March-April  2002 


Place: Kediagaon, Sabarkantha district
Arjubehn Ayubbhai Sindhi (30), lone survivor from a truckload of fleeing Muslims, most of whom were burnt alive.

(Arjubehn’s complaint to the police was recounted to CC by Ahmed Hussain Raliya during an interview at Iqbal Primary School Relief Camp, Godhra, on March 22. Raliya is part of the managing committee of this relief camp.)

After the burning of the train bogey on the 27th, hell broke loose in the district. From that evening itself the first victims from different parts of Panchmahal district started arriving at this camp — Iqbal Primary School. Some have been accommodated in the madrassa. On March 20, 80 more persons have come from Baria.

The systematic attacks in Panchmahal district began after Friday namaaz on February 28, the day of Gujarat bandh. The villages that were affected are Sanjeli (500 houses burnt), Randhikpur (70 houses burnt), Piplod, Fatehpura, Pandharwada, Salia, Narapur, Mora, Khanpur, Anjanwa, Chatkabeli, Kothamba, Sargava Mohali, Gangadra.

In all, 94 villages are affected; in many, the minority population has simply been wiped out. Fifteen masjids were destroyed in Lunavada, Khanpur and Santrampur. There are relief camps running at Kalol, Baria, Lunavada, Shehra and Halol.

Motiraanth on the Rajasthan border, Karvai, Dithraj and Manirath are all towns where Muslims had reasonably prosperous businesses. These were all targetted and destroyed.

We have a 30-year-old woman, Arjubehn Ayubbhai Sindhi, who survived and is staying in the Modassa Camp. She is the lone survivor and eyewitness to this terrible incident. In Kediagaon of Sabarkantha district, after the Godhra tragedy in Gujarat on February 27, the Muslim population from the village fled in two tempos after their neighbours created a huge threatening atmosphere in the night. On the Lunavada Modasa highway, at Babalia, a village just on the border of Panchmahal district, two motorcycles with three persons each, with guns in their hands, started chasing the two vehicles.

The road had also been blocked with large stones. One tempo broke down at the junction of Limbadya Chowki, Karanda and Lunavada. The passengers were surrounded by 1,000-2,000 strong mobs. It was a brutal attack. They ripped the tyres and attacked the occupants with dhariyas. Yusufbhai Bakrawala from Motiraanth, along with two boys from Lunavada, was trying to escape from the mobs when they were attacked. They ran till the mobs caught up with them, beat them mercilessly and killed them.

Later, 60-65 persons were burnt alive. Arjubehn, the eyewitness who is presently at Modassa Camp has made a complaint to the police. She has stated all the facts. In all, 67 persons are missing but only 8 bodies were recovered for post-mortem. The complaint for the deaths caused to persons travelling in only one of the trucks had been recorded. The police have not recorded any further evidence. This eyewitness can identify the culprits. One is the taluka panchayat pramukh, Kalubhai Malwad, who belongs to the BJP. He has been arrested.

On the highway, there were Tata Sumos moving around tracking persons who were trying to flee. Refugees from the other villages on the Gujarat side of the Rajasthan border have crossed over and are in the Pithgaon Camp. The army found two bodies of the three, who were caught when the fisherfolk handed them over ten days later. There was no trace of Yusufbhai’s body – only bones were found.

On March 7, in the same area, one Muslim, Arab Saiyedbhai, was killed in police firing. The police never killed anyone from the mobs.

This is one of the most horrendous incidents to have happened in Gujarat.

The deceased: Some 65 persons from Kediagaon (Sabarkantha district) burnt alive.

The accused: Kalubhai Malwad (BJP), taluka panchayat pramukh.

Place: Prantij, near Himmatnagar, Sabarkantha
Bilal Dawood,
brother of Saeed Dawood and cousin of Shakeel Dawood, UK

(Interviewed by CC in Mumbai on March 14)

On February 21, my mother, cousin, friend and cousin’s son arrived in Mumbai from Australia. I reached the next day. On the 24th, my brother Saeed Dawood, my cousin Shakeel Dawood, my friend from the UK, Mohammed Aswat, my nephew, Imran Dawood and Yusuf, a driver from our village Lajpur near Surat, took a jeep tour to Jaipur. After visiting Jaipur, they were returning to Ahmedabad via Himmatnagar on February 28.

