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)
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.