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
Justice AP Ravani (Former Chief Justice
Iqbal Hawa (Senior solicitor in Gujarat)
Achyut Yagnik (Senior academic)
DN Pathak (Present PUCL, Gujarat)
Hanif Lakdawala (Doctor, social activist)
Sheba George (Feminist activist)
Piyush Occhavlal Desai (Chairman, Gujarat Tea Processors and Packers Limited)
Ashok Relia (Businessman)
Uves Sareshwala (Stock broker)
Prakash Shah (Movement for Secular Democracy)
Dilip Chandulal, Dwarkanath Rath, J Minakshi and Damin Shah (Movement for Social Democracy)
Sharief Khan Pathan (Nobel Ambulance Society)
Digant Oza, Batuk Vora and Indukumar Jani (Senior journalists)
Teesta Setalvad (Senior journalist and rights’ activist)
Pradeep Jain and Bhupendra Joshi (Vishwa Samvad Kendra)
KB Pandey (Advocate)
Jagdishbhai Shah (Vinoba Ashram, Gotri)
Johannes Manjrekar (Concerned citizen)
Dr. Deepa Achar (Professor)
Ramdas Pillai (Builder)
Chinu Srinivasan (PUCL)
Rajesh Mishra (Social activist)
Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah (PUCL)
This witness deposed before the Tribunal on May 2. He is a retired judge and a senior citizen of eminence in the city of Ahmedabad. He spoke of the acute insecu- rity experienced by judges belonging to the minority community, who were not safe after February 27. Justice MH Kadri had to take shelter on the previous night (i.e., on Feb. 27) at the home of Justice Waghle. Justice AN Divecha’s home was ransacked after being attacked on February 28. Justice Ravani was in close communication with his brother judges during those days regarding their safety. On March 1, while he and Justice RA Mehta were at the place of Justice Kadri at around 1.30 p.m., the latter received a call from the registrar of the High Court, informing him that Chief Justice Dharamdhikari had made available two bungalows in Vastrapur, for the use of the two judges from the minority community. In case they did not want to shift there, they could move to the Chief Justice’s home itself. The military intelligence had also ad- vised Justice Kadri that he should shift, because the police posted at his residence were not sufficient to protect him, and also that he should not rely for his safety on the local police. The military intelligence had offered him their guesthouse in the cantonment area. Despite these offers, Justice Ravani regretfully advised Justice Kadri against accepting them, due to the acute and unusual circumstances of violence this time when, despite the presence of a police chowki just in front of the judges’ bun- galow area, Tasty Restaurant and another restaurant, both belonging to Muslims, were burnt. Justice Ravani felt that these unprecedented circumstances strongly suggested that the alternative accommodation arranged by the Chief Justice might not be safe for the judges from the minority community. Moreover, he felt that though the military cantonment may provide physical protection, it would lack psy- chological warmth and support. Therefore, much as the advice went against the spirit of the Indian Constitution, the ground reality was that, to ensure his safety, he should move to one of his relative’s place in an area dominated by the minority community. It was after these consultations that Justice Kadri shifted to Riviera Apartments, behind VS Hospital.
Justice Divecha, a retired high court judge living in a building in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad, had been receiving threats over the phone from February 27 onwards. Although some of his neighbours asked him to continue staying there and also of- fered to protect him, he was forced to leave the house the next day, i.e., on February 28. One Sanjay Shah, a chartered account and son-in-law of Justice Desai, urged him to leave and helped him do it. Within an hour of his leaving his house, it was com- pletely ransacked and then burnt. Justice Divecha currently holds the post of chair- person of a state government-appointed commission and has the use of a govern- ment car. This car, which had an official red light on it, was also damaged by the mobs. Formerly, he was the chairperson of MRTP Commission.
This witness also spoke of the victimisation and the insecurity experienced, during the post-Godhra violence, by advocates belonging to the Muslim community. An advocate, IM Shaikh (junior of the late Ahsan Jafri), whose office was situated outside the Delhi Darwaza area on the first floor of a building is one example. He had just set up his practice but everything in his office was destroyed and burnt on February 28. He lost all his papers and books. When he went to lodge a complaint, the police asked him to state that “a mob of unidentified persons had come and they burnt this”. For another three weeks after this inci- dent, no panchnamas were recorded by the police. Justice Ravani, had visited the place after the incident. The ground floor, occupied by a Hindu-owned shop, was totally safe. The first floor premises of Shaikh, which measured about 2,200 sq. ft., were totally destroyed. The damage included the aircoditioner, his computer and his books. Three persons were later identified by the police as responsible for the incident; one of them was arrested and refused bail. PI PN Falia, with the satellite police station, completed the investigations. He was transferred soon after and another police officer Barot, whose proximity to Dr. Praveen Togadia of the VHP is well-known, was put in charge of the investigation.
This witness spoke at length about the stifling of criminal law the moment Godhra occurred on February 27 and the VHP and the BJP announced a bandh on the next day.
The witness observed that it was a deliberate conspiracy to stifle criminal law. From the first day onwards, the instructions to the police, coming from different rungs of the government, were that no force was to be used and no arrests were to be made. This conspiracy to stifle criminal law was hatched at least one month before the incident. The witness quoted from the commissioner of police, PC Pandey’s inter- view, given to The Times of India on March 15, to substantiate this claim. In his inter- view, the commissioner had stated that in his view,
(i) Dead bodies should not have been brought from Godhra to Ahmedabad. The CP had expressed his disagreement over the government’s decision, yet he was over- ruled. Who overruled him: the CM or the home minister? (ii) Bandh calls and bandh politics were not new for the state of Gujarat, but “this time the call for a bandh was given by the party in power”. (This meant that even a CP felt that a ruling party supporting a bandh was out of the ordinary). (iii) One month before the Godhra incident, all sub-inspectors in Ahmedabad were transferred and the CP had no say in these mass transfers.
This witness had some conclusions to draw about the systematic and deliberate targeting of Muslims establishments. He said that though some arson was excepted post-Godhra, no one in their wildest dreams expected this systematic and wide-scale targeting of Muslim lives and property. If the bandh had not been declared or sup- ported by the government, the situation would not have been so grave.
Gujarat VHP President, KK Shastri gave a widely publicised interview to rediff.com in which he stated that on the morning of February 28 itself, his organisation had prepared a list of the names of establishments and residences of Muslims of Gujarat, ready to be used in the violence.
