Riotous Reportage: Gujarat 2002 PDF Print E-mail

Sandhya Jain
18 April 2009
http://www.vijayvaani.com

If ever there was a case for invoking Section 495-A of the penal code – causing religious hurt with intent – it should be invoked against Begum Teesta Setalvad and her accomplices in the Citizens for Justice and Peace organisation, for viciously wounding the religious sentiments and communal dignity of both Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat.

Other relevant sections of the law need to be expeditiously invoked to punish the perpetrators of the most sadistic lies in the wake of the Gujarat 2002 carnage, which burst out after the burning of kar sevaks alive in the Sabarmati Express on 28 February 2002 at Godhra station.

It is well known that the Gujarat riots were a reaction to the well-planned Godhra train atrocity. Yet Begum Teesta et al accused Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the State Government of complicity, and defamed them before the international community, bringing a bad name to the nation and, as alleged by her own star-turned-hostile-witness Zahira Sheikh, filling her coffers in the process.

Both the Indian State and the Judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court, are in the dock of public opinion on this exposure of Begum Teesta et al, as both have willfully subordinated ordinary caution, discretion, and respect for legal process to give her and her cohorts a free run, in violation of law and all norms of decency.

If and when the government does move, it would do well to take action against foreign-affiliated ex-government servants like Harsh Mander, who compromised the dignity of the nation to titillate a western audience and finalize a lucrative employment; his pension must be cancelled forthwith and the amounts paid thus far recovered as arrears of land revenue.

Action is also due against novelist-activist Suzanne Arundhati Roy for her since-exposed lies about the rape-cum-murder of the daughter(s) of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, and her international defamation of the nation.

Sexing up Gujarat incidents
In a sensational development in the Supreme Court on 13 April 2009, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up to investigate the Gujarat riots severely censured NGOs and Teesta Setalvad (Ansari) for cooking up macabre tales of wanton killings in the 2002 riots.

The SIT, led by former CBI director R.K. Raghavan, told the apex court that many incidents of atrocities were simply cooked up by the activists; false charges were levelled against the then police chief P.C. Pandey; and false witnesses tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents. The SIT report was submitted before a Bench comprising Justices Arijit Pasayat, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam. Other members included former DGP C.B. Satpathy and senior IPS officers Geetha Johri, Shivanand Jha and Ashish Bhatia. Their task was to enquire into post-Godhra riot incidents in Godhra, Gulbarga Society, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Sardarpura.

  • The SIT specifically found that in the Gulbarga Society case, the allegation that P.C. Pandey actually helped the mob instead of protecting the people (read Muslims) facing the wrath of rioters was completely false. At the time of the alleged incident, Mr. Pandey was helping with the hospitalisation of riot victims and arranging police bandobast.

  • The SIT found that 22 witnesses, who had submitted identical affidavits before various courts relating to the riot incidents, were tutored and given pre-drafted affidavits by Begum Teesta, and had not actually witnessed riot incidents. On questioning, these persons revealed that they were not even aware of the incidents.

Certain incidents widely-publicised by NGOs were pure concoctions:
  • A pregnant Kausar Banu was gang-raped by a mob, who then gouged out the foetus with sharp weapons

  • Dumping of dead bodies into a well by rioters at Naroda Patiya

  • Police botching up investigation into the killing of British nationals then visiting Gujarat and inadvertently caught in the riots

NHRC, Supreme Court: playing to an international gallery
The SIT findings are especially pertinent because hitherto there has been only ONE VERSION on Gujarat – that of NGOs with a Western audience. Sadly, agencies like the National Human Rights Commission and even the Supreme Court functioned as cheerleaders and facilitators, in utter disregard of their own mandate and ignoring emerging inconsistencies in the story, including victims who denied their victimhood.

The Supreme Court went so far as to dub the Modi administration as “modern day Neros” in the Best Bakery case. But when this mythology was challenged by star witness Zahira Sheikh, she was hauled up for perjury, while nothing happened to the Teflon Teesta.

