Wahan factory mein aag lagi hai, GIDC mein… hain….aag lagi hai…factory hindu-muslim mix thi, is mein ek partner muslim tha, baki ke sab partners hindu the. (In GIDC, a factory is on fire… yes… it is on fire… the factory was jointly owned by Hindus and Muslims, in this factory, one partner was a Muslim and the rest were Hindus.)
— A policeman interviewed on Reality bytes, Star News, March 9, 2002.
The sheer brutality of the loss of life and the indignity with which the killings have been orchestrated cloud a major motive behind the genocidal attacks on the Muslim minority in Gujarat: economic decimation. The Muslim community in Gujarat is one of the most prosperous in the country and it’s contribution to the economy of the state is pivotal. The fact that the economy of this section of the population has been made a direct target suggests a deeper and long-term motive behind the destruction.
Soon after the attacks were launched, after the ceremonial anger displayed at the Civil hospital, Sola, mobs ranging from 5-20,000 in urban and rural areas alike and following the same broad methods, reduced to ashes large factories, farm houses, farm lands, paper mills, kabadi markets, hotels, restaurants, shops and any other business enterprises owned by Muslims. A primary estimate of economic losses suffered by the Muslim minority is put at Rs. 3,800 crores.
Solvent and chemical powders were used to ensure that the job was done thoroughly. In more than five locations, from private factories to GIDC areas across six districts that this writer travelled, traces of these packets of powder were found: Lak Jel, Spice Filling Compound, CACT TAC NO 1063 DT 1702-99 manufactured by Lakshmi Telecom product, Shed number 68/A, IDA Mallapur, Hyderabad; SEA GEL Spice Filling compound manufactured at SCS PERU products Plot 12, IDA, Hyderabad. In each place, three chemicals appear to have been used to ensure a degree of heat that is so high as to guarantee complete destruction.
Primary claims of economic loss by Muslims
Total Estimated financial loss: Rs. 3,800 crores.
I. On February 28, 02 large mobs identified by witnesses as wearing saffron bands and often led by some known leaders of the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal, started gathering from 10 a.m. to 12 noon and planning selective attacks on minority-owned establishments. In Ahmedabad, this selective destruction has been widely documented. This list of some prominent ones illustrates the point:
1. Moti Mahal, a three star hotel, situated not far for the Commissioner of Police’s Office, Shahibag, Ahmedabad
2. Alfa Restaurant, opposite Gauri Cinema, Odhav, Ahmedabad
3. Ashish Restaurant, opp Gauri cinema, Odhav, Ahmedabad
4. Tulsi Restaurant, Gulbai Tekra, Ahmedabad
5. Hotel Signor, Sarkhej, Gandhinagar Highway, Ahmedabad
6. Tasty Restaurant, near Judges Bungalow, Bodakev, Ahmedabad
7. Kabir restaurant, Opp Doordarshan, Thaltej, Ahmedabad
8. Metro shop, CG Road, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad
9. Cona Shoe Shop, Sardar Patel Municipal Market, Navrangpura, Ahmedabad
10. Navrang Restaurant, Drive In Road, Near Vijay Cross Road, Ahmedabad
The destruction of two establishments at CG Road, a posh area in Ahmedabad are illuminating. Both the Pantaloon Showroom and the Hero Honda Shop were targetted. The Pantaloon Showroom is a partnership of Hindus and Muslims, with a Muslim owning only a ten per cent share. The Copper Chimney restaurant is owned by a Hindu Punjabi. It was targetted. The intelligence wings behind the attackers had found out that the owner had recently signed a deal with a Shaikh in the Gulf.
While electoral rolls have been used during the anti-Sikh pogrom in Delhi in 1984 and the anti-Muslim pogrom in Bombay in December 1992-January 1993, the depth of information which the attacking mobs in Gujarat had about businesses, involved the Registrar of Companies, the Revenue and the Sales Tax departments. This is a severe indictment of these wings of the State, which were used to gather intelligence for criminal activity.
II. Similarly, CC has collected extensive reports of selective damage to other businesses and properties in other cities like Rajkot, Vadodara, Surat, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Palanpur, Nadiad, Himmatnagar, Mehsana, Visnagar and Unjha. The extent and scope of this misuse can only be gauged after an inquiry is undertaken, through an Independent Commission appointed by a Court.
It is feared that the widespread violence and destruction will also scare away both internal and foreign investors from the state. Even the cars of the General Motors unit in Halol (60 kms. from Godhra) have not been spared. Several process houses and small factories located in the industrial areas of Narol/Vatwa and Naroda on the outskirts of Ahmedabad city had suffered heavy losses on the day of the Gujarat bandh, as the finished goods lying in godowns were set on fire.
