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Friday, September 07, 2012

The ‘Naroda Patiya’ Judgement in context



The August 29 judgement of Judge Jyotsna Yagnik in the Naroda Patiya massacre case is as unprecedented as the crime it seeks to adjudicate. It may or may not be the first time in independent India that sentences on several counts in a criminal case were ordered to be run consecutively. The usual practice in India unlike in the US is to order sentences to be run concurrently. That is why we have never heard such bizarre sentences as, for instance, ‘105 years in prison’ as we do from US courts. The judge also dispensed with the definition of ‘life’ imprisonment which in her own words was usually 14 years because she felt that it would be ‘grossly disproportionate and inadequate’. Be that as it may, in the present case, one of the key accused, Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA was sentenced to 28 years in prison. This in effect means the middle aged Kodnani is unlikely to come out alive from prison. The judgment however mentions that ‘there is no evidence that she, in fact, has physically contributed commission of any offence’. She was punished more for her role in instigating the rioters and abetting the crime. Babu Bajrangi, another key accused was sentenced to life imprisonment with no remission permitted if one understands the judgment correctly. The judge felt that these were the minimum terms that would meet the ends of justice even while keeping in mind the agony the accused suffered with a sword hanging over their heads for ten and a half years. Nowhere in the judgement, which runs to about 2000 pages was there even a hint that links Narendra Modi to the violence. 

The secular establishment shrugged off the sentences as their real target is not the 32 convicted, but Narendra Modi. For over ten years, he has been pilloried by the secular establishment, for what he had not done rather than (at least) acknowledging what he had done to contain the 2002 riots.

First, let us see what he had done:

He had had the army deployed in 48 hours. His police fired 10,000 rounds of bullets to quell the mobs. In the process some 77 Hindus and 93 Muslims were killed. 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested as a preventive measure. (According to some sources, the number of Hindus arrested was as high as 35,000.)  The riots rendered 40,000 Hindus homeless, a fact which was not even whispered by the secular media. They were sheltered in relief camps for a long time alongside the Muslims uprooted from their homes. Finally, one has to keep in view that 254 Hindus were also killed in the riots along with 790 Muslims. Therefore the riots were not as one-sided as they are made out to be.

Let us see what would have satisfied the secular establishment:

1. The bodies of the 59 Hindus (more than half of whom were women and children) who were burnt to death should not have been brought to Ahmedabad to be handed over to their families. Would the secular establishment rather that they were buried in Godhra as orphans? Did they not deserve some consideration in death, of a decent cremation, when they were denied life? Should their kith and kin not be allowed to keen in grief and pay their last respects - to the unfortunate victims of a pernicious ideology, who had to die for no fault of theirs?

2. The police/army should have taken sterner action. It is difficult to comprehend this logic. What could the police or for that matter the army, could have done more? Should the police/army have shot everyone at sight and killed hundreds of people? Had the Gujarat Home Ministry given such an order would it have been obeyed? What would have happened if the police had disobeyed an order of the government? P. V. Narasimha Rao had faced a similar dilemma in 1992 at the time of the ‘Rama Janma Bhumi – Babri Masjid’ demolition. He too had been accused of not calling in the army to shoot the agitators at sight. (What else would he order the army to do?) In the end Narasimha Rao had decided that it would not do for the army to revolt. (This is according to an unimpeachable secular source!)

3. The courts should have worked faster and hanged everyone accused (especially the politicians including Narendra Modi), with the least possible delay. How could the Gujarat government have facilitated this? Why, by somehow rendering the defence of the accused in the courts, ineffective. In other words the state government should have obstructed the course of justice, and do to the Hindus what it has been, though falsely, been accused of doing to the Muslims.  


