Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002
An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat
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Violence against Women
A distinct, tragic and ghastly feature of the state sponsored carnage unleashed against a section of the population, the Muslim minority in Gujarat, was the systematic sexual violence unleashed against young girls and women. Rape was used as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community. A chilling technique, absent in pogroms unleashed hitherto but very much in evidence this time in a large number of cases, was the deliberate destruction of evidence. Barring a few, in most instances of sexual violence, the women victims were stripped and paraded naked, then gang-raped, and thereafter quartered and burnt beyond recognition.
1.2. In one of the fallouts of the hatred unleashed by the rath yatra led by Shri LK Advani for the Ramjanmabhoomi and following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, on the night of December 8-9, 1992, a predominantly Muslim basti in Surat was subjected to a concerted attack, during which at least one dozen women were gang raped by trishul-carrying mobs. Even a Hindu woman, also a resident of the same locality, was not spared. In the pogroms unleashed under the directive of Shiv Sena supreme, Shri Bal Thackeray in Bombay in January 1993, too, at least three cases of communally-driven rapes have been documented, both in the People’s Verdict (report of a Citizens Tribunal headed by Justice SM Daud and Justice Hosbet Suresh, both retired judges of the Bombay High Court) and in the report of the officially appointed Justice BN Shrikrishna Commission of Inquiry.
1.3. Even during the horrors of violence unleashed during Partition, driven to a frenzy of hatred, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh mobs used rape as a form of subjugation and humiliation of the ‘other community’.
1.4. While the large number of cases of sexual violence perpetrated during the statewide carnage in Gujarat is shocking, the trivial and dismissive manner in which this chilling pattern evidenced all over the state was dealt with by the CM and his cabinet, the authorities as a whole in Gujarat and, worst of all, by ministers in the government of India, make it doubly so.
1.5. The Tribunal notes with concern and outrage the shocking remarks made by the union defence minister, Shri George Fernandes on the floor of the Lok Sabha during the debate on the Gujarat carnage. He said, "There is nothing new in the mayhem let loose in Gujarat… A pregnant woman’s stomach being slit, a daughter being raped in front of a mother aren’t a new thing." Such things, Shri Fernandes said, have been happening for 54 years in India and happened even on the streets of New Delhi in 1984. (Lok Sabha debate on Gujarat, April 30, 2002, reported on May 1 in The Hindu, The Indian Express, the Deccan Herald and The Times of India.)
1.6. The Tribunal recorded with pain the statements of women from all over Gujarat who had either themselves been subject to sexual violence or were direct witness to it. Many of the over 33,000 children forced to live as refugees in relief camps throughout the state were also witness to the most debased and brutal forms of violence. They were mute witnesses to gross gender crimes perpetrated on their near and dear ones — sisters, mothers, aunts and even grandmothers — with gory and military precision, evidence of some sick minds and a vicious ideology. The Tribunal shudders to think of the impact of this on young and impressionable minds.
1.7. Women victims of the carnage from Saijpur Patia, Naroda, Chamanpura, Behrampura, Danilimda, Gomtipur, Vatwa, Narol, Shah-e-Alam, Millatnagar and Bapunagar in Ahmedabad city deposed before us. Not only had they been victims of violence that took the lives of their near and dear ones, their dignity was made a special target and their homes and belongings, collected painfully over the years, were looted and then destroyed. They have been forced to become refugees in their own homeland.
1.8. In Saijpur Patia, Naroda, on February 28, a mob of around 25,000 surrounded the Muslim areas at nine in the morning. They instigated the attacks by pelting stones at the residents — working class Muslims who had been living there for over 60 years — throwing acid and petrol bombs at them. Thereafter, they forcefully entered the lanes, shouting slogans against Muslims, implying that they are terrorists and that they should not be allowed to live in this country. They were also shouting the slogan, ‘Jai Shri Ram!’. The mobs were armed with sharp swords, spears, tridents, chemicals, petrol cans, kerosene and private firearms. Residents tried to defend themselves and their homes with the available stones but could not do so for long. The mob then went on a rampage, looting and burning houses. They then started killing people, first cutting them up with swords and then burning them saying, "We will even spoil your deaths." Evidently, this was not spontaneous, but a premeditated attack meant to subjugate or even obliterate a whole community. Muslims do not burn their dead, they bury them. The widespread use of arson and burning was part of a methodology to annihilate a community’s culture and beliefs.
