New Internationalist

Gujarat massacre convictions must continue


Questions are being asked about Narendra Modi. Photo: Al Jazeera, reproduced under a CC license.

There are times when India makes me proud. Yesterday, 29 August 2012, was one such epic day. It re-affirmed my faith in our democracy and judiciary, despite the terrible things which happen all the time.

In March this year, I wrote about 2012 being the tenth anniversary of the allegedly state sponsored, Gujarat genocide. Lawyers, activists, academics and victims’ families – all of whom had been fighting for justice for a decade, were at their wits’ end. There was despair and despondency although people put up a brave front and vowed to keep fighting.

Yesterday, a special court appointed by the Indian Supreme Court passed a landmark verdict. It convicted Mayaben Kodnani, a legislator from the ruling BJP party, and Babu Bajrangi, a key leader of an extremist right wing group, the Bajrang Dal for their involvement in the massacre.  Thirty others who went on a rampage, murdering and raping people in the mainly Muslim minority area, have also been convicted.

This judgment is an outstanding one because it does not merely convict the criminals for murder and rape. It has set a precedent by spelling out the fact of criminal conspiracy against a minority group.

For decades now, those who have murdered and raped minorities in the name of religion, instigated by politicians and with motives much the same as those found in Rwanda or Kosovo, have got away with impunity. Perhaps now the killing games will stop. Never before has a former Minister and sitting MLA been convicted. Kodnani was, cruelly and ironically, a gynecologist and Minister for Women and Children.

The verdict puts in the dock, the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, until now the top candidate for his party the BJP in the 2014 Indian Prime Ministerial race. The question being asked is, if Modi’s top Minister and close ally was such an integral part of the genocide, can Modi continue to feign ignorance about it all?

Modi was denied a visa to the US because Indians there and in India campaigned to keep him out. However, they were not successful in Britain where politicians of different hues have pandered to their Gujarati constituents to get Modi a visa and welcome him to functions felicitating him. It raises some interesting questions.

Those same British Gujaratis welcome Modi despite his complicity in the carnage being screamed on Indian television. British Gujaratis are quick to cry racism in Britain. Why do some of them support a man who openly abuses minorities in their home state?

It’s a question the British media should ask of politicians who have visited vibrant Gujarat on Modi’s invitation, as well as industrialists who have stood on public platforms with India’s  allegedly proud-to-be ‘homegrown Hitler’. Can morality and all decency be shelved by politicians and entrepreneurs because Gujarat can provide them with votes and profits? I propose the BBC and others put this question to some of these politicians and profiteering CEOs.

You can’t talk about racism and your rights in Britain if you flagrantly cast aside all pretence of decency and democratic rights in your home country. Or can you? I think it’s really important to make these facts public and to set the record straight. Any takers?

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