By destroying the evidence of his
2002 pogrom, Modi has defied the Indian democracy.
Who will answer him?
They say justice delayed is justice denied. In Narendra Modi’s
Gujarat, justice is not just delayed and denied, it’s eliminated.
Nearly a decade after the worst state-sanctioned massacre of
Muslims since Independence in full view of the world, the mockery
of justice just refuses to stop.
God only knows how many government commissions have probed the
2002 pogrom and have come up with conclusions that did not really
surprise anyone. From knocking on the doors of courts in Gujarat
and Maharashtra to approaching the highest court in the land, the
victims have dashed their heads against every wailing wall looking
for justice. They have however refused to give up faith in the
country’s courts and justice delivery mechanism, hoping against
hope that justice will be done –eventually, some day.
This is what I heard in undertones, wherever I went, during my
visit to Gujarat in the summer of 2009. One of the most dynamic
and enterprising communities anywhere, Gujarati Muslims have
withdrawn into their shells since the 2002 carnage. Isolated and
shunned like pariahs in their own land, they have maintained a low
profile and still look over their shoulder before reluctantly
revisiting the horror of a decade ago.
Fear still stalks the terrorized community. Indeed, most of those
cases against top Gujarat officials have been filed by human
rights groups and selfless activists such as Teesta Setalvad of
Communalism Combat and Mukul Sinha of Jan Sangharsh Morcha, whom I
have had the honor of interviewing during my visit, rather than
the families of victims themselves.
Some of the most damning testimonies against 'the killers of
Gujarat' detailing how they ordered and executed the carefully
choreographed pogrom against Muslims came not from the victims but
from top cops like R B Sreekumar, Rahul Sharma and Sanjiv Bhatt,
who had had a ringside view of those terrifying months in Year
2002. This may be why the victims have nurtured a faint,
flickering hope of an eventual day of reckoning for those months
of rape, murder and every possible savagery that they suffered.
They have waited and waited silently and patiently for justice.
Now those hopes for justice have been dashed. The evidence on
which all those testimonies were based has been destroyed by an
efficient government. Or so we are told. Gujarat government lawyer
S B Vakil told the Justice Nanavati Commission this week that the
2002 records, including telephone call logs, police vehicle log
book and officers’ movement diaries, were destroyed in 2007 as per
the “standard procedure” as most “irrelevant documents” are
routinely destroyed after five years!
Incidentally, those “irrelevant documents” held key to delivering
justice and perhaps to the future of Modi and his men. So what if
those “irrelevant documents” formed the crucial evidence of the
2002 pogrom and were at the heart of proceedings of Justice
Nanavati Commission and Akshya Mehta Judicial Commission and
numerous cases in courts against top figures in the government?
This is how Modi has functioned all these years, throwing mud at
and even eliminating those who have had the audacity to confront
him and his crimes. And no one has been able to do a damn thing
By summarily destroying the record of his crimes, Modi has not
just mocked and taunted those who have tried to bring justice to
his victims, he has ridiculed India’s claim to being a secular
democracy that believes in justice and equality of all before law.
Modi is not merely guilty of mocking and trampling on the rule of
law, he has heaped shame and abuse on the nation’s secular and
democratic institutions and their ability to administer justice to
all sections of society.
India’s Muslims have watched in silence and utter helplessness as
one state institution after another has failed spectacularly to
offer them justice and confront the thugs who have been caught on
the tape boasting how they killed, raped and burnt Muslims alive.
I can’t even imagine how this latest blow to the quest for justice
will be seen and interpreted by an already exhausted community.
They have already lost all confidence in India’s politicians and
political parties. Their troubled relationship with Modi’s party,
BJP, hardly needs elaboration. But they have received little
support from Sonia Gandhi’s Congress either, perhaps for the fear
of upsetting its Hindu vote bank and being branded as “anti-Hindu”
by the Hindutva brotherhood.
Under the circumstances, what do the Muslims do? Where do they go
for justice? What hope and alternatives are they left with? These
are the questions that demand answers from India’s vibrant civil
society. It’s silent and peace-loving multitudes that make
India what it is -- a living, thriving and extraordinary
democracy. They are the hope and future of this melting pot of a
It may be time for those silent multitudes to speak up and speak
out against the rape of justice and rule of law that is going on
in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. If anyone can teach a lesson to the
perpetrators of Gujarat 2002, it’s them. They have to send out the
message to the world that it’s not Modi’s violent regime but
Gandhi’s Gujarat that really represents and speaks for India.
That said, if the mass murderers of Gujarat’s Muslims think they
can get away with murder, they are grievously mistaken. Justice
will catch up with them—eventually. Sooner or later. Their just
reward awaits them—if not in this life, in next. You can run as
long as you want. Your fate will find you—eventually. As the poet
would warn, jo chup rahegi zabaan-e-khanjar, lahu pukarega aasteen
ka. If the dagger that killed remains silent, the stains of blood
on your sleeve will cry out!
Aijaz Zaka Syed
is a widely published commentator.
The above article
first appeared in Arab News. He can be contacted at