02/10/2006, 00.00
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Authorities to re-open 1,600 Gujarat massacre cases

by Nirmala Carvalho
More than 40 police officers are to be investigated and the local government must report investigation findings every three months. In addition to the violence, an even greater shameful aspect of the tragedy was "police involvement and government paralysis," says John Dayal.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Four years after violent sectarian riots, the authorities plan to reopen about 1,600 cases related to the communal violence and investigate more than 40 police officers for failing to adequately pursue the cases. This is good news for human rights activists for whom an even greater shameful aspect of the tragedy was "police involvement and government paralysis".

At least a thousand people, mostly Muslim, perished in the 2002 riots in Gujarat. The violence broke out after 60 Hindus were killed in a train attack in the city of Godhra by an Islamic group.

The state government, then under a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration, was harshly criticised for the way it dealt with rioters and for its failure to deliver justice to the victims.

In 2004 the Supreme Court ordered the state government to review 2,020 cases, which Gujarat police had closed earlier. A new Police report says that 1,594 cases will be re-opened and action will be taken against 41 police officials for the ways they handled the riots.

In an interview with AsiaNews, John Dayal, president of the All India Catholic Union, said that "[w]hile the main tragedy [lies] in the mass murder of Muslims, [one cannot forget] the sexual violence on Muslim women and the economic violence on an entire community"" that followed.

"A tragedy of equal magnitude was the paralysis of the governance, the involvement of the police and politicians in the violence," he added.

The Catholic activist is hopeful that "the innocent who were arrested, mostly Muslims, will be released and the real culprits taken into custody and tried."
"The Supreme Court," he said, "must remain vigilant and take the necessary measures so that a tragedy like that of 2002 is not repeated, not only for Muslims but also for Christians or Tribals."

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