By Sayed Isthiyakh2/28/13


Eleven years on, victims of the infamous Gujarat carnage are still awaiting justice. They are still denied of basic rights in their own homeland and forced to live in an alienated state, with 16,000-18,000 displaced persons without secure homes or safe drinking water says Teesta Setalvad, who has been engaged in pursuit of justice for the victims.

The eleven year long journey of legal battle was full of obstacles and miseries, but life imprisonments to 116 perpetrators including former Minister Maya Kodnani  was a watershed, says Setalvad. “Perhaps, it was the first time in the history of India wherein perpetrators were brought to justice for targeted communal violence; it has been the only reflection of justice we could see.”

So that the level of conspiracy doesnt stop with  Maya Kodnani, the 15 April Protest Petition in the Zakia Jafri case  will be very crucial for justice, says Setalvad referring to the efforts to legally pin responsibility for a high level conspiracy for the state wide perpetrated mob frenzy. The  Supreme Court appointed SIT headed by RK Raghavan had given a clean-chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi and others. “We hope that larger conspiracy will be exposed one day.”

According to Setalvad, the victims of Gujarat carnage still live in the state of alienation where they are being denied even the basic housing, land, and water rights. “We would soon initiate a campaign against such alienation and will send memorandums to various ministries.”

Articulating various challenges being faced in the struggle for justice, Setalvad thanks the targeted  community. “The trust and the steadfastness showed by the survivor community was remarkable, otherwise fighting a legal battle with a powerful state – which is equipped with advocates, bureaucrats and all crucial records – isn’t an easy task.”

Indeed, the restless hard-work by our team of advocates and volunteers and the co-operation by the victims have produced some results despite several tough challenges and atmosphere of the hostility created by the opposite parties, she further explained. “bahut hee kam log hain jo lambi ladai ladtein hai” (very few people fight long battles)

Referring to  reports of discrimination against the students of minority community in schools and a recent incident at Akshardham Temple, where a Muslim girl student from Kerala was not allowed to enter the temple, Setalvad expresses concerns over unchanged social harmony in the state. The ruling party in Gujarat clearly thrives on a polarised polity ; it was the duty of opposition parties to build social harmony in the state, but it has failed to do so, says Setalvad, who also heads the NGO Citizens for Justice and Peace.

But Teesta sees hope from  the Gujarat youths. Citing that the ‘Tale of Tears’- a play by Kabir Thakur on the 2002 carnage – has been attracting youth from all the communities, she says, “there is always hope that a social awakening and realization is out there waiting to happen.”