1.9. When the residents of Saijpur Patia, Naroda, tried to escape, they were subjected to the mass rapes of their sisters, wives, mothers and daughters. The helpless men — brothers, sons, fathers and husbands – were first humiliated and then killed.
1.10. The police, instead of firing on the assailants and protecting lives, misdirected the terrorised people and lead them towards armed mobs waiting for assault. Those who ran in the direction indicated by the police are no longer alive.
1.11. According to the evidence recorded by the Tribunal, the leaders of the mobs (many of whom have been identified) even raped young girls, some as young as 11-years-old. The young girls were made to remove their clothes in front of 1,000–2,000 strong mobs who humiliated and terrorised the girls. Thereafter, they were raped by 8-10 men. After raping them, the attackers inserted sharp swords, knives or hard objects into their bodies to torture them before burning them alive. In the many bouts of communally incited pogroms that have taken place in different parts of the country, never has there been this depth of perversion, sickness and inhumaneness. Even a 20-day-old infant, or a foetus in the womb of its mother, was not spared. They flung babies in the pyres that they had prepared. They cut up people, threw then in a well known as ‘teesra kuva’ and then burnt them. The police supported the mob during the assault by shelling tear gas shells on the hapless Muslims. They also opened fire on men when they were trying to defend the women in the area. The State Reserve Police was very complacent and indifferent saying, "We have been given orders to do nothing for 24 hours in Naroda." Women pleaded with the police and the SRP to stop acting partially and save the children at least. They begged before these policemen, laying their children at their feet, but it made no difference to them.
1.12. The sinister aspect of these gender crimes is that they have been led and directed by elected representatives and prominent leaders of the BJP, RSS and VHP. (See section on Incidents of Violence, Volume I). This means that the dominant political leadership of our times is actually creating or displaying role models that glorify gender crimes against women. Can any civilised society witness this without finding an urgent need to punish those guilty and making a determined effort to purge public life of these perversions?
1.13. In the attack on February 28 on Gulberg Society, Chamanpura, Ahmedabad, where a former Congress member of Parliament was a specific target, there were at least 10-12 cases of girls and women who were gang-raped, assaulted with swords and rods and quartered before being burnt to ashes.
1.14. Similarly, on March 1, in Fatehpura village outside Sanjeli, and in Morwa in the Panchmahal district, women were gang raped by mobs. Fatehpura is one village where, among the survivors, are many women victims of gross gender crimes.
1.15. The infamous BEST Bakery incident that occurred in Vadodara on the night of March 1, when 14 persons were quartered and burnt (the attack took place after a jeep of the Vadodara Panigate police had driven past at 9 p.m.) also involved three cases of communally-driven rape.
1.16. At the mass grave that was dug on March 6 to provide burial to 96 bodies from Naroda Patiya, 46 women were buried.
1.17. A rape victim from the Godhra relief camp told a tale that seemed to confirm a recurrent pattern in most places, according to survivors’ accounts. She was stripped, gang-raped, her baby was killed before her, she was then beaten up, then burnt and left for dead. For variety’s sake, other women also had acid thrown upon them, and then burnt in fires. A womens’ fact-finding report sums up the usual procedure: "..rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their body, molestation… a majority of rape victims were burnt alive."
