March-April  2002 

Government of Gujarat

The history of Gujarat state under the rule of the Bharatiya Janata Party is a study in the systematic and steady erosion of basic Constitutional principles and the Rule of Law (see Section Dateline Gujarat). For the past four years since it has tasted undiluted power in the western state, and in line with it’s ideological fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s open proclamation that Gujarat ‘is the laboratory for a Hindu rashtra,’ the ruling BJP under both former CM Keshubhai Patel and CM Narendra Modi has performed the function of eroding the neutrality of the state executive.

This erosion has been taking place steadily over four years. It was glaringly obvious following the Godhra tragedy, in the statements and actions of the state executive led by CM Modi. Our investigations have shown how, more than anything else, the wings of government have been systematically infiltrated.

I. On February 27, after the Godhra tragedy took place, CM Modi was at the helm in pushing the "incident was preplanned" theory (see section on ‘Godhra’). This action was itself both premature and partisan, given the fact that state investigating agencies had not reached this conclusion. Modi’s cabinet, but notably minister for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, who reiterated strongly that Pakistani hands lay behind the Godhra act. These statements were irresponsible given the sensitivity of the situation and the anger that they generated. One, they generated a climate ripe for apportioning blame: for the acts of a few criminals, the entire Ghanchi Muslim community of Godhra was branded; and two, laid grounds for justifying the systematic massacre, plunder, loot and cultural decimation of the whole Muslim community in Gujarat thereafter.

II. Soon after the attack on the train took place on February 27, the VHP called, first for a Gujarat Bandh on February 28 and then again, a Bharat Bandh on March 1. The Gujarat BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana was quick to announce the state BJP’s support for the bandh, giving clear signals to the administration that it need not take a hard line against those who enforce the bandh. Over the past four years, on three occasions at least, a bandh call has been used by the rabid forces of the RSS/BJP/VHP and Bajrang Dal to challenge the law and wreak havoc on the lives and properties of citizens. Given this background, the wholehearted support extended by the Modi government and the ruling BJP to the bandh, makes it culpable for the damages that were inflicted. It needs to accept the consequences of this support.

It is the responsibility of the state to compensate the damages suffered in loss of life, property and businesses from the persons calling for the bandh. Since the Gujarat state government had openly announced its support to the bandh, should not the state be held directly culpable for the loss of property deliberately destroyed in the violence? The responsibility for the loss of innocent citizens’ lives and property caused due to the murderous activities indulged in during a bandh, must rest with the VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal as well as the BJP, which supported it and was in power and failed to prevent the destruction. Even if the police fails to (for deliberate reasons) pinpoint the offenders, the organisations must be made to compensate for the damages.

Moreover, it should be incumbent on the state government to recover the entire loss in monetary terms caused to private and public property by violent and coercive activities during the bandh. Under section 7(a) of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, violent and coercive activities are culpable in law. (The Gujarat government must, following a recent judgement of the Supreme Court – Bharat Kumar versus the State of Kerala, 1997 — recover all the losses suffered by the government, people and minorities from the VHP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and the BJP, which supported it and whose members led the violence.

III. The conduct of the chief executive of the state of Gujarat, Modi, was more like a partisan pracharak of the RSS than a constitutionally elected chief minister "Har kriya ki pratikriya hoti hai," he had first said, justifying the premeditated carnage that followed Godhra. "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." He simply failed to reassure five crore people in the state that he is a guardian of their lives and property. Instead of responding with responsibility, he kept making callous assurances that everything was normal.

The conduct of CM Modi is violative both the principle and form of representative democracy that the Indian Constitution is based on. The idelogical proclamations of the BJP have always been sectarian, appealing to one section of the people and their interests above all or others; they have been at the forefront of misusing religion for political ends that too is in violation of the principle of the Representation of people Act. Whatever the ideology of a party, once in power using democratic means, and holding the reins of government, it is constitutionally bound to represent all sections. Over the past four years (see section, Dateline Gujarat) every move of the BJP government has been non-representative and sectarian, and hence non-constitutional. This has reached monumental and critical levels in Gujarat 2002. The government allowed the violence to spread (its ministers led the carnage and rapes, allegedly in many cases), did not take adequate preventive measures, did not keep the army on stand-by, and once carnage had been unleashed, revealed it’s non-representative character farther. The discrimination in compensation amounts, the failure to even visit relief camps by the CM or the state cabinet; the refusal to postpone examinations; the selective cancellation of examination centres; the mere contemplation of elections all are clear manifestations of a non-representative, therefore un-constitutional form of government.

