Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

Skip the apology Modi saheb, tell us about Kodnani









16 April 2014

Siddharth Varadarajan

If there are other potential interviewers in the queue after Madhu Kishwar, ETV, India TV and TV9 got their chance to serve us some rather tepid fare, please remember, the question to ask Narendra Modi is not ‘why won’t you apologise for the 2002 violence?’ but this:

‘How could you make Maya Kodnani a minister in 2007 when it was well-known that she had led the murderous mobs which killed dozens of innocent citizens in the Naroda-Patiya locality of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002?’

Kodnani’s name came up in witness testimony immediately after the massacre ended. The fact that she was eventually convicted 10 years later came as no surprise to anyone in Gujarat. Even if the evidence required for the chargesheet was only gathered by 2009 thanks to the Supreme Court-monitored SIT, the facts about her involvement ought to have been known to Modi in December 2002, when he gave her a ticket to fight from the Naroda constituency, and in 2007, when he brought her into his cabinet. If they were not, this shows, at best, that his administration lacked basic administrative and intelligence gathering skills. And if they were, he needs to explain why he chose someone for the job of Minister for Women and Child development whom he knew had blood on her hands.

To my mind, Rajiv Gandhi’s Camelot was fatally compromised by the induction of HKL Bhagat and Jagdish Tytler as ministers in his government despite the credible allegations made by victims of the anti-Sikh pogrom in November 1984 that these Congress leaders were involved in the violence against them. To this day, the BJP denounces the Congress — and rightly so, in my opinion — whenever there is talk of even giving a ticket to Tytler (or Sajjan Kumar). In 2004, when Tytler was made a minister by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj marched up to Rashtrapati Bhavan to demand his removal, as well as the ouster of other tainted ministers.

Given the principled stand of his party in 2004, why did Modi induct Maya Kodnani three years later when the charges against her were no less grave than those against Tytler?

Modi has also never been asked why his much-publicised and hyped televised appeal for calm on February 28, 2002 failed to mention the Naroda-Patiya massacre which had started that morning and ended by the afternoon, or the Gulberg Society carnage — in which even more people were killed than at Godhra.

Here is what Modi said by way of an appeal that day. I am using the translation helpfully provided by Ms Madhu Kishwar in her book, Modi, Muslims and Media (emphasis as supplied by her):

The government of Gujarat is committed to the protection of all its citizens.  Those who take law into their hands and destroy the lives of innocent people have no place in a civilized society.  I share the grief of the people of Gujarat.  Those who take law into their hands and destroy the lives of innocent people have no place in a civilized society.  I share the grief of the people of Gujarat.  For any humanist such an incident [i.e. Godhra train carnage: SV]would cause indescribable grief.  But at the same time creating disturbances (ashanti) indiscipline and expressing outrage (akrosh) is not the solution. 

“Violating the law and venting your anger by indulging in riots cannot be tolerated in any civilized society.  I understand your feelings but I pray to you that the need of the hour is to maintain peace and self-restraint. We are determined to punish those who have committed this crime.  No one will escape their due punishment.  Won’t you help the Government in saving Gujarat?  Won’t you help us in maintaining peace and harmony?  The Government of Gujarat appeals to you for help, appeals to you for shanti (peace) andsanyam (restraint/self-discipline).

“In the midst of this akrosh (deep outrage) it is my humble request that in such a testing time Gujarat expects from you what it is best known for. There are numerous examples of how Gujarat has maintained peace and harmony during the most adverse of times. I want to remind you of this unique characteristic of Gujarat – of showing restraint and maintaining peace during adversities. Let us serve Gujarat by maintaining shanti and sanyam.  Let us strengthen the arms of law.  Let us create an atmosphere that will ensure the most severe punishment for the perpetrators of this heinous crime…

“I understand your anger and outrage, I understand your pain.  And yet in the self-interest of Gujarat, and to ensure that we don’t jeopardize the future of Gujarat, that Gujarat doesn’t get a blot on its face/ carry a stigma connected with these times  all the 5 crore Gujaratis need to keep calm and exercise self-restraint.

