Much water has flowed under the bridge that is the 2002 Gujarat carnage. Nine years and nine days since communally-targeted killings started in Gujarat, engulfing 151 towns, 993 villages and 16 of the state’s 25 districts, the fact that something terrible happened can now seem apocryphal. But discomforting as the thought may be today, when ‘moving forward’ is seen as the best option, many terrible things did happen in February-March, 2002. The number of deaths, the trail of destruction and the palpable fear and sense of loss among the Muslim community, cutting across class, that followed, attest to the very real horror that was unleashed by organised mobs. Unlike in the past, however, when Gujarat 2002 had turned into little else than a polarising tool for strange, detached realpolitik and atavistic debates, we are now seeing actual steps being taken which will hopefully lead to the redressal of old wrongs.
Part of our optimism stems from the fact that cases that were thought to have led to dead-ends are being pursued again. The nine cases being investigated by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) witness to this fact. That the SIT itself is being put under the scanner for inconsistencies — the granting of anticipatory bail to two persons suspected of instigating a riot in Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002, based on an SIT’s officer’s inputs is one case — is also a healthy sign. It is for an unbiased and proactive investigations body to ensure that we know the truth about individual cases, whether it be that of Naroda Patiya, Visnagar, Gulbarg Society or Godhra.
It is of utmost importance that politics is not allowed to run away with the Gujarat 2002 issue as it has been allowed so many times in the past. The guilt of commission by those who were allowed to slip away into the background and the dereliction of duty on the part of those whose job was to protect and then bring the guilty to justice must both be addressed in the cold manner of the law and jurisprudence. It must be remembered that what happened nine years ago was, above everything else, a complete breakdown and subversion of the law in Gujarat. Only by bringing the cases of 2002 to legitimate closure, will we be able to restore our faith in the law and ensure that getting away with mass murder is not an option for anyone in this country.