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Published in the 16-30 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Riots cases out of women commission's purview

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

The Milli Gazette Online 

Ahmedabad: Although human rights groups, including the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women have managed to prod the Gujarat government to set up the state women’s commission, there are indications that cases pertaining to 2002 riots will not be under its purview.
Education minister in-charge of women and child welfare Anandi Patel seems to be clear about her stand on the issue. "Why should the women’s commission take up the cases of violence against women in post-Godhra riots?", she asked. "Why should the commission take up those cases which are already being tried in various courts.

The exact number of cases pertaining to sexual violence during 2002 riots is not known because many cases of sexual violence remained unreported.

In January 2003, the National Commission for Women had expressed dissatisfaction over the Gujarat government’s handling of the rape cases of the 2002 riots as no one was convicted in such cases.

Human Rights groups are of the opinion that unless the commission takes up the cases of women victims of 2002 riots, the forum will defeat the very purpose for which the government was pursued to set it up.

While Sophia Khan of Vikas Abhiyan Kendra, and an activist from the Behavioural Science Centre who handled Naroda Patia and Naroda Gaam masscres said that there might be a political conspiracy behind it. She added that the commission should take up the cases of atrocities on women and address them with sensitivity.

Human rights activist Gagan Sethi from Janvikas Centre for Social Justice, who was instrumental in bringing the Bilkis Bano gang rape case in to the fore in August 2004, said the commission should look into 2002 atrocity cases as it would be quasi-judicial body. But its functioning would depend on to the extent it would be given autonomy by the state government.

He added the women victims have not yet got justice. It is up to the commission to reach out to them. Only a few women victims dared to lodge FIRs. There were many cases of large scale sexual violence and rape reported from Ahmedabad, Baroda and Panchmahals districts.

Naroda Patiya massacre survivors Naeem Sheikh’s wife, a 17 year old Nagma and women victims and survivors from Gulbarg Society, Gomtipur, Dahod, Panchmahals, Fatehpura and Anand maintained that they did not report to the police. Eral village massacre survival Madina Mustufa Ismail Sheikh reported rape and murder of her daughter Shababa but failed to find a mention of IPC 376 in the FIR.

Delhi-based social activist Farah Naqvi who worked in the tribal belt in Panchmahals and Anand districts during the carnage, said she came across five rape victims in Anand and several in Dahod and Fatehpura who complained of being stripped and paraded in the crowd but none of them had lodged FIRs.

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