Justice Ravani drew the attention of the Tribunal to the state of the country, in terms of the law and order situation, in the month of February 2002. In preparation for the yagna planned by the sangh parivar organisations, including the BJP, on March 15 at Ayodhya on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid, the country was in a state of high alert. 50 per cent of the kar sevaks who have assembled at Ayodhya, be it in 1992 or in 2002, were from Gujarat. 50 per cent of the membership of the VHP hails from Gujarat. So, whatever the facts and the motives behind the Godhra tragedy might be, there was heightened preparation for aggression and intimidation by the forces supporting the Ram temple at Ayodhya and the police and other law and order machinery all over the country was tense and on alert. Therefore, something around March 15, the date for the yagna, was planned by these forces in Gujarat. The witness also quoted Pandey’s public response to whether or not the Godhra mass arson was pre-planned. “I don’t think the Godhra incident was planned. It appears to be quite spontaneous. Those travelling on the train have stated that the kar sevaks were quite boisterous. The situation must have gone out of control”. This witness drew the at- tention of the Tribunal to the fact that the Sabarmati Express was over-crowded with kar sevaks and that, in the past, the administration had handled law and order situa- tions at Godhra with more promptness and responsibility. He also raised serious ques- tions about the union railway minister, Nitish Kumar’s apathy towards the Godhra incident. He drew the attention of the Tribunal to an interview of retired major gen- eral, Eustace D’souza, published in the ‘Genocide -Gujarat 2002’ report of Communal- ism Combat, where he had revealed how he had led four columns of army into Godhra three times, in 1948, 1955 and 1983. Shri D’souza was surprised at the absence of army columns as in the past, either in Ahmedabad or in Vadodara, given the tension the country was going through. It was a Member of Parliament belonging to the ruling BJP who had requested for two coaches on the Sabarmati Express to be reserved for the kar sevaks.
The conduct of the police, in persistently refusing to record the FIRs, was a further reflection of the collapse of the criminal justice system in Gujarat. The fact that cases concerning serious points of law, dating from 1985 or 1990, are still pending, is a telling commentary on the non-functional state of the courts. The former judge com- mented on how lawyers belonging to the Muslim community, who were the only ones fighting for victims of illegal arrest, had to stay away from the High Court because of curfew. Due to this, people accused of the petty offence of breach of curfew were sent to jail. The bar room of the old High Court, which currently houses the Ahmedabad rural courts, has 10-15 tables allotted to lawyers belonging to the minor ity community. These were removed and destroyed and obscene slogans written there.
This is a shocking state of affairs in Gujarat, where the rule of law is absent. Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution have been paralysed, according to the witness. When cabinet ministers sit in control rooms and command operations, we must conclude that there is an active desire on the part of the political establishment to deny protection to those being targeted by well-guided mobs. Once the tragic vio- lence had taken place, the State compounded its non-Constitutional functioning by actively preventing the confidence building measures required for proper rehabilita- tion. Besides, when people have tried to return to their original houses, filthy slogans have been used to terrorize them and prevent them from doing so.
The victims were not being treated like human beings, but like animals. The senior jurist expressed deep concern that such injustice could breed terrorism or could con- tribute to the growth of the Mafia. He also drew the attention of the Tribunal to the use of threats and terror tactics by the goons of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal against ordinary, right thinking Hindus who were helping the refugees. One doctor from the Shahi Baug area, who had tired to help the refugees and had conducted free deliveries of 17-20 women living in the camps, was threatened in person by the VHP interna- tional general secretary, Dr. Praveen Togadia himself. He was told that either he should stop the medical aid or consequences would follow. The witness expressed deep con- cern about the active attempts by members of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, sup- ported actively by the BJP, to communalise and divide both the legal and the medical community in Gujarat, especially in Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad. This had largely prevented more arrangement of medical and legal aid across communities after the violence had taken place.
A senior advocate of the Gujarat High court, originally from Mumbai, he appeared before the Tribunal on May 2. He referred to The Times of India press clippings sug- gesting that a Hindu doctor trying to provide medical aid in a minority dominated area was threatened. He said that the man who attacked the doctor belonged to the major- ity Hindu community, but the report had been coloured to indicate that he was a Muslim. Many prominent and responsible Muslim citizens tried to give a clarification to the newspaper but this was not published. Doctors of the majority community still treat patients in minority-dominated ghettos. This witness spoke, with acute distress, of communalisation of the Gujarat bar at all levels. The bar association (rural district court) had passed an oral resolution that no advocate should take a brief from a Muslim client. The witness also referred to the two-year-old controversy over the appointment of PN Oza, the Gujarat state prosecutor. The appointment was made out of order of seniority simply because he was, and continues to be, a member of the RSS. Without getting into specifics, as it would involve the question of contempt of court, this witness referred to the fact that in Gujarat state, since 1998, even judges were appointed because of their political affiliations to the ideology of the ruling party. The witness spoke with distress about the misuse of the funds collected in the name of religion and charity from abroad, which have been used to generate and sustain militant cadres and their activities. This witness and many others referred to the discredited activities of Bochasanvasi Pramukh Swami, resident of Bochasan village in Kheda district. Other sadhus, like Shri Murari Babu and others, also get a lot of money from the Patels and Shahs living abroad.
This witness spoke poignantly of the abject terror experienced by Muslims in the city of Ahmedabad because the attacking mobs, led by prominent leaders, came along with the police, used police points for their assault and threw stones, rags and bombs at minority residences. Many people watched without intervening and the terror con- tinued to spread. The witness had seen this in areas like Vejalpur and Kalupur. This witness made a representation before the Tribunal in the matter of 295 mosques and 205 dargahs that were damaged and destroyed in the post-Godhra carnage. This has also been represented to the National Minorities Commission to urge urgent re pairs. He expressed anguish at the absence of concern and compassion from the Gujarat government, the Indian government and other authorities, at the blatant stifling of religious and cultural freedom. He gave the example of one mosque in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad, which was razed and destroyed despite a High Court injunction against any attempts to touch it. He said that unless re-construction work was taken up in all these shrines on a priority basis, restoration of peace and harmony was impossible. He also said that as a lawyer, he felt helpless about the judicial process. “If we go to the Supreme Court”, he said, “the petition would be admitted but would lie unheard for years.”
A senior academic and associated with work among the marginalised communities in north and south Gujarat, the witness had started the Ahmedabad Ekta Manch in 1985 and was also the general secretary of PUCL.
An expert on tribal affairs, he pointed out that the Bhil belt extends from Sabarkantha upto Narmada and it was this Bhil belt to which the violence was restricted to (Bhils are tribals who find a mention in the Ramayan). The witness drew attention to the fact that about 3-months-ago (on January 17, 2002), there was a congregation of tribals in Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, an areas bordering Gujarat and Rajasthan. Over 1.5 lakh tribals participated in this meet which was specifically organized by the RSS and the VHP. Tribals who participated were drawn from all the 3 states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The meeting was about the issue of conversion and the RSS chief, K Sudershan addressed the tribals. In the history of communal violence in Gujarat, the first time ever that tribals attacked Muslims was in 1987. In 1990 again, tribals attacked Muslim shopkeepers. The witness made a perceptive analysis of the mobilisation of Dalits by outfits like the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and the BJP. Urban Dalits have connived with the politics of these outfits, and this time they actively participated in the violence. In the case of the massacre at Gulberg Society, where Ahsan Jafri was killed, it was the case of a Muslim-predominant residential colony surrounded by three communities –Waghris, who are a denotified tribe, Marwadi mi- grants and Dalits, living behind the society and across the railway line.
