October 12, 2012

sense of justice returning to Gujarat? Face the Nation transcript (30 Aug 2012)

From: CNN IBN / Face The Nation, Aug 30, 2012 at 11:58am IST

by Sagarika Ghose, CNN-IBN

A trial court convicted 32 people, including BJP MLA Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal's Babu Bajrangi, and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case.

On Face the Nation, CNN-IBN Deputy Editor Sagarika Ghose asks a panel of experts - Is a sense of justice returning to Gujarat?

Here is the full transcript of the show:

Is a sense of justice returning to Gujarat?

Sagarika Ghose: Good evening. Yes it's a big day for justice and a big day for those who have campaigned long and hard for justice. It’s the most powerful conviction yet in the Gujarat riot cases - a trial court finds BJP MLA Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal's Babu Bajrangi guilty of murder in the Naroda patya massacre. 30 others are convicted for the massacre which left 97 dead in 2002. These convictions happened because of courageous witnesses who came forward and testified against the powerful accused, in spite of their fear, in spite of threats. Let’s hear from them.

Meghdoot Sharon: What did you say in your testimony about what you saw?

Witness one: I saw Maya Kodnani come into the area in a car; she was accompanied by a few people who were armed.

Meghdoot Sharon: Are you happy with today's verdict?

Witness one: No I'm not happy yet, there are more people who must be convicted.

Meghdoot Sharon: Are you happy with today's verdict?

Witness Two: Only some involved in the riot have been convicted, the others must be held guilty too.

It is a big day indeed those witness say “Dil ma shanti abhi tak nahi hai”, but it is a powerful conviction. A sitting MLA of the BJP has been convicted of murder and criminal conspiracy, the highest every individual who has so far been touched by the long arm of the law.

So has a sense of justice returning to Gujarat. Let’s focus on this judgement, the law and the communal divide in Gujarat. And in the second segment of the show we'll ask if whether riot victims in the future, should they happen, god forbid, can they hope for much greater justice because of these cases. Joining us tonight Yatin Oza, BJP Leader and Gujarat lawyer. And joining us Harsh Mander, founder of Aman Biradari and member of NCPRI. Joining us JS Bandukwala, activist and retired professor of Baroda University.

And we will also get you the views of Mallika Sarabhai, Noted dancer and Social Activist, to whom I spoke earlier. Let’s begin by getting you my conversation with Mallika Sarabhai. I started by asking her. A sitting BJP MLA and the head of a Sangh Parivar outfit the Bajrang Dal convicted of murder and criminal conspiracy, Is this a historic judgment?

Mallika Sarabhai: I agree it is a historic verdict and the thousands of people who have been working hard towards this have been vindicated. And I think somewhere justice is coming through. I think it is going to be very important for the people who have been waiting for the justice but, it is very unfortunate, but have to say it for the Hindu population, they don’t care at all.

Sagarika Ghose: The Hindus don't care a damn. Mallika Sarabhai, Digvijaya Singh of the Congress has said that this kind of violence could not have happened without the knowledge of the Chief Minister. Should Modi resign?

Mallika Sarabhai: If he had the moral standing to take responsibility for this, they were many occasions where he should have resigned in the last 10 years. I do not think that there is a single politician in this country, who has the moral standing to take that stand. And I think to expect Modi to do it is completely unreal.

Sagarika Ghose: Gujarat elections are ahead, will this judgement have an affect on elections?

Mallika Sarabhai: You know, Sagarika, in the 10 years that I have spoken to the people of Gujarat and I have spoken very extensively. All the Hindu population knows who the cause was of the genocide, there is no surprise there. So I don’t think this judgment will have any affect on the elections. What will have an affect and I think this is a strong possibility is the very squad and unfortunate way development has been happening and more and more people who have been disfranchised, from the development model of the state. But genocide or people getting justice, is not going to make any difference what so ever.

Sagarika Ghose: You are pointing to the larger polarisation of Gujarat. Mallika Sarabhai, almost 3000 people were killed in the Delhi riots in 1984, that is three times the number that were killed in Gujarat. Convictions have been much higher in the Gujarat riot, hardly any conviction in the Delhi riots. Hasn't more justice been done in Gujarat riots than in 1984 riots or in any other communal riot ever before?

Mallika Sarabhai: I think there world of 1984 was a very different world from the world of 2002. This was the first time that in a genocide, all of the TV channels were in there. People could actually see what was happening. This is the generation of internet and Twitter. And all of us who have been fighting for it have been able to gun much more support world wide, to ensure that this fight continues.

Sagarika Ghose: You know, Modi’s point is that he is the unquestioned leader in Gujarat. His popularity is unquestioned and none of these verdicts can affect his popularity. What do you make of that conviction?

Mallika Sarabhai: I don’t think his popularity is as mush as he believes, nor as he bulldozes people into believing. Even if you look at the 2007 elections, of the 120 seats that the BJP won, 40 were lost by the Congress because of their own inefficiency. And they were lost in tiny margins including two of his most senior ministers. If the Congress had their act together slightly more, and I do think they would do this time, and if they had not so much infighting, then BJP would not have swept in 120. But 40, you must understand dicey seats then and perhaps even more are today. So this hriday samrat, perhaps he listens to his own hriday, he is his own samrat. There is so much fear here and there is so much cohesion of the truth that what in fact lies just below the surface is difficult to figure out.

