Statement released by the
Citizens for Justice and Peace
at a packed press
conference in Mumbai on July 7, 2003.
Zahira Habibullah Shaikh
and the entire Habibullah family have approached the Citizens for
Justice and Peace for legal aid to jointly ask for a re-trial in the
BEST Bakery Massacre. In this petition to be filed jointly, the
petitioners will also urge the higher Court to order the location of the
re-trial outside Gujarat as a consistent atmosphere of threat pervades
there under the current political dispensation. The additional sessions
judge in Vadodara had about a week ago acquitted all the accused in the
massacre who had been consistently named by key witness, Zahira Shaikh in
her statements before the police, the NHRC and the Concerned Citizens
Tribunal (Crimes Against Humanity, 2002).
Lack of moral and legal
support through the court hearings, coupled with an atmosphere of direct
threat and intimidation, had led her and family members to deny
recognition of the accused sitting in court the day she was summoned for
deposition – May 17, 2003. She and her family had been directly threatened
that they would all be killed by the key accused and their mentors from
the Hanuman Tekri area in Vadodara.
Substantive evidence was
also not led in the course of the trial. Therefore, today, given the
strength and support of Mumbai-based CJP they strongly wish to ask for a
re-trial. The petition in the BEST bakery case asking for a re-trial is
likely to be filed later this week.
The BEST Bakery carnage in
which 14 persons were brutally massacred over a period of 12 hours on
March 1, 2002, like 18 other brutal incidents in that period in Gujarat,
epitomised the abject failure of the state administration and law and
order machinery to protect the lives and properties of innocent citizens.
Though the NHRC recommended over a year ago that such cases be handed over
to the CBI for non-partisan investigation, and citizens approached the
Supreme Court making this plea, the apex court is still hearing this
Meanwhile, the various
trials carry on within Gujarat with the legal and constitutional processes
being subverted through inadequate legal aid from the state for victims,
coupled with intimidation and threat by the accused. Petitions praying for
compensation from the state government are still pending before the
Gujarat High Court. We hope that the example of the BEST Bakery trial
brings alive the issue of subverted constitutional norms and delayed
justice that is the lived reality in the state of Gujarat today, to other
democratic institutions in the country.
Citizens for Justice and