IX. LACK OF GOVERNMENT COMPENSATION FOR VICTIMS
Following the violence in February-March 2002, the government of Gujarat passed a series of orders designed to compensate victims for injury, loss of life, property, and livelihood. In many cases the compensation amounts were lower than precedents set by the state following the earthquake in Gujarat in January 2001. Most people interviewed by Human Rights Watch received negligible amounts to compensate for the destruction of their homes, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand rupees. Unable to prove that their loved ones were dead, and not simply "missing," many found it difficult to get compensated. No one interviewed by Human Rights Watch was compensated for injury or loss of employment or livelihood.
The victims of the communal violence in Gujarat in February-March 2002 have been denied the right to a remedy and reparation, a right enshrined in various international human rights instruments.211 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, widely viewed as customary international law, provides that everyone has "the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted" by the constitution or by law.212 The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party, requires in article 2 that states "ensure that any person whose rights or freedoms as herein recognized are violated shall have an effective remedy, notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity." Persons shall have their right to a remedy determined by "competent judicial, administrative or legislative authorities," or other competent state authority. The state must "ensure that the competent authorities shall enforce such remedies when granted."213 The U.N. Human Rights Committee, in its draft General Comment on article 2, states that without reparations to individuals whose rights have been violated, a state's "obligation to provide an effective remedy, which is central to the efficacy of Article 2, ...is not discharged. ... [T]he Covenant generally requires appropriate monetary compensation."214
On April 4, 2002 Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee visited Gujarat and announced a federal relief package that included the following provisions: Families that lost loved ones would receive Rs. 150,000 (U.S.$3,191) for each member killed. Rs. 50,000 (U.S.$1,064) would come from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund while Rs. 100,000 (U.S.$ 2,128) would come from the state.217 Those who suffered permanent disability would be given Rs. 50,000.218 As a result of the Prime Minister's relief announcement, the Gujarat government decided to reduce its compensation amount for families of deceased victims from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 50,000. As described below, many Muslim victims who lost family members have been unable to prove their loss and have received no compensation under these guidelines.
Vajpayee also announced that those whose homes were completely damaged in rural areas would receive Rs. 50,000 (U.S.$1,064) while those whose homes had suffered partial damage would receive Rs. 15,000 (U.S.$319). Vajpayee added that victims would not be resettled in a segregated manner. The federal government would also bear all the expenditure for the reconstruction of damaged homes. Those who lost shops and commercial establishments would also be compensated.219
On May 1, 2002, Vajpayee announced an additional Rs. 150 crore (U.S.$31,914,894) rehabilitation package for the victims of the violence, which included assistance for the reconstruction and repair of damaged homes and shops, and aid for the self-employed to restart their businesses and industrial activities. The package was also to provide for the revival of educational, medical, and other institutions in violence-affected areas, and for programs to support widows. The prime minister added that the package would be supplemented by loans and assistance from banks and financial institutions on relaxed terms similar to those enacted following the earthquake in Gujarat in January 2001.220 The Gujarat government has yet to account for how it is spending the Prime Minister's additional Rs. 150 crore relief fund.221
A series of government orders following these announcements ultimately resulted in the following breakdown of compensation amounts. 222
Compensation for Damages to Homes
On April 25, 2003, fifty-eight-year-old Babulal Abdul Hamid received a check for Rs. 2,000 (U.S.$43) for damages to his three homes and his kerosene shop. He had estimated his loss at Rs. 800,000 (U.S.$17,021). Within minutes of receiving his check, Hamid suffered a fatal heart attack.231 Thirty-year-old Mira Banu told Human Rights Watch that her family did not receive anything in the way of support from the government. Mira stayed in Shah-e-Alam camp for two months with her children and her husband. While in the camps, her husband became ill and was admitted to the hospital where he died four days later. After her husband's death, Mira moved into her mother's home. "Our house and everything in it was burned down," she said. "We came to the camp with only the clothes on our backs. We got nothing from the government even though we filled out so many forms. We just got two towels and some clothes from some relief workers. We got no money though."232
