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

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Missing Justice

Seven years after the Gujarat massacres, justice remains a far cry.


Missing Justice

Seven years after the Gujarat massacres, justice remains a far cry.

even years after the 2002 Gujarat massacres, the state government has started the process of officially revising the death toll in the anti-Muslim violence upwards to 1,180. The 228 “missing” persons will soon be listed among the dead following the end of the stipulated seven-year period for declaring the missing as dead. The families will, if they want to, now be able to claim compensation and complete other legal formalities. Many families could not claim compensation for their dead because the district administration demanded to see the post-mortem reports. But these officially “missing” persons were killed and burnt in circumstances that rendered such demands, at the very least, insensitive. And, in a number of instances, the official “closure” does not mean the bereaved are assured that the State agencies did their best to trace the missing or unearth the circum stances under which the victims died. In the end, the issue is not of compensation but of faith in the system that justice is possible.

The confidence of the Muslim community in the state machinery could not have been strengthened by the recent “absconding” of Gujarat’s Minister for Women and Child Development, Maya Kodnani who, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) said, was seen by witnesses instigating rioters in the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam areas of Ahmedabad, where some of the most gruesome of murders took place. Now, the state government has sent an affidavit (based on the SIT’s own affidavit) to the high court saying that the minister led a mob that killed 95 Muslims in 2002. Yet, Chief Minister Narendra Modi still does not think it necessary to dismiss Kodnani from his cabinet.

There are many instances of official complicity which convince the minority community in Gujarat that it cannot expect justice from the state administration. Human rights bodies estimate the number of missing at 500 as against the official figure of 228. Gujarati society remains unwilling to confront the acts of 2002. A good example of this is that till date the film Parzania, which tells the story of a Parsi couple, whose 14-year old son went “missing” when a mob attacked the Gulbarg Society in 2002, has not been shown in the state due to threats from Hindu fundamentalists.

The state government’s steps to inquire into the riots too have been ambiguous and dogged by controversy. On 6 March 2002, it had appointed the retired high court justice K G Shah to head an inquiry. However, following complaints from a number of quarters about Shah’s closeness to the Bharatiya Janata Party, retired Supreme Court justice G T Nanavati was asked to take over in May. The Nanavati Commission took six years to submit one part of its report to the state government in September last year. It said that the fire in the Sabarmati Express coach S6 was a “preplanned conspiracy” and not an accident and went on to give a clean chit to Modi, some of the ministers in the state cabinet, and the police. In 2003, five years before the submission of his report, print and television media had quoted justice Nanavati as saying that the Gujarat government had no part in the riots. The commission has been granted a year’s extension (until December 2009) to submit the second part of its report. The Nanavati report also contradicts the justice (retired) U C Banerjee report, commissioned by the Ministry of Railways, which said that the fire in the train which killed 58 Hindus was an accident. This report however has not yet been tabled in Parliament because a challenge to its constitutional validity (by a relative of one of the train fire victims) and the centre’s appeal to allow its tabling are pending before the Gujarat High Court.

As we go to press, a plea for the registration of a first information report (FIR) against Narendra Modi and 70 others for helping rioters is scheduled for hearing before the Supreme Court on 6 March. The Muslims have placed hope in the SIT despite the fact that many of the high-profile politicians and high-ranking police officers accused of participating in the brutalities and killings are yet to be brought to justice. Once more, as in the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984, the cold-blooded murder of about 40 Muslims of Hashimpura, Meerut in May 1987, the anti-Muslim pogrom in Bombay in January 1993, and the many other instances of anti-minority violence, the heinous hate crimes in Gujarat go unpunished and the victims’ pleas for justice remain unheeded.



Economic & Political Weekly

march 7, 2009 vol xliv no 10

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