Action replay

Print edition : November 16, 2007

A family looks out from its burnt home following communal riots in March 2002. A file photo. - MANISH SWARUP/AP

A six-month-long investigation by Tehelka strips bare the Sangh Parivars role in the Gujarat pogrom.

A family looks

THE emperor has no clothes. He has been stripped bare. And it is not a pretty sight. In fact, it is ghastly. So horrific that everyone is looking away.

A six-month-long sting operation by the news magazine Tehelka has brilliantly exposed how the Sangh Parivar led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi carried out a pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and later subverted justice to ensure that their men eluded punishment for their heinous crimes.

Tehelkas thorough investigation has several Sangh leaders explaining on camera how they planned the pogrom; the role of Modi and other senior Sangh leaders; the complicity of the police; and the connivance of the judiciary.

Yet, no action has followed one of the most explosive news investigations in India. None of those caught on tape boasting about raping, burning and hacking Muslims have been arrested or even interrogated. Modis authority has not been questioned. Instead, there is an eerie silence. Far more eerie than the cold-blooded murders of more than 1,000 innocent people during the communal massacres of March 2002.

The role of the Modi government in the State-sponsored terrorism of 2002 is well documented. Even the Supreme Court had censured Modi for being a modern day Nero who watched while Gujarat burned. Now, the Tehelka tapes offer irrefutable proof of how the Sangh organised a Hindu jehad across Gujarat and protected the murderers.

Tehelka journalist Ashish Khetan befriended Sangh members over several months to expose new details about the planning of the pogrom. The idea came from Modi himself in a meeting held in Vadodara....I was present, says Dhimant Bhatt, chief accountant and auditor of the Maharaja Sayajirao University. Babu Bajrangi, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader and chief accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, boasts about how Modi changed judges thrice to get him out of jail. He also revealed that he was in touch with people such as the then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadaphia, VHP general secretary Jaideep Patel and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Mayaben Kodnani throughout the mayhem.

On record, Gujarats Advocate General Arvind Pandya says the accused have nothing to fear from the Nanavati-Shah Commission, which is probing the carnage of 2002. [Justice] K.G. Shah is our man.he is sympathetic to us.[Justice] Nanavati is after money, he said. The Sangh formed a panel of advocates to defend the rioters on the night of the Sabarmati Express fire itself, Dhimant Bhatt told Tehelka. Details about police abetment have also emerged. Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey ordered that the 700-800 dead bodies at Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad, be secretly picked up and dumped all over the city to reduce the toll of the massacre, Bajrangi tells Khetan. Inspector K.G. Erda told the mob outside Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, where former Congress M.P. Ahsan Jafri was killed, that it had three hours to do its work. One man was killed in front of Erda. Deputy Commissioner of Police S.K. Gadhvi promised VHP leader Ramesh Dave from Kalupur that he would kill at least four or five Muslims if Dave pointed them out to him. Dave took him to the terrace of a house and before we knew it, he had killed five people, Dave says on camera.

We made a rocket launcher at my gun factory, boasts Haresh Bhatt, VHP leader and Godhra MLA. He describes how weapons were brought in from different States and then distributed. Get rid of the lathisteach them [the RSS] to use guns I am the first in the country to run a warg [training module] .in Gujarat in 1987. for the Babri Masjid demolition.

These explosive revelations did not create the shockwaves they should have. Modi and his government chose to remain silent. The BJPs national spokesperson called it a political stunt by the Congress ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections in December but he did not deny any of the facts exposed by the tapes. While officially calling for Modis resignation, the Congress, the main Opposition in Gujarat, is still worried that the expos might help Modi gain Hindu support in the elections.

NARENDRA MODI AT a felicitation in June for being the longest-serving Chief Minister of Gujarat.-PTI

The Congress at the centre has demanded a fresh probe against Modi but it has not wielded its power to initiate any action against him. The Left parties, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Bahujan Samajwadi Party have insisted on an investigation into Modis role in the riots.

In fact, the only official action after the expos was that of the District Collector of Ahmedabad Dhananjay Dwivedi who immediately tried to black out the airing of the tapes on news channels. He issued an order under Clause 5 of the Cable TV Networks Regulation, 1995, which refers to programmes that deal with communal tension. A case has been filed against Aaj Taks Gujarat Bureau Chief Dhimant Purohit. Arvind Pandya, Gujarat Advocate-General, who is seen explaining on camera how he sabotaged cases dealing with communal riots, has filed a case against Purohit under several sections for criminal breach of trust, conspiracy and fraud. He claims that Purohit cheated him by forcing him to read from a script, which was recorded on tape. After putting up this defence, Pandya resigned from his post.

Human rights groups have submitted the tapes as additional evidence in the cases they have filed in the Supreme Court. The Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has filed an intervention application in the pending cases before the Supreme Court asking for the Tehelka tapes to be summoned and examined as evidence and for the hearings of the case to be expedited immediately.

The application states: The lives of survivors and witnesses are in serious danger today with those accused of mass crimes roaming free, gloating about accused who raped, killed, made arms and conspired with the topmost authorities in the State. This application was part of a petition before the Supreme Court asking for the transfer of the hearings of 10 cases outside Gujarat and their re-investigation.

Zakia Ahsan Jafri, wife of Ahsan Jafri, filed an affidavit before the Gujarat High Court asking the court to take cognizance of Tehelkas expos in the case earlier filed by her demanding registration of a first information report against Modi and 62 others for mass murder and criminal conspiracy.

But cases have already been pending for years. There is enough proof to immediately arrest not only those who have spoken on the Tehelka tapes but also those who have been named as leaders and co-conspirators, including Modi.

But who is going to bite the bullet? Who has the nerve to say the emperor has no clothes?

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