Role of the Central Government (NDA I) in Gujarat Genocidal Carnage

The complicity of the state government is obvious. And, the support of the central government to the  state government in all that it did is also by now a matter of common knowledge. Within hours of the Godhra arson, an organised carnage was planned and ruthlessly executed over the next 72 hours in 15 of Gujarat’s 25 districts. It was apparent that thanks to the instructions from the state government, the administration and the police stood paralysed as the brutal massacres. Yet the government of India turned a blind eye.

The culpability of the central government in the Gujarat carnage lay in its failure to invoke its executive powers available under Article 355, read with Entry 2.2A of List 1 and Entry 1 of List II and Entry I of List III of the Constitution of India, to take over the administration of law and order in Gujarat, and to send in the Army under direct orders of the Centre.

At no time during the Gujarat carnage did the central government and its functionaries show any initiative or commitment to constitutional values, impelling them to intervene and intervene swiftly and effectively to end the violence.
Late on February 28, after he had cancelled a scheduled foreign visit, the PM met RSS and VHP leaders in the nation’s capital, not to discuss the quartering and massacre of innocents in Gujarat, but to dialogue on the Ayodhya issue! Later, the Cabinet Committee on Security met and merely ordered the Army to be on alert. The attitude of both Shri Vajpayee and Shri Advani appeared to aim at diverting the nation’s attention away from Gujarat, and directing it instead towards Ayodhya and the happenings there.

The conduct of the railway minister, who rushes to the spot whenever a train accident takes place, failed in his duty to visit Godhra, to survey the situation for himself and to order an immediate inquiry into the cause of the fire. Questions about the fire in the railway compartment at Godhra still beg for an answer. Who pulled the chain? How did the fire occur?  Surely this merited the urgent attention and immediate intervention of the railway minister? Yet, to this date, the minister has not visited Godhra. What explanation has he to offer for his utter inaction? It was not until the media made specific inquiries that the internal Western railway reservation list of that day was made available. From this, it is not at all clear if all those killed were kar sevaks.

The Prime Minister’s prevaricating statements, saying different things at different times at different places, left everybody in utter confusion. On April 4, when he visited the Shah–e–Alam Camp, he bemoaned the burning alive of women and children, the rapes and killings and urged the Gujarat government to observe its duty. But only a fortnight later, at his party’s national executive meeting in Goa on April 22, he said the Gujarat carnage would not have occurred but for the Godhra arson.

The inaction on the part of the central government and the utterances of its spokesmen occupying responsible positions show that not only had the central government failed in its duty but it  also had no intention to discharge it at all. Contrast this conduct of the central government with its prompt action after the Akshardham Mandir massacre.

His statement at his party’s national executive in Goa bears mention. “Wherever there are Muslims, there is a problem… What happened in Gujarat? If the passengers of the Sabarmati express, innocent, unblameworthy, had not been deliberately burnt alive, Gujarat’s tragedy (Gujarat ki trasadhi) could have been avoided. But this did not happen. People were burnt alive. Who were they? Intelligence is investigating but we still need to ask, how did this all happen? The latter happenings should not be criticised till we understand who set Gujarat on fire. Who lit the fire? How did it spread? Our country is multi–religious, multi–linguistic. We believe in cooperation, we believe in sarva dharma sambhav (respect for all religions). We are proud of our secularism… From Goa to Guwahati, wherever I go, the Indian is not a kattarwadi. Yeh maati ek hai (the Indian is not a fanatic. This soil is one). But whenever I travel around the world, our officials in all the embassies tell me, ‘militant Islam raaste mein kaante bo raha hai’ (‘militant Islam is sowing thorns in our path’). One Islam there is which is tolerant to all, that believes in truth: samvedna aur daya sikhata hai (it preaches compassion and mercy). But the kind of Islam being perpetrated in the world today is a violent, intolerant Islam that has no room for tolerance.”

