PUCL Bulletin, March 2002

Gujarat PUCL Report On Bhachau Atrocities
Police and administration's atrocities on quake victims and social activists in Bhachau on january 25, 2002

- -- Kirit Bhatt, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat Unit,
7 February 2002

Following reports that police and state administration in Bhachau town in Kutchh have let loose a reign of terror on uprooted poor people affected by killer quake, demolished their nearly re-improvised huts, lathi-charged them ruthlessly and arrested the seven social activists on 25th January, 2002. People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Gujarat sent a fact-finding team to find out what happened.
Kirit Bhatt and Bina Srinivasan of Vadodara visited Bhachau on January 27th & 28th 2002.

Police atrocities were perpetrated on quake survivors and social activists of SUCI (Socialist Unity Centre of India) and Lok Adhikar Manch (LAM) in Kutchh.
SUCI, LAM and eminent NGO's camping in Kutchh since quake tragedy rocked the district. SUCI is operating from Bhachau and LAM is based in Bhachau, Rapar and Anjar. They have been active in rehabilitation in these areas and are actively raising issues concerning government apathy towards the suffering Kutchhis to be rehabilitated, inviting utter displeasure of the authority.

PUCL team tried to find out reasons for police excesses; who were the victims of this and if there was violation of democratic, fundamental and civil rights of the victims and background of its provocation.

Team contacted concerned people for a first hand account in Bhachau and Rajensar. They met activists of SUCI - namely Tapan Dasgupta, Bharti Parmar and Ranita Nagar; activists of LAM Mayuddin Sheikh and Purshottam Parmar. Police officers on the authority side, SDPO Kirit Brahmbhatt, PSI K.V. Jhala, etc.

The residents of Dungarpura settlement (now renamed Sarvodaya Nagar) of Bhachau had been the target of the alleged demolition by the Mamlatdar and the police.
Name of activists who were arrested: Lok Adhikar Manch activists - 1. Mr. Prasad M. Chacko, 2. Mr. Mayuddin Sheikh, 3. Mr. Purshottam Parmar, 4. Mr. Gautam Desai. SUCI activists -- 5. Ms. Ranita Nagar, 6. Ms. Bharti Parmar, 7. Mr. Tapan Dasgupta.
The charges clamped on the activists of Lok Adhikar Manch and SUCI include Sections 341, 342, 332, 506/2, 143, 149 of the Indian Penal Code.

Given below are the testimonies of the people we spoke to.
1. Meeting with women of Dungarpura settlement in Bhachau, which was the target of demolition on 25th January. This settlement comprises 200 Dalit households. The communities affected by the police action are mainly Kolis, Harijans, Khawas, and Dalits. They are most marginalized communities in Kutchh: "We came from Morbi about 20 years back when the Macchu dam burst. This place was unhabitable. We worked on it and made it livable. Now, the government tells us that they want the land and they want to oust us from here. We had gone out for a rally, leaving the children behind. In our absence they came and began demolishing our houses. All our houses wee destroyed in the earthquake and we had set up makeshift houses. We rushed back to the settlement. The police surrounded us immediately. They told us that their superiors had ordered the demolition and that they had orders to shoot if the people resisted. Activists of SUCI were with us, and the police surrounded them. We asked the Mamlatdar to give us written assurance but while the discussions were going on, the police suddenly began the lathi-charge. The administration has not allowed any NGOs to give us any relief or do any rehabilitation work here. We have been living in tents for one year. There has been discrimination in relief distribution. We don't want to leave this place; we have made this place habitable. We have proof of residence like ration cards, voter's identity, and electricity bills. But the police did not listen. They even beat up a one-year-old child. The police broke open locks of Ramilaben Khawas's residence that morning. They were not at home. The police entered and broke locks, let the cattle loose, destroyed our roof. The police say that they want to construct a hospital here. This is a violation of our right to live. Ten women were severely injured in the lathi charge."

We met the following women of Dungarpura settlement who sustained injuries on their hips, wombs, waist legs, thighs and head.

