The struggle to punish the guilty continues!
The Gujarat government tabled the second and final report of the Justices (retired) G T Nanavati and AH Mehta Commission in the state Legislative Assembly on 11th December 2019, five years after its submission. The Commission was set up in May 2002, to investigate the February 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra and the gruesome genocide of Muslims that followed in Gujarat.
The Commission did not submit its Report within the original stipulated time of 6 months and its period was repeatedly extended. In March 2012, its term was extended for the 18th time, till December 2012. The Commission finally submitted its Report in 2014, to the then Gujarat Chief Minister after a public interest petition was filed by a retired Gujarat Director-General of Police in the Gujarat High Court. The contents of the Report were not made public till 11th December 2019 when it was tabled in the legislature!
The Report of the Nanavati Commission, submitted 17 years after it was set up, completely exonerates the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi and his government of any role in the burning of the train at Godhra and in organising the genocide of people of Muslim faith. This is a complete negation of the overwhelming evidence that has been presented by thousands of victims and concerned citizens, families of former MPs and ministers, several police officers and state officials. For the past 17 years, several political parties, organisations and activists have been fighting a tireless battle to secure justice for the victims and to expose the role of the government and the entire state machinery in organizing the massacre.
This was not the only investigation that was ordered into the Godhra event and the genocide that followed. On 6th March 2002, the Gujarat government had appointed a Commission with a directive to submit a Report in 3 months. Even before the expiry of the time given to the Commission to submit its Report, the Nanavati Commission was appointed. And then the central government appointed its own Commission – the Banerjee Commission whose findings were challenged by the Gujarat government. The Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2009 to investigate and expedite the cases. In November 2010, the Supreme Court appointed a Senior Advocate as Amicus Curiae (someone who volunteers to offer information to assist a court in deciding a matter before it) to look into charges filed by various persons against Modi and his government. The advocate had declared that Modi’s role should be further probed and that there are grounds for his prosecution. This varied with the findings of the SIT, and nothing was resolved.
The entire course of the investigation by the Nanavati Commission and other commissions set up by the government shows very clearly that they were meant to never bring out the truth, but only to cover up the role of the Gujarat government headed by Narendra Modi and the Indian state in organizing the genocide.
Following the 2002 genocide, the testimonies of victims, human rights groups, and various investigations clearly showed that the genocide was state-organized. There was irrefutable evidence of the direct role of Chief Minister Modi and his government in organizing and executing the genocide.
In April 2002, a Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal headed by Justice Krishna Iyer, which included retired Supreme Court judge, Justice Sawant and retired judge of Bombay High Court, Justice Suresh, indicted Chief Minister Modi and his ministers and state officials for their role in the genocide. Hundreds of ordinary people including victims and their families and eyewitnesses deposed before this Tribunal, leaving no doubt that the government and state machinery were fully involved in carrying out this violence.
Since 2002, the Gujarat government and other institutions of the Indian State have collaborated to ensure that the truth is never revealed. These agencies launched a sinister campaign of wiping out all those who dared to expose the truth. Vicious attacks were organised against the surviving victims of the violence, their lawyers and police officers who dared to speak the truth. Encounter killings, bribing and threatening lawyers and judges, planting of false cases against the surviving victims and those who dared to defend them were carried out with impunity.
The experience of our people in the struggle against state-organised communal violence and genocide clearly shows that we cannot expect justice for the victims and punishment of the guilty from those who have themselves organized these crimes against our people. Those who are guilty of organizing these crimes against our people have not been punished; instead they have been rewarded with the highest positions in the state.
But our people will never forget the barbaric genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, like they have not forgotten the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 and many more criminal attacks on the people that have been organised by the state and its agencies. The struggle for justice and punishment of the guilty will go on.
Only by establishing a fundamentally new system in which people are empowered to rule, can we secure justice and punishment of the guilty. Such a new system will ensure that mechanisms are put in place for punishing those who commit such heinous crimes against our people. This alone will ensure that such crimes against our people are not organised again and again.