Report of the visit by CPI(M) and AIDWA to Gujarat
This report is a result of the visit to Gujarat by a central delegation of the CPI(M) along with representatives of the All India Democratic Womenís Association from March 10 to 13, to express solidarity with the victims of the communal carnage and to get a first hand account of the terrible events on and from February 27. The delegation spoke to over a thousand people including citizens of both communities in affected areas, victims of the communal attacks, administrative officials in Ahmedabad, members of relief committees, members of the Citizens Initiative, various NGOs and intellectuals. The delegation also met the Governor Shri S.S.Bhandari on March 12 and gave him a memorandum with the main findings of the team and demands including the removal of the Chief Minister Narendra Mody.
The delegation visited camps in Shah Alam, Bapunagar Aman Chowk, SundaramNagar, Juhapura, Kankaria Municipal School No. 7 and 8 and Dariyakhan Ghummat in Ahmedabad. The delegation also visited the site of the horrific incidents of February 27 in Godhra, the Godhra Civil Hospital and the Iqbal Relief camp in Godhra. One member visited the camps in Mehsana district. The delegation also received memoranda from several of the camps and relief groups.
The delegation included Central Committee members Subodh Ray (M.P.) and Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali, Kiran Moghe, Mariam Dhawale, along with Arun Mehta (Secretary CPI-M Gujarat Committee) and Mahesh Chand, Iva Mehta ,Nalini Jadeja and Yashoda behn.
There is condemnation outrage and shock in the whole country against the inhuman attack on karsevaks travelling on the Sabarmati Express in which 58 persons the majority of them women and children were burnt to death. It is essential that the Central and State Governments act swiftly to identify and arrest the guilty. As mentioned in the memorandum to the Governor, the visit of the delegation to Godhra brought to light the surprising callousness and unconcern on behalf of the State Government to protect the burnt railway carriage that is surely crucial evidence in investigations into the horrific attack. The delegation saw bags of food grains, stoves, and jerry cans usually used for kerosene or cooking oil, inside the burnt bogey. This points to a possibility that there was inflammable material inside the railway coach. In any case investigation into the incident must be expedited. There is widespread disquiet in the state about the individual who is to head the investigation since he is known for his pro-Hindutva views and one of his judgements when he was serving in the High Court had been criticized by the Supreme Court for ërelying more on imagination than fact.í
The events in Gujarat following February 27 have rightly been described as an example of a state sponsored carnage against the Muslim community. It would be quite wrong to use the term "riot." The justification of the carnage offered by the Chief Minister Narendra Modi of it being a spontaneous reaction to the burning of the railway carriage of the Sabarmati Express does not tally with the facts on the ground as shown in this report. If the Chief Ministerís logic were valid, the first place to be affected would have been Godhra where the incident actually occurred. The sequence of events in Godhra, gathered by the delegation showed that because the administration moved swiftly and firmly within an hour of the incident in comparison with elsewhere, the situation could be better controlled within the town. Elsewhere particularly Ahmedabad it was not the administration but the constituents of the sangh parivar that used the first twenty-four hours to mobilize their wide network. The two- day bandh in the State on February 28 and March 1 called by them were then used to unleash violence in urban areas. For the first time in the history of this admittedly communally affected State even areas inhabited only by the Muslim community like mohallas in Bapunagar, were also devastated. As this report shows this was possible because everywhere the police accompanied the VHP led mob. There is also enough prima facie evidence, some of which is available in this report to show the complicity of the top leaders of the ruling party, elected members and even Ministers in the attacks There was no curfew in Ahmedabad for them.
The Government claims as an indication of its efficiency that it controlled the violence within 72 hours. 72 hours of freedom to loot, kill and plunder is long enough to destroy a whole community. Moreover, the violence is not yet over. Even the Governor in our talks with him admitted that the attacks went on for longer although according to him "there were no killings." At present the army is on standby to leave the State. Senior administrative officials were apprehensive given the coincidence of Moharram and Holi at the end of the month. The delegation had demanded that the army not only remain in Gujarat at least till the end of the month, but that it increases its presence in some of the affected rural areas. Even today, there are reports that fresh violence has occurred in some districts.
The pattern of violence and targeting of Muslim owned properties including those with names, which would not denote community identity, show careful planning. We were told that house checks in the guise of census data collection had been done only recently. The use of cranes, shovels and even trucks to demolish walls were not by any definition "spontaneous.í The most shameful as also blatant example of state complicity is the demolition, levelling and then tarring over of the mazhar of a most revered sufi poet Wali Gujarati. The delegation could not make out where it had stood so complete is its destruction. The destruction of masjids, 44 in Ahmedabad according to one estimate were done with the help of trucks and perhaps bulldozers. Clearly the symbols of religious identity were to be destroyed.
Analysts have compared the events in Gujarat to those following the assassination of Indira Gandhi when thousands of members of the Sikh community were killed and property destroyed in several parts of the country under the leadership of the then ruling party. However as clear from this report the comparisons are limited. In Gujarat the events are the bloody harvest of years of the systematic spread of communal poison and hatred against minority communities both Muslim and Christian by the constituents of the sangh parivar in the implementation of the political slogan of Hindu rashtra. The report contains a young woman Bís story. The area in Randhikpur village where this atrocity occurred is the same area where the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had attacked a whole village in early 1999 because they suspected that the village was sheltering intercommunity couples ( two Hindu girls and two Muslim boys) who had got married.350 Muslims at that time had been forced to leave the village and had their property ransacked. There was a vicious campaign against them. A few months later the next target was the Christian community who were attacked in August 1999.It was reported at that time that 5000 VHP and Bajrang Dal members had attacked Christian houses for ten hours while the police took no action. The main areas affected in the current round of violence outside Ahmedabad have even earlier witnessed mob violence organised by the VHP against minorities in the last few years. The delegation was given copies of inflammatory leaflets brought out over the years by the sangh parivar that in any secular State would have put the publishers behind bars. These leaflets were widely used by the kar sevaks in the current mobilizations on the Ayodhya issue. The delegation found one such leaflet dated August 18, 2001 from the burned carriage of the Sabarmati Express. It is for these reasons that the violence in Gujarat is not a 72 hour aberration as made out by the Government but an ongoing project of the Hindutva forces.
