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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  1. #1 Lalita Ramdas 30 Aug 12

    With the present outcry and pre-occupation with Coalgate and other corruption scams in parliament and the media, it is important that this judgement and follow up - especially with respect to the Chief Minister who cannot disown responsibility - should not be allowed to avoid scrutiny and further action.

  2. #2 Sahil 30 Aug 12

    Madam, first of all I greatly appreciate the work you are doing for adivasis and other deprived communities.

    I am a Gujarati and have question for you. You labeled post Godhra riots as genocide. The number of muslims killed in riots was about 750, which is not even 0.1% of total muslim population in Gujarat. Then is it fair to label it as genocide? Or you are overreacting and exaggerating incidence of massacre?

    Secondly you mentioned that Modi has been denied US visa and I guess this way you are implicitly indicating Modi is builty of allegations made on him in eyes of US. Then on the same token, you are also implicitly indicating that US stands for justice. In which case, should I assume that US war against Iraq is righteous?

    Further, when do we consider someone guilty of allegations made against him / her. When Indian judiciary passes its verdict based on facts and evidences or merely based on trial by media or conspiracy theories built by us? May be British government believes in Indian judiciary system and not in conspiracy theories?

    Lastly, if you have chosen to hate Modi thats your choice, if you are open to reason we can discuss further. However, if it is emotional reaction, no logic in world can help change your mind. Nevertheless, your argument that Britishers should not participate in Vibrant Gujarat comes in real poor light. Vibrant Gujarat has helped bring investment to Gujarat and hence is benefit for Gujaratis. I don't understand why your hatred for Modi should extend to overall well being of Gujaratis?

  3. #3 Josantony Joseph 30 Aug 12

    While I agree with Mari, the fact is that profits and politics have always taken precedence over ethics. And Britain is as guilty of this as many other countries. In India too, a lot of corporate houses and film stars (Amitabh Bachan, Ajay Devgan etc) have no difficulty in ’sleeping with Modi’. That is the awful reality of human beings - that self-interest takes precedence over ethics. And yet there is hope - that eventually, when we look at our own history as a human race, there seems to be another reality as well, namely that we as a human race still move in 'the figure of a dance'.

  4. #4 Aloke Surin 31 Aug 12

    Even though justice delayed is justice denied, it is heartening to see that some sections of the judiciary still can do their duty. The convicted criminals must be just a few of the many involved in the genocide. Let us hope that the tentacles of the justice system can get to the rest as well...

  5. #5 Nishita 31 Aug 12

    I dont think an incident can be termed a genocide just by looking at the number of people who were killed. The acceptable figures for muslims who died in the riots was 2000. But 750 or 2000 doesn't matter. According to Article 2 , Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of Genocide,

    genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
    (a) Killing members of the group;
    (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
    (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
    (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
    (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

    The intent was to target and destroy the muslim community and that was very evident in the Gujarat riots.

    I dont think there can be an over reaction to what happened in Gujarat. What happened is shameful and the people who are responsible for it must be punished.

  6. #6 mari 31 Aug 12

    Dear Sahil,
    True I am emotional abt Gujarat. When I visited Ahmedabad for the first time in 1991, women cd walk the streets at midnight alone safely. Now I have documented rapes galore.
    Re Modi, in 2002 March, I interviewed the victims. The media was circumspect. They did not report the real horror stories which wd turn anyone's stomach. I interviewed Mayaben Kodnani and asked her how she as a healer a gynaecologist cd lead a mob to rape and burn women and children alive. The death toll was 2000 plus. Independent investigating teams produced this figure. Modi has spread hatred of Muslims throughout Gujarat. In the post 2002 he gloated and boasted about the Final Solution.
    I know he has good PR professionals to give him a super man image. But do you want yr children to inherit a state filled with hatred. It will destroy India and Gujarat ultimately.
    I thought Modi was smart and efficient but his remark abt malnutrition in Gujarat being a result of women wanting to be slim is ludicrous. I cant believe he said that to the Wall street Journal. I think megalomania has finished Modi, that and his arrogance have made him unpopular even among his own party cadres who once worshipped him.
    I hope you will take this in the right spirit. I thank you for yr courteous comment.

  7. #7 mari 31 Aug 12

    Dear Sahil

    I condemned the Iraq war. But it was Indians who lobbied to prevent Modi getting a visa to the US. In those days he boasted abt the genocide.
    Every political party is flawed, corrupt. But spreading hatred has become a hallmark of the BJP which surprises me as their leaders(apart from the extremists) are . So turning India into Kosovo or Rwanda is so short sighted and frightening for the future of the country, for the next generation of Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, animist and atheist children.

