March-April  2002 

Hospitals and hate

Scenes at some public hospitals in Mumbai (the KEM hospital in Lower Parel was one such) during the bleak days of December 1992 and January 1993 were symptoms of the blind hatred that led to the macabre dances of deaths on the streets. Some medical practitioners simply refused to treat the critically injured from the ‘wrong community’ saying, "Let them be. It is 1,000 years of hatred finally coming out."

Ahmedabad’s civil hospital (Sola Civil Hospital) received the bodies of the ‘martyred’ kar sevaks at 8 a.m. on February 28. The venue became the scene for sharp and focussed anger that quickly progressed into the raising of hate-filled slogans. The VHP organised a religious ceremony where its vice-president, Acharya Giriraj Kishore said that the day’s violence was ‘a natural outburst’. He also said that ‘Islamic terrorism was responsible for the Godhra incident and that Hindus had acted with restraint.’ (The Times of India, March 1).

Soon after the bodies of the kar sevaks had been cremated, from the evening of the same day, the bodies of another set of victims came pouring in, this time bearing another identity. They were Muslims from Chamanpura, Rakhial, Bapunagar, Behrampura, and late, at night, Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya.

The borders drawn within Ahmedabad have ensured a severely ghettoised existence. This has been an unfortunate fact for the past three decades and it has had serious implications for inter-community interaction and relations. In the recent state-sponsored genocide, it was used cleverly by large, well-organised and well-armed mobs numbering several thousand, through bloodshed, violence and intimidation, to restrict the passage of ambulances from the inner, old city into either the Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital or the Sola Civil Hospital. This was another cruel method of preventing victims from receiving urgent medical attention.

At least six injured persons rescued from Chamanpura (Gulberg Society, where Ehsan Jaffri was cut to pieces and burnt), told this writer that the VS hospital had refused them treatment, demanding that a police statement be obtained first. This, from a group of persons who had been brutalised and traumatised, having been witness to 60-70 of their close relations or neighbours stripped, raped, cut into pieces, and burned alive!

An eyewitness living at Jamalpur told this writer, "the worst conduct was at the Sola Civil Hospital. Here Bharti behn and Anita behn, both BJP corporators (Bharti behn is from Mani Nagar), were actually telling doctors whom to treat or not to treat." At the VS hospital, which gave more access to the minorities initially (due to the presence of Congress corporators on the controlling board), treatment was gradually denied to Muslims due to intimidation by mobs".

Even in the second week of April, while violence in the city of Ahmedabad has trickled down to stray incidents, fear stalks public spaces and hospitals, schools, government offices and even the Gujarat High Court. They all remain venues for overt expressions of religious hatred. On April 11, eyewitness accounts told CC that 15-20 strong menacing groups, armed with unsheathed swords, stalk the corridors of the VS Hospital each night. No one challenges them. They do not directly harm or kill. But the message goes out through nurses and class IV staff that this area is out of bounds for the marked. And in Gujarat today it is clear who the marked men, women and children are.

Interestingly, both Pravin Togadia, the international general secretary of the VHP and his second-in-command, Dr Jaideep Patel, are doctors by profession.

Place: Ahmedabad
Sharief Khan, Noble Ambulance Trust

(Interviewed at Jamalpur, Ahmedabad on March 5)

We own two ambulances and work for any injured person, regardless of community. At Dani Limda (Ali Shaan), Char Rasta, the police was harassing us right from February 28 and until today (March 5) the harassment has not stopped.

Till yesterday we were recovering burnt and mutilated corpses, reduced to bare bones; four people were burnt alive in Behrampura. At the Civil Hospital, we were retreated very badly and many bodies of victims were disposed off within 24 hours without waiting for records to be completed.

One PSI, Pathan, stopped us from visiting the affected areas. Near Calico Mill, there is a place called Bawa Lababi, a historical place. At this spot, we were actually prevented from visiting Dani Limda Char Rasta, Sardarbridge and Calico.

We are a registered trust, we have a curfew pass; we told the police that we have our own ambulance, but it made no difference.

In August 2001, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had organized a VHP Bharti (Join VHP) programme. Nearly one lakh people marched through the streets of Ahmedabad even though curfew was declared. This went on until September. One of the main programmes was held at the VHP’s Vanikar Bhavan, Paldi. Their main avahan (call) was, "Muslim ko nasht kar do!" ("Destroy the Muslims!"). Ads were also released, asking for membership. How come they can violate the law and storm the streets even when there is curfew? And we cannot even help the injured? Do the minorities have no right to a life of dignity and good health in India any more?

On Feb. 28, we must have received some 2,000-2,500, calls between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Each time, we called up the Police Control. Kumkum Hotel was surrounded by a mob; we kept petitioning different sections but nobody listened. The police turned a deaf ear to all our pleas. Wherever I went in my ambulance, for some 24-48 hours, I saw the same kind of mob in different localities in Ahmedabad.

It was not the usual mob that Ahmedabad has seen during riots; it was a full-fledged deployment of a highly organised mob. The numbers were large and the actions were coordinated.

