Out of jail, but not free

They are still not open to the idea of discussing the verdict which sent 31 accused in the Sardarpura massacre to life behind bars. This locality is home to majority of the 40 odd persons who have been acquitted by the special court.

The residents here are sceptical and not many are willing to talk. More so those who have been let off. Though they argue they are innocent, they lament that living with the stigma of being a riot accused is a heavy dcross to bear. The total 42 acquittals might be reason for a sense of reprieve but the freed are yet to come to terms after being behind bars for over two years.

“Though my uncle has been acquitted and he is walking free, it seems an uphill task to restore the trust,” said Ashwin Prajapati. “From the day he was freed from jail, he has not stepped out of the house and he is still not talking to our neighbours,” he says. Relative of another acquitted pointed out that though they have been acquitted it was difficult even now to win the trust of the Muslim community who still look at them with suspicion. “We were convinced from the beginning that my brother was not involved in this incident and now the court of law also has proved the same, but the members of the minority community still think that my brother should not have been let out,” said another relative.

Even as suspicion and hostility prevail in the area, the relatives of those  acquitted do not feel completely relieved. They fear fresh arrest if an appeal is made against this verdict. “They have been let out on lack of evidence; what if an appeal in a higher court is filed. We do not feel totally free for now,’’ said an anxious relative of one of the accused set free.

A police picket which separates the two colonies is a grim reminder that it will take much more than just punishment to the accused, to heal the wounds of 2002 riots.

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