The entire district of Sabarkantha and
its talukas namely Himmatnagar, Khedbrahma, Vijyanagar, Bhiloda,
Modasa town, Modasa village, Prantij, Talod, Vadali are among the most
severely affected areas of Gujarat state. In Sabarkantha district alone,
55 mosques, 40 tombs and 50 madrassas were completely demolished.
This is one district where there were clear cases of attacks being
launched on the night of February 27 itself.
The most ghastly incident took place
near Kidiad village on March 2, when 74 persons escaping in two tempos
were burnt alive and killed. Elsewhere, two persons were killed in Idar
taluka, 9 stabbed to death in Khedbrahma, and 4 died in police firing
in Modasa, 5 drivers killed on the Modasa-Godhra highway, 4 persons killed
just outside Prantij, 3 burnt alive in Salal village. Two more persons
were killed in the second bout of violence on March 19. Previously,
Sabarkantha and Banaskantha were targeted with violence for 8 days in
August 2000, after blatant incitement by VHP international general
secretary, Praveen Togadia. (See Build-Up in
Gujarat, Volume II.)
The Tribunal collected 7 written
statements about the ghastly incident that befell residents of Kidiad
village, Modasa taluka, on March 2. Muslims from Kidiad village
were fleeing in two tempos after their neighbours created a severely
threatening atmosphere in the night. They were intercepted and a total of
67 persons were killed, most of them burnt alive. Arzooben, the eyewitness
who was living at the Modasa camp, made a complaint to the police in which
she stated all the facts. Victim-survivors, whose written statements were
placed before the Tribunal, claim that out of thoise trying to escape in
one of these tempos, in all 67 persons were
killed. But offcial record admits of only 8 deaths as only those many
bodies were recovered. A complaint for the deaths of 8 persons travelling
in only one of the tempos was recorded. The police did not record any
further evidence. Arzooben could identify the culprits. One is the
taluka panchayat pramukh, Kalubhai Malwad, who belongs to the BJP. He
Kidiad village has about 45 households
of Muslims and 200 of Harijans, Bharwads and Thakors. On February 28 and
March 1, reports about burning of houses in neighbouring villages like
Haloder had started pouring in and tension kept mounting. When residents
asked for police protection, PSI Mukesh Patel of Malpur PS sent only one
policeman to supposedly provide effective police protection. On March 2,
the mobile police armed with .303 rifles came to the village at about 3
p.m. and told the Muslims to run to save their lives, as they would not be
able to protect them. The sarpanch requested the police to escort
them up to Malpur but the police flatly refused.
The frightened Muslims then started
trying to cross the rivers Eru and Vatrak across the dryer parts of the
riverbed. After trying for almost an hour, they returned to the village by
3.45 p.m. or so, where they were confronted by a mob of about 400-500
people from their own village and outside, shouting, "Kill them! Hack
them! Don’t let them go!" The mob was carrying dharias (sickles),
swords and trishuls. There were 224 Muslims in the village at the
time, as well as 20 guests from outside. Desperate to flee, 118 of these
boarded two tempos and set off. Those who could not do so, hid in the
fields around the village.
About 34 people boarded the first tempo
(GJ 17 T 9283), which left at about 4 p.m. to try to make its way towards
Modasa. Zakirbhai Shamsuddin Sindhi was driving this tempo. The
sarpanch of Kidiad, Saleembhai Jamubhai Sindhi was also travelling on
this tempo. When they reached the Godhra – Modasa highway they found their
road blocked at Malpur with stones and about a 1,000 people all around,
who stoned the tempo, breaking windows and injuring the people inside.
However, the tempo managed to turn towards Lunawada, and crossed Limbadiya
chowki in Panchmahal district. On the way, from Naroda village near
Limbadiya, a jeep and a motorcycle (with 3 riders) started following them.
One of them was carrying a dharia. The road was blocked at various
twists and turns. As they passed through villages, the tempo was stoned
sporadically. Finally, between Sanparia and Badesara villages, the
motorcycle overtook the tempo and forced it to stop. As the people in the
tempo tried to jump off and escape, they were attacked by the men on the
motorcycle. When the driver, Zakirbhai Shamsuddin Sindhi was attacked, his
4-month-old son Mohsin fell from his hands and died. He picked up his dead
child and ran. The people ran towards Karanta village across the Bhadrod
river nearby, hoping to take shelter in the dargah there. The
Patels of Sanparia, however, came out in support of the attackers and
killed 6 people. One woman, Sarabibi, who is an eyewitness to the murders,
was able to hide beneath a tarpaulin sheet in a shed behind a Patel house.
In fact, the Patel’s wife took her to the Modasa relief camp 2 days later.
Other survivors somehow managed to reach the security of the Karanta
dargah. The driver, Zakir Mian, finally buried his dead child there.
The survivors complained to the police when they reached the relief camp
at Modasa 10 days later.
The second tempo (no. GJ 9T 6439) left
Kidiad for Modasa at about 4.15 p.m. over seventy people, including a
large number of women and 32 children, were packed tightly into the
cramped tempo. Heavy stone pelting started from village Punjarani Muvadi.