The delegation spoke to several eyewitnesses of the looting of big shops. A well-known artist in Ahmedabad described to some members of the delegation how a neighbour had returned with a car full of looted goods. Another related how couples from a block of flats built and inhabited by NRGís (non- resident Gujaratis) proudly displayed looted goods to neighbours. All the reports of looting in the posh areas of the city indicated that it was not the poor but the well-dressed middle class, including women who participated. However we could not visit any of the colonies from where these looters reside so we were unable to actually get an idea of the numbers of middle class people involved. In one reported incident a woman went into a shoe shop while her husband waited in the car. The shoes she brought out did not fit him so she went in again to change them! Whether this particular story is true or not, it captures the amoral greed of supposedly educated people which was on full display for at least two days in Ahmedabad. The political platform of Hindutva directly encourages criminal acts directed against ëthe other" and converts looted goods from Muslim properties into trophies to be displayed as "politically correct status symbols. " It is difficult to find such parallels elsewhere in India.
In Gujarat there are more affluent sections of the minority community than in any other State. The attacks have broken the economic spine of the community and helped rivals in many industries which they previously dominated For example Ahmedabad is dotted with the burnt remains of according to one estimate, over 700 small and big hotels owned by the Muslim Cheliyar community. Lists of these hotels many of them with Hindu names were reportedly in the possession of the arsonists that explains how they could so easily identify Muslim properties. In many rural areas, sections of particular sects of Muslims are money lenders or traders and ration shop owners giving loans to tribal and other poorer sections. Survivors testified to the delegation that VHP groups trucked in tribals to loot and burn. These are clearly a cynical manipulation of feelings generated not by communal but by economic concerns. The RSS and its "Vanvasi "organizations have been extremely active in promoting communal divisions among the tribal communities which was earlier witnessed during the violence against Christian tribals. This base is now being used against Muslims in several rural areas.
The testimonies of the victims some of which are published in this report reflect a level of savagery that is truly shocking. Ahmedabad has seen many communal incidents and rioting. But everyone said they had never known of so many cases when children and women were burnt. The delegation spoke to many women who had been injured and attacked while trying to save their children and husbands. Almost everyone the delegation spoke to expressed horror at the burning of children and women. As the testimonies included in this report show, the number of dead and the property burnt is far greater than estimated by the State Government. There are serious doubts about the compensation since even 10 days after the mass burnings, killings and looting there is little effort to record FIRs. Worse still, the terrible insecurity felt by the minority community makes a mockery of the concept of rehabilitation. Where would the homeless and the violated be rehabilitated? Today the displaced families believe they can never go back to the areas or the villages where they lived. It would require a fundamentally different political situation and Government which would guarantee that Muslims could live in peace and security.
According to Government estimates there are at present almost one lakh people in relief camps. As is shown in this report, the condition of the camps continues to be horrible. Trauma and grief pervades the camps. Yet students of Class 10 and 12 are expected to start giving their board exams on March 18. When the earthquake hit Gujarat in January last year, the Government correctly made allowances for students in affected areas and postponed the examinations for another two months. Yet there is no such sympathy today. This means that students whether Muslim or Hindu who live in affected areas along with those in the camps will be forced to miss at least one academic year or risk failure.
Yet through all the horror of Gujarat, there were also the voices of sanity and humanity. The delegation was moved by the tremendous work being done by relief workers of all communities. It also met scores of people young and old, men and women who expressed their horror and anger at the communal carnage and against the forces who planned for its occurrence. They all expressed their helplessness. There were huge mobs with the police standing by, how could we have come out against them they asked. We are against what happened, but what could we have done? Questions that haunt the human conscience. There were cases where neighbours had saved Muslims. In some areas like in Juhapura, some Hindu families have left out of fear but their property is undamaged. The Shah Alam camp organizers are also running a camp in a mandir where a group of Hindu families have come. These are examples that provide some hope.
The delegation has made this detailed report available so that a wider section of people become aware of what the implementation of Hindu rashtra costs the nation.
REPORT OF THE DELEGATION
GODHRA, PANCHMAHAL DISTRICT : March 11
The delegation visited Godhra town in Panchmahal district on the March 11 where it met the District Magistrate, Railway officials, Railway police officials, doctors and nurses at the Civil Hospital. At the Iqbal Primary School that is being run as a relief camp for about 1800 people, the delegation met the organisers as also the affected. It was the first day that the curfew had been lifted for the full day and was to be imposed at 6pm.
The District magistrate Ms. Jayanthi Ravi told the delegation that she had got a message from the Railway Station SS at 8.05 on 27 morning that the Sabarmati Express was being stoned. At 8.10, she got another message saying that some of the carriages were on fire. Her immediate concern she said was to ensure that the police and fire services reached there and that adequate medical arrangements were made. According to her the police reached there within a few minutes. The police and RPF fired to disperse the crowd and two Muslims were killed. The fire service reached at around 8.30. She also asked for additional forces. She refused to comment on any aspect of what was part of the investigations except to state that the mob was of a few hundred people from the area neighbouring the railway tracks and that all those injured had been rushed to the Civil Hospital and then later shifted to Ahmedabad.. She took the decision to impose curfew at 10 am and it was implemented fully by noon by which time all the children in schools had been safely sent home. The train left for Ahmedabad at 12.40.
The delegation was impressed by the firm actions taken by the DM that probably prevented a much bigger outbreak of violence in a town described as "communally sensitive."
Later when the delegation visited the relief camp evidence of the positive role of the administration in providing relief and medical aid was also mentioned by those affected. The delegation could not get details of the actual damage in Godhra as it was not possible in such a short period to move around the town.
