Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002
An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat
Incidents of Post-Godhra violence
The Tribunal recorded 64 oral and written statements from Mehsana. This district, too, saw two brutal massacres in the first bout of post-Godhra violence. One of them was at Sardarpura village, in taluka Vijaypur, where, in a single attack, 33 Muslims were electrocuted to death, 29 of them from one family. In the other case, 11 Muslims were hacked and burnt to death in Visnagar town, a taluka headquarter.
On February 28, 2002,11 family members of two Khan brothers were hacked and some burnt thereafter, in one of the Hindu-predominant localities, Deepda Darwaza, in Visnagar town, Mehsana district, leaving just three survivors – Yusufbhai Khan, his nephew, Pathan Arif Khan Yakub Khan (13) and his niece, Noorjahan Yakub Khan (11). Those killed included five women, one man, and five children. One child was only 6-months-old. The two surviving children saw their family members being hacked and burnt with their own eyes.
With a deep sense of hurt and pain, Yusufbhai tells everyone that even till the last minute he had believed that the attackers were all neighbours and would not kill his family members. Engaged in wage labour or petty shop-keeping, the Khans lived in a small cluster of huts in Hindu-predominant Deepda Darwaza.
Witness Morad Khan (45), a trader from Deepda Darwaza said that in his mohalla there are over 800 Patel (Patidar) houses and some 20-25 Muslim houses. On February 28, at about 5-6 p.m. about 200 Patels of the mohalla got together. Their leaders were Lalitbhai Ladhabhai, Dahyabhai Madhabhai, Babubhai Purshottam Patel. Under their leadership, all the Muslim houses in the mohalla were looted and torched. What was far worse, 11 members of the witness’ family were cut up and some were burnt thereafter. At the peace meeting held three days later, he pleaded for the remains of his deceased family members but they refused.
The attackers cut the dead bodies of some victims to pieces and stuffed them in gunny sacks that were dumped in the pond on Kada Road. The police later recovered the bodies. The attack started at around 2.30 p.m.; the police, who were called repeatedly, finally arrived only at 5 p.m. The trapped Muslim residents were rescued only after that. The Times of India reported on March 12 that with the retrieval of two bags filled with bones, a few skulls and remains from Malap Pond, where the sewage from Visnagar gets collected, the district police had traced the remains of all 11 persons reported missing from this area.
The witness had named 65 persons in his complaint but not one of them had been arrested till May. Later, eighteen persons were arrested and then released. "All of them are from my locality, not just from the village." Moreover, according to Yusufbhai, they were arrested in connection with smaller offences committed earlier. SP A Gehlot (now transferred) had sent the victims’ remains for examination to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory. The accused include Daya Purushottam, Babubhai Purshottam Patel, Ramesh Daya Madhabar; the person accused of supplying arms to the killers is the BJP MLA, Prahladbhai Mohan Lal Patel Ghosa.
There were about 100 Muslim families living in all of Visnagar constituting a tiny percentage of the town’s total population. Apart from the massacre of the11 family members, elsewhere in the town, too, Muslims suffered substantial devastation and casualties. A violent Hindu mob of about 10-12,000 people attacked the various Muslim clusters on the afternoon of February 28. The attackers were armed with swords, dharias (sickles), sticks, acid, petrol, lighters and country-made bombs.
In another part of Visnagar town, Kaziwada, one Ashrafbhai was attacked with a sword. His sister Zainabbibi and neighbours Hanifbhai and Yunusbhai Mansuri took him in a handcart to the civil hospital. Thereafter, Yunusbhai disappeared and has not been seen since. Zainabbibi, Hanifbhai and Ashrafbhai were taken to the third floor of the hospital and thrown down from there. While Hanifbhai and Ashrafbhai died, Zainabbibi, who was alive, was dragged up the stairs and thrown down again. Acid was then poured on the bodies, and they were also slashed with swords. Noor Jehan, a witness, was in the hospital when this happened. According to her, all the attackers were outsiders; there were 50-60 attackers who had entered the hospital and killed the three persons.
In another locality, Khada Darwaza, about 15-20 Muslim men and children were injured in an attack. As the mob approached this locality, about 100 women hid in a house, while the men tried to resist the attack by hurling back stones. The confrontation continued for about 2-3 hours.
According to the survivors, the local MLA, Prahladbhai Mohan Lal Patel Ghosa was the main instigator. He had organised several meetings in the town and had been heard announcing a reward of Rs. 5 lakh for every Muslim killed and guaranteeing that there would be no case or imprisonment.
Witness Imran Haniefbhai Behlim, a vegetable vendor in Visnagar, lost his father in the violence. Some persons from a mob killed his father, Haniefbhai Dawoodbhai Behlim, with a sword on February 28. "There were 15-20,000 people in the mob but I do not remember anyone’s names." His father, who was taking someone for medical treatment, was killed just outside the hospital. The police did not give him any protection but fired at the family when they were taking the deceased for burial.
Several hundred Muslims from Visnagar who have fled to Sawala were too scared to go back. The 84 autorickshaws that they plied for a living are now idle as it is dangerous for the drivers to ply them. Students who attempted to go to school continued to be threatened by groups of 10-15 people. As late as early May, sporadic incidents of attacks on Muslims continued to take place. They recognise some of the attackers, all Patels. According to them, even Patel women participated in the attack, throwing stones on Muslims from the roof tops.
