Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stew in jail, says survivor

Ahmedabad, Aug. 29: Survivors of the Naroda Patia massacre and lawyers who fought for riot victims said today's verdict had restored their faith in the judiciary, as they hailed the conviction of former minister Maya Kodnani and then Bajrang Dal chief Babu Bajrangi.
While most said they were “happy”, the overriding sentiment was they would have been “happier” had all the accused been found guilty.
Others said they were disappointed that judge Jyotsna Yagnik had convicted only one man of rape, though seven persons had faced charges of rape and gang-rape.
“But overall we are happy with the judgment. We would have been happier if more were convicted,” said Farzana, who lost five family members, including her 15-year-old daughter, to the February 2002 massacre.
“A historic verdict that proved our judiciary is powerful,” said advocate Yusuf Shaikh, who fought for the riot victims.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad, whose Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) had pressed for reopening the case, said she was happy. “It has established and exposed political involvement in the post-Godhra riots which is a big victory,” she said.
It is a victory, she added, because witnesses stayed back in Naroda Patia to testify against powerful people. “Without eyewitness testimonies, conviction could not have taken place.”
Some had hoped Geeta Rathod, one of the two sisters who were acquitted, and K.K. Mysorewala, then police inspector of Naroda Patia, would be convicted.
Witnesses had claimed the sisters passed kerosene to the mob that day and even clapped and cheered the killers as they butchered the 97 victims.
Mysorewala, who has been let off, had been identified in court as someone who had helped the rioters.
“All the convicts should be given such a punishment that nobody in the future can even think of committing such a crime,” said Shakeela Ansari, who lost six members of her family, including four children.
Dildar Umrav Saiyed, who was present at a media conference organised by Setalvad's NGO, said this was “half-justice. Only when the court awards strict punishment to them, we will get full justice.”
According to advocate Altaf Khan Jidran, who was part of the team that provided legal assistance to the victims, Dildar was among the witnesses who had deposed in court against Kodnani and Bajrangi.
Shakeela said the attack on the people of Naroda Patia as a reaction to the Godhra train fire was not justified. “We were not responsible,” she said. “So why were we targeted?”
But those who were convicted today shouldn't be sentenced to death, she said. “They should get severe punishment so that they remember all their life the sin they committed.”