By Anand Sinha:
As Zakia Jafri filed a petition protesting the clean chit given to Mr. Narendra Modi by SIT, we can see new political waves before us. Just to be abreast about the latest – the Gujarat government has decided to call for death sentence for the former Gujarat government Cabinet minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and other 10 convicts of the Naroda Patiya killings. They have already been convicted of killing 97 Muslims in an organized manner and sentenced to long jail terms. Most likely, the government is also to push for increasing the jail terms of 22 other convicts in the case from 14 to 30 years and appealing against 7 acquittals in the case.
This move of the Modi government amidst the discussions of the following 2014 Centre elections is interesting to note. Often Modi’s political opponents and a large section of the Indian citizens have alleged that Mr. Narendra Modi was also involved in the riots and encouraged the killings. He has had a saffron- colored communal face. As he is trying to bid for the candidacy for becoming the Prime Minister of India, it is crucial for him to have a secular appeal, which he has achieved to some extent, thanks to his success in the Gujarat’s economic story. This decision of enhancing the punishment of the convicts this time can also be seen as an attempt by Mr. Modi to achieve a more secular image for him and his party as well. However wrong giving voice to conjecture is, the political maneuvers that Modi government is currently employing are somewhat uncharacteristic which has left many drawing same or similar conclusions about the ambitious motives of the Gujarat CM.
Taking the positive end of the stick, whether this step to further enhance the punishment of the convicted ones – part of BJP or RSS or whatsoever group they belong to – is commendable on the part of a government, we cannot decide. On one hand, it seems like a step to give a ‘feeling’ of justice to the victims of the riots, while on the other hand, it seems dubious if further enhanced punishment can do any good to the actual situation of the victims.
The jail sentence for 30 years is in itself a harsh but appropriate punishment for the convicts and certainly harsher than the death sentence, according to me. The hanging takes away the life at once but a 30-year-long jail term certainly can punish the convicts and teach them the value of the lives they took away; and probably, make them better citizens of this world when they complete their jail terms and come out to join the society again.
It is not going to give any further justice to the victims as lives once lost can not return and losses once inccurred can never really be compensated. Here, I am not talking only about the monetary losses, but the emotional trauma also; not of Muslims or Hindus, but of the people of Gujarat as a whole.
It also, in a way, violates the human rights protocols prevalent in contemporary times. The wait is now to see if there will be any human rights activists standing up for the rights of the 10 convicts, including Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi. Then we shall see if there are really distinctions made by the human rights activists also between the religions of the ones they fight for, as some sections of the society have alleged.
Among other things, there is one thing we can conclude about the whole scenario: We certainly have some very flawed heroes.