Justice, and nothing but full justice, should be our motto if we want to be called a civilized society. But it is still a distant dream when we view what is happening in Gujarat to punish the perpetrators of worst communal crime in independent India.
Yet the judicial verdict sentencing 31 accused to life term for Sardarpura massacre, in which 33 innocent persons, including 17 women and 11 children, were burnt to death about a decade back, is welcome as a first step on the road to justice.
It was in the night of March 1, 2002 when a killer mob had burnt alive the 33 defenceless victims in Sardarpura village in Mehsana district in Gujarat. It was the time when Nero of Gujarat was fiddling and the State was burning. It is not very satisfactory and edifying that it took more than nine years for victims to get a small dose of justice.
It is relevant to remember that, seeing slow pace of proceedings and lengthy legal battles in the lower courts, the apex court intervened and appointed a special investigation team (SIT) to pursue the most heinous massacres in Gujarat. Special Judge S.C. Srivastava delivered her judgement on Nov 9, 2011. The Sardarpura massacre was extremely reprehensible because the victims were poor labourers who were employed by the land-owning rich Patels of the village who ought to have acted as their protectors. But they, the very neighbours and employers became their killers.
It is for the first time in the history of communal riots in India that 31 persons have been convicted for mob violence and mass murder. Otherwise, invariably, in almost all communal massacres the criminals were let off. The monitoring by the Supreme Court, the generally better atmosphere in the country and the feeling that the wheels of justice must move full circle raises the hope that, inshaAllah in other cases also full justice would be done.
It is unfortunate that the people who masterminded the massacres and their mentors are still roaming free and holding high administrative posts. Narendra Modi, the chief instigator, who quoted the third law of Newton to justify massacres and who is reported to have asked the law and order machinery to allow the Hindus to vent their anger against the Muslims is still far away from the arm of law. He has never expressed any remorse for the shameful events. It is the need of the hour that no one responsible for the ghastly communal crimes should be allowed to go scot-free however high he may be.