People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 37

September 16, 2012




Premeditated Conspiracy and Attempted Cover-up


Archana Prasad


ON August 30, 2012, Judge Jyotsna Yagnik delivered her landmark verdict in the Naroda Patiya Case at the final hearing of one of the most important cases in the strings of complaints filed after the Gujarat Genocide of 2002. The common judgement pronounced for all eight charge sheets filed in the case have highlighted to important facets being hitherto disputed by BJP state government and their partner, the Hindutva organisations. First, the judgement univocally proves that the massacre at Naroda Patiya, ‘the most heinous crime’ in the post-Godhra riots (p 13), is an organised and premeditated conspiracy of the Hindutva brigade. Second, it points to serious lapses in previous investigations and their deliberate attempt to shield the accused. Through a detailed analysis of these investigations, and a recording of the oral evidence of 327 witnesses, the judge emphatically privileges the testimonies of the victims, thus giving them a sense of partial justice. It holds 32 of the 61 accused guilty and included a former minister and BJP MLA of Naroda Patiya, Mayaben Kodnani (accused 37), Babu Bajarangi (accused 18), Suresh Langda (accused 22), elected BJP councillor Kishan Korani (accused 20), amongst others, guilty of criminal conspiracy including homicides and crimes against Muslim women and sentenced them to long periods of imprisonment. In this sense the judgement vindicates the decade long campaign and struggle of the victims who are being supported by secular civil society organisations and democratic forces in this effort.




A detailed analysis of the 1969 page mammoth judgement exposes the fallacy of the Sangh Parivar’s claim that the Gujarat riots were a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra carnage where the bodies of unknown persons were burnt by some unknown persons. Refuting this claim the Judge reaches the following conclusion:


The conspiracy can clearly be inferred to have been hatched at anytime after visit of A-18 [Babu Bajarangi] at Godhra and anytime before arriving at Nurani on 28/02/2002…. common intentions were perceived, agreement to do illegal act of communal riot, to commit offences against human body, property was realised by any means of communication as had it not been so it is impossible that when the bandh was for entire day, all the accused would meet at the same time, same place, with same preparation and perceive and share common intentions…. The intentions are inferred to be as below, as emerges from facts and circumstances on record:


[a] To ventilate the anger of Godhra Carnage.

[b] To take revenge with Muslim community.

[c] To destroy, ruin and to damage properties of Muslims.

[d] To do away Muslims to raise the death toll so many times more than Godhra carnage.

[e] To terrorise Muslims etc.


The co-conspirators of A-37 [Dr Mayaben Kodnani] were out to execute the conspiracy and to carry out the task, viz the commission of the offences for fulfilment of the object. With the common intentions and agreement, the assault was initiated by the unlawful assembly. Secondly, she was the current MLA of Naroda constituency and the site of the offences were part of Naroda constituency. Thirdly, political inclination would always be to take political mileage of such situation. A-37 [Dr Mayaben Kodnani] cannot be exception to it [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, pp 741-742].


The judge reaches this conclusion after hearing 173 prosecution witnesses and their cross examination after which she reconstructs the chain of events, making pertinent observations.  Quoting the testimony of Zubair Khan Islam Khan Pathan (PW 227) she writes:

There were mobs near Natraj Hotel and Krishna Nagar. The mobs were of Hindus. The men of the mob sitting in rickshaw were shouting that 'Bandiyas (loose word used for Muslims), you stop'…. At this time, I saw Bipin Panchal (A-44) in mob of Krishna Nagar, who was possessing sword in his hand, there was Guddu Chhara (deceased) with iron pipe and Babu Garagewala (A-33) with iron pipe in their hands…. I saw Mayaben (A-37) on the road in the mob of Natraj Hotel. The men of that mob had saffron flags, and were dressed up in Khakhi Chaddi (Shorts)….The men of the mob were told by Mayaben (A-37) that 'you go ahead I am with you'…. Since Mayaben (A-37) told the mob the sentence reproduced…. The police sitting at Police Point at Nurani Masjid has told us that 'nothing will happen, you take Muslims at their home' hearing this from police I took away Muslims from Nurani to home. While I was escorting the Muslims at their home at this time I saw persons of Hindu community to have been stone-pelting on Nurani and they were throwing burning rags on Nurani, police burst teargas on Muslims. Police did not help Muslims. The men of the mob were telling, 'Bandiyas, now your are not going to be survived, you speak Jay Shri Ram'. At this time, there was stampede to save our lives. The men of the mob were shouting, 'Kill, Cut' [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, pp 673-674].




This judgement is remarkable, not only for the ways in which it is sensitive towards the sentiments and experience of individual witnesses but also for way in which it unravels the collective memory of the riot victims, thereby pointing towards the organised nature of the conspiracy. Thus the judge writes: “Numerous occurrence PWs [prosecution witnesses], PWs who involve dead accused in the crime and in fact, out of the total 173 PWs about 150 PWs of them very clearly and firmly bring on record the fact about the presence and participation of the accused with deadly weapons on the day” [p 273].