When the tempo reached Choriwad crossing, a crowd of about 1,000 was
standing there. All other roads were blocked. In desperation, Ayub Mian,
the driver, turned the tempo towards Lunawada, Panchmahal district. From
Babaliya, four motorcycles, a jeep, a truck and a tempo (No. GJ 7 Y 2131)
started chasing the tempo. On one of the four motorcycles was Naresh Bhai,
a resident of Gogawada. As soon the tempo reached Limbadiya chowki,
about 15 km from Lunawada, the motorcyclists overtook the tempo and fired
at the front tyre, which burst, bringing the tempo to a standstill.
A large armed crowd of 1,000-2,000
people, which had been alerted by the passing of the first tempo a little
while earlier, surrounded the tempo along with the pursuers. The attackers
were wielding dharias, trishuls, swords and guns. About 16
people, including the driver of the tempo, managed to run away. These were
mainly men, with the exception of one woman and two small children. They
hid in the fields and saw what followed. After hacking those who remained
on the tempo with swords, the attackers threw tyres on them, poured petrol
and set the tempo on fire. Eight people who tried to jump off were fired
at and then hacked to death. One woman, Arzoo Bibi Ayub Mian Sindhi,
sitting in the driver’s cabin was also attacked when she jumped off but
she survived, albeit with severe injures, by pretending to be dead. They
ran until the mobs caught up with them, beat them mercilessly and killed
them. Those inside the tempo were burnt to ashes, as the fire raged for
over 2 hours.
According to the SP Panchmahal, Raju
Bhargava, only 8 deaths have been registered in the case as only the
bodies of those killed while trying to jump off have been found in a
half-burnt condition. In fact, Arzoo Bibi was told to identify these
bodies but she could only identify 1 of the 8 bodies, as that of
80-year-old Pirzada Gulabuddin Imam Mian, a resident of Karanta, who had
come to Kidiad on February 27 to offer Friday prayers. The other 7 bodies
were charred beyond recognition. Yet, there are eyewitnesses who state
categorically that 59 other people were charred to death, bringing the
total to 67. The dead included 37 women and 30 men, of whom 15 were boys
under 12 years. Four infants who were less than a year old, also perished
in the attack. The eyewitnesses have also identified the accused.
Complaints have been given to all the
authorities by the survivors and also to the Khanpur PS investigating the
case. The driver of the tempo, Ayubbhai Subha Mian Sindhi, is the main
complainant. In the absence of any concerted effort to collect evidence
and locate bone fragments if any, the huge disparity between eyewitness
accounts and the official story remained.
This was one of the most horrendous
incidents to have happened in Gujarat. The deceased: 67 persons
from Kidiad village were burnt alive. The accused: Kalubhai Malwad
(BJP), taluka panchayat pramukh, and Naresh Bhai, resident
Yusufbhai Bakrawala from Motiraanth,
along with two boys from Lunavada, was trying to escape from the mobs when
they were attacked. The army found 2 of the 3 bodies, when the fisherfolk
handed them over ten days later. There was no trace of Yusufbhai’s body –
only bones were found.
On the highway, there were Tata Sumos
moving around tracking persons who were trying to flee. Refugees from
other villages of Gujarat, bordering Rajasthan, had crossed over and were
in the Pithgaon camp. On March 7, in the same area, one Muslim, Arab
Saiyedbhai, was killed in police firing. The police never killed anyone
from the mobs.
Four persons were killed brutally on the
highway near Prantij town, near Himmatnagar, on February 28. Two were
declared dead and 2 were ‘missing’. The testimony of a witness, the
relative of the deceased victim, was placed before the Tribunal. The
witness, Bilal Dawood, brother of Saeed Dawood and cousin of Shakeel
Dawood, UK, had been earlier interviewed by journalist Teesta Setalvad.
This witness detailed the circumstances that led to the brutal killings of
three persons, including his brother, on the highway that leads from
Ahmedabad to Himmatnagar, on February 28. Two of the 3 killed were British
On February 21, the mother of victim,
Saeed Dawood, his cousin, Shakeel Dawood and two others arrived in Mumbai
from Australia. Bilal Dawood, brother of the victim Saeed Dawood, who gave
this testimony, reached the next day. On February 24, the witness’ brother
Saeed Dawood, his cousin Shakeel Dawood, his friend from the UK, Mohammed
Aswat, his nephew Imran Dawood and Yusuf, a driver from their village
Lajpur, 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 of 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 dharias and killed on the spot.
Imran Dawood, Mohammed Aswat, Saeed
Dawood and Shakeel Dawood, who ran towards a farmhouse to save their
lives, were chased by the mob. Around 6.30 p.m. that evening, a police
team found Mohammed Aswat, who was near dead, and Imran Dawood, 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
Aswat dead while Imran Dawood was in such a state of shock that, even
after regaining consciousness, he could not speak.
Bilal’s brothers, Saeed and Shakeel were
last seen by the woman owner of the farmhouse, running to save their
lives. Since then, there has been no trace of them. The British Consul
General, Ian Reeds, and Bilal Dawood visited the site of the killings,
along with the Gujarat DGP and the Ahmedabad CP, on March 8. The lady at
the farmhouse, obviously afraid for her own life, was not very cooperative
but Dr. Dongri was very forthcoming.
During their visit, they found a totally
burnt down factory about 100-200 yards away from where Mohammed Aswat and
Imran Dawood had been picked up by the police. Behind the factory
structure, they came across a spot where it looked as if a fire had been
built, possibly to burn the dead bodies. A little distance away, they
found some teeth and bones, which were then sent for DNA sampling.
