With a view to let people have a first-hand account of the 2002 Gujarat riots through a conversation with the survivors of Naroda Patiya and Gulberg societies of Gujarat, the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA) in collaboration with Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) today organised a discussion titled “The Long Road to Justice” in the Mir Taqi Mir Building. The discussion was chaired by well known journalist, educationist and civil rights activist, Teesta Setalvad.
The Naroda Patiya massacre at Naroda, Ahmedabad, during the 2002 Gujarat riots, resulted in almost a hundred Muslims being killed by a mob of approximately 5,000 people. The massacre at Naroda occurred during the bandh called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) a day after the Godhra train burning. The Gulberg Society massacre, which took place on the same day as Naroda massacre, saw a Hindu mob attacking the Gulberg Society, a Muslim neighbourhood in Ahmedabad. At least 35 victims including a former Congress Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive, while 31 others went missing after the incident, later presumed dead, bringing the total deaths to 69.
Teesta spoke about the unfolding of events leading to the massacre of 28th February 2002 in Narodiya Patiya and Gulberg, following the Godhra riots that occurred a day before.
“These were just the different aspects of a mass criminal controversy. The way Gujarat burnt right from 28th February to 18th May 2002, it was the only one of its kind. While justice has been delivered in the Narodiya Patiya case, it is yet to happen in case of the Gulberg society massacre in which Narendra Modi is actually the prime accused, along with his top police officials and other administrators.”
She shared her experience of the fight for justice, the obstacles in the way and also about the recent Court verdict of Naroda Patiya case that came on 29th August 2012 wherein 32 people were convicted, including the local MLA Maya Kodnani, and also appreciated the way the narrative of gender violence returned during the trial, calling it a “rare thing”. Castigating the media for shying away from showing reality and being scared, Teesta added that the media did not even dare to question the BJP leadership regarding the conviction of Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA, in the Naroda Patiya massacre. She questioned media’s silence over delving deep into the sponsors of NaMo Gujarat, Narendra Modi’s TV Channel that was recently launched and silently taken off air after two days. “Media is terrified of this whole ideology. BJP and RSS are fascists,” reiterated the civil rights activist, while at the same time, appreciating Tehelka’s expose ‘Operation Kalank’ that served as important evidence in the case.
Teesta’s address was followed by heart-wrenching stories of the massacre by some survivors, who have also been eye-witnesses in the cases relating to the massacre. The discussion saw some emotional moments and it was difficult to hold back tears as the survivors went on narrating their tales of how they saw their family members and loved ones being beheaded or burnt alive in front of their eyes. “Hamaare saath khoon ki holi kheli gayi”, voiced Dilawar, a survivor of the Naroda Patiya massacre. “What we lost in 2002 is something that can never be ebbed off from our memory but we’ll fight for justice”, added another eye-witness, Shakeela Bano. While other survivors had similar tales of loss and devastation to share, they all expressed their firm resolve to fight for justice and never give up, despite the threats they received during the course of the cases. This was followed by a question-answer session.
Talking to Jamia Journal, Manisha Sethi, President JTSA, said “The motive of the program was to learn from the personal stories of the remarkable courage of the survivors who have stood firm in their quest of justice. JTSA salutes their struggle and of all those activists who have stood with them at great personal cost”.