August 30, 2012
After years of waiting for resolution in a highly charged case, 32 people were convicted of murder and conspiracy for their role in the Naroda Patiya massacre of February 2002 in the Indian state of Gujarat. This long-awaited judgment is not only significant because it concerns some of the most vicious communal violence in the region since the partition of India and Pakistan, but also because Mayaben Kodnani, a leader of Gujarat’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was one of the 32 convicted. The Economist reports that multiple witnesses described her as “a firebrand” who helped distribute weapons and encouraged the killings. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state and one of the BJP’s most significant figures, has long denied accusations of enabling the massacre and has been cleared of misconduct in prior investigations. But for some, Kodnani’s conviction strengthens the case that the perpetrators of the massacre received support from sympathetic politicians. Others argue that it is “grossly unfair” to link the state government with the massacre because of Kodnani’s conviction. In response to the judgment, Tarun Tejpal of the Indian magazine Tehelka–an outlet that played an important role in covering the motivations of the killers–wrote of the importance of the legal process in dealing with the terrible tragedy. “We must redress not through terror or vigilante excitements,” he writes, “but through persuasive argument and high language, through the markers of law, through the closing of ranks on overarching principle and not narrow identity.” The High Court of Ahmedebad, located in Gujarat’s capital city, will sentence Mayaben Kodnani and the others on August 31st.