The police gave the complainants a copy
of the FIR lodged by them, and said that they had arrested 17 people.
Bilal’s nephew, Imran, the only one to have miraculously escaped, had
returned to their native village. He seemed to recall that, while they
were being set upon, a police jeep was driving past but did not stop to
help. The case was referred to the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs,
India) and the FCO was also following it up with the MEA. With regard to
the murder investigations, Salman Kazi (related to Mohammed Aswat) had
written a note to the home department in Britain and the family was
actively pursuing the case to find out what exactly happened in Mohammed
Aswat’s and Yususf’s case. As for Bilal Dawood’s brother Saeed Dawood and
cousin Shakeel Dawood, they were put in the ‘missing’ category. The family
had obtained the FIRs and the post-mortem reports. The entire sordid saga
was reported on BBC, Star News and even the Gujarati papers.
James Watt, from the chamber of FCO, met Salman Kazi, Ahmed Aswat and
Salim Dawood in the UK. The family had also taken a delegation to the
Indian High Commissioner in the UK, PC Haldar.
Five drivers were killed on the
Godhra-Modasa Highway on February 28. Three of them from Modasa were
killed at Madhopur Kampa in Bayad taluka. Their names are Kasimbhai,
Anwar and Gaina. Of the 2 other drivers killed, one belonged to Rajasthan
and the other to Mewat, Haryana.
On 28 February, at about 9.30 a.m.,
several trucks were stopped on the Godhra-Modasa highway by a mob of
2,000-3,000 people at Madhopur Kampa near Bayad taluka town in
Sabarkantha. The Gujarat bandh was observed on this stretch of the
highway by burning 5 truck-drivers alive and setting 20 trucks on fire.
Kasimbhai, the driver of one of the trucks (GJ 9 V 1654) owned by GA
Suthar of Modasa, was first badly beaten by the mob as he got down from
the truck. He managed to escape and dragged himself behind the wall of a
nearby petrol pump. He was injured and lay down in a daze.
The Hindus from nearby Sadgal village,
who came to loot the trucks, happened to know him and helped to revive
him. He came to the petrol pump and saw the burning vehicles.
Unthinkingly, he shouted out to the mob to let his truck be. The mob then
dragged him out and threw him into the blazing truck. The driver’s helper,
Hanif, and another person travelling in the truck when it was attacked,
managed to escape. Both of them were helped by the Sadgal villagers, who
also dropped them to the relief camp at Modasa. The Bayad PS refused to
lodge an FIR on the incident, despite Hanif’s statement naming some
members of the mob whom he was able to identify with the assistance of the
Talod is a taluka in Sabarkantha
district. On February 28, a crowd of about 150-200 persons took out a
rally in the town, which terminated at the temple. Then, on March 1, at
12.30 p.m., a mob of 4,000-5,000 people gathered in the town and started
attacking the 80-odd Muslim households, scattered in different mohallas
all over Talod town. The Muslims took shelter in the houses of their
When they, too, were threatened by the
mobs, some of the Muslims, whose houses were still intact, went back to
their homes. On March 2, a mob of 500 people came again to destroy the
remaining Muslim houses. The mob looted the houses and the Muslims managed
to escape through the fields. They were trying to reach Harsol, a
neighbouring village with a large Muslim population. After walking for
about 7 kms, they reached a place near Salatpur, where this group of about
50 fleeing Muslims (including several old people and 20 children) was
surrounded and attacked by a mob of about 150 people carrying arms and
kerosene. An old woman, Bashiran Shamsuben Lohar, was injured on her head
and arm with a dharia. The attackers then piled up dried thorn
bushes around the group of Muslims, shouting that they would light a ‘Holi’
(bonfire) around the Muslims. They had just sprinkled kerosene on the
dried thorn scrub and lit it, and had started stripping the women, when a
group of 20-25 Rabaris from nearby Khokhra Kesarpur ran to the defence of
It was because of their intervention
that the Talod Muslims were able to escape. After going back to Talod,
staying in hiding that night and facing one more attack, they finally took
refuge in the police station. The police then dropped them to Harsol,
where they stayed for 10 days, after which they went to the Panpur relief
camp just outside Himmatnagar. Bashiran Shamsuben was refused treatment at
Talod civil hospital, and had to be taken to a hospital in Modasa for
treatment. This group of Muslims from Talod were unable to recognise the
attackers. They did not complain to the police. They had not gone back to
Talod since the attack.
The Tribunal recorded 31 testimonies and
statements from witnesess residing in Himmatnagar, the district
headquarters. The Godhra incident occurred on February 27. By 9 a.m. on
the morning of February 28, VHP/BJP leaders with lists of Muslim-owned
establishments had arrived all the way from Bhavnagar, a 6-hour journey
from Himmatnagar. A large mob was organised, which systematically went
about looting and burning Muslim shops, factories and showrooms, all of
which were closed for the bandh. In all, 232 establishments were burnt in
Himmatnagar town. Eyewitnesses state that most of the main perpetrators of
the arson were outsiders, though local VHP members did participate in the
attacks. The shops burnt included the grand showroom of Harsoliya Motors
owned by Bohras, who have been in Himmatnagar for 9 generations. This is
the first time that they have faced such an attack.
