March-April  2002 


Vatwa, an area located on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, saw repeated and prolonged bouts of violence, often led by the residents of nearby housing colonies like Murlidhar Society, Mani Society, Asapalav Society, Picnic Park and Manav Nagar. The attacks were allegedly led by a resident of Vatwa who is also a Bajrang Dal leader – Haresh Patel. Patel was ably supported by the police.

At Nawapura-Kabrastan, a basti of 300 houses, was completely gutted by mobs that attacked all day and night. The attack came from the residents of Asapalav, Picnic Park, and Manav Nagar housing colonies.

There were many persons from the Waghari community involved in the attacks.

All Muslim homes were burnt down in the following localites: Bachubhai Kua (70-80 houses), Bismillah Nagar (60 houses), Darbar Khetar (70-80 houses), Syedwadi (150 houses), Azim Park (100 houses); Muchadipir (9 houses); Roshni Raos (105 houses).

Place: Vatwa
Rizwana, Advocate

(Interviewed at Vatwa Relief Camp on March 4)

The tola (mob) was 20,000 strong. Bachubhai Kua, Bismillah Nagar and Nawapura were burnt on February 28. Roshni Raos and others were burnt down the next day. All we could see were heads, heads and more heads (mundi, mundi, mundi). Mahesh Patel of the Bajrang Dal, Girish Pandya and Amita Patel (municipal councillors belonging to the BJP) were leading the crowd. They were even arrested yesterday (March 3) but by evening they were released on bail.

PI Singh and PI Damod were openly helping them. Every nook and corner of the Murlidhar Society and Manav Nagar is filled with VHP and Bajrang Dal supporters. The crowd was carrying talwar, pawda, chara; some even had guns. Apart from torching all the homes, 7-8 persons have been killed in firing and another 7-8 are missing. The residents of Nawapura are mainly involved in the bhangar (recycling) business.

When Syedwadi and Nawapura were being gutted on Thursday by mobs from the ‘border’ areas, the SP was himself standing there; he was also spotted at Waghnivas Kabrastan, standing and enjoying the destruction. (I cannot recall his name at the moment, but he is the SP of the area.) The entire police department watched as large parts of Vatwa were destroyed.

Three days later (March 3), no complaints have been entertained, no FIR registered. One Vilayat Hussain whose farmhouse was burnt down suffered a loss of Rs. 3-4 lakh as even the wheat crop was burnt and the bore well destroyed. The complaint was filed on March 1.

Assailants identified: Mahesh Patel (Bajrang Dal), Girish Pandya and Amita Patel (BJP corporators).
Policemen indicted:
Superintendent of police, PI Singh, PI Damod, entire police department.

Place: Syedwadi, Azim Nagar
Salma Aapa

(Interviewed at Vatwa Relief Camp on March 4)

The worst behaviour in the middle of the mob attacks was that of second PI Damod. He openly threatened that if anyone complained, "We will take away Muslim children and women."

Many of the residents of Nawapura are in the Bhangar ka dhanda, all the residents of these bastis are daily wager earners. Even today, four days later (March 4), we are terrified at night as a cassette is played on the loud speakers with voices shouting, "Kato! Maro!" ("Chop them! Kill them!"). They want us to come out of our homes in panic so they can attack us again. Today, when we went to the other side of the ‘border’ to buy vegetables, vendors were threatened: "Do not sell vegetables to Muslim women, nor milk for Muslim children."

Policemen indicted: PI Damod.

Place: Nawapura

(Interviewed at Vatwa Relief Camp on March 4)

My house is the first house at Nawapura and it suffered the worst destruction. (Abeida cries uncontrollably as she narrates her story). I recall the men who entered my house. One wore jeans and had specs on. They kept on shouting some Bajrang Dal slogans; they destroyed everything.

I had collected so many things for the weddings of my children, but now all is gone. I am sure that I will be able to recognise many of them. They were totally 3-4,000 people, so we had to run away. My own wedding jewels, all that I had carefully accumulated for my daughters — Tees saal mai maine jo bi basaya unhone tees ghante mein saf kar diya. (What I had painstakingly collected over 30 years, they destroyed in 30 hours). For the last six days, I cannot sleep.

