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Monday, March 30, 2020

Gujarat’s Naroda Gam trial: ‘Verdict will bring some peace to us’

Former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani is an accused in this case along with Babu Bajrangi and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, all of whom are out on bail.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad | Published: February 28, 2020 2:29:15 am
Gujarat 2002 riots, Naroda Gam trial, Naroda Gam Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi 2002 riots In July 2018, the Naroda Gam trial was the last one of the nine cases which had been ordered to be monitored by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT of 2008. (Express photo: Javed Raja)

In the aftermath of the 2002 riots, many victims’ families left Naroda Gam in a bid to escape the ghosts of the gruesome night of February 28, 2002 when 11 persons were killed. However, Yusuf Malek’s family of 12 continue to live there. This is the only of the nine cases that were being tried under the Supreme Court’s supervision, where the trial is still going on.

Former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani is an accused in this case along with Babu Bajrangi and VHP leader Jaideep Patel, all of whom are out on bail.

Yusuf whose house was vandalised and plundered in the post Godhra riots, runs an egg fry centre from a cart, a business handed down from his father. “I have been trying to take my business elsewhere but it has not worked out. This business has been continuing since the past 40 years and now if I move out I’ll have to pay rent, my costs would shoot up, something that I cannot afford when I survive on daily wages that I earn. Every time, there is any unrest, we take refuge at the homes of our extended families.”

Usman Mansur (69), whose house was ransacked in 2002, was provided shelter by a neighbour from the Bharwad community when the riots broke out. “The Bharwads had ferried us to safety that night to the police station, protected us from the mob. No one can dare attack us if one of them is hanging out with us here,” said Usman. “Jab jo cheez ki zarurat ho aur woh naa mile, uske baad farak nahi padta (When you need something the most and you don’t get it, it hardly matters even if you get it later on),” Yusuf said when asked what a court judgment in the Naroda Gam trial would mean to him.

The trial is in its final stages with the submission of final arguments underway. In July 2018, the Naroda Gam trial was the last one of the nine cases which had been ordered to be monitored by the Supreme Court-appointed SIT of 2008. The same month the SC had announced that it would no longer monitor the cases, and asked the SIT to take them to their logical end, while granting the special court time till October 16, 2018, to complete the trial. This did not happen and while the victims could have filed an application at the SC, seeking the apex court’s supervision, that too did not happen. The absence of SC supervision also meant no more filing of quarterly progress reports as had been stipulated earlier.

“It is okay that we have not got justice in 18 years, but if we do, it will bring some peace to us,” Usman added.

Sharif Malek, who was 19 years old in 2002, lost his house which was burnt down. Three days before his sister was due to be married, the riots broke out at Naroda Gam. He has been living at the relief colony set up at Ramol since 2004. “In the case of Naroda Gam riots, the accused and victims had been staying there for generations. The trial thus saw prosecution witnesses supporting the case. Maybe that is a good sign that the case is concrete and well-supported with evidence and thus is taking time,” Malek said.

Now a co-convener of Alpsankhayak Adhikar Manch, a city-based civil society group, Malek said the maximum compensation received was Rs 50,000 in only some cases. For the house he lost, he was compensated with Rs 27,000 initially and subsequently another Rs 2,10,000, that he claimed, came from the Centre and not the state government.

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