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Activists mark 10th anniversary of Gujarat train burning and riots

Urge people to mark February 28 as a day of national integration

A man walks past a poster during a ceremony on Monday in Ahmedabad
Image Credit: AP
A man walks past a poster during a ceremony on Monday in Ahmedabad, where hundreds of survivors of the 2002 riots gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of one of the country’s worst incidents of sectarian violence. AP
Gulf News

Mumbai: The tenth anniversary of the Godhra train burning and sectarian riots that followed was observed in the city with an appeal to people to mark February 28 as a day of national integration — as a grim reminder that something like this must not happen again.

Sanjiv Bhatt, Gujarat's former director general of police, who took on the powerful chief minister head-on, joined a public commemoration demanding justice for victims' families.

Others who joined him, including Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Mahatama Gandhi, and noted film-maker Mahesh Bhatt, appealed to all Indians to wear a black ribbon or a black scarf today "to protest against one of the most inhuman incidents in a state which has yet to see real justice", said Abraham Mathai of Harmony Foundation that is organising the commemoration.

At a press conference yesterday, he said 200 student volunteers will wear black T-shirts and distribute arm bands at railway stations today.

"This was one of the cruellest incidents, which unfortunately had the backing of the state. Ten years later, the main perpetrators of this inhuman crime roam free, with no remorse and repentance," Mathai said.

Traumatic incidents

Meanwhile, the commemoration event at Gulberg Society, one of Ahmedabad's localities that was worst affected by the sectarian violence, was held on Monday because of the countrywide trade union shutdown called for Tuesday.

Teesta Setalvad of Citizens for Justice and Peace, who has been fighting a relentless battle to get justice for the victims, said: "We decided to collectively commemorate the 300 traumatic bouts of violence over 19 districts [in Gujarat] in a Live Memorial at Gulberg Society."

This is because earlier attempts to pay respects at the burnt S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra were foiled by arrests.

Reconciliation and reparation appear a distant dream when collective memorials are thus forbidden, she said.

The digital installations and exhibits at Gulberg Housing Society, where 58 people were massacred in 2002, show the chronology of the rehabilitation and justice process. A photography show on the internally displaced people in various transit camps was also presented. Missing persons were remembered through a ritualistic ‘wailing wall'.

Justice Hosbet Suresh said in a statement: "The dead cannot be resurrected but the living should hope to have a dignified future while their struggle seems to be eternal for justice and survival. We are here to express our solidarity with them and in that to make the government accountable."