Narendra Modi (Newshour, Star News, 2/03/2002) : "Gujarat mein bahut teji se shanti prasthapit ho rahi hai, normalcy aa rahi hai… Ahmedabad ek prakar se kal raat ke baad, puri taraha incident-free raha hai." ("Gujarat is well on the road to peace and normalcy is slowly returning here… Ahmedabad too has been largely peaceful since last night.") This is while the attacks in Panchmahal district, Mehsana, Kheda, Nadiad, Bhavnagar – which include hacking, lynching and burning alive continued(see ‘Testimony’ section.)

Narendra Modi (Talking Heads, Star News, 3/03/2002): "On 27th the incident at Godhra happened, till the afternoon of 28th, there was no incident anywhere. Tension increased on 28th and I talked to the Central Government that afternoon. At 4:30 on 28th, I announced at a press conference that I have asked for military help. On the night of 28th, the Army was brought in planes from the border to the land of Gujarat. They joined duty from the morning of 1st March. Where do you think was the delay, you should know about it?"

(Though 12 columns of the Army (approximately 600 troops) had reached Ahmedabad and other sensitive areas on March 1, they were kept on standby. Military intelligence puts the blame on the state government. Reports submitted say the initial delay was due to the absence of clear instructions from the Gujarat government. (The Times of India, Ahmedabad, March 11, Pg. 7; See section on ‘Godhra’).

Worst of all was CM Modi’s response to the worst incidents of carnage, such as the one that took place at Chamanpura, where former Congress MP, Ehsan Jaffri was lynched, hacked and killed. He had no words of condemnation for the way Jaffri was attacked, for the failure of his own government and the police. Modi forgot to tell us what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas.

Narendra Modi’s statement on 01/03/2002: "There have been earlier incidents of private firing there too. And how, an effort was made from this society, in the past, to spread terror among the people… But this time also, there was private firing at the Gulbarga Society, after the private firing, things went out of control."

Thirty-eight villagers were hacked and torched at Sardarpura village in Mehsana district. This is what Modi had to say to the killings–Narendra Modi, CM, 1/03/02: "In some villages, especially in one village of Mehsana district, due to rumours, due to suspicion, due to mistrust, due to tension on both sides, there was an incident in the Sardarpura village."

IV. Other ministers in the state cabinet displayed the same attitude. Constituencies of the state cabinet were more prone to violence; ministers were also leading the mobs: It may not be a mere coincidence that Bapunagar, home constituency of the minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, witnessed one of the worst communal scenes since the 1969 riots, when the area was the hardest hit. Some of the senior BJP leaders and ministers in the Modi cabinet were also alleged to have participated in the destruction of minority places of worship. Minister for revenue Haren Pandya and health minister Ashok Bhatt led the mobs enthusiastically in Ahmedabad. Bharat Barot, a sitting MLA, was also at the forefront. Residents of Paldi, where Haren Pandya is elected from, actually saw him lead arson attacks. Pandya’s election promise the last time was "to wipe any trace of Muslims out of Paldi." Maya Kotdani, an MLA, has also been named by a few dozen witnesses as an active participant in the violence.

Gujarat ministers Nitin Patel and Narav Laloo Patel allegedly led violence, arson and even sexual violence against women in Kadih and Unja in Mehsana respectively.

V. The utter disregard for the loss of life, property and the anguish that a section of the citizenry suffered due to perpetrated violence could be seen in the fact that until Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee flew into Ahmedabad to give his speech at Shah Alam Camp, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had not visited a single one. There are as many as 66,000 persons, according to collector’s figures in the camps in Ahmedabad. Instead of succour and assistance, in keeping with the fundamental duty of a government towards its citizens, terror tactics through lathi-wielding policemen have been employed with residents of camps. In the areas of Gujarat outside Ahmedabad too, there are as many as 60,000 persons internally displaced living in terrible conditions. There is little save for the basics forthcoming from the government; this too has been obtained after petitions and public outcry.

