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A black day in the lives of Gujarat survivors

Some of the worst massacres happened in Naroda Patia and Shanti Town (Peace Town) of Ahmedabad city 89 days ago, in which 142 Muslims were burnt alive. More people died in attacks within the next four hours.

New Delhi: Saturday, July 27, 2002 will be a dark day in the life of several thousand survivors of Gujarat pogrom living in relief camps.

In hundreds of cases of arson, rape and murder, the last date for initiating legal procedures to seek justice is July 27, after which no legal proceedings can be launched.

India’s penal law stipulates that if the accused are not produced in court within 90 days of the police recording the report of an offence, the case would stand time-barred.

Some of the worst massacres happened in Naroda Patia and Shanti Town (Peace Town) of Ahmedabad city 89 days ago, in which 142 Muslims were burnt alive. More people died in attacks within the next four hours.

The survivors lodged hundreds of reports with the police, identifying attackers, most of whom were leaders of Rashtiya Sevayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) frontal organisations. RSS is a conglomerate of numerous Hindu nationalist organisations, its political front being Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), which has been ruling the western state of Gujarat and leading the ruling coalition at Centre. The cases in question are going to get time-barred because the state police refused to investigate them and produce the accused before the courts.

The Nazi-like stance of the state has caused concern worldwide. Matters have not been helped by the Centre’s refusal of visa to Amnesty International researchers who wanted to investigate the state’s role in bringing the culprits to book and providing relief and rehabilitation to victims.

India’s parliament witnessed stormy scenes for days late last month over the state and Central government’s failure to get justice to the victims.

A combined opposition has been grilling the Central government to explain what relief and rehabilitation measures had been taken in Gujarat and what had been done to get justice for the victims. The plane answer is nothing much, but the government has been evading a straight reply.

On the contrary, India’s Deputy Minister Lal Krishn Advani, a hardline Hindu nationalist, has been trying to defend the indefensible. Advani told parliament on July 23, that Gujarat chief minister Modi (widely held to be the architect of the anti-Muslim pogrom) was the best chief minister of any Indian state in the last 50 years.

Confronted by opposition leaders, he retracted the next day, saying he had never said Modi was the best chief minister in 50 years, but only that Modi had "controlled" the riots better than anyone else. This further inflamed the opposition, which has decided to go on grilling the government for the next few days on Gujarat.

The denial of visa to Amnesty has lent credence to the general impression (confirmed by a dozen independent enquiries) that the BJP government in Gujarat and BJP-led government at Centre are trying to hide state complicity in the massacres.

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