Skip to main content

Govt's lackadaisical attitude towards 2002 riot victims 'intact' in Modi's home state

By Mahesh Trivedi*
Eighteen years after the country’s worst anti-Muslim pogrom that left 2,000 people dead and thousands maimed, some 3,500 families, displaced because of the lackadaisical attitude of the government in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state Gujarat, continue to live in sub-human conditions.
Living in tumbledown dwellings in 83 rehabilitation colonies in 18 districts across the western Indian state, the 17,000-odd unfortunate residents, all Muslims, lack basic amenities like proper roads, streetlights, drinking water, sewage pipes, and make do without public clinics and schools.
And this despite making countless representations to the authorities in the past five years, and selfless non-government organizations (NGOs) like Janvikas, Jan Sangharsh Manch, Niswan, Anhad and Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan time and again holding protest demonstrations demanding justice, rehabilitation, and compensation for the victims.
With as many as 200,000 people rendered homeless during the three-month-long intermittent, barbarous clashes that erupted on February 27, 2002, the 83 relief clusters, including 15 in Ahmedabad, were hurriedly built by Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Islamic Relief Committee, etc as temporary shelters.
But with kill-crazy militant Hindu organizations striking terror here, there and everywhere, the worried families never returned to their ransacked houses and instead made the squalid, fly-infested shanty colonies their permanent residence.
“We still can’t even go back to our own homes where we stayed before the riots because we are witnesses in many riot cases and the headstrong accused are out on parole. Hence we fear for our lives,” said riot survivor Abdul Sheikh who lost his wife and six children in the violent communal conflagration that erupted and spread throughout Gujarat after 59 Hindus were charred to death in a train fire near Godhra railway station in central Gujarat on February 27, 2002.
Indeed, in the absence of any address proof documents left behind in their riot-ravaged houses, the down-at-heel families also have no access to the government’s beneficiary schemes for the have-nots in Gujarat which has witnessed large-scale riots at least six times in the past 50 years, the worst one in 2002 under the watch of Modi himself.
“They have not been given alternative homes by the state government, and plot owners of as many as 61 of the 83 colonies have not handed them ownership rights even after 18 years. With land prices going through the ceiling, the hard-up residents are always on tenterhooks, fearing eviction any day,” says Hozefa Ujjaini, a Janvikas activist, who has taken up cudgels with his other colleagues of the NGO for the riot-hit.
Human rights activist and trainer Gagan Sethi, who is founder of Janvikas, told this correspondent that there was a need to bring about a fundamental change in the way the riot victims are seen, adding that in the United Nations (UN) terminology, they are defined as internally displaced persons and hence deserve all government benefits.
He opined that the state government should at least make special programme and budgetary allocation for provision of basic amenities for riot-affected families under the Prime Minister’s New 15-point programme.
Says Gujarat High Court advocate Shamshad Pathan, who has been working for the riot-hit to seek justice for them: “The saffron government in Gujarat has not come out with a rehabilitation policy for them. They have become the scapegoats of a convenient game of passing the buck being played among various departments”.
According to Abdul Hafiz Lakhani, general secretary of the Gujarat unit of the All India Milli Council, these families suffered huge losses in the 2002 riots but there is no hope of justice and little possibility of help from the political class. Every family in these colonies lost family, homes, possessions or businesses in the riots, which led to greater segregation and marginalization, he adds.
Eighteen years after the country’s worst anti-Muslim pogrom, about 17,000 riot victims lack basic amenities in NGO-supported rehabilitation sites 
Independent analysts said, while the official figures put the number of dead at 1,044 dead, other estimates suggest more than 2,000 men, women and children, mostly Muslims, were killed in the 2002 riots, which also saw destruction of 302 dargahs, 209 mosques and 13 madrasas, apart from property loss of about Rs 2.44 billion.
As Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia says, the ruling BJP and its biased administration did not stir a finger to build houses for the riot victims and distributed only peanuts as compensation. It was left to the NGOs like Janvikas who kept knocking at the doors of legal courts to secure a square deal for the affected families.
Effective micro-level monitoring of investigation and prosecution of major carnage cases by Citizen for Justice and Peace (CJP) had led to the conviction of 120 rioters, including a former influential woman minister who was awarded life imprisonment.
The Society for Promotion of Rationality, an award-winning charity, had quickly offered yeoman’s service by helping save an academic year for over 20,000 students (as riots happened right before the end of the academic year), securing modest compensation and basic livelihood for hundreds of riot-hit, aiding 3,000 victims in rebuilding their ramshackle dwellings and saving precious lives by supplying critical medicines.
Meanwhile, a deep and dangerous chasm between Hindus, consisting of 89% of the state’s population, and Muslims (9%) in saffronised Gujarat means that the ostracized minority community is forced to live in ghettos and there is not the ghost of a chance of even a well-heeled Muslim acquiring a house in a Hindu locality.
Under the circumstances, the 17,000 riot-affected people in relief colonies living on a wing and a prayer can only bank on NGOs, even as yet another communal clash broke out in coastal Khambhat town in central Anand district on February 23 in which 20 shops and houses, as well as 15 vehicles, belonging to Muslims, were set ablaze by rioters.
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. A version of this article first appeared in TwoCircles.net. Republished with the permission of the author

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen