ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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After the Law

Notes on Gujarat 2002

The lower courts of Gujarat are rife with narratives of people being denied justice in Gujarat 2002 riot cases. In such an environment only the naïve or self-blinded will equate the failure of "prosecutable evidence" as the last word on justice in Gujarat.

This article is based on my doctoral fieldwork in lower courts of Ahmedabad between 2010 and 2013. Since 2002, I have conducted 29 months of research tracking the work of NGOs, lawyers, and activists in the aftermath of the Gujarat pogrom.

An Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court recently dismissed Zakia Jafri’s petition challenging the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) closure report. The verdict has been predictably hailed in television studios as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s much-awaited acquittal. While Modi tweeted “truth alone triumphs”, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersons and the “Modi for PM” juggernaut have led us to believe that this verdict is the final word on justice in Gujarat 2002. As the chest thumping and chants of “we were right all along” die down, we can finally ask: What does this verdict really mean? Can a legal verdict, however historical or ordinary, be the basis of our politics? And in the wake of Delhi 1984, Bombay 1992, Kandhamal 2008, what justifies our expectations of “justice”?

R K Raghavan, the head of the SIT told The Hindu that “I am happy SIT’s stand has been vindicated” (Venkatesan 2013). Broadly, the SIT concluded that there is no “prosecutable evidence” against Narendra Modi and 59 others in the Gulbarg Society massacre, and recommended the closure of the case, which was subsequently challenged by Zakia Jafri in 2013.

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