However, a despicable aspect of the saga of (Naroda Patiya) was the conduct of the secular intelligentsia which circulated a story about a womb being ripped open and a foetus gouged out. Arundhati Roy concocted the story in her article in Outlook of  May 4, 2002. It was not exactly calculated to bring about harmony between communities at a time when the atmosphere was still rife for another round of explosive violence.Thousands of people from both communities uprooted from homes were still living in camps. In view of the reputation of the 'source' the story was repeated without verification, thousands of times since. Human rights outfits of dubious reputation like New York's Human Rights Watch went to town with it.

Three postscripts with respect to the judgement deserve mention here:

1. This could also be a rare judgement in which the principle of secularism as defined in the Indian constitution was invoked in delivering judgement in a criminal case. (p. 1955)

2. The judge primarily relied on an ‘extra-judicial confession’ (her expression) of a key accused made in a ‘Sting Operation’ to convict him. 

3. The judge also dispels the myth about a foetus being gouged out of a womb when a pregnant woman was killed. In her opinion only a trained gynaecologist or someone more experienced in such procedures could perform such an act. (p. 1686-89) The secular establishment perpetuated the myth unmindful or oblivious to the  consequences of putting out such a story, especially during the early days of the riots when the atmosphere was palpably incendiary. 

10 comments:

  1. Dear Sir, the Naroda Patiya judgment in which Maya Kodnani was convicted, is seen as proof of encouragement of the riots by Narendra Modi government, if not by Narendra Modi himself. Maya Kodnani was a BJP MLA at the time of riots and later she was a minister too. Is this not proof of involvement of Gujarat government (if not Narendra Modi) in the riots? Please comment on it. Email: ramana9995@gmail.com.

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    1. The judgement was factually analysed in the article. Those who indulged in macabre violence got their just deserts. The only point on which one could disagree was the severity of punishment meted out to Maya Kodnani. No one can ever excuse the brutal killing of a pregnant woman nearing term, irrespective of whether the murderer gouged the foetus out of her womb or not.

      However, a despicable aspect of the saga (of Naroda Patiya) was the conduct of the secular intelligentsia which circulated a story about a womb being ripped open and foetus gouged out. Arundhati Roy concocted the story in her article in ‘Outlook’ of May 4, 2002. It was not exactly calculated to bring about harmony between communities at a time when the atmosphere was still rife for another round of explosive violence. Thousands of people from both communities uprooted from homes were still living in camps. In view of the ‘reputation’ of the source the story was repeated without verification, thousands of times since. Human rights outfits of dubious reputation like New York’s Human Rights Watch went to town with it. We must be thankful to the judge who dispelled the myth for the blatant lie that it was. Unfortunately, the judge can’t gouge it out of the minds of millions of people in which it was firmly implanted.

      Nowhere in the judgement which runs to almost 2000 pages was there even a hint that links Narendra Modi to the violence.

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    2. Dear Sir,

      First of all, it is very wrong to say Naroda Patia convictions are 'proof' of Guj Govt's (if not Modi's) involvement in riots or defeat of Guj Govt. In fact, it is victory to Guj Govt (if not Modi) because Naroda Patia case was not a private case. It was filed by Gujarat Govt itself accusing Maya Kodnani et al as guilty of indulging in riots. It was Gujarat Government Lawyers who demolished the arguments of the lawyers of Maya Kodnai. Fact to be noted here is, Maya Kodnani was not minister when the incident took place nor she was minister when the trial went on. Modi had every right to believe the words of Dr. Maya Kodnani till investigating agency found her involvement. Once the investigating body wanted to chargesheet her, Modi promptly removed her from ministry. It was Gujarat Govt which filed affidavits in the court in 2009 linking Maya Kodnani with riots. The affidavits played a key role in conviction. (See link: http://t.co/CUMzGbu8) Even now, Gujarat Govt appealed to High Court on the verdict of Naroda patia to give capital punishment to the convicts.

