2002 Gujarat and the desecration of religious and cultural shrines
Timeline: February - April 2002 Shrines destroyed across Gujarat
National Human Rights Commission had visited the state of Gujarat. In its report dated April 1, 2002, it stated: “The Commission recommends that places of worship that have been destroyed be repaired expeditiously. Assistance should be provided, as appropriate, inter-alia by the State.”
The National Minority Commission also visited Gujarat and it has recommended to the state government to repair and restore all religious places of worships, which have been damaged and/or destroyed during the period of riots.
In June 20, 2002, the Government of Gujarat (GOG) makes this assertion to NHRC:
“As indicated earlier, the State has not failed in fulfilling its constitutional obligation of protecting the lives, liberty and dignity of all its people. The State did its best with available resources to protect the lives of its people. For every incident of violence there have been innumerable instances of lives saved, property saved and protected by the State administration.”
State government circulars exclude shrines
The revenue department issued several resolutions, resolution dated 20.3.2002 bearing number RHL/232002/513/ (5)/S and resolution number RHL/232002/513/S-4 dated 5.3.2002. The Industries and Mines Department also vide resolution dated 16.3.2002 number RLF/102002/760/CH provided for financial assistance to the communally riots affected industries, shop owners and self-employed persons.
However, surprisingly, the government of Gujarat did not issue any scheme/resolution regarding the reconstruction and repairs of the religious places (mosques).
Petition by the Islamic Relief Committee filed in 2003 under Article 226 of the Indian Constitution with the legitimate grievance that, since the state government has not considered the said representation and has taken a peculiar stand (reparation for homes and businesses is valid but for cultural and religious sites is not) this amounts to a violation of Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution. Besides the overall attitude and stance of the government is arbitrary and is therefore violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.
Islamic Relief Committee (IRC), Petitioners: Pointed out to the petitioners that as per the available information, there were complaints about damage caused to approximately 535 religious places and that about 294 religious places there had already been repaired as on December 31, 2002. Subsequent meetings took place on January 7, 2004 and January 16, 2004. During the said meeting, the modalities for inspection of records were also discussed. On that date, there was a dispute. IRC clearly made out that the protection of places of worship was the duty of the government, which the government had failed to perform, and, therefore, it was advisable to undertake the repair of such religious places by the government immediately. The government of Gujarat through the Principal Secretary (Revenue) differed and insisted that the community should take responsibility for the repair work and the repairs to historic monuments would be looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India.
GOG (government of Gujarat) Position in the Gujarat HC
The govt of Gujarat denied there was discriminatory governance and stated that the state government had done all it could towards the restoration of normal human life from several points of view, leaving the task of restoration of religious places on the shoulders of organizations like the IRC. Moreover the GOG denied that there was failure, connivance, or negligence on the part of the State Government to control the situation during the riots, which broke out as a general reaction from the unfortunate incident of Sabarmati Express at Godhra. The state contested the argument that the provisions of Articles 14, 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India. It was also denied that unless the damaged religious places of worship were repaired or restored and the concerned citizens were fully compensated, or that the Gujarat government failed to perform its constitutional obligation as alleged or otherwise.
The state government chose to rely on the provisions of Rules 45, 46, 53, 54, 55 and 57 of Chapter II of Bombay Police Manual and the provisions of Sections 295 and 295A of the Indian Penal Code have always been regarded by