“I also want to express my gratitude to you that in the midst of so much anger, out of 18000 village of Gujarat, disturbances have broken out only in a handful of villages.

“By and large, there is any atmosphere of peace.  However, the incidents that have occurred in the cities of Gujarat are disturbing.  It is my request to you, tit for tat is not a solution. “Ver ver thi shamtu nathi (Hatred is never won over by hatred).”

Fine, stirring words, no doubt. But now let us see what he said about Godhra at the start of the same speech (here, the emphasis is provided by me):

“Yesterday in Godhra an inhuman tragedy struck.  More than 40 women and children were burnt to death.  18 men were also burnt alive.  In all 58 people were trapped inside a rail bogie and mercilessly massacred by cannibals.  Such a heinous crime will bring tears to the eyes of the most hard-hearted person.  This devilish and inhuman act committed in the land of Gujarat cannot be tolerated/justified in any civilized society.  This crime cannot be forgiven.  I want to assure the people of Gujarat that something like this will never be tolerated.  The culprits will be appropriately punished for the crime they have committed. Not only that, we will set an example so that in future no one will dare dream to commit such a heinous act.”

Now consider this. In Godhra, 58 people were killed “yesterday” and Modi described the perpetrators as “cannibals” and said they would be punished and made an example of. Nobody can argue with that. But he says nothing about what he will do to the perpetrators of “tit for tat” riots, “ashanti” and “indiscipline”. For the killers of Naroda-Patiya and Gulberg Society — who committed their crime the very day he was speaking — he  only issues an appeal for restraint, making no reference to these or other specific incidents. Had Modi also called them cannibals and warned that they would not only be “appropriately punished for the crime they have committed” but that his government “will set an example so that in future no one will dare dream to commit such a heinous act” a very different message would have gone out. The fact that the Godhra train attack was a single incident but what the state was now witnessing was a series of retaliatory attacks made it all the more necessary for his appeal to have threatened the strictest punishment for anyone rioting. The closest Modi got to saying this was that riots “cannot be tolerated by any civilised society.” But any talk of “punishment” was confined to “this crime”, i.e. the Godhra carnage alone. Could that be why the rioters took no heed of his appeal?

In any case, it turns out the omission of any threat of punishment was not accidental. Yes, 170 people were killed in police firing but as the Hindustan Times‘s Ahmedabad reporter, Mahesh Langa, pithily summarised matters recently, the Gujarat government itself says the police killed more Muslims than Hindus. In May 2002, the HT’s reporter, Vinay Menon cited confidential police figures which showed a similar skew. “The statistic substantiates the allegation,” he wrote, “that not only did the local police not do anything to stop the mobs, they actually turned their guns on the helpless Muslim victims.”

As for the large number of people arrested, most of them Hindu rioters (many of whom were affiliated in one way or the other to extremist Hindutva outfits), the Modi government’s failure to credibly  prosecute them led to a series of speedy acquittals. If today, many of the criminals, including Ms Kodnani, have been convicted, this is all thanks to the Supreme Court which wisely concluded Narendra Modi could not be trusted to provide justice and handed charge of major cases to courts outside the state or an external SIT.

Manoj Mitta’s excellent book, The Fiction of Fact-Finding, provides a lot more information about the manner in which the same SIT eventually came to draw the line at Modi’s culpability. It emerges, sadly, that the SIT’s questioning of Modi was as incompetent as the exertions of some of the journalists who have interviewed him recently.


23 comments on “Skip the apology Modi saheb, tell us about Kodnani

  1. Raju
    May 16, 2014

    RIP Humanity… Blackday! May the need not come for UN forces to descend in India to help minorities from this Fascist Butcher!

  2. bindu
    April 30, 2014

    Mr Modi will have much to explain .
    About Maya, Naroda and Juhupura.
    But I hope we will continue to ask about Assam and Kashmir and Bihar where equal or worse has happened. If we did not ask Mrs G and Man Mohan ji then with what conscience can we badger Modi? I never get an answer to this.