The attackers were intent on following,
quite literally, the directions that they had been given. For instance,
Raj Auto Traders on Dahod Road, owned by a Hindu from Godhra, was set on
fire since a Muslim partner was mentioned in the list. They did not listen
to onlookers, who pleaded that it was indeed Hindu-owned. Similarly, a
soft drink factory, earlier owned by a Muslim, Saleembhai, but recently
bought by a Kutchi Patel, was burnt down, despite the owner’s pleas, since
the factory was marked as Muslim-owned. Some of the Muslim shop owners and
factory owners who suffered losses have gone to court to get their own
complaints filed as FIRs. The police have not yet complied with the court
directions to do so.
By mid-March, just as communal tension
was beginning to ebb, an incident led to escalation of tension in the
entire region. On March 19, Kamlesh Patel, a local youth, parked his
scooter outside a Bohra shop, went to the market, and then simply
disappeared. His body was found on March 21, a short distance away from
Himmatnagar. The Bohra shop owner was picked up for questioning and wild
rumours that Muslims had killed Kamlesh Patel started circulating. The VHP
made this into a big issue, held many meetings, and fanned communal
tension. Several prominent Muslims in the town wanted a thorough
investigation to get to the root of the matter. This was, however, not
done and rumours and communal tensions continue to fester. There was a
surfeit of circulars distributed in Himmatnagar, advocating the boycott of
Muslims. On March 20, a dargah near the Markaz was set ablaze and a mob
gathered there shouting ‘Jai Ram!’. At 11.45 p.m. a caller informed people
that the SP had reached the sight and was able to bring the situation
under control. Maulvi Yusuf Islampuri and Mufti Ghulam Mohammad Patel of
Himmatnagar presented their fervent appeal for aid and assistance,
describing in detail and quantifying the unprecedented losses suffered by
the Muslim population of Sabarkantha district.
Witness Mohammed Hanief (45) from Salal
village, Prantij taluka, is the owner of a grocery store. This is a small
village of 8,000-10,000, with 20 Muslim families. On February 28, Muslim
shops were closed but at about 10 a.m., a mob of about 500-700 came and
they first torched a hotel on the highway, Sarvoday Hotel.
The witness and his family were in their
houses. There are two parts to the village, the market area and the
general area. Muslims live in the market area and when Sarvoday Hotel was
attacked, they called 5-7 people from the village. The villagers assured
them that they would have no problems as the villagers would protect them.
Hence, they were not worried.
Then, at 6 p.m., the brother of the
witness, Valibhai Ibrahimbhai Memon, was attacked. His wife was burnt
alive. Valibhai’s was the first house to be attacked. The attackers wanted
him to say ‘Jai Ram’. Then, they started beating up Valibhai. His two sons
tried to save him and they beat them up also. They told them that if they
wanted to live, they should run away from there. The whole family ran
towards the witness’ house, which is a little further away, and took
refuge in a mosque, which is next to the witness’ house.
From there, Valibhai called the witness
to say that the situation was serious. He described how they were beaten
up and mentioned that his wife was missing. It was then that 15 Muslim
families got together and ran towards the village. At about 7.30 p.m.,
they took shelter in a Rajput house, that of Prahlad Parmar. They stayed
there the whole night. Parmar protected them and gave them food.
On the morning of March 1, their
relatives in Himmatnagar informed the police station and the police took
them to Himmatnagar. The nephews of the witness have identified the
assailants and have named them in the FIR. Among the assailants, there
were many from the village and a few from another village. Many of them
were from the Patel community.
In Himmatnagar, the people with whom the
witness and his family stayed owned two trucks. The witness’ brother kept
calling the drivers on March 1 and 2, to find out about his wife. The
family thought that she might have been hiding in the village. On March 3,
the family registered a complaint with the police. On March 6, the police
informed the family that they had found a dead body in the house of the
witness. The police van came to pick them up in Himmatnagar, where there
had been indefinite curfew since March 1, and hence, it had not been
possible for the family to go to the village. The witness’ cousin
recognised the dead woman from the ‘payal’ (anklets) on her feet. Her name
was Jubeidaben. She had been burnt alive. In addition, two others were
burnt alive from this village.
The ironical thing about the testimony
of this witness is that he said that he was the leader of the minority
cell of the BJP. On the night of February 27, at 11 p.m., the BJP’s
vice-chief of the taluka, Rajubhai Patel, who lives in the village and is
a member of the district panchayat, woke the witness up and told him that
he had been informed by higher ups in the state cabinet, that there was
going to be a lot of trouble the next day, and he, therefore, advised the
witness to run away during the night.
The witness asked him how he could just
run away like that when he had lived there for 50 years and had property
there? Rajubhai told the witness that he would not be able to do anything
for him. The witness’ younger brother owns a TV and electronic repair shop
and Rajubhai had called him over on February 27, at 5 p.m., for repair of
his TV. While the witness’ brother was there, Rajubhai was talking about
all this on the telephone. He said that a call for a Gujarat bandh the
next day had been given by BJP and they would torch all the Muslim shops
in the village and that if there were anyone left alive, he too would be
The witness and his family had been
living in a relief camp in Himmatnagar, and until May 5, when they deposed
before the Tribunal, although two months had passed since the incident,
they had not been able to go back to the village because they had been
threatened. Once or twice, they had tried to go and see their homes and
properties but they had received threats. Some BJP Hindus had even put up
cabins in front of their property. All the Muslim families have been out
of the village and they felt strongly that the Hindus were trying to take
possession of Muslim property.
