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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gujarat riot victim battles for justice

New Delhi: Two years ago on 27 February, coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze. Investigations are not yet complete who exactly set the coach on fire. But the riots that swept the State of Gujarat refuse to fade away from public memory. The unfortunate lot that fell victim of the unruly rioters find no proper shelter to hide themselves. 

Naseem Bano

Naseem Bano

There has been political exploitation of the riots victims. As years roll by, more organisations will convene meetings and the case may meet the fate like that of the lingering Babri Masjid sore. A victim is a victim and remains so when justice is delayed. But there are people and organisations which fight the government for compensation and justice.

Anhad, a Delhi-based NGO recently invited Gujarat riots victims, Naseem Bano and Mohammad Mukhtar. A businessman, Mukhtar is working for the cause of victims. It is very difficult for the 31-year-old Naseem Bano to forget what happened with her family and relatives. She lost 24 members of her family. Now she lives with her sister Kulsum Mukhtar and son Sohail who badly misses her 13-year-old sister Yasmin, who was raped and burnt to death by the bestial Sangh activists.

Though two years have passed, Naseem Bano finds it very difficult to go to her home in Dehlol in Panchmahal district as she is threatened with grave consequences if she steps into her house. "Each time I try to go back, the people who murdered my in-laws and their family threaten me because I have mentioned their name in the complaint" says she. However, she stands firm to get justice despite threats to withdraw the case.

Reacting to the government's apology to riots victims Naseem says that "an apology from the government means nothing to us". It is acceptable only when justice is done. She wants that the guilty are punished.

The Supreme Court on 27 February said that the government should provide protection to riots witnesses in which federal offences had been committed and human rights violated. The Supreme Court has stayed trials in dozens of riot-related cases outside after public interest litigation to transfer the cases outside Gujarat. 

However, these moves fail to remove the fear psychosis from the riot-battered people. As government's compensations did not suffice to rebuild ruined houses, NGOs have come to their aid. But the problem remains to be solved. As the rich buy properties in safe areas the poor's condition is still precarious. It is not easy for them to seek jobs. Naseem says each time you go for a job, you are asked about your religion and "when Muslims started giving Hindu names because they needed jobs to survive, people began asking for their school certificates." But she says that there are some Hindus who have come to the help of victims. 

MG News Desk.

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