Mamuben Suva, Age: 60 years; Panchiben Bhurabhai Koli, Age: 40 years; Induben Kheman, Age 50 years; Jamuben Valjibhai, Age: not clear; Manjuben, Age: 1 year; Dhamiben Babubhai, Age: not clear; Shantiben Babubhai, Age: not clear; Ratanben Bhagwanbhai, Age: 45 years; Binaben Arvindbhai, Age: not clear; Parvatiben, Age: not clear.

2. Ranita Nagar of SUCI, arrested on 25th January 2002:
"On 21st January we had given a memorandum to the Collector on various aspects of rehabilitation. A delegation had gone to meet him. He said he would look into the matter. On the 25th January, the police swooped down on the Dungarpura area of Bhachau where 200 Dalit households live. According to the authorities they had encroached on this land and were living here illegally. On 25th morning people were mostly out as they had gone for mobilizing other residents for the SUCI bundh call of 26th January 2002. The bundh was in protest against shoddy rehabilitation. Police swooped down on the Dungarpura area and began demolishing settlements; they began to cut the electricity supply, throwing utensils and let the cattle loose. On hearing abut this people of the area rushed back to their settlements and began to protest. They asked the police to give them a proper notice. The Mamlatdar said, come and meet me. The people got together on the road, which is right next to their settlement and gathered together spontaneously.

They squatted there and demanded a proper written assurance from the Mamlatdar, who proceeded to give a written assurance on a scrap of paper without any stamp or signature. The people rejected this note and said that they wanted a valid written document with his stamp and signature. This went on for a couple of hours. Soon after this the police began a lathi-charge without any warning to disperse the crowd. 100 male constables were present there with the SDPO Brahmbhatt. They began to single out the activists and beat them up mercilessly with rifle butts and lathis. Then the activists were rounded up and arrested. We asked to speak to our lawyer; we were not allowed to do so. The SDPO told me: 'you are a woman, stay within your limits, or I know how to deal with women.' Male activists were dragged by the hair and beaten up at the police station. Gautam Desai, an NRI who was video shooting the incident was also beaten up. His camera was confiscated and the tape removed from the camera. He was also beaten up badly by about 5-6 constables. When we asked for a medical check-up, they refused to let us go for it. We were arrested at 2 pm, and were allowed to go for a medical check-up only at 6 pm. At 6.45 pm, because we had contacted people in Ahmedabad and Baroda, they decided to release us on bail. We were taken to the Magistrate in Bhachau. The male activists were taken to Anjar. When the local residents came to give 'jamin' for bailing us out, they tried to dissuade and threaten them against it. The women activists were released about 10 pm and the male colleagues at but 1.30 am in the wee hours of 26th January 2002. Mr. Dwarikanath Rath of SUCI was lifted from office, brought to police station. He was snubbed, abused and illegally detained for 4 hours, documents were seized from our SUCI office and our vehicle was also seized." He was forced to sign arrest papers of seven activists as witness.

3. Mayuddin Sheikh and Purshottam Parmar of Lok Adhikar Manch: arrested on 25th January 2002:
"The Lok Adhikar Manch had organized Dharna in Bhachau since the 20th January to mark one year of the earthquake. 71 villages of Kutchh were participating in this Dharna, which was held to protest against shoddy rehabilitation undertaken by the government. Many widowed women have either not received compensation or have received cheques for paltry sums like Rs. 500. Some have received only Rs. 70 as compensation. How can anybody reconstruct houses with this kind of money? There is also a lot of discrimination in rehabilitation. So we had this Dharna. On the 25th morning we sat as usual in the Dharna mandap. We were talking to the people. In the meantime, SUCI did a spontaneous Rasta Roko. We also went to see what was happening. The atmosphere became tense. SUCI activists were demanding written assurance from the mamlatdar. Before the lathi charge began the police said something on the loudspeaker, may be they were warning the people of the lathi-charge. Little was audible in the din and noise. After that they attacked our mandap, tore it apart without any warning and beat up people at the Lok Adhikar Manch Dharna. They did not spare even those who were on fast in protest against bad rehabilitation. We were beaten up and dragged upto some distance. They thought we were leaders. The Lok Adhikar Manch has no leaders. Prasad Chacko who had also gone to the Rasta Roko to see what was happening, was also beaten up and arrested. They tore papers and threw it all over the place. This is a violation of our democratic right to protest. PSI G.H. Vasavda said, 'you can go anywhere to protest, there is no machinery in the world that can touch the police.' The police then took position to fire. We were very badly treated. They abused us using filthy language and dragged us to the police station. Once in the campus also we were beaten up badly. Gautam Desai, who is an NRI and was filming the events was surrounded by 15 policemen and was being thrashed by them. We were treated like criminals. The police told us that we were outsiders. They were threatening us as though they would kill us. We were allowed to go for medical check up only at about 6 pm, that too after we demanded it. We were arrested at 2.15 pm. The SUCI women activists were first given bail. They took us to Anjar (Tapan Dasgupta, Gautam Desai, Prasad Chacko, Mayuddin Sheikh, Purshottam Parmar and Khetabhai) and we were produced before the Magistrate after about 12 midnight."

