Union for Civil Liberties
The Chaiperson & Members of the National Human Rights
Sub: A brief introductory note on communal orgy, violence and widespread terrorism inspired, encouraged and supported by the ruling party and the State - in the wake of the Godhra Sabarmati Express attack - a rapid appraisal of the situation in and around Vadodara.
The nightmarish atmosphere of terror and violence, perpetrated by the ruling party and the government, continues to threaten human rights, civil liberties, constitutional guarantee of individual freedom and democratic privileges.
Normal life has come to a standstill. In fact life has been hit so hard that we are afraid it will never come back to normal. The livelihoods of poor daily wage earners, and especially Muslim poor wage earners, have been totally dislocated as their means of daily earning like hand carts, shops, houses have been burnt, looted or destroyed. Establishments of the relatively better off have remained closed due to the bandhs, curfew or the prevailing atmosphere of insecurity. Also closed for the same reasons are schools, colleges, government and private business and industrial establishments, banks, state transport bus services, auto rickshaws or taxis, tours travels, etc. that are part of routine life.
The State Chief Minister’s reaction to the people reeling under violence is too casual and nonchalant exuding uncalled for bravado about ‘deft handling’ of law and order. He has evaded all sense of responsibility and accountability. One wonders whether he has any idea of the seriousness of the dangerous situation he has unleashed in Gujarat and its wider repercussions for the entire country.
We have tried to present an overview of the disaster and doom prevailing in Gujarat.
This list is far from complete and we still are to enumerate loss of life and property in rural area, while the orgy of violence, arson, looting and destruction continues unabated. (Enclosed herewith is an interim report of the violence with some quantitative data.)
The roles of the police and mass media and local TV channels have remained provocative and have succeeded in instigating and goading the majority community into perpetrating violence and promoting hatred against Muslims.
The police, who obviously have received encouraging hints from the state government and the ruling party have failed to maintain law and order, and have rather played an antinational and unconstitutional role, becoming instrumental in destroying democracy and harmony among people.
India’s culture, tradition and heritage is at stake.
With kind regards,
a) An Overview of the Situation in and Around Baroda with the following Annexures:
b ) Post Godhra Carnage in Baroda City – Some Quantitative Data
Sequence of Events and Pattern of Violence in BarodaBaroda was amongst the first, and worst, victims of the violence that hit the state of Gujarat since February 27, 2002.
After Godhra, the situation in Baroda became tense. There was one death on the afternoon of Feburary 27 in the presence of police on the railway station. This was a signal to Hindu extremist forces for free for all mayhem. During the day and the night of February 28, 2002, tension and violence escalated in the city. The Gujarat Bandh, supported by State Government, gave a clear license to anti-social elements to come out on the streets.
Stoning, Stabbing and Sword Wielding: Reports started coming from various Muslim localities of stoning, threatening, stabbing, and sword wielding by intimidating Hindu extremist elements. Swords were a prominent tool used by Hindu middle class and lumpen gangs to intimidate the Muslim minority. Mobs organised, attacked Muslim localities, destroyed places of worship, all the time shouting war cries of ‘Jai Sri Ram’. Throughout the night of February 28, Muslims were terrorised. Many hid in their homes, sheltered by Hindu, Sindhi, neighbours.
Use of Gas Cylinders, Kerosene and Petrol Bombs to Destroy Mosques and Houses: Through the night of Feb. 28 and the day of March 1 (All India Bandh) first houses were looted, and then houses were burnt. Use of gas cylinders, petrol and kerosene bombs to blow up houses and places of worship (Noor Park and Kisanwadi) and burn them thereafter was a distinct characteristic of destruction. Even goats belonging to Muslims in the Gotri area of the city had acid poured on them and thereafter killed. By March 1, people started leaving their locality and moving into Jamaat Khaanas or with relatives to “safer” areas. Mobs went back repeatedly to the abandoned houses to loot and wreak further damage (for instance in Atladara, Noor Park, Kisanwadi). Shops have been also set on fire by drilling holes and pouring inflammable liquid and then setting it on fire to smoulder and burst into flames. The Islamic Study Center at Ajwa road was destroyed, Dr. Bandukwala’s house was attacked and Mangal Bazar, a bustling shopping area, was set on fire. The TOI office Baroda was stormed by mobs demanding more pro-Hindu news. In the Tulsiwadi slums in Karelibaug was also attacked by mobs.