In Gomtipur, an industrial area, which showcases the history of the textile industry of Ahmedabad (where the workers were equally divided among the Dalit, Muslim and OBC communities), housing colonies around the mills belong to Dalits and Mus- lims. The clash in Gomtipur in April 2002 was between Dalits and Muslims. Saraspur, Gomtipur and Babu Nagar also have the two communities living together. Many vil- lages around Ahmedabad, which later developed into industrial suburbs, also had Dalit and Muslim neighbourhoods. These factors, along with a shared tradition of non-vegetarian food habits, have led to these communities living together.
Among the rural Dalits of Gujarat, the situation is different. For example, in Sardarpura in Mehsana district in north Gujarat, where 31 Muslims were burnt alive (it is one of the four incidents of mass burning), Someshwar Pandya, a Dalit belong- ing to the Congress and a lower functionary of the panchayat, not only protected Mus- lims but also identified the accused responsible for the crime and filed an FIR which was registered. He was beaten up for this and was hospitalised. In north Gujarat, especially in the Patan area, Rajputs protected Muslims and in many other parts of rural Gujarat, the Rabaris and Bhuvas protected Muslims in large numbers.
This expert witness gave a detailed analysis of the history of communal violence in Gujarat. In 1981, the anti-reservation agitation started from Ahmedabad and spread all over Gujarat. These were the first caste-based riots and Dalit homes were attacked and burnt. The agitation was against reservation of post-graduate seats in medical colleges. In 1982-83, during the Vadodara riots at the time of the Ganesh Chaturthi procession, and during the RSS/VHP Bharat Ekta Yatra in 1983, there was violence. The anti-reservation riots in 1985 began over the issue of a quota of reservations for OBCs being enforced by the Congress government. The Congress government of the time experimented with the KHAM formula (K=kshatriyas, H=harijans, A=adivasis, M=muslims). The second anti-reservation agitation turned into com- munal riots and this altered the nature of communal riots in Gujarat. In 1981, BJP workers including Ashok Bhatt (now a minister) were openly anti-reservation. In 1981, even ABVP, the students’ wing of the BJP, was against reservations. It was in 1985 that their stance changed and they started speaking in favour of reservations. This reflects the countrywide shift in focus of the RSS, which resulted in their actively wooing Dalits and tribals through the VHP. The two RSS persons respon- sible for co-opting Dalits and OBCs (especially the Patels) into the RSS/BJP camp between 1985-1990 are Narendra Modi (presently chief minister of Gujarat) and Shankarsingh Waghela (now leader of the Gujarat Congress, who was then the presi- dent of the Gujarat BJP, with Modi under him).
Communal violence in Gujarat in 1986, 1987 and 1989 was due to the many sym- bolic yatras taken out by the RSS and VHP at that time. Different sections of the society were mobilized for the different yatras and the ruling Congress at the time was responsible for allowing this aggressive communalisation to take place. The nexus between anti-social elements (of both communities) and politcians increased after 1980. It started in 1969, when Hitendra Desai was the chief minister and increased under Chimanbhai Patel’s rule later. It continued up to the ’80s Madhavsinh Solanki was the chief minister. From 1989 onwards, there have been been major bouts of communal violence in Gujarat. These began and spread along with the route of LK Advani’s rath yatra that started from Somnath and went through the heart of South Gujarat in 1990. The chief architect of this yatra was Narendra Modi, then the gen- eral secretary of the BJP and also an RSS pracharak, who had been asked to work for the expansion of BJP. The witness averred that at the time of the Nav Nirman move- ment in 1974, Modi was nowhere in the picture.
Surat was drawn into the abyss of communal violence for the first time in 1992, and there were cases of mass burning of people and gang rapes of Muslim women. After 1992, there was a lull, except for stray incidents against Muslims. From 1997- 99, the RSS and VHP began mobilizing the tribals against Christians working in the areas of education and health in Dang, Surat and Valsa districts. Their aim was to expand the political base of the RSS and the VHP in these areas. The two parliamen- tary constituencies of Mandvi and Valsad-Dang have always been a Congress strong- hold and the motive was to dislodge the Congress here. Congress remains powerful in many places in Gujarat. Madhusudan Mistry, an independent supported by the Con- gress, won from Sabarkantha in a by-election. In the year 2000, when the panchayat, taluka and district elections took place, two-thirds of the area came under Congress control. Modi was brought in in September 2001 to aggressively win back Gujarat, even if it meant engineering violence.
This senior citizen, academic and human rights activist expressed anguish at the fact that Gandhism is not being practiced in Gujarat today. He said that while there are many Gandhians, who have raised their voice against what is happening, these people have lost touch with politics and with ordinary people, the silent majority, people moving on the street, the poor. How else can we explain how and why all Gandhians in Gujarat are old and have white hair? The Gandhians have lost touch with the youth of Gujarat, they have stayed away from the political process and thereby allowed it to go astray.
He gave a lucid presentation on Gujarat and its people. Gujarat is a state that has one-third of India’s coastline, about 1,600 kilometres of it, which is the longest that any state has in this country. As a consequence, Gujaratis are a trading community. With commerce as their main profession, they have spread to every village and dis- trict and, in fact, all over the world. Gujaratis make good traders but they do not like to serve, nor do they like to be employed in service. The business of Gujarat is busi- ness, they are good in business. If not business, they would rather be professionals - doctors, engineers chartered accounts or lawyers but not in service.
An interesting anecdote about Gujarat, and the attitude of the Gujaratis towards state reorganization, was recounted by the witness. In 1956, when a countrywide debate on the issue was taking place and many states were agitating for separate statehood, prominent Gujaratis did not want Gujarat. One reason was that they did not want to lose Bombay. The second was that for them Gujarat is spread all over India, Gujarat is India.
In addition to the largely apolitical leanings of a business and trading community and high levels of urbanization, a powerful and assertive middle class has emerged over the last 35-40 years. These nouveau riche Gujaratis do not have the cultural back- ground that earlier commerce-minded Gujaratis had. Their commitment to politics is such as to aggressively demand non-interference from the government. These new middle class Gujaratis do not love religion but they love religiosity -for demonstra- tion. Inspite of being brought up in Ahmedabad all his life, this witness expressed amazement at the dozens of yatras that take place every year in that city. He recalled that in his youth, the traditional Jagannath Puri Rath Yatra was an important event but today there is continuous religious celebration. As a result, one, people are getting mobilized and, two, the new middle class is justifying its wealth -‘though we are rich, we are religious’. This new religious showmanship includes building of temples, con- stant ceremonies etc. This scenario is being exploited by the VHP and the RSS and enjoyed by the BJP. The witness expressed anguish at the arming of civil society through trishul distribution and the brutal scale of violence during the carnage -the rape of Muslim girls and women, destruction of Muslim homes and establishments, dargahs and shrines. He expressed concern at the lack of remorse in the Gujarati soci- ety about the violence that had taken place.
There has been no widespread leftist movement in Gujarat. The Swatantra party, more conservative than the Congress, used to be the main opposition. The only leftist, who won an election in Gujarat, is Batukbhai Vokra, who won an election many years ago. The Rajkot municipality has been under the control of the BJP for the last 30 years. In the last elections, the Congress won. The spread of the BJP in Gujarat began after they captured the municipal bodies and the local bodies. However, all political indica- tors show that their performance in power has been poor, they have not delivered and hence, they are determined to use a last-ditch communal card, and violence, to polar- ise people and remain in power. What is worrying about today’s Gujarat is the deep polarization, even if electoral fortunes of the BJP fall.
A doctor and a senior social activist working as director, Sanchetna in Ahmedabad since 1977, this witness is also vice-president, PUHR (People’s Union for Human Rights). His visible trauma and anguish was apparent to all the Tribunal members as he painfully recounted the impact of the carnage in his testimony of May 4. His testimony brought home to the Tribunal the tragic impact that the Gujarat carnage has had on fine activists who happened to be Muslim. They are, at once, both victimised, because of the community they had been born into, and paralyzed, in the work they are unable to do.
He said that the kind of politics that the BJP/RSS/VHP indulge in renders mean- ingless the constructive work that NGOs try to do. Ten years ago, in 1992, when his organization tried to expand its work in community health to some Dalit slums, it was told that Muslims could not come there. Interestingly, Sanchetna has never been pro- jected as a Muslim organization; it is only that its founder happens to be a Muslim. Similarly, during the latest carnage, when his organization was trying to do some relief work by distributing grains among the Vaghri and the Kahar fishing communities, the volunteers were forced to hear very hurtful comments. Persons from these communi- ties made comments like, “We should continue to stab Muslims so that they can give us grains.”
This witness recounted a frightening experience that he underwent on April 20. That evening, he, Fr. Cedric Prakash and Swarupben Dhuruv had gone to the Taj Mahal Hotel to meet some visitors. While having dinner, Fr. Cedric got a call saying that in Gomtipur, a 5,000 strong mob had attacked refugees seeking shelter in Mother’s Home. He, therefore, had to leave and Dr. Lakdawala, Darshini Mahadevi and Swarupben Dhuruv took a cab back. Dr. Lakdawala was sitting in front, next to the driver, and all three of them were discussing the Gujarat carnage. Suddenly, the driver, a six-foot-tall, well-built man with a moustache said, “Char ko maine mar diya” (“I killed four of them”). They could not understand what he was talking about so they asked him, “Where did you kill four people?” “I killed them in Naroda Patiya. Bajrang Dal had come and given us swords. I cut four of them up. I did not allow them to be buried. I threw them in a fire and burnt them”. They, then, asked him how many persons were killed in Naroda. The man replied that “many hundreds of people had been killed. Much more than the 150 that had been mentioned.”
The terror and fear experienced by Dr. Lakdawala was tangible to the Tribunal. Through the 18 km drive, with this driver, who had murdered four people simply because they were Muslims, by his side, Dr. Lakdawala’s terror cannot be imagined. It was 11.30 p.m. and the roads were deserted, as though under curfew. All the three passengers were terror-stricken and did not use Dr. Lakdawala’s name, Hanif, know- ing that it would be dangerous. They kept referring to him as Dr. Saab.
Dr. Lakdawala and his wife Sheba live in Vastrapur area and had to leave their house twice during earlier incidents of communal violence. Even during the recent carnage, they left their flat for four days. In 1992, they had left their house along with their daugther, who was then 3-years-old. In 1990, after Advani was arrested during his rath yatra and violence broke out in Ahmedabad, a group of 30 persons had come to attack Dr. Lakdawala and his family. Somehow, they were saved by their neighbours, but the next day they left as a precaution and returned only after the neighbourhood was safe. For a fortnight, they had to move from one home to another, from one friend or relative to another.
The witness spoke with distress about the impact of the hate speech and commu- nal polarisation among the young. His 14-year-old daughter, who is being brought up as a secularist, with no particular religion, has also felt the impact of the Gujarat carnage. Young children in relief camps have been brutally impacted by the violence and even the game of marbles has been changed to a game of green marbles and saffron marbles, the first representing Muslims and the latter, Hindus.
The witness also spoke about the deep polarisation on school campuses in Ahmedabad. In an elite school like Mount Carmine, Hindu girls have been heard making disparaging remarks against Muslim girls who are identified by their dress; comments like, “These girls’ community has been attacking Hindus in Kashmir and attacking our temples”. This is a very elite school and yet the principal cannot do anything about it. In a mixed school, where there are Hindu and Muslim boys, Muslim boys have been heard making comments like, “We will burn everything just as the Hindus have burnt”. There is seething anger and a deep resentment. Some schools have even told their Muslim students (found talking in such manner) not to attend school from the next day.
Ghettoisation and polarisation were an unfortunate part of Ahmedabad’s life since 1999 but have become more acute now. Dr. Lakdawala, whose roots are in Gujarat, having been brought up in Surat before moving to Ahmedabad, spoke of an experi- ence he had regarding the admission of his elder daughter even earlier, in 1987-88, in CN School, a Gujarati medium school. His daughter had got 93 per cent marks in IV Std. But when Dr. Lakdawala went to the principal for her admission, the principal just threw her certificate after seeing her name and said, “Just forget about it, forget admission in this school.” Dr. Lakdawala said he was in a mood to fight it out. He met the collector and the district education officer and saw to it that she got admission. But if the same thing was to happen now, he felt that he would not be in a position to fight it out. This is a loss of ground that has taken place in Gujarat. Prominent social activists and human rights activists who have worked on the ground are finding them- selves squeezed out of the public space and becoming victims because they are Mus- lims or Christians.
Dr. Lakdawala grew up in a village in Surat district. He stayed in the hostel of a medical college in a mixed community. He has lived in Vadaj and Vasara. Wherever he has lived, there has been a majority of Hindus around him. He has never lived in a Muslim community. Today, people have started saying that he and his family should move to a Muslim dominated area. He and his family live in a cosmopolitan atmo- sphere -his daughter had grown up and started wearing jeans and sleeveless dresses. The enforced ghettoisation, that such violence may result in, has got unspeakable consequences for a person like Dr. Lakdawala and his family. The loss of identity and deliberate obfuscation of it is apparent in small but impor- tant gestures like greetings. Earlier, it was natural for persons who rang up to greet him with a ‘Namaste’ or a ‘Salaam Alaiqum’. Today, Dr. Lakdawala says that in the area where he lives, he cannot use the latter form of greeting, since people stare and look at him.
