March-April  2002 

Best Bakery, Hanuman Tekri

A bakery was burnt in the Hanuman Tekri area of Vadodara on March 1, 2002 and along with that, a number of persons were killed or injured. Hanuman Tekri is located on Dabhoi Road on the outskirts of Vadodara. It is a lower middle class and poor neighbourhood. Most of the residents are Hindus; very few Muslim families live there. The basti consists of small houses and very narrow lanes. The houses mostly have tin roofs and very few are more than single-storey structures.

The Best Bakery was one of the few structures, which had more than one storey. The Muslim family owning the bakery had shifted to this area only six months prior to this incident. All other Muslims staying in the area had already left their houses on February 27. Only this family stayed on because Jayantibhai Chaiwala, who is an influential person in the area, assured them safety.

Place: Best Bakery, Hanuman Tekri, Vadodara
Sheikh Zahira Habibullah

(Interviewed at Vadodara on March 21)

Jayanti Chaiwala, Mahesh Munna painter, Thakkar ke do ladke, all led a mob of about 500-700 people that attacked our bakery on March 1 at 8 p.m. They were flinging petrol bombs on us and were shouting that they will loot and burn us. Three trucks full of timber were burnt and destroyed.

We phoned 100 (Control room) and even contacted the policemen at Panigate police station. They kept saying, "Hum aa rahe hain" ("We are coming.") An hour and a half later, around 9.30 p.m., a police vehicle passed by the bakery, stopped briefly and then drove away without doing anything to stop the mob.

It was after the police had come and gone that the mob started its destruction. There were shouts, filthy abuse and threats to rape us. The entire mob had surrounded us. They looted and torched the ground floor store room and workers’ room.

Twenty of us, along with our mother, remained trapped and terrified on the terrace, as they burnt eight people to death. My mama, my sister, Shabira and my mama’s children, Zainab and Shabnam (twins) were burnt alive along with the workers in the bakery. Out of the 18 of us present, 10 members, including 3 women and 4 children, were killed in the night itself.

My mother kept begging that she had no support except for her sons. Our three Hindu servants’ stomachs were slit open. Two of my brothers were burnt alive; two others were tied up and torched. They are struggling for their lives in the hospital. My mother, Zairunissa and two brothers, Nafiullah and Nasiullah, are very serious; my sister is also serious.

In all, 14 persons were burnt and killed, including my two sisters and my bhabi. My chacha’s entire family and one sister were burnt alive. Even our domestic animals, like goats, were not spared. All the attackers were from the mohalla.

I filed a complaint naming all the accused but the police have refused to give me a copy of the complaint. I want justice, that is all. I want all the accused to be punished. If the police had done its job, this tragedy would not have occurred.

All the 14 people killed were thrown into the fire. This included four children, three women (my sister Shabira and two chachis). Kausar mama was cut into pieces and flung into the fire. Two bodies we could not find. Jayanti Batija is the main culprit. He told us that afternoon that we should not worry, he was there, nothing would happen to us and then in the night they attacked. Two young men, Firoz and Nasru, were also killed.

From 8 p.m. in the night to 10 a.m. the next morning, their dance of death continued. The main culprits are the policemen in the police van from Panigate police station who passed by our bakery and our house at around 9.30 p.m., stopped briefly and then drove away.

A Hindu, who owns the Phoolchand bakery, was part of the attackers and he took away the ample stock of flour, ghee and other things.

I am very lucky to have survived. The next morning, three of them dragged me far from the house, near a small thicket. One man, pointing a talwar at me, told the others to rape me. Just then the police came.

The next day, March 2, I went to the police station and found out that the first FIR registered by the police was false. It said that the victims were sleeping when they were burnt. I had witnessed what happened to my sister Shabira and Mama Kausar. Yet they have not given me a copy of FIR.

(Because of her complaint that the FIR lodged by the police is false, we have with us a written copy of Sheikh Zahira Habibullah’s testimony. A copy of the complaint has been submitted to the National Human Rights Commission and other Human Rights organisations, besides the Collector and Police Commissioner, Vadodara.)

The deceased: 14 persons, including 3 women and 4 children, killed; most of them burnt to death.

The accused: Jayantilal Chaiwala and his sons, Mafat, Mahesh, Munna, Sanjay Thakkar, Santosh Thakkar, Jagdish Rattiwala, Dinesh Bakeriwala, Painter.

Policemen indicted: Panigate police station

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