VI. The state government stands indicted in its careless disregard for the life, well being and future of students from the minority community. Traumatised and distressed students had requested a postponement of the annual examinations. The state government and later even the Gujarat High Court rejected their plea. On April 10, the Gujarat government took a decision to shift out all centres located in the minority dominated areas out of concern for the lives of the students belonging to the majority. However, minority children were still expected to travel to majority dominated areas! This is just one more example of sectarian and partisan response on the part of the Gujarat the Government which is in violation of the Indian Constitution.

On April 15, young girls and boys studying at two schools at Delhi darwaza were attacked by mobs as they sat for their terminal examinations there. Even then, the Gujarat High Court chose not to intervene, choosing to believe the claims of the government that ‘it had made special arrangements for special buses for transportation of Muslim children into centres located in majority dominated areas.’ This, from a government that has failed for over six weeks to provide even basic protection to its citizens. As we go to press, there has been a near-unanimous decision by Muslim parents and students in Gujarat to boycott the examinations. The state government’s response: Muslim teachers and supervisors are being threatened; make sure that the children come out or else we will book you under PASA!

VII. CC’s figures show that apart from 2,000 lives lost and Rs. 3,500 crores in economic losses (primary assessment) for the minority community in Gujarat, at least 270 masjids and dargahs — religious and cultural monuments, have been destroyed completely or damaged. This, in utter violation of both the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Indian Constitution and international standards. There has not been one word of apology or regret from chief minister Modi or his government on the brutal message sent out through this desecration of masjids and dargahs to a section of the Gujarati population.

VIII. The CM announced Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation for the victims/survivors of the Godhra tragedy. Within 26 hours of the Godhra tragedy, widespread targetted attacks by huge mobs in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Kheda, Mehsana, Vadodara, Anand, Bharuch, Rajkot, Sabarkantha, Panchmahal, Patan and several others had taken place, hacking and burning children, women and men. The compensation declared by the CM for the survivors was Rs. 1 lakh. (When widespread criticism was made about the discriminatory stand of the state, the amount was equalised by reduction rather than by increasing the amount.)

The government has also decided to pay a compensation from Rs. 2,000 to Rs. 50,000 to the injured, depending on the type of injury one has suffered. The compensation has been decided in accordance with the norms fixed for the state earthquake victims of January 26, 2001, a government notification said. Despite the fact that there was premeditated and systematic destruction of homes, properties and businesses, the state government has been perfunctory and callous in announcing compensation. The same is evident from the following example: The state government has declared a paltry sum of Rs. 10,000 to 50,000 for the loss of property. The loss incurred runs into lakhs and lakhs of rupees, where only 30-40 per cent of those affected have insurance coverage. For the rest, the only source of rehabilitation is a aid from the state govt. The state government has refused to discharge its responsibilities, duties and liabilities.

IX. On March 1, the CM announced a judicial commission of inquiry into the Godhra tragedy alone, appointing retired judge, KG Shah at it’s head. Again, only after widespread protests, did he announce the inclusion, in the terms of reference of inquiry of the judicial commission, to cover the post Godhra carnage. (March 5) . The appointment of the KG Shah Commission is the subject matter of serious controversy given not merely the conduct of this particular judge in an earlier matter but on the simple grounds that the situation in Gujarat, where judges, academics, professionals and others live under threat of fanatic groups who have become a law unto themselves, the criteria of a free, fair and independent inquiry demands the appointment of a senior judge (preferably judges) from outside the state. The appointment of KG Shah has been challenged in the Supreme Court and the SC has served notice to the Gujarat government on April 15.

Justice Shah’s judicial record, especially while delivering the judgement when presiding over the TADA court in the matter of the Dabgarwad, Laliwala case must to be recalled. He convicted persons from the minority community under TADA (they were given the death penalty), a judgement that was completely overruled by the Supreme Court. In its verdict, the SC acquitted all the accused and also questioned the reasoning of the TADA Court. The said decision is reported under Dilawar Hussain, s/o Mohammed Laliwala etc. vs state of Gujarat, reported in A I R 1991 SC 56.