  8. #8 mari 31 Aug 12

    sorry Sahil
    the missing word in my comment was BJP top brass(apart from extremists) are an intelligent bunch


  9. #9 Prabir 31 Aug 12

    India also needs to take care of the perpetrators of the anti Sikh riots of 1984 and the Bhopal Gas Tragedy in the same year. The governments of the time lost elections (unlike Modi) but the courts have found it difficult to nail those responsible. Certainly all those who cause others to die and die in large numbers need to be brought to justice. It is not easy to look inwards and say- we have connived at genocide. Yet every nation and every ruling community does this. We need permanent Truth and Reconciliation commissions to complement great judgements like the one on Naroda Patiya in Gujarat

  10. #10 Peter Berger 02 Sep 12

    Thank God for the Supreme Court, time and again they have proved their independence against the politicians and other vested interests in India. Well done to all the people who had the courage to stand up and be counted at this very important judgment. Congratulations to Mari who has consistently taken the position of upholding the rights of the voiceless.

  11. #11 david cohen 04 Sep 12

    Please post my comment, Mari

    Mari Marcel Thekaekara's powerful blog stands as a constant reminder that quality in a democracy tests a country's ability to arrest and convict official wrongdoers who have no sense of decency and humanity. Just as in my country at the time of segregation, until the late 1960s, officials in Gujerat stand convicted of hate crimes.

    When the crimes were committed, I was in India visiting with a member of the Lok Sabha, M D Mistry, a distinguished Congress
    parliamentarian. As he learned of the murderous attacks during my visit I said, ’our visit has ended. You have lots of work to do.’ Thus began the necessary fact finding, commissions, reports including those of civil society.

    Indian democracy acquitted itself well.

    David Cohen
    Washington, DC

  12. #12 paadam 15 Sep 12

    I am an avid follower of writings of Amartya Sen. As he says, there is no perfect justice. Perfect justice is an idea and can be delivered or received. One can only strive to reduce injustice in this world. To that extent, the conviction of some of the marauders who engineered the massacre of innocents 10 years ago, by the Special court will be balm on the enormous wound and pain inflicted on minorities and may help to reduce tensions.

    Thanks to constant vigilance by some sections of media, human rights defenders and Supreme court, the victims got some semblance of justice.

    But, it saddens me and constantly reminds me that such a balm could not be delivered to the hundreds of innocent sikhs who were hunted down, butchered and burnt alive during the anti-sikh riots in response to Indira gandhi's assassination. At least in gujarat riots, the country could see few high profile convictions and a constant finger on Modi's alleged crime. Hopefully, Modi will pay some day.

    But,despite allegations of their direct involvement in anti-sikh riots, all the high profile criminals have roamed freely and enjoyed the fruits of power .

    Indira Gandhi's assassination and the subsequent large scale riots, targeting anyone with a beard and , their gurudwara etc, that were orchestrated all over the cities and
    towns of India are still fresh in my mind.

    Still, I can't fathom how can and why should human mind become so cruel. While individual human mind shows such cruel tendencies, humans when they become a mob assumes gigantic proportions, a Viswaroopa of vicious butchery.

    Please also read
    Fret, frown, forget. A formula for untruth and reconciliation, on the srilankan genocide and denial of justice by S.Anand, in
    Outlook <>

    Narayanan, chennai

  13. #13 Shiv Bhat 11 Oct 12

    This is a biased article. The UPA Antonia Maino led Congress Govt has continuously aimed at Modi since it scared of this great CM of Gujarat. Why do people like yourselves keep bringing up the Gujarat riots always but purposely leave out the various genocide Pogroms committed against Hindus & Sikhs under the Congress Governments? Why don't you question Yasn malik the butcher of the Brahmins & Hindus of Kashmir, while he sits pretty enjoying Congress support & protection? Why don't you target Jagdish Tytler who was responsible for the Sikh genocide under the Congress Party? These butchers of Hindus & Sikhs are being continuously protected by your types because they murdered Hindus & Sikhs..while Muslims who were perpetrators of the killings of Hindu women & helpless children, a retaliation by Hindus at the time has now been falsely pinned onto Modi, a successful CM, by the anti Hindu elements like yourselves who are the mouth pieces of an outsider Italian. Modi has not been found guilty so far - but Yasin Malik, Syed Geelani, Imam Bukhari, Kasab, Afzal Guru, Jagdish Tytler, KL Bhagt - all are guilty of killing Hindus & Sikhs. Can you go after them instead of wasting our time as well as yours through your false claims?

  14. #14 modi360 26 Nov 13

    We have launched a petition to request President Obama to reconsider US Administration’s stand on Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, India. Please visit [a href=’’]MODI360.COM to review and sign this petition.

  15. #15 modii USVisa 21 Jan 14

    We have launched a petition to request President Obama to reconsider US Administration’s stand on Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, India.

    Please visit to review and sign this petition.

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About the author

Mari Marcel Thekaekara a New Internationalist contributor

Mari is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. She writes on human rights issues with a focus on dalits, adivasis, women, children, the environment, and poverty. Mari's book Endless Filth, published in 1999, on balmikis, is to be followed by a second book on campaigns within India to abolish manual scavenging work. She co-founded Accord in 1985 to work with Adivasi people. Mari has been a contributor to New Internationalist since 1991.

About the blog I travel around India a lot, covering dalit and adivasi issues. I often find myself really moved by stories that never make it to the mainstream media. My son Tarsh suggested I start blogging. And the New Internationalist collective are the nicest bunch of editors I’ve worked with. So here goes.

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