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2002 Gujarat riots: Despite many extreme cases of gender violence, so far just one conviction in Naroda Patiya

Survivors pay homage to those killed at Naroda Patiya
By Rajiv Shah
Although 32 accused – including a minister in the Modi government – were in 2012 found guilty of “murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, spreading enmity and communal hatred” during the 2002 Gujarat communal violence in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya area, so far, just in one case there has been conviction for gruesome acts of sexual violence there, regrets a new American study.
The University of California, Berkeley, study, “Conflicted Democracies and Gendered Violence: The Right to Heal”, says, this happened even though “10 of the 62 defendants were charged with crimes of sexual violence, including rape, ‘assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty’, and an ‘act done with intention of preventing child from being born alive’.”
The study, based on interviews with victims and a plethora of documents, says, “The solitary conviction was premised upon the confession of a defendant, who raped a Muslim girl and killed her by throwing her from a roof.”
Pointing towards failure of the Gujarat government to provide any healing touch, especially to the victims of sexual violence during the riots, the study says, just in one case a gang-rape victim-survivor was ordered “compensation of Rs 500,000”.
Even this victim, the study says, “did not receive the compensation until months later, following several visits from the victim’s lawyers to the state Social Welfare Department and an additional court order.”
The study says, “Police merged the 120 reports filed by victim-survivors of sexual violence into 26 official complaints two to three months following the massacre. These ‘omnibus’ FIRs did not identify individual perpetrators but attributed the violence to anonymous ‘mobs’.”
The study approvingly quotes a victim-survivor as saying, “I am not a ‘mob,’ I am a woman who was gang raped by three men. How can I hope for justice when they don’t even register my complaint properly?”
It notes, this shows how “the prosecutor was unable to bring charges of rape without information about the identities of the perpetrators of sexual violence”, and why “the court was unable to determine criminal liability for the crimes.”
Quoting victims, the study says, “Most of the women victims—girls and women— were raped before they were murdered and burned.”
It adds, “Several victims observed an attacker slice open the womb of a pregnant Muslim woman with a sword, extract her fetus, and subsequently throw both the woman and her fetus into a nearby fire; the woman was at or near full term in her pregnancy.”
“Members of fleeing Muslim families were detained, stripped, raped, and then murdered”, the study says, adding, “One woman recalled seeing ‘a naked girl running from twenty-five men’. Another survivor testified that four men cut off the string of her petticoat, sliced her hand with a sword, and gang raped her.”
“There is evidence that, during the investigation, police mistreated and re-traumatized victim-survivors of sexual violence”, the study notes, adding, “In Gujarat, investigators systematically refused to register complaints from Muslim women victims of gender-based violence.”
While many a time women were themselves reluctant to file complaint, according to the study, “Police officers denied women survivors the right to file FIRs or omitted details about rape and murder victims in recording the FIRs.” It quotes the National Commission of Woman to say that the “number of FIRs registered was much less than the incidents of violence against women reported to the NCW.” In all, 96 persons were killed at Narodiya Patiya, of whom 35 were women and 25 were children.
The 402-page study, which is based on gender violence in four Indian states – Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Odisha and Gujarat – and has a foreword by Navyanethem Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2008-14), is based on contributions by 10 scholars.
Published by the Center for Social Sector Leadership, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, those who have contributed in the research are Angana P Chatterji, Mallika Kaur, Roxanna Altholz, Paola Bacchetta, Rajvinder Singh Bains, Mihir Desai, Laurel E Fletcher, Parvez Imroz, Jeremy J Sarkin and Pei Wu.
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Download the study HERE

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