GUJARATH RIOTS : Dance Of The Wolves : TEHELKA part 4

Shoddy investigation and legal subversion have saved the accused from being punished in the Sardarpura massacre where Muslims were burnt alive. There is evidence staring in the face that the new investigation must consider

New Delhi

AYUB MIYA Rasool Miya Shaikh lost 11 members of his family on the night of March 1-2, 2002, in Sardarpura village in Mehsana District. They were among the 33 Muslims who were locked up in a room and burnt alive by a mob.

Six years after this heinous crime, Shaikh still cannot muster courage to return to his house in Sardarpur. The reason: he has lost confidence in the government. The men who allegedly carried out this crime are yet to be punished. In all, 55 accused are roaming free; 28 of them are out on bail. And the key accused are not even named in the FIR: former minister and MLA Naran Laloo Patel and sarpanch Kachrabai Tirbhuvan are accused of inciting followers to attack Muslim areas before February 27, 2002 when the Sabarmati Express was torched at Godhra.

Shaikh knew that something ominous was waiting to happen. Ayub has said when his aunt had gone to buy gram flour, shopkeeper Dahyabhai Vanabhai made a sly remark: “This would be the last day they would eat bhajiyas.”

Nazir Akhbar Shaikh, an eyewitness, who lost three of his family members, has said that three days before the Godhra train fire that killed 59, she heard Naran Laloo Patel thus address a gathering: “They should do what they have to. It is ‘our’ government so all the accused will be set free.” The matter was brought to the notice of Sub-Inspector Parmar but to no avail. Sharif Miya Bikhu Miya Shaikh, another eyewitness, has more to say about the preparations for the massacre. According to him, a man named Amrutbhai Somabhai was installing halogen lamps near a Muslim area. When he questioned Somabhai why this was being done, he was told “we want to kill Muslims, cut them off.” So, it didn’t come as a surprise when the house in Shaikh Mohalla in Sardarpur village went up in flames. It seems that everyone — the police, victims and the locals — knew this was coming but nothing was done to avert it.

Eyewitness Jamalbhai Doshubhai Shaikh, who lost his wife, says that the police statement recorded a day after the incident did not contain all the facts and the police did not make the copy of the statement available. The copies of statements of the injured in the Mehsana district civil hospital, some of whom have died, was not made available either. An angry Jamalbhai accuses Sub-Inspector Parmar of being complicit in the attack.

Consider this: The police have made no attempt so far to de-club FIRs, to look at the complaints of the eyewitnesses that facts recorded after the incident are not correct. Even the sequence of events and the names of the accused recorded are erroneous. Police has recorded no fresh statements in the matter. There is a demand by the civil rights groups that all police records be scrutinised. This will show that scores of distress calls were made but the police ignored them. The victims also want the phone records of top cops, politicians and administrators to be scrutinised as well.

At the trail stage, the situation remained as grim as ever. There are serious allegations against Hindu hardliners who were appointed as the public prosecutors to handle these cases. TEHELKA investigations into the Gujarat carnage established this fact. The public prosecutors who were supposed to push charges against the accused actually ended up helping them. There are many examples of defence and the prosecution supporting rioters, killers and rapists. First, the police sided with the rioters through shoddy investigations, and now the prosecution too was ranged against the victims.

Chetan Shah, a leading Ahmedabad lawyer and an active VHP member, represented the accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre case. He was later appointed as the public prosecutor in the Gulbarg society case. In the Sardarpura case, Dilip Trivedi, general secretary of the VHP’s Gujarat unit and a public prosecutor, did the opposite of what he was supposed to do: instead of opposing the bail, he ended up helping the accused secure bail. It was only when the victims agitated and took the matter to the Supreme Court, Trivedi was prevented from taking up the Gujarat pogrom cases.

TRIVEDI ADMITTED on TEHELKA spycam that he coordinated all the riot cases in Gujarat as he was the VHP’s general secretary in Gujarat. Trivedi, by his own admission, was arranging defence lawyers for the accused. He was complaining about the quantum of work he has to do as it involved coordinating with government lawyers, defence advocates and the policemen reinvestigating the riot cases. It was Trivedi who informed that out of 74 riotrelated cases in Mehsana, only two had resulted in conviction.

Trivedi narrated graphically the systematic looting and merciless killing of Muslims post-Godhra. In the Sardarpura case, he did not sound worried even when the Supreme Court intervened as the accused are out on bail, and they are powerful. Trivedi in his boisterous self, acknowledged to TEHELKA that allegations against him about his divided loyalties are true, but he is not worried because nothing can be proved “on paper”. Unfortunately, in our legal system, that is what matters.

It is an open secret, he asserted, that after the riots he went to every district in Gujarat, held meetings with the government prosecutors, his workers and police officers to protect the interests of the accused.

Many of the accused were given anticipatory bail even before they were arrested. The result: the accused roam free under political patronage and possibly intimidate the witnesses. Four different applications were filed before Mehsana’s additional sessions judge DR Shah. Four other applications have been filed for cancellation of bail of the accused in the Gujarat High Court. They were not entertained despite the fact that the rejection of bail was requested on the grounds that the accused attacked a mosque in the same Sardarpur area. (FIR no. 110/2002 dated May 13 is lodged with the Vijapur police station.) Some witnesses and survivors have filed a complaint about recovery by force of dues and taxes by the accused who are in powerful positions in the village.

In September 2004, the amicus curiae endorsed the report about faulty investigation when the matter of transfering the case outside Gujarat was being considered.

Six years later, survivors of the Sardarpura massacre cannot return to their village and are living as refugees at Satnagar in the neighbouring district. Now that the case will be reopened, there is a flicker of hope for them.

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