  3. Pingback: BJP's hooligans keep attacking AAP leaders and volunteers while Narendra Modi revels in silence : Truth Of Gujarat

  4. Pingback: BJP's hooligans keep attacking AAP leaders and volunteers while Narendra Modi revels in silence : Truth Of Gujarat

  5. Pingback: Comedy nights with strong, stable leadership ~ @SarCreem | AamJanata - the common man's blog

  6. ranjankj
    April 17, 2014
  7. Pankaj Saksena
    April 17, 2014

    Why wouldn’t Modi give ticket to her, when she wasn’t proved guilty then? According to Indian law, one is innocent, until proven guilty.

    Failing on other grounds, the accusation is, his government was incompetent? How many times have Siddharth Varadarajan demanded resignation of Congress governments over an unbroken sting of incompetency and ineptitude? Does it show a bias for Congress?

    The article actually does not say anything else. Siddharth publishes Modi’s comments which are self-explanatory and do not in any way implicate him. I do not understand his resentment. The only which comes out of this article is the desperation of some parties which are now feeling ‘aggrieved’ as Modi rises to power and they do not like it.

  8. nirajshrivastava
    April 16, 2014

    How could you make Maya Kodnani a minister in 2007 when it was well-known that she had led the murderous mobs which killed dozens of innocent citizens in the Naroda-Patiya locality of Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002?’’——————————-

    I see a glaring flaw in what I suppose is your logic. The statement has a ”win-win” fallacy:-
    To start with, you take it for a premise that Modi was aware of her guilt between 2002 and 2007 (without offering any new evidence). The second part is you wonder why did he still make her a minister instead of punishing her?This second part is irrelevant to Modi’s complicity.
    If he already knew of her guilt (as you so lightly assume in this statement) and did nothing about it, it doesn’t even matter why he made her the minister.
    Your statement doesn’t establish Modi’s guilt. It can’t, because premise can never be the conclusion of the same syllogism.

  9. Vibhor Mathur
    April 16, 2014

    Hope you all may like this blogpost !
    India needs development, but at what cost ?

  10. Aristotle
    April 16, 2014

    You criticize him for calling the criminals who burnt the train as ‘cannibals’ because he did it the very next day but you are quick to judge maya kodnani? many people have allegations and in the Godhra riots, the hate-modi media conjured up 100s of names just because they got a chance. If Modi had to believe in the propaganda and make decisions, he would not have become the man he is today, rather he would have been forced to commit suicide. He waited for the official investigation to complete and accordingly got rid of Kodnani.

    Sid -a rejoinder for you. Madani claimed that he gave Sonia Gandhi a list of the cong leaders involved in the riots and that she never took any action against them. I have never seen you question this anywhere.

  11. suresh
    April 16, 2014

    @Abhishek: Perhaps you need to get a life. I mean, other than trolling every website where Modi is even mildly criticised and responding with “But what about Congress” do you have anything to do?

    This seems to be the only purpose in life for people like you.

  12. Gurdev Singh
    April 16, 2014

    Jagdish, Sajjan, Kamal etc are not vying to become the PM… Whereas this ‘He-Man’ is beating his 56 incher and trampling people in his own party (apart from the thousand others he skillfully murdered) to get to the top seat, he has not shown any remorse not even a F*%#ing fake apology for 2002.
    No point asking him any questions on 2002 or his coterie, whose opinion are we trying to change? The young impatient generation who are in majority support of him, they dont care about the past, they want phones and tabs and money and cars. He represents aggressive greed, greed of power, of control, of money…and they love him… he is the same guy who honks his car horn while the traffic signal is still red! If you live in a big crowded city like Delhi you’ll get this analogy!
    He is going to do what the previous RSS govt did, one nuke test, one war, one riot.
    Can you imagine Advani has become a likeable person in his company, the same Advani who was instrumental in bringing the Masjid down along with the Sanghies and the saffron gang. Advani shud be thankful to this 56 incher.
    If the polls are to be believed we should not lose heart nor leave the country! Stick around he will fall one day and hopefully never be able to rise again.