4. Khetabhai is a tailor who lives in Bhachau and owns a shop in Gandhidham. He was an eyewitness to the lathi-charge. He lost nine members of his family:
"A bundh call given by SUCI and Bhachau Lok Samiti. Mamlatdar, Talati, Police gathered on the road near the Vagad Welfare Society. People had set up makeshift tents. They began to demolish makeshift arrangements. They let the cattle go, people ran helter-skelter, they came to complain to the Mamlatdar's office. The police stopped the people and they began to beat up the people. About 4-5 people sustained injuries. There was a spontaneous Rasta Roko by people. The Mamlatdar came and told the people to go. Then the police started the lathi-charge. The Mamlatdar was present. The demands of the people were that they should be given proper alternative arrangements before demolishing their houses and shifting them. These people have been living here for the last 20 years. No prior notice was given to the people. Women were beated up by the PI. There were two women constables for a group of over 200 women. PI G.H. Vasavda, PSI Bhatia, SDPO Kirit Brahmbhatt were also present."

5. Meeting with Police Inspector K.V. Jhala:
"One private company from Mumbai wants to construct a civil hospital here. I don't know exactly which company. The size of the settlement behind the Customs office has increased tremendously since the quake. So the Mamlatdar had gone there with police bandobast. The SUCI people are instigating people by asking them to make demands to the government for compensation. When the Mamlatdar had gone there, the SUCI activists threatened him and said that they would take his life. They obstructed the government officials and the police from doing their duty. The Mamlatdar says that the people of the settlement had been given notices, but we don't know about that. So that morning 200 people gathered and did a Rasta Roko, they put stones on the road to block traffic. We tried to explain to the people but they did not understand. So the Mamlatdar ordered a lathi-charge. We gave them a warning on the loudspeaker but they resorted to stone throwing in which 8 policemen were injured. There were 2 women constables. What can we do? We have only 2 women constables. If children were injured in the chaos, what can the police do? The people then ran away. We did not beat up the activists after they had been arrested. They were taken to the magistrate and the medical officer too. They got bail on 25th evening itself."

According to the FIR filed by the police those injured in the stone throwing were:
1.S.D. Jadeja, Civil Inspector, M.B. Ozat, Mamlatdar, Jhala, Chief Officer, G.P. Jadeja, PSI, Hirjibhai, Constable, Rajendra Singh, Constable, Bhupatbhai, Constable, Premjibhai, Constable, Navabhai, Constable, Devendra Singh, Constable.
Later Kundanlal Dholakia, Mridulbhai Dholakia, Adv. Ratnakar Dholakia, Kamakshi Gandhi visited wounded slums dwellers to offer sympathy and solidarity. They were shocked by the inhuman violence by the authority.

Jayantibhai Thakkar of Bhachao said he had offered his old Fiat Car to help SUCI volunteers. The Police went to the car and practically tore the tyres of his cars to pieces with sharp weapons. (Car No. GBZ 8911). It was parked 300 ft away from the scene of Dharna. Mr. Thakkar was away at that time.

