PUCL , 2002

Letter to the President of India written on the occasion of Baroda Ekta Diwas

May 13, 2002
The President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.

As we gather together on the occasion of Baroda Ekta Diwas, we, the
men and women of Baroda wish to bring several current issues to your
notice. The happenings in Gujarat since Feb. 27, 2002 have affected
the women of Baroda grievously. We would like your high and
honourable office to take cognizance of these happenings and initiate
the needed corrective measures. The genocide unleashed by the state
authorities has gone on long enough and is destroying the entire
fabric of our society. We want to point out that the post-Godhra
carnage has affected most women living in Vadodara in some way or the
other. Lives of minority women have changed drastically. They have
lost their homes, their social support systems, and their
livelihoods. And women from all communities are affected by the reign
of hatred, fear and the terror promoted by the state and the police.
The police have done selective and discriminatory 'combing'. While
mobs have been attacking localities and stoning houses from definite
directions, the police forces have not deigned to comb those areas
and bastis. Police men have instead barged into homes of minority
women, defying all norms of decency, looking for weapons and their
men. They have pulled women out of their homes, sometimes dragging
them by their hair. It is surprising that in these sort of combing
operations, no women police were present at all. The abuses, verbal
and physical, cannot be described. The policemen, many of them drunk
have uttered filthy gaalis, they have hit and beaten women, sometimes
so severely that many have been left with broken limbs. Many pregnant
women have been hit on their stomachs with butts of guns. Many old,
widowed women have been similarly severely abused. Verbal abuse by
the police, having both sexual and religious connotations has deeply
offended our dignity. They have violated citizens’ right to practice
their religion by bursting in during prayer timings and treating
their prayer books with disrespect . Young underage boys have been
picked up during these so-called combing operations and have been
kept illegally in the jail for 8 to 10 days. Many of them have been
beaten in the jail. The combing operations too have affected majority
women similarly.

Several poor migrant men workers have been picked up from within
their homes and illegally detained just to fulfil the numbers game.
Their wives have been left to fend for themselves and their children
without any information or explanation. Several of us have complained
to the police, identifying the perpetrators of these atrocities. So
far no action has been taken. Many of us are scared to identify the
persons who have inflicted psychological and physical violence on us.
Our fear is that we will become the targets of further violence. We
thought that the police is there for our protection, but our
experience has proved otherwise. Those of us living in camps and
sheltering with relatives are terrified at the thought of returning

The state government is promoting 'compromises' to ensure our safety
if we decide to return to our homes. These compromises are
unacceptable to many of us because they add on to the heap of
injustices that we have already endured. Our right to livelihood is
obstructed because the administration has not been able to restore
conditions in which we can ply our small businesses and trades. Many
of us who are out of the camps are hungry because we haven’t been
able to go out and earn our food. Our children are distracted and
fearful. With the schools closed they have nothing to keep them
occupied. We fear to let them go out and play, lest the policemen
from the neighbourhood police chowky decide their activities are
anti-social. Although conditions to return home are unsafe, we keep
hearing that we must go back as the camps need to be closed. The
relief and rehabilitation measures being provided by the state
government are grossly unjust. We are receiving pittance as
compensation for the lifetime of earning and meager belongings that
we had so painfully put together. While we would like law and order
to be immediately restored in our state, we do not want any further
violation of human rights and repressive action against women. We
fear that this will happen with KPS Gill's presence in Gujarat.
In this situation we wish to convey to you that we expect you to take
just action. We expect you to mete out justice.

Our demands are as follows:

  • Remove biased police and state personnel
  • Take strict action against those whom we identify as perpetrators of violence on us
  • Ensure a swift return to normalcy in the state.
  • Ensure security of life and livelihood
  • Ensure relief and rehabilitation packages that are just.
  • Ensure that the situation remains under control through the month of June

We look forward to your positive action to ensure the above.

In anticipation,
Olakh, Sahiyar, Shishu Milap, SAHAJ, WSRC and other individuals and
organisations that are part of the PUCL and Shanti Abhiyan of Baroda.
Copy to, Chief Minister of Gujarat, Prime Minister of India, National
Human Rights Commission, National Commission for Women

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