It is rare to see a politician in India being convicted and sentenced for a crime in his/her lifetime. However, the wheels came in full circle for BJP MLA and former minister in Narendra Modi cabinet Maya Kodnani who was sentenced by a court in Ahmadabad to 28 years in prison, on Friday, 31st August, along with former local RSS worker Babu Bajrangi (who was sentenced to a full life term in prison) for their roles in Naroda Patiya massacre during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. The Naroda Patiya massacre was the single largest instance of rioting during the 2002 riots where more than 90 people were killed by a mob (instigated by Kodnaani and Bajrangi). Those among the killed included 30 women, 32 men and 34 infants.
In a 2007 sting operation carried out by Tehelka, Bajrangi had boasted to Ashish Khetan (Tehelka’s investigative stories editor) as to how he felt like Rana Pratap after killing the Muslims. He claimed that after killing the people in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon, he had come back to his place, called the Home Minister and gone to sleep. The then Home Minister Amit Shah, a Modi confidante and a BJP leader of repute, is now undergoing a trial in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case and has been barred by the Supreme Court from entering Gujarat so as to save the crucial evidence from tampering.
As for Kodnani, it is said that on the eve of the riots, she arrived in Naroda Patiya with Kerosene and lethal weapons and ordered the mobs to kill all the ‘miyans’ (Muslims). It is for this reason that she is being called the kingpin of the massacre.
If anything, these convictions have proved two points. Number one: these convictions have grave implications for the man touted to become the next Prime Minister of India. Kodnani was a minister in Modi cabinet until recently, before she was charge sheeted by the investigative agencies and dropped from the cabinet. Also, Bajrangi’s conviction strengthens the claim of the prosecutors and the victims of the riot, as also to the claims of suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, that it was at Modi’s behest that the law enforcing agencies went soft on the rioters and that it cannot be ruled out that Amit Shah, Maya Kodnani and Gordhan ZadafiaÂ (now a BJP rebel and a member of Keshubhai Patel’s newly floated political outfit), who was present in the Police control room, had been taking direct orders from the Chief Minister’s Office. Number two: these convictions have revived the faith of the victims of the riots in the slow grinding judicial machinery.
Justice has just started treading on its path in Gujarat. One hopes that it would complete its course soon so that the victims of the riots can have some sense of closure.