    • Bharat
      April 16, 2014

      Couldn’t have put it better myself Mr. Singh. As someone else pointed upthread, Indians have had it too easy for the last ten years. They think dictatorships and wars are as harmless as Bollywood films on Mogambo. Maybe they deserve a taste of both to remind them how brutal they can be. I fully expect Modi to drive the country down to ruination, so much so that in a year from now people will be pining for the good old days of Manmohan.

  13. sujitjp45
    April 16, 2014

    Excellent article.
    BJP supporters won’t like it and will no doubt mention the Sikh carnage post-Indira Gandhi assassination. But 2 wrongs don’t make 1 right.

  14. Yunus
    April 16, 2014

    To the above comment, just because Sonia patronized them, does it mean that the BJP should patronize other killers?

  15. Abhishek Drolia
    April 16, 2014

    Why does Sonia Gandhi continue to patronize Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath knowing fully well that they were involved in the massacre of sikh in 1984.

    Your selective outrage is pukish. Go get a life

    • SanJam
      April 17, 2014

      Abhishek Drolia, your comment is “pukish” and your fellow bjp supporters have stooped so low that media of the world is worried if calm and subtle indians have become a race of rabid hatemongers.

      Your argument is that if Congress has murderers in its ranks, BJP will also embrace murderers. Not only murderers, but all sorts of criminals. With the largest percentage of criminal candidates declared through affidavits, BJP supporters need to see their face in the mirror every morning. And feel sick about it.

      • bindu
        April 30, 2014

        Why would you wish to deny BJP an opportunity to make or break this country? Can’t f…igure why this is the exclusive domain of anybody…I believe things will improve though

  16. Rajesh Kumar
    April 16, 2014

    Excellent post. As has often been said, Indians know the real Modi and his popularity reflects India’s zeitgest. We get the leader and despot we yearn for. By the way, Madhu Kishwar did sing a different tune as recently as 2012:

    • bindu
      April 30, 2014

      Indian’s now deserve Modi and I hope he will infuse the bureaucrat and politician with a desire to work hard and honestly. we take our cues from our government and so…

  17. Vibhor Mathur
    April 16, 2014

    Modi Mysticism :
    Indians overwhelmed by the Modi-Mania are dreaming of a mystical world with Mr. Modi with a magical wand, which would solve all of India’s problems, as he did in Gujarat. Many Indians are into idol-worship of NaMo, and see no wrong in the Mr. Modi. Let not their dreams not be shattered.
    Mr. Modi, who mirages hope in impatient Indians, for a better future, has outgrown himself bigger than the party. Infact amusingly, many are fascinated with Mr. Modi but not with the party, BJP. Let not their hopes get crushed, because, if crushed, they will lose faith in India’s growth story.
    If Modi remains “The Un-Chosen One”, India will keep harping on “If”s and “But”s. He should be given a chance to dictate India, because, sometimes, a country needs to go through the holocaust to realize its true character and to rekindle the importance of social framework.

    • nirajshrivastava
      April 17, 2014

      Lets analyse Sidhart’s argument:

      Premise 1: Modi was aware of Kodnani’s role in the massacre upto 2007. (but was silent about it, which means he was complicit)
      Premise 2: Modi appointed her a minister in 2007 instead of punishing her.

      Conclusion: Modi actually rewarded her for her role in the riot (which means he’s complicit)

      Anyone can see that the entire structure of the argument is wrong. Premise 1 and conclusion are essentially the same which is Wrong, if you understand how syllogism works. This article doesn’t provide any new information but only puts a confusing spin on the existing information.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on April 16, 2014 by in Communal Violence, Indian Politics, Media, Uncategorized.



%d bloggers like this: