(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 23, 2012
NARODA PATIYA MASSACRE
Premeditated Conspiracy and Attempted Cover-up -- II
THAT the Naroda Patiya massacre was a premeditated conspiracy of the entire Sangh parivar, including some right wing radicals within the BJP, is evident from the interface between the conspirators and the local administration.
One of the important aspects of the judgement written by Judge Jyotsna Yagnik of the special sessions court is her observation on how the local administration and the investigation agencies functioned during and after the massacre. Thus while the judge does not make any specific observations on the direct involvement of the chief minister and his government, she certainly shows that successive investigating agencies attempted to erase and tamper with the records of the case. The judge uses the oral testimonies of the prosecution witnesses to counter the claims of the police and counter the arguments of the defence. The conviction and the sentencing of the accused were also done on the strength of these witnesses. On the nature of the evidence put before the court, she writes:
“Most of the victims are injured eye-witnesses and or are sufferers, victims or relative of deceased victims of this mass crime which was such a terrifying, horrifying and ghastly occurrence…. The court needs to bear in mind that the witnesses have come to the court to depose on the worst experience of their life and that they must have passed through different physic stages which must have come in their way in effective reproduction of the entire occurrence…. Moreover, it is also unusual that the witnesses have to depose after eight years of the occurrence, where they tend to forget the minute details of every occurrence and what eternally remains in the mind is their suffering and responsible accused for the said suffering…. In view of the all the foregoing reasonings, this court is not inclined to disbelieve any PW [prosecution witness]…. Every PW shall have to be adjudged or appreciated on his own merits or demerits” [Naroda Patiya Case Common Judgement, pp 322-323]
The judge shows remarkable sensitivity towards the courage, circumstances and the feelings of the witnesses. It repeatedly states that if the previous investigators had done their work properly than the witnesses could have been spared the trauma of recounting their horror after eight long years. It is thus not inclined to believe the defence claims that the witnesses are either tutored or are making up the facts of the case. The reasoning of the court has to be studied and analysed in the light of this factor.
POLICE COMPLICITY IN
RECONSTRUCTION OF EVENTS
At the start of a voluminous judgement, the judge reconstructs the criminal conspiracy on the basis of exposing the irregularities committed by six investigating officers who preceded the supreme court monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the incident. Thus Judge Yagnik states:
“That somewhere in between about 9:30 a m and 11:00 a m and thereafter, the riotous mob with deadly weapons, of thousand of Hindus came from all different sides who were making uproar, clamour was all around, the disturbances started severely after 10:00 a m onwards when the Hindu mobs unduly entered in Muslim chawls and thrust into the Muslim houses, the infuriated mobs started doing massive onslaught by burning dwelling houses and created violent disorder all around. The entire day was the day of horrendous carnage, stone-pelting on Muslims was common, stone-pelting on Nurani Masjid was done, there was gas cylinder blast at the Masjid, everyone in the mob was with some or other deadly weapon, including gupti, trident, scythe, spear, sword etc. Kerosene, petrol and even burning rags were also thrown, they set on fire Muslim houses in the Muslim chawls….
“What has been unfolded is, the police was not active in protecting the Muslims…. Police did laathicharge and firing wherein many Muslims were killed. The private firing by the accused is also alleged. The SRP [Special Reserve Police]. Quarters was adjoining to Jawan Nagar.… the Muslims were not allowed to get in or enter inside. Hence, many were beaten while attempting to enter the SRP Quarters. However, some of the Muslims could secure their shelter at SRP which might be in the morning itself and thereafter it was prohibited…. The violent mobs were marching inside the Muslim chawls…. the atmosphere was surcharged with fear, anxiety and tension and understanding the tribulation on the frontal side the Muslims could not go towards Nurani Masjid since police was firing and bursting tear gas shells from that side. Even violent mobs with deadly weapons in the hands of each of the members, were there. Police was doing lathicharge and asking Muslims to go inside the house, which houses became very insecure, unsafe and sure to die site, hence the Muslims were not inclined to go inside. Having no option the Muslims then went on the backside of the Muslim chawls which was towards Hindu societies…. In a nutshell, every Muslim was running here and there in search of a shelter for that entire day and ultimately, at night they were taken to the relief camp under police protection where, they had to stay for months together. Most of them, then after, could not return to their houses…. [Ibid, pp 15-17].
This reconstruction clearly shows the police inaction during the riots. Rather the police were instrumental in ensuring that Muslim victims returned to their chawls and became sitting targets for the mobs of the Hindutva brigade. As the detailed assessment of the early records shows, this indifference and complacency was not a mere matter of indifference or inefficiency, it was deliberately aimed at facilitating the rioting mobs and protecting their leaders. The conduct of subsequent investigating officers only strengthen this understanding.