The delegation also met senior railway officials including the RPF who were there on the 27. Tragically, Puja Deshpande the wife of the Station Master Shri Deepak Deshpande had boarded the Sabarmati Express on that day travelling to Ahmedabad. She was one of those who had been burnt to death. The delegation tried to meet Shri Deshpande but he was not available.
According to the statements of the officials, the train was running late by 4 hours and 40 minutes. They had no information that the kar sevaks were on the train. Usually, said the RPF officer when rallyists travel there is prior information. Thus when the rallyists were on their way to Ayodhya the RPF post had received a message and the particular officer had in fact accompanied them till the next big junction. This according to him is essential because usually rallyists pick up fights at the station, not paying for the tea etc. so RPF has to be alert. The RPF official said he was later informed by two licenced tea vendors that some of the kar sevaks refused to pay for the tea and were harassing a Muslim tea vendor on the railway platform. However he could not tell the delegation their names or where they lived. Thus this report could not be confirmed. When asked about a press report that a girl related to the tea vendor had been picked up, he said that there he had no knowledge of such an incident but there may have been a quarrel between the tea vendor and the kar sevaks. According to him the police have not recorded any statements of the vendors yet because of the curfew but will do so shortly.
The railway official said that the train arrived at 7.45 a.m. and left at 7.50 a.m. He believes the chain was pulled soon after because some passengers were left on the platform. He saw these passengers running to board the train after it had pulled out. The chain pulling occurred twice, first at 7.55 and then at 7.58. If this is so then the story that some people from the mob had climbed on to the train to stop it so that it could be attacked would not be correct. According to him a mob of about 500 ñ 600 people (Muslims, mostly Ghanchiyas from the adjacent colony, parallel to the track) had gathered. They were shouting and could be seen stoning the train, especially S6 from across the track. There were no crowds on the other side that is why other passengers could escape. Since the train was a few hundred metres from the platform they could not see exactly how and when the train caught fire. But all the officials the delegation spoke to stated repeatedly that in all their experience of train accidents and burning, never had they seen a coach catch fire and burn so quickly. According to them this could only happen if the entire coach had been doused with petrol or/and if there was inflammable material inside the coach. They also said that in a coach meant for 72 passengers there were at least 50 more that made it difficult for people to get out. The window shutters had been pulled down and the officials conjectured that this was perhaps to escape from the stoning. But then how could so much inflammable material have found its way inside to the extent that the entire coach was so badly burnt? By the time the fire-fighters came, there was no sound from inside. It was their conjecture that the victims of this terrible atrocity were mainly women and children because others stronger and bigger could reach the exit doors first. The delegation was horrified and deeply moved to hear this recounting.
Inside the burnt coach the delegation found heaps of foodgrains, sacks stacked near the windows. There were also stoves and jerry cans. Clearly the kar sevaks had taken this material to cook for themselves. This points to the possibility of inflammable substance inside the coach. In any case there were no restrictions on anyone wanting to go inside.
At the Iqbal Primary School camp the administration was giving them rations and also helping them with FIRs. There were people from the rural areas of Panchmahal and Dahod districts. They have faxed 300 FIRs to the police thanas but are not aware how many have been registered by the police authorities.
While the situation in the town seemed comparatively under control, the situation in the rural areas is serious with about 6000 people fleeing their homes and taking shelter in various camps. The delegation met some of victims from the rural areas in Iqbal Primary School camp and in the hospital who are from Panchmahal and Dohad districts.
In the rural areas outside Godhra:
B w/o Y from Randhikpur village (District Dahod) is 21 years old, five months pregnant.. We meet her in the camp. Frail, motionless, drained of all expression she tells her story in a monotone as though she is speaking of someone else. Muslim houses in her village were attacked by upper caste people from her own village along with outsiders on March 1 . She and several of her family members fled. She names them: my baby girl Saleha, my mother, Halima, my sisters, Mumtaz and Munni, my brothers, Irfan and Aslam, my maternal uncle, Majeed, two of my fatherís sisters, Sugra and Amina, one of their husbands, Yusuf, Aminaís son, and three daughters, Shamim, Mumtaz and Medina and Shamimís son Husain. Shameem she says was nearing her full term. It was difficult for both of them to run.
At first, they escaped to Chundagi village which was 5 ñ 6 kms. away and took shelter with Bijal Damor, the local MLA. Then they were asked to leave since it was not safe and they walked to Kuajher where they were given shelter in a mosque. Here Shamim was delivered of a baby girl by a midwife but they were asked to leave soon afterwards because mosques were a target of the rampaging mobs. Shameem barely able to walk, her infant being carried by her sister almost dragged by the others, herself, tired breathless, her baby girl insisting on being carried only by her, they somehow managed to reach village Kudra. Here some Adivasi Naikas took pity on Shamimís condition and kept them in their huts. B remembers: They were kind to us. Shamim's clothes were dirty.Even though the adivasis were poor they gave her something clean to wear. They let us rest, but then again we had to move but they came with us, escorting us to the next village Chhapadvad. B pauses. A woman next to her puts her arm around her. She continues : We had started moving towards Panivela village. It was a remote and hilly place. Suddenyl we heard the sound of a vehicle. A truck came with people from our own village and outsiders too. They had not come to help us. They stopped us and then the madness started. They pulled my baby from my arms and threw her away. I and the other women were taklen aside and raped. I was raped by three men. I was screaming. They beat me and then left me for dead.When I regained consciousness I found I was alone. All around me were the dead bodies of my family, my baby girl, the new born baby. They were covered with stones. I lay there the whole night and most of the next day. I do not know when I was conscious and when unconscious.Later I was found by a police squad from Limkheda police station .I was taken to the hospital and hen brought here. In the hospital the doctors confirmed that her medical examination had confirmed rape.