S. Banu, formerly of Naroda Patia, told Human Rights Watch that she was afraid to return to her home because one of the assailants she identified in an FIR continues to reside in her neighborhood. Banu, a mother of three young children, witnessed her husband's murder at the hands of the police.233 Banu and her children remained at Shah-e-Alam camp until it was closed in October 2002. Her children got very sick in the camps. They then moved into a small home bought for them by a Muslim charity in a Muslim-dominated neighborhood. During Human Rights Watch's interview with Banu, two repairmen arrived at her home to try and repair a metal armoire that was broken into during the violence. Following a visit by President Abdul Kalam, Banu received a check for Rs. 90,000 (U.S.$1,915) to compensate for her husband's death. She did not receive anything for the damages to her home. She told Human Rights Watch: "Even though the government did a survey we got nothing. They broke down the door and looted everything. I do not want to go back to Naroda Patia. If something happened again, how would I protect my kids? So I came here [location undisclosed]."234
Banu showed Human Rights Watch a copy of the affidavit listing the damages to her home, as well as a copy of the FIR naming the people she had accused. Banu received some financial support and a sewing machine from the NGO SEWA, the self-employed women's association.
One of the managers of the Shah-e-Alam camp summarized the experience of camp residents in getting compensation:
The NGO Janvikas236 conducted a survey on the implementation of compensation guidelines. Gagan Sethi, the head of Janvikas, told Human Rights Watch that while the government had technically complied with its own guidelines, the guidelines themselves were abysmally sub-standard. He stated, "It has been the worst since setting such high standards of rehabilitation post-earthquake. In comparison this is shameful... Everything was done by the rule and not a with a reparation or empathy mindset." He added the following as an example:
For victims who were residing in rental homes, relief could only be obtained upon receipt of a certificate from the landlord that he or she had no objection to the tenant claiming compensation for the destroyed property. Such certificates, however, have not been forthcoming from landlords.238 There have also been significant delays in the processing of loans and advances to help victims resume their livelihood.239
Compensation for the Death of Family Members
Afsara, a Muslim woman in her forties, is a former resident of Naroda Patia. Her eldest daughter, Noor Jahan, her father-in-law, and her brother's wife and his two children were all killed on February 28, 2002. Afsara's two remaining children, her son Sharukh, 9, and daughter Shah Jahan, 18, survived but suffered serious burn injuries.241 They were immediately admitted to Civil Hospital where they remained for two months. The family then moved to Shah-e-Alam camp for three months and finally into a home in a Muslim neighborhood allotted to them by a Muslim charity. Afsara told Human Rights Watch that she received very little from the government:
R. Bibi, whose thirty-six-year-old son was killed by the police in Naroda Patia, has not received full compensation because she could not prove that her son was dead. She told Human Rights Watch about her son's death and the bureaucratic obstacles she now faced:
When asked about whether she had received any compensation for her son's death R. Bibi added:
Bibi stated that the government awarded her Rs. 1,250 (U.S.$27) for household damages then added, "Is there ever just Rs. 1,250 worth of items in anyone's home? They stole everything, they burnt everything, they killed people, and that's all we got. Now my daughters go and do housework in other people's homes. They wash dishes, they sweep and clean." Bibi is now surviving on charity and food rations from the government. She explained that the government gives four kilograms of flour and one kilogram of rice per person per month on a ration card. "Some people got ration cards and others didn't. We had to fight so hard for it. We also have to travel far to collect our rations and spend Rs. 15, 20 and sometimes 30 [U.S.$0.32, $0.43, and $0.64] to travel to get the food. If you go twice then maybe one out of two times you'll be able to get food. So that's Rs. 50 [U.S.$1] or Rs. 60 [U.S.$1.3] just coming and going.... We find some way to fill our stomachs. Somehow we have to survive.... If you ask me, they've really abused and tortured Muslims here. It's too much. Even now we have no relief. We have no rest. For those who've saved us, many thanks to them. May God take care of them."245
Part of the compensation for families who have lost loved ones has come in the form of bonds. Typically the break down is as follows: Rs. 40,000 (U.S.$851) in cash and Rs. 60,000 (U.S.$1,277) in bonds. While the families are told that they have Rs. 60,000 in bonds, they have not, in some cases, been given any documents to prove their ownership.246
211 See, e.g., the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 8; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 2; and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, article 14 (containing an express provision for an "enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible.") Other non-binding international instruments also provide guidance on reparations. Principle 29 (2) of the U.N. Guiding Principles on International Displacement stipulates that internally displaced persons should be provided with compensation or other just reparation for property lost during the course of displacement. Further guidance on compensation can be found in the "Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law," drafted by M. Cherif Bassiouni, the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to restitution, compensation, and rehabilitation for victims of gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is available online at http://www.unhchr.ch/Huridocda/Huridoca.nsf/TestFrame/42bd1bd544910ae3802568a20060e21f?Opendocument (retrieved February 19, 2003).