The terms of reference of the KG Shah Commission are also controversial. They are:

To ascertain

Ř The facts, circumstances and the course of events of the incidents that led to setting on fire of some coaches of the Sabarmati Express train on February 27, 2002 near Godhra railway station.

Ř The facts, circumstances and course of events of the subsequent incidents of violence in the State in the aftermath of the Godhra incident.

Ř The adequacy of administrative measures taken to prevent and deal with the disturbances in Godhra and subsequent disturbances in the State.

Ř To ascertain as to whether the incident at Godhra was pre-planned and whether information was available with the agencies, which could have been used to prevent the incident.

Ř To recommend suitable measures to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future.

The terms of reference of the KG Shah Commission have been strongly criticised. There is no reference in the terms of reference, to the need to look into the causes of the disturbances/events/killings as also the need to pinpoint the groups, individuals and organisations behind the violent provocation.

X. To date, the state government has made no announcements about the number of missing persons or the extent of damage to property and has not computed the vast economic devastation suffered by the minority community. Estimates show that there are as many as 2000-2,500 persons missing. Gujarat has seen a style of killing that leaves behind no traces. How will the survivors be compensated?

XI. The RSS and VHP also control key functionaries in the State. Chief minister Modi is an RSS pracharak. Minister of state for home, Zadaphiya is a VHP activist. SS Bhandari, the governor of Gujarat, who has not seen fit to send a report on what is happening in the state to the Centre, is also an RSS leader. Such examples can be multiplied, but these will suffice to indicate the penetration of the state apparatus and government machinery by the Sangh Parivar. All governments are political, but the penetration by the RSS, a shadowy and publicly unaccountable organisation, is a specific phenomenon that requires careful and painstaking investigation, which is however, outside the scope of this report.

XII. As a consequence of all these factors, the Gujarat government has functioned not as a constitutionally bound, non-partisan and independent body, but one controlled by, and answerable to, the Sangh Parivar. The role and functioning of the Gujarat government, therefore, is directly determined by its penetration by the Sangh Parivar including its most extreme elements, the VHP and Bajrang Dal. This fact underlies the conduct of the Gujarat government before, during and after, the peak period of communal violence in the state during February-March 2002. Take for example the minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya, who has risen from the ranks of the VHP.

Zadaphiya is a supporter of the international general secretary of the VHP, Pravin Togadia, at whose insistence the home portfolio was given to Zadaphiya when Modi became chief minister.

The moral commitment and connection of the Gujarat government to extra-constitutional outfits like the RSS/VHP and the Bajrang Dal is obvious from the fact that though 2,500 arrests have been made in past weeks, no arrests of Bajrang Dal/VHP and BJP workers have been undertaken. At least 150 such accused, whose names figure in FIRs are being avoided by the state government. (See section on ‘Testimony’).

Chief Minister Modi, while denying the allegations, has refused to give the exact number of the BJP, VHP or Bajrang Dal activists arrested. He said he would do it "at a proper time."

Six BJP workers are named in the Naroda carnage. These include Raju Sharma, Kishan Kurani, PJ Rajput, Harish Rohara, Bapu Bajrang, and Raju Chaubal, all identified as BJP and VHP activists who slaughtered Muslims and led mobs. FIRs have been booked against these six Sangh brigade activists under IPC 302, 395 and 143, 149 and 148 for slaughtering and rioting. No arrests have been made.
In the Gulberg Society, Chamanpura mass arson case, too, while 19 persons have been arrested, key persons are free.

In Bhavnagar, FIRs have been filed against Om Trivedi, the city VHP president, and Mansukh Panjwani, a city BJP office bearer and ex-municipal councillor. Both Trivedi and Panjwani are alleged to have led mobs which set fire to over 80 Muslim-owned business establishments. Neither have been arrested.

At Surendranagar too, CR No. 54/2002 names six persons, who are primary members of the BJP and VHP, for instigating riots and indulging in mayhem. They have been charged under IPC 395, 436, 147, 148 and 149 but have not been arrested. These include district VHP in-charge Raju Vaishnav, BJP councillor Narottam Satwara, VHP joint secretary Dhiren Shukla and Tulsibhai, Ranchhod Bharwad and Devji Bharwad, all active BJP workers. There have been no arrests yet.

