2002 Gujarat riots might be the most discussed among the various communal violence India has witnessed.
The State complicity with the rioters, the involvement of ministers and police machinery, the charge against the then chief minister Narendra Modi that he asked the officers to let the Hindu fanatics vent their anger against Muslims, all gave Gujarat carnage a political colour, and rightly so.
In fact all communal riots have by default a political angle to it.
Various inquiry commissions appointed dutifully by the governments have confirmed how powerful politicians have tried to reap political benefits out of riots.
But Gujarat may be a state where a government allegedly by its actions and inactions helped the rioters and after the violence blocked all efforts to prosecute the guilty.
To a great extent this may be true of Bombay riots too, which occurred after the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 and January 1993.
Justice B N Sri Krishna Commission in its exhaustive report details how the inaction of the State helped the rioters go about their business.
The governments led by Congress-NCP which assumed power in 1999, nor the BJP-Shiv Sena combine which came to power in October 2014 has not taken any action on the report submitted in 1998.
There are many who think that if the State had acted judiciously after the Bombay riots, the March 1993 blasts would not have happened.
Despite an inquiry report and a Congreess- NCP government, all that judicial system could do was to punish only three people. Shiv Sena MP, Madhukar Sarpotdar and two of its activists for one year. The MP who was out on bail immediately, died before serving the sentence.
But despite, the alleged involvement of then chief minister Narendra Modi’s government, there has been several convictions in various cases related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. Of course none of the judges who handed down sentences to those found guilty, never accepted that there was criminal conspiracy behind the attacks.
Despite this Maya Kodnani, who was a minister in Modi’s government was convicted for 28 years in 2012 for her role in the Naroda Patia massacre in 96 people were killed. 30 people were convicted in this case.
It is another matter that the doctor turned politician managed to be out on extended bail, two years later, citing ill health.
What has changed from Bombay to Gujarat?
The 2002 Gujarat riots was the first communal violence in India that was played out before the cameras of 24×7 news channels.
The involvement of activists had greater bearing on creating public perception around the cases.
Moreover the court’s interventions at various stages also saw that justice is served, though partially.
The Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team(SIT) on 27 March 2008 to probe 14 Godhra and post Godhra violences.
The SIT investigated Godhra, Sardarpura, Gulbarg Society, Ode, Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya, Deepla Darwaza.
The Special Investigation Team led by R K Raghavan, gave clean chit to chief minister Narendra Modi. But its investigation led to the conviction of several including ministers like Kodnani.
Though the investigations could not prove any political conspiracy in Gujarat riots, what distinguishes Gujarat from Bombay riots is that it could not punish those who wreaked havoc in India’s financial capital for nearly 45 days.