Muslims still fear persecution in Gujarat: US report
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A US report on international religious freedom today expressed concern over the slow pace of proceedings in punishing perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots, and said Muslims in the state still fear persecution.
The report claimed that despite the Congress-led national government's rejection of 'Hindutva', several BJP-ruled states continued to be influenced by the ideology.
In its Congressional-mandated annual report on international religious freedom, the State Department said it "continued to express concern" to government officials, NGOs and religious leaders over the "slow pace" of bringing the perpetrators of the 2002 violence in Gujarat to justice.
Devoting a considerable portion in the India section of the report to the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, the State Department said civil society activists continued to express concern about the Gujarat government's failure to arrest those responsible for the violence that resulted in the killing of "more than 1,200 persons, the majority of whom were Muslim".
"Media reports indicated some Muslims still feared repercussions from Hindu neighbours as they waited for the court cases to be resolved," it said, pointing out that several thousands still lived in refugee camps.
It claimed that several victims have accused the Special Investigation Team (SIT), appointed by the Supreme Court in March 2008, of pressuring them to dilute their testimonies.
"In many of the cases tried in Gujarat's lower courts, the accused were acquitted due to a lack of evidence or changes in the testimony. Three of nine major cases stemming from the 2002 Gujarat riots made partial progress during the year. The Supreme Court asked the SIT to probe these nine cases in March 2008," it pointed out.
"Hundreds of other court cases stemming from the 2002 violence (which were not in the purview of the SIT) remained unsettled," the report said.
The State Department cited the Supreme Court's direction to a trial court in Gujarat to probe whether Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 60 others could be prosecuted for their role in the riots and referred Zakia Jafri's complaint to the Gujarat state courts in the Gulberg Society massacre case.
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