A Decade of Justice Denied in Gujarat

12 04 2012

This now famous photo is of a Muslim man pleading for his life during the 2002 Gujarat massacres in India.  The madness that drove the indiscriminate killings and mass rapes in March 2002 is beyond belief and comprehension.  The judicial process to bring the perpetrators to justice has been painfully slow, rubbing salt in the wounds of many victims and their families.

In a February 24, 2012 report, this is what Human Rights Watch (HRW) says about the ten-year anniversary of the massacres:

“Authorities in India’s Gujarat state are subverting justice, protecting perpetrators, and intimidating those promoting accountability 10 years after the anti-Muslim riots that killed nearly 2,000 people, Human Rights Watch said today. The state government has resisted Supreme Court orders to prosecute those responsible for the carnage and has failed to provide most survivors with compensation.

The violence in Gujarat started on February 27, 2002, when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was attacked by a Muslim mob and caught fire, killing 59 people. In a retaliatory spree by Hindu mobs, hundreds of Muslims were slaughtered, tens of thousands were displaced, and countless Muslim homes were destroyed.

… Efforts to investigate and prosecute cases inside Gujarat were stalled and activists and lawyers involved in the cases have been harassed and intimidated, Human Rights Watch found. It has taken repeated interventions by the Supreme Court following appeals by activists and victims’ families to order re-investigations, oversee independent inquiries in some cases, or shift trials out of Gujarat to ensure progress towards justice.

In the past decade, increasing evidence has emerged of the complicity of Gujarat state authorities in the anti-Muslim violence, Human Rights Watch said. In 2002, Human Rights Watch, in its report on the riots, quoted a police officer who said that there were no orders to save Muslims. Human Rights Watch also reported that the government’s political supporters had threatened and intimidated activists campaigning for justice.

While investigations in the Godhra train attack proceeded rapidly, investigations into cases related to the anti-Muslim riots that followed were deliberately slowed down or simply not pursued, Human Rights Watch said. Officials of the Gujarat state government, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is serving its third term running the state government in Gujarat, failed to conduct serious investigations and obstructed justice. State courts dismissed many cases for lack of evidence after prosecutors effectively acted as defense counsel or witnesses turned hostile after receiving threats.

… Strong evidence links the Modi administration in Gujarat to the carefully orchestrated anti-Muslim attacks, Human Rights Watch said. Rioters had detailed lists of Muslim residents and businesses, and violence occurred within view of police stations. An independent media organization, Tehelka, used hidden cameras to capture some of the accused speaking openly of how the attacks had Modi’s blessings.

… In 2005, the US government denied Modi a visa to visit the United States.”

In its April 30, 2002 report, HRW alleges:

“State officials of Gujarat, India were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims since February 27 and are now engineering a massive cover-up of the state’s role in the violence.”

In 2003, HRW issued a 13-page report (a follow-up to earlier reports) documenting Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat, and state complicity in the bloodshed and subsequent cover-ups:    http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/06/30/compounding-injustice.

Today, BBC News reports that:

“A court in India has sentenced 18 people to life imprisonment for the murder of Muslims in religious riots in Gujarat state 10 years ago.  Five others were given seven years and another 23 were acquitted earlier.

The group were found guilty of burning 23 Muslims to death in a house where they had taken shelter from rioting mobs in the village of Ode.”

Appeals in higher courts are expected for the convicted, and if they are acquitted, it could trigger more communal violence.  Emotions are still very raw, and fanatical loyalties are obstinate.

Everyone – Hindus, Muslims, and everyone else – deserves to live in peace and security.  And everyone who has suffered deserves real and swift justice.  The decision of the United States to deny Modi a visa was the right one.

NOTE:  Everything I write in this blog constitutes my personal opinions and views.