Naroda Patiya convictions—a critical insight. Quantum of punishment unheard of, innocents convicted.
The trial court has given its judgement in the infamous Naroda Patiya case of February 28, 2002. BJP MLA Mayaben Kodnani, who was not a Minister at that time, has been convicted and given 28 years’ sentence, and 31 others too have been sentenced, including Babu Bajrangi. The media have reported in a manner as if Maya Kodnani was a Minister at that time and that Bajrangi is still a Bajrang Dal leader. The fact is that Maya Kodnani was just an MLA and Bajrangi left the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal many years ago.
In this case the reporting of media has been incomplete, and inaccurate. It is necessary to understand the true story of Naroda Patiya. Firstly, on February 27, 2002, 59 karsevaks, including 25 women and 15 children, were roasted to death in Godhra by a 2,000-strong mob in a ghastly manner. The great anger and wounds of the masses were rubbed with salt by the media-politician combine, which blamed the dead karsevaks for their deaths by accusing them of ‘provoking’ the incident by leveling baseless charges on the dead women, children, men and old. According to the then Police Inspector of Naroda, KK Mysorewala in his testimony to the Nanavati Commission on August 19, 2004, the Naroda-Patiya attack was a result of the “brutal killing” of a Hindu youth, Ranjit Vanjhara, behind a mosque and the reckless driving of a Muslim truck driver in which a Hindu was killed and two others were injured. The Telegraph also reported this on March 2, 2002.
According to Mysorewala, the mob was around 17,000 strong while the policemen numbered only 80. He asked for reinforcements and was given 24 additional men, but that too was inadequate. Considering the fact that the situation was out of control on Februrary 28, more men could not be given. India Today dated March 28, 2002 reported: “At Naroda Patia, the scene of the worst carnage, there was no police presence worth the name to prevent the mobs from grouping in the morning and going on a rampage. There were at least three mobs of 4,000 to 5,000 each attacking Muslims. Among them were members of a tribe called the Chara, who have a township not very far from Naroda. Till now the Charas were known for thefts and bootlegging. Last Thursday (i.e. February 28), they earned a reputation for rioting too.”
This shows the situation for the police. The Times of India in its online edition on 1st March, 2002 (Friday) reported that there were 1,000 Muslims living in Naroda Patiya and that the police succeeded in dispersing the mob late at night and escorted 400 Muslims to a safe place and gave them accomodation. This shows that the police saved more than 900 Muslims in this episode, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered by the rioters in a hopeless ratio of 17,000:100 odd. The media have never, after 1st March, 2002, reported this brave act of the police in saving 900+ Muslims in this situation. Of course, it was highly unfortunate that 95 people were killed (after all missing were declared dead with the expiry of the 7-year period, the toll in Naroda Patiya was raised from 83 to 95). But the act of saving 900+ was never mentioned. The Times of India report can be read by opening the link: http://timesofindia, indiatimes.com/india/Mob-burns-to-death-65-at-Naroda-Patia/articleshow/2473565.cms.
As per the reports of all English dailies the next day, such as The Tribune, The Telegraph, The Hindu, etc, the situation was out of control on 28 February despite the deployment of the entire police force of 70,000 on February 27 (as reported by The Hindustan Times and The Telegraph (UK) on February 28), the entire Rapid Action Force (reported by The Indian Express and Mid-Day on February 28), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) units (reported by PTI), appeal by RSS and VHP to Hindus not to retaliate (RSS appeal reported by The Telegraph and The Hindu of February 28, along with Organiser, VHP appeal by The Times of India), appeal by Narendra Modi, and Prime Minister Atal Bihari to maintain peace. 827 preventive arrests were also made on 27 February.
Despite the situation being out of control on February 28 (Thursday), the police fired 1,000 rounds in the state on that day, including 600 in Ahmedabad and burst around 2,000 tear gas shells. 10 Hindus were shot dead by police in Ahmedabad itself (The Hindu reported the next day that at least 10 people were killed in police firing) and 2 in Nadiad and Godhra (as reported by The Telegraph). Curfew was imposed at many places in Ahmedabad and Vadodara since morning, much before the riots began, and at all places by 12:20 pm while the riots began at 11 am, i.e. within 1 and a half hours at all places. (Reports of The Times of India, online edition). Police also arrested 700 people that day (as reported by BBC online on February 28, and The Tribune the next day). According to The Hindu of the next day, the Chief Minister Narendra Modi “frantically called the Army units to Ahmedabad&rdq