Selective Destruction and Targetting: Reports of selective destruction of Muslim property started pouring in. People were seen moving around with electoral lists; in Kisanwadi, women reported that one local young man had made lists of house numbers and location of minority houses. Visits to sites should showed where laaris (pushcarts) were parked in Akota, two Muslim laaris were burnt while the Hindu one in the middle was intact. Such examples can be extended to residential areas too. In an area of majority Muslim homes, Hindu houses are safe and are living in harmony. Another “novel” phenomena this time was to install idols of Hindu gods immediately on the destroyed Muslim property.
Second Round of Violence Post-March 15 for Exhaustion of Muslim Targets:: After the March 15th shila daan, a second round of violence erupted and followed the same pattern. The Muslim establishments not damaged in the first round, were targeted in the second round. The objective was to finish those Muslim houses and properties untouched by the first wave. Today there is practically no Muslim property in non-Muslim areas undamaged by the loot and arson.
Targeting of Rural Areas and Incitement of Tribal Population: After the towns of Ahmedabad and Baroda on March 1 and 2, rural areas were targeted by March 3 and 4. Tribal villages which have never before been affected by communal disturbances, saw large scale and extremely violent and inhuman violence. Incidents in Baroda district began from Tejgadh, Panwad, Kawant. The pattern here was that first people in far flung villages were terrorised. The terrorist activities then moved on to smaller towns like Panwad, and then came to the taluka town. First terror in people of minority community was sought to be created by stoning, spreading rumours, and killing their animals. Then mob attacks forced people to flee. This was followed by the looting of houses, including carrying away of their animals like goats (or killing them by driving vehicles over them), finally burning, smashing, and breaking whatever was left in or around the houses.
Spread of Riots to Non Traditional Areas in Baroda City and Making all Places Unsafe for Muslims: In this communal violence, the geographical pattern as well as the nature of violence was also different. In contrast to the communal riots of 1969 and 1992, this time new areas are affected, and not just usual trouble spots. Areas where people have co-existed peacefully for generations have been targets of violence this time, eg. Pira Mita, Fatehganj. Elected representatives and persons associated with the ruling party have played a key role in spreading violence to peaceful areas. Corporators and councillors have challenged colleagues in relatively unaffected areas and implied a lack of mardangi because no destruction has been seen in these areas. Similar patterns were reported from other parts of Gujarat when leaders in the quieter districts were sent bangles to denote lack of manliness. The idea seems to make all places unsafe for Muslims. And spread a scare among Hindus that if Muslims migrate to nearby places, the Hindu areas automatically become unsafe. (Some ‘safe’ areas like Tandalja where Muslims migrated to after the 1992 riots have been sought to be projected a ‘mini-Pakistan” even by ‘responsible’ figures in society. In Fatehganj eye witness accounts (Hindu families living opposite the mosque) reveal that the chadar in the mosque in Sadar Bazar caught fire. Both communities helped to douse out the fire. Stoning started in the evening. The police arrived promptly, and opened fire in which one was killed.
Use of Ram and Hanuman Motifs to Encourage and Instigate Violence: “The distinguishing” characteristic of these riots which merit the label of an ethnic carnage is the widespread appropriation and misuse of Hindu religious symbols and figures. These include the following for example: shouting of “Jai Shri Ram!” as a battle cry by marauding mobs and politicians of the ruling party; forcing Muslims to utter the name of Ram (“Ram Bolo”) and in many cases accompanied by pulling of their beards; projecting Godhra dead as martyrs to the Hindu extremist cause; organising of frenetic chanting and bhajans in the name of Ram, for example on March 15, 2002 in Baroda; mass singing of Hanuman Chalisa organised by the very elements involved in looting and arson (for instance even now, everyday in Tarsali area this is done by the Bajrang Dal elements every evening – those very elements which played a very major role in setting to waste 185 houses in Noor Park, Tarsali on Feb 28, 2002).