At Prantij, they were stopped by a mob of 15-20 persons. In no time, another mob of 40-100 arrived, circled the jeep and demanded to know from the occupants, "Are you Muslim or Hindu?" The answer, that they were British citizens, was not enough for the mob. "What about the driver?" they asked. Without waiting for an answer, Yusuf was dragged out and the moment they had established his religious identity, he was attacked with sticks and dhariyas (a sharp agricultural implement) and killed on the spot.

Imran, Mohammed, Saeed and Shakeel, who ran towards a farmhouse to save their lives, were chased by the mob. When I met and spoke to the woman owner of the farmhouse some days later, obviously scared for her own life, she spoke to us sparingly.

The fact remains that around 6.30 p.m. that fateful evening, a police team found Mohammed, who was near dead, and Imran, who was unconscious, on a dirt track that runs along the canal. At the Prantij clinic to which the police took them, Dr. Dongri pronounced Mohammed dead while Imran was in such a state of shock, even after regaining consciousness, that he could not talk.

My brother Saeed and Shakeel were last seen by the woman from the farmhouse, running to save their lives. Since then there is no trace of them.

Ever since the ghastly incident, we have been in touch with the British Foreign office, the British House of Parliament and the British Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

The British Consul General, Ian Reeds, and I visited the site of the killings, along with the Gujarat DGP and the Ahmedabad CP on March 8. The lady at the farmhouse was not very cooperative but Dr. Dongri was very forthcoming.

During our visit, we found a totally burnt down factory about 100-200 yards away from where Mohammed and Imran had been picked up by the police. Behind the factory structure, we came across a spot where it looked like a fire had been built possibly to burn dead bodies. A little distance away, we found some teeth and bones which we have sent for DNA sampling.

Dr. Gandhi, the forensics expert from Hyderabad, is looking at the whole issue after taking the blood samples of my aunt and uncle in Lajpur. We expect the report in a few weeks.

The police have given us a copy of the FIR lodged by them and said they have arrested 17 people. My nephew Imran, the only one to have miraculously escaped, is presently back in our native village. He is still in shock and therefore not always very coherent. But he seems to recall that while they were being set upon, a police jeep was driving past but they did not stop to help.

We have written to the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs, India) and the FCO is also following up with the MEA. As far as the murder investigation is concerned, Salman Kazi (related to Mohammed Aswat) has written a note to the Home Department in Britain. And we are actively pursuing the case to find out what exactly happened in Mohammed’s and Yusuf’s case.

As far as my brother Saeed and cousin Shakeel are concerned, they have been put in the ‘missing’ category. They have young families back home in Britain and it is traumatic to think of how we will deal with the tragedy. One part of us is convinced that they will simply reappear one day, while another part awaits the test results with dread.

For both the investigations, we have obtained the FIRs and the post-mortem reports. We were very impressed by Dr. Dongri’s professionalism and desire to help. We worry about his safety.

The whole saga has been reported on BBC, Star Television and even the Gujarati papers. We are talking to Group 4 and we have written to Indian authorities to carry out a proper search of the area; to speak to the family at the farmhouse, to even offer them a reward because we know she spoke to both Saeed and Shakeel. The Group 4 secretariat has contacted my mother and other persons in the village.

James Watt from the chamber of FCO, had a meeting with Salman Kazi, Ahmed Aswat and Salim Dawood in UK. We have also taken a delegation to the Indian High Commissioner in UK, PC Haldar.

We want to know what kind of pressure was put on the Surat police. My relatives were carrying an expensive Camcorder. What happened to it? Who were the policemen who passed by but did not help? Police Inspector DK Vankar from the Prantij police station could be an important witness because he picked up Imran and Mohammed that evening.

The deceased: Two persons killed, two missing.

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