Sunday, Apr 07, 2002
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By Anita Joshua
Justice Mohammed Shamim, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, flanked by Tarlochan Singh, vice-chairman, and Lt. Gen. (retd.) A.M. Sethna, addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
Now that the Gujarat administration has presented its case, the NCM which visited the State in mid-March but could not finalise its report because of reluctance on the part of the Gujarat Government to provide information is expected to present its report within a week. As per the report submitted by the administration, 760 people have been killed in the violence mentioned as "communal riots'' till date.
Other statistics provided to the NCM pertained to arrests and people killed in police firing. According to the State administration "as many as 71 of the 137 people killed in police firing were Hindus as were 6,000 of the 9,500 persons arrested.'' There were 104 relief camps in the State and together they were home to 1,11,176 people.
The officials also informed the NCM that four companies of the Rapid Action Force and three companies of the Central Reserve Police Force would be at the disposal of the State from tomorrow. Expressing satisfaction with the information furnished at today's three-hour meeting, the NCM chairman, Mohammad Shamim, said the State had been asked to enhance the compensation to the next of kin of those killed in the violence to Rs. 1 lakh, in addition to the amount announced from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund. The NCM had to intervene in this matter as the Gujarat Government had apparently reduced its compensation from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 50,000 following the Prime Minister's assurance of additional compensation.
The Commission, according to Mr. Justice Shamim, also conveyed to the officials its displeasure over the manner in which some police officers were transferred. "Instead, officers who have done yeoman service during the riots ought to be rewarded. And officers who did not do their duty should be penalised.''
Given the reluctance of those living in the relief camps to return to the areas where their homes once stood, the NCM urged the State administration to make alternative arrangements for them in areas where they felt secure. Apparently, an oft-repeated plea of those living in the camps is that they be relocated in Muslim-dominated areas.
Of the other confidence-building measures suggested by NCM, most were a reiteration of what has already been stated in letters to the Prime Minister and the Gujarat Chief Minister. Primarily, they pertain to the construction/restoration of religious places at the very place they stood before being razed in the violence; setting up of peace committees preferably with the involvement of religious leaders and ensuring that the policemen in riot-prone areas include minorities. "Should Gujarat not have enough minority officers, it should borrow from other States.''
Though the Gujarat Government officials, led by the Chief Secretary, G. Subba Rao, attended the briefing, they avoided many questions. And, Mr. Rao merely said the State would "try to implement whatever has been suggested.''
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