Sagarika Ghose: There is fear, there is polarisation, there is cohesion, you are actually painting a picture of Gujarat that is brutally divided and a silent society. But Mallika Sarabhai, Modi has been reaching out to Muslims community. Many Muslims came to his sadbhavna mission, has he succeeded somewhat in bridging the religious divide?

Mallika Sarabhai: Of course not. The Muslims know that if they have to live in this state they have to accept him. A lot of feel that the repercussions are so fast and so completely ruthless in this state that, I know because I have been at the receiving end for 10 years. I one way or the other, either politically, or financially or in different ways and the reprisals are absolutely ruthless. So if you want to live in this state you have to pretend that he is wonderful.

Sagarika Ghose: The reprisals are ruthless in a divided state were in fact you have to pretend, if you want to live in Gujarat, that Modi is wonderful. You speak of fear; you speak of a completely polarised society. How do you think this communal divide in the future can be bridged in the long run?

Mallika Sarabhai: It has to change its entire thinking and then after 15 or 20 years if we bring our children differently, if their educational system is not filled with hatred and prejudice, then we might have a chance of getting a (*) again, otherwise there is no chance.

Sagarika Ghose: So in spite of this judgement, the hate and prejudice will continue.

Mallika Sarabhai: Totally. I live in a city today where 20-year-olds do not even know that there was a time before Babri Masjid, well Ahmedabad was not like this. It is inconceivable for them. So we are talking of that kind of educative period, that period where mothers and fathers tell their children that we are one country, we are one people. and that takes a generation.

Sagarika Ghose: Mallika Sarabhai , thank you very much indeed for joining us. Painting a chilling, or rather terrifying picture of the state of Gujarat. And saying that this judgment is historic but it is not going to bridge that divide. Let’s turn it to our other palletise, Mr JS Bandukwala, you have written a very eloquent article in the EPW about the… preciously what Mallika Sarabhai was talking about - this divide, lack of reconciliation, that completely polarised society of Gujarat that still continues. In spite of that do you think this judgment will go someway in healing the wounds?

JS Bandukwala: Well I doubt it because the Hindu society in Gujarat has not expressed any remorse, any sense of effort to reconcile with the Muslims. Accept a very tiny socialist progressive groups and gandhians. You know you would be surprised after 2002, I made repeated affords to reach out to the very top caders, political figures, businessmen, I reached out to intellectuals; I even reached out to godmen. I urged them to at least ask yourself that what has happened is right or wrong. For example I will just give you two cases and I am mentioning it because of their connection to this judgment. See one case is well know, Quanser Bano, her stomach was flashed her child was killed, the lady was killed and then they were burned. But the other more serious case there was of a six-year-old child, Muslim body, in whose mouth they poured petrol and then they lighted it and that poor child fragmented into pieces. This happened in Naroda Patiya. Now, while they were doing this they used to shout Jai Shri Ram. Now point was see you are taking the name of lord Ram you should at least introspect and say this is wrong. You would be surprised I didn’t even find response from religious figures. There are people who object sales of eggs in Gujarat but they saw nothing wrong with a six-year-old child being killed this way. That is why I think there is something seriously wrong with Gujarat society. See you have always been confused because Gujarat produced Gandhi. And Gandhi was of course an epical figure. But we always mix up Gandhi with Gujarat and I think that is a very big mistake. If you see the Gujarat society the level of violence against women, the level of violence against Dalits and Muslims, the brutality angle is very deep all along. It is juts that Narendra Modi has made use of these sources. Of course in Gujarat Muslims are only 10 per cent so it is very easy for a figure like Narendra Modi to just turn 90 per cent against that 10 per cent. See the problem with Narendra Modi is after this judgment his appeal in states like UP, Bihar and West Bengal will go down sharply.

Sagarika Ghose: Let’s move to Narendra Modi in a bit but I want to get… you have painted a very comprehensive, such a tragic picture of Gujarat society. I want to bring in Yatin Oza of the BJP there. Yatin Oza, those two cases Quanser Bano whose womb was ripped by a trishul, the foetus apparently taken out and rotated on that trishul. Boy in whose mouth petrol was poured. Is this the time for the Gujarat BJP to really introspect that development is not just material, it is also human. Your senior leader Maya Kodnani, sitting MLA, former minister convicted of murder and criminal conspiracy, Babu Bajrangi convicted of murder and criminal conspiracy. Is this not a very sever indictment for your party and your government?

Yatin Oza: The basic difference is not being looked into. For one act of somebody, you incidentally is a senior party functionary, to rope in the party as a whole and its leader in particular for a different reason and purpose is beyond comprehension. I heard bundle of lies from Mallika’s mouth, I am sorry to say, an unparliamentarily language that is spoken damn Hindu population. She may have her prejudices against one religion or the other.

