By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI – Accusations against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the 2002 Gujarat-carnage have hit headlines again demanding his dismissal from office and also his arrest.
In a media-sting operation, several extremists made confessions holding Modi responsible for the communal violence in which about 2,000 Muslims were killed. The sting expose, carried by the Tehelka weekly last week and telecast by several news-channels (October 25), have highlighted that Gujarat-carnage, targeting Muslims, was â€œnot a spontaneous swell of anger but a genocideâ€ planned and executed by top functionaries of Sangh Parivar and state authorities â€œwith the sanctionâ€ of Modi.
Questioning the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)â€™s attitude towards the sting-expose, Congress spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said: â€œIf the constitution is to be upheld, if we still call ourselves a civilized society, if the right to life has any meaning at all, if human rights are to be upheld, Narendra Modi should immediately step down from public office.â€
Blaming the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for having protected Modi after the riots, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal stated: â€œWe hope and pray that the Supreme Court will decide on the long pending requests before it, expeditiously, to meet the ends of justice and to uphold the majesty and supremacy of law.â€
Stating that media-tapes showing â€œshocking and graphic detailsâ€ of the massacre should be taken as prima facie evidence, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said: â€œThe Supreme Court and the central government should move expeditiously to see that all those guilty are brought to justice.â€
Taking note that a number of the Gujarat cases were still pending before the Supreme Court, the CPI-M said that the center and law enforcement agencies have a â€œspecial responsibilityâ€ in this regard. â€œChief Minister Modi and his government were fully responsible for this gross violation of human rights and subversion of the Constitution,â€ the CPI-M said.
Displaying the same stand, A.B. Bardhan and Shamim Faizi of Communist Party of India (CPI) said Modi, being main culprit and organizer of the Gujarat genocide, has no right to continue in office now.
Railway Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad has demanded immediate arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party chief L.K. Advani and Modi for â€œorchestrating mass murderâ€ in Gujarat after the Godhra train inferno. The burning of a train in Godhra on February 27, 2002, in which 59 Hindu passengers were killed are alleged to have sparked Gujarat-riots.
â€œThe sting operation by Tehelka aptly christened operation â€˜Kalankâ€™ (disgrace) has exposed Modiâ€™s deep involvement in the post-Godhra Gujarat riots. People now know the real faces involved in the crime against humanity,â€ Lalu said. â€œSince Modi enjoys the patronage of senior BJP Leader L K Advani, the opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, the latter cannot escape culpability for the mass murder,â€ he said. Describing the incident as a â€œblotâ€ on Indian democracy and humanity, Lalu said the then-Prime Minister, Home Minister Advani and home ministry officials were â€œequally guiltyâ€ along with Modi for the carnage.
The BJP has described the sting-expose as an election stunt stage managed by the Congress. â€œWe were expecting this kind of a political stunt. Since Congress cannot go directly to people and give this message they have used Tehelka,â€ BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said.
With the three national news channels having been banned, at first, for an indefinite period in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), most people in the state could not view the Tehelka-expose. The order was issued by Ahmedabad collector Dhananjay Dwivedi, who is also the district election officer, on the ground that it could incite violence in the communally sensitive area.
Subsequently, the Election Commission sought an explanation from the Ahmedabad collector for this ban. Cable distribution was resumed from Saturday night with Dwivedi stating that his order had been misinterpreted. â€œThe instructions were misinterpreted. It was clearly stated to the cable operators that only the particular news programs on the sting operation on the post-Godhra riot incidents and other such programs should not be shown. There was no ban on the networks showing other programs,â€ he said.
The sting-expose has added a new thrust to social activistsâ€™ demand for speedy legal action against those involved in the Gujarat-carnage. A non-government organization (NGO) called Citizens for Justice and Peace has moved the Supreme Court to seek an early hearing of petitions related to post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in view of this sting operation.
The NGO filed an application along with pending petitions by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and other NGOs seeking transfer of several cases outside Gujarat and handing of these to an independent agency. The Gujarat government has been against transfer of these cases outside the state. Seeking action against those people who have made on-camera confessions, social activist Teesta Setalvad has moved the Supreme Court, urging it look into the media sting and also to speed up pending riot cases.
The BJP does not expect the expose to turn the electoral tide against it. â€œThese issues were the same as those raised during the 2002 elections. The outcome of that poll showed that they did not cut any ice with the electorate. If they did not have any impact then, it can hardly have any effect five years later,â€ Gujarat BJP chief Purushottam Rupala said. There is also a view that the sting-operation, helping to consolidate the Hindu vote, will only help Modi in the Gujarat assembly elections.
Arvind Pandya, a Gujarat government counsel, shown in the media expose, talking about BJP-run governmentâ€™s role in carnage, has filed a police complaint against a leading news channel and its senior correspondent. â€œWe have filed a case under sections of cheating, fraud and criminal conspiracy as alleged by the advocate and are probing further,â€ police said. Pandya, who has resigned â€“ following the expose – as the government pleader, claims that his statements were read from a written script as he was made to believe that he was acting in a television serial.