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My affidavit was leaked, says Gujarat riots victim

By V.N. Balakrishna, IANS,

Ahmedabad : A victim of the 2002 Gujarat violence says he lost all hope of securing justice after he saw parts of the affidavit he gave to the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) published in a local paper.

“I once pinned my hope on the SIT. After I saw parts of my affidavit that I gave recently to the SIT being published in a local daily, I am totally disappointed,” said Abid Mian Hussain Mian, 39, of Naroda Gam, who used to be a distributor of cosmetics but lost all his property in the 2002 violence.

He said that two officers of the SIT – R.H. Chaudhary and K.L. Mal – had taken the affidavit from him recently but many of the details were leaked to the local daily Sandesh and printed last week.

“It took me nine hours for my affidavit to be recorded. Why was there a leak?” He said many details he had given – and these should not have been made public – were now out in the open.

“It seems we, the victims, have become pawns in political machinations. I have been fighting for the past six years to get compensation but so far I have not got anything,” Abid Mian told IANS.

The riots broke out after a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set afire at the Godhra railway station on Feb 27, 2002, killing 59 passengers, many of whom were Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists. At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the violence.

Though Abid Mian’s house and shop were located just 100 metres from the Naroda Gam police station, the mob attacked them with impunity and set them on fire. A bulldozer arrived three days later to raze whatever was left on the ground.

“I was lucky that I managed to escape along with my wife and three children,” he said. The family spent four months at a relief camp and the Rs.2,500 compensation he got was all spent there itself.

Recalling the Nanavati panel inquiry into the Godhra incident and the riots that followed, Abid Mian said when he went to depose, he was stopped and threatened by activists of Hindu groups such as the Bajrang Dal and the VHP despite policemen being present.

He finally left without deposing though some of his neighbours did manage to do so.

“I have lost count of the number of petitions sent to collectors of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar, to the state government, to the union home minister for an equitable compensation. Today I work as a driver and earn barely enough to keep my family alive,” he said.

As a distributor of cosmetics, he used to employ six salesmen. He said after leaving the camp, he thought of collecting his dues from various retailers but found that his salesmen had taken them instead and fled.

“I was completely broke. Therefore I took to driving to keep my family alive,” he said.

He rued that genuine victims were left in the lurch while some who had not really suffered had collected hefty compensation. “This is the tragedy for people like us. The poor and the ruined have nowhere to go though everything is done in the name of helping them,” he said.

Abid Mian remembers seeing the rioters, led by a VHP leader, kill the father and brother of his neighbour Rafiq Sheikh. Sheikh is one of those six who had reportedly retracted their statement given to the SIT.

Asked about the six victims of the Naroda Gam violence retracting their testimony, lawyer Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM) said there was no retraction anywhere and “it was just a story.”

Sinha said even in Rafiq Sheikh’s case, his original statement made in 2002 stands now. “It was Rajkumar Chaumal, one of the accused in the Naroda Gam case, who created this unnecessary controversy,” he said.