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Public hearing: Gujarat riot victims

Two hundred victims of the Gujarat riots deposed at a conference titled, "The Road Ahead" for a public hearing, reports Srinand Jha.

india Updated: Apr 04, 2007 23:08 IST

Two hundred victims of the Gujarat riots deposed at a conference titled, "The Road Ahead" for a public hearing whose jury member included Planning Commission member BN Yugandhar and Siddhartha Vardharajan of The Hindu.

One of the victims - thirty six year old Hajra Hussain Sheikh’s says, "Fifty houses in my locality in Baroda were burnt and destroyed and we subsequently shifted to Godhra, where my mother stays. My husband is sick and disabled and my children have been forced into daily labour. There are 36 makeshift tents where displaced people live; there is filth all around. We have not received any assistance from the Government”.

Hajra Sheikh’s continuing plight - five years after the carnage happened in Gujarat - is representative of a larger problem of governance: The inability to reconcile the concepts of development and democracy, said Gagan Sethi of an Ahmedabad-based voluntary organisation called "Janvikas" - co-organisers of the first public hearing of the 2002 Gujarat riot victims in New Delhi.

Sethi’s central argument: On the developmental index, Gujarat rates high. However, society has been turning more intolerant, fundamentalist and obscurantist. It is, he said, a similar situation being reflected at the national level: India’s GDP is on a rapid fast-forward mode, but it ranks poorly on the human index.

Concurring with that view is National Commission for Women (NCW) member Prof Zoya Hassan. “Concrete parameters of the government’s response to riot affected victims have to be evolved by designing a comprehensive rehabilitation package”.

A policy for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) was an idea repeatedly articulated at the meeting, with the Jury Chairman Justice AM Ahmadi advocating the concept of rehabilitation package that conforms to a standardised formula. “Development without the human element is development without a soul”, he said.

The rehabilitation package recently announced by the Union Government (Rs.106.57 crore) amounts to”death compensation”. An additional Rs.200-250 crore is required - if issues of livelihood and infrastructure are to be meaningfully addressed, said Shabnam Hashmi.

In his concluding remarks, Planning Commission member BN Yugandhar referred to the possibility of engaging organisations like the minority commission and small-scale industries corporation for raising funds/loans for Gujarat riot victims.