Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Godhra verdict: Politics takes precedence over justice

New Delhi: The political fallout of the verdict in the Godhra's burning of the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express train in 2002 has evoked partisan responses from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.

The BJP leaders felt vindicated that their stand that there was a conspiracy behind the Godhra carnage in which 59 karsewaks were killed has been proved right. The court has found 31 persons guilty but acquitted the other 63, including the alleged main conspirator. Congress leaders have responded saying that the case was not proved and that the majority of the accused, including the alleged main conspirator, have been acquitted.

The BJP harps on the Godhra tragedy and says that this was what triggered the post-Godhra riots in which about 2000 Muslims were killed. On its part, the Congress has been foolishly trying to prove that Godhra was a Sangh conspiracy.

When Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad Yadav when he was railway minister during the UPA1 term in office had set up a commission headed by Justice Banerjee who had concluded that the fire could not be the handiwork of Godhra's Muslim residents. Congress and some of the human rights groups had even suggested that it was the Sangh conspirators themselves who had caused the fire on the train.

In the war of accusations and counter-accusations both sides were utterrly insensitive to those who died on the train in Godhra and those who were killed in the riots that followed. The criminal investigation and the court's verdict are again being used to score political brownie points.

Is Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is held responsible for the 2002 post-Godhra riots in 2002, a relieved man that the court has found 31 persons guilty in the burning of S6 coach on the Sabarmati Express in which is 59 kar sewaks were killed?

Modi had held that the riots were a consequence of the Godhra train incident. His critics have argued that he was responsibe for the riots. The BJP leader is not welcome in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) election campaigns. In the recent Bihar assembly elections, chief minister Nitish Kumar had apparently asked Modi to keep away. Both Nitish Kumar and the BJP leaders deny this, but Modi along with another controversial BJP member, Varun Gandhi, kept away from the poll campaign in the state. The Gujarat chief minister has also been denied visa by the United States because of the 2002 riots.

It is quite unlikely that Tuesday's verdict is a boon for Modi. Even if the argument holds that the riots were a consequence of the train incident, he still has to clear the charge that he did not do anything to protect the lives and property of Muslims. He faces this particular charge in the case filed by the widow of Congress leader Ehsan Jaffri, who was burned to death by the mob which had attacked the Gulbarg housing society.

Modi had to appear before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) being monitored by the Supreme Court, which had apparently did not find any evidence about Modi's complicity in the death of Jaffri.

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