New Delhi, November 27 (KMS): Eminent Indian citizens and rights activists E.A.S. Sarma and Jagdeep Chhokar have urged the Election Commission of the country to treat home minister Amit Shah’s pro-2002 Gujarat massacre statement during an election rally in Gujarat as a violation of the Model Code of Conduct.
Amit Shah had spoken about how the Muslims were “taught a lesson” by Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2002 and thereafter “BJP has ensured peace till the present day”.
Urging the Election Commission not to permit such “divisive exhortations”, Sarma and Chhokar also demanded a probe and necessary punishment in the matter.
The activists have claimed that the statement was is in violation of Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code which pertains to “promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc…. ‘’ and also attracts Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 — which provides for disqualification for conviction for various sections of IPC including Section 153 A.
Citing a report by news agency Press Trust of India, former secretary to Government of India E.A.S. Sarma had in a letter marked to Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and Election Commissioners A.C. Pandey and A. Goel on November 26 first raised the issue of Shah’s “highly objectionable statement” during a rally in Mahudha town of Kheda district.
The news report had quoted Shah as saying: “During the Congress rule in Gujarat (before 1995), communal riots were rampant. Congress used to incite people of different communities and castes to fight against each other. Through such riots, Congress had strengthened its vote bank and did injustice to a large section of the society…..But after they were taught a lesson in 2002, these elements left that path (to violence). They refrained from indulging in violence from 2002 till 2022. BJP has established permanent peace in Gujarat by taking strict action against those who used to indulge in communal violence.”
It is worth mentioning here that all the 2002 Gujarat massacre victims were Muslims.
Sarma said Shah’s statement of November 25 implied that other than the law enforcement authorities, it was a political party and certain sections of the people who “taught a lesson” to others by taking law into their own hands. The state had witnessed large-scale violence against Muslims following the Godhra incident.
The former bureaucrat said if Shah indeed made the statement then it “violates the Model Code of Conduct in force”, especially with reference to clause which lays down that “there shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes”.
He also urged the Election Commission to view the statement in conjunction with the reported fact that it was the home ministry that cleared the release of 11 rape convicts in the Bilkis Bano case. He said this case was “directly related to the infamous Godhra incidents in 2002, which, triggered the shameful sequence of events that shook the nation’s conscience”.
Stating that he supported Sarma’s letter, Chhokar said the home minister’s statement was also “in violation of section 153A of the Indian Penal Code”, which pertains to “promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony”. He said the statement also attracts Section 8 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 that provides for disqualification on conviction for certain offences including for offences punishable under Section 153A of the IPC.
Furthermore, Chhokar demanded, in view of the gross violation of the MCC, as already suggested by Sarma, the Commission immediately directs deferment of the elections in Gujarat “till such time that the environment becomes conducive to conducting elections freely and fairly”.
The social activist also sought initiation of action by the EC for the lodging of complaint and registration of First Information Report for the violation of Section 153A of IPC.