Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Gujarat 2002
Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Gujarat 2002
Crimes Against Humanity
To our readers

On November 21, 2002, an eight–member Concerned Citizens Tribunal, consisting of retired supreme court and high court judges, activists and academics, released a report based on a detailed investigation into the gruesome carnage in Gujarat, earlier this year. The report, ‘Crime Against Humanity’, is a severe indictment of the Gujarat government, senior IAS and IPS officials as also the central government. Tribunal members have  released their report from Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

The Tribunal, an eight–member panel, headed by Justice VR Krishna Iyer (retired judge, Supreme Court), included Justice PB Sawant (retired judge, Supreme Court), Justice Hosbet Suresh (retired judge, Mumbai High Court), senior advocate KG Kannabiran (president, PUCL), Ms Aruna Roy ( Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangatan), Dr. KS Subramanian (retired IPS, former DGP, Tripura), professor Ghanshyam Shah (professor of Social Sciences in Community Health, JNU) and professor Tanika Sarkar (professor of History, JNU).

The Tribunal was constituted by the Citizens for Justice and Peace, an association of persons from Mumbai and Ahmedabad, set up in the wake of the carnage to undertake legal and other initiatives to ensure justice for the victim–survivors. The Tribunal members spent a fortnight in Gujarat in May 2002 recording evidence of all the incidents that took place from February 27 onwards. They recorded 2,094 statements, written and oral, which have been processed. These were from the affected areas, from over 16 districts of the state. The Tribunal members also made field visits to Godhra, the sight of the arson, Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Ankleshwar and collected testimonies from victim–survivors, independent human rights
group, women’s right groups, NGOs and academics.

The testimony of two members of the government and several bureaucrats and policemen were also taken on record. The findings and recommendations of the Tribunal will have far–reaching consequences for the struggle for justice for the victim survivors of the carnage. The substantive findings are grave and through enough for “any Central Agency to file chargesheets against CM Narendra Modi and his government”.

It took over four months to first transcribe and analyse the voluminous evidence following which the Tribunal met in August to finalise it’s Interim Findings and Recommendations. These were forwarded to chief minister Modi and Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Both respondents against whom serious charges were framed were given until September 10, 2002 to respond. That they did not is evidence of their own commitment to the people’s right to know.

The siginificance of the substantive report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal published by the Citizens for Justice and Peace lies in the fact that it traces in detail the incidents and events that constituted the carnage. Volume I (304 pages) traces in detail the scale of, and the sinister planning behind, the attacks that took place in over 16 districts with military precision in the first 72 hours following the Godhra carnage.

Volume II (208 pages) deals with the detailed findings and recommendations. State complicity in the genocide has been clearly established by the Tribunal. The Godhra tragedy and mass arson was found to be a spontaneous act and the cause for the fire still remains a mystery. The Tribunal report points out that the report of the government’s Forensic Science Laboratory Report (FSCL) itself states that a fire of the intensity that took the lives of 58 victims would have needed 60 litres of inflammable material and could not have been started from outside. Thereafter, the report states that it was chief minister Narendra Modi of Gujarat himself who took the decision, against the collector of Godhra’s advice, to carry the bodies of the victims of the carnage to Ahmedabad in a motor cavalcade. Thus what ought to have been restricted to Godhra alone was, in a calculated manner, taken to the rest of Gujarat.

On the evening of February 27, the day of the Godhra arson, two meetings were held at which senior functionaries of the Gujarat government were present. These meetings were used to plan the genocide. The first meeting took place at  Lunavada in Panchmahal district at which two cabinet ministers were present. At the second meeting late at night on the same day, the CM addressed the top brass of the Gujarat police and administration and instructed them “to expect a Hindu reaction” to Godhra and to basically do nothing about this reaction.

Thereafter,  over the next 72 hours, well–organised and orchestrated violence conducted by trained militias of outfits like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal unleashed brutal violence against the state’s Muslims, killing and quartering innocent women, children and men, making a targeted assault on their homes, businesses and properties. Gang rapes and brutal sexual assaults were a particularly sinister aspect of the carnage.

The report has specific evidence of the kind of indoctrination and training imparted by the VHP and BD six months in advance to plan such a  carnage. Trishuls and swords were sold, young male recruits were told to be forever ready to respond to any call for ‘action’. They were assured that the police would be on their side and that should something happen to them their families would be well–looked after. The masternminds of the carnage obviously have no shortage of funds.

Methods used for killing reveal in sinister detail the pre–planning behind the attacks. Chemical powders were thrown on targeted victims before they were burnt that resulted in the human flesh being destroyed completely and only bones remaining.
There are also significant findings on the shocking levels of police misdemeanor — their sexual misconduct with Muslim women in Vadodara is particularly outrageous — followed by strong arguments for a reform in the Indian police system.

Causes of the failure in the criminal justice system are analysed and a strong case made for reforms in the judicial system too.

On the crucial issue of relief and rehabilitation, too, the Tribunal has detailed findings. It records how over 1,70,000 Muslim refugees of the carnage were left to their own devices and how even water and food had to be obtained through a writ petition filed in the Gujarat High Court.

Given the state complicity and preplanning in the carnage, given the distinct hate ideology behind the violence that propagates the subjugation or destruction of religious minorities, given the use of sexual violence against women from the targeted community as an assault on its dignity, and given the fact that social and economic boycott of Muslims continues in many parts of Gujarat even today, using the parametres of the UN Convention on genocide, the Tribunal has concluded that the Gujarat carnage was nothing short of genocide.

Towards the end of the second volume, there are a string of short–term and long–term recommendations. The Tribunal recommends immediate prosecution of the CM, Narendra Modi and six cabinet ministers, prosecution of VHP international general secretary, Praveen Togadia as also the chief secretary and home secretary of the Gujarat government. The DGP Gujarat and commissioners of Ahmedabad and Vadodara have also been accused of  gross criminal negligence by the Tribunal.

The short–term and long–term recommendations of the Tribunal, if implemented by the executive could have far–reaching consequences. The Tribunal has recommended a ban on the VHP and BD under the Unlawful Activities Act, as also a ban on and seizure of trishuls and other weapons used to spread terror and kill. The setting up of a National Crimes Tribunal to investigate and prosecute genocidal killings of the kind that India has seen in past decades is another long–term recommendation. According to the Tribunal India is bound to set up such a body as it has ratified the Genocide Convention in 1958.

The report throws a challenge to the Indian political class to reflect on the critical need for reform in the systems of democracy in place in India today. While Indians enjoy electoral democracy, the democratising of institutions like the police and judiciary are critical if the ideals of democracy are to be genuinely realised.

The two–volume report runs into over 500–pages, not to mention another 350 pages of annexures. The report  should be mandatory reading for all those desirous of grasping the full magnitude of what happened in Gujarat and its implications for India unless urgent corrective measures, as recommended by the Tribunal, are initiated in right earnest.

But we also share the concern of the Citizens for Justice and Peace that the findings and recommendations of the Tribunal must reach a much wider body of citizens. It is with this end in view that we are publishing extracts from the report in this issue of Communalism Combat by special arrangement with the Citizens for Justice and Peace.  

For the victim–survivors of the carnage nothing short of full reparation by the state for the entire losses suffered by the Muslim community has been called for by the Tribunal. Swift and speedy justice appears a faraway dream given the track record of the Indian judiciary. Special courts to ensure justice and a more assertive role by the NHRC, which itself forwarded a substantive report to the nation on Gujarat in April 2002, are also recommended.  

For peace and reconciliation in Gujarat, a pre–requisite is justice. We hope that the dissemination of this report will pave the way for it’s realisation.