Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan, July 2, 2002

Source of image:

The Supreme Court of India dismissed a petition filed by Mrs. Zakia Jafri, the widow of murdered former Congress MP Mr. Ehsan Jafri, during the terrible violence in 2002 following the Godhra train fire. The petition challenged the Closure Report of the Special Investigating Team (SIT), which inter alia found no evidence to implicate the then Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi or any other officials in the violent events.  The Supreme Court on the one hand appreciated the efforts of the members of the SIT by stating “… …we express our appreciation for the indefatigable work done by the team of SIT officials in the challenging circumstances they had to face …’’, while on the other decried the efforts of those who stood by Mrs. Jafri by stating “As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.”  Legal scholars of repute and men and women of conscience across the length and breadth of the country as well as the world have expressed great surprise at this great judicial overreach.
Within 24 hours of this observation of the Supreme Court, the “Anti-Terrorism Squad” (ATS) of the Gujarat Police arrested Ms. Teesta Setalvad, a rights activist and journalist, and Mr. R. B. Sreekumar, a former high-ranking police officer. They were arrested for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to egg on Mrs. Jafri to file such petitions, and for supposedly feeding on her grief and her passion for her justice for her murdered husband.

Over twenty years ago, at the end of February 2002, thousands of innocent people were killed, hundreds of women were raped and many maimed in Ahmedabad and other cities of Gujarat, as well as in rural districts. These horrific events shook the conscience of the people all over India.

The Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal headed by the noted jurist, late Shri VR Krishna Iyer, carried out exhaustive hearings in Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat, following the events. The tribunal also included many prominent personalities such as Justice Hosbet Suresh, former President of Lok Raj Sangathan, Justice P. B. Sawant and Mr. K. G. Kannabiran.  They recorded testimonies of victims of the massacre, as also of various activists, police officials and politicians. The evidence and information compiled showed that the preparations for the massacres had begun months in advance.  It showed that it was not a spontaneous “riot”, as is officially portrayed.   It was a well-planned and organised mass crime committed with the full backing of the administrative and police machinery of Gujarat.

In addition, many women, and men of conscience organised relief camps for the families who were victims of the massacres. Some, like Ms Teesta Setalwad also took up the fight to punish those guilty of organising the genocide. She has spent two decades fighting to ensure punishment for those guilty of organising the massacres, no matter how high a position they held. Previous horrific events such as the Genocide of the Sikhs in 1984 had clearly shown that victims cannot hope to get justice when arms of the government and the ruling dispensation themselves have been reported to have participated in organising mass killings and terror. The government, the police and other investigative agencies, the judiciary as well as the ruling class parties — together cover up the truth and ensure that the guilty, the organisers of the genocide, are never punished. Instead of getting justice, the victims are further persecuted.

The Supreme Court of India has called for punishing Teesta Setalwad and others for allegedly besmirching the names of ministers and officials of the Gujarat government who had “worked hard to stop the massacre in 2002”. Does this mean that those who dare to oppose and expose terrorism committed by organs of the government and ruling dispensations will themselves be targeted and persecuted? Going on the offensive, the Supreme Court actually said of petitioners and their supporters, “..(they have the) audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design”.

The events above raise several important issues which need to be spelt out. India has been the scene of several bouts of communal violence right from colonial times. It was clear in colonial times that the British colonialists had supported organisations which spread hatred and communal violence. After 1947 too, the ruling dispensations have used the divide and rule policies initiated by the colonialists. Incidents of communal violence, which are carefully planned and carried out, are brushed aside as “spontaneous riots”. In such cases, the government not only abdicates its duty to protect the victims, but as was clear in the case of the Genocide of the Sikhs in 1984, the police and “law – enforcement” agencies actually actively colluded in carrying out the massacres.

The Supreme Court could have said it has no reason to doubt, in face of the evidence presented before it, or in face of arguments presented to it, the validity of the findings of the SIT.  It is judicial overreach of the highest kind to cast aspersions on the character of those who were supporting the petitioner by material as well other means.  It is therefore fair to conclude that the message that is being sent out is that no one should challenge any of the conclusions of any of the organs of the State, be it the Police and Security Forces, or lower courts, or any other body constituted for specific purposes.

It is even more shocking that the Gujarat Police and the so-called Anti-Terrorism Squad of Gujarat should react with such alacrity and detain two of the persons who were known to be close to Mrs. Jafri based on a mere suggestion of conspiracy by the Supreme Court (even though there has been no evidence), and to take them into custody and deny them basic due process.  It has been reported that Ms. Setalvad also sustained some injuries due to the rough handling by the policemen.  Their homes have been raided and their possessions are being rifled through to look for evidence of such conspiracy.

Even as the contradictions between the people of India and their rulers grow, it is clear that all institutions today are being exposed more and more for their anti-people character.  The present attack of civil rights and the defenders of justice and fighters for justice is one more piece in this never ending story.  The dismissal of the plea filed by Mrs. Jafri has to be seen in this light.

Lok Raj Sangathan joins all justice-loving people and organisations in demanding an immediate release of Ms. Setalvad and Mr. Sreekumar. It is imperative to unite and continue the fight for justice of victims of the massacres, as part of the fight to defend human rights in our country.

By admin