Bharatiben Parmar of SUCI was physically manhandled by male police who pulled her hairs, beat her up and abused her after her arrest even in the police custody. She said, "We were all stunned by such police action. They threatened us to leave Bhachao because" 'you are instigating the people to go to authority for compensation'. "Even as our Dharna went on other activists like Prasad Chako, Purushottam Parmar and Mohuddin Shekh of Lok Adhikar Manch who were holding protest Dharna against non-action by Rehabilitation authority came to inquire. They were also arrested and beaten even in Police custody. Our car, Microphone, Chair etc. were confiscated. Police hit old men, women and even one-year-old female child. There was only one female police Kailasben to be seen. Squatting Rasta Roko was followed by Bhachao Lok Samiti and SUCI. One women beaten on her thigh is a cousin sister of State Minister Fakirbhai Waghela. Tapan Dasgupta was hit on head, back chest and thigh etc. We saw Prasad Chako of Lok Adhikar Manch being beaten inside custody. 'Aa Saalako Maro-Hit this scoundrel' - they shouted."

Goutam Desai - one NRI who came to Bhachao that day to document the post - quake scene, was arrested beaten and his camera was snatched away. "Amne Garam Karo - Amne Garmi Joie Heat them up - they need it".

Harijan Deva Wala of Dungarpura - Sarvodaya Nagar Slums said, "I sell vegetables, my hut was razed down, my wife and one year old daughter was beaten by police. 'This is not your place, get away from here. A hospital is to come up here, the mamlatdar warned us'. We wanted to start fast Satyagraha, we were not allowed and were beaten up, not allowed to go for even treatment. They came to demolish when we were busy in the rally. While on Dharna the police threatened to arrest us if we raised protest. We are still under fear and uncertainty of demolition. We are here since Morbi Dam Disaster. But they accuse we have come after quake".

Kanjibbhai Naran, Mandanbhai Samat, Babu Ribha Koli, Navin Bachubhai Rajgor, Jamuben Valjibhai, Kesarben, etc., gave details of their beating injuries, in back and womb by Rifle butts. PSI Vasawada was very ruthless, they said.
Kuvarben, Meghbhai Koli, Malsibhai Harijan, Babu Dibha Koli, Laljibhai Rajput, Momaya Khawas (Driver) Lal Bahadur Gorkha, Bhagat Bahadur Gorkha complained of beating. They said authority demanded bribe and some of them were paid paltry sum of Rs. 500 and Rs. 70 for rebuilding their houses. Mamlatdar's men allegedly demanded money to clear their files at the bank.

Telephonic conversation with SDPO Kirit Brahmbhatt
Sub divisional police officer Kirit Brahmbhatt was ignorant of the difference between Lok Adhikar Manch Bhachao Lok Samiti and SUCI. He thought everything was done only by SUCI. He said, "Bengalis have come here to spoil Gujarat. They instigate the people against authority. Local social bodies like trade association, rotary, Jaycees, Lions, Rotaract etc have demanded the ouster of 'outsiders'. Collector and Mamlatdar insisted that they should be removed. But I said this is democracy and I cannot prevent their stir from a private land. I told collector to issue ban (Jahernamu), which he was not ready to do. CM was in Bhuj that day and we wanted Bhachao to remain peaceful. Plan was to call CM Narendra Modi to lay Hospital Foundation. These people have settled in Dungurpura slumps after the quake, their proofs like water, power, and tax bills is a hoax - and forgery.

They were sitting on roads from 10.30 am. I had not lathicharged them till 1.30 p.m. I arrested the agitating activists only after I announced on mike. They came with a preplan to create trouble. They were talking on mobile phones and were taking pictures of Dharna and police action. Even after traffic jam I pleaded with two women activists to clear the road but they were adamant. Mamlatdar's written assurance did not satisfy them . High Court Justice Bhatt was to pass. But the agitators were obstinate. The VIP car was diverted. When they did not budge even after two hours, I could sense their motive and decided to lathicharge them. Condition in Kutchh is bad. I do not have enough lathis for action. After violence takes place leaders escape and poor people only suffer. Therefore I had to arrest them. They abused police and threatened to kill. I took action only after our men were injured in stoning."