Rafikbhai Janmohammed Memon is the
witness from Bhiloda taluka town, who deposed before the Tribunal. On
February 28, at 10 a.m., the witness’ neighbour, Arjunbhai Panjabi, came
and informed him that shops were being looted in the market. When they
called the police, they were told, "Well, this is bound to happen". After
about an hour, all the Muslim shops had been looted. All day there were
shouts of "Kill, slaughter."The BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and police (Jhala
was the PSI, Chawda was the CPI - circle police inspector) and mamlatdar
Waghela, all of them were in it together.
Many victim-survivors who deposed before
the Tribunal described how they made desperate calls to everyone in the
police station. In response, inspector Chawda said that it was the
Muslims’ turn next! This was at about 7 p.m. Then, the witness called the
SP of Sabarkantha, Nitiraj Solanki on 4733 and on his mobile phone. He
said, "You must protect yourself, we cannot do anything, we have no
police." At 8 p.m., they called the SP again saying, "The Bajrang Dal and
the VHP have been pelting us with stones for the past hour." The witness
also stated that a meeting of about 500-700 persons was held at a school
opposite the witness’ house. There are 7 Muslim houses in their area. At
about 8.30 p.m., the mob came and threw stones at them. There was a
policeman standing there. The witness and his family locked themselves in
their house. But the mob broke down their iron grill with steel angles.
About 12 to 13 persons entered the house and started vandalising
The witness came out from a side door
and found CPI Chawda standing near a van. He started running but Chawda
saw the witness and started shouting, "Catch him, don’t let him escape, he
is to be burnt alive." After breaking everything, they sprinkled petrol in
the house. Some people ran after the witness, but he went to their jamaat
khana — community hall — while his children and wife ran towards their
locality in the village, where there were 20-30 Muslim houses.
The other 6 families also went to the
jamaatkhana with the witness and waited there with him. CPI Chawda was
waiting there with his jeep and a constable, Divaji, was also there.
Petrol and kerosene cans had been readied. There were 11 other persons,
including Gunvantbhai Bhagwandas Trivedi, a BJP member. They were saying,
"He is to be burnt alive". The witness named sarpanch Rupesh Trivedi, RSS
pracharak (propagator/worker), Prabhudas Lalabhai Patel and 8 other
people. Prabhudas Patel is the joint secretary of the RSS for Banaskantha
The witness and others heard CPI Chawda
saying some Muslims were hiding upstairs. They came up to the second floor
carrying a gas cylinder, which they had brought along in a van and which
they set on fire. CPI Chawda also said that not a single house should be
Subsequently, the witness’ family ran to
their relatives, who live in the village, and immediately thereafter, went
to the police station to meet the PSI. He bluntly said, "We have received
orders from above and we cannot take your complaint." The witness warned
that he would go to the SP and the PSI replied, ‘You can go wherever you
want to.’ The witness took a deputation from the village to SP Nitiraj
Solanki and told him everything. Solanki himself said, "I am VHP and not
SP". The witness warned of complaining to higher ups and he was once again
told, "Go wherever you want to." The witness repeatedly told him that he
was siding with the VHP and the Bajrang Dal — and pleaded with him to at
least record his FIR. He said, "You can go wherever you want to but I will
not take your FIR." The FIR had not been registered until as late as May,
when the witness made his deposition. Copies of the witness’ complaint had
been sent to the President of India, the National Human Rights Commission,
the SP, collector, mamlatdar and the taluka PSI. However, no arrests had
been made until May, nor was there any response to his complaints.
The witness was staying in a relief camp
in Himmatnagar with his family all in a state of terror. They did not go
anywhere out of fear for their lives. They could not go back to the
village because their house had been destroyed and they believed that,
with the trust broken, the police was set to kill them.
Witness Makrana Asiyaben Shaikh
Mohammed, who deposed before the Tribunal is from Kisangadh village in
Bhiloda taluka. She said that there are 15 Muslim houses in Kisangadh and
that Muslims had been living there for the last 60-70 years. On March 1,
at about 8 p.m., 3,000- 4,000 persons came in vehicles, with swords and
other things. Some were from the village and the others were outsiders.
They were shouting, "Kill, slaughter!" and were set on looting. They had
swords, sickles, chemicals and kerosene cans with them. They started
throwing chemicals whereupon the walls of the buildings became black and
then started burning.
They pelted Muslims with stones.
Two-three Muslims were killed and the witness was hurt in one or two
places. They ran to the house of the Darbar, Vikramsingh Thakore, who
sheltered Muslims. But someone told the crowd that Muslims were hiding
there and then the crowd harassed them the whole night. Thakore tried to
save Muslims but he had nothing with which to fight back.
He called Bhiloda village and informed
them that 72 Muslims were trapped in Kisangadh and that they should come
and take them away. As the people from Bhiloda, including the witness’
brother, tried to make their way to Kisangadh, the road was blocked so
they could not reach the village. At 5 p.m., the mob went away and the
victims then walked to Bhiloda. They were barefoot and they had to cover
their children’s mouths so that they would not cry. Finally, they reached
Bhiloda police station and there, they were told that unless they left
quickly, they would be attacked again.
They pleaded with the police to do their
job and protect them and asked the police to escort them to Idar. They
were told, however, that they must leave. The police officers, Jhala and
Chawda said that they had received orders from above three days ago, so
the Muslims must just go away.
