Nanavati report's clean chit to PM Modi: Gujarat riots are a dead issue now

Critics can carp that retired Justice GT Nanavati’s sons got ‘favours’ from the Gujarat government; human rights activists can blast his two-member Commission for being ‘pro-establishment’ and Narendra Modi’s rivals can whine that the enquiry is a complete hog-wash. But beyond such meek protests, Modi baiters would find very little to say about the findings of the two-member panel’s report on the 2002 carnage at Godhara and its aftermath.

According to various reports, the Nanavati Commission that submitted its final report to the Gujarat government has found ‘no evidence’ to prove allegations of the erstwhile Modi government’s complicity in the post-Godhara carnage. The report submitted by the two-member commission, headed by Justice (retd) Nanavati, categorically says the Modi government was not involved in the riots in any way.

It doesn’t stop just at giving Modi a clean chit. It also pats his government on the back for taking prompt action against some VHP and Bajrang Dal workers who were present at some venues where riots took place. The commission, according to some reports, says the Modi government took prompt action and summoned the army to control rioters. The Commission has also justified its decision of not summoning Modi for a cross-examination, saying there was no credible evidence to support the charges.

Since Modi’s decisive win in the Lok Sabha polls, the noise over Godhara and its aftermath has almost died down. Most of his critics have accepted that the decisive mandate is a clear reflection of the popular opinion that Modi should not be persecuted for what happened in 2002. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s advice of following Raj Dharma and Modi’s reply that his government is doing exactly that now sound like faint echoes from a distant past.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this file photo. Reuters

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this file photo. Reuters

In the changed circumstances, calling the report a big blow to Modi’s rivals would be an exaggeration. They are alreday down on the floor. It is unlikely that Modi’s defeated, deflated and dejected critics would be able to summon the energy and arguments to attack Nanavati’s findings. Unless the Supreme Court says something dramatic in the pending cases, the Gujarat riots are dead as a political issue.

Instead, it may give those already convicted by courts an opportunity to plead their innocence. Maya Kodnani, the former Gujarat minister who was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her role in the Naroda Patia massacre, was quoted by the Mirror pleading her innocence. “My soul is guilty,” she told the newspaper, reacting to the Commission’s findings.

The Commission took 12 years to submit its report. During this period it got 24 extensions. But the report, ultimately, concludes what most enquiries into such riots do: the government did its best but the administration failed to act quickly because of lack of resources and staff.

The only additional finding, according to reports, is that the situation became worse because of media coverage of the riots and the Godhara carnage. But then shooting the messenger has become a standard practice these days.

Muted questions will continue over the commission’s refusal to analyse call details of rioters, who were allegedly in constant touch, and to accept the appeals from activists to allow them to cross-examine some key ministers.

Perhaps there might be some hidden meanings and messages in the fine print of the report. But these will be available for scrutiny only after the full report is released. For the moment, Modi supporters can celebrate and his critics can remain in hibernation.

Updated Date: Nov 19, 2014 15:26 PM

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