The Tribunal adopted a simple, people-friendly
procedure. The press release of the constitution of the Tribunal and its
schedule of hearings was publicised well in advance. A schedule was worked
out and affected areas, relief camps and localities informed of the
sittings. Wherever we had our hearings, at pre-determined destinations or
in relief camps where the affected persons had sought refuge, victims came
in overwhelmingly large numbers and volunteered to give their statements.
It was not possible to examine each and every witness and place them on
record. Therefore we heard whom we could and took the rest of the accounts
as written statements on record that were recorded by a posse of activists
who helped the Tribunal.
Members of the Tribunal put several questions to elicit
correct answers . Though witnesses were not cross-examined, the Tribunalís
sittings were open to the public and all those interested in presenting
their point of view, were welcome. Simply because the evidence has not
been challenged does not mean that it is not reliable. Some police
officers have deposed but local police officers within affected areas did
not. We would have been happy for the police to attend our sittings.
Most victim survivors have lost near and dear ones in
the most brutal fashion, suffered serious injuries, and lost everything,
their homes, and their livelihood and have been evicted from their roots.
No justice has yet been done. In many cases their earlier statements,
records of FIRs and post mortem reports have been tendered as evidence.
This is part of the voluminous evidence that the Tribunal had on record.
Even as the Tribunal sat, threats and fears intimidated
ordinary people and the panel too had to function amidst tight security.
But the atmosphere within the Tribunal was open and people-friendly. Ours
is a peopleís inquiry and the victims could, without fear of reprisal,
give vent to their feelings, of the injustices they had suffered. In this
sense, such a Tribunal has, compared to an official commission, greater
chances of arriving at the truth. Before us, victim survivors named the
perpetrators of heinous crimes and except in exceptional cases, did not
fear from disclosing their identities. Other reports were also placed
before us and have assisted the Tribunal in arriving at itís conclusions.
The groups who invited the Tribunal to undertake this task were PUCL
Vadodara, Communalism Combat, Shanti Abhiyan, PUHR, Jan Sangharsh
Manch, Council for Social Justice, Prashant, India Centre for Human Rights
and Law,St Xaviers Social Service Society, Behavioural Science Centre,