Fourteen years ago, on July 26, 2008, SIMI and Indian Mujahideen terrorists carried out more than 20 bomb blasts, killing 56 innocent persons and injuring more than 200 people. The motive of the convicts, the judge said, was to avenge the killings during the post-Godhra riots. Towards this purpose, they selected Hindu-populated areas of Ahmedabad and set off the explosives. The judge said the terrorists underwent special training in different parts of India as part of meticulous planning.
In a landmark judgment on Friday, Feb 18, 2022, a special court in Gujarat pronounced a death sentence to 38 convicts in the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts case, while giving life imprisonment to 11 other convicts. This is the first time in India’s modern judicial history when such a large number of convicts have been sentenced to death by a court in a single case. The earlier precedent was the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case in 1998 when a TADA court pronounced death sentence to all 26 convicts.
Special Judge A R Patel, in his judgment running into more than 7,000 pages, wrote, “if such people are allowed to be part of society, it will amount to setting man-eater leopards free amongst the innocents”. The special judge said, “since they did not show any mercy to innocents, there is no reason for this court to show mercy to them”. In his judgment, the special judge quoted from Holy Quran to differentiate between jihad and terrorism and appealed to religious organizations to boycott these terrorist outfits.
The special judge said, this was the rarest of the rare case because the terrorists also placed explosives near hospitals, because they knew that injured people would be brought to the hospitals, and their relatives, officials, and politicians would visit the hospitals. The judge also opined that the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi, the then Home Minister Amit Shah, and local BJP MLA Pratapsinh Jadeja were also among the targets.
In other words, the target of terrorists was not only common people, but the state leadership too. The judge said the aim of terrorists was to create disturbance and anarchy and create Islamic Raj. “If such anti-national elements indulge in such terror attacks, there was no need to look after them in jails for the rest of their life, and capital punishment was the only way out”, the judge said.
The Ahmedabad serial blast was a direct challenge to Narendra Modi. He was the chief minister at that time, and Amit Shah was his trusted Home Minister. When twenty bombs exploded one by one across the city, Modi reached Ahmedabad, took the latest updates from officials, and wanted to go the scenes of crime. He also wanted to meet the injured people in the hospital but was advised by his officials not to go, since most of the areas were still not safe and secure. Two hours after the first blast, there was an explosion near Ahmedabad Civil Hospital.
But ignoring the advice of his officials Modi not only went to the scenes of the crime but also visited the hospital to meet the injured victims. His bold step leading from the front sent a strong message that their Chief Minister was with them in their hour of distress.
Modi ignored his officials’ advice and went to the scenes of crime and also visited the hospital to meet the injured victims. By leading from the front, he sent a strong message to the people of Gujarat to convey that he was with the victims in their hour of distress. Modi also directed police officials to go after the perpetrators of the crime and nail them.
Ashish Bhatia, who was Joint Police Commissioner (Crime), Ahmedabad, during the blasts, was the person who supervised the entire investigation into the serial blasts. Ashish Bhatia and his team were successful in nailing the terrorists and the conspirators. Another IPS official who put in his efforts in cracking this case was Abhay Chudasama who was then DCP, Crime in Ahmedabad.
The investigation team worked under the overall supervision of the then CM Narendra Modi and the then Home Minister Amit Shah, and their role was praised by the Special Public Prosecutor. The manner in which the investigation was done meticulously laid bare the entire setup of Indian Mujahideen throughout India.
In his judgment, the Special Judge praised the work done by the political establishment and the investing team. Special Public Prosecutor Sudhir Brahmabhatt described the verdict as a milestone, which would act as a deterrence in preventing future terror attacks. Meticulous investigation Gujarat Police made of Ahmedabad serial blasts sets an example for others to emulate, and the government’s iron-willed policy against terror if followed by other states would work as a deterrent to the terrorists.
This historic verdict is surely the result of painstaking efforts made by Gujarat’s investigation and prosecution departments. But the credit for achieving this goes to the political leadership that prevailed in Gujarat at that time.
There could be differences of opinion with Narendra Modi, but none can question his patriotism. Nobody can doubt his zeal in tackling terrorism. The Special Court verdict has proved how Modi fought a decisive battle against terrorism in his home state. With his strong will, he showed the terrorists and their masterminds their right place.