Y B Sheikh, the lawyer who represented the victims' of Sardarpura massacre, has said that the judgement convicting 31 persons for life and each culprit fined Rs 50,000 are the bright sides of the verdict of the special court.
"When I took over the case it was very difficult fighting for the victims, as they all are almost illiterate and most of them are labourers. To make them stand in the court was a real challenge," said Sheikh.
"As an advocate and a human being, I feel that in cases like Sardarpura, culprits should be given stringent punishment so that such incidents do not repeat. The court of law should establish an example conveying that such communal attacks will not be tolerated," said the lawyer.
Sheikh said that people should be made aware about political parties or communal forces that are leading masses to controversies and deliberately encouraging them to act as rebellions. "People should also understand that communal parties or communal people are not to be supported in our peaceful society," he added.
Following the train burning incident on February 27, 2002, at Godhra, in which 59 people were burnt to death, riots broke out in Gujarat. Sardarpura town in Vijapur taluka was one of the victims to the violence.
A strong mob had surrounded a lane (Muhalla) called Sheikh Vaas on the intervening night of February 28 and March 1, 2002, where the minority population of the village used to live.
Fearing the worst, people of the minority community took shelter in a house owned by Ibrahim Sheikh. However, the mob torched the house after dousing it with petrol. Thirty three people, including 22 women, were charred to death.
Eyewitness, Ibrahim Sheikh, who lost his wife Zayada Banu and two daughters Raziya banu, 17, and Parveena Banu, 12, was unaware about the details of the judgement. He explained his happiness for the life imprisonment awarded to the culprits.
Recollecting what happened on that fateful day, he said, "It was a nightmare. A mob shouting 'maro kapo' (kill them cut them ) entered in Sheikh Vaas and started destroying three cabins at the entrance. One of them was mine. They poured petrol and set the cabin on fire in which many people from my community had taken shelter. That was the most awful day of my life. I lost my family and ."
"Sheikh Vaas in Sardarpura village of Mehsana district has a deserted look now. The government has not shown any interest in rehabilitating the victims. Most of the victims and their relatives are now settled in Satnagar in Himmatnagar district with the help of an NGO," said Sheikh
Nine years later, survivors of the Sardarpura massacre cannot return to their village and are living as refugees at Satnagar in the neighbouring district Himmatnagar. After the satisfying judgement by the court, there is a flicker of hope for them to return to their homes.