People's Democracy

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

Vol. XXX

No. 22

May 28, 2006



Vadodara Violence Is A Dangerous Portent


THE discussion taking place here is on a very serious issue and must not be brought down to the level of mudslinging. The question here, which we want to focus upon, is how to maintain communal harmony and how to strengthen the secular and democratic republic in the country. Whatever took place in Vadodara has the background of Gujarat 2002 which nobody said was a correct thing. And if that was wrong, the birth of a similar atmosphere in the state is a dangerous portent, which we must all be vigilant about. That is why we want that the Rajya Sabha must seriously discuss why such happenings are taking place in Gujarat.


Today, there are many Gujarat-related cases before the Supreme Court that says these cases need reinvestigation. The CBI is being told to reopen certain cases. We, perhaps for the first time, saw a round of allegations and counter-allegations after verdicts were pronounced about the guilty, and in the Zahira case we also saw some riot victims facing perjury charges for the first time. The complaint is that thousands of riot victims in Gujarat are still not getting justice. About POTA detainees, the POTA Review Committee says these arrests are not justified, and we want that the home minister who is present here must clarify the situation. The Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court both had said the public prosecutor would have to accept the Review Committee’s decision. But this has not been done. The question is not whether economic development is taking place in Gujarat or not, the question is not whether this development can be expedited or not, the question is whether we would be able to preserve our secular democratic republic. The recent events need to be examined in this context.


You say that there were encroachments, that there are so many illegal structures that need to be removed. So do remove the encroachments. But the records say there already was a durgah in the name of Syed Rashiduddin Chishti where programmes were taking place everyday and these were fully funded by the Hindus. The durgah finds the first mention in 1912, in a municipal survey under the Baroda princely state of Siyajirao. It says the durgah is 385 years old. It is thus clear hat if a road was constructed there, it was the road that encroached upon the durgah property, not that the durgah encroached upon the road. You are talking of development; you say that roads are to be constructed. But the Vadodara commissioner is on record that they were talking to various people and that a solution could well have been worked out. I don’t want to go into the controversy that was just going on here between them and Mr Ahmad, as to whom the Gujarati Muslims would vote for. I would rather quote here from what a prominent BJP leader said in Vadodara: “The demolition of this durgah is a very well planned conspiracy. The Municipal Corporation authorities had promised us that it would not be demolished. We were working on a compromise formula, but they backed out and simply razed it.” This thing I am not saying; leaders of the BJP are saying. Then, if a compromise was possible, why did not they wait for it to take place? There were negotiations on the one hand, and on the other hand the police went on its own course, which led to a riot. And you know what takes place after a riot breaks out. There, only the shoot-at-sight order is issued. The autopsy reports say there was no lathicharge, no use of water cannons, nothing –– only firing and that too on chests.


There is a case in the Supreme Case regarding the present Gujarat IG Police, Pandey Saheb, and let me inform the House that once we had to spend a whole night sitting in his office. There was Amar Singh too with us, and there were Raj Babbar and Shabanaji who was then a member of this House. We had to sit there whole night on March 1, 2002, and we were unable to know what was taking place outside. Anyway, I don’t want to go into its detail; here I want to say that they brought him to the CBI, then he was made IG Police, and then took place the Vadodara incident within two weeks of that. I want that this House must take this thing very seriously –– that a 385 years old structure, the durgah of a Chishti Sufi saint was razed to the ground, just as the durgah of Urdu poet Wali Gujarati was demolished in Ahmedabad in 2002 and a road constructed there.     


There is a Sufi shrine called Baba Budangiri at Chikmangalore in Karnataka. There too, a dispute is being created as to who would worship there. In 1993, this House had adopted a Places of Worship Bill, saying that the pre-1947 status of any place of worship would not be disturbed. If roads are to be constructed, there is plenty of experience as to how such disputes should be resolved. But the thing is that when a compromise solution was being worked out in Vadodara, they did not wait for it and took hasty action that deteriorated the atmosphere and led to a riot. It is in view of this thing that I ask the central government to direct the CBI to reinvestigate the cases, and there are 65 instances where a reinvestigation is needed. As for the POTA Review Committee report, the High Court and Supreme Court directive to the state government to implement it has not been fulfilled. In this situation, on behalf of the CBI or the POTA Review Committee, now the centre has to decide about who is accountable for it.


My learned colleague is a lawyer and a lawyer must know the difference between the executive and a quasi-judicial body. What is a Review Committee for? And, what are the terms of reference of this Review Committee, let the home minister please tell the House. And, the Review Committee here has said that these are the people who could be charged within the existing laws; there is no need of a POTA, Mr Jaitely. and this exactly what he said.


What I am saying here very clearly is that this matter is now before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has taken up the matter on what the Gujarat High Court has ruled. The Supreme Court is seized of that matter. But the point that I am making here, and on which I think I am right is this. I think I am right in making this point; let the court decide. But the POTA Review Committee gives its decision and it has given an unambiguous decision that more than 90 odd per cent of these people who have been arrested under POTA in Gujarat could have been tried under existing laws, and in no way can they be treated as conspiring in a terrorist conspiracy against the State, and this is the unequivocal, ambiguous decision of the POTA Review Committee. The public prosecutor of any state has no other option but to accept that. He can go to the court, and the court if it so decides, it can put that aside. Yes, let the courts decide that. But, how can the public prosecutor decide?


This is precisely why I began speaking saying that this is an issue that requires a certain amount of attention and gravity of this House. I did not want matters to degenerate. I do not want certificates for my patriotism from..... (expunged) I had very clearly said.


Again, I repeat that this issue requires to be discussed with a degree of gravity which is necessary for the sake of maintaining the secular democratic character of India. I was responding essentially when charges of protecting were levelled against us. Therefore, what I am again appealing to you and through you to the House is that this is a matter of very grave importance for the future of our country and after the great debate, all that they have been shouting just now, we went through all that and then finally we the people of India, adopted this Constitution, and the essential fundamental tenet and the feature of this Constitution on which the Supreme Court repeatedly endorsed the attention of the entire country is its secular democratic character, and that is something that we can never compromise and we cannot compromise. Therefore, what happened and continues to happen in Gujarat is a matter of serious concern. They say riots keep happening in the country. Does that mean we should allow them to continue to happen? The question is if the nation is being ruined, should we allow that to continue? This is not acceptable to us. Strict action must be taken to see that riots do not happen. A human being is torched to death in the dead of night by a riotous mob in Vadodara and will the home minister please tell the House if any action has been taken on this? It has been published in all newspapers that the rioting mobs roamed around freely in police presence. What action has been taken? Whatever has happened in Vadodara is not a matter related to one state. We are in the forefront in defending the rights of state governments. Law and order is a state subject and we don't like any central interference. However when the situation is such that the fundamental positions of the Counstitution are being threatened then everyone has a right to interfere to correct it. So, whatever has happened in Vadodara, we feel, is a clear violation of the 1993 Places of Worship Act. It was not a question of encroachment but a direct attack on a 385 year old Sufi shrine. There should be action against the guilty but there are reports even today that no action is being taken against the  main accused. Steps must be taken to correct this situation given the past track record of Gujarat police and in the backdrop of Supreme Court's observations in this regard. We want the home minister and the home ministry to be actively involved in seeing that justice is done. This is necessary to prevent the atmosphere in the country from being communalised further and to strengthen our secular democratic republic.