Published On:06 March 2013
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

SPECIAL REPORT: Gujarat Riots justice exceedingly low

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The 2002 riots were obviously the worst. More than 1,000 people, according to the government's own estimate, were killed. Property worth nearly $60m was destroyed. An estimated 200,000 people were displaced. 11 years later, around 25,000 of them still languish in relief camps - this, in a state which won international plaudits for rehabilitating victims of a massive earthquake in 2000.

Many have moved into newer ghettos. Ahmedabad is the most ghettoised city in India.So is it easy for Gujarat's minorities to forget 2002 and move on, I ask Noorjehan Abdul Hamid Dewan, a 38-year-old woman, who lives in Johapura, Ahmedabad's biggest Muslim ghetto?

During the riots, Noorjehan risked her auto-rickshaw driver husband's ire to come out of purdah to help survivors in a relief camp in her neighbourhood. Since then she has been working tirelessly with them."How can people forget the riots and move ahead?" she asks.

"People don't forget. They simply remain quiet in fear. We haven't forgotten a thing. We want justice and we will keep fighting for it."This is a difficult task in what political scientist Christopher Jaffrelot calls the "dysfunctional" justice system in Gujarat.If you are poor, fighting for justice can wear you out, rob you of your daily wage, and force you to cave in and compromise with the perpetrators of the violence in exchange for a little money.

This is one of the ways you "move on".Ahmedabad's Muslim community wants to move on, seeing justice done is part of that for manySocial activist Harsh Mander calls such compromises a "mode of survival for victims, in their highly unequal battle to rebuild their lives after mass violence".The other way to move on is to have faith in a broken judiciary, and keep hoping that some justice, however incomplete, will happen.

Activists point out how more than 2,000 cases of violence were closed within months of the riots because of partisan investigating agencies and prosecutors and brazen intimidation of witnesses, even earning the opprobrium of the Supreme Court.It was only in 2006, after the Supreme Court stepped in and ordered the reopening and a re-investigation of nearly 1,600 of these cases, that some hope was rekindled.

Complaints were lodged. More than 40 police officers involved in the riots indicted and more than 600 people arrested for violence.Two years later, the Supreme Court appointed a special team to investigate half a dozen key cases of violence.

It also asked a trial court to decide whether Mr Modi should be probed in one of the cases. Even this intervention has had its share of problems - half of the investigators were selected from the already discredited local police force, for example. Moving on a few trials have been completed - in two major cases over the burning of the train in Godhra and an episode of violence in Sardarpura - among the 151 towns and 993 villages which were convulsed by riots - 11 people have been sentenced to death and 51 others sentenced to life in prison.

"Justice," says activist Gagan Sethi, has been "exceedingly slow."The 2002 riots were some of the worst India has ever experiencedJustice may be elusive, but Muslims, who comprise fewer than 10% of Gujarat's population, have moved on in their own small, meaningful ways in a state which many say does not do much to support them.More and more Muslims are sending their children to schools and colleges. In 2002, there were 200 Muslim educational trusts in Gujarat. Now, there are more than 800."The reaction of the Muslim community has been very positive," says social scientist Achyut Yagnik. "Muslim women are also talking about more education. It's all about moving forward with education.

"He is right. Everywhere I went, Muslim men and women spoke about the importance of education.In Godhra, I met telecommunications engineer Mohammed Yusuf, 51, who spent a year in prison after being falsely implicated in bomb attacks.

He is a soft-spoken man with a flowing beard."For long, we have lived as frogs in the well. Now we need to get out, educate and inform ourselves, know what our rights are, find our place in the world and defend our rights," he says.11 years.

More than 1,000 lives lost. Broken lives. Scant justice. But in Gujarat's frayed social fabric, hope still beckons.

The ‘internally displaced people’ (IDP) in the Ahmedabad have decided to launch a campaign for own land on which they can live as they were rendered homeless in the 2002 riots. These people are currently living on land given to them by some NGOs but they are still not the owners of the land. There are 8.000 to 14,000 IDPs in the city, most of who live in Citizen Nagar, Faisal Park and Ektanagar in Vatwa.

