‘Will convictions change anything for us?’
It is fear and not vindication that survivors of the Bhagalpur carnage feel 17 years after the court convicted 14 people on Monday, reports Avijit Biswas.
It is fear and not vindication that survivors of the Bhagalpur carnage feel 17 years after the court convicted 14 people on Monday for their involvement in killing 116 people in Logai village. Only a few survivors are left in the village now.
The news of the conviction has opened all the old wounds again. Most of them do not want to talk about it.
"It is Allah who will do justice", was all that Biwi Jelabi wanted to say about the verdict. Her husband Sheikh Videshi stoically stared into the horizon, while Jalebi's only surviving son Md Najim refused to speak about the conviction or the quantum of punishment the guilty should get.
Jalebi's family is one of the two Muslim families that remain in the village. At one time, there were 25 families of the survivors till they migrated to nearby minority-dominated villages.
Biwi Hadesha is the lone survivor from the other Muslim family after losing her father, sister and brother-in-law in the riots. She also did not want to talk about the convictions.
Most of the survivors lost even their land holdings after the riots, either through distress sales or by being evicted from their properties.
Md Nayeemuddin, a key witness in the riots, is now a resident of nearby Badluchak village. He said he sold more than two bighas of his agricultural land in Logai for a paltry “Rs 1,500 per katha”.
"Will the conviction change anything for me?" he asked.
Riot victims of Logai and other villages have petitioned the authorities to reverse the distress sales and restore their properties.
The Nitish Kumar regime had included the distress sale issue in the terms of reference of the Justice NN Singh Commission, which is enquiring afresh the riots. But not much headway has been made.
"We have been scanning registry records to identify possible distress sales but this is not proving easy. More officials will be deployed at the registry office to expedite the process," Bhagalpur district magistrate Vipin Kumar told HT.
Khursheed Ahmed, a senior member of the local bar association, said it was difficult to establish if a property had been sold under duress.