Mumbai, Feb. 24: Hundreds of people in Gujarat who kept roza for a day, hoping for justice, are celebrating now.
“Victims of the riots in Gujarat observed fast for a day waiting for this moment,” said Javed Anand of the Citizens for Justice and Peace, the organisation through which Teesta Setalvad has highlighted the Best Bakery case and several other riots cases.
The verdict was greeted with equal warmth all around, especially after the acquittal of all the accused in the Jessica Lal murder case. The nine accused in the murder case of the model from Delhi were allowed to walk free after most witnesses turned hostile.
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actor Rahul Bose, who were present in the courtroom, welcomed it enthusiastically. So did a Catholic organisation.
“The Bombay Catholic Sabha welcomes the Best Bakery case judgment and hopes that this verdict would act as a deterrent for fundamentalist/fascist forces to continue such acts of crimes against humanity,” the organisation said.
The welcome statements, however, came with a rider.
Setalvad said she was happy with the verdict, but there were bigger forces behind the convicted.
Bhatt and Bose echoed her. Bhatt said it was important to remember that the convicted were “merely pawns in a game” and the “actual perpetrators should be apprehended”.
| Setalvad outside the Mumbai court. (AFP)
It has been repeatedly claimed that the violence in Gujarat was state-sponsored; the BJP government was responsible for it in many ways. One hand that is clearly moving the “pawns” is alleged to belong to the BJP MLA from Vadodara, Madhu Srivastava. He has been accused of influencing Zahira to change her statement twice before courts.
Zahira, who claimed to be the prime witness of the death of 14 people at the bakery, retracted her statement before a Vadodara court, where the case was first heard, and the Mumbai court, which delivered the verdict today.
According to a hidden camera operation carried out by a weekly, Srivastava has allegedly paid Zahira and her family a huge amount of money to retract her statement.
The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its verdict on the report that was submitted to it in August that probes links between Srivastava and Zahira and her family.
Srivastava has repeatedly denied knowing Zahira. He said today there was a “conspiracy” run by NGOs to malign the BJP government’s image in Gujarat.