Residents of Citizen Nagar and Faisal Park will start a signature campaign from Thursday, the 11th anniversary of the massacres in the city. They will write to the state government demanding that they be given land by the authorities or ownership of the land on which they currently live.

Activist Hanif Lakdawala said that IDPs had been provided land by NGOs but were never given ownership of the land. According to an estimate by Centre for Social Justice, there are around 12,000 to 15,000 IDPs in the state. Sources said that till a few years back, there were around 50,000 IDPs in Gujarat but many had later acquired land in their name.

Activist Teesta Setalvad said that residents of these areas are worried that they may not get the land on which they had tried to build a new life in Citizen Nagar and Faisal Park after the riots. “What if they are forced to leave these places in the future? The land should be transferred to their names,” she said.

The riot survivors will be writing to Gujarat’s revenue minister Anandiben Patel to allot them the land.

For Muslims in Gujarat, 2002 is a watershed year after which developments have been largely negative for the community. The communal divide has deepened and apparently become permanent. The ghettoisation of Muslims accelerated after 2002 with both Hindus and Muslims shifting to localities dominated by their community.

Further, communalismceased to be a largely urban phenomenon and spread with the riots to villages where there were some gruesome massacres.

Creation of new ghettoes and the continuing growth of the old ones continue to bother a majority of Muslims. Muslim auto-rickshaw drivers, daily wage earners, builders, doctors, teachers and many more believe that may be peace but Muslims live in great fear.

“It started with the 1985, grew in 1992 and matured in 2002,” said Adil Bagadia, chairman, Bagadia Infrabuild Ltd. He said that after the 2002 riots, he had never had queries from a Hindu client for houses in his schemes and no Muslim had the courage to purchase a house in a Hindu locality.

The spread of communalism tohitherto untouched areas of the state, particularly the villages, is another development that has the ordinary members of the minority community very worried. A Muslim teacher said on the condition of anonymity that there are many villages where Hindus and Muslims do not trust each other anymore.

“It was the communal violence of 2002 which had created a communal divide in villages also,” the teacher said.

The 2002 riots also had an impact on how ordinary Muslims earned their livelihood. Strangely, many from the lower income group believe that after 2002 it had become easier for them to work in the city.

Tausif Malek, a part-time carpenter, said that he has been working with a group of Hindus at a city-based auditorium. “I came to Ahmedabad from Anand five years back. I have worked for different firms with many Hindus but so far I have not faced any problem anywhere,” he said.
Social activist from Baroda, J.S. BAndukala said on the eve of 11th anniversary of riots, “We are the victims of Modi, and we have seen his murderous politics at very close range. To just quote two examples, the Naroda Patia killings lasted about ten hours. The place is barely a few kms from the Police Commissioner's office, and also from the Chief Minister's residence. The principal figure in the murderous assault and rapes of our sisters was Maya Kodnani an MLA. The Court has convicted her after a decade of being protected by BJP leadership. But the unusual aspect is that this lady was promoted after the riots and made a Minister.”

Incidentally, one of the most brutal incidents occured in Baroda when a six-year-old child, seperated from his family during the killings, begged for water and these killers asked him to open his mouth, the innocent child did so, and these satans poured petrol into his mouth and then ignited the child. He just exploded.

Secondly, the Central Government’s pre matric scholaships amounting to 13.5 crores is held up in Gujarat. It can benefit about one lakh Muslim boys and girls. The Gujarat High Court full bench has just thrown out the Gujarat Government writ against it. Can Mehmmod Madani persuade his new friend Modi to not take the matter to the Supreme Court? For that will drag the issue by another two years, hurting our poor boys and girls.

[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Gujarat). He can be reached at lakhani63@yahoo.com or on his cell 09228746770]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on March 06, 2013. Filed under , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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