For the judge the existence of such a common memory has been crucial to prove that the conspiracy especially in the wake of the failure of investigation agencies to keep a proper record. For the judge, the existence of such a collective memory is only possible “if there is meeting of mind, agreement, pre-meditation, pre-consort and preparation among the accused. When so many accused behave in a similar way, at similar site and time, it itself speaks about conspiracy at a large level. The accused had sufficient time to make all the preparations” [p 273]. While the judgement is quick to praise the courage of the witnesses, it would also be appropriate to highlight the role of several secular and democratic organisations in keeping alive the memory of the Gujarat horror story. Perhaps it is this concerted decade long campaign that has kept enabled the judge to overcome the attempts of the state machinery (especially investigating officers and the police) to protect the politically powerful accused persons.




In another aspect of the conspiracy, the entire judgement provides evidence of another well known fact, i.e., the involvement of the entire machinery of Hindutva organisations including some leaders of the BJP. Supporting this claim, the judge cites a complaint made by the police sub-inspector, Mr Solanki to the first investigating officer, Mr Mysorewala. She states:


If this complaint is perused, it is stated therein that mobs of people from Krishna Nagar, Saijpur Fadeli Tower, Kuber Nagar Bungalow area and Chhara Nagar had come. Active leaders of BJP were present in the mob who were instigating the mobs.


In the humble opinion of this court, in any area, normally none can be more active leader than the MP or MLA. It is not only undisputed but even admitted fact that A-37 [Mayaben Kodnani] is the MLA of BJP --- the ruling party then, from Naroda constituency, hence it is clear that she hails from and she is on the date of the occurrence in BJP. Now, if she cannot be termed to be active leader of BJP that too in Naroda constituency, then who else can be called the leader of BJP in that area. It can therefore, be inferred that A-37 [Mayaben Kodnani] was present at the site. The police officer has very specifically stated that the active leaders were instigating the mobs [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, p 726].


Thus the judgement not only nails the Hindutva mass organisations but also the BJP which has been currently trying to distance itself from the Gujarat carnage with the impending Gujarat elections. The connections between the BJP MLA, Mayaben Kodnani, and the Hindutva organisations through Babu Bajrangi (accused 18), Suresh Langda (accused 22), Bipin Panchal (accused 44), Kishan Korani (accused 20) and Manoj Videowala (accused 41) are proved through the admission of the Tehelka tapes as evidence. Thus Suresh Langda (accused 22) says:


Manoj (A-41), Mayaben (A-37), Kishan Korani (A-20), Bhavani (dead), Babu Bajrangi (A-18) were the main leaders who were present there. Kishan (A-20) and Manoj (A-41), are closed aide of Mayaben (A-37). They are left and right hands of Mayaben…. Truckloads of weapons, pouches of water and snacks were brought in. Gas cylinders were used in the occurrence. We were helped (talks with reference to fiscal help) by Babu Bajrangi (A-18) only. Pipes, batons were taken from our home. I had participated in riots. I had no repentance for whatever I had done…. Mayaben was there at the site on the date of occurrence for the whole day up to 8 p m, in her car taking round and on every round, she was telling us "You are doing proper deed, go ahead" [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, p 770].


These tapes also show the sick mentality and the political intention of the Hindutva brigade. Thus Babu Bajrangi says that the Chhara tribe, to which many of the accused belong, were instrumental in spreading fear amongst the Muslims. As he says in his interview with Ashish Khetan (prosecution witness 322) and the Tehelka reporter who interviewed Babu Bajrangi:


The abdomen of the pregnant woman was slit with the sword, a large number of people were done away at Naroda Patiya by him. They were charged by fanaticism…. They have slaughtered the Muslims, they killed them. Ravan’s Lanka was destroyed. Hinduism is within them…. The moment I was noticed by the police, they immediately realised that now it would all be over (Meaning thereby police was afraid of him). Had I not been in Naroda, nobody would have dared to come out…. 23 revolvers were collected at night (talks for intervening night of 27/02/2002 and 28/02/2002). I shall not stop working for Hinduism until I die. I have personal notions about Hinduism…. The moment I saw corpses lying in Godhra, that very night I had decided and challenged that, ‘There would be four times more slaughter in PATIYA than that of GODHRA…. I have two enemies, the Muslims and the Christians. I had been to Godhra. I have pretty good rapport with the police agency…. My name is enough to bewilder the Muslims [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, pp 763-65]


While the interviews, recorded in 2008 were telecast to the public, their significance has increased with of their reproduction within the judgement and their use as extra-judicial evidence. The judge explains her decision to include these as evidence at length and underlines their importance to overcome the problems of misrepresentation and omission in official records of successive investigations. This itself points towards an attempted cover-up which this judgement has unveiled. The evidence produced and recorded in the special court also underlines the relationship between the political intention and the fear psychosis that the Hindutva brigade sought to create. This fear psychosis was evident in the state assembly elections immediately after the Gujarat riots. The victory of Modi in 2002 only formed the basis of a wider communal polarisation and targeting of the riot victims even as all the six investigating officers took care to avoid a focus on the real political culprits. In this context the Gujarat model of development and the Sadbhavana Yatra was sought to be the hegemonic instrument that would hide the scars of 2002. It remains to be seen whether the democratic movement can utilise this judgement to counter both, Modi’s yatra for his re-election in the upcoming Gujarat elections and the forces of Hindutva hegemony that form the basis of his current campaign.


[Part II on evidence on the attempted cover-up next week.]