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The riot act no one read

Three years after the government proposed a new law in Parliament to enable tough action to prevent and control communal riots, it is headed for a quiet pre-election burial. Special Coverage

india Updated: Sep 26, 2008 01:24 IST

Three years after the government proposed a new law in Parliament to enable tough action to prevent and control communal riots, it is headed for a quiet pre-election burial.

Riot-terror links

I decided to join the jihad after my father’s arrest (by Gujarat police in connection with the Haren Pandya's murder). We were going to revive Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and use the Gujarat riots to bring together educated youth and those employed with the IT industry and multi-nationals — Raziuddin Nasir, Alleged HuJI trained SIMI operative

After the demolition of Babri Masjid and Gujarat riots, I was feeling that the Muslim community was … not getting proper justice and atrocity cases were being booked against them. SIMI was planning to punish them —Safdar Nagori , SIMI general secretary

I came to know about the (Gujarat) riots while I was training at the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba camp at Muzaffarabad. Nothing remained the same for me after then —Faisal Shiekh, alleged SIMI leader and prime accused in 11/7 train bombings

It was not the Hindu nationalist opposition that the government accuses of inciting many of those riots. It was the government's own allies.

“We wanted the bill to be passed soon, but objections from allies and supporting parties created trouble,” Home Minister Shivraj Patil told HT in a recent interview. Law Ministry officials say the bill is unlikely to be passed in the last few months of the government's tenure.

Riot after riot, the delay in preventing and investigating religious clashes in India has evoked Muslim outrage, and terror leaders are using that anger to recruit cadres and justify the killing of hundreds of civilians — who include Muslims.

The famous and telling image of Qutubuddin Ansari, a Gujarat riot victim with folded hands, was prominently displayed on the e-mail from the Indian Mujahideen terror group, sent on the day of the September 13 New Delhi bombings.

And even when riot accused are taken to court, more than 90 per cent are acquitted for poor evidence, according to a study for the Institute of Peace & Conflict Studies by Asghar Ali Engineer, a scholar who has extensively studied communal riots in India.

“First of all, rioters are not arrested — even if they are, the investigations against them are not conducted properly and the delay in deciding cases strengthens this feeling that there is no risk in committing bigger crimes,” said former Chief Justice of India J. S. Verma.

It is a story a 58-year-old dentist in Ahmedabad knows too well. Dr Yunus Mohammad Usman Bhavnagari opened fire in self-defence from his licensed pistol during the 2002 Gujarat riots to save his 13 family members. He was imprisoned for three months and is facing trial for the offence —in which two people died —but no one from the mob was tried.

In Mumbai, the epicentre of both religious riots and terrorism in the past, the verdict in the Khairlanji Dalit killings case has the average Muslim asking why riot cases are not decided with such speed. Congress legislator Naseem Khan said the swiftly judgement was possible because the home department actively pursued this case, even naming a special prosecutor for it.

Khan said that the connection between the perceived injustice in such cases among the youth and terror attacks is very real. The Indian Mujahideen has publicly listed Mumbai as an upcoming terror target. “How do we defend when we are asked why Muslims are not getting justice in the riot cases?” he said.