The National Human Rights Commission felt no embarrassment when Zahira Sheikh proved that the documents upon which the NHRC recommended shifting the trial outside Gujarat were NOT signed by Zahira (who contemptuously referred to them as Teesta’s pamphlet-baazi).

It is a sad commentary on the functioning of the Supreme Court that it also accepted these unsigned documents as “evidence” in the most internationally-watched criminal case in Indian history. Further, the Court used these pamphlets to express lack of confidence in the entire Gujarat Judiciary and transfer cases to a fast-track court in Mumbai. Accountability cannot now be evaded.

Denial rebuffed
Following the sensational disclosures, Citizens for Justice and Peace issued a carefully worded statement trying to deny that any such exposé took place in court. A journalist who covered the court proceedings that day took umbrage at the attempted rebuttal and retorted that his story was based upon the SIT report to which he had access, and not on any claims or documents circulated by the Gujarat government that day

[http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

To prove his point, he quoted directly from the report:

  • Page 9, on the Gulbarga Society carnage of 28 February 2002: “'Insistence of 19 witnesses to take on record their signed statements which according to them were prepared by Smt Teesta Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji” (the reference here is to witnesses giving signed computerised statements which were not accepted by the investigating officer (IO) as under Section 161, the officer is required to write the statement of witnesses after interrogating them personally).

  • Page 10: “All of them had brought with them ready-made statements prepared on computer and requested IO to take them on record. IO explained to them that according to law they had to be questioned and examined and their statements reduced in writing by the IO.” Further, “On questioning them in respect of the typed statements, all 3 of them stated that the computerised prepared statements were given to them by Smt Teesta Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji and that they had merely signed and initialed on such prepared statements.”

  • The report adds, “There are discrepancies between the prepared statements and statements recorded by the IO. In respect of 6 witnesses, there are contradictory statements relating to the names of the accused they were linking with (the) crime.”

  • Page 11 says that when “'questioned about the discrepancies,” the 6 witnesses “stated that they had prepared the statements and not Setalvad and advocate Tirmiji.” In other words, the latter witnesses changed their version about who had prepared their signed statements.

  • Page 8, regarding the allegation about then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey visiting Gulbarga Society at 10.30 am and assuring police protection to Muslims but not following it up was wrong as “he was proved to have gone to Sola Civil Hospital to take care of the dead bodies of Sabarmati Express arson victims.”

  • Lastly, the report cites some instances of police dereliction of duty: senior police inspector K.G. Erda of Maghani Nagar PS was found to be “falsely creating the record” and “allowing the destruction of evidence in order to screen offenders;” and pre-SIT IO was guilty of “preparing slipshod inquest reports.”

Chronicle of the Invented Epic Tragedy
  • Zahira Shaikh sprang into the limelight after her June 2003 testimony in a Vadodara fast track court led to the acquittal of 21 accused persons in the Best Bakery case. Zahira claimed that the smoke, darkness, and fear which made her hide when the bakery was set ablaze, did not permit her to recognize any of the accused. Sounds truthful.

  • This outraged the secular baiters of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, and they were quick to retaliate. The Sheikh family was “contacted;” some “understanding” reached; tickets to Mumbai purchased...

  • Zahira next made headlines when she surfaced in Mumbai in July 2003; newspapers splashed huge pictures of her being received warmly by poet Javed Akhtar – the secularists’ favourite spokesman for minority (read Muslim) rights. She made the sensational allegation that a BJP MLA had intimidated her and said she could not testify freely unless the Gujarat riot cases were transferred out of the BJP-ruled State.

  • The derailment of justice began when the National Human Rights Commission, inspired by media ranting and an incurable desire to pander to a Western-International Gallery, jumped into the fray with energy unmatched by basic ability.

  • Briefly, NHRC did not do its homework – at all. Buoyed by the wave of Media-NGO ranting, the Commission acted upon an UNSIGNED AFFIDAVIT (a point that needs emphasis because it has been willfully ignored by BOTH the NHRC and the Supreme Court despite being mentioned by this writer over two years ago) furnished by the ubiquitous Begum Teesta on Zahira’s behalf. Accordingly, NHRC asked the Supreme Court to order retrial in the Best Bakery Case outside Gujarat.