Role of the Police
Not responding to desperate phone calls for help: We would like to highlight the failure of the police in performing their duty. As has been widely reported in the print and electronic media, the police did not respond to numerous and repeated phone calls by people who were seeking their protection and help. For example, in Indira Nagar of Makarpura, after the Bajrang Dal people had vandalised a mosque, the residents made around 100 phone calls to the police. However, the police showed up only after four hours only to say that they (the people) should make their own arrangements for their security. ( See List A of other such incidents). Often incidents took place near police stations and temporary police chowkys. Police and State Administration had not taken action in spite of being given details well in advance (24 to 72 hours) of sensitive areas and persons. This pathetic and tragic record of the police started with the well known social activist Prof. Bandukwalla’s case right on Feb 27th, 2002. Other such examples of post-- March 15 incidents where police were repeatedly given advance notice by us are: Panvad and Kawant of Baroda District; Borsali Apt in Ajwa Road, and Bahaar colony in Baroda, Rain Basera in Machhipith, Wadi, Nawapura, Patel estate at Pratapnagar, Sardar Estate (these areas were communicated to the Police Commissioner and the Collector directly by Shri Chinwalla and Rohit Prajapati of PUCL).
Police as Accessory to Crime and Loot: On March 15, in front of the Pani Gate Nawapura Naka Police Chowki three boys burnt a house belonging to the minority community while six policemen stood watching. A shop of a Muslim in full view of the Panigate Police Station was burnt. Similarly in front of the Mandvi Police Control Room, one shop was burnt without any police action and on Shastri Baug Road, very close to the police point Syed Studio was burnt. The attached table gives examples of more such instances. Even worse, there were many instances of the police taking active part in the violence – in the looting, arson and in the killings. In Navayard (Roshan nagar and Ashanagar) kerosene were seen in a police vehicle during the riot according to Muslim eye witnesses. (See also Annexures 1 and 2 for a detailed report on active police role)
When 32 persons of the minority community were returning to fetch their belongings accompanied by two police vehicles (Police Inspector Vanecha was in the police team among others and he was later suspended) they were attacked by a reported mob of at least 2000 in the Makarpura area of Baroda. Two persons of the minority community died on the spot, four are in critical condition in the ICU in the Medical College Hospital and 18 others were injured.
Sexual and Gender-Related Violence: Over and above this, we would like to point out the atrocities on women committed by the police during the past three weeks. Not only were the women subject to verbal abuse, they were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. In Bahaar colony of Ajwa Road, women went out to request the police to set up a police point as tension had been increasing in the face of violence. The police refused to listen to the women and in fact, laathi charged to force them into their homes. At Rain Basera, Machchipith, under Karelibag Police Station, several women were assaulted by the police during "combing operations." Four policemen entered the basti at around 3:00 pm on March 16, 2002 and started beating them indiscriminately – Sairaben Shaikh, Faridabanu Shaikh, Hamidabibi Pathan all aged between 30 and 45 were among those who were beaten so badly that their wounds are still visible. Faridabibi was hit on her chest by a laathi, and Hamidabibi in her pubic region. In Bahaar colony, women were pulled out of their homes by dragging them by their breasts. Even 18 year old girls were not spared – they were threatened with swords and sticks by the police. Rukiabibi, a 70 year old woman in Kasamala Kabristan, who went out to prevent the police from taking away her young son, was hit by the laathi so hard that her head split open.