1.18. Before they were finally killed, some were beaten up with rods and pipes for almost an hour. Before or after the killing, their vagina would be sliced, or would have iron rods pushed inside. Similarly, their bellies would be cut open or would have hard objects inserted into them. A 13-year old girl, had a rod pushed into her stomach, and was then burnt. A mother reported that her three-year old baby girl was raped and killed in front of her, while elsewhere daughters reported on the rapes of their mothers, now dead. Kausar Bano, a young girl from Naroda Patiya, was several months pregnant. Several eyewitnesses testified that she was raped, tortured, her womb was slit open with a sword to disgorge the foetus which was then hacked to pieces and roasted alive with the mother.
1.19. Evidence placed before the Tribunal also shows how, on March 17, after the afternoon namaaz, the police unleashed a reign of brutality and terror on women and young men of the Danilimda area around Ahmedabad. Eleven boys were arrested on that day, without reason, when they were returning to their homes after praying at the masjid. About 500 women from Danilimda and Shah-e-Alam went to Danilimda police station to urge the police to release them. Initially, the police tried to send the women back saying that the boys have been transferred to Haveli police station. When the women repeatedly pleaded, argued and asked for the reasons for which they were arrested the police told the women, "You wait here, we will go and bring back the boys". They went in three police jeeps, returned with two additional jeeps full of policemen and immediately resorted to lathi charge. They beat the women severely with lathis and butts of their guns, constantly using very abusive and offensive language. In all, 53 women were severely injured in the attack. Terrorised with further implications if they went to any hospital for treatment, these women were forced to nurse their wounds with home made remedies.
1.20. Evidence before us also shows that on February 28, armed mobs attacked Muslim homes in Gomtipur, in the Ambika Mill na Chapra and Nutan Mill na Chapra colonies. They looted and burnt houses. They were in such large numbers that the police pleaded that defence was impossible. Police behaviour indicated no desire to protect the lives of those targeted. On March 2, the residents of Patel ki Chali in Gomtipur closed the two main entry gates to their area, and the women gathered outside their homes guarding their men and their houses from both the police and the mob. The police entered by jumping over the gates. Head constable Narayan Modi was leading the police. He is the head constable in ‘D’ staff in Gomtipur police station. When the women protested against his entering the area without any reason, Shri Modi used a very cheap and vulgar trick to humiliate and outwit the protesting women. He and his fellow policemen pulled down their trousers and started mouthing very offensive and indecent language. Encouraged by the disgusting conduct of the police men, the mob gathered outside the gates did the same.
1.21. Again, in the third round of violence from April 2 to April 5, the minority community living in Mariam Bibi ki Chali and Chotalal ki Chali constantly faced the danger of getting killed and burnt. Shri Narayan Modi, the head constable of the ‘D’ staff, leading a posse of policemen and some jawans of the Rapid Action Force (a specialised wing of the police, specially created to combat communal conflict), attacked these areas, severely beat up the residents with lathis and the butts of their guns and then stripped themselves in order to insult and humiliate them. This behaviour of the police towards women of the minority community had also been recorded in some incidents of the post-demolition violence that rocked Ahmedabad in 1992. But the scale and frequency of such shocking misconduct during the state sponsored carnage this time makes it most deplorable. It shows not just lawless behaviour by the police, but an identification with the ideology of hate and humiliation that instigated this and earlier bouts of violence against the minority community in Gujarat. This kind of behaviour by the police has completely alienated the entire minority community in Gujarat. Women, especially, feel fear, humiliation, disgust and anger at this.
1.22. Evidence before us shows how, especially in the Gomtipur area of Ahmedabad, the police even molested elderly women. Women managed to escape a worse fate only by constantly escaping to the relief camps. Once they had left the area to protect their lives and dignity, the assailants burnt down their houses. The police in Gomtipur regularly used this trick of stripping to make women flee the area, so that they could detain the men and the boys and destroy property, since women were the ones who were trying to defend their homes and the lives of their husbands and sons. Until August 12, when President APJ Abdul Kalam visited the area and women complained of no rehabilitation measures having been undertaken in Gomtipur, it was apparent that the state administration and the government had completely turned their eyes away from any sort of rehabilitation or compensation. During their tours of the state, both the President and the Chief Election Commissioner, Shri JM Lyngdoh evidenced the unchanged state of their homes a full six months after they were looted, destroyed and burnt down.
