Glancing Back, 2002 until 2015, In a Nutshell
2002 Gujarat and the Desecration of Religious and Cultural Shrines
Time Line February- April 2002 Shrines Destroyed across Gujarat
National Human Rights Commission had visited the State of Gujarat. In its report dated April 1, 2002, it recommended:-“The Commission recommends that places of worship that have been destroyed be repaired expeditiously. Assistance should be provided, as appropriate, inter-alia by the State.”
The National Minority Commission also visited the State of Gujarat and it has recommended to the State Government to repair and restore all religious places of worships, which have been damaged and or destroyed during the period of riots.
In June 20, 2002, the Government of Gujarat (GOG) Makes this Assertion to the NHRC:
“As indicated earlier, the State has not failed in fulfilling its constitutional obligation of protecting the lives, liberty and dignity of all its people. The State did its best with available resources to protect the lives of its people. For every incident of violence there have been innumerable instances of lives saved, property saved and protected by the State administration.”
State Government Circulars Exclude Shrines
The revenue department issued several resolutions, resolution dated 20.3.2002 bearing number RHL/232002/513/ (5)/S and resolution number RHL/232002/513/S-4 dated 5.3.2002. The Industries and Mines Department also vide resolution dated 16.3.2002 number RLF/102002/760/CH provided for financial assistance to the communally riots affected industries, shop owners and self-employed persons.
However, surprisingly, the Government of Gujarat did not issue any scheme/resolution regarding the reconstruction and repairs of the religious places (mosques).
Petition by the Islamic Relief Committee filed in 2003 under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution with the legitimate grievance that, since the State Government has not considered the said representation and has taken a peculiar stand (reparation for homes and businesses is valid but for cultural and religious sites is not) this amounts to a violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Besides the overall attitude and stance of the Government is arbitrary and is therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Islamic Relief Committee (IRC), Petitioners: Pointed out to the petitioners that as per the available information, there were complaints about damage caused to approximately 535 religious places and that about 294 religious places there from had already been repaired as on December 31, 2002. Subsequent meetings took place on January 7, 2004 and January 16, 2004. During the said meeting, the modalities for inspection of records were also discussed. On that date, there was a dispute. IRC clearly made out that the protection of places of worship was the duty of the Government,which the Government had failed to perform, and, therefore, it was advisable to undertake the repair of such religious places by the Government immediately. The government of Gujarat through the Principal Secretary (Revenue) differed and insisted that the community should take the responsibility for the repair work and the repairs to historic monuments would be looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India.
GOG (government of Gujarat) Position in the Gujarat HC
Denied there was discriminatory governance and stated that the state government had done all it could towards the restoration of normal human life from several points of view, leaving the task of restoration of religious places on the shoulders of the organizations like the IRC.
Moreover the GOG denied that there was failure, connivance, or negligence on the part of the State Government to control the situation during the riots, which broke out as a general reaction from the unfortunate incident of Sabarmati Express at Godhra. The state contested the argument that the provisions of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. It was also denied that unless the damaged religious places of worship were repaired or restored and the concerned citizens were fully compensated, or that the Gujarat Government failed to perform its constitutional obligation as alleged or otherwise.
The state government chose to rely on the provisions of Rules 45, 46, 53, 54, 55 and 57 of Chapter II of Bombay Police Manual and the provisions of Sections 295 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code have always been regarded by the State stating that it did best in bad circumstances, the poor availability of paramilitary forces etc and: all available manpower was put to the best use according to the circumstances and the priority as the given situation demanded.
IRC (Petitioners) in Response to the GOG:
When the GOG has admitted that approximately 535 places of worship had
been damaged in the violence after February 27, 2002 (and, according to them
through their survey which is disputed by the IRC, 294 places of worship had
been repaired as on December 31, 2002) there is an admission by the state
that 241 places of worship had remained unattended even according to the
Government of Gujarat.
Observations of the Court in Its Final Judgement delivered on 8.2.2012 by Justice
Bhaskar Bhattacharya and JB Pardiwala in Special Civil Application No 3023/ 2003 with CA 6115/2004)
High Court of Gujarat (HC): The GOG contention that 294 places of worship had been
repaired and rehabilitated, was not supported by any Survey or Report. The
HC also observed that “the respondents have also failed to identify the repaired and rehabilitated places of worship and thus, the aforesaid contention is a false one According to the direction given in this matter, although series of meetings were held between the petitioners and respondents No. 1 and 2, all those meetings remained unfruitful since the respondents never made any serious efforts for coming out with a policy decision to provide financial assistance and/or compensation for damaged, desecrated and destroyed places of worship. From the affidavit of the State Government, it is apparent that the Government has not taken any policy decision To repair the damaged religious places or to reimburse the trusts or institutions of the religious places with the expenses incurred by them.”
Gujarat HC Observations on the Attitude of the State: “ Para 5.3. The State has not framed Any policy for such restoration and/or repair by the Government itself since the State Government had never undertaken before the National Human Rights Commission to do so by itself.
HC Observations on the Attitude of the State: “ Para 6. Pursuant to order dated December 28, 2010 passed in this matter, the State Government had given further affidavit and stated that after considering all the aspects of the matter, it had taken the decision not to provide any financial aid to the religious places affected or in any way damaged in view of Godhra incident or post-Godhra incident.”
GOG’s Defence: even at the time of earthquake of 2001 although various places of worship were destroyed, by following the same policy decision, the State Government did not spend even a single farthing for restoration of places of worship but gave priority to the places of residence and places of business which, according to the State Government, is of prime importance.
Gujarat High Court’s Clear Findings :
[[The Court makes a distinction between individual acts of vengeance and “….when due to incidents not arising out of any personal vengeance but solely based on religious beliefs or sentiments, persons belonging to two communities involve in riotous acts and cause destruction of property belonging to the innocent members of the other community”.
Gujarat High Court: “Para 20. In the latter type of cases, the State Government has, however, a constitutional obligation to take all possible steps to stop such illegal activities lest for its inaction or inadequate action, the life and the liberty of innocent citizens of this country are jeopardized in any way only because they belong to one of the communities of the persons involved in the riot.
“Para 21. A conjoined reading of Articles 14, 15, 16, 21, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India leaves no doubt that a citizen has, subject to the restrictions contained therein, a right to lead a meaningful life based on his faith on any religion and also the right to practise, profess and propagate any religion. He has also the freedom to manage religious affairs and maintain places of worship of his choice. Those Articles have found place in Chapter III of the Constitution enumerating the fundamental rights of a citizen.
(To be Continued)