Nobody killed anybody in Gujarat in 2002. Everything you saw/ heard/ watched was ‘conspiracy’

What is this India where citizens who speak for victims are accused of hatching conspiracies? The topsy-turvy world we live in now has gone beyond Orwell’s predictions in 1984. Lies are the truth

Nobody killed anybody in Gujarat in 2002. Everything you saw/ heard/ watched was ‘conspiracy’

Ranjona Banerji

Quite fascinating this “larger conspiracy” theory with regard to the events of 2002 in Gujarat.

You might almost imagine that those events of 2002 never happened.

This week, a Special Investigative Team formed in Gujarat has said that journalist-activist Teesta Setalvad, and two former IPS officers RB Sreekumar and Sanjeev Bhatt were part of this “larger conspiracy” to destabilise the Gujarat government of the time. Further, the SIT has “found” that Setalvad was paid Rs 30 lakh by the late Ahmed Patel of the Congress.

So how were these “conspirators” going to destabilise this government?

Basically, in Setalvad’s case, by helping riot victims get justice. And by fighting vociferously for justice.

In case everyone has forgotten, it was the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee who visited Gujarat in 2002 and commented in front of the then chief minister that a ruler had to practise “Raj Dharma”, or that rulers have a duty. The chief minister is said to have mumbled some response.

Why would Vajpayee have to say this at all?

Was the late prime minister not part of the Bharatiya Janata Party? One of the two founders of the party as far as I remember. Hopefully there are no allegations of conspiracy made here.

Is it also true, I may be extremely erroneous here, that the then chief minister of Gujarat was denied a visa to the United States, for 10 years from 2005 onwards, by the US State department because of the events of 2002?

Nobody killed anybody in Gujarat in 2002. Everything you saw/ heard/ watched was ‘conspiracy’

Who was that conspiracy hatched by? Surely not by George W. Bush, who was then President of the United States?

And then we reach the fundamental question on which this “larger conspiracy” rests.

Did these riots actually happen?

Were all those people who witnessed the riots lying?

Did no one die or get injured?

Were there absolutely no mobs wandering the streets burning down homes, businesses, people?

If nothing happened, why was the Army called in to maintain peace? Why was a special observer sent to oversee riot control?

Why did members of various RSS-affiliated organisations give fiery speeches taking credit and threatening there was worse to come?

Why did Prime Minister Vajpayee say this at a BJP National meet in Goa in April 2002: “We should not forget how the tragedy of Gujarat started. The subsequent developments were no doubt condemnable but who lit the fire?”

We do know that on February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati Express was attacked at Godhra station and 59 people, Hindu pilgrims “kar sewaks”, returning from Ayodhya tragically died. Many were women and children. The Muslims of the area were held responsible.

This cannot be denied and is not being denied. That was the “fire” that was lit.

But what did Vajpayee mean by saying “subsequent developments were no doubt condemnable”? What was he condemning? What happened after February 27, 2002 in Gujarat?

Has the Gujarat Special Investigative Team gone any further than this “conspiracy” allegation against a man who cannot defend himself?

What about the 2000 people, mainly Muslims, who were killed in the “condemnable” “subsequent developments”? I quote a former prime minister here because I myself am now unsure about what happened in Gujarat in 2002.

Why in 2004 did a Supreme Court bench make these remarks, when it shifted a riots case from Gujarat to Mumbai after all the accused were acquitted: “The modern-day Neros were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating on how the perpetrators of the crime can be protected.”

Who are these “Neros”? Who tried to protect the perpetrators? Perpetrators of what?

And therefore, what, I ask again, is this “conspiracy” that Setalvad can be accused of? And how with this sum of Rs. 30 lakh was she supposed to destabilise the Gujarat government alone? Is it only by helping victims of “condemnable events” where “perpetrators of the crime” were being protected? Did this strategy work? Did the government get destabilised?

How about when you buy elected representatives and topple governments? Is that a legitimate form of democracy or a “larger conspiracy” to destabilise governments?

What is this India where citizens who speak for victims are accused of conspiracies against politicians?

The topsy-turvy world in which we live now has gone beyond George Orwell’s predictions in 1984.

Lies are the truth.

Don’t ask me. I have no idea what I saw when I was there.

(Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist. Views are personal)

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