Justice Nanavati Commission'sfirst report on Godhra is a slap on the face of all secular parties, to put it plainly. And expectedly, the spokespersons for the secular parties, be it the Congress, the Left, the Samajwadi, the RJD and their likes, have all been frothing in their mouth since the report was tabled on Thursday evening. Even the stock markets reacted the next day with a thumbs up to Modi, when Gujarat-based company stocks went up in the green in morning trade.
The two major inferences drawn from the report amongst many others are that the Muslim mob which lit the Sabarmati Express coach full of pilgrims coming back from Ayodhya was a premeditated conspiracy. And second, the report clarifies Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the state police have performed their jobs as they were expected to. At least the incidents of large number of Hindus getting killed in the police firing to control the mobs were not lost on the commission.
Just after the report was filed, many of the respondents this magazine spoke to across the country revealed two things: one, people would have been surprised only if the report said otherwise on Modi government'srole in the riots as things were as plain as daylight. The number of Hindus who were killed in the police firing only told a story of a tough state government. Second, there is so much of a relief that in the whole muddle of deliberate misinterpretations, misleading statements and witch-hunting there is one commission which has the courage to speak the truth.
Though the first report filed by the commission is dealing more with the Godhra incident it has alluded to the state government'srole in controlling the mobs that took to the streets after the gruesome mass killing of Hindu pilgrims in the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express. Over 58 pilgrims on their way from Ayodhya were burnt to death in that incident. The commission comprising Justice GT Nanavati and Justice Akshay Mehta have to be commended for its sagacity if not its level-headedness in coming to those conclusions. The language used in the report is remarkably shorn of superlatives.
The report dealt with the torching of the Sabarmati coach in February 2002 extensively. The commission has put paid to the counter-conspiracy theories which wanted to show the incident was an accident. To begin with a coach full of Hindu pilgrims getting lit up in a Muslim-dominated locality where the train stopped was too much of a coincidence. Interestingly, the point which the media misses here is that just after the Godhra incident there were very many stories floating around?mostly to do with reported rowdy behaviour of the karsevaks who had enraged the Muslims at Godhra station. One television channel incessantly provided fodder to the rumour mill saying that young Muslim girls were harassed by the pilgrims in the coach. Nanavati Commission states unambiguously that 140 litres of petrol was stored and kept by the mob at Godhra, waiting for the train with pilgrims to come by. The conspiracy, the commission added for good measure, was hatched at the Aman Guest House in Godhra.
Expectedly, Hindu anger split on the streets. Nearly 1,000 people died in the communal riots following the Godhra incident. The Nanavati Commission has inadvertently proved to the world that the Justice Banerjee Commission instituted by the Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav just before Bihar state elections which claimed that Godhra incident was an accident, remains in a shambles.
?There is absolutely no evidence to show that either the Chief Minister or any of the ministers in his council or police officers had played any role in the Godhra incident,? said the report of Justice GT Nanavati, a former Supreme Court judge that went into the train burning incident. Well, it only reaffirmed what most Hindus felt in the country.
The first part of the report was tabled in the state assembly on Thursday. Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi went to the extent of questioning the credibility of the commission. But the cake goes to Lalu Prasad Yadav who came on television channels to say that the world had already passed judgement on Narendra Modi and his government and so any commission cannot ?rub the stain away?. If the world thought so, wonder how Modi keeps winning elections one after the other. Also, Lalu'sdemeanour reveals a dangerous streak in thinking that pronouncement of justice has no value, and someone can be indicted just by making accusations.
Worse still, the best part of the report is reserved for the post-Godhra riots when the secular parties had, as Salman Rushdie would put it, shown manufactured outrage. The conclusion that the train burning was a pre-planned conspiracy was based on the statements recorded of the passengers of Sabarmati Express. The passengers said that the stone pelting continued for 10-20 minutes to prevent the passengers from coming out of the coach. Again, not coincidentally, the attack was only on the coach which had the Hindu pilgrims.
140 litres of petrol was purchased by Razzak Kurkur and Salim Panwala to execute the conspiracy, the Commission emphasised. According to eyewitnesses, Shaukat Lalu and Mohammad Latika had possibly opened the sliding door connecting the S6 and S7 coaches and entered S6 through that door. One Hassan Lalu had thrown a burning rag which had led to the fire in the S6 coach, it said.
The commission report elaborated that the conspiracy was hatched at the Aman Guest House on the directions of Maulvi Umarji and executed by Razzak Kurkur, Salim Panwala, Shaukat Lalu, Imran Sheri, Rafique Batuk and Shiraj Bala. ?The conspiracy hatched by these persons further appears to be a part of a larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the administration?.
On the state government'srole commission reiterated what has always been known to be true and that is, there is no evidence to show there was lapse in the role of the chief minister or his ministers in providing protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims of communal riots or in the matter of not complying with the recommendations and direction given by the National Human Rights Commission.