Such statement, made after the worst state–sponsored carnage against Muslims post-Partition had been so cynically carried out, is unfortunate, to say the least.

The role of the then Union home minister and now deputy prime minister, Shri LK Advani appears to be patently partisan. It appears that like Shri Modi, he too keeps forgetting that he holds constitutional office and is not a Sangh pracharak.
Shri Advani is one of the leading figures in the central government who has irresponsibly peddled the theory of a “foreign hand” behind the Godhra arson without any proof; described Godhra as an “act of terrorism” and the subsequent carnage as a “communal riot”; debunked the findings of official investigations as contained in the FSLR; repeatedly praised Shri Modi as “being the best chief minister India has seen in 50 years” and lauded him as being the best example of “good governance”; and, most dangerously, given a clean chit to indicted organisations like the VHP and BD, who were openly gloating over the violence.

Shri George Fernandes, the Union defence minister, emerges from the entire episode as a pathetic character. While he no doubt visited Gujarat immediately after the outbreak of the violence to oversee the role of the Army, and for which he undoubtedly deserves appreciation, it appears he learnt nothing from whatever he may have surveyed. Had he done so, he would not have made the statement that he did in the Lok Sabha on April 30. That statement not only added insult to the injury of those brutalised by the pogrom but also undermined all human values. If a minister of his rank and a politician of his experience chooses to liken the mass instances of gender violence (perpetrated against 150–200 women and girls) and the subsequent slaughter of most of them, as “nothing new”, it is sufficient indication of the seriousness with which the whole carnage was looked upon by the central government. His attempt at whitewashing his statement at a later stage made things even worse.

As the Union law minister, it was expected that Shri Arun Jaitley would have more respect for the rule of law than Shri Modi. Instead, he showed complete disregard for the basic human rights of innocent men, women and children who fell victim to the carnage. He patted Shri Modi’s back, the man who was the root cause of the massacre of humanity in the state of Gujarat. His attitude was and is sufficiently representative of the view and attitude of the central government to the entire incident.
In short, the inaction on the part of the central government and the utterances of its spokesmen occupying responsible positions show that not only had the central government failed in its duty but it  also had no intention to discharge it at all. Contrast this conduct of the central government with its prompt action after the Akshardham Mandir massacre. This only shows that if the central government intended to take action, it could have done so. The fact that the central government failed in its constitutional obligations during the post–Godhra carnage is indisputable. In the event of any international authority also indicting the state government, which we believe to be inevitable, the central government will have to bear a major share of the blame and will be liable for censure.      

Failure of the criminal justice system 

  • There was no recording of complaints made by affected persons, even while the incidents were taking place.
  • FIRs were recorded after several days.
  • Even the recorded FIRs contained incorrect versions and not the versions as reported by the complainants.
  • The names of the culprits, even when disclosed, were not recorded.
  • In fact, the complainants were told not to name the accused, otherwise the complaints would not be recorded.
  • The FIRs of individual victims were not recorded and omnibus complaints containing several incidents were recorded, which would deny proper investigation and stall the delivery of criminal justice.
  • In many cases, the panchnamas of the scenes of offence have not been made.  The forensic evidence has not been collected.
  • The leaders of the mob violence have not yet been arrested.
  • The police participated in the violence and, in spite of clear and well-documented evidence against the police, no policeman has been prosecuted or proceeded against otherwise.
  • Search and seizure of weapons and looted material have not been effected at all, despite direct evidence of armed mobs committing the crimes.
  • Most of the prosecutors who are in charge of these cases owe allegiance to the organisations perpetrating the crimes, with the result that the victims have no confidence in the due process of law.
  • From the evidence recorded, many persons, politicians and officials among others,have been repeatedly mentioned by witnesses, as directly taking part and inflicting violence on innocent victims and also leading the mobs. 

Archived from Communalism Combat, November-December 2002 Year 9  No. 81-82, Role of the Central Government



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