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Police trying to subvert justice, cover-up Pandharwada case: Teesta

Written by: Staff

Ahmedabad, Apr 20 (UNI) Charging the Gujarat police with ''trying to cover-up'' the Pandharwada massacre incident in which 40 people had died, social activist Teesta Setalvad today said the police was using ''intimidatory tactics and terrorising'' the innocent relatives of the victims.

''If the government could give a decent burial to two unknown terrorists of the Akshardham case and also keep the bodies of 20 Godhra carnage victims for five months before performing the last rites, why were the Pandharwada victims buried in a wasteland,'' asked Ms Setalvad, who is the Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), at a press conference here this evening.

There are three burial grounds in Lunawada, she pointed out.

''The Gujarat police at Lunawada pressurised by the top echelons of the police administration and government continues to harass victims and human rights activists,'' to cover up the issue of illegal burial in mass graves,'' she charged.

The issuance of a non-bailable arrest warrants against the victims and Rais who were highlighting the Pandharwada Massacre is ''an attempt to browbeat victims who are sufferers of mass violence,'' she said.

Terming the FIR filed by the Lunawada police against the relatives as a ''counterblast meant to subvert'' the Gujarat High Court order (which had transferred the mass graves case to the CBI), Ms Setalvad said the Sections invoked in the FIR (193, 201, 120 (B), 295 (A)) require prior government sanction. She pointed that it had been filed by a sanitary inspector.

''When the High Court had passed an order on Decemeber 29, 2005, transferring investigations to the CBI, why should the local police file an FIR against victim survivors and Rais Khan charging them with hurting religious sentiments. Their simple act of retrieving dead remains of their loved ones has been interpreted as an act of inflaming religious sentiments. They only wanted to give them a decent burial, which every religion prescribes,'' she said.

''This is nothing short of desire to terrorise victim survivors who want to fight back,'' she said.

Mass graves were unearthed in Pandharwada near Panaam river in Panchmahals district on December 27 last year. A television channel representatives and a member of CJP Rais Khan were present at the time. Ameena Rasool, whose son was killed in the massacre, had filed a petition praying for transfer of probe to the CBI, which the High Court granted the next day.

Lunawada police, however, filed a case in Khanpur police station on January 2, against a total of 11 people who had dug up these skeletal remains of riot victims and accused the administration of ''hiding'' the bodies in the grave.

The police maintained that all the bodies had been identified and buried in accordance with legal procedures for unclaimed bodies.

Well-known playwright and president of CJP Vijay Tendulkar also said the recent developments and the police attitude are ''disturbing'' and citizens have to be vigilant about this ''dangerous trend''.


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