Not Filing FIRs: The problems of the affected population did not end with the halt in the active incidents of violence. These continued in various hidden forms. Many people have fled the areas in which they were living because they no longer feel safe there. However, the FIRs have to be lodged in the area of their permanent residence. Those who have only just managed to save their lives fear to go back to these areas to lodge their FIRs. Also, there is no guarantee that their FIR will be registered. For example, in Bhutadi Zhampa and Old Padra Road, police refused point blank to lodge FIRs of affected Muslims. When they did admit their complaints, there was an under valuation of the property losses – this happened at the Old Padra Road police station and Indiranagar police stations for instance.
In some areas, the victims are still scared to venture out to lodge their complaints. Where the police was actively or passively involved in the violence, people are afraid to return to those very people to lodge their complaints.
Bias in Police Arrests: The bias in the police arrests also needs to be highlighted. While Muslims are arrested under several and manifold sections, the Hindus are arrested under innocuous sections, such as violating curfew timings. In order to show that Hindus are also arrested in large numbers, the police has resorted to arresting innocent and poor Hindus. In Indira Nagar, Makarpura, on March 17, 2002, migrant workers from Bihar who were enjoying their Sunday afternoon naps were dragged away from their homes by the police, whereas those Hindus who were part of mobs on the rampage have yet to be arrested. In contrast to Hindus arrested the next day who were charged only with Section 188, the Muslims were charged under sections 137, 143, 144, 153, and 188. In addition, we fear POTO will be misused as in all over Gujarat -- as of date 62 Muslims in connection with the Godhra carnage have been arrested but none of the 800 arrested for the rest of the violence which has left over 600 dead have been arrested under POTO.
Role of the Media
The local electronic media has been used in the most despicable manner by the local political leaders. The intentions of the following leaders belonging to the ruling party and their affiliates becomes very clear if one looks at the speeches available on local TV channels (namely J- TV, Deep and VNM). The speeches of the following “leaders” were specially provocative and aimed to incite the crowd to violence: Ajay Dave, Nalin Bhatt, Deepak Kharchikar, Neeraj Jain, Bhartiben Vyas (Mayor of Baroda), Jitendra Sukhadia, and others. If these were the speeches on TV one an well imagine their role of these people during the riots at the grassroot level. The Mayor of Baroda, convened a “Shanti Samiti” meeting on March 18 that was attended by the Police Commissioner and the Collector, and leading political figures of various parties. She made appropriate pacifist remarks in this meeting and then on the same day she made inflammatory remarks against the minority community in the VMC council.
Even the local Gujarati print media, especially Sandesh and the Gujarat Samachar has shown itself incapable of playing a sensitive and responsible role. The local newspaper Sandesh, for example carried the following headline on February 28, 2002: “About 10 young Hindu girls were pulled out of the railway carriage by a group of religious fanatics” – what the news piece actually reports is that this was a rumour and a myth. This clearly shows that all that the newspaper was interested in was presenting something sensational. Going through the newspapers one will find plenty of instances of irresponsible, unverified reports.
We would also like to take issue with the national electronic media who dropped the “Gujarat issue” as soon as something more sensational came along. The tragic death of Natasha Singh in Delhi has left the nation wondering about the current situation in Gujarat, and grappling in the dark for further information.
Preplanned: The strategies that have been put into effect by the anti-social elements during these riots are as alarming as the violence that they have given rise to. Many attacks were pre-planned – for example, in Kishanwadi, the women told us that some weeks before the attack people were moving around to make a list of all the Muslim residents and establishments in the area. In Gotri village, they are reported to have been moving around with electoral rolls to identify Muslims.
Systematic Targetting: These attacks were also targeted specifically at the Muslims: where the shop was owned by a Hindu but rented by a Muslim, it was looted, its material brought out and set on fire, leaving the shop intact. However, when a shop/house was owned and used by a Muslim, they were simply set on fire. All over the city, one finds among rows of shops, only a single one has been burnt/looted, because it belonged to a Muslim.
