PUCL Bulletin, June 2002

Report of the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal on Gujarat

[A tribunal consisting of Justice VR Krishna Iyer (Retd.); Justice PB Sawant (Retd.); Justice Hosbet Suresh (Retd.); Justice Lone (Retd.); KG Kannabiran, President PUCL; Dr. KS Subramanian, IPS (Retd.); Dr. Ghanshyam Shah, Social Scientist; Ms. Aruna Roy, MKSS, and Dr. Tanika Sarkar, Historian was set up by some prominent citizens of the country. The tribunal was named as Concerned Citizens' Tribunal.

The tribunal held public sittings in different parts of Gujarat for about a fortnight with (Justice) Iyer as its chairperson. It issued an interim report on May 14, which was received by us from Shri Gautam Thaker, General Secretary Gujarat PUCL, and Convenor of Gujarat branch of Indian Radical Humanist Association. We reproduce below this report - Chief Editor]

The Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002 (Chairperson Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer (Retd.) has been conducting sitting in different locales in Gujarat over the past fortnight. The Tribunal has received serious and grave accusations of the large-scale violation of human rights of sections of the population in the State. These violations include barbaric attacks on life and dignity, including brutal sexual violence on women, the systematic destruction of homes and livelihood and attacks and destruction on places of worship of the minority community. Fire was used to kill after human beings had been quartered and mutilated; worse still, the bodies of the victims were charred beyond recognition. Homes and businesses that were rampaged and destroyed through arson were thoroughly looted first.

It is a matter of serious concern that thousands of men, women, and children (including unborn babies) were killed; hundreds of thousands were internally displaced or are missing; large number of women were widowed or children orphaned and many maimed and injured for life. Economic life of the people and mutual trust among communities has been totally destroyed. A pervasive sense of fear haunts the people and the displaced persons are unable to return to their homes.

During the course of the hearings, where several dozen testimonies were recorded and many more placed on record, witnesses have repeatedly testified to their abject loss of confidence in the government administration including the police. The Tribunal received large-scale complaints from victims about police inaction, participation and connivance in the crimes that were committed. Worse still, the agency of the police, according to the testimony of witnesses, has been working to positively sabotage the due process of law. The Tribunal recorded evidence that revealed that the police have simply not followed the legal procedure for the registration of crimes and the process of investigation.
Searching evidence about heinous crimes against women was also recorded. The Concerned Citizens Tribunal also recorded evidence, through oral testimonies and written evidence about government policy and functioning that relates to the build up atmosphere and tensions prior to February 27 in the State of Gujarat.

Apart from recording the testimonies of over 1500 victims, the Tribunal heard the evidence presented by representatives of the media, academics, representatives of the Vishwa Samvad Kendra, and police and government officials who's names remain undisclosed in the course of its hearings. The Collector of Godhra Jayanthi Ravi, the Police Official in charge of Panchmahals district, the Collector, Baroda, Bhagyesh Jha also met the Tribunal.

The Tribunal has examined scores of witnesses from Ahmedabad, Abasana (Ahmednagar district), Himmatnagar (Sabarkantha district), Kadih and Visnagar (Mehsana district), Kalol, Dailol, Pandharwada, Eral, Godhra (Panchmahal district) apart from hearing testimonies of witnesses from Dahod, Bharuch, Ankleshwar, and Varodara. In Ahmedabad, in order to facilitate inquiry, evidence was recorded at many caps including the Shah Alam Camp, the Chartoda Kabrastan, Sundaramnagar, Kankaria, and Anand Flats. Many relief camps housing the Hindus were also visited. Besides, voluminous evidence has been placed on the record of the Tribunal that includes statistics of losses, details of FIRS filed, fact-finding reports by independent teams, and official documents.

On the visit of the Tribunal to Godhra, panel members visited the burned down coach of the Sabarmati express as well as the locale of the crime. The Tribunal noted that the heat/fire raged at great intensity within the compartment, killing hapless travelers, smelting rails, and charring the insides of the coach completely. The Tribunal received evidence on the origin of the Godhra incident. The Tribunal, having recorded the evidence will now examine and analyse the voluminous material placed on record in detail before the report is published by August 15, 2002.

Evidence has been received accusing the VHP and the Bajrang Dal of recruiting volunteers, training them in the use of arms and ammunition, collecting information about houses, shops, and other business establishment of the minority community and effectively and fully using them in the violence.
Evidence has also been received that the attack on the minority community was started simultaneously in all the places in the State on 28th February 2002. It was reported to the Tribunal everywhere they went that when approached by the public for help during the violence, the police told them they were under orders not to do anything.

Relief and Rehabilitation - Interim Recommendations
The Tribunal recommends that the utterly unprecedented scale of social violence in the State of Gujarat since February 27, 02 necessitates that compensation should be seen not in terms of the meager dole that is now on offer but be re-conceived in the nature of reparation for loss of life, dignity, destruction of economic activity, and assaults on the freedom of faith, from the State.

The pathetic conditions in the Relief Camps need special attention from government agencies, Central and State, that have hitherto being paying both the camps and the internally displaced citizens housed within, less than lip service.

The Tribunal recorded the testimony of several dozen people who do not want to go back to the village or the locality that they were uprooted from because all trace of their homes and belongings have been destroyed and the assailants roam scot-

Therefore, the Tribunal recommends that no relief camp should be closed down by the State until the rehabilitation process is complete.

Moreover, the Tribunal states that the rehabilitation process must involve the purchase of land, reconstruction of homes, places and opportunities of work and restoration of religious places of worship and cultural shrines by Government.

The Tribunal recommends that all the measures detailed by the National Human Rights Commission in its Interim Report be immediately implemented. -- Justice P.B. Sawant; Justice Hosbet Suresh; K.G. Kannabiran, Dr. K.S. Subramanian.

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