Ahmedabad, Feb. 21: A debate is raging here over the rationale behind slapping the anti-terror law on the 123 people accused of engineering the Godhra carnage and not on those responsible for equally horrific massacres in its wake.
Those witness to killings at places like Naroda Patia and Gulbarg Society are enraged that the government is so “deliberately and openly” shielding post-Godhra rioters.
The Congress and other Opposition parties have come together with social activists and legal experts to question why the anti-terror legislation cannot be applied to those responsible for the riots that continued for well over a month after the train carnage.
“The administration’s claim that one was a premeditated conspiracy and the other was a spontaneous reaction just doesn’t make sense,” said leader of Opposition Amarsinh Chaudhary, a Congress member.
Mukul Sinha, a senior high court advocate, said the primary intention in both the Godhra and the post-Godhra massacres was to “strike terror in the heart of a community”. If the government has booked the Godhra accused under the anti-terror law, the same legal paradigm must apply to the “other party”.
The yardstick applied to the Godhra accused — primarily, intention to kill and spread terror, engineer communal disharmony, use of dangerous and inflammable weapons, and communal provocation — has also to be applied to those involved in the riots, said legal experts.
Chaudhary said the government is trying to reap political benefits in Himachal Pradesh and the other states going to polls. The state Congress’ legal cell convener, Jitendra Malkhan, added: “This (the decision) puts into perspective the government’s integrity.”
People following the case say that to prove it is not favouring the rioters, the government will have to do more than saying the riots were not a conspiracy. “I think it would be naïve… to say that no planning went into the post-Godhra violence,” said a senior police official. “It (the riots) may have been a reaction, but subsequent incidents certainly reek of a conspiracy.”
However, investigators are bending backwards to prove that much of the violence was “provoked”. A crime branch chargesheet says the violence in Naroda Patia was triggered after a Hindu autorickshaw driver was killed by a mob. It adds that in the Gulbarg Society incident, in which former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was burnt to death, shots were first fired at the mob from the MP’s house.
Top police officials say investigations into the Godhra attack have “naturally” led to certain facts and evidence that justify the use of the anti-terror law.
“But such evidence has not presented itself in the other case,” one of them said.