  • In its enthusiasm not to be left behind in the Race for Political Correctness, the Supreme Court – also without scrutinizing documents – went ahead and established an amazing precedent on utterly non-existent premises! This cannot be the meaning of the term – Justice is Blind.

  • The NHRC and the Supreme Court owe the nation a public explanation and a public apology. With its startling decision to transfer the Best Bakery case out of Gujarat, the apex court tarnished the reputation of the ENTIRE Gujarat Judiciary. And whichever way one looks at it, the transfer of cases from BJP-ruled Gujarat to Congress-NCP ruled Maharashtra was a LOADED POLITICAL STATEMENT. Was it warranted?

  • Zahira Shaikh justly dismissed this as “pamphlet-baazi,” which indeed it was. The shoddy treatment meted out to her needs immediate redressal and compensation.

  • It bears stating that even after Zahira stated that she had been intimidated in Vadodara, she was not given any police protection in Mumbai, but was left at the mercy of hitherto unknown NGO activists. As high-profile NGOs ALWAYS have a Political Agenda, the Supreme Court must tell us why it decided that this was an appropriate manner of protecting witnesses in such a sensitive case.

  • Then in late 2004, Zahira suddenly accused Teesta of virtually imprisoning her (Zahira) in Teesta’s Mumbai home, forcing her to sign documents she could not read, pressurizing her to give a certain type of testimony after recognising persons from photographs, and generally threatening her in the guise of organizing her legal defense. This was the first sign that the wheels of Dharma were beginning to turn.

  • It is shocking that the authorities refused to investigate this allegation. Who were the agencies that provided Begum Teesta with photographs of accused persons so that she could tutor witnesses under her control?

  • Zahira further accused Teesta of making millions in her name and not fulfilling promises of financial help made to her (sounds credible).

  • Unnerved at the looming exposé, Begum Teesta and her fellow travellers worked overtime on a vilification campaign, with help from an obliging media. A vicious witch-hunt was launched against the lonely orphan; it was alleged that Zahira had “sold” her testimony to a BJP legislator; worse, it was “suggested” that Zahira’s testimony had become valueless. A Judiciary with eyes-for-Teesta-only went along, though it is well-known that NGOs often enrich themselves after riots and do not pass on commensurate benefits to the victims. In fairness, there should have been an across-the-board examination of the accounts of all NGOs providing so-called relief in the Gujarat riots, and an investigation into the nature of relief and rehabilitation actually made available to victims. This must now be done if the Judiciary is to redeem itself.

  • But when Zahira demanded that Supreme Court Registrar-General probe her allegations of offer of inducements, and persons responsible for inducements, she was ignored.

  • Instead, Zahira was made the object of intimidatory investigations. Till date, no one has explained how a girl from Gujarat could open a bank account in Mumbai – someone must have introduced her – and how money was deposited in that bank account.

  • The Supreme Court Registrar General was assisted by a Joint Commissioner of Police. Yet he failed to furnish evidence to prove his insinuation that Zahira received funds from a politically incorrect source (read BJP). In short, Zahira’s revolt against Begum Teesta was crushed with a judicial sledgehammer. An apology is due.

  • Zahira asked the Vadodara Collector for protection from Setalvad and her NGO allies. Given the gravity of the charge that she was taken to Mumbai forcibly and the Mumbai police were unresponsive when approached for help; given the now-incontrovertible evidence collected by the SIT, the Supreme Court must IMMEDIATELY remove all witnesses from the care and possible intimidation of NGO-activists. Press reports that other witnesses were pushed underground by NGOs, which could well result in doctored testimonies, need investigation.

  • Zahira alleged that a friend of Teesta threatened she would be “lynched” if she returned to Vadodara. There must be an enquiry into Zahira’s claim that Teesta and her colleagues told Zahira she must lie for the sake of her community. Courts must take cognizance of the assertion that Heena (wife of Zahira’s brother) was at her maternal home when the Best Bakery incident took place, and was falsely made an “eye-witness” by the NGO.

