by S Shahul Hameed (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 44, No. 8, Dhu al-Hijjah, 1436)
He may be the prime minister of India but Narendra Modi has committed crimes against humanity for which he must be held accountable. At the very least he cannot be forgiven.
Just because Narendra Modi heads the government of India, it would be utterly cruel to ask the Muslim community repeatedly to forgive and forget the Gujarat genocide staged by religious fanatics. How can anyone grant religious amnesty to the mass murderers who tore open the stomachs of pregnant women and flung their fetuses? How can we forgive and just walk over to a person who supported these religious fanatics just for a single reason that he happens to be the prime minister today? Who has the power to grant amnesty to such a person? Would the victims ever forgive him for such crimes?
No one can erase the memory of the bloody Gujarat massacre that took the lives of more than 2,000 innocent Muslims.
With cosmetics rubbed on his face and costly sprays on his clothes to conceal the foul smell when meeting the media, he greets journalists with his plastic smile. Can such gimmicks help conceal the beast hidden inside him?
No one can erase the memory of the bloody Gujarat massacre that took the lives of more than 2,000 innocent Muslims. What Balkees Banu, the latest victim, reported to the media was of course a reality. She said that in her family four male members were brutally murdered. The females were stripped naked and raped. They caught her too. She was holding her three-year daughter Saloha. They plucked the child from her arms and slammed it on the ground.
She felt totally helpless in front the mob but her heart bled when she saw her kid’s fragile skull being shattered as it smashed against stones on the ground. “Four people held my hands and legs tightly. Then they started to rape me. After their lust was quenched, they shoved me away stomping on me. Presuming that I was dead after they hit me with a wooden stick they flung me into a near by bush and left.”
Bilkees went on: “They all scolded and cursed me using such filthy words that I cannot repeat. They murdered my mother, sisters and 12 relatives in front of my eyes. While they were attacking us they abused us using the foulest of sexual language. I could not even tell them that I was five months pregnant because they were pressing my neck and mouth with their feet throttling my voice and virtually choking me.”
The brutalized and repeatedly raped woman insists that her bitter encounter and horrific experience at the hands of the Hindu mob would never fade from her memory even if the rapists were identified and imprisoned. She expressed faith in the judiciary saying it proved the justice would eventually prevail. She narrated that she knew all the people that had participated in the massacre and rape of innocent people in 2002. These were people that Bilkees said she and her family supplied milk to (poor people in India earn a living by supplying milk to the people get from their cow or buffalo). She insisted these people behaved in a shameful and disgraceful manner and asked, how could she ever forgive them?
The victim Balkees Banu went to great lengths to identify the culprits. She was determined not to let go or rest despite her ordeal. It takes real courage for a rape victim—much more so for a gang-rape victim—to come out in the open. In Indian culture, rape victims are expected to endure their indignity in silence otherwise they would bring shame to the entire family. Bilkees decided not to remain silent, regardless of the costs or consequences.
It was through her determination and persistence that the culprits were identified and ultimately brought to trial. The rapists have been handed life sentences but Bilkees Banu simply forget her horrific ordeal. It haunts her every waking moment. She therefore says, she cannot forgive those beasts.
Modi who was chief minister of Gujrat at the time, think that just by his shaking hands with some unknown people wearing Muslim caps means that the Muslim community has forgiven all the bitter memories and is willing to move on by forgetting that horrific event. Yakoob Memon was implicated in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb episode and hanged to appease the collective conscience of all Indians, while the same day, Maya Kotnanik who was charged with the murder of more than 90 innocent people in Gujarat was released on parole. For the Muslim community, this is blatant injustice meant to send a signal to them that in Modi-run India, they will not get justice.
Given the ignorance of a large majority of people in India, mired as they are in daily struggle for survival, and the media’s constant projection of Modi as a business-friendly and business-savvy politician, he was thrust into the prime minister’s post. This also had to do with the lack-lustre performance of the Congress Party in the 2014 election campaign. Modi cut his political teeth as an RSS youth. This is a Hindu fascist outfit that has made the targeting of minorities in general and Muslims in particular as its primary mission. The Hindutva campaign—an attempt to turn India into an exclusivist Hindu state in which Muslims will either have to covert to Hinduism, leave or be killed—has gained immense power since Modi’s rise to power.
The hands of India’s minority communities, however, are not shackled either. They are ready to face a thousand riots. The world’s most deadly terrorist movement is Hindutva, run by the RSS. How can anyone expect justice from a person—Modi—who emerged from its ranks and is a leading proponent of its fascist ideology?