Behavioral Science Centre (BSC) Director Prasad Chako,
who was on Dharna protest said all the like minded NGO's had a daylong fast protest at Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad next day to show solidarity with friends working in Kutchh, hit by police. He in a statement strongly condemned the behaviour of Kutchh Collector HN Chhibbar whose ruthlessness towards the activists of SUCI and LA Manch was a clear indication of realization that state had failed in providing relief to quake victims. People are frustrated. Anger of the people in most effective bundh of Kutchh on Jan. 26, 2002 was the testimony against widespread corruption in administration, and its failure in rehabilitation. The study undertaken by BSC, ISI, New Delhi, INSAF and Vikas Adhyayan Kendra revealed that self-admiring claims at the state were hollow. Prasad in his statement further stated that SDPO Kirit Brahmbhatt beat up arrested activists in Police custody, abused them photographed them like criminals, charged them of rioting, breach of peace and attempt to murder. This was a clear intimidation, violation of human rights and democratic right to protest. Autocratic Collector Chhibbar must be punished and immediately removed from office, he demands on behalf of LA Manch Bhachao Lok Samiti. Baluben Karsenbhai Chauhan of Bhachao had a fracture on her hip and was in Bhuj Hospital. Police was not inclined to let her go for treatment. 55 year old Baluben is a poor woman living on her earning twenty rupees a day. She said with tears in her eyes the way women were beaten and insulted. She described today's Kutch where no grievance is heard as a deserted crematorium.

We had gone to Bhachau to investigate into alleged police action against quake-affected survivors. In Bhachau we discovered that there were several areas of serious concern and this included the non-performance of the state with regard to rehabilitation against which all of Kutchh are protesting.

In conclusion, we wish to state that:

  1. The attempted demolition of the Dungarpura settlement was a questionable act as no prior notice was served on the people. To inflict a demolition on people whose lives have been completely disrupted by the earthquake is a serious violation of all principles of social justice, fairness, humanity and an infringement of the democratic right of the people of Dungarpura settlement. The fact that Kolis and Dalits constitute the most vulnerable communities in Kutchh only compounds the seriousness of these human rights violations. We saw no reason to disbelieve the women and men of this settlement when they said that they had worked night and day to make the place habitable twenty years back. Their demand that they be given proper alternative arrangements, before they are shifted, is legitimate.
  2. We also believe that it is inhuman to demolish any settlement in quake ravaged Kutchh, and therefore we think that there should be a complete ban on evictions and demolitions until the state is able to provide adequate rehabilitation to each and every household in Kutchh. If the state has a valid reason to relocate residents of any area consultative processes should be initiated. These consultations should include women and men living in the are and NGOs with a proven record of rehabilitation enjoying the support of the local people.
  3. To ensure protection against similar actions by the administration the people of Dungarpura area should be given a legally valid assurance that there will be no repetition of such arbitrary demolition in future. Those who have suffered losses in the demolition should be compensated.
  4. On examining the injuries suffered by the women of Dungarpura we have enough reason to conclude that the lathi-charge by the police was basically meant to spread terror amongst the people and to prevent them from fighting for their basic and fundamental rights i.e., their rights to life and livelihood. Further, children could not have possibly posed any threat to the administration. The explanation that nothing could be done about the injuries to the children is not valid. Even if the police did issue a warning before the lathi-charge we conclude that this action was initiated in complete disregard for the democratic rights of the people. The fact that only 2 women constables, as admitted by the PI, were available on the spot to restrain a crowd of 200 women is indeed a gross violation of the law, which prohibits male policemen from physically handling women. We therefore conclude that it is necessary to conduct a thorough investigation into the entire incident. We demand that an inquiry commission headed by a retired judge be appointed to go into this incident and other issues concerning rehabilitation. To unleash terror and atrocity on uprooted people, instead of rehabilitating is a shame no democratic government can tolerate.
  5. The Activists allege that they were beaten up even under police custody. If this is the case it constitutes yet another serious human rights violation. The police unfortunately does not have an unblemished track record in this context and we believe that given the powers that they have, the police often oversteps boundaries. The police has to follow due procedures and cannot go beyond the law. Such behaviour is tantamount to abuse of power. The inquiry commission needs to go into these allegations of violence in police custody.
  6. The accusation that these activists are outsiders and therefore need to be restrained, is outright discriminatory and violative of their fundamental rights as citizens of India. The constitution grants every Indian citizen the right to reside and work in any part of the country. The 'outsider' argument is very dangerous and can have serious repercussions on all such democratic rights. According to PI Jhala, the activists are 'instigating the people to demand compensation from the government.' We believe it is the right of each and every quake survivor to demand this compensation.
  7. The state has been busy issuing all kinds of appeals and advertisements to the people of the country and otherwise to donate in cash or kind towards relief and rehabilitation efforts in the quake affected regions in the name of rebuilding Gujarat. It has also welcomed NGOs and the corporate sector to take up villages for reconstruction and adoption. Indeed in the days immediately after the quake, the state was more than willing to let NGOs take the lead as the administration was unable to get its act together even as late as six months after the quake.
    Now, when NGOs are making people aware of their rights to compensation they are being targeted as 'outsiders'. It is regrettable that the state has been so myopic in its approach to rehabilitation; this in turn has led to and will lead to further erosion of democratic rights of the quake survivors and of those working for rehabilitation. It is the state's responsibility to provide social security to those who have been affected by the quake. In pointing fingers at NGOs/activists and conspiring to remove them from Kutchh, the administration is abdicating its own responsibilities in addition to committing grave human rights violations.
  8. The main issue in Kutchh today revolves around rehabilitation. This we believe is crucial if the people of Kutchh have to be equipped to rebuild their lives. The anger and disgust of the people of Kutchh is evident from the large-scale protests that have followed ever since the earthquake. As 26th January 2002 marked the first anniversary these protests represented the complete lack of faith of the common citizen in the government machinery. Everywhere we went we were presented with allegations of corruption and discrimination in the rehabilitation process. A disaster of these dimensions, the scale of destruction, the complete disruption of the lives of tens of thousands of people and the widespread media attention that followed in the wake of the earthquake seems to have failed to move the government machinery. These are very serious allegations and as they have impact on the lives of thousands of people, we believe that the government should immediately undertake an evaluation of the relief and rehabilitation process. Following this it is imperative that the government clean up its act and move as fast as it can, the very future is at stake in Kutchh. Failure on the part of the state to act on the complaints of the people has and will continue to jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of the people of Kutchh. That will be the most serious infringement of human rights of the people of Kutchh as it violates all principles of social justice.