Muslims constituted about 10 per cent of the total population of Sardarpura, in Mehsana district, which included about 25 families of Pathans, 20 of Sheikhs (Ghanchis) and about 20 families of Mansuri Muslims. On February 28, 2002, at about 9 p.m., several kiosks owned by Muslims, Harijans and Rawals were burnt in Sardarpura by a mob of local Hindus. The police were called but the attack continued even in their presence and even after they had left. Fearing further attack, the Muslims again called the police the following day. Led by two sub-inspectors the police arrived in two jeeps. The idea of forming a peace committee was mooted and names of people from various communities were short-listed. A meeting was fixed for 4 p.m. Apart from the sarpanch and an ex-sarpanch (both Patels), representatives from Harijans, Rawals, Prajapatis and Muslims reached the venue but the Patels stayed away. The sarpanch, too, left the venue shortly saying he would try to get the Patels. He did not return.
An electrician promptly repaired the streetlights of the village, which were not working for about a month prior to the incident, that evening. A halogen light was installed near the colony of the Sheikhs and a long wire was attached to the same point. By 9.30 p.m., a Hindu mob from 8-10 villages started collecting in Sardarpura. All the three Muslim localities (of Pathans, Sheikhs and Memons) were simultaneously attacked. While shops were being burnt in the localities of the Memons and the Sheikhs, houses of the Pathans were stoned.
The two sub-inspectors were still in the village when the attack started. Making excuses about going to the other end of the village to stop the attack on the Memon shops, they disappeared and gave inaccurate feedback to the SP that everything was all right in the village. In the Sheikh locality, a two-year-old girl child was flung and killed by the mob. Some of the Muslims ran to the Rawals’ houses for shelter; together with the Rawals then ran away through the fields. One person saved himself by hiding in a grave.
Thirty-one people, mostly women and children, had taken shelter in a house in the Sheikh locality. The mob surrounded the house, locked them all in a room, and threw acid at them from outside. An iron rod, attached to the loose end of the live wire was then shoved inside the room packed with Muslims. This instantly electrocuted 29 persons to death. Two children who fell beneath the pile of bodies somehow survived the attack.
Finally, after receiving desperate pleas from trapped Muslims on phone, the SP, A Gehlot, reached the village with two vehicles at about 2.30 a.m. The Sardarpura survivors were rescued and taken to Sawala village. The police found that the roads out of Sardarpura were blocked at frequent intervals up to Ladol, 9 km away, to prevent the Muslims from escaping. An FIR was lodged and 28 persons named by survivors. One of the chief accused, Chandra Kant is a Bajrang Dal activist. As of early May, he had still not been arrested.
Kadi town is one of the taluka headquarters of Mehsana district, situated about 50 km from Ahmedabad. The town has approximately 35 per cent Muslims. February 28 witnessed mob attacks on different Muslim inhabited areas and Muslim commercial establishments in the town. In all, 56 shops were set afire, four dargahs damaged and one mosque was destroyed. The police registered 18 FIRs covering the different incidents in the town. In one of the FIRs, prominent persons of Kadi, including Ramesh Bachhubhai Patel, a municipal councillor, were named as accused. All the 13 accused were arrested on March 25. The very next day, the SP was transferred. It was alleged that the transfer was punitive since he had refused to toe the government line. The chief minister refuted these allegations and justified the transfer as a promotion. However, on the very day of the transfer, the 13 accused were released from custody. Gujarat cabinet minister Niteen Patel hails from here.
On March 28, there was re-escalation of tension in Kadi when the persons released led a victory procession (‘shobha yatra’) through the town, accompanied by a frenetic beating of drums. The next evening, a small mob set fire to a kiosk owned by a Muslim and pelted stones at Muslim properties. By 10 p.m., a 500 strong mob started an attack near Kinara Talkies. Another mob attacked the shops owned by Bohra Muslims in Vorvad area. The Bohras repulsed the attack and stone pelting between the two sides continued for some time. A police party used tear gas to disperse the Bohras. Through the night, 45 Bohras and 25 Muslims from the Kasba area were arrested. Muslim women staged a demonstration outside the police station on the morning of March 30, demanding the release of those arrested. The women continued their protest despite lathi-charge and the use of tear gas by the police. Finally, the 70 arrested people were released.
Following the violent incidents of the previous night, a BSF party arrived at Kadi in the morning. Both the SP and the collector were present in the town when the mob attacks resumed at around 10.30 am. Until 1 p.m. different group of attackers targeted Muslims settlements. The major attack occurred at Kalalwas, a locality inhibited by 100 Ghanchi Muslim families and 300 Patel Hindu families. The mob came armed with firearms, explosives, swords, and dharias. A posse of 8 policemen posted at Kalawas remained mute spectators.
At 11 a.m., Razak Vazir Kalal, a fruit seller, received four gun shot wounds. Fortunately, he received medical help in time and survived. In his statement to the police, he identified one Amrit alias Dada as the one who opened fire as well as other leaders of the mob. All the Muslim residents of Kalawas tried to escape to other localities. Mohammed Javed, who worked as a cleaner, was fleeing with others when stones were pelted at them. He was trying to avoid being hit when a bomb was hurled. He tried to stop it with his hand and it exploded. His hand was blown off at the wrist. The residents kept making desperate phone calls to the SP and the BSF commandant but to no avail.
Curfew was declared at 1 p.m. but by then 36 houses in Kalawas were destroyed by fire and the rest had been looted and damaged. Around 3 p.m. one house was set on fire in the Sahdwas locality. Two hours later, the house owner, Ismail Ghanchi (70), went to look at the damage. An eyewitness had accompanied Ismail and identified the attackers, who included the local president of the Bajrang Dal. The BSF, which was deployed by the district administration at 5 p.m., staged a flag march and violent incidents ceased.
In their complaints to the police, the victims had identified over 125 persons from the mob. Only one FIR was registered for the entire period, and covered all the different incidents listed above.
Published by: Citizens for Justice and Peace