Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been describing the large-scale killings of members of the principal minority community in 2002 under the very nose of his government as a “spontaneous reaction” of a people whose pride was hurt by the burning of train compartments in Godhra, resulting in the death of many “karsevaks”. Wednesday’s verdict of the Supreme Court-appointed special court convicting 32 persons, including a former minister in the Modi government, Dr Maya Kodnani, in the Naroda Patiya massacre case has proved the Chief Minister’s claim as false. The gynecologist, a BJP MLA since 1998, has been found involved in a “conspiracy” hatched by powerful persons that led to the Naroda Patiya riots, resulting in the death of 97 persons. Dr Kodnani was the Minister for Women and Child Development in March 2009 when she was arrested following a probe by the Special Investigation Team set up under the direction of the apex court. Another senior leader of the Sangh Pariwar convicted in the 2002 riots case is Babu Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal.
The special court’s verdict has come at a time when Mr. Modi is busy projecting his image as a secular leader of the BJP with an eye on the post of Prime Minister after the 2014 parliamentary elections. His supporters have been claiming that Gujarat’s development record shows that Mr. Modi can be the “ideal” candidate for the top executive post if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) emerges in a position to form its government. The conviction of the former minister may also affect the outcome of the December assembly elections in Gujarat, spoiling the chances of the BJP to recapture power under the leadership of Mr. Modi.
The verdict is bound to bring into sharp focus once again the failure of the Narendra Modi government to prevent the massacre of innocent people in Gujarat in 2002. The court has also convicted three persons of being involved in gang rapes in Naroda Patiya, the second case in which this heinous crime has been proved after the Bilkis Bano case. The verdict has a larger message: India remains wedded to secularism, and those who attempt to disparage its image in the comity of nations will get their just deserts irrespective of how powerful they are.