XII. Not overly concerned with criticisms that he acted in a partisan manner, in violation of the Indian Constitution, the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is alleged to have issued instructions to the bureaucracy to prepare a list of those judges that have given anti-government verdicts in the past. Instructions to this effect have already been issued. In a uniquely Hitlerian move to shadow an independent institution like the judiciary, CM Modi is undeterred by nationwide criticism. The RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal, whose methods are clearly unconstitutional, rule, and work, in Gujarat. The move to put pressure on and track the judiciary appears to have been successful, if two recent decisions of the Gujarat High Court, on humanitarian pleas made by students from the minority community, are anything to go by. The judges chose to believe a much-indicted state government rather than assure students of a postponement in the examinations and safe examination centres.

XIII. Between late 1999 and early 2000, the RSS compelled the Gujarat government to appoint a government pleader with an RSS background, despite strong protests from within the BJP itself. Arun Oza, at present the senior government pleader in the Ahmedabad High Court, was appointed after hard lobbying by the Sangh and despite stiff opposition from even the ruling party. Government pleaders, who represent the government in all legal matters, have always been persons of high legal standing and merit. Oza has been actively associated with the RSS since the mid-seventies; and though he is a man of no particular standing, it was simply the persistence of the RSS that earned him this post. His case was actively pursued by RSS leaders Damleji and Pravin Maniar. Oza’s appointment to the PP’s post was a major victory since it established the supremacy of the sangh over affairs in Gujarat. Just before Oza’s appointment, the RSS had succeeded in installing its men as Lokayukta, the chairman of the state public service commission and also as vice Chancellor of the Gujarat university.

XIV. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is likely to use elections to reap electoral benefits from the carnage in Gujarat. This, despite the fact that he had assured members of the Gujarat Assembly on March 19 that his party was not using communal riots for political gain. "I do not believe in playing politics of vote-bank," Mr Modi had said in the Assembly. However, exposures by the media reveal how the government is actively pursuing the call for an election (see accompanying form on polls.) There is every indication that elections will be announced in late April, if the Collectors’ behaviour in many rural camps is anything to go by. Many camps located in far off Kadih, Kalol and other areas have been told by their respective Collectors to wind up the camps by April 21, since elections are being called.

XV. ‘There is no civil service left in Gujarat,’ said the former Indian cabinet secretary TSR Subramnian (The Indian Express, April 10).‘‘What has happened is something much more fundamental than Gujarat: The civil service is gone. There is no such thing left. Over the years, the civil service has turned from a steelframe to non-existent. And that is the shattering thought.

"When the government wants something done it has the ability, it has the takat (strength). It can do it in village after village, town after town. That it has not done so in Gujarat is a telling indictment not only of the way of the present government, but also the collapse of the police and civil magistracy,’’ he says.

The systematic erosion of neutrality and Constitutional principles and values, so visible in the Police, has not left the Civil Service alone either. The government machinery in Gujarat is watched closely by the RSS/VHP and Bajrang Dal, aided by the ruling BJP in power; appointments and decisions are not made as per constitutional norms; they follow ideological principles. Hence, whether it is the matter of school admissions, decisions by the Collectorate or the awarding of city and road contracts, a partisan approach has crept in, affecting the quality of decisions made. Senior bureaucrats are held accountable to extra-Constitutional outfits and this is enough to send the message down the line. It is well known in Ahmedabad city that the AUDA (Ahmedabad Urban development Authority) has not constructed good, decent cheap housing in minority dominated areas for some years now. Slowly and steadily, the minorities in Gujarat have been taught their place. Gujarat 2002 just brought the message home more violently.

XVI. One of the consequences of this violence is the insecurity experienced by Muslim government servants who are all thinking of seeking transfers out of Gujarat....Most of the 20 Muslim officers in ONGC from outside Gujarat have not returned after the riots...In banks, the departments of posts and telecommunications and in organisations such as Indian Oil Corporation — anywhere that any Muslims from outside Gujarat work. A senior officer with the Controller and Auditor General’s office in Ahmedabad first went on leave and has now sought a transfer. Nishar Ansari, an All-India Radio officer recently transferred from Uttar Pradesh to Ahmedabad, is pleading with authorities to cancel the order. (The Times of India, 6 March 2002.)

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