Best news for other victims
FOR FOUR years now, they have lived with memories of women being raped and set afire, of screaming mobs burning down their houses. But Friday’s conviction of nine people in the Best Bakery carnage has made victims of the post-Godhra riots hope that the butchers of Naroda Patiya, Gulbarg Society and other massacres that shamed the nation in 2004 will be brought to book.
Most victims are now pitching for a transfer of the cases outside Gujarat, as was done in the Best Bakery case — the distrust against the Narendra Modi government being total. Lawyers handling the cases of the killings in Naroda Patiya, Gulbarg Society, Sardarpura and Kidiyad — currently pending before the Supreme Court for transfer outside Gujarat — are optimistic that the guilty can be convicted if the cases are pursued vigorously and honestly.
What turned the tables in the Best Bakery case once it was taken out of Gujarat, NGOs and lawyers point out, was that the prosecution did its job. The Vadodara fast track court acquitted all the accused because a weak prosecution let the witnesses turn hostile.
As Jan Sangharsh Manch lawyer Mukul Sinha pointed out, the prosecution counsel willfully weakened the case by not producing five key witnesses — the same people who testified before the Mumbai court and led to the conviction.
Despite former star witness Zahira Sheikh’s stunning flip-flop, Citizens for Peace and Justice activist Teesta Setalvad remained optimistic because she had faith in these five witnesses.
The conviction has also come as a moral booster for the Gujarat police — much maligned in the aftermath of the riots — as the final judgement has come on the basis of its investigations alone.
Though no police officer is willing to comment on the sensitive case, top officers point out in private that there was no fault with their line of investigation.
The same evidence has led to the conviction.