  • After the SIT report, there can be no doubt that a well-funded and well-organized extra-constitutional caucus is serving ends remote from justice. Some of these elements are entrenched in political parties and the bureaucracy (which needs a drastic curtailment of its powers) and thus get undue indulgence from the political establishment and judiciary. Most disturbing in the present case is the brazenness with which they pursued an overtly communal agenda with the specific objective of demonizing the Hindu community.

  • In March 2006, the Supreme Court FAILED to do justice, and was seen to perpetuate INJUSTICE.

  • Zahira once demanded the right to cross-examine then NHRC chairman A.S. Anand because she visited the Commission with Teesta and made an oral submission which was recorded by Chairman and two members. Zahira said her oral testimony differed from the record NHRC placed before the Supreme Court. Today the NHRC is in the dock for a sensational “hijack” of justice.

  • Actually, things began unravelling even earlier. A citizen, H. Jhaveri, found that the Citizens for Justice and Peace (represented by Begum Teesta) and the CPM (represented by MP Brinda Karat and Rais Khan Pathan) had distributed money to at least 10 witnesses in various post-Godhra trial cases. One Madina Pathan received Rs. 5 lakhs (http://www.indianexpress.com).

  • Caught on the wrong foot, Pathan declared he had been following Teesta’s orders, and sought protection from ‘death threats’ from the Gujarat Police which he once vilified!

  • Then there were some “rape” victims who told the court that they were astonished to know they were raped! The case is sub-judice and women’s honour is at stake, but still it needs to be said that Gujarat Muslim women DENIED BEING RAPED during the riots, and said they had signed affidavits written in English in good faith, but did not know the English language and what was written in the said affidavits! A familiar story...

Begum blossoms on International Circuit
Teesta Setalvad’s bold and innovative inventions did not go unrewarded. Over the years, the Begum picked up an impressive array of national and international awards (and we have no way of knowing the extent to which she battened her purse). The awards include:

2003 - Nuremberg Human Rights Award 2003

2004 - Parliamentarians for Global Action ‘Defender of Democracy’ Award, jointly with Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand

2004 - M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award from the Vigil India Movement

2006 - Nani A Palkhivala Award

2007 - Padma Shri

Bogus bleeding heart: Harsh Mander
On 13 March 2002, an hitherto unknown and undistinguished gentleman named Harsh Mander made his debut in the columns of a national daily; became a well-choreographed international celebrity; resigned from the IAS after completing 20 years of service and becoming eligible for pension; and became ‘permanent’ with an international NGO where he was on deputation.

As the IAS is already under a cloud as a corrupt and non-performing organisation, this would be an ideal opportunity for it to take in-house correctives and stop pandering to the culture of “the anti-national is truly international.” The nation is fast losing patience with these sleazy types.

Briefly, Mander’s execrable article was titled, “Cry, the Beloved Country. Reflections on the Gujarat massacre.” It was obviously a command performance, and someone well-placed got it positioned in the English language media.

Mander wrote claiming to have toured Gujarat for ten days after the riots, “My heart is sickened, my soul wearied, my shoulders aching with the burdens of guilt and shame.” He spoke glibly of “pitiless brutality against women and small children by organised bands of armed young men,” and YES:

“What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared. Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes.”

Well, we now know that this NEVER HAPPENED, so Mander must explain his information-gathering techniques or admit he simply wrote what he was tutored to write by unknown persons, or that someone did the writing which he passed off in his name because he had an IAS tag and was going to “resign” from service in a manner that would gain instant lucrative international assignment + pension benefit intact.

In these circumstances, it would be a safe bet to conclude that the rest of his ‘true stories’ are similar Bedtime Tales for the Macabre-Minded.

This one is fit for Ramsay Brothers:

  • A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes; he survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead.

  • A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya… spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety' and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.

Looking back, I am amazed one did not detect, then, the note of joyous triumphalism, the gloating “I got you” tone in which the piece was written:

“I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports everywhere of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver…”

Possible. But how does one explain the fact that nearly all surviving ‘raped’ women now say that they never complained of rape, and did not know that their affidavits claimed rape?

