnt Muslims alive.

I can’t even imagine how this latest blow to the quest for justice will be seen and interpreted by an already exhausted community. And I shudder to think of the consequences if the world’s largest religious minority living in a single country loses its faith completely in that country and its place in it.

They have already lost all confidence in India’s politicians and political parties. Their troubled relationship with Modi’s party, the BJP, hardly needs elaboration. But they have received little support from Sonia Gandhi’s Congress, perhaps for the fear of upsetting its Hindu vote bank and being branded as “anti-Hindu” by the Hindutva brotherhood.

Under the circumstances, what do the Muslims do? Where do they go for justice? What hope and alternatives are they left with? These are the questions that demand answers from India’s vibrant civil society. It’s its silent and peace-loving multitudes that make India what it is — a living, thriving and extraordinary democracy. They are the hope and future of this melting pot of a nation.

It may be time for those silent multitudes to speak up and speak out against the rape of justice and rule of law that is going on in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. If anyone can teach a lesson to the perpetrators of Gujarat 2002, it’s them. They have to send out the message to the world that it’s not Modi’s terrorist regime but Gandhi’s Gujarat that really represents and speaks for India.

That said, if the mass murderers of Gujarat’s Muslims think they can get away with murder, they are grievously mistaken. Justice will catch up with them — eventually. Sooner or later. Their just reward awaits them — if not in this life, then in the next. You can run as long as you want. But your fate will find you — eventually. As the poet would warn, jo chup rahegi zabaan-e-khanjar, lahu pukarega aasteen ka. If the dagger that killed remains silent, the stains of blood on your sleeve will cry out!

The writer is based in the Gulf and has written extensively on the Muslim World. Email: aijaz.syed at hotmail.com

P.S.

The above article from The News International is reproduced here for educational and non commercial use.