She has named the people who killed her family members and those who raped her: Sailesh Bhatt, Mithest Bhatt, Vijay Maurya, Pradeep Maurya, Lala Vakil, Lala Doctor, Naresh Maurya, Jaswant Nai and Govind Nai (the last three gang-raped her)
Her father and husband have been traced to another camp at Dahod and her brother, Saeed, is with her in Godhra. Her five-month old unborn child is still alive.
Maqsuda Bibi's story:
Maqsuda, large eyes, very thin. lying with her head bandaged in the injuries ward of the hospital. Her face to the wall, neighbouring patients say she does not talk much. She is from Anjanwa village, District Panchmahal. She says, I was in the house with my two sons Ifzal and Imran she says. They were very scared and kept crying. Our village was attacked on March 5 (long after the notorious 72 hour claim of the Chief Minister) I took my children and we along with four other women started running. We were caught and all of us were thrown into a well that belonged to the sarpanch of the village Jaisigh Dona Ghori. I was unconscious. My children were still. I lay there the whole night. I was rescued by the police the next day but my children were dead and all the four other women with me. I wish I too had died.
Voices from Pandarava village, Panchmahal district
One of the worst atrocities reported is from the village of Pandarava where according to some reports 100 people were killed. The official figure is 21. There was no way to confirm the number. But the delegation met the survivors, many of them severely injured in the Civil Hospital, Godhra.From their accounts it would appear that a mob of adivasis were trucked in led by the sarpanch of the village. They surrounded the Muslim houses, burnt and attacked the inhabitants. There was Sakina bibi Sayyad, who looked about 65. She was sitting on her bed in a dishevelled and completely disoriented condition. She had sword wounds on her breasts, both hands and neck. She was cut up by the attackers when she was trying to save her sons. They came to attack us, they burnt our house, but where are my family, where? She knew nothing of the fate of her five sons and three daughters whom others fear dead .
Yusufbhai from the same village was lying on his hospital bed with his small
children, unable to speak. The mob that attacked their houses pushed an iron rod in his mouth and injured him very severely. His wound is still bleeding
and he is in terrible pain
Fatima bibi Shaikh and Fatima bibi w/o Irshad also from the same village are both in the hospital with severe injuries caused by cuts from swords. They too were trying to save their husbands. The latterís husband was killed. Zohra saw her husband Ayub and mother-in-law Amina killed before her eyes. I tried to save them she cries, holding out her arm broken in several places by Thakeras and the Sarpanch Jaswant Patel. A child Moin, just 5 years old, barely escaped being killed lies injured in the hospital.
The people from the village who were in the hospital looking after their injured family members told us that they were attacked in their homes by many villagers including Thakeras. Some of them escaped and spent the night in the fields. They returned to the village in the morning and found more than a hundred homes had been burnt and they fear that nearly a hundred people may have been killed. They said that Ayub, Murad, Yasin had been killed; Rabia said that her husband, Haneefís sister Munni, her daughter-in-law, Aslam,her 2 year-old grandchild and one other person were all killed.
From the testimonies of the surviviors the violence in the villages followed the same pattern. Some people in the village along with outsiders who came in trucks then attacked all Muslim houses. In many of the areas, those trucked in were adivasis. The survivors could not understand the involvement of adivasis, we have never had any tension with them earlier, they said.
In the camp:
Mohd. Ishtiaq from Mora village told us that there are 115 Muslim and 500 Hindu houses in his village. He said that on the March 1 after the namaaz a crowd of a hundred or so people of whom about 50 were from the village, attacked them but they were able to offer some resistance and they went away. At 8.00 p.m. a much bigger crowd came and burnt 23 houses. An hour later the Dy. Supdt. of Police came to the village. They begged him for help but he left. Nor did he send the police. As a result the village faced two more attacks one at 2 in the morning and again the next day. This was when the delegation heard of the use of explosives. "They used something which blew up our houses. " They said "You should be happy that we are only burning your houses." Trucks, shops and agricultural implements belonging to the Muslims were destroyed. About 250 of them took shelter in the masjid and another 116 in Haji Ishaqís house. Two thirds were women and children. They were all brought to the camp by the BSF. This testimony gave an indication that the attacks were also geared towards wiping out all traces of Muslim property so that it could more easily be occupied.
We also met Ghani Bhai from the same village at the camp. He said that on the 27th evening he was in Limkheda where some attacks were made. His motor-cycle was burnt but he was able to go back to his village. At 2.00 a.m., about 70 houses in his village were burnt. The next day, the burning started at 8.00 a.m. and continued all day till 10.00 p.m. All the inhabitants tried to escape. Some found shelter with Bijalbhai Damor. B and her family were also there he said. The Taluka Panchayat Sarpanch, Lallubhai Parmar, sheltered another 80 people who were brought safely to the camp. Clearly, unlike many of the local politicians who either led the mobs or remained silent, these two leaders played an important role in saving the victims.
Officially recognised deaths:
The administration account of the deaths as on March 11 is as follows:
Date Taluka Village No. of dead
28.02 Khanpur Pandunda 1
1. 03 Ghoganbi Rinchia 1
Kadana Devada 1
Khanpur Pandharwa 21
Halol Halol 5
2, 03 Kalol Kalol 16
Linnawada Linnawada 1
Khanpur Limdia 8
Kalol Aral 7
Halol Rameshra 2
3 ñ 4 - - -
5. 03 Santrampur Anjanvar 8
6 -7 - - -
Maulvi Husain Umarji, Messrs. Khatudi,. A.A. Hasan,. Charkha all advocates and others who are organisers of the camp told us that Godhra has a mixed population which is 40% Muslim and 60% Hindu. While there was rioting in the town in 1980 since then there have been no incidents, not even in l992. There are individual disputes they say that people try to convert into communal friction but there have been not communal clashes in this entire period. They said, however, that political events were vitiating the atmosphere for some time before February 27th. The BJP had not been a major political force in the area but in the last Parliamentary election, a BJP MP, Bhupendra Singh Solanki, was elected. He had been arrested under NSA in l989 for fomenting communal tension. There were no MLAs from that party in the district. After the last town area elections, Shri Raju Darji of the BJP was elected President. In April, 2001, a no-confidence motion against him was moved by Shri Mohd. Hasan who had the support of 24 corporators, eight of whom were Hindus. The motion was passed and, in May, Shri Mohd. Hasan was elected President of the town area. He is now under arrest as the main accused in the Sabarmati Express case. He has no previous criminal history. We were told that as far as the camp organisers knew, the ghastly event of February 27th was triggered off by an altercation between a tea vendors, at least one of whom was a Muslim, and ëkar sewaksí. They did not think that it was a pre-meditated attack and were convinced that the political events of the town were also responsible for the way in which the incident was being presented by BJP leaders. They believed that with the political isolation of the BJP this type of violence was geared only to regaining its hold in view of the forthcoming elections next year.
