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Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

Last updated on: April 11, 2012 08:50 IST

Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

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Vivek Gumaste

We cannot afford to continue expending our logistic resources on the riots of Gujarat, an exercise that has run its full course. The nation demands closure in the form of acceptance of the SIT report. To do otherwise is to indicate a lack of faith in the institutions of our country, in effect a lack of faith in ourselves, says Vivek Gumaste

From 2002 to 2012, it has been one long, heart wrenching and mind searing decade; an agonising 10 years that saw us corralled into a black hole of existential angst provoked by a fratricidal polemic catechism that cast serious doubt on our intrinsic identity as a civilised nation.

Demarcating the incendiary fault line in this polarising debate was the role of Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat in the horrific Hindu-Muslim riots of 2002 that followed the ghastly incineration of 59 Hindu women, children and men in Godhra on February 27, 2002 and that resulted in over a thousand deaths (794 Muslims and 254 Hindus). Was Modi the agent provocateur of this massacre dubbed by some as a pogrom was the million dollar question that haunted us since 2002 and has now been answered.

After a detailed investigation, the Special Investigation Team in a final report filed before the magistrate's court in Ahmedabad on April 10 has indicated it found no 'prosecutable evidence' against Modi.

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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Courtesy official Facebook page

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Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

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The SIT was instituted by the Supreme Court in response to a plea by Zakia Jaffri, spouse of the late parliamentarian Ehsan Jaffri killed in the riots and the Citizens for Justice and Peace which had accused Modi and 61 other officials of direct complicity in the riots.

In a society untoward incidents, though unfortunate, do occur, but a people and a nation are judged by their ability to tackle such events in an orderly fashion. Street justice and trial by media are not the hallmarks of a civilised society.

Infractions of the law need to be investigated by a credible official body and tried in a court of law to ascertain their culpability. Equally important to the functioning of a democracy is the attitude of its citizenry: a predisposition to accept and abide by the verdicts of official bodies.

The SIT report compels us to refocus on the narrative that consumed the nation post the 2002 riots for a necessary exercise in edification to ferret out and rectify our shortcomings.

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Image: The Supreme Court of India


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Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

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First, in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, we were witness to a viciously lopsided diction: a frank witch hunt, in lieu of a balanced objective debate.

Outlandish accusations were leveled, viscerally disgusting incidents of questionable veracity were manufactured and the decibel of outrage drummed up to overwhelming levels with the express purpose of drowning out any opposition. Inherent in this campaign was a violation of a fundamental tenet of democracy: the right of every individual to be heard and deemed innocent until proven guilty. It definitely was not our finest hour.

Next in the list of egregious infractions was the differential depiction of the Gujarat riots. A recent article in a news magazine with its traditional anti-Modi slant shot itself in the foot by publishing alongside the article a comprehensive list of communal riots that have occurred in the country since 1964 along with their casualties. Gujarat 2002 ranks fourth after Mordabad (toll 1,500, August 1980), Nellie, Assam (1,819, February 1983) and Delhi (2,733, October 1984).

But yet in terms of the attention and criticism it has garnered, Gujarat 2002 surpasses all other communal riots by leaps and bounds: on a scale of 1 to 100, it scores a perfect maximum. True, the pain and agony of communal riots cannot be measured purely in statistical terms.

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Image: The Gujarat riots of 2002


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Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

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But there is a discrepancy here that is troubling. It raises some serious questions. Was there an ulterior motive driving this campaign? Did factors like ideological animosity and political consideration play a role in what was clearly an attempt to magnify and distort this tragedy to hijack the course of justice? That these devious efforts did not succeed is a shining testimony to our judicial system.

Nevertheless, these are important rhetorical questions that reflect upon our commitment to truth and honesty. When we apply varying yardsticks to infractions, when we temper or exacerbate our censure depending on the identity of the perpetrator, when our definition of truth and honesty is distorted by political and ideological caveats we lose credibility as a nation and can hardly call ourselves a just society.

In the aftermath of the riots, the accusations against the Modi government however egregious they appeared could be afforded some laxity to ensure that no crime went unaddressed. Now that the result of a Supreme Court sanctioned probe is out, we need to put things into perspective. We need to acknowledge the veracity of the SIT's findings.

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Why we need to respect the SIT report on Modi

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Nitpicking write-ups that continue to pose open questions to Narendra Modi are irrelevant now. That was a task entrusted to the SIT which it has carried out.

Similarly, another recent article (Gujarat genocide: The State, law and subversion. Rediff. February 27) by R B Sreekumar, former Gujarat director general of police, which attempts to impress the lay public with excruciating details of the Gujarat riots using the weight of his official position at that time is misleading and of no consequence at this stage.

Sreekumar had the opportunity to present his case before an expert body like the Nanavati Commission and the SIT which he did. The evidence has been analysed by people in the know and found to be unsustainable in a court of law.

We cannot afford to keep kicking the can down the road and continue to expend our logistic resources on an exercise that has run its full course.

The nation demands closure in the form of acceptance of this report. To do otherwise is to indicate a lack of faith in the institutions of our country, in effect a lack of faith in ourselves. We cannot be selective in our approach to court verdicts and the findings of official investigating bodies, choosing to accept only those that conform to our views.

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