(In this connection, a First Information Report has been filed naming BJP MLA Mrs. Maya Kotdani, VHP Vice President of Gujarat unit, Dr. Jaideep Patel and several others.)
III The industries in the GIDC estates at Godhra, Kalol near Ahmedabad, Halol in Panchmahal and in the adjoining Vadodara district bore the brunt of this destruction. Similarly, textile units in Ankleshwar and other industrial units in Bharuch district suffered huge losses. According to Narendra Brahmbutt, president of the Ahmedabad Hotel and Residents Association, that the Hotel sector alone, has suffered a staggering loss of Rs. 260 crores. Losses of Rs. 60 crore were suffered by suppliers to the hotel industry. As many as 6,700 workers belonging to the majority community have been rendered jobless due to the burning and arson by fanatic armed militias.
Details of Losses Suffered:
*A Rs. 3,000 crore loss due to the close down of shops, industries and commerce.
(*The Gujarat Chambers of Commerce and Industry puts the figure at Rs. 2,000 crores.)
Approximately 1,150 hotels have been burnt or looted on the National Highway from Vapi to Vadodara and on to Palanpur. The total estimated loss to property and investment is Rs. 260 crores.
*A Rs. 600 crore loss for the Hotel Industry at Ahmedabad
*A Rs. 500 crore property loss due to hotels and resturants being burnt down in Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad, etc.
At least 20,000 workers in the Hotel Industry have been rendered jobless and many are missing.
(7-8000 Rabari boys are jobless because of Muslim hotels being burnt and destroyed, according to Tejabhai, a Rabari leader)
The transport godowns on the National Highway have suffered damages to the tune of Rs. 12 crores.
Transport operators belonging to Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara Godhra and Himmatnagar, whose trucks were burnt on the National Highway, have suffered a loss of about Rs 60 crores. Estimates say that over 1,000 trucks were burnt.
The truck operators’ Insurance Claims amount to Rs. 830 crores.
*More than Rs. 10 crore lost due to the burning down of 60 Opel Astras parked outside the GM Motors Unit at Halol.
*Rs. 4 crore lost due to the burnt Honda City and Accord fleet of cars at the Landmark Honda showroom at Thaltej, Gandhinagar.
*20,000 two-wheelers and 4,000 cars were burnt.
Insurance Claims to the tune of approximately Rs. 8,000 crores have been lodged by the owners of two, three and four wheelers.
*The Gujarat State Road Transport Corporation estimated a loss of Rs. 12.50 crores and Transport companies have lost business amounting to Rs. 70 crores.
Halol:17-18 factories destroyed
Vatwa: All Muslim-owned factories in GIDC area destroyed
Mehsana: All Muslim-owned factories destroyed
Dahod-Godhra: Large factories destroyed
Naroda Fruit Market: Muslim-owned Fruit Markets destroyed
Kabadi Market, Ahmedabad: destroyed
The factories which have suffered extensive damage and who are in the insured factories list have booked claims worth Rs. 400 crores.
On National Highway No. 8, about 90 per cent of the commercial establishments, including small shops, godowns and factories have been completely wiped out.
Standing crops in the districts of Panchmahal, Mehsana and elsewhere, have been burnt by the miscreants.
The motors installed in their fields for drawing water have been stolen.
*Rs.1,000 crore lost in Surat due to the damage to textile and handloom mills.
*More than Rs. 2 crores lost in the damage to the Lucky Film Studio.
*Hundreds of crores lost due to the arson of thousands of houses and buildings.
* A Handloom Expo was on in Ahmedabad when the Godhra tragedy took place. All the Muslim artisans from Kashmir and West Bengal were attacked and their displays destroyed.
Who will pay for this wanton destruction?
Demands from the State:
Interest free loans should be provided to the traders and businessmen who have lost all their property.
Disbursal should be a top priority
(These figures were computed by the writer after detailed claims were heard from different relief camps in Ahmedabad.)
IV. Now that the overt physical violence has had to stop (though Ahmedabad continues to simmer), a systematic economic boycott has been launched against Muslims in many parts of Gujarat. In Mehsana and Sabarkantha districts, truck and auto drivers are facing a severe economic boycott thanks to the machinations of politicians like Nitin Pandya (from Kadih) who are also state cabinet ministers. In Vadodara, there have been over two dozen instances of Muslims being told by Hindu owners not to come to work the next day. The issue of ethnic cleansing remains a live one, though the overt violence appears to have ceased. It continues in many different forms, economic decimation, threat to life and economic boycott—all elements that continue to be a crippling reality for the minority in Gujarat today.
(See ‘Pamphlet Poison’ section on economic boycott).