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NHRC asks Modi Govt To
Explain Lax In Riot Probe

Times Of India
28 May, 2003

NEW DELHI: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Gujarat government to explain why riot victims were not deposing before the Nanavati Commission, probing last year's sectarian violence in the state.

Clearly displeased by the way the commission was functioning, NHRC chairman AS Anand said: "We have written to the state government to explain to us what steps have they taken to ensure an environment where the victims would fearlessly come out to record their complaints.

"It is not just a matter of fair trial. The state should ensure that
the victims are not under any pressure while deposing before the
commission. We are waiting for their reply to do the needful."

The NHRC's stringent criticism of the state government and the
commission came after Justice G.T. Nanavati's controversial statement giving a clean chit to the police and the administration.

Nanavati heads the two-member commission investigating the sectarian violence in Gujarat last year that killed over 1,000 people.

In a television interview last week, Nanavati reportedly
said: "Evidence recorded so far did not indicate any serious lapse on the part of the police or administration in controlling the communal clashes."

The statement was extensively criticised by human rights groups,
which pointed out that the commission had yet to record evidence in the worst hit areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara districts.

The commission is expected to release a final report after the probe has been completed and should not make such statements in between, said activists.

Said Anand: "We convened a high-level meeting on the day this
(Nanavati's) statement was published in the newspapers. We are
monitoring the situation."

Nanavati retracted the statement and said the press had misquoted him.

Human rights groups, including the NHRC, have squarely blamed the police in the state for tacitly supporting the rioters in the
violence that continued for nearly two months.

Activists said victims were not coming forward to depose before the commission because they had been intimidated. Police were allegedly threatening people. And many riot victims were simply in no frame of mind to tackle another confrontation.

Those who did manage to give a statement before the commission were doing so against tremendous odds.

The Nanavati Commission has received 3,000 complaints from riot victims since its appointment in March 2001. The last phase of the recording of evidence will start on July 15.