by Nirmala Carvalho, Asia News
A report by the National Commission of Minorities has charged the local government with paying only a fraction of compensation owed. The victims of the inter-faith clashes are still living in miserable conditions in camps for displaced people.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The National Commission of Minorities (NMC) in India has condemned the government of Gujarat for failing to provide compensation to victims of violence in Godhra after four years. The hard hitting criticism came in the latest report of the NMC: so far, just 7% of compensation slated has been disbursed as people continue to live without the most basic of facilities.
On 17 October, NMC members met the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, after visiting rehabilitation camps for victims of riots that broke out after the Godhra tragedy. In 2002, clashes sparked by ethnic and religious tensions shook the Indian state of Gujarat, claiming at least 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims. The violent broke out after 60 Hindus were killed in an attack on a train in the city of Godhra, allegedly by an Islamic group. However, in March last year, a federal Commission of Inquiry into the train blaze cleared the Muslim community of all responsibility.
The local government, which at the time was run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has been bitterly criticized for its partial management of the crisis and for not delivering justice to the victims.
The report of the Commission of Minorities covered 47 aid camps that are home to 5,000 of the many Muslims forced to flee Hindu reprisals in the wake of the train fire. According to the NMC, Modi has failed on many counts. For example, so far, the government has only paid 410 million rupees in compensation for losses and damages suffered by victims, a far cry from the total amount of damages of six billion and 879 million rupees (the Chief Minister has consistently refused to offer any explanation about this). The NMC proposed the drawing up of a national policy to regulate the treatment of the displaced people. Compensation packages are also overdue for the Sikh community, which was affected by the inter-faith clashes in 2002.
The NMC delegates said the response of Modi to their complaints was that the state did not make any distinction between minority and majority communities in rehabilitation programs.
Fr Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit who is director of Prashant, a centre dedicated to human rights, justice and peace, described the NMC report as a “significant step”. He said: “The Gujarat government just pretends that the 2002 riots did not take place and that everything necessary was done, but there are still hundreds of people without basic services and were it not for some Muslim organizations, they would be far worse off.”