Raghovpura village, Tarsali
(Extract from the PUCL fact-finding report on Vadodara)
Raghopura is a village of about 100 families (both Hindu and Muslim) about 12 kms. from Tarsali, off the Vadodara-Bombay Highway (NH 8). There are an almost equal number of Muslim and Hindu families living here. The families whose houses have been destroyed, are well-off agriculturists, growing jowar and cotton and are mostly related to one another.
Out of a total of 41 houses belonging to Muslims, 36 houses and the masjid, along with two buildings belonging to the masjid ,were burnt by a 500 strong armed mob late night on March 1. A local Bajrang Dal leader had held a meeting in the neighbouring village the same afternoon. The approximate loss of property is estimated at Rs. 80 lakh.
Tension started here only the day after the incident at Tarsali. Till then, there was no problem either on February 27 or 28. On March 1, Subhashbhai Mafatbhai Chota, the local Bajrang Dal leader, came in the afternoon to the neighbouring village, Patarveni. He is from that village. A meeting was held near the well, which is between Patarveni and Salaad villages, in which a large number of people participated. A few people from Raghopura, too, had gone for the meeting. Two of them were Hindu friends of the local Muslim boys; they returned and told Mubarak Bhai that plans were being made to burn these houses.
Anticipating trouble, all the women and children were shifted to Dhaniyari from Raghovpura village. About 15-20 men remained in the village. Only PSI Vadalia from Varnama police station and two constables from Kelanpur were present in the village. They had been there since morning. The police were told that they had got news of trouble and therefore, they should ask for more police, but Vadalia said "Don’t worry, we are here."
They could hear a mob approaching the village at about 9.30–10 p.m. When the PSI was told of the noise, he said that it must be the jackals from the jungle. The residents then ran and hid in the last house in the lane. Mubarak Bhai was on the first floor and he saw everything from there.
A mob of about 400-500 people entered the lane of the masjid around 10-10.15 p.m. Mubarakbhai recognised Shantilal Bhai, the sarpanch of the village, who is from the BJP, Nattu Bhai, Subhash Bhai Mafatchota (Bajrang Dal), his father, brother and brother-in-law, Bipin Bhai, Natwar Narang, Mahendra Patel. They were carrying weapons, swords (dhariyas), lathis and tin cans of kerosene; some were also carrying bottles. Subhash Bhai Mafatchota was carrying a dhariya.
The mob first went to the masjid and destroyed the railings. They ransacked the masjid, pulled out all the utensils and the Quran Sharief and started to burn it. People had climbed onto the masjid and were destroying its railings. They threw down the speakers mounted on top of the towers. Then they threw kerosene from the tin cans and lit fire to all the utensils and the Quran Sharief. Some sort of inflammable chemical was used to burn. They also burnt the masjid and the two buildings opposite the masjid which belong to it; the fire caught on and started to burn all the adjoining houses.
The PSI and the two constables were with the mob. There were shouting slogans like "Miya ne kato!" ("Kill the Muslims!"; "Miya ne jalao" ("Torch the Muslims!"); "Unki auraton ni ijjat luto" ("Rape their women!")
When the fire started spreading, the fire brigade was called, but said they couldn’t come as they had too many places which were burning. The rest of the people who were hiding, escaped from behind and went near the lake and from there went to Dhaniyari. They reached Dhaniyari around 4.30 a.m.
Mubarak Bhai who was on the first floor, could not escape. The mobs started to enter the houses. There were also people surrounding the village. They did not burn Rafiq Bhai’s house because the Hindu houses are adjoining. A three wheeler tempo, Trax, belonging to Ashwin Bhagubhai Patel of the village, was used to cart all the things they looted from the houses. The Fiat car of Rafiq Patel, parked in front of his house, was also burnt and two tractors belonging to Javed Bhai were also burnt. Mubarak ran and hid in a house near the masjid at this time. After about two hours, someone shouted that the police was coming and the mob dispersed.
By this time, the room belonging to the temple which is near the masjid (the temple is close to the masjid) caught fire and someone had called the fire brigade from Dandia Bazar. They had come and were putting the fire out with the water hose. When Mubarak went to them and told them to put out the fire in the masjid and the houses, the fire brigade personnel said they wouldn’t do it. The PSI told him to run, or else he would book him under S.186. The PSI told Mubarak that if his people hadn’t burnt the train, this would not have happened. Using the water in the masjid’s tank, Mubarak put out the fire. The houses were still burning, as all the water was over and so, he couldn’t put the fire out completely. The houses were smouldering for two whole days.
PSI Vadalia, who was at the village, said he would register FIRs and complaints only if no names were mentioned.
Property looted/destroyed: Out of a total of 41 houses belonging to Muslims, 36 houses and the masjid along with two buildings belonging to the masjid burnt. Property damage is estimated at Rs. 80 lakh.
The accused: Mubarak identified the following persons: Subhashbhai of Bajrang Dal, Rabhipura village sarpanch Deepabhai Patel, Raghopura sarpanch Shantilal Patel, Natwarbhai Naranbhai Patel, Mahendrabhai Patel, Bipinbhai Bhailalbhai Patel, Amitbhai Jashbhai Patel, Motibhai Gordhanbhai Patel, sarpanch of Megakui, Satishbhai Thakor, his brother Chandresh Thakor, and many others.
Policemen indicted: PSI Vadalia from Varnama Police Station and two constables from Kelanpur.