Citizens for Justice and Peace


08, May 2017

The challenges thrown up for India, post-Godhra 2002, are
fundamental. Are the politically powerful, even if they are
organisers of mass murder and rape, immune from the law? The
acknowledgement of a crime is the essential foundation on which
victims begin the process of healing. In Gujarat, victims have
been denied even that recognition.

The absence of any signs of remorse from the perpetrators has reduced
what was a premeditated and gruesome carnage into a sorry spectacle.
Every few months we are jolted by newspaper headlines and “breaking
news” on television screens. For a few hours or a few days we are
reminded once again of the carnage that was, but the neo-fascist
functionary remains unrelenting, unrepentant. Gujarat continues to
function as if it lives outside the writ and mandate of the Indian

Official figures and police records reveal that of the 413 persons who
were classified as ‘missing’ (bodies untraceable) after the 2002
carnage, the remains of 228 are still ‘not traced’. Victim survivors of
the mass massacres, who filed missing person complaints with the local
police in Anand, Mehsana, Ahmedabad and Panchmahal in 2002 and 2003,
have said on oath that the remains of their lost relatives lie buried in
illegal dumps or mass graves. Those mercilessly butchered were even
denied the dignity of a decent burial.

Panchmahal was one of GujaratÂ’s many districts targeted by armed mobs
between February 28 and March 3, 2002. Muslims of Pandharwada village
were targeted for slaughter at two different locations on March 1, 2002
(CC, “Genocide-Gujarat 2002”, was the first to document this
massacre). Between March 2002 and December 2005, victim survivors of
Pandharwada made oral and written applications to the deputy inspector
general (DIG), Vadodara, the collector, Panchmahal, the deputy
superintendent (DySP), Godhra, the deputy collector, Lunawada and the
, Khanpur, urging that the remains of their lost ones be
traced and returned. In December 2005, after nearly four years of frigid
silence, they went digging for the remains themselves. They sought the
media as an ally and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) for moral and
legal support.

On December 27, 2005 the relatives uncovered bodies of lost ones that
had been dumped in the forest wasteland near the Paanam river outside
Lunawada town. They approached the Gujarat High Court. The Gujarat High
Court ordered the human remains to be sent for DNA testing and analysis
to an independent laboratory in Hyderabad under strict supervision of
the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Justice CK BuchÂ’s order
observed that if after analysis even a single body remained
unidentified, a fresh case existed and scope for a de novo qua or
fresh investigation was made out.

The CBI submitted the analysis to the Gujarat High Court in May 2006.
Victim survivors were denied a copy of this report despite repeated
pleas while the Gujarat state accessed a copy immediately. On
December 6, 2006, the state appeared to be in an unholy hurry to get the
matter disposed of. The victim survivors, who had approached the court
in the first place, were not given the report and hence had no chance to
reply. Despite this, the report did become public. Samples from eight
body remains appeared to match the DNA samples taken from relatives of
the Pandharwada massacre victims while 11 body remains were still
unidentified. The matter was taken up for final hearing just two days

Given the findings of the Hyderabad laboratory, there was clear scope
for a fresh CBI investigation as observed by Justice Buch earlier.
Predictably, the Gujarat government adamantly opposed the courtÂ’s ruling
of December 29, 2005 while counsel for the CBI remained unmoved by the
pleas of victim survivors a year later. Instead, the CBI indirectly
supported the Gujarat governmentÂ’s stand, a fact recorded by the judge
in his oral order.

The advocate for the victim survivors argued cogently and at length that
the entire matter of illegally dumping these bodies needed to be
investigated afresh by the CBI.

In the year since the mass grave was found, the victim survivors and
co-petitioners had filed 600 pages of affidavits to substantiate their
claims. For example, it was pointed out that the skeletal remains of the
son of petitioner, Ameenabehn Rasool, were found bearing tattered bits
of the same clothes in which he had been killed. This indicated that the
police had not followed post-mortem and other routine procedures. It was
also pointed out that the Gujarat governmentÂ’s bias was evident from the
fact that while the unidentified remains of Godhra arson survivors were
kept in the public morgue for five months (and public notices for
identification sent out repeatedly), these victims from the Muslim
minority were unceremoniously dumped in wastelands near the Paanam river
within three days of their killing. A 250-acre Muslim graveyard in
Lunawada town lies barely a few kilometres away.

State officials could have handed over the bodies, even if
unidentified, to local clergy to perform the last rites. Not only was
this not done, victim survivors and human rights defenders who have
assisted the legal struggle since December 2005 have been hounded by the
local police, with a false FIR (first information report) being made out
against them. They have all had to seek anticipatory bail. The case is
pending against them even today although the Gujarat High Court has
stayed registration of the FIR.

Even after the DNA sampling has confirmed that eight of the body remains
of the dead matched the survivors of the mass carnage in Pandharwada,
the victims have been denied dignified burial rites.

Sadly, the struggle for justice in Gujarat has been reduced to a legal
battle for constitutional governance by victim survivors and some civil
society actors. The political class that chants the secularism mantra to
win elections has not merely kept a discreet distance. When it comes to
punishment of the guilty of 2002, the United Progressive Alliance
government at the Centre has chosen to forget its 2004 electoral
promise. Do political considerations make it uncomfortable for them to
play a part in the struggle for justice? Or, with the blood of past
carnages on their own hands, do they sleep easier if the perpetrators
remain unchallenged?




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