I even saw women members of the Durga Vahini at CG Road and Ashram Road. Out of the mob of 4-5000 here, 60 per cent were women and they were looting and burning shops.

Naroda, Meghani Nagar, Saraspur, Bapunagar, Sundaramnagar, Vatwa and Isanpur: I personally saw 10-12 masjids broken down and 12-15 mazaars damaged. I saw the 75-year-old masjid (Madni Masjid, Vasna Road, Paldi) over which there is a court case pending, also broken down.

Not only that, bulldozers have removed the debris and a pucca road has been paved in its place. Other people, who are eyewitnesses, say that the Revenue Minister Haren Pandya directed this act. In a city where garbage is accumulating for 10 days because of the violence, how come the AMC authorities have the time to collect debris, tar the road with such efficiency?

(It is alleged that the Municipal Commissioner Panneer Velam, an IAS officer, and the deputy Municipal Commissioner (west zone) Hingradia who are public servants, were ordered to do this act.)

Assailants identified: Member of the Durga Vahini,

Police/officials indicted: Haren Pandya (Revenue Minister), Panneer Velam (Municipal Commissioner, an IAS officer), deputy municipal commissioner (west zone) Hingradia, PSI Pathan, Police Control Room.

Place: Gomtipur, Ahmedabad
Dr Ishaq Sheikh, Vice-president, Al Ameen Garib Niwas General Hospital

(Interviewed at Jamalpur and then from Mumbai on March 7 and 14)

On February 28, I was in our 40-bed hospital. Right from 12.30 p.m. there was a flood of patients – virtually a patient per minute. No one, not even those seriously injured and in need of better treatment than we could provide, could risk going beyond us. Bloody-minded and bloodthirsty mobs kept stopping them and threatening them with dire consequences.

Twice on the 28th, I tried to drive a serious patient to the Vadilal Sarabhai hospital in my ambulance. At Raipur we were attacked. This was between 4 and 5 p.m. On a second occasion on the same day, we met the mayor, Himmat Singh, at Vadilal. He then called for an ambulance of the corporation to help us. We had made repeated pleas to the mayor, since twelve persons had already died. An ambulance is designed to carry one person but we were forced to carry even four.

Our doctors were utterly and completely over-stretched but they worked tirelessly. At times, 4-7 seriously injured patients were in one operation theatre at the same time! Ambulances were not enough. We had to galvanise dudh ki vans (milk vans) and carry 4-5 patients in each one of them.

Haroon, a young boy who was shot, lived near Usha Talkies. We used a milk van belonging to a Hindu to take him to hospital. The fire brigade Gomtipur, and the Home Guard, had to break through the mob that had shot him. The mob would keep stopping us saying, "Isko maro, isko jalao" ("Get him, burn him!.") PI Jadhav of Gomtipur was hardly up to his job. After this incident, when we could barely reach our patients to VS or Civil hospitals.

A 14-year-old boy, Naseer, was cut to pieces when he was caught between stone throwing mobs of Muslims and Hindus. They simply killed him and burned him. In all, on the first day, 22 persons died between Chartola kabrastan and Paravistar alone. Over 45 died in police firing and over 30 through private firing from the mob on the first day alone in Ahmedabad. We have had to remove bullets fired from privately owned guns.

It was the injustice of the police that caused the worst damage. If the police were to act fairly and take stringent measures, matters could be controlled within minutes. But that did not happen, the police are responsible for the greatest injustice.

Today, the health services face another problem. There is a severe problem of poor nutrition and poor water supply. Children are suffering from jaundice, a water- borne disease, dehydration and diarrhea. One child died in a camp recently. Our monthly expenditure has increased from Rs 2.5 lakh to 4 lakh. But we have not taken even a rupee, this is insaani khidmat. We feel that because we are the one hospital that is doing good work, even though small, we are being targetted so that victims of violence suffer and die.

My plea is both to Allah and Bhagwan: Yeh Hindustan nahin hain (This is not India). What has happened? I feel that once and for all we Muslims should be asked to join the army and fight Pakistan. One crore Muslims will join the army so that once and for all the allegation that we are traitors, anti-national etc. is put behind us.

On February 28, we started receiving desperate calls from Naroda. They were frantic. One call was from one Nissarbhai. "If we are not saved today before nightfall, 2-2,500 will be slaughtered." A Hindu bhai from the area, Veer Singh, told me later that 100-150 persons had been burnt alive and thrown into the well which was then closed up. The Naroda victims are at Shah Alam, Dariakhan ki Ghumat, and Bhaiyal.

So many unknown persons, like one Rajendrabhai Trivedi, living near our hospital, helped us tremendously. Since the 28th, we have maintained peace; we tell our people, bear the suffering, do not retaliate. This time will pass. And yes, we must fight for truth and justice.

Many FIRs have been filed to my knowledge, with leaders like Rana Telecom, Mayaben Kotdani, Gordhan Zhadepia (Home Minister), Babu Zhadepia and PravinTogadia being named. These are the persons who were seen organising and leading the mobs, paying the cadres, training them to fight meanly and kill brutally. These are not Hindus. Saaf suthre Hindu nahin kar sakte aise zulm.

