Naroda witnesses happy with court verdict

Shakeela Banu Ansari cannot forget the horror of the night of Feb 28, ten years ago when she lost her entire family to a murderous mob in Naroda Patiya. Though she is happy with the court verdict convicting 32 people for the massacre of 97 Muslims, including her kin, she wonders why the mayhem had to happen.

"I was living in Naroda Partiya in 2002 (when the riots happened), and I still live there. I lost my whole family, my mother, my brother, four innocent children. I stayed in Naroda Patiya because we did not want to leave before we get justice," said Shakeela, who testified in the case.

A special court in Ahmedabad Wednesday convicted 32 people, including former minister Mayaben Kodnani, in the Naroda Patiya massacre.

"What was our fault. Whatever happened in Godhra, we did not go to burn the train.  But we were punished for that. Where ever we went to seek help, they said you have to die, this is the order from above," she said.

"They poured petrol and burned them. My two-month-old nephew was burnt alive... what was his mistake," she asked.

Another witness, Jannat Biwi Kallubhai wondered what will happen to them.
"In the court we said whatever had happened with us (during the riots). But now we are a little afraid, the atmosphere is such... what will happen to us, we don't know," she said.

"Till last night I was tense, I had to hide," said another witness Umrao Sayyed, adding that he was happy with the verdict.

Shakeela said: "We were women who never stepped out of our homes, but we went to court after 2002. We were threatened for days, they said we would meet a worse fate than what happened to our families."

Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP) Secretary Teesta Setalvad said they have applied for security for the witnesses.

"There is some concern over their security over the next one week, with a bandh being called at Patiya tomorrow (Thursday) so we have appealed to the SIT to ensure their protection and we are sure that will be complied with," said the activist.

A statement from CJP said 11 eyewitnesses have deposed in testimonies assigning in detail the role played by former minister Maya Kodnani, in inciting the mob to murder; 15 witnesses deposed against Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, and 48 witnesses testified to the crimes committed by Suresh Langda Chara.

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