When Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, the state government had appealed against a high court order, directing it to repair and restore mosques, dargahs and other religious sites damaged in the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
Now, when he is the Prime Minister, the central government has told the Supreme Court that it has no obligation regarding restoration of religious places damaged in the communal riots and that the accountability has to be fixed with the state government. In its first affidavit into the matter, the Centre has said: “It is primarily the responsibility of the state government to maintain law and order in the state and to provide security, relief, rehabilitation and to compensate riot victims.”
Putting the onus on the Gujarat government, the Ministry of Home Affairs has said that the ‘public order’ and ‘police’ are state subjects and hence the state government was answerable to the queries of the top court regarding repairs and restoration of mosques, dargahs, graveyards, khankahs and other religious sites. “The central government, however, has provided ex-gratia to the victims of Gujarat riots in cases of death, injury and damages to residential and uninsured commercial properties, on the pattern of the package announced for the victims of anti-Sikh riots of 1984,” it stated.
The Home Ministry added that the report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the post-Godhra riots was forwarded to the Gujarat Chief Secretary for taking necessary action after placing it in the state legislature. “Hence, the main contesting respondent is the state of Gujarat,” it said.
The affidavit has been filed by the Ministry in the appeal by Gujarat government against the 2012 High Court order, directing it to repair religious places damaged in the post-Godhra riots. While pulling up the state government for its “inaction and negligence” during the riots, the high court had also ordered compensation for over 500 places of worships in the state on a PIL by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat, an NGO.
After the high court had criticised the state government for not tabling the NHRC report within six months of it being prepared, the 2002-03 report was tabled in Gujarat assembly in March 2012, nearly 10 years after the subsequent riots. In its report, the NHRC had censured the state.
In its earlier hearings, the apex court gave an option to the Gujarat government for formulating a scheme for repairing religious places damaged during the riots on the lines of its earlier order where it had asked the Odisha government to formulate a scheme for repairing churches damaged during the 2009 Kandhamal riots.
The case will be heard next on August 19.