Survivors and kin of victims have hailed the life imprisonment awarded to those convicted for their involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra Naroda Patiya riots and said that justice has finally been served.
Dilwar Saiyed, 60, the primary witness whose testimony nailed BJP MLA and former minister Maya Kodnani, said he will get some peace now that she has been convicted. Saiyed, a scrap dealer in the area, had a fractured leg owing to the injuries caused to him while he tried to escape the riot.
“I have spent 10 years thinking about the horrific attack. There has not been a day when I have not cried remembering the terror I saw at the patiya. Now that the special court has given the verdict, I am at peace, albeit not entirely,” Saiyed told IANS.
“At least 100 families have been destroyed due to the riots. I will just pray that nobody, be it from any community, sees such a dance of death,” he told in a choked voice.
A special Gujarat court Friday sentenced Kodnani to 28 years in jail for her involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra Naroda Patiya riots.
On February 28, 2002, 97 persons were killed in rioting in Naroda. Of the 94 bodies found, 84 were identified. Three people are still missing.
Former Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, who was also convicted in the case, has been awarded life imprisonment till death. The remaining 30 convicts were also awarded life terms.
Auto-rickshaw driver Haroon Sheikh said that the conspirators of the crime have finally got the punishment they deserved.
“My wife and my son, who was only over a year old, were killed in front of my eyes by a mob along with 10 others of my family. I could not do anything to save them except watch helplessly,” he said.
“I will not be able to come to terms with the incident knowing that those rich people are finally behind bars,” he added.
Raza Sheikh, who was only 12 when he lost his mother and sister to this communal disharmony, said that their souls will now rest in peace.
“I was with my mother and sister when the riot broke out. My mother helped me jump a fence so that I could run to safety. I escaped, but my mother and sister could not. It tore me and my father apart when we had to go and identify their charred bodies three days later,” he told IANS.
“My father will finally find some solace in the fact that the killers of his wife are suitably punished. His patience and dedication to my mother’s memory has finally paid off,” said Raza, now 22 years old.
Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been fighting for justice for the victims, hailed the verdict and sentencing and said it is a “huge moment” for the country.
“The victims and their kin are completely satisfied with the manner in which the court has given an exemplary punishment,” she said.
“It is the first time that a politician’s involvement in communal violence has been recognised,” she added.
Taking potshots at the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in Gujarat, Setalvad said: “The BJP can say what it likes, but the rest of the country knows better.”