United in grief,hundreds of survivors of one of the country’s worst communal riots in Gujarat gathered today to mark the 10th anniversary of the Godhra train attack that sparked the carnage amid fresh pleas for justice for the riot victims.
Security was stepped up in the state capital and Godhra town,about 160 km from here,as families of the victims of the train attack and the resultant riots try to erase the scars of the deadly violence unleashed on men,women and children.
The units of State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) were ordered to be on alert in the event of any emergency,police sources in Ahmedabad said.
Fifty-nine people lost their lives after the Sabarmati express train,mainly carrying kar sevaks returning home from Ayodhya,was torched just outside Godhra railway station. The large-scale communal violence that soon hit many parts of
Gujarat in 2002 killed 1,200 people,mostly Muslims.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP) organised prayer ceremonies in Ahmedabad and in Godhra in memory of the victims of the train carnage most of whom were in S-6 coach,while families of the post-Godhra riot victims and survivors assembled in several cities and towns across the state seeking justice.
The focal point of the prayer meetings by survivors of the post-Godhra riots was at the Gulberg Housing Society at Chamanpura area in Ahmedabad where ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri was killed by marauding mobs along with 68 others.
Victims of riots at places such as Naroda Patiya,Naroda Gam,Sardarpura and Ode also gathered at the Gulburg society where verses from the holy Quran were read.
Some hung prayers and wishes,written on little pieces of cloth on the branches of a tree named ‘Tree of Hope’.
Ehsan’s wife Zakia and his son Tanveer were also present. “It is an unforgettable memory of my life,” said an emotional Zakia,who now lives with her son in Surat.
Around 45 NGOs joined hands to commence a 10-day event ‘Insaf ki dagar par’,that would focus on the 2002 riots and the subsequent pursuit of justice for victims.
The riots continue to haunt Chief Minister Narendra Modi with activists accusing him,his cabinet colleagues and other government functionaries of deliberate inaction in containing the damage.
Zakia has been visiting the Gulberg society without fail on every anniversary of the incident,one day after the Godhra train attack,for the past 10 years. Tanveer said there are plans to set up a memorial at the Gulberg society.
There were others who were not so vocal but could not hide their emotions on coming back to the place which was once a bustling colony,but now all that remained were ruins.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad and her NGO Citizen For Justice and Peace (CJP) along with 40 other voluntary organisation had organised this gathering of riot victims from Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat.
There was an entire wall pasted with photographs of those killed in the 2002 riots. Interestingly,the pictures of those killed in the Godhra train carnage were also displayed alongside.
Several peace rallies,sufi sangeet meets,exhibitions,poetry recitation,dialogues with the victims and prayers by different bodies were also held across the state.
Former Supreme Court judge Hosbet Suresh,who was part of the Citizens Tribunal which conducted a probe into the 2002 riots,said that there cannot be any reconciliation without justice.
“Some people say that it is time for reconciliation. Does reconcile mean letting off the perpetrators? While those who committed mass murder,mass rape and mass destruction are free,and with no sense of remorse or regret,will there be any reconciliation?” Suresh told mediapersons.
VHP international general secretary Praveen Togadia led a rally to the torched S-6 coach,now kept at the Godhra railway yard.
Togadia announced a nation-wide programme against terrorism called ‘Hindustan Against Terrorism’.
Former Gujarat DGP R B Sreekumar said it was not that the entire police and bureaucracy had failed in Gujarat in 2002. Some policemen and bureaucrats showed courage and were able to restrict the violence to minimum,but they all were all punished and transferRed,he said.
In the last decade,verdicts on some of the important cases which have been pronounced include the Godhra carnage where 11 people were sentenced to death and 20 others given life imprisonment by a trial court.