Dr. Lakdawala passed his MBBS in 1976 and soon after, his brother’s daughter, who is settled in the US, started urging him to come and settle there, saying that there are poor people in US, too. Dr Lakdawala would say, “The poor in my country are different, I want to stay here”. After the Gujarat carnage 25 years later, she asks him, “Was your decision right?” Dr. Lakdawala does not have an answer.
This activist, who is one of the authors of the Survivors Speak report on sexual vio- lence against Muslim women during the carnage, spoke at length about the gender crimes that were committed against women. Right from the first day, the most frightening and the most horrific aspect of the violence was the brutal gender crimes that were commit- ted. The manner in which this violence against women formed a part of the overall killings of Muslims was recounted in detail. Women have testified that they were tied and raped, young girls were stripped, chased and paraded around and burnt. Naked girls and women were carried by men and danced around with in the whole locality. It was a bizarre and macabre kind of gender crime, one that was made a spectacle of. There was a lot of sleaze and it demonstrated what Hindutva was all about.
The sexual abuse was almost pornographic in detail. Young girls and women were raped by 6-10 men. All kind of objects were inserted in women’s vaginas. Others were found dead, with even cricket balls stuck in their vaginas. An example is Najmunissa Zarina, who had an iron rod stuck in her arm. The other kind of sexual violence involved police officers abusing Muslim women. One PSI Modi from Gomtipur area has been abusing women sexually for the past three months. Hundreds of women could testify to this. Even in 1992, one PI Jhala attacked and molested women from Muslim communities in the Shah Alam quarters like Millat Nagar.
The witness submitted 4,500 signatures from different camps — Shah Alam, Bapunagar, Gomtipur, Vatva, Naroda and other parts of Ahmedabad — from victims and survivors testifying to the fact that sexual violence took place, rape took place. She spoke with anguish about the pyromaniac tendencies of the attackers, who burnt everything — the victims, their homes and their possessions. She also spoke about the women from the majority community, who helped in the preparations for the attacks, supplying kerosene and other materials. She also gave details of how, about 8-10 months ago, in the office of the Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindu girl was burnt dead in the presence of her parents and the secretary of Hindu Mahasabha. She was burnt because she married a Muslim. One ACP Dave was handling the case.
This witness spoke about the urgent need for catharsis and reflection among the majority Hindu community, which was a silent accomplice in this acute level of soci- etal sickness and mental crime, and which could condone such heinous crimes in its midst. In the absence of such an urgent catharsis, the future of Gujarat looked bleak.
This witness, a prominent figure from the business world in Gujarat, deposed be- fore the Tribunal on May 5. His company produces the ‘Wagh Bakri’ brand of tea. His family’s association with tea goes back 110 years. The witness’ grandfather started this business in South Africa, where they have had tea plantations since 1885. The witness is also chairman, Federation of All India Tea Traders’ Association (FAIITA). He is also associated with some charitable trusts, which did charity work after the tragic earthquake in Gujarat, and also following the recent carnage.
The day he deposed before the Tribunal, the witness had arranged for a get-together at Manek Chowk in Ahmedabad, near the vegetable market, which 500 Hindu and Muslim traders attended. The idea was to alleviate the mistrust, fear and suspicion, rebuild relations and start anew. The effort was successful and an attempt was made but some persons belonging to the VHP and BD threatened the witness because of the efforts at interaction and normalisation that he was actively promoting.
The witness spoke with concern and distress of the active spread of messages like economic non-cooperation with Muslims etc., which are being propagated by rabid outfits through their pamphlets etc. As a result, some Hindu traders were not pre- pared to supply materials to Muslim traders, nor were they willing to extend the nor- mal, 1-2 months’ credit, insisting on immediate payment of cash instead. This was resulting in enforced cash stringency, which was not healthy for business, he said. The witness said he and another group of committed businessmen, wedded to the prin- ciple of fair play in business, would soon form a body and put into place a marketing system, so that Muslim traders could get a free flow of materials without any hinder- ance. He testified before the Tribunal that he was involved, through the citizens’ body that he helped set up and other efforts, in working towards the active rehabilita- tion of Muslim businessmen who had lost their properties, hotels, restaurants and shops. Through this businessmen, they would be providing much needed loans to Muslim businessmen who’s enterprises have been destroyed by the riots.
Through his chairmanship of the All India Tea Federation, and also his association with the commerce ministry through the Tea Board of India, the witness has pro- posed that one-third of the Board’s promotion budget of Rs. 15 crore be used for giving a brand identity to the restaurants of the rehabilitated Muslims. He has sug- gested that, through an emblem recognised by the Tea Board or the Federation, they could help in the economic rehabilitation of the affected Muslims. He spoke of the urgent need to put into place a co-operative banking and financing system, run by independent businessmen, which could, then, come to the aid of Muslim business- men who have been adversely affected in substantial measure.
The witness spoke at length, and with pain, of the deep and enduring inter-linkages between different communities in Gujarat and the deep schisms caused by the divi- sive politics of hate practiced by politically powerful groups in Gujarat. At a personal level, he spoke about how his company always employed members of all communi- ties in responsible positions and how the Wagh Bakri brand was started 110 years ago with the help of a Muslim, who lent his grandfather Rs. 10,000. How can we ever repay this debt, he asked?
He spoke with distress of the deep-rooted communal polarisation, through hate propaganda, in the minds of the young, especially in Gujarat. As a step towards a solution, he recommended strongly that no political parties and no leaders, who inject hatred and communalism (manipulation of religion for political ends) should cross the electoral threshold. Through the Asha Kiran Trust, this witness had rebuilt about 100 homes in the Juhapura area of Ahmedabad, and is continuing with many efforts on different fronts.
This witness was a fresh and welcome ray of hope for the Tribunal. From the mainstream world of business, he contributed generously from his coffers, both at the time of the earthquake and now. A circular was sent to all his agents in Gujarat (there are about 210 agents) that free tea should be sent to all the refugee relief camps and the agents should send him the debit note immediately. His company had thus sup- plied Rs 4 lakh’ worth of tea to the camps, along with paper cups that are hygenic. This witness represents the true spirit of Gujarati philanthropy.
This witness is the secretary and vice-president of Western Tea Dealers’ Association, and is located at Madhavpura in Ahmedabad. He spoke about the joint dealings of Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat for centuries. He said that personally, he had been doing business jointly with Hindus and Muslims right from Valsad to Himmatnagar and Saurashtra. Until now, this witness said, no discrepancy or discrimination was ever al- lowed between communities. He strongly averred, however, that due to the hate speech and hate writing unleashed during the Gujarat carnage, he feared discrimination in the world of finance and business. Though attempts were being made to set up independent co-operative finance, the problem was just too huge, and he feared that such efforts may not serve the purpose and deliver to all those who have been affected.
