An ex Minister in Gujarat has been sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for her role in the communal riots at the infamous Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad in 2002. Along with her 31 more persons have been sent to 31 years in prison except Babu Bajrangi who has been sent to life imprisonment till he is alive.
These are very harsh judgemnts in Indian conditions for accused in communal riots. Never before has a poiltician and that too an ex Minister been convicted and sentenced for taking part in riots. It is therefore in itself a very commendable happening and all secularminded people will welcome it.
However there is a real danger of furthur polarisation setting in the Gujarat society. It is never done openly but is carried out in very subtle ways. Outwardly the facade of neutrality will be maintained but inwardly the fire shall burn with more vigour in the supporters of the rioters of 2002.
Unfortunately, advantage will be taken in the coming elections and the communal divide may be at its height in Gujarat. The attempts to move the minds of the electorate away from the riots by harping on the theme of development may go astray as the judgement has once again brought focus on the 2002 riots and its aftermath.
Staunch supporters and defenders of the need to keep the divide alive will use the judgement as a fuel to furhur stroke the communal fires. The so called secular forces will go all out to demean them and in the process the individual stands will furthur harden.
In this whole process, the
On TV channels for a day or two there will be high pitched debates. The usual persons with the same attitudes will blurt out the same arguments. No one will talk of the victims and the need to heal their wounds both physical and psychological. Most of the time the speakers will only try to protect their existing image and for that any argument will be used. All sides will try to take political mileage from this judgement.
Whatever be the short and long term effect of today's severe punishment judgement, hopefully it will set a trend in that now onwards the planners of the riots ,can also be hauled up in courts. Unfortunately for this to happen it is necessary that the Supreme Court intervenes and supervises the investigations.The local police, being under the influence of the local politicians, can not be expected to investigate properly.
By all angles today's judgement is in a way truly historical. How it will be used or misused will be clear in the days to come. One side will ignore it and the other will blow it sky high.