      It is incorrect to say MLAs are part of Government. MLAs are part of legislature. There are no executive powers for MLAs nor there are any special powers for the ruling party MLAs. Government means executive i.e., Chief Minister plus his Council of Ministers along with bureaucrats. For that matter, 25 Cong workers Including MLA Mer Singh Chaudhry and Dep Mayor of Vadodra Nissar Bapu have also been convicted in Gujrat Riots. Can we call it as 'proof' of involvement of Narendra Modi Government? By the way, Maya Kodnani was always part of Anti-Modi group, who belonged to Keshubhai camp. (See Link: http://t.co/n9HsrpBs ) It was LK Advani who asked Modi to give her ministry. She was always a confidant of Keshubhai and Advani but not Modi.

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    3. Dear Mr. Saikumar,

      Thank you for posting your comments. I do not see any contradiction between what you have to say and what was mentioned in the article. It specifically mentions, "Nowhere in the judgement, which runs to about 2000 pages was there even a hint that links Narendra Modi to the violence." You have strengthened the points made in the article.

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  2. Sir, more than comments let us call it an exchange of thoughts, stimulating creative thinking, etc., by unrestrained and spontaneous participation in discussion.

    Let me begin by breaking it into 2 parts since it may exceed the word limit provided for a blog.

    PART 1:-

    ""...I delivered the poor who cried, and the orphan who had no helper. The blessing of the wretched came upon me, and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my JUSTICE was like a robe and a turban. I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy, and I championed the cause of the Innocent victims. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous, and made them drop their prey from their teeth"" - Anonymous.

    Judge Jyotsna Yagnik could lavish upon her these words of flattery. However.....the other side of the historical judgment, reeking in partiality and minority bootlicking, hardly merits praise in its entirety.

    Unprecedented indeed it is the August 29 judgment of Judge Jyotsna Yagnik in the Naroda Patiya case. This will perhaps be the first time that an accused, in spite of not being a physical contributor to murder or violence, is being punished to the severe extent the Judge augured to. If Maya Kodnani has been a mute spectator to mob violence, she should be punished beyond a shadow of doubt considering that the reigns of governance was in her hands. But to hand out a judgment lasting a lifetime smacks of not just injustice but suspected malfeasance.

    As a layman, I would argue that the sentence, deserving as it has to be, has undoubtedly made a distinction in favor of or against a person on the basis of the religion, group, class and category to which the person belongs rather than according to actual merit. As a neophyte, I would argue that the justice delivered has resulted in justice denied by a mile in the case of Kodnani. I wonder what happened to the Congress MLA, a Muslim, who led the Muslim mob to set fire to the Train compartment and affirmed it stood ablaze with the helpless people burning inside till it was charred? I wonder what happened to the Congress MLA, a Muslim, who led a mob in Ahmadabad and killed 29 Hindus! Are they any different or is it that Hindus are considered a dispensable entity in their very own Country? Well, with several disturbing incidences and events taking place in the country at a aguey pace, one can not rule out its credibility!

    Contd…./Part 2

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  3. PART 2:-

    If one were to compare the immediate remedial actions Modi undertook to mitigate a probable ethnic cleansing in Gujarat to that of any subsequent communal riots elsewhere in the Country including the very recent Assam Riots, the efforts are unparalleled. The 1984 massacre, rather, the ethnic cleansing of Sikhs at the hands of Congress Party, spearheaded by none other than an eventual Prime Minister of the Nation is made to be conveniently, compulsorily and cleverly forgotten. There is no remorse or compassion shown by the noise makers of Gujarat Riots, i.e, the NGOs like Teestas, Shomas, Roys, Sarabhais and of course the Mainstream Media houses at the 3500+ Sikhs massacred, their households and businesses burnt and destroyed forever, their girls and women raped and impregnated to insanity. Yet they cry foul and injustice when a few deserving Muslims, certainly not to discount that many may be innocent, gets killed by way of a rightful reaction to an macabre atrocity committed by them, the Muslims.

    For the so called Secular breed of wine drinking elitist clubbers, who have theirs by the infinite and don't care two hoots about anybody else, and for the Congress political entity basically, nothing less would satisfy them more than crucifying Modi. That 700 odd Muslims died in riots is of no particular concern to these instigators. Their socio-political agenda mainly is to remain in power and would go to any extent to maintain it, what if sacrifice a few Muslims at the hands of the Hindus in the process or vice versa!