It was 10.00 am on January 25, 2002 Friday morning in Bhachau's Sarvodaynagar slums on a roadside ridge in the town. All the men and women were out on a hunt for day's wages, when the children and aged persons were trying to warm up to resist the biting chilly winds. A team led by the mamlatdar, Talati along with other revenue bandwagon arrived on the scene accompanied by security guards and men to demolish the nearly scantily rebuilt huts. They shouted at those inside to 'get out', fling away their scanty households and launch demotion 'venture'. This place is opposite Vagad Welfare Hospital. Some cattle anchored are let loose by them. Within minutes two-three of the huts are razed. Not only the present ones, even those on job are called back from the town and cry of protest against the high handedness rose on the peak. They called those social workers of SUCI to aid Bharti Parmar, Ranita Nagar, Tapan Dasgupta and others who were canvassing support from citizens for bundh on 26th next day to observe quake anniversary to project blatant non-performance of the state machinery to rehabilitate those knocked down by the killer quake on 26th January last year. Seeing the temper of the angry protest, the officials quit the site giving threats they would come later as the land was donated by a person to Government to set up a hospital there. All about 350 to 500 people, men-women, children and the aged go to local Revenue officials to lodge their protest. Police at a point detained them where three roads meet.

They asked to sit on the road. Police goes to call revenue officials when traffic Jam takes place naturally. This turns out an undeclared Rasta Roko. Revenue officer came and on pressure from the crowd gives them written assurance on plain paper that no decision will be taken without prior negotiation with slum dwellers. But the crowd insists on letterhead and stamp. SUCI workers Tapan, Bharti and Ranita lead their stir. They press for alternative settlement and plead that they have sanad, water-power bills, ration cards, voters identity card etc. They cannot be ousted without prior notice and procedure. The local authority in collusion with police are averse to SUCI volunteers as they are eye sore for the allegedly corrupt administration, who are reportedly bent upon making a quick buck out of calamity. Agitators are unruffled by administrator's nonchalant attitude and keep pressing their demands. Impatient police led by Sub Divisional Police officer Kirit Brahmbhatt, PI G.H. Vasavda, come down heavily on the satyagrahis with unabashed lath charge. Among them were PSI G.P. Jhala, Constables Virjibhai, Rajendrasingh, Bhupatbhai, Premjibhai, Naranbhai, etc. Around 1.00 pm police mercilessly launched lath charge on them. Old men, women and even children on the lap were not spared. At this hour some other social activists who were holding parallel protest Dharna in the town against non-action of the state for rehabilitation of Bhachau residents ravaged and uprooted by the Killer earthquake on 26th January 2001, also came on the scene to protest against inhuman behaviour of the police.