A stock broker who is a member of the National Stock Exchange, in fact a rare Muslim involved in this business, the witness resides at Paldi, with his office on the 4 th floor of the Shahpur Complex that has, on the first floor, shops belonging to both Muslims and non-Muslims. On February 28, Sareshwala was an eye witness to the selective destruction of Muslim shops there. He observed a common pattern of burning down these establishments so thoroughly that the plaster was also burnt and every- thing reduced to ashes. Sareshwala’s outfit was also targeted but, luckily, it escaped without any damage. A car A/C repairing shop on the ground floor, which contained a gas cylinder, exploded once the fire spread. The impact of this explosion was so great that the mob ran away fearing for its own lives. When the mob returned with its murderous motives, it was warned off by a gynaecologist doctor on the 2 nd floor. There are doctors on the first and second floors of the building, belonging to both the communities. The gynaecologist, a Muslim, warned the mob that there were 4 or 5 gas cylinders on his premises and that he would not be responsible for the consequences, if they continued with their deliberate arson.
The witness spoke of the kind of loss suffered by him, since he loses clients when he is not working. The other kind of loss was that experienced on February 28, when he had to escape to safety and whatever stocks were sold on the exchange that day had to be honoured, or else it was auctioned. Clients are not ready to accept losses, whatever the circumstances. The witness stated that hence he and his establishment had been unable to estimate the extent of his losses completely.
The witness deposed before the Tribunal that since the carnage he had not been able to open his office, since a large number among his staff are Muslims living in Juhapura and Kalupur. This made the witness think of even shifting location to Mumbai.
The witness explained that, in economic terms, there are two kinds of losses that Muslims have suffered due to the Gujarat carnage. One is the physical loss by proper- ties or establishments/assets destroyed in the riots, and the other is the impact loss. There can be no comprehension or calculation of the entire extent of this loss be- cause there can be no calculation of how many months will go by before some sem- blance of normalcy, in a business or economic sense, returns.
The witness also owns and runs a travel agency — the first in Ahmedabad to get IATA approval. His agency is run by non-Muslims. He said that he was thankful to his staff who had been running it efficiently. However, this successful businessman was running into severe problems because of IATA rules, which say that if a pay- ment is not made when it is due, IATA status can be taken away. Ahmedabad was not ‘normal’ for weeks. Banks were closed for long periods during the first three months. There was curfew and fear. Despite this, it was unfortunate, the witness said, that there was no relaxation of the normal rules of trade or business.
One of the biggest problems faced by Muslim businessmen and traders was free movement and mobility in a city like Ahmedabad, where the law and order machinery had broken down and where goons controlled the roads. There were three points, at Vasna, Paldi and Guptanagar, which were decidedly ‘unsafe’ for Muslims to pass through. There was no way, then, for Muslims to reach the city, the place for business. This was a crippling problem. Many areas were made out of bounds for Muslims by the goon squads of the VHP/BD, which were allowed to move with complete impu- nity on the streets of Ahmedabad and, to some extent, Vadodara.
Worse than the plight of Muslim businessmen is the plight of the daily wage earner, pushed to penury after the impact of three months loss of livelihood following the carnage and constant curfews. Also, mid-level traders in Dhalgarwad, owning shops that cost Rs. 16-17 lakh, are facing a situation of no income for the last three months. Where do they go?
Sareshwala recounted horrid levels of discrimination that have crept into the world of business and industry after Sept 11, 2001, and especially since the carnage. One example was, when a trading order had come to the Sareshwala’s from Iraq. However, a UN resolution was passed and as a fallout, the party in Iraq wanted a bank guaran- tee, that the material would leave the shores of India, and a performance guarantee, that it would be of original teakwood and worth the amount, ie, Rs. 18 crore. Despite the fact that such an order was prestigious for the country, Sareshwala had to face the humiliation of being told, off the record, by the bank manager, “Mr. Sareshwala, you are a Muslim, Iraq is a Muslim country and your financier is a Muslim, so you better understand.” Finally, he received the bank guarantee (from Canara bank) on the day that the deal was going to expire, so it was of no use. As a result, they have been black listed internationally.
This witness spoke tellingly of the discrimination experienced even by affluent Muslims in Gujarat, where this dangerous communal poison has been spread for over a decade at least. He says that he is the only stockbroker with no banking facility. Other brokers receive credit worth crores of rupees and the lack of access to such collateral cripples the business.
This witness owns a house in the posh Paldi area, and despite his affluence, finds it difficult to raise collateral on his property. He also testified how wealthy Muslims were specifically targeted this time. The society that he lives in, Delight Apartments, was attacked but saved because one of the residents, Dr. Bhavnagari who possessed small fire-arms (he is a rifling champion) and could ward off the attackers. In the concerted attack, which lasted for over five hours, Dr. Bhavnagari shot in self-de- fence at the last minute, to save himself and his family members and relatives, but he was jailed. The father and son, who fired in self-defence, were accused of unlawful assembly but the 2,000-strong mob, which attacked the apartments, did not suffer. Even their bail was rejected. One of the two notorious gangsters killed in this firing was responsible for the burning alive of a Muslim, Mohammed Oomer in 1991.
Prakash Shah (Movement for Secular Democracy) The Movement for Secular Democracy (MSD) was formed in 1992, soon after the demolition of Babri Masjid, and since then, it has been regularly involved in work for secularism and against communalism. The witness reiterated what was stated by Teesta Setalvad and others, namely, that all the activists working in this area at the grassroot level in Gujarat had feared long before the Godhra arson, that something like this carnage would happen. The witness pointed out that the most immediate motive of the BJP and its affiliates, known as the sangh parivar, was their rejection in every election for the past 15 months. The BJP has been losing all the zilla panchayat elec- tions. Narendra Modi was brought in as a change of guard in Sept 01, to end the lack of governance by the former Gujarat CM, Keshubhai Patel. This was despite the fact that he had no specific organisational talent and was only well-known for organising the rath yatra of Advani in 1990. Though the ushering in of Modi definitely made the scene look more ominous, the witness said that the events of March 2002 had vindi- cated the worst fears of everybody.
The witness said that the pattern of violence, the systematic and large-scale use of the method of burning for destruction, was itself a testimony to the fact that there was previous homework and planning. The identification of Muslim shops and estab- lishments, the preparation of target lists and finally the conversion of gas cylinders into some sort of bombs for ignition — all pointed to this. Ample amounts of mate- rials had also been collected in advance. Trishul and sword distribution by Bajrang Dal squads also meant advance preparation. The witness felt that the impunity and bra- zenness with which the Gujarat VHP, through its 97-year old president, Shri KK Shastri, told Sheila Bhatt of rediff.com on March 12, that “on the morning of February 28, we sat together and went through the whole list of Muslim establishments that was prepared, for the places to be attacked” was shocking. Without any shame, he went on record to tell the journalist that he was all praise for the boys. Thereafter, the VHP said that it had already appointed a panel of 50 lawyers to fight the cases related to the carnage, filed against its functionaries. These are lawyers committed to the RSS worldview. Thereafter, the witness pointed out, the same Shastri said on March 29, “We have asked our cadres to slacken”. This statement was made to The Indian Ex- press. Despite all this being on record, they are allowed to go scot-free. The witness was amazed at their impunity and found it utterly shocking.
