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Justice knocks after 11 years
- Denied victims of 1993 riots to get Rs 2 lakh in damages

Mumbai, July 19: For 11 years, she knocked on every door but didn’t find justice. Yesterday, justice found her.

Jaibunnisa Mohammad — “mother of Nasir Noor Mohammad”, as she stresses over and over again — lost her son in the riots that broke out in Mumbai after the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. But the government ignored her desperate cries for help till she lost hope and resigned herself to life in a small hovel in a dirty corner of Kurla.

That was until Thursday.

Jaibunnisa’s family is now among the 102 that are about to get compensation of Rs 2 lakh each. Though these families had lost members who were declared missing, they were not entitled to compensation all these days because of a legal quirk.

That struggle is hopefully over. “Allah meherban hai (God is kind),” was her words as she crouched in a chair at the office of Mohammad Arif Khan, Maharashtra minister of state for food and civil supplies.

Jaibunnisa’s son was not among the 150 who were initially declared “legally missing”. Later, however, it came to the government’s notice that the actual number was 252 — that is 102 more, which included her son.

Jaibunnisa has Khan to thank for the turn of fortune, and so, too, Taramati, whose husband Tukaram Borade went missing in the serial bomb blasts that followed the riots.

It was Khan who, in 1998, filed a petition in the Supreme Court appealing for a revision of the initial list of 150.

But the search for those who had been denied justice wasn’t easy. For years, the “legal heirs” of these 102 people had run from one government department to another, asking why they couldn’t be compensated as “even our men haven’t come back since then”.

No one had an answer because a government order had stipulated that only the families of 150 people initially listed as missing were to be compensated. There was no word on the others who slowly added themselves to the list of those “missing in the riots and blasts of 1992-1993”.

“Even the Srikrishna Commission had recommended that these 102 families should be compensated, but nothing happened,” says Pappu Quereshi, a member of Citizens for Peace, the NGO that helped the current government trace the ignored families. “It was very difficult and took years.”

It was only two months ago that the list was ready and the matter brought to the notice of chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde. In the list, there are 49 families who live outside Maharashtra, mostly in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal. They are yet to be traced though the order directing the states to trace them, collect the compensation amount and disburse it to the families has already come. The Maharashtra government has got in touch with these state governments to help them trace the forgotten ones.

“Local newspapers have already placed ads seeking information on these families,” says Khan. “As soon as the identities are established as bona fide, we will send them the cheques.”

Though “justice” has come too late for many, it is a “symbol that there is hope in this country”, Quereshi says. “It is a very positive message even for those who have suffered in last year’s Gujarat riots.”

For many of these families, their stories ended with the loss of their husbands and sons and brothers. But for the others, the money, after all these years, has brought hope to their grief-filled lives.

Savitribai Gorivale from Ratnagiri, whose husband Ganpat Yashwant Gorivale, didn’t come home after he was caught in a communal crossfire sometime in the second week of December 1992, is clear about what she will do first after getting the money. She will fill all her “empty pots and pans”.

“I will get some food and fill my house with rice and gehu because that is how it used to be when my husband was alive,” she says. “Then I will do some repairs on the house.”

Her house has been leaking for 10 years now.

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