They told us that no incident of any kind took place in Godhra town after the train atrocity on the 27. But later, planned attacks were made from February 28 till March 3. The attacks, though fewer, were continuing till the date of our visit, the 11th of March.
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, LOSS OF LIVES, COMPENSATION
According to the Gujarat Government about 600 people have been killed since February 27th in incidents of arson (including the setting on fire of the train compartment at Godhra), communal killings and police and ëprivateí firing. This is a gross underestimate. Since charred bodies are still being recovered and the killings have not yet stopped, this figure is bound to go up. Relief organisations taking details from the camps put the figure at closer to 2000.
Estimates of damage and destruction of property are being place at more than Rs. 3000 crores in losses in Ahmedabad alone.
Many mosques, dargahs and mazars have been broken and destroyed. The Indian Express of March 13 quotes Maulana Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui, the Imam of the Jami Masjid as saying that he has identified 44 masjids, dargahs and tombs that were ransacked and damaged.
The mazhar of the revered poet, Wali Gujarati (opposite the Police Commissionerís office) was not only broken on on February 28th but subsequently a saffron flag was placed on it. After that was removed by the police, the shrine was completely obliterated and then a tarmac road was built on the spot. The Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation has denied any responsibility as far as the road construction is concerned but it is quite clear that this could not have been done without the involvement of some Governent agency. At least ten mosques have been ëconvertedí into temples where puja is being held regularly. The Gumte Masjid, a sixteenth century ASI protected monument, has been broken down by rioters. This could not have been done without the use of bulldozers.
At Vasna, on the main highway to Rajkot, a large mosque has been demolished. We were told that there was a legal case in process regarding the land on which this stood and that Ministers in the Gujarat Government had been physically present when it was demolished.
Everywhere in Ahmedabad, shops, business establishments, buildings, homes, hotels, restaurants and small kiosks belonging to Muslims have been burnt, looted and destroyed in a planned and scientific manner. In some large shopping centers, only those shops belonging to Muslims have been burnt while others adjacent to them are untouched. This applies to restaurants, smaller shops and office-premises also. A systematic plan to break the economic backbone of an entire community to makew it dependent and subordinate has been implemented.
The extent of damage all over the State can only be imagined. Our delegation visited Godhra by road from Ahmedabad and, on the way back, tried to count the number of Muslim properties that had been damaged on either side of the Highway. A rough estimate of what we saw
Between Godhra and Timba Road Station ñ11 shops, 3 houses, 2 trucks
Timba Road - a mosque, 23 establishments in the main market, a large building 4 railway quarters
Between Shivalaya and Ambava - 2 trucks, some kiosks
Ambava - 11 stores/galas, 1 house
Thasra - 2 houses and 1 timber godown
Dakor - 16 galas, 2 large houses, several cars
Alina - 10 houses
Mirzapur - 1 house
Mehmudabad -8 galas, Bhagyodaya Hotel, 1 mazar, 1 petrol pump, 1hotel, 4 handcarts, 4 houses
Near Ramod Police Station - Sarvottam Hotel
Ramol - innumerable shops and houses razed to the ground; several large factories; garages; petrol pumps; Satkar Restaurant; Sarvodaya Hotel and Supreme Hotel
These are only those visible from the main road. We may have missed many more All the hotels mentioned belong to members of a Muslim community known as Chelliyas who are hoteliers/restauranteurs. In the last few years they have built hotels and restaurants with seemingly ëHinduí names, many of which have prominent signboards proclaiming them to be ëPure Vegetarianí. A year ago a Gujarati newspaper Sandesh published a list of all hotels and restaurants owned by them giving all the names as if to say whatever you may do, you cannot disguise the fact that your establishments are owned by Muslims. Others say that the arsonists used this list. This is probably closer to the truth for otherwise identification would not have been possible. Eyewitnesses we spoke to said that vehicles with tins of petrol and trucks with instruments were moving on the main highway without any hindrance. A large number of these structures look as though they have been demolished by bulldozers. Clearly it would have required time to break these buildings into the rubble now visible. Where were the police during the time it took?
But what about the compensation ? In a situation where FIRs are not being filed in the camps and where affected and bereaved people cannot go to the police station either because they are terror-stricken or because it is physically not possible to do so, the question of payment of compensation is reduced to a farce. Since in many areas all traces of the property are being removed, there is fear and apprehension that the empty spaces will be occupied by the criminals and looters. As far as those who have died are concerned, since FIRs regarding their killings are not being registered, not only will their dependants be denied any compensation but their killers, whether rioters or police personnel, will never be brought to book and a very grave miscarriage of justice will occur.
In the rural areas an even more horrible situation is being created. We were told by survivors that Muslim peasants and shop-keepers are being driven out in droves and their homes, shops, fields, livestock, implements are being torched. They are apprehensive that their land is being occupied.