    This landmark judgment, despite its serious and partial flaws, vindicates Modi of deflecting, obviating, circumventing or influencing the course of justice which the rest of the world loudly and so profoundly accused him of. That aside, the judgment has set a precedent that an instigator (I totally rubbish that in Kodnani verdict) can be sentenced to an idiosyncratic period of life, which, suffice to say would not end before death!

    In 1937 at the 19th session of the Hindu Mahasabha held at Ahmedabad, Veer Savarkar in his Presidential address asserted:

    “ India cannot be assumed today to be Unitarian and homogeneous nation, but on the contrary there are two nations in the main — the Hindus and the Muslims.” !

    Has this notion, which was more than a reality then, in 1937 and subsequently culminating in the Partition of a Nation, receded one bit now in 2012?

    I conclude with this notion remaining a spot of bother simmering within the Nation!

    Sir, I thank you for writing this remarkable blog which enabled this brain storming.

    However, I apologize for the space taken which I must pay attention to restrict.

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    1. Thank you for posting your comments, Prashantji. The objective of the article is to provoke thought. Therefore there is no need to apologize.

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    2. Prashantji,

      thankyou for your posts. I particularly endorse your view that 'secularism' and the riot was merely a weapon used by the ruling elite to maintain status quo against the very credible threat posed by Modiji given his unprecedented credentials, his moral right to rule India after a bunch of thieves.

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  4. Nice writeup Sir. Genuinely appreciate your patience in going through the entire judgement and laying it before us, the Muggles, in simple understandable terms.

    At the risk of sounding judgmental about this article, I'd like to point out my genuine worry on how educated and well-informed citizenry are titling in support of Narendra Modi, to the extent of becoming defensive about him, for reasons which are beyond rationality, transgressing, I wonder, into the realms of Psychology. Although it could be an oversimplification, this is how I feel it is playing out - Mainstream Media, without a shadow of doubt, with the tacit support of secular parties and their proxy NGOs have successfully managed to cultivate and nurture a very ghastly image of Narendra Modi even before a proper court of law has tried and sentenced him for any role in the 2002 riot cases. Since he has become the proverbial whipping boy of Mainstream media, this has generated an 'Underdog effect' in the minds of people who still place their trust in the basic tenets of jurisprudence "not-guilty until proven otherwise". Over time, this 'underdog effect' is transforming into a 'bandwagon effect' whereby people have taken it upon themselves to vehemently defend Modi.

    My basic question is - why should my disgust with the bias and venal nature of left-liberal mainstream media get transformed into a positive reinforcement for Modi or any other individual who has got the wrong end of the stick from the former class? Or, are my reasons for defending Modi much deeper, like for e.g., the kind of secularism followed in India, how the minorities are appeased and manipulated for electoral benefits, etc?

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    1. Thank you for posting your comments.

      The political opposition, the so-called mainstream media and the NGOs, all have vested interests to perpetuate the myth of a monster. Unfortunately the 'free media' is not all that free. It is driven by commercial agendas and arm-twisted by political interests. Though the role of NGOs in taking up political issues has been suspect for quite some time it has come out in the open with the recent anti-nuclear agitation in Tamil Nadu and anti-dam agitation in Madhya Pradesh. The NGOs have to resort to these contrived struggles to get their foreign funding. In the process NGOs too have become money-spinning industries. At times they are unmindful of national interest, to put it mildly.

      The other point you have raised is about whether we should defend Mr. Narendra Modi. We are not defending an individual but the truth. We are defending the future of India. For if people who stand for honesty and integrity, hard work and vision are edged out to make way for their scheming, self-serving political opponents there is no future for this country. More importantly if the opponents wish to usurp power by dubious means (e.g. pseudo-secularism) and fooling people, it will be the duty of every honest citizen to uphold the truth.

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