Thursday, March 27, 2008

India Orders New Inquiry Into 2002 Clashes - The New York Times, March 27, 2008

The New York Times, March 27, 2008
Published: March 27, 2008

NEW DELHI — The Indian Supreme Court has ordered fresh investigations into several high-profile cases of Hindu-Muslim violence in 2002 in Gujarat State, effectively concluding that justice cannot be done in the Hindu-dominated state.
The order was made in response to a petition filed five years ago by the National Human Rights Commission and Citizens for Justice and Peace, a nonprofit group. The court said it would issue a written order appointing a new team made up of retired police officers from outside Gujarat and three senior active officers from the state. The team is to submit its report within three months, said Sanjay Parikh, a lawyer representing the National Human Rights Commission.
The violence began in February 2002 in Godhra, when fire engulfed a passenger train carrying members of a Hindu nationalist group, killing 59 people. Muslims were accused of setting the fire, and sectarian clashes erupted, with Hindu mobs attacking Muslim shops and residential blocks, killing at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was accused of not acting to curb the violence. Mr. Modi has been re-elected twice since.
The 11 cases to be investigated anew include the train fire in Godhra; an attack in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, on a walled housing compound, in which 39 people were killed and 31 reported missing; and attacks in an Ahmedabad neighborhood, Naroda Patia, in which 100 people were killed.
Advocates for the victims said it was impossible to get fair trials in Gujarat while Mr. Modi was in power. They cited a case in Vadodara, in which a bakery was burned to the ground, killing 11 Muslims and 3 Hindu workers. Twenty-one defendants were initially acquitted in a Gujarat court. Once the case was moved to Mumbai, nine defendants were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
On Wednesday, Teesta Setalvad, of Citizens for Justice and Peace, said, "At least the process of justice has begun."
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