Sagarika Ghose: No, Mr Oza please focus on the question that I’m asking you. Do you not believe that in some senses this is a very sever moral indictment of your party and your government? How can you say that this was spontaneous violence and this was just reaction to the Godhra, when it is now clear from the court that this was instigated by your Sangh Parivar members.

Yatin Oza: Can you for a moment say that what Kanda did is attributed to Mr Hooda. What Maderena did is attributed to Ashok Gehlot and many more. Some higher party functionary does something and to suit the political purpose the entire debate, the entire concentration of people is diverted to other side.

Sagarika Ghose: So is it not time to win minds and hearts, to bridge that gap as Mr Bandukwala is saying? Harsh Mander, I have to ask you isn’t this also a fact that much more justice is done in Gujarat riot the ever done in Delhi riots in 1984.

Harsh Mander: No it is important that it had… let’s just remember Assam nearly had the worst massacre that we had since independence. Not one person has been punished. We have had 1984, we have had Bhagalpur and we have had Bombay riots. I feel that what had happened, what had happened today happened in the context of (*). Perhaps we would have never seen Bhagalpur, if what happened today happened for the victims of Bhagalpur, perhaps we would have not seen Bombay riots, and these riots today. I think something very important has happened, that is the courage of the victims, who spoke about… huge solidarity of people who said no more. And the role of Supreme Court, a great deal has happened. But we have to be grateful because it presents the possibility of not happening again.

Sagarika Ghose: You rightly said the interventional and vigilant role that Supreme Court… we must remember the apex court moving time and time again. Setting up SIT, reopening that case, moving cases out of Gujarat. The role of SITs and Supreme Court can’t go unapplaud. Yatin Oza let me put to you, is it really the Gujarat Police and the Gujarat administration that has secured justice because as Harsh Mander was pointing out had it not been the intervention and vigilant role of the apex court, the campaigners for justice, would justice ever be delivered to riot victims because the police shielded them for so long.

Yatin Oza: No I don’t agree that police shielded. There may be an error of judgment on the same set of evidence, one investigating officer can reach to one conclusion and another can reach to another conclusion. Even other wise matter would have gone to the court. And courts are not powerless to issue summons directly under section 204 of the CrPc. So it is unfair to say that nothing has been done by Gujarat government and Gujarat Police.

Sagarika Ghose: Mr Oza is it not the time for your government and your party to heal the wounds in a moral sense. Justice has been done by the courts, should you not address the issue which is dividing the society.

Yatin Oza: There is no division accept in the minds of people like Mallika Sarabhai. In Gujarat Muslim’s have forgotten 2002, they have accepted the progress theory of the Chief Minister. Look at Gujarat from 1984 to 2001 and post October 2001. This is the division that so called social activist wants to keep in the minds of people so that their car can run…

Sagarika Ghose: Let me put to Mr Bandukwala that point. Actually Gujarat is calm and there is brotherhood between Hindus and Muslims. Mr Bandukwala do you want to respond to Mr Yatin Oza?

JS Bandukwala: Yeah, I can very quickly tell you one thing about what Mr Oza has been saying. See there has been very few riots after 2002, but there have been very few riots only because Muslims are more alert and BJP has paid a very heavy price for what happened in 2002. So that don’t want a repeat of it. but I want to make one point very clear over here that both Kodnani and Bajrangi became very popular and powerful after 2002. Everyone knew what happened in 2002. And they were stopped only because Supreme Court got involved; if the Supreme Court had not been involved we wouldn’t have got any justice at all. The credit goes to the Supreme Coourt.

Sagarika Ghose: You are saying that the reality is that Maya Kodnani after 2002, her popularity rose exponentially. In 2007 she won 1.8 lakh votes in her MLA election in Gujarat. Let’s put to Harsh Mander, you wanted to react to Mr Bandukwala, why don’t you also react to Mr Oza very quickly.

Harsh Mander: To Mr Oza I would like to say just go to Naroda today, if there was such peace, half of Naroda has emptied out here today after judgment because if we are attacked. There is fear, it continued all these years. To Mr Bandukwala I would just say, my heart breaks when I hear him the anguish of, you know, all that the Muslim comminute is asking for is acknowledgment, is a sense of reaching out. And unwillingness from the state an the center is causing anger. Somebody has to come forward and to heal.

Sagarika Ghose: Chief Minister himself has tried to reach out through sadbhavana.

Harsh Mander: The sadbhavana mission not even once expressed regret about what has happened. But this morning witness were saying that they had initially lost hope but today they have hope because of the judgment. I want to talk about something bigger, want to talk about the faith in secular democracy that has been restored. Let us celebrate it with humility and build on this.

Sagarika Ghose: Let us celebrate this judgment today but lets not run away from that deeply divided society that Mr Bandukwala is talking about. Mr Oza maintaining that there is solidarity of Hindu brother and Muslim brother. Does the Chief Minister need to express remorse or apology perhaps as Mr Manmohan Singh gave for those anti-Sikh riots? Thank you very much indeed Mr Yatin Oza, Mr Harsh Mander, Mr JS Bandukwala.