In 2002, 11 were murdered; today justice has been murdered, say Naroda Gam riot survivors
With all 67 accused in the Naroda Gam case acquitted by a special court, witnesses who deposed in the trial described Thursday as a “black day” for the victims, terming it to be “devoid of conscience”.
Imtiyaz Ahmed Hussein Kureshi (50), who was a prosecution witness, said, “I had identified 17 of the accused, including Jaideep Patel (former VHP leader), Pradyuman Patel, then sitting corporators Vallabh Patel and Ashok Patel. I had seen them instigating the mob and signalling them to burn down masjid, to attack particular places. I saw them burning families to death – five were burnt to death right in front of my eyes – and I identified them. I also remembered the colour of the clothes the accused were wearing. I gave all evidence.”
“They should have been punished with a life term. Instead, this acquittal makes us lose our faith in the judiciary. It is a black day for us victims. Those who died, did they die by suicide then? Did they burn themselves to death?”
“But we will continue fighting, we will challenge this before the Gujarat High Court. It’s been 21 years but I cannot forget the details of the massacre. There was a new bride who had come to Kumbhar Vas, she had not even been married for 15 days. I saw her being stabbed with my own eyes. Her whole family was killed and she returned to her maternal place. Is all we saw a lie?” Kureshi asked.
“Despite the delay of 21 years, we still had hope from the court. We believed the court would have conscience. Even if I discount the acquittal of those accused of minor offences, we believed those charged of murder, at least some of them might be held guilty. In 2002, 11 were murdered and today justice has been murdered,” he added.
Among those who lost family members in the Naroda Gam massacre was Madinaben Arifhussain Malek — then new bride that Kureshi refers to.
As the Nanavati Commission report noted, Madinaben, in a letter to the police commissioner in 2002, had stated that her husband, mother-in-law and two brothers-in-law were killed after being sprinkled with kerosene and set on fire. Madina had also testified before the commission but not before the court.
Sharif Malek (42), another a witness in the case, and had identified and testified against 13 of the accused in the court, including Maya Kodnani and Jaideep Patel, said: “This verdict indicates that those participating in state-sponsored violence against minorities will go scot-free. It is an indirect message to people at large. It diminishes our faith in the judiciary and in fact raises questions on the judiciary’s impropriety.”
“While disappointing, we will not be discouraged. We will fight for the next 21 years and 50 days in appeal if need be,” Malek added.