Terrorising and Scare Mongering: The problem continues to simmer under the seemingly calm surface. The Bajrang Dal and RSS activists continue to hold meetings in various parts of the city where they are reported to be recruiting people (two above the age of 35 years and three below that age) and training them in the use of arms. They have also indulged in rumour mongering where people were warned of a “Muslim retaliation”, or of approaching Muslim mobs; in some cases, Muslims who were returning to retrieve their belongings were dubbed as an advancing mob thirsty for revenge. The other aspect is continuous scare mongering every night by Hindu extremist militant elements with a situation that not only Muslims but many Hindus in Hindu dominant areas have not slept normally for more than 3 weeks now.
Incitement, Social and Economic Boycott: The use of pamphlets to incite people -- these pamphlets have carried a variety of vicious messages (see Annexure 3 for details). An obituary of one of those killed in the Godhra massacre makes an attempt to make a martyr of him. More dangerous, however, is the use of the pamphlets to instigate people to rape Muslim women, use biological warfare against new borns of all the minority communities, etc. In another pamphlet, they are encouraging people to boycott Muslims in all possible ways – not employ them nor work for them; not buy from them or sell to them, boycott movies in which Muslim actors are working etc. One cannot simply dismiss these as an isolated event which does not actually influence people because in Baroda since the past 3 days, one has come across incidents in vegetable markets where vendors refused to sell to Muslims who had come to buy vegetables, or to allow Muslim vendors to conduct their business.
Another pamphlet that is circulating is seemingly signed by the member of the minority community and promotes abuse of Hindu women, among other things, a sure way to make young Hindu men see red. Another despicable strategy of the perpetrators of the violence is the use of psychological terrorism. An old Muslim man was shown the head of his beheaded son on a tray before he himself was brutally slain. Another woman surrounded by a mob was made to witness the following scene: her son who had climbed up a tree to escape the mob was brought down, his fingers cut off, and the rest of his body similarly dismembered, before the woman herself was killed.
POST-GODHRA EVENTS AT ROSHANNAGAR-ASHAPURI,NAVAYARD, VADODARA
Preliminary Report: dated 20-03-2002
The following is the Preliminary Report of the Fact-Finding Committee set up by PUCL and Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan, Vadodara. The Committee was composed of Dr Maya Valecha (Vadodara Kamdar Union), Dr Bharat Mehta and Dr Deeptha Achar (Faculty of Arts, MSU).
Though our work is yet to be completed, we deemed it important to submit the following in order to provide a broad overview of the post-Godhra situation, especially since tension still prevails in the state. Our enquiry was limited to the Roshannagar-Ashapuri as well as Navayard Cabin D areas and is based on detailed interviews with the residents of these areas. Roshannagar is mostly a settlement of UP migrant labourers, some of whom ply petty businesses as well. Ashapuri is a Dalit basti, around a quarter of them being Christian. Navayard Cabin D area has a majority of Muslims, most of them employed by the Western Railways. The whole area is populated by the lower and lower-middle classes and has poor standards of education.
OUTLINE OF EVENTS
28 Feb 2002
1 Mar 2002
AT NAVAYARD CABIN D AREA
DETAILS OF ATTACKS AND MOBS
The second attack on Roshannagar was attempted at 1.30 pm on the same day when a Mob of at least 2000, including outsiders, gathered in the open fields at Navayard D Cabin area. In the resultant Police firing 2 youths died.
The Mobs involved were definitely well organized and led, going by the well-planned nature of the attacks. VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres, wearing saffron bands, seem to have directed the attacks that were accompanied by provocative slogans.
OF LOSS TO LIFE AND PROPERTY
ROLE OF THE POLICE
They were told to go to Pakistan, to go back to UP and their Mulayam or to their Sonia-ammi. For 24 hours they were not given either food or adequate water. They were not allowed to urinate, and when they asked for water, they were told to drink urine. Bearded men, including Maulana Mohhamed Yusuf and Abdul Sattar, had their beards pulled and police threatened to cut them off. We gathered that the police effectively used ice. They were not produced at the Circuit House, but were shut up in the police van outside the Circuit House before being remanded to Central Jail. They were charged under sections 137, 143, 144, 153, and 188, in contrast to Hindus arrested the next day who were charged with Section 188. The latter were released on bail the very next day, while the former were released on bail only on the 5th March 2002.