Place: Vatwa
Hafiz Khan Bhatti,

(Interviewed at Vatwa Relief Camp on March 4)

For 48 hours on Thursday and Friday (February 28 and March 1) there was complete havoc. At the CTM Char Rasta, Salim Khan, a Muslim driver, was burnt alive after a message was passed on the police wireless that a Muslim driver was coming that way.

My office (transport business), my hotel Gurukrupa, Seema Auto and Gurukrupa Restaurant were all attacked. We must have called the police control room dozens of times but got no response. The Muslim basti within Vatwa has 121 houses and we are surrounded by tens of thousands of residents of the other community. Our tragedy was that human beings living in the surrounding areas did not even glance at us when we were being attacked. Four Hindu boys looted and stole vessels from our home.

I also run the Bhatti Education Trust which owns one ambulance that I have donated. During those days, jaan ki hifazat bhulkar hum ne hospital ki seva ki. But what was the reward? At Sayedwadi Tol Naka, the police took my ambulance into custody and seized it for three days. When I went to collect it, I was shocked to find that there were 5 to 10 punctures in each tyre. It took me three hours to bring it back to Vatwa.

On the night of February 28, when we were attacked, all we could see was heads and more heads. Swords were being waved in the air, shots were fired by privately owned guns. Tab hame malum pada ki hamara Allah ke seva koi nahin (Then we realised that none but Allah is on our side.) The crowd had only one intention: "Musalmanon ko khatam karo!" ("Finish off the Muslims!") And throughout, innocent people were killed.

Out of sheer fright, the residents of Roshni Park, Raunak Park, Tufel Park, Siraj Park, Nawapura, Vandervad Talao, Jasodanagar Pate, Burhani Society and Bismillah Nagar just moved in here and are now in the relief camps.

The behaviour of PI Damod was criminal. When some persons spoke to him near Taslim Society about the scale of violence, these were his words: "Jo huva kam huva; itna maar khaya kam hai ki aur mar khana hai?" ("What happened is not enough. Are you satisfied with the beating that you have received, or do you want more?")

Policemen indicted: PI Damod.

Saifee Society/Burhani Society:

Sixty-five solidly built bungalows were destroyed here by huge mobs on February 28. They used some acid and explosive chemicals while setting fire to homes. A timer device, black in colour, was attached to the mains and some solvent poured into it, enabling a quick short-circuit in seconds.

Samples of the chemicals they used to ensure that the fire raged on for hours has been procured by this correspondent and given for analysis. Chemicals were also discovered from four other locations within Ahmedabad. As elsewhere, in Vatwa, too, gas cylinders had been used to explode homes, a school and a mosque.

Place: Vatwa
Rasool Khan, Principal, Asmi High School

(Interviewed at Saifee Society Relief Camp on March 4)

I am principal of the government recognised Asmi High School, where 500 students used to study, from KG to 10th standard. My wife is the principal of another school, the Friends High School, which has nearly a thousand students. My school was completely burnt down and so was my bungalow, situated just behind the school.

The worst part is that I saw with my own eyes, my compatriot, Navneet Patel, principal of two municipal schools situated in the Hindu side of the area — who is also the owner of Patel Pan House, apart from being principal of Tajgi School. Along with Keshubhai Sabziwala and Babulal Patel, he led the three-sided attack on our school and the entire Burhani society.

Nothing can be more painful for a teacher and a principal than to see his school being burnt, the entire records torn and destroyed and even the children’s work and charts defecated upon. And when the attack is led by an educationist, a human being who is supposed to impart values and a strength of purpose to the young, despair fills the heart.

There appears a clear target in the overall destruction — lives maimed and brutally snuffed out, the community crippled economically, religious and cultural symbols debased, and all signs of modernity and growth erased.

Assailants identified: Navneet Patel (school principal), Keshubhai Sabziwala, Babulal Patel.
Vatwa Violence/Ellis Bridge
Vatwa – Principal Navneet Patel, Keshubhai Sabziwala, Babubhai Patel, Mahesh Patel (Bajrang Dal) Girish Pandya (BJP corporator) Amita Patel (BJP corporator) Policemen indicted:

SP KC Patel, PI Singh PI Damod (Vatwa), PSI Yadav, PSI Chavda, PI Jadeja (Ellis Bridge).

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