AHMEDABAD MARCH 10,12,13
Ahmedabad looks like a city ravaged by war. For the first time even areas dominated by the Muslim community were targets of attack because of the connivance of the police. One such area was Bapunagar and its surroundings. Ansar Nagar, Sone ki Chali, Rahat Nagar, Medina Nagar, Akbar Nagar, Urban Nagar etc all areas along Highway 8 on the right side coming from Ahmedabad city) These are all areas totally inhabited by Muslims. There are shops in front and rows of houses at the back. Nearby are high-rise buildings like Gayatri Nagar which are inhabited by the majority community. Until now, people living here have felt quite secure. This time was different.
Most of the people who live here are originally from Uttar Pradesh but have been in Ahmedabad for at least three generations since their ancestors had all come to work in the Ahmedabad textile industry. After the closure of the mills, many of them work in small factories, as daily wage-earners, petty vendors, drivers, shop-keepers, tradesmen or own small businesses. The houses, except for Akbar Nagar and Urban Nagar, are pucca and built in rows on single or double-storied tenements. There is a large Madrasa, Qasimul uloom, and a large Mosque, the Medina Masjid.
Our delegation went around much of the area. We were accompanied by Com Shahabuddin a CPI(M) and CITU leader who lives in the area and has been actively involved in the relief work and many others of the area including Firoze, Rajabhai, Wali Mohammed and also many women. We saw that some of the families whose homes while damaged had not been completely destroyed were living in them and cooking their own food. Even they had lost most of their possession. Many others had to live in the camps because their homes had been completely burnt down. Akbar Nagar was a hutment colony just behind the Office of the Asst. Commissioner of Police, "H" Division. It had been completely destroyed: burnt and then razed down and almost all traces of its existence had been obliterated. More than 300 families from here were in the Bapunagar Aman Chowk camp.
The people accompanying us said that stray attacks started on the 28th. People would come in groups, there would be resistance from the area. Some firing was also resorted to. 120 hutments of Urban Nagar were looted and burnt. On the 1st, at 2.00 p.m.the entire area was cordoned off completely by the police and huge mobs of thousands gathered all around it. The delegation saw the wall which had been broken by the mob to get into the area. The rioters were armed with swords and other weapons like iron and wooden rods and well-equipped with inflammable material. They came in waves and seemed very organised and prepared. When they could not demolish certain structures, they brought trucks and drove them into their targets. A 12-13 year old boy, Basheer, was shot dead. The police shot Sageer Ahmed dead and his body was later burnt by the mob. We were told that about 35 in this area had been killed and about 500 injured. They named Bapu Jhadapiya the brother of the Gujarat Home Minister, Goverdhan Jhadapiya and said that he had been openly moving with the police and directing the mobs. They also mentioned Bharat Rana, an RSS supporter and Siti Cable owner or operator (this was a bit uncertain) and said that they and others had all been using mobile phones during the attack. They also said that some badly affected areas fell under the Central Home Minister, L.K. Advaniís parliamentary constituency, so how could they hope for justice. They asked how he could look after and protect the country when he could not protect those who lived in his constituency. They mentioned that even on the day that he visited looting and burning were continuing.
The Madarsa, where about a hundred children used to live and many more study, was also attacked and desecrated. We saw charred bags of grain and many books, including Korans we were told, burnt to ashes, empty liquor bottles in a heap on the floor of the main hall, on the blackened walls of which had been scratched "Andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai" (The hidden truth is that the police is with us); "Shiv Sena Zindabad"; "Narendra Modi Zindabad". The mob also set fire to the interior of the mosque. Even though the residents have tried to clean it up and have started praying in it, the ceiling is still black, the mimbar is badly damaged, fans and lights are mangled and the charred remains of floor mats and books could be seen.
It was only when the army arrived at 6.00 p.m on the 1st that the mayhem was stopped.
We visited 5 camps in Ahmedabad where Muslim victims were being provided with shelter. We visited one camp in Ahmedabad where there were Hindu riot victims. The administration could not tell us of other Hindu camps although according to them there may have been 4-5.
The camps were :1. Shah Alam Dargah (9000 people), Sundram Nagar (3,500 people), Bapu Nagar Aman Chowk (8000 people), Juhepura Sankalit Nagar (3000 people) Dariyakhan Ghummat and Kankaria Primary School 7 and 8 (700 dalits)
With the exception of the Kankaria camp, the camps are all being run by members of the Muslim community, with help from NGOís and citizenís groups. It seemed tragic that it is the community most affected which had to support its members. They are catering to victims who are pouring in from a 40 km radius. 32 Hindu families of the Narsee ji Mandir area, near Shah Alam area, who are living in the Mandir since the 28th because they were afraid and because 3 or 4 of their homes were burnt are also being fed and looked after by the Shah Alam camp organisers
It took the Government till March 5 to recognise that there were thousands of people in camps in terrible distress. A GR was issued on that date, a copy of which is available with the delegation stating the quantum of relief to be made available to each victim in terms of grain, oil and 5/- per head per day for the purchase of vegetables, masalas etc. Yet when the delegation visited the camp a week later it found that the Shah Alam camp and the Bapu Nagar camps have received altogether 1500 kgs of rice each along with some tins of cooking oil and packets of powdered milk. No cash assistance has been received by any of them. This just about covers one day's requirement. In Ahmedabad we also saw FCI godowns with stacked foodgrains but clearly distributing it in relief camps is not what the Government plans to do. There were numerous injured survivors in the camps but till a day earlier the only doctors were volunteers from the community. Two Government doctors visited the Shah Alam camp for two hours, but even though there are many women in the camp who need urgent attention, there are no lady doctors. Three babies have been born in the Shah Alam camp and one in the Bapunagar camp with no medical assistance.
Sanitation and the supply of water are also problems. For 9000 people in the Shah Alam camp the Municipal Corporation has provided a mobile toilet with just 5 seats and a temporary toilet with 5 seats .There is no drainage or any arrangements for cleaning or garbage removal. In contrast local volunteers are working around the clock to keep the camps inhabitable. The delegation came across an NGO called the Kamdar Swasthya Suraksha Mandal which was was cleaning the Bapu Nagar camp and had also cleaned 8 other camps. Two water tankers a day are provided to the Shah Alam camp everyday but the organizers of the camp are responsible for emptying of the tankers and if they are late then the tankers leave.
