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Bhavnagar

Bhavnagar
Bhavnagar
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Crime Against Humanity  
Volume I An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat 
List of Incidents and Evidence  
By Concerned Citizens Tribunal -Gujarat 2002

Incidents of Post-Godhra Violence

Bhavnagar

Bhavnagar in Saurashtra, central Gujarat had never experienced a communal riot in the past. This time, large properties belonging to Muslims were targeted and de- stroyed.

The attack in Bhavnagar was launched on March 1, 2002. Vile and unsubstanti- ated reports published in local newspapers about the local madrassa, Darul Uloom Kakor Nagar led a manic mob to blockade it They were threatening to burn alive 455 innocent Muslim children boarding there who were trapped inside.

The role of the SP Bhavnagar, Rahul Sharma, is indeed worthy of note. Sharma fired on a mob that was trying to set the madrassa on fire, and put all its leaders behind bars. By his prompt arrival, leading his men and firm action, 400-odd young lives were saved. The surrounding area was engulfed by fire from all four sides. The road outside was piled with burning tyres, 2 ft. high, making escape impossible. The entrapped chil- dren described their brush with death thus: “We had lost all hope and thought our last moment had arrived. In anticipation of death we started reciting the Kalimah (Word of God). In the meanwhile we saw SP Rahul Sharma drive through the fire, and approach our building, calling us out to get into the truck. We promptly obeyed and he drove us through 2 ft. high flames of burning tyres, saving all 455 of us. He did not appear to care for his own life then. We were later transferred to Ibrahim Masjid.” On the evening of March 1, when mobs were prowling the streets, the Bhavnagar police, who had never faced a riot before, seemed, momentarily, to lose confidence. “Sensing that my men were hesitating, I got out and fired the first round and they immediately joined me. We managed to disperse the mob and did not allow them to regroup,” Sharma told the media at the time. For this, Sharma had to face the heat from political ‘bosses.’

On March 1, SP Rahul Sharma broke up a rally led by a Shiv Sena leader and VHP activists. When leaders in the rally including SS leader, Kishore Bhatt and 21 VHP activists raised inflammatory slogans, the SP issued instructions for their immediate arrest. This brought the situation under immediate control. The BJP MLA, Sunil Oza, called up Sharma, accusing him of stirring up trouble by arresting Sena and VHPleaders. The MLA, in fact, threatened the police saying that if they were not released, it would cause a serious law and order problem. But the policeman refused to give in.

For several days, he resisted pressure from BJP MLAs, minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya and others. Oza then reportedly exerted pressure on the DGP’s office, but after considering the case, the DGP’s office chose not to pressurise Sharma. Then they tried to instigate riots to get Sharma into trouble. Suddenly 22 incidents were reported from his district. That is when the police decided to use force. The Bhavnagar police were on their toes, opening fire wherever and whenever necessary. By March 2, the number of incidents had trickled down and by March 3, there was nothing to report. When the Army eventually reached Bhavnagar, it had little to do. But the interference did not stop here. Zadaphiya called up the Bhavnagar city police and told them not to register cases against those injured in police firing. The police refused to oblige. Sharma paid the price for his uprightness. The officer was trans- ferred as DCP (Control Room).

In Bhavnagar town, an ice cream factory belonging to Ibrahim Bhai was reduced to ashes, causing losses of about Rs. 1.25 crore. The bone factory belonging to Abbu Bhai was also burnt. Hotel Polo and White Rose where 18 foreigners were lodged, and were evacuated by the police well in time, were completely destroyed. The loss of business and properties in Bhavnagar was estimated at Rs. 3 crore. Many wealthy Muslims of Bhavnagar have been reduced to a state of penury.

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