By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI: Ironically, two dark communal spots on Indiaâ€™s global image have hit headlines nearly at the same time and in a similar pattern. One refers to demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on December 6, 1992, which was followed by nation-wide riots targeting Muslims. The other is the 2002-Gujarat carnage, when thousands of Muslims were attacked and killed in Gujarat by violent mobs of Hindu extremists. Legal cycle has cast shadows on the role played by two key politicians of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the cases. L.K. Advani is under scanner for having incited mobs for demolition of Babari Masjid. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been questioned for nearly 10 hours for his role in 2002-carnage (March 27).
Legal and political questions holding Advani responsible for the Ayodhya-issue and Modi for Gujarat-carnage may have still remained under the wraps, were it not for the role played by several women. Yes, the Ayodhya-ghost has raised its head again to haunt Advani primarily because of the detailed testimony given by a senior lady officer, Anju Gupta before a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh (March 26). Modi was summoned by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, following a petition filed by Zakia Jaffrey. Zakiaâ€™s husband, Ehsan Jaffrey (former legislator) was among more than 50 people burnt to death in the Gulbarga Society massacre of February 28, 2002.
In her petition, Zakia alleged that Modi, his government and administration had helped rioters during the Gujarat-carnage. She is still hopeful of the guilty being punished. On Modi being summoned by SIT, Zakia said: â€œI expect justice from God and Supreme Court, because it wonâ€™t let injustice happen. Since, it is Supreme Court it has been doing justice for years. Iâ€™m sure that the Supreme Court will deliver justice.â€
By finally appearing before the SIT, Modi has defied speculations being circulated about his trying to escape law. He may have to appear before SIT again and also before the Supreme Court, as the case is pending there, sources said. To a degree, while Modi has silenced his critics he has provided his political colleagues some reason to express appreciation for his appearing before SIT and face such a long question-answer session. Of course, what Modi has faced before SIT is no match for what thousands of Muslims across Gujarat went through for several months in 2002. Just as the dead cannot be brought back to life, the wounds left by that carnage cannot be healed by whatever amount of compensation is handed over to survivors and even if Modi faces grilling sessions for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, that Modi finally faced the SIT certainly indicates that he has been to a degree forced to bow before the Indian legal process, primarily as the widow of one of the victims decided to knock at the doors of justice.
Ironically, though there never has been any doubt about Advaniâ€™s role in Ayodhya-case and that of Modi in Gujarat-carnage, till date both have appeared to remain almost unapproachable even for the long arms of law and justice. The SIT summons has broken this myth for Modi just as that of Anju Guptaâ€™s testimony for Advani. Earlier, Advani had been discharged on the plea that charges against him were based on mere suspicion. Anjuâ€™s testimony has totally changed the legal situation. She was then posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Ayodhya and was in charge of Advaniâ€™s security.
During her testimony, Anju claimed that Advani â€œlooked euphoricâ€ as he declared in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that a temple would be built at the site of the demolished mosque. â€œAdvani not only looked euphoric but also declared before the huge crowds at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that the Ram temple would be built at the disputed site in the temple town,â€ she said. He â€œgave quite a provocative speech for which he was applauded by his other party colleagues and the crowds,â€ she said. Recalling what she saw on the day, Anju said: â€œThere were at least 100 persons present on the dais along with Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambara, Ashok Singhal, S.C. Dikshit, and I remember their faces so distinctly that I would be able to still recognize at least 80 of them.â€ â€œThere was so much excitement among the crowds that they distributed sweets after the mosque was pulled down,â€ she said.
Undeniably, neither the Ayodhya-case nor the Gujarat-carnage can be expected to conclude soon. It may take a fairly long time, before the hearings, counter-hearings, arguments and related processes reach the stage of judgments being pronounced. The final stage, if ever reached, may still be checked by filing of more petitions, special petitions and so forth. Nevertheless, at least, BJP leaders are finally forced to acknowledge and accept that they cannot escape law forever: -17 years have passed since the demolition and eight since Gujarat-carnage. The ones responsible for those communal phases have been forced to be on the defensive, though late but definitely!