The witness stated that quite apart from the threats and the audacity, these forces had brazenly threatened and terrorised any attempt at peace, at reason or at protest. Any group of citizens, which had challenged this straitjacketing of citizens as ‘Hin- dus’ and ‘Muslims’, and tried to speak out as human beings, had been attacked and attempts were made to terrorise and silence them it. The April 7meeting at Sabarmati Ashram was attacked on grounds that Medha Patkar was attending and that hers is a sensitive name in Gujarat. The witness asserted that, Medhabehn or no Medhabehn, the meeting would have been attacked. It was the first attempt to draw people from all communities together and, therefore, a threat to the divisive politics that the BJP, RSS and VHP represent.
The witness spoke of the irony of the fact that, thereafter, the CM, Modi tried to appropriate the ‘peace bandwagon’ and organised peace committee meetings and marches through the business community etc. The witness was of the opinion that at the next hustings, the BJP would face a resounding defeat. However, the communal poison that was spread, and is being spread, in Gujarat, which has seeped into the body politic, would not disappear. The question of rehabilitation and the lack of response from the public sector was also commented upon by the witness. Gujarat was built up by Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel, the late Lok Sabha speaker Mawlankar and Abbas Tyabji, the Vadodara magistrate. The witness felt that that spirit of Gujarat was missing today, nor was it not forthcoming in rehabilitation and succour.
He was also strongly critical of the Congress and its lack of genuine secular creden- tials. The character of the political workers had deteriorated, leading to a situation where two cabinet ministers were actively leading the mobs. The witness held the BJP and Congress workers responsible for this state of affairs. BJP’s elected representa tives have led attacks, as have the earlier Congress representatives like Mohammad Hussein Barejya.
In August 2000, a BD worker Harshad Gilletwala had 7 FIRs filed against him for burning a Muslim restaurant called Bhagyodaya, in Ahmedabad. At the time, the media had widely reported the fact that Gilletwala, while undergoing treatment for burns sustained during the arson, had threatened the owner of Bhagyodaya. He had said that today the Muslim Chillia community has hotels all over Gujarat but within a year or two they will see to it that all the hotels were grounded. During the carnage, this is what happened. Over 300 major hotels and 1,100 big and small ones were gutted and destroyed, from Banaskantha to Mount Abu. All in the 72 hours within which Modi claimed to have controlled the violence.
The witness also referred to the Editors’ Guild report that mentioned the sacking of a sub-editor at the head of the news desk of Sandesh newspaper. He was instructed to publish a blatantly false lead as headline in the newspaper in April, indicating that the Jagannath Mandir, a revered place, was under attack. A man of conscience, he decided to make inquiries before carrying out his assigned task, found out from the temple trustee and the police that the story was unfounded and refused to publish it. For this, he was sacked the next day. A reporter of The Indian Express and his family were threatened because of their fair reporting. Ashok Bhatt, Haren Pathak, Gordhan Zadaphiya and Haren Pandya have been indicted by eyewitnesses for leading mobs. Shah also spoke of the discrimination practised actively by the Ahmedabad police when, repeatedly, Hindu mobs, which assemble for attack and aggression are first asked to disperse, but Muslim groups or mobs are simply fired upon at point blank range.
Dilip Chandulal, Dwarkanath Rath, J Minakshi and Damin Shah (Movement for Social Democracy)
Chandulal is a former deputy secretary of the government of Gujarat and he joined MSD after retirement. He spoke of how, ever since the BJP came to power they have transferred all sensitive persons and appointed ideologically favourable people to sen- sitive posts. Within four days of Modi coming to power, police officials from all over the state were transferred. One year ago, the trishul distribution programmes were started in Gujarat. Details of Muslim establishments were carefully collected.
Rath, from Orissa, spoke about the modus operandi of the violence, the terror gener- ated and the ghettoisation of Muslims in Ahmedabad. He spoke with pain and an guish about the ‘hate Muslims’ message that had reached MP and Maharashtra. Much of this hatred had been generated from Gujarat, he said, and stressed upon the urgent need to politically remove the ruling dispensation. The level of mistrust in localities, even two months after the violence, had reached such acute levels that people were shining floodlights at night to keep a watch on the comings and goings. The mobilisation of Dalits and tribals in some parts of the state, for the aggression against Muslims, was favourably commented upon by VHP leader KK Shatsri, this witness said. He said that the comment made was that the Vaghri community had kept the prestige of the Hindu community alive. The Vaghris and the Charas are the most militant. Riot- ers were paid by the day. He also spoke about the active distribution of swords and trishuls, saying that swords were distributed to ordinary people for Rs 30 each. The witness also spoke of how the builder mafia was taking advantage of the violence and was trying to ‘clear’ areas like the slums around Cama Hotel in Ahmedabad.
The witness said that the trade union movement had concentrated almost exclu- sively on economic issues. With the collapse of the textile industry, the situation of the working classes has worsened. Among the unorganised workers, like diamond workers, there is minimal political organisation.
Rath spoke poignantly of the soft Gujarati mind, typified by Umashankar Joshi and Shukla who represented the real Gujarati culture, which was opposed to lumpenism and savagery. The future lay in appealing to the real Gujarati mind that he believed incapable of stomaching such brutalised violence. He also made an earnest plea to the leadership of the central trade unions, AIBA, LIC etc., to take up the issue of violence in Gujarat and agitate against it. A massive demonstration from the public sector working class was necessary, he added.
J. Meenakshi spoke of the deep polarisation among middle and upper class Hindu women. This has led them to provide help in the attacks on Muslim communities and to encourage their men to attack and burn. What was really worrisome was the talk of killing by Hindu women as if it was all a game; that ostensibly, “Because Muslims were doing it elsewhere, we are doing it here”. She found it all chilling and frightening. The impact of the hate campaign by the Hindu fanatic groups has been so widespread that even an average Hindu woman in Ahmedabad, who has not attended a Durga Vahini training camp, was talking and thinking like this.
Damini Shah, another woman activist of the MSD, spoke with anguish about the utter lack of remorse among ordinary, middle class Hindus in Gujarat. She spoke of the feeling of utter helplessness, as an activist, when the violence raged and she was confronted with the changed mind-set among ordinary people and in neighbourhoods. The divisiveness among groups, too – the failure to come together on a single plat- form — was another reason for the lack of a united response to the violence.