One or two camps have Government compensation forms to be filled in against which the victims are supposed to get yellow cards. Volunteers spend hours trying to fill up the forms for the victims. This is a difficult task since the forms are very complex and detailed and demand a lot of information, not all of it available to people who have lost their homes and all their documents. The shortage of forms can be comprehended by the fact that while there are more than 8000 people in the Bapu Nagar camp,they have been given only 200 forms. There is no provision being made for the filing of FIRs against loss of property and life. Since most of the thanas are far away from the camps, it is not possible for the victims to go there. Only in Bapu Nagar camp were the former residents of Akbar Nagar (which has been razed to the ground) able to go to the thana across the road (behind which their home once were) to file their FIRs. About 20 FIRs a day are actually registered by the thana authorities when there are more than 300 to be filed.
No government officials had visited any of these camps except those who accompanied the all-Party delegation that visited the Shah Alam Camp.
The Kankariya camp had 175 dalit families from the Shah Alam Toll Naka area. Gopal Bhai Sharma who was in charge of the Kankaria Municipal Schools 7 and 8 told us that 700 people from this area came to this camp on the 28th after they were attacked after the rioting started on the 28th morning. He said that stones and acid were thrown on these people by Muslims living in an 11 story building nearby . Bhagaji was killed. 40 houses were burnt. They have been back since to see their houses which are undamaged. They are all daily wage-earners and dalits. The women work as domestic servants in their neighbourhood. They are all anxious to return home and start working again but are demanding that a police chowki be established in the area.
We were happy when they informed us that they had been getting rations from March 4 and that all their FIRs had already been lodged with the police. Without this help these poor families would have been in even further distress. Unlike the other camps we did not find any volunteers or help here. The camp is in an upper caste neighbourhood. The CM Narendra Modi, Fakirbhai Vaghela and the Leader of the opposition leader Amarsingh Chowdhury have all visited the camp. Various officials have also been regularly visiting the camp. We could only wish that the other camps had received similar attention.
But on the contrary, till March 10 not a single Minister or a single Government official had visited even a single camp, apart from at the time of the visit of the all party delegation. Since we were late for our appointment with the Collector, K Srinivas we met the Additional Collector Urmila Patel, along with officials in charge of the relief operations. When we pointed out this blatant double standard in aid to relief camps the only reply was that employees are too scared to go to the Muslim camps. What about officials? Actually many non- Muslim relief workers were moving in and out of the camps with no problem. It appeared to be a deliberate canard against the Muslim community that relief workers would be attacked, propaganda to justify the clearly discriminatory approach between Muslim and Hindu camps. Shockingly the officials expressed ignorance about the fact that no rations were being sent or that FIRs were not being filed. They said that the Police Commissioner was to have ensured a desk at each camp to file the Firs and were surprised that it was not so.
Voices of anguish
Smt Yashodaben Koshti whom we met at the Shah Alam camp told us that she had read leaflets distributed by the VHP that said that Hindus should not have any kind of relations with Muslims. If they did, they were not Hindus at all. She said I am a Hindu but I am ashamed at what they have done in my name and that is why I am here in the camp to help in whatever way I can.
In the camps, areas and hospitals that we visited there were groups of people from the same neighbourhood, mohalla or village. From their accounts, it was possible to piece together pictures of what transpired in these areas between the night of February 27th and March 5th.
The ëTimes of Indiaí of March 13th says that, according to the police, 107 people were burnt to death in Naroda Patia and the adjacent area. The Shah Alam Relief Committee presented a memorandum to the All Party Delegation that visited their camp on March 8th. In this they have said "Another gruesome tragedy took place at Naroda Patia and Naroda village in the northern labour/industrial area of Ahmedabad. A Hindu gentleman, Mr. Tiwari, who is a resident of Naroda Patia sheltered 30 people in his house. He contacted the Shah Alam committee. The DCP of the area was contacted for help to shift these stranded people. It took three hours for the police to arrive and by that time 27 Muslim women, men and children were done to death. Only three escaped the jaws of death and are now in the Shah e Alam refugee camp."
Victims from this area of Ahmedabad city were met by the delegation in both the Shah Alam and Juhapura Sankalit Nagar camps. Amina , an educated woman who worked in a printing press and lived near the Noorani Masjid in this area said that tension started growing in the area from the 27th night. On the 28th morning (the day on which the VHP had declared a Gujarat Bandh on that date) between 9.00 and 10.00 a.m., her neighbours started shouting "They are coming" .The entire area was cordoned off by mobs from all sides. She said that on the pretext of saving them, the rioters separated the women and children from the men, but after this happened, the women were also attacked brutally. Her sister Saeeda, a dress-maker, was killed in the melee that ensued. A pregnant woman, Qausar, was slashed through her stomach with a sword and killed. The nearby Roadways Depot was used to supply fuel which was used for burning homes and people. Rashida Bano, whose husband had a tube-light supply business and who is Qausar's sister-in-law, said that her home in which there was a large consignment of tube-lights was completely burnt down. Sabira Bibi and Chand Bibi confirmed the story about Qausar. In fact, the latter said that she was an eye-witness. Fatima said that her sister, Qudrat Bibi lost eleven members of her extended family of which only three members have survived. Lal Bibi 's son Muskan and daughter Safiya were both killed. She said that when she cried out to SRP personnel for help, they said "You people burnt Hindus in the train, now you have to pay the price."
We met Rehmunissa, a frail young woman who had a two day infant lying on the ground in front of her. Rehmunissa told us "I started my labour pains and delivered my baby while the attacks were taking place on the 28th February. I was all alone. Most of the people had run away including the midwife. They had been told that some vehicles had been sent to take them away to safety. The midwife returned when this did not happen and she cut the umbilical cord. Immediately after this, I ran to the entrance of my chawl and back 7 times in that condition, in the same clothes, clutching my newborn infant because someone would say that the vehicles had come. Finally, the vehicle came and I was brought to the camp."