His Ramadan and Eid greetings to Muslims fool nobody. Politicians habitually indulge in such gimmicks and hypocritical posturing while they relentlessly pursue their real agenda. Whether Modi is India’s prime minister or president, makes little difference to the Muslims. He remains a mass murderer. The Western world might embrace him for commercial gains; the West has never upheld any principles despite mouthing vacuous slogans of democracy, fairness, justice and human rights. Politics is a game of hypocrites but for the likes of Bilkees Banu and also Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri, the Congress Party Member of Parliament who was hacked to death by a Hindu mob, the Gujrat massacre remains a living memory never to be forgotten.
That explains why Zakia Jafri is determined to pursue her case against Modi in court. On August 4, 2015, the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigations Team (SIT) gave Modi a ‘clean bill of health’ by exonerating him of any crime in the Gujrat massacres of 2002. With the help of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Mrs Jafri lodged an appeal in the High Court for a “criminal revision application.” Legal and social activist, Teesta Setalvad is providing a helping hand to Mrs Jafri.
Much to their surprise, the court agreed to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea. This provides the prosecution another opportunity to press for a fresh inquiry and prosecute Modi and 58 others in connection with the horrific murders and rapes of February 2002. Should the court find the evidence submitted by Mrs Jafri as credible and starts a trial, it would cause huge embarrassment to Modi, his BJP thugs, especially BJP president Amit Shah, and several senior bureaucrats. If the High Court rejects Mrs Jafri plea, she could still appeal to the Supreme Court but it would take years to work its way through the constipated legal system.
The circumstances leading to the Gujarat massacres need recalling. On that day, a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire at Godhra station killing 58 people. The Hindu fascists immediately accused Muslims of setting the train on fire and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) issued a call for a strike the same day leading to attacks on Muslim colonies in Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya in Gujarat. MP Jafri’s house was also surrounded by an armed Hindu mob howling obscenities at him and the Muslims in general. Jafri immediately called the police commissioner. He was not available. He then reached chief minister Modi who is reported to have replied, “Are you still alive?” and then hung up the phone.
The Hindu mob dragged Jafri from his house and using swords and knives, hacked him to pieces. His head was severed and then paraded on a pike through the streets before setting his body on fire. Modi made little or no effort to bring the mob under control. The police were deliberately held back from helping Muslims in distress.
Soon after the Gujarat pogroms, in an interview with Zee TV, Modi cited Newton’s third law when asked why he did not move to protect Muslims being attacked by Hindu mobs. He said: “For every action there is an equal reaction”. He was referring to the Gujarat pogrom as Hindu reaction to the Godhra train fire. He was blaming Muslims for the Godhra train fire. A subsequent judicial inquiry found that the fire had started when a kerosene cooker in one of the compartments tipped over as people were warming food and the oil spilled onto the carriage floor. The fire quickly spread engulfing much of the train. Muslims had absolutely nothing to do with the fire.
Zakia Jafri’s legal team has built its case by revisiting the SIT’s reports filed in 2010 and 2012. There are glaring contradictions in the two reports that were noted even by the Supreme Court but the final report in 2012 ended up exonerating Modi. For instance, on page 69 of the SIT report filed with the Supreme Court in 2010, it noted: “The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
In the same report (2010), members of the SIT noted with concern some of the speeches or phrases used by Modi following the February 2002 pogroms. In particular, they made note of his September 9, 2002 speech in Becharaji, Mehsena on Gaurav Yatra in which he made scandalous allegations against Muslims. This is what the report says on page 13 about Modi’s statements: “Accusing some elements in Godhra [referring to Muslims] and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive, coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.”
Similar statements and disturbing remarks dot the 2010 report but two years later, the report has a very different flavor. It appears as if a deliberate attempt has been made to whitewash the crimes of Modi and company. Not surprisingly, it gave a clean bill of health to the man who presided over one of the most gruesome massacres in India history that was deliberately instigated at the official level. There are eerie similarities with what happened in October 1984 after her Sikh bodyguard assassinated Indira Gandhi. The assassination occurred in the aftermath of the assault Mrs Gandhi ordered on the Golden Temple, the most sacred site of Sikhism.
Mrs. Jafri’s legal team has used such contradictions in the two reports as well as gathered messages collected from the State Intelligence Bureau, phone call records, Police Control Room records and various testimonies given to the SIT. The 2010 reported noted the Gujarat government under Modi had either refused to provide to the investigation team or destroyed many crucial records.
Whether anything will come out of Mrs. Jafri’s plea to the High Court or not is a moot point at present. Time will tell which way the political wind blows but courts have in the past sprung surprises by adhering to the rule of law and refused to bend to the whims of politicians. Will this be the case in the Jafri case as well?