The iconic picture by Arko Datta of Mr. Qutubuddin Ansari begging the mob for mercy.
The Supreme Court of India has just passed a ruling asking a trial court to hear a petition against Mr. Narendra Modi in the Gulbarg massacre case. For those unfamiliar with the story (though there must be very few of that kind left), I will quickly recap the major details. On 27th February, 2002, a mob of Muslim extremists allegedly set fire to the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra. In retaliation, mobs of Hindu extremists ran amuck throughout the state of Gujarat killing around 2000 people (the official toll is of course, much lower - around 1000). One of the mobs attacked the Gulbarg society housing complex and during this attack, a former MP Mr. Ehsaan Jafri was killed. His widow had filed a petition asking for an enquiry into the role of Mr. Modi in the riot and pleading that the case be tried outside Gujarat. The second part of the petition has been denied and that is why Mr. Modi and his supporters are celebrating. They feel they have won a major victory and on hearing the news, Mr. Modi tweeted 'God is great.'
Now the actual role Mr. Modi played in the riots may never be discovered. Many believe that Mr. Modi was the brain behind the riots and the driving force that allowed them to happen on such a large scale. They say that it only by using government and party machinery could so many people have been mobilised in such an organised manner and in such a short time. Others believe that while Mr. Modi did not have a direct hand in the killings, he allowed them to take place by instructing the police and paramilitary forces to hold back from aggressively stopping the riots. In fact, one of the top cops of Gujarat during that time, who was involved in all the discussions and actions has been suspended because he accused him of complicity in the riots. (His open letter to Mr. Modi is a must-read.) Of course, there are those who will vehemently shout about his innocence, but their vehemence itself seems to lend credence to the accusations that even if he was not the instigator, he certainly is not completely blameless in this regard. After all, which sensible human being can logically explain such a huge, organised breakdown in law and order without at least the tacit approval and encouragement of the powers that be. In this day and age, it is well nigh impossible.
Be that as it may, the decision of the Supreme Court today is yet another reminder to us that the truth is not always the winner in this world. Mrs. Sushma Swaraj, a BJP leader, had the audacity to congratulate Mr. Modi using the words 'Satya meva jayate' (truth alone triumphs). It is quite obvious that when it comes to politicians and court cases, that is hardly ever the case! And even though the truth is staring all of us in the face, crooked lawyers and corrupt judges will find ways to twist the whitest of truths into a grey area that will nearly always leave some loophole for the culprits to escape. It is very rare indeed that truth does triumph in the murky world of human legalism.
Mr. Modi, going from the evidence we have, it appears that you and your supporters have perpetrated one of the greatest crimes independent India has witnessed and are more than likely to go scot-free. In fact, you are such a shrewd administrator that some day soon, the reins of our whole country may be handed to you. But I do believe that satya meva jayate. The crimes you are accused of committing may remain unpunished. But I can assure you that at the end of your life, that they will come back to haunt you. No man who has taken leave of his conscience can die peacefully. And if you do believe that God is great, and you have done the things you are accused of, then you have something to be worried about. For a great God is unlikely to be fooled by the web of lies that you have tried to weave around the truth of your misdeeds. And He is to be feared much more than the bars of a prison or an assassins bullet. So congratulations, Mr. Modi. You appear to have won a minor victory in the fight to prove your innocence. And if indeed you are innocent, then all the best to you. But if not, then have a care. Things may not always go so well. For Satya Meva Jayate.....