1.23. Evidence placed before the Tribunal shows that in the later phases of violence, even in Vadodara city, vulgar and brutal behaviour of the police with women of the minority community was recurrent. Evidence on record shows that from March 15 onwards, the Vadodara police played a prominent role in terrorising Muslim residents in their localities through combing operations and illegal arrests. Women, in particular, were subject to oppressive forms of harassment in their homes, especially when their men had either fled or were away. One case of a pregnant woman, about to deliver, as narrated by her mother, was especially poignant. On the night of April 30, she was brutally beaten with lathis and the butts of rifles, especially on her breasts. Though she had carried the baby to full term, this episode, in all probability, caused her to go into premature labour the next day and she delivered. With tears in her eyes, her mother recounted to the Tribunal how, when breast feeding her new born infant, while milk flowed from one breast, blood oozed out from the other, scarred by the beatings from the merciless Vadodara police.
1.24. Apart from physical beatings, Muslim women in localities of Vadodara were subject to sexual and communal threats; policemen used highly abusive language before they vandalised their homes. The Bahar colony at Ajwa Road, Rain Bassera, Machchipith under the Karelibaug Police Station, as well as areas under the jurisdiction of the Panigate Police Station were especially vulnerable to this sexually perverse and violent behaviour of the Vadodara police.
1.25. The sexual assault on Muslim women in Gujarat since February 27, has to be seen in the context of the carnage carried out by the right wing Sangh Parivar with total state complicity. Violence against the minority community assumed various forms: mass killings, sexual humiliation — including gang-rape — of women, brutal attacks on children, and attacks on the very survival of the minority community through looting, burning and destruction of their property and means of livelihood.
1.26. Evidence before the Tribunal shows that women have suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, insertion of objects into their bodies, stripping, and molestation. A majority of the women who suffered this violence were then burnt alive. Amongst the survivors, many have spoken about the assaults but many have been silenced, for fear of further attacks and for fear of censure from their own families and community. Besides the lack of faith in the system of justice, the humiliation faced by women who dare challenge taboos and demand punishment for gender crimes like rape have silenced the natural cry for retribution and justice.
1.27. These crimes against women have been grossly underreported and the exact extent of these crimes in rural and urban areas, has yet to be grappled with. These attacks have been carried out in the presence of, in many instances even at the behest of, the police and other state authorities.
1.28. In Gujarat, the degree of violence and sexual crimes against women reached unprecedented levels. Women, and entire communities, have been so traumatised and silenced that the full extent of this has yet to be realised. Mental trauma as well as insecurity of an extreme form are issues that need to be dealt with. The ineffectiveness and insensitivity of our criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to sexual and other crimes against women, renders the victim, her family and even the entire community in cases of mass and planned crimes of this sort, especially vulnerable. These crimes call for not simply a re-orientation in thinking and values in the matter of justice to the victims and punishment to the guilty; also urgently needed is psychological and trauma counseling for some sort of a healing process even to begin.
1.29. That sexual crimes against Muslim women took place on such a large scale in post-independent, democratic and secular India is shocking in itself. What is far worse is the shameful trivialising or denial of these crimes by agents and representatives of the central and state governments and outfits like the BJP and its affiliates like the RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. This amounts to a virtual condoning of such gross crimes against women.
1.30. Attacks on children were used as instruments of terror. In what is surely the most perverse dimension of the violence, children were used to torture and terrorise victims. In one particularly tragic incident in Tarsali, an old Muslim man was shown the head of his beheaded son on a tray before he was himself brutally slain. Another woman, surrounded by a mob, had to watch as 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 dismembered in her presence — all before she herself was killed. In many cases, children were beaten and abused in the presence of their parents. Even the police did not spare small children — they were beaten with lathis, kicked and abused, and in one case, even flung across a room. Young children who were badly beaten by the police were in a state of shock weeks after the incidents.
Published by: Citizens for Justice and Peace