Pravin Togadia owns the Togadia Dhanavantri hospital at India Colony. On the 28th, I saw an ad. slide of his shown on Citicable asking all doctors and nurses to report to his hospital. Was this part of a plan? Why did he want more doctors and nurses? Or did he want them to stay away from our hospitals?

We have, in normal times, 21 doctors who consult and treat on different days of the week. Now, in the last eight days — except Nalin Shah and Gaurang Patel (radiologist) — no Hindu doctor has come here. They are either unable to or terrified or fear reprisal from these lawless leaders.

Mera imaan yeh kahta hai ki aaj nahi to kal/aise Hindustani saamne ayenge/aur woh munh toda jawaab woh Hindustani denge/zabardast jawaab denge ham sab milkar/phir unko hi Hindustan chodna padega (I earnestly believe a day will come/there will emerge Indians in our midst to give them a fitting rejoinder/we all shall give such a fitting rejoinder/that ‘They’ will then have to flee from the country).

(Second interview with Dr Ishaq Sheikh, on April 3—the eve of PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s highly publicised visit, when he was beaten by the Ahmedabad police while was trying to ferry victims of police firing to hospital).

I received a phone call at about 2.45 p.m. At 3.05 p.m. I took the first ambulance to Shamser Bag (Gomtipur). Two persons had been shot in the leg and I brought them to the hospital. By the time I returned, four had been shot, one of whom died in police firing. This was zabardasti. I saw it with my own eyes. I saw advocate Nizam shot dead in his house. I tried to take one of the victims, who is a heart patient, in my ambulance, when the SRP and police started beating me. The SRP man who was firing started abusing me. He claimed I must have arms hidden in the ambulance. They searched it. Then pulled me out, dragged me out with my hair. Hit me on the head with the rifle butt.

Inspector Modi and Inspector Parmar were there. This happened in the presence of the RAF. They kept saying I was doing something wrong. They had a video camera with them. Is rescuing the injured wrong? Is taking the dead for a dignified burial wrong? Finally, an Army Major rescued me and told me to go.

Today, in one day, the police shot at 29 persons. In my hospital, we have 11. Shifted them to VS, where one died. Yeh ek limit ho gaya, logon ka phaayda liya ja raha hai. Iska ant kya hoga? (Things are have gone beyond the limit. How will all this end?). How could advocate Nizam have been shot dead in his house unless it was a calculated act of the police? There was no mob when the police fired.

There was firing and we were rescuing. I told the police when they were abusing me, Aap ka kaam goli maarna, Mera farz hai insaanon ka jaan bachana (Your job is to kill, mine is to save lives).

Assailants identified: PravinTogadia

Policemen indicted: SRP jawan, Inspector Modi Inspector Parmar, RAF (all while on duty at Shamser Bag, Gomtipur, April 3.)

Place: Farmhouse, Kamol-Pirana road, Daskroi taluka, Ahmedabad district
Syedbhai Salimbhai Jumakhan Pathan

(Interviewed at the farmhouse on Kamol-Pirana road on March 8).

My farmhouse at Kamol-Pirana Road, taluka Daskroi, Ahmedabad district, has been completely burnt down. I phoned the PSI RH Sharma of Aslali Div. several times but he openly said that only if the farmhouse is burnt will he get money! My phone lines were cut and all the destruction took place despite my assuring one Kantibhai Bharwad (who lives at the corner of Kamod) that I would pay him one lakh rupees to protect my farms.

He had phoned me on February 28, saying that my farmhouse is under threat but if I was willing to pay Rs 2 lakh he will protect it. I am a businessman and my attitude was that it’s worth paying if I could thus cut my losses. But despite Bharwad’s assurance, others called me up urging me to visit my farm. The destruction had already been carried out for over two days; my labourers Ramesh and Chagan were terrified witnesses of the same.

When I went to the farm on March 2, my farmhouse, I found I had already suffered a loss of about Rs 30-35 lakh. Over 12,500 poultry birds were taken away, my godown full with tons of dhani (poultry feed) had been torched. I went back a second time with my brother and wiremen. Loot chalu thi (Loot was going on) and as we entered the farmhouse driveway, I suddenly heard shouts, ‘Seth aya, mardalo!’ (‘Seth has come, kill him!’). I reacted fast, reversed my car at full speed and escaped narrowly. I saw that there was a 150-strong mob all carrying axes, sickle and dharias.

Of the 45,000 poultry birds I had, 12,500 have been stolen. The destruction was premeditated and thorough. Every source of water and electricity supply to the farm had been cut. Today, ten days after the incident, my birds are thirsty and the fire in the grain godown is still burning. The farm used to be like a paradise; fifty fountains keeping it cool even in summer. To rebuild everything will require resolve. The total loss that I have suffered touches Rs 60 lakh.

Property looted/destroyed: Rs. 60 lakh
The accused:
Kantibhai Bharwad.
Policemen indicted:
PSI RH Sharma of Aslali Div.

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