They were also beaten up and arrested by the police along with volunteers of SUCI. Among those social workers that were punched and arrested were Tapan Dasgupta, Bharti Parmar, Ranita Nagar of SUCI and Mr. Prasad Chako, Gautam Desai, Mayuddin Sheikh and Purshottam Parmar of Action Aid and LAM. They were ruthlessly beaten and abused in filthiest language. They were humiliated even after they were arrested on charge of 'Rioting and attempt to murder police' beside charge of 'attempt to murder policemen and other men of administration.' The police seized the video and still cameras, microphone, table, chair papers etc. They were released on bail by Bhuj magistrate in the wee hours of 26th January, next day. The slum women children and aged persons of Sarvodaynagar slums complained that they had sustained severe body injuries. Women were hit on their private parts with Rifle-butts, they alleged. SUCI Volunteers from Baroda and Ahmedabad have been camping in Bhachau for last one year for quake relief. They have built a municipal school and raised a Library called Shyamji Krishna Verma-Bhagatsingh-Meghani library. They are working overtime to help the uprooted people to get the relief and restoration by the state. As reports are all over the Kutchh, no relief is accorded without corruption. The destabilized people have to part away with some amount for the officers of the state machinery. This has become a universal practice. Because of this practice SUCI workers often come in conflict with authority at different level including District Collectorate. Now the latest move by revenue official is to mobilize support against SUCI workers. Already some business organizations, Lions, Rotary Rotaracts, Jaycs, Leos, etc., have written letters to authorities alleging that some Non-Gujaratis of SUCI have come to Bhachau, who are instigating the poor quake affected people of the town against state and interfering with peaceful relief work. On getting reports of Police atrocities and undemocratic, inhuman behaviour of Police and district authorities about 20 NGOs of the state held protest Dharna on 26th January 2002 at the entry pavement of Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad.

PUCL Team of Kirit Bhatt and Bina Srinivasan visited Bhachau and had first hand account of the happenings on 27th January, Sunday.

They demand:

  • An independent inquiry by a retired judge of Supreme Court on the wide spread corruption in Kutchh Earthquake relief work. The other affected areas should be included.
  • People of Bhachau should be included in Inquiry. Task force should go to interiors and find how only Rs. 520/- or Rs. 190/- were paid by cheque to those uprooted by the earthquake.
  • Those who have taken bribe must be suspended pending inquiry. Helpless people who bribed must get safety corner till proved, to encourage them to come out openly.
  • In many cases 'big' money is parted to favour wrong claimants. They must be exposed and booked.
  • At any cost strains constraints and hardship of quake-affected people must be resolved.
  • Responsibility for Police excesses must be investigated and action should be taken to book those responsible for illegal, undemocratic and uncivilized behaviour.
  • All the slum dwellers should be compensated for the injuries. Their demolished huts should be immediately restored.
    " The District Collector is heard saying that he is trying to book SUCI and other NGO workers under PASA. He must be immediately transferred. This highhanded ways must be inquired into and action be taken.
  • Former State Speaker, 90-year-old grand old man of Kutchh must be given the vital place in inquiry with his active social workers team of relief work.
    " All vehicles, articles and other things seized from NGOs volunteer must be restored without delay.
  • Behaviour in Police custody must be investigated.
  • No threats of eviction must be allowed by anyone to anybody affected in quake-region as authority has totally failed to handle relief work.

This is evident from the bundh observed in Kutchh on 26th January by the quake-ravaged people who are still high and dry.

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