Muzaffarnagar Acquittals: UP Govt. Should Appeal or SC Should Take up Issue Suo Motu, Say Community Leaders, Activists
New Delhi, July 22— Aghast at the acquittals in all 40 cases related to murders, gang-rapes and rioting during the Muzaffarnagar riots 2013, community leaders and human rights activists say these acquittals should be challenged in higher court by the Uttar Pradesh government or the Supreme Court should take up the issue suo motu.
They also suggest that to avoid recurrence of such acquittals in riots cases, community should create a fund to fight victims’ legal cases. Community should not sit at home after distributing relief to victims, they say.
In the 40 cases involving attacks on Muslims during the Muzaffarnagar riots, 168 people have been acquitted in the last two years, an investigative report by The Indian Express on July 19 had revealed. The time period of the acquittals in the cases ranges from January 2017 to February 2019. The riots took place in August-September 2013.
The acquittals by the local court have taken place in 10 cases of murders, 4 cases of gang-rapes and 26 cases of rioting as prosecution witnesses either did a U-turn or turned hostile. More importantly, prosecution did not cross-examine the police.
Conviction has occurred in only one case – the case that is said to have triggered the riots. The English daily’s report says: “The only conviction came on February 8 this year, when the sessions court sentenced seven accused — Muzammil, Mujassim, Furkan, Nadeem, Janangir, Afzal and Ikbal — to life in prison for the murder of cousins Gaurav and Sachin in Kawal village on August 27, 2013, the incident that is said to have triggered the riots.”
M Salim Engineer, VP, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind
Mohammad Salim Engineer, Vice President of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind expressed concern on the acquittals. He expressed his dismay over the acquittals by saying, "The acquittals of murder and rape accused in Muzaffarnagar cases on one hand and the conviction of seven Muslim youths in a case related to Muzaffarnagar riots on the other, shows partiality on the basis of religion.”
“Such developments (the acquittals) raise a question mark on the impartiality of our judiciary system and government and it is harmful for any democratic country...,” he further said while talking to India Tomorrow.
Why Acquittals Happened? Who Is Responsible?
The acquittals in Muzaffarnagar riots cases happened mainly because witnesses turned hostile or took U-Turn.
Civil Rights Activist Shabnam Hashmi
Eminent human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi, who had met women victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013 and helped them afterwards, threw light on how witnesses were threatened and how people fighting their cases were attacked.
“We have seen that how people fighting cases of such victims have been attacked, threatened or bribed to make them eventually stop fighting the case. I personally witnessed that gang-rape survivors who had spoken about her ordeal to me at length on my first visit to the relief camp, when I visited the camp soon for the second time to bring their statement on record, they were made to disappear. We have been also helping the victims in some cases, we know how witnesses were threatened, that too within court premises and even shot at. We were also stopped at every occasion from doing our work or faced intimidation while visiting the villages of victims, even when the army accompanied us. Now imagine that if we faced so much while working there, what would be the mental condition of the common people there, who have been attacked and still receive threats,” said Shabnam Hashmi.
Dr. John Dayal talked about the shortcomings in the investigation system of the Police in the country and how lack of protection to victims helps the accused.
Civil Rights Activist and Christian Leader Dr. John Dayal
“The major problem is the forensic aspect of investigation. Law enforcing bodies resort to third degree punishment. There is no concept of real forensic investigation. There is a large number of victims turning hostile and there is no investigation why they turned hostile. There has been no victim protection program. That is why in so many cases, whether it is Muzaffarnagar, cow-vigilante violence or Kandhamal in case of Christians, ultimately most of the criminals who have been seen committing murder, go away scot-free. We have not yet come to discuss political patronage for such people. That is the main issue,” he said.
Dr Zafarul Islam Khan, Chairman, Delhi Minorities Commission
Delhi Minority Commission Chairman Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan said, “As a community, we didn’t do enough for them (riot victims). Just like we gave them relief, we should have fought their cases. Fighting their cases would have ensured justice for them and it would discourage the culprits from committing such crimes again. When culprits are acquitted then they think that they can repeat the same crimes. These acquittals are part of a pattern. Even in Gujarat, gradually all of the accused were acquitted and even those police officers who were booked, walked free. It is our weakness that we don’t fight legal battles which is as important as relief work.”
Salim Engineer said: “After the current UP government was formed, the direction in which these cases have gone, it has caused all the more despair and disappointment. Surprisingly, one can understand the attitude of UP government when it says that it would not appeal against the acquittals in the case. It clearly shows that the UP government's attitude regarding a particular community is not right.”
UP Govt. Should Challenge Acquittals in Higher Court
"We hope that UP government will file an appeal in this case. We also appeal that those people who advocate peace and justice should come forward help sand contribute for these victims so that they could get justice," said Salim Engineer.
He further said: “the social organizations should work towards churning an awakening in the society and ensure that there is no bias in the name of religion. Victims of any religion and any community must get justice and the onus is on the government that it ensures that justice is served.”
Supreme Court Should Take Suo Motu Action
Eminent rights activist Shabnam Hashmi says: “The cases should both be opened as well as transferred. We had tried to get some of the cases transferred but we couldn't succeed. You see that a major Gujarat riots 2002 case saw conviction because we were able to transfer that case somewhere outside.”
She has also urged the top court of the country to intervene.
“Supreme Court should also intervene in such cases. It is also the responsibility of the Supreme Court that they should take suo motu action. It should not wait for someone to file an appeal because it is visible even to the apex court that victims are not getting justice in such cases and the people who have committed murders and rapes are roaming free,” she said.
Community Should Create a Fund to Fight Legal Cases of Riots
Given the pathetic attitude of the prosecution in cases related to riots, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan says: “If we have to live in this county respectfully, then we should fight our legal battles and it means that we need to spend a lot of money in order to get good lawyers and for that purpose we should create a fund.”
He lamented that community organizations focus on relief and forget legal help.
“Today, every other organization focuses on relief work and after seeing themselves in newspapers they vanish. It is very sad that these 40 acquittals took place but I think that the people have forgotten that about 350 cases related to riots were already withdrawn due to refusal of the previous Samajwadi Party-led government, who are our so-called friends, to pursue the case.”
When the riots took place in August-September 2013 in Muzaffarnagar, Samajwadi Party was in power in the state and Akhilesh Yadav was Chief Minister. In the Assembly polls in February-March 2017, BJP came to power and Yogi Adityanath became Chief Minister.