So the victims carried on walking and
reached Bhilodi. Here the Patels spread rumours that they had come to
attack the village. They were driven out, and walked through the night
without any food until they finally reached Idar, where they were given
shelter in the camp. All their belongings and property were destroyed,
including the graveyard where the mob had set fire inside the graves as
well. As late as May, when she deposed before the Tribunal, the witness
had not received any compensation.
There are 15 Mansoori houses, in another
village of Idar taluka. The village had 10 shops and one mosque. The
village has a population of 2,000 Hindus in the village. Mansoori
Rasoolbhai Rehmanbhai, a resident of the village, deposed before the
Tribunal. He stated that on February 28, at 6:30 a.m., he opened his shop.
Suddenly, a mob came to his shop, which is the first in the row of shops,
and one of them caught the witness by the collar and threw him down. He
tried to stand up. They told him to close his shop and go to the bus
stand. He agreed and closed his shop, but went home over the hill instead
of going to the bus stand. That night passed off peacefully.
On March 1, at 8 p.m. a mob of about
500-700 came to the village. The witness and his family was just sitting
down to dinner. They torched his house and shop and then they torched all
the other shops in the village as well as the 15 other houses. The witness
and his family escaped narrowly and went up the hill and hid — men, women
and children. The mob came looking for them twice but they could not find
them. After the mob went away, they walked to the nearby Adivasi
settlement, which they reached at 3 a.m.
They spent the night there and at 8 a.m.
the next morning, they started walking towards Sabri relief camp, which
they reached at 2 p.m., having gone without food or water for all this
time. When they tried to go back, they were told not to return. They saw
that their houses had been completely burnt down — nothing was left. All
15 houses and 10 shops had been burnt to the ground. All the goods in the
shops and the household goods had been looted.
The witness sent a written complaint to
the police by registered AD, mentioning the names of the people involved
in the attack. He was given a compensation of Rs. 25,000 for his house.
Depending on the extent of damage to houses, people received varying
amounts of compensation, ranging from Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 50,000, though he
estimated his loss due to the damage to his shop and home at approximately
Rs. 12 lakh. The witness had no idea where he would go when the camp
closed down. He had been threatened with his life if he returned to his
village. The aggressors also said that he would not be allowed to do any
(work) business there. His poignant question to the Tribunal was, ‘then
what should I do?’
The Tribunal recorded the testimony of
the imam of the local mosque in a village in Vijaynagar. On February 27,
at 10 p.m., the uncle and son of the witness were in their shop — they
have about 4-5 shops in the village. They called him to say that they had
been surrounded by an unruly mob, which was shouting, "Kill, slaughter!"
When the witness asked who they were, he was told that they were all
Bajrang Dal people and many of them were their regular customers. His
uncle and cousin recognised about 15-17 people in the crowd and named
them. The father and son did not know what to do. At this point, they
broke contact with the witness. The next morning the witness found out
that the shop had been burnt, with both father and son inside it.
When the witness and others went there
the next morning, they saw the two corpses lying in the burnt shop. At
first, no one came out from the village. Then, the witness, along with
others, went to Vijaynagar and brought the police with them. They were
recording the panchnama when a crowd gathered and started throwing stones
at them. They were threatening to kill them too, and said that they would
not allow them to take the corpses away from there. However, they somehow
managed to escape and take the corpses to Vijaynagar for post-mortem
examinations and for the panchnama to be recorded.
PSI PT Panchal told them that this was
the last statement he would record. While the witness and others were
trying to flee with the corpses, they were stopped in several places and
had to take diversions. After meeting the SP, the witness gave the police
his statement, mentioning several names, but no arrests were made. Some
30-35 people were arrested, but when he called the police to inquire if
any of the people named by him were amongst them, he was told that he had
no right to ask such questions.
He said that those arrested were treated
like VIPs and felicitated. Air-coolers were sent to the jail in
Himmatnagar. All those he had named in the FIR were still moving around
with naked swords as late as May. Muslims from Vijaynagar could not even
go and check out their shops, which had all been burnt. The FIR was filed
under section 395 for looting, but Panchal cancelled it and made it
sections 433 and 436 (destruction of public property) so no arrests were
made. The compensation this witness received amounted to a few hundred
rupees whereas his losses amounted to a few lakh rupees.
The owner of Hotel Asopalav, on the
Sabarmati highway in Asad village, Viroda taluka, also deposed before the
Tribunal. At about 11 p.m. on the night of February 27, a local doctor
came to the witness’ house and asked him if his hotel was safe. When the
witness replied in the affirmative, the doctor wondered aloud how his
hotel remained untouched when so many others had been burnt. Then, he went
away only to return to the witness’ hotel with some men in his jeep. He
then told the witness’ assistant that he was going to set fire to the
The assistant and the other people
staying there realised that their lives were in danger so they ran to a
factory opposite the hotel. They called their employer, who then called
the SP. The SP advised him to call Shamlaji police station. When he called
there, it was about midnight. There was a constable there, who told the
witness that he was alone, and could not do anything. He advised him to
call the collector. The witness then called the collector who told the
witness that he would keep calling the police station and that he should
also keep doing the same till such time as help arrived. They did not get
any help at night. The next morning, he got a call to say that both the
STD booth and the hotel had been looted but no major damage had been done.
