June 04, 2016

India: Gulbarg not a criminal conspiracy? Call records narrate a different story (Nirjhari Sinha / Truth of Gujarat)

Naroda Patiya and Gulbarg Society, two places in Ahmedabad where the most dastardly massacres took place on 28th February, 2002, are just 4 kilometers apart. Yet, the judgments that have been pronounced in these two cases are many a miles apart. 14 long years after the mob attack on Gulbarg Society, the trial court yesterday announced its ruling on the Gulbarg massacre where 69 people were mercilessly murdered. The special trial court judge PB Desai convicted 24 persons while acquitting 36 accused. Many a big names were among those who were acquitted. At the same time, the special trial court also dropped the conspiracy charge on the pretext of ‘lack of evidence’. While pawns are often sacrificed at the altar of justice, the suggestion that the assembly of pawns acted on their own volition without a guiding strategy is difficult to digest.
Four years ago, on 29th August 2012, Special judge Jyotsana Yagnik gave out the historic judgment in the Naroda Patiya massacre where she held 32 people responsible for the horrific deaths of 97 people including men, women, children. Among the 32 was former Gujarat Minister Mayaben Kodnani (A-37) who was convicted of the offense under section 302 read with section 120-B of I.P.C. where in Section 120-B deals with criminal conspiracy. The special judge made the following observations to justify the punishment of life imprisonment to Maya Kodnani.
A-37 has been proved to be the kingpin of the entire communal riot and one of the principal conspirators who has actively instigated the rioters and has abetted them to form unlawful assembly to execute the conspiracy hatched under her leadership with other co-conspirators.
The other important conviction in this case was that of Babu Bajrangi (A-18) who was sentenced to suffer rigorous imprisonment for remaining period of his natural life. The special judge made the following observations in the case of Babu Bajrangi.
A-18 is one of the principal conspirators, active overt actor of the communal riot on that day, leader and instigator for he co-accused as far as Naroda massacre is concerned. Over and above this, he was also an active member of the unlawful assembly in atleast two of the occurrences including the ghastly evening occurrence.
Thus a clear case of criminal conspiracy was made out in case of Naroda Patiya and the kingpins were identified along with the foot soldiers. However, for a similar case that happened just 4 kms away in Gulbarg society, the only prominent conviction is that of Dr. Atul Vaidya and it was pronounced that there was no criminal conspiracy. Are these two cases totally unrelated? Were BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal leaders involved in rioting in neighbouring areas acting independently? The phone calls between Dr Atul Vaidya and Babu Bajrangi narrate a different story. Let’s look at the call records between Atul Vaidya (9825289048) and Babu Bajrangi (9825020333) from 27th February, 2002, to 1st March, 2002. 27th February is when the S6 coach in Godhra was burned down causing the unfortunate death of 59 people and 27th to 1st March was the main period in which most of the rioting happened. [. . .]