Special Correspondent, The Hindu
The political head of the State and the Home Ministry allowed violent mobilisation against the minority community even before Godhra happened, Zakia Jafri’s counsels argue
Continuing arguments the whole of last week in the protest petition filed by Zakia Jafri — the wife of Congress leader Ehsan Jafri, who was killed during the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat — her advocates pointed out that there was enough evidence in the Special Investigation Team’s own report regarding a conspiracy to generate mass reprisal attacks on minorities after the Godhra carnage.
Zakia had filed the petition after the SIT absolved Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of responsibility for the riots.
Giving a comprehensive overview of arguments in the case, Zakia’s counsel Mihir Desai argued that the key issue before the court was whether the events after Godhra were spontaneous outpouring of people’s anger, which could not have been anticipated, prevented or controlled, or if it was likely that certain people in power conspired to create an environment in which targeted violence was unleashed on the minority community.
The advocates of Citizens for Justice and Peace, along with its secretary Teesta Setalvad, were present in the court of the Metropolitan Magistrate during the entire week. Mr. Desai argued that the political head of the State, the Home Ministry and the administration were in full knowledge of and allowed the “build up of aggressive and communal sentiments, violent mobilisation, including carrying of arms, and a general outpouring against the minority community even before 27.2.2002 [the day of Godhra train carnage].”
“During the course of our arguments from the documents generated by SIT we will show that there was a conspiracy among the persons named or some of them to generate hatred towards the minority community either by an active participation in this generation or by an omission to act against the perpetrators though they were legally bound to do so,” he said.
“In this connection we will show that the persons named are not merely constitutionally but also legally forbidden from acting or omitting to act in a manner they did,” the counsel added.
He said there was a conspiracy not just to generate hatred for the minority community, but also to target people from the community and their property and religious places, and “aid and abet this process by acts and omissions of persons liable under law to act otherwise.”
The counsels pointed out that the SIT had documents, which it ignored, to show that there was mass mobilisation of forces by Hindutva groups much before the Godhra carnage and an atmosphere of communal hatred was being created against minorities in Gujarat. Not only this, they claimed the SIT was aware that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had a communal mindset, which was by his support for the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
Zakia’s lawyers said the SIT ignored all documents which gave away the conspiracy. “The State Intelligence Bureau (messages contained in the SIT documents) had been clearly and consistently informing the State Home Minister from February 7, 2002, onwards that members of the VHP, BD [Bajrang Dal] and BJP were preparing themselves armed with trishuls etc to go to Ayodhya to celebrate the Mahayagya.”
“This Mahayagya was meant for building the Ram temple at the Babri Masjid site. The Sabarmati Express left Ahmedabad on the night of February 24 2002 and the same train was returning from Ayodhya. The Sabarmati Express started from Faizabad-Ayodhya on morning of February 26 2002. Further reports of the State intelligence reveal that the provocative slogan-shouting against Muslims was taking place throughout the train journey. In particular, incidents took place at two places, including Rudali, where stabbing and attacks also followed.”
According to the counsel, the State Intelligence Bureau messages on February 7, 2002 to the DGP, Gujarat, the State Home Department and all police stations in Gujarat had warned of the communal mobilisation, especially near temples, recruitment of volunteers for the programmes, and aggressive posturing in Gujarat.