Naseem Bano ran for her life with her infant male child that had been born on February 24th while Roshan who was nine months pregnant did the same. Rukhsana, whose child was born on March 5th after she had come to the camp and had been taken for her delivery to the hospital, was also with them. All three of them, along with others from the area, ran to the Excise chowki across the road and fell at the feet of the constables there and begged them save their lives. They told us that, after some time, the constables, moved by their plight and their condition, called the police who brought them to the camp.
A 7 year old boy, Yusuf was rescued from a garbage-heap where he had been left for dead and brought to the camp. He received a sword-slash just above the right eye which is still bloodshot. His mother, Razia Bano, has been admitted to the hospital with severe burns. His father, Mohd. Ayub Ghani, has been killed but Yusuf has been told that he is in the hospital looking after his mother.
Babloo (real name, Irshad), 21 years old who lives in Telephone Exchange galli chali in the same area, s/o Mehrunissa and Noor Mohammed who works on a tanker, and who himself did plastering work , was injured in police firing on the 28th at 4.00 p.m. and was reportedly in the Government Hospital where he was taken from the Al Amin Hospital.
Najma Ayub Quraishi, about 30 years old, arrived in the Shah Alam camp completely naked. She told us that "acid was thrown on me and one of the rioters urinated in my mouth. Because my clothes were sticking to my skin and the burning sensation was unbearable, I tore off them off and pieces of my skin also came off. Both my children were killed.".
This is 40 kms away from the Bapu nagar Aman Chowk camp where 450 of its inhabitants have come. They were brought here by the army after their homes had been attacked. Roshan Bano from this village told us that the men and women of the village lay in the fields with their children for 2 to 3 days without any food. She said that even their animals were burnt alive by the attackers. With her were Haneefa, a physically challenged child and a blind, old man, Ismael Bhai Nanabhai.
We met Roshanbai Shaikh who lives and runs a womens patchwork co-operative in this area in her office. Here we met Farzana, Shahnaz Bano, Manjulaben Patel, Farhat Roshanbai talked to us with great dignity and without any bitterness but with great anguish. She said that the 28th was tense with people moving around, shouting slogans and threatening them. Most of the population in this area is Muslim but there is one row of Hindu hutments in the Jhalah Complex. All the 150 Hindu families left the area and their homes are safe and untouched. They are reported to be in Vejalpur Vistar. We could not visit them but we did see their homes. On March 1st, when the men had gone to the mosque for the Friday prayer and the women and children were in their homes, rioters entered the area and started the attacks. They threw acid and indulged in arson. 90 homes were burnt. Their inhabitants are mostly in the Al Rahmani camp which we could not visit. The local Hindu inhabitants only joined the outsiders after the police came and taunted them and provoked them. Thinner chemical was used freely in the arson. Farzana told us that her husband, Haneef, was heartbroken not by the burning of his house and furniture but by the burning of his books which he had collected and spent more than 80,000/- on. She is most concerned about the education of her two children and asked us whether we thought that their Hindu teachers would neglect them or deliberately punish them when they eventually went back to their school. Manjulaben told us that she lives and works in that area among Muslims and does not feel threatened at all. She said "The Government is doing all this. The Bajrang Dal, VHP, Shiv Sena and all these people should be banned." Farhat, a 12 year old boy, asked us how and when he would be able to go back to the Don Bosco school where he studies.
Dr. Gandhi ki chali, Chamanpura (near late Shri Ehsan Jafriís house)
We met Shahnaz Bano who lived in this area in the Juapura camp. She told us that on the 28 morning at about 10.00 a.m. a mob of thousands came into their area.. She said that the attackers were shouting the most obscene abuses and threats (very sexually explicit) and were setting whatever they could on fire. She along with some others were able to leave from the back of their chali and reach the Kalupur Railway Station. Her own house was looted and burnt. She said that other people from her area took shelter in Ehsan Jafriís house in Gulmarg Society, believing that they could not be harmed there. One of them was her neighbour, Zubi, who was 8 months pregnant. She was killed. Another neighbour, Bikhibenís son and two younger brothers-in-law were also killed along with Ehsan Jafri and his family. Bikhiben pretended to be a Hindu and told the attackers that she only worked for Jafriís family. She was allowed to leave the house which she could do only by walking on the dead bodies of her son and brothers-in-law. She is in the Shahibagh camp.
The unbridled extent of the violence in Ahmedabad is illustrated by the fact that a National Handicrafts Exhibition organized by the Government was attacked because many of the stalls were owned by Muslims. Many of them were from Bhagalpur, Bihar. Of these, three, Abdulla, Rehmatulla and Saidulla are dead and two are missing. These facts were made known to us by one of the leaders of our joint delegation, Com Subodh Roy who is the Lok Sabha member from Bhagalpur. They were later corroborated by the Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad.
One of the members of the delegation visited the camp at Vizapur in Mehsana District. where victims from Sardarpur village are present. They told him that on the night of March 1, the houses of 84 Muslim families were attacked and totally burnt. Many of the women and children took shelter in the only ëpuccaí house. This was then doused with petrol and set on fire. 22 people died. The total number of dead is 54. The survivors were rescued by the police and brought to the camp. There are 1000 people in the camp including 400 students from the Visnagar Hostel. The victims said that their standing crops and bore-wells had been completely destroyed. They also said that some dalit families who had given them protection have also been driven out of the village (This is only one small example from a district where many incidents are reported to have taken place).
As we send this report to the press, comes news of fresh violence from the rural areas of many districts in central Gujarat. The most disturbing report is that the Central Government is withdrawing the army back to prove that there is normalcy in Gujarat. This will be disastrous for the state. The army must stay just as Narendra Modi must go, the first as a temporary measure, the latter permanently.
Gujarat cannot and must not become the future face of India.