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|March 26, 2002||
The Rediff Interview/Justice Jagdish Sharan Verma
Jagdish Sharan Verma, chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission Justice, has returned to New Delhi after what he describes as a "disturbing and shocking" experience in riot-torn Gujarat. The NHRC had earlier rejected the Gujarat government's 'perfunctory report' on the violence and demanded a comprehensive report by the state government 'within next four, five days.'
The former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, spoke to Senior Editor Sheela Bhatt briefly on Sunday.
Did you get any convincing answers from the police or politicians in Gujarat?
The most convincing answer as they say is --- the proof of the pudding is in eating it. If normalcy comes, well, that will be a convincing answer. The top most priority must be given to restoring normalcy.
What do you think of the socio-political scene in Gujarat?
Quite disturbing. The dignity of the individual is at stake. Many have been deeply hurt. It's necessary to restore normalcy in the interest of the nation as a whole.
People are insecure. When I was in Gujarat, a person told me that they (people) don't sleep at night. They keep a vigil in their colony. In Baroda, a person told me that his four-year-old child refuses to sleep at night.
They just don't trust each other anymore. When I reached Gujarat, people started coming to meet me. They wanted a shoulder to cry upon. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I am not a top executive, no longer was I sitting in court. It's disturbing to see that no political leaders have visited relief camps so far. The situation in Gujarat is far from normal. A sense of insecurity can be seen everywhere.
In the Shah Alam relief camp women spoke to me separately, and narrated their pain. No woman will say such things unless she has suffered.
Is there any kind of design in this riots?
All these questions will have to wait. I don't think I should comment on that. What happened to any one of them is bad enough, if it happens to many it's worse.
Did you find these riots in Gujarat the reactions of certain actions?
I am trained as a judge, I must give my judgment only after I have heard everyone.
The Gujarat government's preliminary report is just a perfunctory (report). We are waiting for a detailed comprehensive report. I have told them that we will not wait for more than 4, 5 days. Their report doesn't answer any of the allegations. I have told the officials that there should be a fair and impartial trial, there should be no distinction among victims on the basis of religion.
If the Godhra carnage was gruesome, equally gruesome were the incidents that followed. Perpetrators of crimes were all criminals and the offenders must be classified according to the offences committed.
Are politicians afraid of the NHRC?
I am not looking at my efficacy. I am performing my duty as a citizen. It's the duty of every citizen to be concerned about the events in Gujarat. In addition, I happen to be held responsible for holding this office.
You see I would be very miserable if I don't try to do whatever I can. Uska asar hota hai ki nahin hota hai, woh baad main sochenge (Whether it will be effective or not, I will think about it later).
Are you well-equipped to address human rights violation in Gujarat?
I would not like to answer this question at this time. I don't look at my equipment, I look at the need of the hour. And after all, I am a citizen of the country.
I have held certain offices which were supposed to be the highest (positions). I am at present holding an office where the protection of human rights is supposed my responsibility. So everything I shall do, I must try to do for it (for the protection of human rights). Ultimately I am not an executive head, so I can't do any of those things. But I can certainly speak out. If my speaking out is going to have some effect I must do so.
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