The police who successfully thwarted the Mob from moving towards Roshannagar at around 1.30 pm on 1 March, proceeded to systematically arrest 48 Muslims of Roshannagar. They were Gharpakad, since they were literally dragged out of their homes. From our interviews we gather that this process of arresting was violent: they broke doors and furniture, beat people indiscriminately, used abusive language, loaded with sexual and religious overtones. In fact, a 65-year-old man was beaten senseless and his hand was fractured. The lockup story of these 48 arrestees also is much too similar to the above account. Revolvers were pointed at them with the threat that they will become a part of the statistics of “encounters.
In contrast to such alacrity on the part of the Police personnel, during “riots” their procedure was one of studied inaction that only aided and abetted the Mob violence. We gathered that, as of today, no FIRs have been filed against any of the parties concerned in this area.
NAMES AND EVIDENCE
following are names that came up again and again:
on riots in Vadodara: Sama area
the night of Feb. 27, the day of the Godhra attack, a Muslim-owned mutton
shop was burnt in Sanjaynagar and 3 neighbouring mutton/chicken shops,
the course of that day and the following day, a number of Muslim-owned
larri-gallas were burnt: 4 fruit-sellers' larris and a cotton mattress
more than 3 hours (around 3.00 p.m.) police reinforcements arrived and
the mob dispersed. Around 25 men from Shuklanagar suffered injuries; two
men with head injuries were admitted to Narhari hospital in Fatehganj.
(They have been treated and discharged.) The 300 or so Muslim residents
fled the area, and took shelter in Kamatipura. Hindus remained in the
locality, many of them sleeping for several days on the terrace of a "local"
(Gujarati) Hindu living at one end of the colony. This person said that
he had an army officer for a tenant, through whom it was arranged that
two armed army personnel were stationed outside the house for several
days. On the night of March 2, a small mob of around 25 people made another
attempt to set fire to houses in Shuklanagar, but were repulsed. Residents
of Shuklanagar have been without any income since March 1, since all economic
activity came to a complete standstill after the attack. They estimate
the daily collective loss in earnings as Rs. 20-25,000. The Muslims explained
how they had been living at the mercy of others (doosron ka kha rahe hain)
in Kamatipura, where the Muslim community arranged for food for them.
Hindu residents have been equally affected, since most of them work in
the local small enterprises. The Muslim residents did not return till
the 17th/18th, and most of the families left after that for their villages
in U.P. "for 2 or 3 months, till things calm down".
Summary of pamphlets being circulated
LOSS TO HUMAN LIVES:
PERSONS BURNT ALIVE :
PERSONS KILLED BY STABBING/ POLICE FIRING/ OTHERWISE:
FAMILIES DISPLACED EN MASS AND PRESENTLY LIVING IN INHUMAN CONDITIONS
IN TEMPORARY CAMPS IN VARIOUS MOHALLAS, MOSQUES, BUSTIES (LOCALITIES):
Some of the temporary
camps are listed here:
 No govt help asked for in this camp.
 Since disbanded
 Including those who arrived after fleeing from Kawant, 80 kms from Baroda.
 In the first week post-Godhra there were 1400 persons here. No govt help asked for.
PROMINENT ESTABLISHMENTS / SHOPS BURNT , LOOTED, DESTROYED RIGHT IN FRONT OF POLICE PRESENCE :
SHOPS/ FACTORIES/ GARAGES AND OTHER ESTABLISHMENT BURNT/ LOOTED/ DESTROYED:
At Indiranagar on 4.3. 2002, 32 persons all Muslim except 2 Hindu were arrested from their homes.
Similar reports came
in from Machchipeeth.