The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Money, muscle at work on riot-hit

Ahmedabad, Oct. 26: Thugs and politicians of dubious reputation from the minority community are being used to enforce what is being called “social reconciliation” among Gujarat riot victims.

Human rights activist Raiskhan said these groups have been assigned the task of silencing victims with money so that they do not pursue cases in courts.

After the Supreme Court assumed the responsibility of monitoring riot cases, this method of persuasion — through muscle and money — is under trial in Vadodara and central Gujarat.

A top Mumbai lawyer, with political affiliation, is said to be guiding these groups. Raiskhan said members of these groups recently visited Mumbai to consult him.

On their return, they have been visiting riot victims, asking them to sign a paper which says: “The government has properly looked after our interests. We have no complaints and we do not want to fight any legal battle for which we are being instigated by some outside NGOs.”

The victims are given the assurance that their needs would be met and that they can convey their demands to law minister Ashok Bhatt and home minister Amit Shah. When asked, Bhatt evaded the question. Shah was not available for comment.

Minority leader J.V. Momin confirmed reports that such groups are active among riot victims. Although there is no visible evidence yet of their presence in Ahmedabad, two recent incidents have evoked suspicion that these groups may be at work.

Last week, a riot victim of Naroda-Patia was beaten up by local hoodlums. Rehman Shakoorbhai Saiyed had told the Nanavati Commission inquiring into the riots the names of the culprits who had burnt three of his children alive. The goons thrashed him, screaming that he was paying for taking names.

Another riot victim of Naroda-Patia, Bibi Bano, who lost eight family members, had alleged that the killers, whom she had named before the commission, had offered her Rs 2 lakh to retract her statement.

The identity of the kind of people who might be behind the “social reconciliation” effort is evident from a line in the paper victims are being asked to sign — that “outside NGOs” are instigating them.

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