Even as the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to 17 convicts in the Sardarpura massacre case, the survivors continue to live in terror. More than 20 Muslim families continue to reside in Satnagar, about 20km away from Sardarpura in north Gujarat after the ill-fated day when 33 persons were burnt alive in 2002.
More than 1,000 persons, mostly Muslims, were murdered after 59 persons, majority of them kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, were burnt alive in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court granted bail to the convicts and asked them to do community service. The convicts had challenged the Gujarat High Court order which had convicted them.
While the survivors could not be reached, Khadim Lalpuri, who had organised a relief camp during post-Godhra riots, told THE WEEK that they should not have been given bail. How can bail be given when such a big crime had occurred, he asked.
Lalpuri still remembers how survivors of Sardarpura incident, along with 3,000 plus Muslims from nearby places, stayed in a relief camp for more than a month. “One night in a pre-planned manner their homes were torched. People were burnt alive. Some were lucky to survive,” he said.
According to Lalpuri, the victims refused to go back to Sardarpura due to fear. Homes were constructed for them in Satnagar. He feels that even till date, normalcy has not returned in their lives.
He also observed that they would now have to get together and decide the next course of action.
Jesuit priest and human rights activist Fr. Cedric Prakash said people have been waiting for justice. While it is true that the convicts need to be given an opportunity to be remorseful and change their lives, a more significant message needs to be sent out to the society that what happened in Sardarpura and elsewhere is not acceptable.
“People are asking what does justice mean,” he remarked.
Human rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who fought the cases for the riot victims and survivors, dubbed the latest development “unfortunate”. She said neither the survivors nor the Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) have been party in the bail cases.
Sardarpura was one of the 10 riot cases of 2002 that was handled by the Supreme Court appointed-special investigation team.
The original report may be read here.