We, the members of the PUCL Baroda, want to bring to your attention the atmosphere of terror and fright which members of the minority community have been experiencing both during the day and at night since the Godhra massacre. The situation has aggravated especially after the shila daan on March 15, 2002.
On March 15 the police despite its own restrictions allowed celebrations in 42 temples in the city and the situation tensed up.
Since then every day and during the night elements of extremist Hindu organisations (the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the RSS) continue to let lose a reign of terror and immobility among the Muslim community. Today is the 18th day of this atmosphere of fear. While the Muslim community, and especially Muslim youth who have been held back by their elders, has been restrained by and large in the face of attacks and insults, they now seem to be nearing the end of their tether. In order to avoid any backlash we wish that precautionary measures are imposed to end this madness.
The following are some of the incidents that have occurred in the last 24 hours:
1) Today in the afternoon, 32 persons of the minority community being accompanied by two police vehicles (Police Inspector Vanecha was in the police team among others) to retrieve their belongings from their homes were attacked by a mob of atleast 2000 in the Makarpura area of Baroda. Two persons of the minority community died on the spot, four are lying in a critical condition in the ICU in the Medical College Hospital and 18 others are injured. The names of some of the attacking members are Raju More, Hira Lal Lotan Patil, Dilip Sinh Jati Sinh Raj, and one Sharma from the IAF. Had the accompanying police used force this tragedy could have been avoided.
2) On March 15, in front of the Pani Gate Navapura Naka Police Chowki three boys burnt a house belonging to the minority community while six policemen stood watching. 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.
3) In Bahar Colony on Ajwa Road, which is a Muslim Colony, tension has been reigning since the last 3 days when a Jhoppad patti was put on fire. This morning two Muslim factories in Sardar Estate, both mainly employing Hindu employees, were set on fire. From 10 am onwards police was being called. Police dismissed these calls as rumours. Finally police arrived at 1 pm when a group of men were returning after namaaz. The police fired into the gathering. Two young men were injured in the police firing, one died later. The women of the minority community were most upset and angry at the police’s inability to manage the mob. They wanted to request the police to place a point in their colony. The police refused to listen to them and in fact did laathi charge on them to drive them into their homes.
4) In Piramitra area of Dandiya Bazar a Muslim house was burnt day before yesterday and today morning there was a period of intense mutual stone throwing. RSS elements have sworn revenge and a fight to finish by tonight. Police has been deployed in the area but is not proving to be very effective.
5) 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 16 March 2002. They indiscriminately beat and threatened women and children, beat and arrested men, and damaged property. All during this time, they let loose the coarsest abuse, with explicit sexual and religious connotatons. In particular:
- Sabiraben Ahmedbhai Shaikh, aged 45, was beaten so badly that her left arm was swollen and bruised
- Faridabanu Bachchubhai Shaikh, aged 30, Hajirabibi Gulamhusain Dhobi, aged 32, and Hamidabibi Ahmedkhan Pathan were kicked on the legs.
- Hajirabibi was also kicked on the chest and Faridabanu in the pubic region.
- Mehrunnissa, aged 18, was threatened with a sword (apparently confiscated), the point of the sword touching her abdomen.
- Sultana Razzakbhai, aged 18, was threatened with a rifle which was pointed and rested on her chest
- In addition, at least 4 men were beaten badly, and 11 arrested.
6) In Roshan Nagar, Ashapuri, 21 Muslims were arrested from their homes on 28 February 2002 on a complaint that loudspeakers were used at the local madrasa. They were taken to Fatehgunj police station. At the lockup, they were mercilessly beaten, so much so that welt and other marks were visible more than a week after the incident.
Two (Ali Nabi Bholey Khan, aged 40, and Mohhamed Umar Abdul Latif, aged 35), were beaten so badly that they needed to be taken to Jail Hospital. In contrast to Hindus arrested the next day who were charged with Section 188, the Muslims were charged under sections 137, 143, 144, 153, and 188. Moreover they were released on bail only on the 5th March 2002. 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. Apart from beatings, they were not allowed to urinate, when they asked for water, were told to drink urine. Bearded men, including Maulana Mohhamed Yusuf, had their beards pulled and police threatened to cut them off In the face of all the experiences cited above, and many such others, we wish to state that neither the administration nor the police have been found to be competent to deal with the situation. Muslim properties including dargahs and mosques have been burnt and /or damaged extensively with impunity In fact, we have evidence that the police have been taking orders from representatives of the ruling party. We fear that the situation is not very different in Ahmedabad and the rest of the state. In this situation we demand that
1) the state of Gujarat be handed over to the Army immediately. Increased and effective use of Army is required in the state.
2) the present government be dismissed and Governor’s rule be imposed in Gujarat
3) an enquiry be conducted into the role of the police and the administration and guilty officers be suspended immediately.
4) normalcy be restored in the state as soon as possible by reopening schools, banks and shops so that the confidence of all sections of society is restored. State transport services should also be restored and the situation in the villages and tribal areas should be made normal.
We also demand that the same set of rules be made operational for all sections of society. Licenses of pistols held by some Muslim lawyers in Baroda have been confiscated. We demand that licenses of pistols held by party office bearers, corporators and VHP office bearers also be withdrawn. (We would be willing to furnish names of some of these individuals if need be.)
Further, the role of the media needs to be regulated. While in the national electronic media there is a virtual blackout on what is happening in Gujarat today, the local electronic media has been carrying provocative stories and interviews which have resulted in inciting communal sentiments further.
The members of the minority community who are languishing in relief camps in various parts of the state have no idea of what future holds for them. They dread the idea of going back to their places of residence without assurance of protection and safety. We demand that a rehabilitation policy be formulated taking into considerations their viewpoints and this policy be implemented at the earliest to restore confidence.
We urge that this memorandum be considered seriously and immediate appropriate action be taken to prevent further loss of life, trust and property in our state. Gujarat and much of the people of India stand to lose by the activities of a State in which significant sections cannot live in peace and harmony. We look forward to information on your action to this memorandum.
Kirit Bhatt, Manzur Saleri, Isaaq Chinwala, Tapan Das, Deeptha Achar, Santosh Dash, Bharat Desai. Johannes Manjrekar, Raj Kumar Hans, Jagdish Patel, N . Rajaram, Iftikhar Ahmed, B. Sudheer, Bipin Jani (PUCL), Trupti Shah, Deepa Ghelani (Sahiyar Stree Sangathan) Michael Mazgaonkar, Anand Moses (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti), Swati Desai ( NAPM Gujarat), Thakore Shah, Narpat Sinh Solanki (Vadodara Kamdaar Union), Maya Valecha, Rohit Prajapati (Inquilabi Communist Sangathan), Nandini Manjrekar, Amita Verma ( Gujarat Forum for Women’s Studies), Preeti Patel, Geeta Rathwa, Shobha Shah (Shishu Milap), Jagdish Shah (Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan and Gujarat Sarvodaya Mandal), Nimisha Shah (Olakh), S. Srinivasan, Renu Khanna ( SAHAJ),.
(PUCL Secretary, 13 Pratap Kunj Society, Near Jeevan Bharti Crossing, Kareli Baug, Vadodara 390018.)