Then, on March 1, after the Friday
prayers, he got a call from a family member informing that a mob of 400 to
500 persons had collected at the hotel. He immediately called the
collector but the collector wasn’t there. Then, he called the police
control room. The CRP force was there but they did not help at all. The
mob looted and then burnt the hotel. The witness had opened the hotel just
8-9 months previously, it had cost him Rs. 70 lakh to set up and he was
astounded. It had yet to start making profits.
His men were trapped near the hotel, in
the nearby jungle, so he called the collector and asked him to provide
protection so as to enable him to rescue his men. His men remained in
hiding for 3 days, and only then, with the help of the highway police they
managed to come out. Two months later, they had still not received any
police protection. In Sabarkantha, all the Chillia hotels — the Chillia
group had a reputation in the area for running good hotels — were burnt
and looted. Many of the business partners had sold their farmland and
invested in these hotels.
The collector called the witness and
told him that he could get another loan to rebuild the hotel. The witness
replied that he had already taken a loan on which he was paying an
interest of about Rs. 30,000 per month. How could he pay interest on a new
loan? His urgent plea to the Tribunal was that all such affected persons
be given long-term loans with no interest.
Another problem they faced was that they
had been unable to return. Where could they rebuild their lives? When the
victims had gone to register an FIR on March 8, a general FIR had already
been made out. The victims told the police that their FIR listed names —
they had recognised people and there were eyewitnesses to the crimes. They
were told that the two FIRs would be combined and the persons named
arrested. In May, when the Tribunal sat, these arrests had still not been
made. The witness strongly felt that the only reason groups like the RSS/BJP/VHP
and BD could be so brazen about their crimes was because they were sure of
police support in subverting the process of justice. When the witness said
as much to the SP, the SP told him that he was wrongly accusing him. The
witness replied that the situation in Gujarat was such that people felt
that they could kill whomsoever they wanted because the police was not
going to do anything to them; if you wanted to burn a shop, burn it, the
police was not going to do anything to anyone. It was because there was no
fear of punitive action that they were blatantly doing what they were
Deposing before the Tribunal, witness
Nasreenbano Raiskhan Pathan from Mujethi village, said that on March 1,
the deputy sarpanch of Mujethi village, Idar taluka, gathered Muslims
together and assured them that they were safe and that no harm would come
to them. But at about 7.20 p.m., they were suddenly told by a mob that
they should run away or they would be killed. The crowd included Adivasis
and villagers as well as the deputy sarpanch, who had come with them. The
deputy sarpanch gave the Adivasis liquor and they attacked Muslims.
They chased Muslims out who went and hid
in the school where the villagers cooked for them, but they were chased
away from there as well. They went to the sarpanch and asked him to help
but he refused and told them to flee. They did that, going to the house of
a Darbar elder (Bade Darbar), who helped them. However, he was also
threatened for helping them, so he used his influence to get the victims a
police van and a tempo, and all 120 Muslims got into the vehicles and
escaped. The mob threw some chemicals on their houses and burnt them. The
government has given residents amounts varying from Rs. 800-1500 as
compensation for what they have lost. The witness said that when Muslims
went back to their village, the villagers told them to go away. They also
spread rumours that Muslims were going there to poison the wells. When
some Muslims returned, two Adivasis told them that the whole thing had
been done by the deputy sarpanch and the villagers, not Adivasis.
Witness Sadikbhai Rahimbhai Mansoori
(40) is from another village in Idar taluka. He said that he was asleep at
home at 11 a.m. on February 28, when the peon from the panchayat came and
told him that the sarpanch had sent for him. So he went to the panchayat.
The sarpanch, Dhanjibhai Patel and a few others were sitting there. All of
them were armed and as soon as the witness entered, the peon pushed him
and the witness fell down. The sarpanch started abusing him, saying that
he had told the witness not to build his house in the village and yet he
had built one. The witness explained how with great difficulty he had got
a loan and then built his house. They started beating him but the witness
managed to break away and ran home. The name of the sarpanch is Kantibhai
Hiralal Patel and the other men present with him were: Jayantibhai Patel,
Nalinbhai Bhogilal Mehta, Devarkumar Chandrakant Tulsi and Saratkumar
The witness locked himself inside his
house. In the afternoon a mob of several hundreds came. They broke down
the door and he ran to his brother’s house across the road. From there, he
watched as that they took out all the things from his house. They threw
some things in the well and they took away the rest in an HMT tractor (the
number plates had been removed). The witness said that the things were
still lying in the well, two months later, and that the police refused to
take a complaint. The surveyor said that he had not seen the house, so
what would he survey? The police refused to take an FIR and had told him
to effect a compromise. They even threatened the witness with his life.
The police tore up the witness’ report. He was not allowed to enter his
house and the attempt seemed to be to falsify the surveyor’s report and
snatch his legitimate property from him.
Another witness from the same village,
Iqbalbhai Rahim Mansoori, described how on February 28, at 5 p.m., members
of the gram panchayat along with the sarpanch, Kantibhai Patel, came to
their house with a mob. They carried swords, knives and rifles. They told
them to leave the village and chased the witness and others from the
village. Then they came from the other side with a tractor with one
Jayantibhai and another person in it. At first, when the witness heard the
sound of the tractor, he thought it was someone passing by, but as they
got off the tractor, he realised that they had come to kill the Muslims.