212 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. res. 217A (III), U.N. Doc A/810 at 71 (1948), article 8.
213 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976, article 2. India ratified the covenant in 1979.
214 U.N. Human Rights Committee, Draft General Comment on Article 2, The Nature of the General Legal Obligation Imposed on States Parties to the Covenant Unedited Version, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/74/CRP.4/Rev.3 (2003), paragraph 15.
215 "Gujral, VP Singh Want Equal Compensation for All," Economic Times, March 8, 2002.
216 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," p. 57.
217 "Don't discriminate-PM tells Modi," Times of India, April 5, 2002.
218 "PM Announces Relief Measures for Riot Victims," rediff.com, April 4, 2002 [online],
219 "Don't discriminate-PM tells Modi," Times of India.
220 P. Sunderarajan, "Rs. 150 cr. for rehabilitation," The Hindu, May 2, 2002.
221 A writ petition was filed before the Gujarat High Court asking, among other things, that court order a complete accounting from the Gujarat government of the Rs. 150 crore rehabilitation package. Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 125
222 Table reproduced from the report, HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 17.
223 An ex-gratia payment is a payment made to an individual for loss or damage to personal property in a situation where the party making the payment admits no liability for the loss or damage.
224 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 74.
225 Mander, "Before it is too late."
226 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, pp. 73-74.
227 Ibid., p. 73.
229 Election Commission of India, "Press Note," p. 32.
230 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 32. For a comprehensive analysis of violations of the right to housing-as interpreted by international and Indian law-and its application to the rehabilitation of victims of violence in Gujarat see Ibid., pp. 10-15, 90-102.
231 Palak Nandi, "With paltry compensation, Govt deals riot-affected a body blow," Indian express online, May 7, 2003 [online], http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=17151 (retrieved May 20, 2003).
232 Human Rights Watch interview with Mira Banu, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003.
233 She told Human Rights Watch:
235 Human Rights Watch interview with Shah-e-Alam camp manager, Ahmedabad, January 3, 2003.
236 Since 1987, Janvikas has been providing training and support to individuals and voluntary organizations in the development field, including legal, health, education, and agricultural training. See www.janvikas.org/aboutus.html (retrieved June 1, 2003).
237 Human Rights Watch interview with Gagan Sethi, Ahmedabad, January 5, 2003.
238 Election Commission of India, "Press Note," p. 35.
239 Ibid., pp. 35-36.
240 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Feroz Gulzar, Ahmedabad, January 3, 2003.
241 Sharukh suffered burn injuries on his hand and foot while eighteen-year-old Shah Jahan is almost completely covered in burns.
242 Human Rights Watch interview with Afsara, Ahmedabad, January 5, 2003.
243 Human Rights Watch interview with R. Bibi, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003. Another eyewitness to the killing of R. Bibi's son added:
244 Human Rights Watch interview with R. Bibi, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003.
246 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 32.