INVESTIGATORS IN THE
SERVICE OF ACCUSED
There were six investigating officers in the case before the SIT was set up. The judgement reviews the conduct of all six officers and pronounces the police record of the investigation as unreliable. The first investigating officer of the riots, K K Mysorewala (the senior PI in charge of Patiya police station) comes in for the most scathing criticism from the judge. About his role she writes:
“The ideal IO hears the statement, perceives the same and then puts it in concise form into the context. He should also make re-statement of the text and explain the same. As emerged on record Shri K K Mysorewala has done nothing of the sort. As discussed above the First IO, Shri K K Mysorewala did not take even elementary and routine steps and has totally avoided to do investigation altogether…. As seems, the first investigating agency wasted lots of time right from 28/02/2002 to 08/03/2002 and even wasted available resources, did not secure scientific evidences…. Shri K K Mysorewala was fully aware that the bigwigs were also present in the mob, but he has not paid any heed to the fact while investigating the crime…. While people were flocking the streets, leaving their households inside, Shri K K Mysorewala has reported to the Control Room that "everything is Okay (Khairiyat Hai - There is peace and happiness in Patiya area); it was like When Rome was burning, Nero was playing fiddle" [Ibid, pp 485-487].
The attempt to stall the investigation at the first step is evident from the evidence provided by the prosecution witnesses who have been complaining that the first investigating officer. In effect Shri Mysorewala had made “a mockery of investigation” and the records filed by him were “no investigation at all” [p 496]. This deliberate attempt to erase the existence of the riots has in fact supported the arguments of the accused who have stated that the riots of February 2002 were not an ‘organised communal riot,’ but a ‘free fight.’ The counsel for Mayaben Kodnani, the convicted BJP MLA, argued this point, which was dismissed by the court.
This trend in investigations continued and the second investigating officer, P.N Barot, displayed utter disregard and carelessness towards the Muslim victims. In an instance of this the judge records:
“All the complaints under investigation were tagged or made part of ICR No 100/02 wherein all the complainants are of Muslims. It is difficult to make out why Mr P N Barot, the second investigating officer has recorded many statements of Hindus. The conclusion is, he was extremely careless even to know that the complainants and victims are Muslims and not Hindus. It seems that he has diverted his attention from the pivotal point of the investigation which should have been about loss of lives of Muslims, demolition, destruction and damage to the properties of Muslims and collecting more evidence for the proposed accused. For the reasons best known to him, he has not shown any anxiety to record the statement of Muslims at the earliest. Rather he has recorded statements of Hindus and wasted much of his precious time. Thus, his investigation was not in right direction” [Ibid, p 497].
This line of investigation, once again, was designed to strengthen the case of the accused, whose lawyers have been contending that the Muslims were the victims of the mob violence and in fact many Hindus had been killed in Naroda Patiya. Evidence was tampered and the statements of Muslim victims were not recorded. In certain cases, addresses were written wrongly. The police was not interested in the details of the mob violence that were being given by the witnesses. This is seen in the way further investigations were also carried out by the subsequent investigating officers. The role of the Crime Branch comes in for particular mention for its omissions. The judgement states in unambiguous terms that:
“.…it really appears to be extremely clear that the crime branch has indeed not recorded the statements of any of the PWs in the manner as stated by the PW. In the facts and circumstances of the case, it is extremely clear that the statements of different PWs are not accurate record of what the witness has stated before the police. It is not proper for the court to mechanically accept what the police officer recording the statement states, by disbelieving what the person concerned suggests in that regard” [Ibid, p 514]
The successive erasure of records and the continuing complaints has also resulted in the misrepresentation of the facts of the case before the constitution of the SIT. Thus these investigations are not considered either reliable and the records ‘unfaithful’ as they do not represent what the witnesses actually told the police. The court sees the constitution of the SIT in this context as a positive step and a way of creating a “faithful record.” It notes that though certain aspects of the SIT record are designed to protect the previous investigators, the statements made to the SIT are recorded in a faithful way. Hence any oral evidence corroborated by these records would be admitted even if they are not compatible with the records of previous investigations.
In this context, it should be further underlined that like the previous investigating officers, the police witnesses in the case have also tried to help the counsels for the defence in their own testimonies. The judge notes, that most of the police witnesses are previous investigating officers, who have tried to prove that the riots were instigated by the Muslims. They judge observes that these witnesses have made attempts “to project entire communal riots to have been created because of the occurrence of rash and negligent driving of TATA 407, free fight took place at the site between Hindus and Muslims and murder of Ranjit Singh etc.” Such an explanation, the judge notes, was made to ensure that the presence and participation of certain VIP accused does not come on record (p 1475).
The evidence provided by this historic judgement shows that there has been a serious attempt to cover up the massacre in Naroda Patiya through the political protection by the Narendra Modi government provided to at least six investigating officers. It also shows that the nexus between the Hindutva brigade and the police has also been responsible for the massacre that could well have been avoided if the state government and its local officers had fulfilled their responsibilities. In this sense, the Narendra Modi government is squarely responsible for the Naroda Patiya massacre of 2002 and must accept the moral and political blame for the riots. Thus the political implications and conclusions of the Naroda Patiya case would become the central focus of the campaign against Narendra Modi in the upcoming Gujarat elections.