Everywhere he went, Mander met people who said Gujarat was not a riot, but a “planned massacre, a pogrom.” Of course, he felt “great shame at the abdication of duty of my peers in the civil and police administration.” And of course he blamed “civil society.” In other words, the whole of Hindu India in whatever guise – politicians, police, officers, citizens. The only true Samaritans he did encounter were Muslims (who else?)
[http://www.sabrang.com]

What must be done?

  • Harsh Mander was a SERVING IAS officer when he wrote those outright lies. He must be prosecuted under relevant laws for

    1. Scandalizing the Gujarat government in the eyes of the nation and the world

    2. Peddling false stories about the torture of Muslim women with the intent to humiliate and dehumanize Gujarati Hindu society in the eyes of the nation and the world

    3. Inciting and provoking animosity and hatred among Hindus and Muslims by fanning fires of hatred instead of allowing the return of normalcy and communal harmony

  • The Government of India must immediately revoke his pension and recover previous amounts paid by attaching his bank accounts or properties, if necessary.

  • The National Human Rights Commission has evolved into a national disgrace and should be wound up expeditiously. It serves no public purpose and panders only to an international audience, which is definitionally anti-Hindu.

  • On 23 November 2008, I was part of a citizen’s initiative to the Commission, to demand an enquiry into allegations of illegal detention and torture of Sadhvi Pragya by the Mumbai ATS. No action has been reported to us in this matter till date, and I am quite confident that after one formal notice to the Maharashtra Home Secretary – duly reported in the media – there has been NO follow up action at all.

  • Since then, Sadhvi Pragya has been hospitalized for weakness after she refused food on finding non-vegetarian items in her jail food. Would NHRC have remembered that it had sent a formal notice to the Maharashtra Government and not got a reply? No. There seems to be a tacit understanding about what cases need to be followed and what are to be ignored.

  • Since the cases taken up are ONLY those pertaining to the Minorities, and we already have a Minorities Commission, the NHRC is truly redundant.

  • The Supreme Court must tell us if we need a Supreme Court? Because if the highest judicial institution of the country plays Second Fiddle to West-backed NGOs and activists with unknown agendas and sources of income, we may be better off institutionalizing a true jungle raj in which we Hindus have a better chance of surviving.

  • If the Supreme Court does its job properly, what need is there of a National Human Rights Commission? It is not the job of the Indian taxpayer to provide retired judges with paid sinecures. These two organisations should stop their jugalbandi and tell us which of them should survive, and which should be wound up.

  • The Supreme Court must immediately initiate steps to undo its own previous prejudicial and punitive treatment of Zahira Shaikh and give the poor orphan a fair compensation so that she can begin to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. The Registrar-General and Joint Commissioner of Police who demonstrated bias against her must be punished.

  • All Gujarat witnesses currently being ‘held’ by NGOs must be immediately taken away and put under the custody of the Gujarat State.

  • All victims must be given their sworn affidavits in a language they understand and asked if they stand by them or rebut the allegations therein. After that, action must be taken against those who got signatures through unfair means.

  • The apex court must retrieve its honour by sending the Gujarat riot cases BACK to Gujarat.

  • Action must be taken against ALL NGOs and activists who orchestrated the international opprobrium against the Gujarat state and the Hindu people of India.

  • Zahira has exposed major holes in the ethical roofing of statutory commissions that play to an international gallery, and the Hindu-baiting media-NGO nexus. Her demand for a probe into Teesta’s post-Gujarat assets remains pertinent.

  • Finally, as the riot cases were transferred on faulty premises, norms must be laid down to prevent the hijacking of justice in future.

Last word
Why were Gujarati Muslims quick to return to normal; why did they refuse to wallow in anti-Narendra Modi rhetoric to the anguish of the media-human rights wallahs; why did they insist that Gujarat was the best place to live and prosper; and why did even Qutbuddin Ansari – the face of the Gujarat riots – quit the safe environs of Kolkata and return to Ahmedabad where he was supposedly nearly hounded to death?

Could it be that Narendra Modi is not such a demon after all?

The author is Editor, www.vijayvaani.com