The witness put his mother over his shoulder and fled from there with the
others. They hid in the nearby wheat field for 5 hours. The mob came
looking for the victim-survivors, and even made barking sounds, and fired
their guns. Two young daughters of the witness had to have their mouths
held shut so that they would not give their hiding place away. They were
thus kept quiet until 11 p.m. The witness’ children had been without water
or food since 5 p.m. when they had left their homes to flee. If they asked
for water, their father would slap them. Then, at 1.30 p.m. he put his
mother over his shoulder again and left with his two girls, until he
reached the refugee camp.
This witness said that Suryakant Joshi,
the BJP taluka leader, refused to listen to the complaints and
said, "Don’t go to the police station, because if you do you will be
killed." The witness was unable to visit his sister, who lived near the
police station. He has not been able to visit her at all. The villagers
have told him that if he wants to come back to the village, he must remove
the names of key leaders mentioned in his complaints. They threatened to
sell off his land and destroy his well if he did not comply. They had
already cut the wheat belonging to the witness and sold it off.
The Tribunal recorded the testimony of
Kaderbhai Memon, a social worker, who also ran the refugee camp at
Himmatnagar. This witness complained bitterly of the treatment of camps
and camp leaders by the government. (See Annexure on Status of Relief
Camps, Detailed Annexures, Volume III).
A hotel in Himmatnagar, called Bombay
Hotel, was attacked by a mob of 3,000. The owner begged them to go away,
pleading for his life. He said, "Why are you doing this to me, I have
always helped you in so many ways." They did not listen to him and started
pelting him with stones and damaged the hotel. So the owner started firing
at them in self-defence. In the firing some minor injuries occurred and he
was arrested under section 307. After his arrest, his hotel was torched.
Two months later, he had not been granted bail even by the High Court. He
had a licence for the gun. Eight people from the mob had tried to torch
his hotel and he had fired at them. This is one more example of the
obvious discriminatory treatment meted out to Muslims in Gujarat.
Some people’s showrooms were being
robbed and the witness and the others in the camp called the SP. He was on
the highway near Motipura, where a shop was being looted. The kingpins
behind the attacks in this district could be easily identified from the
complaints filed by victims. Though inspector Chauhan first arrested 5
persons who were named, they were released because they were not charged
with any serious offence.
As communities, Adivasis and Harijans
are very poor so some of them are tempted towards theft. But many members
from the 2 communities as well as the Rajputs, saved thousands of Muslims
— they gave them shelter in their homes for as long as 10 days and fed
Jagdish Taral, a VHP leader from
Khhedbrahma personally intervened and stopped reconciliatory measures
launched by the collector in Sabarkantha. This happened in the presence of
Ranajit Sinh Naharsingh Chawda, elected MLA from Himmatnagar and minister
of state for cottage industries in the Gujarat government. When attempts
were being made to take victim-survivors back to the villages, some of the
young men there, said, "We do not want any Muslims in the village." In the
presence of minister Chawda, the collector and the SP, Taral said, "In
1947, Muslims killed so many Hindus, now the Muslims have to pay for it.
If they want to return, it is at their own risk but we will not allow
Vohras to come, only the Mansooris can come." And so they were trying to
create divisions amongst the Muslims.
The witness stated that the ongoing law
and order situation in the district was very bad. The collector and the SP
of the district had not controlled the situation anywhere and should be
asked if they had managed to save even one Muslim establishment in
Himmatnagar. There were Muslim shops at the crossroads only 100 meters
away from where the collector and SP live, in an area, which they pass
frequently. Forty-eight Muslim shops were burnt there, not even a bidi
shop was spared, but they did not try to put out the fires anywhere.
There isn’t a single instance where they
called the mobile (van) so that the fires may be put out. The only
recourse that Muslims have is the law. But even there one has seen the few
culprits who were arrested go scot-free. Members of the VHP and the
Bajrang Dal used to move around with the police in their vans. Shops would
be burning for as long as 4 days and the SP would be do nothing.
State minister from Himmatnagar,
Ranajitsingh Chawda, aided by Jagdish Taral, the vitriolic VHP leader from
Khhedbrahma, who was named for mass-scale destruction in August 2000, were
directly involved in the violence this time round as well. Witness
Kaderbhai Memon, who deposed before the Tribunal, stated that both Chawda
and Taral would sit in the premises of the Bombay Hotel, which was
ultimately destroyed at their behest, and conduct operations from there.
Chawda would point at a shop or house on the map and ask why it had been
spared and why their people were not doing anything about it.
After the first bout of violence that started on
February 27, on the night of March 9, Modasa town witnessed the worst ever
arson and plunder of the Muslim community. On the morning of March 19,
three young Muslim girls, who were returning from a school examination,
were molested. They were asked why they had not applied teeka
(vermilion) on their foreheads. As punishment, they were stabbed.
When the Tribunal sat in May, they were still under treatment at the local
hospital. Two persons, Abdul Rahman and Nizam Husain Imam were burnt alive
here. Kirat Shah Ballabhbhai and Jagdeesh Gandhi, chairman, Modasa Nagrik
Co-op. Bank, are reported to have attacked children. Khhedbrahma village
had to be vacated by its Muslim inhabitants under coercion. A board
renaming it, ‘Hindu Nagri’ (‘Hindu Town’) was fixed on its bus
stand declaring the village out of bounds for Muslims.