Commission to study polarization in Gujarat disbanded after six years

The commission headed by justice (retired) B.J. Sethna was disbanded after it failed to submit its report despite four extensions

Ahmedabad: A one-member judicial commission set up by the Gujarat government to conduct inquiry into allegations of polarization of population on religious lines in the state was disbanded after six years when it failed to submit its report.

The panel, headed by justice (retired) B.J. Sethna, was set up through a government notification issued on 3 July 2009, was disbanded in August last year after it failed to submit its report despite four extensions.

It was scheduled to submit it by 31 January 2011.

While the commission said it was not given enough time to submit the report, the opposition Congress alleged that the delay was done by the ruling party in order to hide facts.

With the commission failing to submit its report, a scientific assessment to ascertain reasons behind religious polarisation and measures on how to tackle it will not be available for the policy makers and others to study and take necessary actions.

Then acting secretary of the commission K.M. Bhavsar said the government declined the request to grant further extension to the commission.

“The commission had conducted primary round of inquiry visiting different parts of the state and meeting public representatives and officials in civic bodies. But the term of reference being huge, it required more time to finalize the report," Bhavsar said.

It was granted four extensions and the government decided to give no further extension after its last term ended on 31 August last year, he said.

Justice (retired) Sethna, when contacted, declined to comment on the issue. “You should better talk to the government over the issue," he said.

Principal secretary (home) P.K. Taneja could not be reached for comments despite repeated attempts.

State Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the idea behind the Sethna commission was to hide facts and give a clean chit to the Bharatiya Janata Party government on the issue of communal polarization in the state.

“The idea behind this commission was to give a clean chit to the government after it was cornered by the media and judiciary on the issue of communal polarization. Several other such commissions were formed by the government with this very intention to blur facts. It was bound to be wrapped up this way as it cannot belie what remains a fact," Doshi said.

Lawyer and human rights activist Girish Patel said while the government has power to form and then disband a commission, the Sethna commission was formed with the “wrong intention" to counter allegations that were public knowledge.

“It is a known fact that polarization has taken place in the state on communal basis. But the commission was tasked by the state government to find a different reason behind polarisation and the intention was not right," Patel said.

The commission was formed by the Gujarat government after allegations were made in the media and judiciary that the population in the state was getting polarized on the basis of religion, which was leading to migration from one pocket to another.

The government had stated that the allegations had no scientific basis and formed a commission to ascertain facts. The terms of reference of the commission required it to measure areas covered by the people of different religions from 15 August 1947 and polarisation and migration that took place every 10 years since then.

It was also required to measure area-wise proportion of the people following different religions in residential areas formed after Independence and the size of such areas. The commission was also required to make recommendations to stop polarization.

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