This witness who runs the Nobel Ambulance Society and the Citizens Relief Com- mittee stated how their ambulance was obstructed at several points on February 28 and March 1 and 2, at different points in Ahmedabad city by the police to prevent succour reaching victims. At Ellis Bride, near Paldi and other areas, police actually blocked the passage of ambulances. Dr Ishaq Shaikh of Al Ameen Garib Niwas Hos- pital too, experienced this. A doctor who runs a hospital he was also brutally bashed up by the police. (See section on Communalisation of Public Space — Hospitals, volume II).
All three witnesses are senior journalists from Gujarat and they deposed before the Tribunal on May 2. Batuk Vora is the only CPI member to have won an election from Gujarat in the past. He spoke of the motivated role played by mainstream Gujarati papers like Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar. They actually incited persons to violence. The consequences of large groups of Gujaratis being brought up and fed with a vision that is motivated for a long period of time has resulted in the state of affairs that we see now in Gujarat.
Digant Oza, the editor of Jansatta in December 1992 said that it was the lack of courage and morals that was leading these two largest papers to perform as agents of the party in power. He questioned seriously their claim that their circulation had spi- ralled as a result of this pro-VHP/BJP policy. He said that circulation figures could be doctored as much as other ‘facts’ could. He spoke of the need to counter such carnage before it happens and bemoaned the fact that the signals emanating from Gujarat had not been picked up before. It took the loss of innocent lives in the most brutal fashion for the rest of India to become alive to the reality of Gujarat.
Indukumar Jani, editor of Nayamarg, and a senior civil and political activist, spoke of the dire plight of the refugees living in refugee camps. He was involved heavily in relief and rehabilitation work especially in rural areas. His journal published regularly from Ahmedabad has been a consistent critique of fascist politics.
This witness is a senior journalist and rights’ activist. She is author of ‘Genocide -- Gujarat 2002’ published as a special report of the monthly magazine of which she is co-editor, Communalism Combat. (March-April 2002). From this extensive report that has been submitted as evidence before the Tribunal, detailed, factual data of the vast extent of damage to lives and property from Ahmedabad itself, Vadodara, districts like Kheda, Nadiad, Panchmahal, Sabarkantha has been placed before the Tribunal. Even before she reached the state on March 4, while in Mumbai she was in tele- phonic contact with people in different parts of Gujarat for hours on the night of February 28, March 1 and 2. This is due to the network that the journal has in the state. She was phoning and receiving calls in her home in Mumbai from Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Chhotaudaipur, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha and Godhra, too. The maxi- mum panic calls were from Ahmedabad and on four occasions she was able, through continuous calls made to the additional CP Tandon and others, including CP Pandeyt, to get some police help reach areas in Shah-e-Alam and Vatwa. One specific instance was when a senior journalist of Gujarat Today was trapped inside his press and a mob was approaching and had surrounded it. The other time was during a fanatic attack at Vatwa which was finally averted because of the arrival of the army.
During this experience, she had to contact army personnel repeatedly since the police behaviour was criminal. The information that the witness was able to give the army contradicted the messages that the police was feeding them. When this hap- pened with the same army officer twice and on two separate occasions, he ques- tioned, “How come this discrepancy between your information and the police’s?” Within moments it transpired that the information received from the witness which merely reflected the anguished cries for help from the Muslim community in different parts, was accurate. “You may draw your own conclusions, sir,” she told the army officer concerned.roituation quickly because it desired to do so.
The fact that no back up of army platoons had been stationed here and near Ahmedabad, regular peace stations given the clearly provocative behaviour of the kar sevaks, also suggests a level of sinister planning. The witness referred to the testimony of retired major general Eustace De’souza recorded by her for her report. This officer of the Indian army had been deputed to Godhra three times during his military career to quell bouts of communal violence.
The witness gave detailed translated FIRs and charge-sheets of the major crimes during the carnage. She is also part of the effort of many groups to collect data from the victims. This was also presented to the Tribunal – data collected through 3, 200 forms.
It was clear that the government was involved in not simply allowing the carnage but in state cabinet ministers actually planning for it to take place simultaneously in over two dozen locations all over the state. The manner of killing was brutal and chilling; the intention to destroy the bodies/remains and burning them, denying even burial rights to the Muslim minority. Girls and women had been the victims of the grossest sexual crimes and this was clearly a part of the planned strategy. As many as 150-200 girls and women had suffered this fate; most were dead but some were still alive. This witness believed a trained and armed militia — nurtured on hatred against Muslims, trained to kill and between 20,000-25,000 strong — had been assiduously built-up in Gujarat and which was put to work during the recent carnage. A careful part of the strategy was to economically cripple the Muslim community. There had also been widespread desecration of religious and cultural monuments in the first 72 hours of the carnage. Reparation, not compensation, from the State was the need of the hour, she said.
The bringing in of Narendra Modi, in September 2001, signalled a return to hardline politics by the state BJP said the witness. BJP had been losing local elections all over the state and therefore, bringing in Modi, the architect of deputy prime minister-led rath yatra in 1990 to the helm of political affairs was significant. His callous handling of the carnage, especially Ahsan Jafri’s slaughter, and his subsequent abusive treat- ment of refugees in relief camps was not behaviour befitting a chief minister in any democracy.
The complete abdication of responsibility of the government in looking after refu- gees in camps reflected a complete disregard for the basic rights of Muslims, by the BJP in Gujarat. In April 2002, there were 1,500 women awaiting delivery in Ahmedabad camps; there were 37,000 young children who are victim-survivors of the violence. All these point to a humanitarian crisis on a huge scale which was not being recognised or addressed.
The pre-planning of the violence in terms of the hate speech, hate propaganda and actual training by the Bajrang Dal and VHP has been tracked by this witness for the journal since 1998. These have been placed on the records of the Tribunal.The wit- ness placed on record, the originals and translations of filthy hate propaganda in- dulged in especially by outfits like the VHP and Bajrang Dal through the publication of pamphlets that were then circulated in hundreds of thousands.
In January 2001, the BJP government’s circular directing schools to subscribe to Sadhana, a weekly published by the RSS, a selective census of Muslims and Christians (April 1999) were placed on the records of the Tribunal by this witness. Details of criminal records of influential members of the politically influential outfits have also been placed on record.
Deep schisms have been caused in some areas of Gujarat by this systematic poli- tics of division perpetrated by the RSS/VHP/Bajrang Dal combine and this has been legitimised by BJP rule in the state, stated this witness. The fact that many state cabinet ministers and MLAs of the BJP government are frontranking leaders of the VHP, and the fact that the VHP is a self-professed extension of the RSS was also detailed before the Tribunal by this witness.
The mindset of prejudice is even reflected in the Gujarat state’s social studies textbooks that contain phrases like ‘Muslims, Christians and Parsis are foreigners’, ‘Caste system is the best gift to mankind’ and glorification of Mussolini and Hitler have been generated to create a whole generation of Indians who are fed on distorted visions of the past. These have been studied by the witness. In 1999, this led to a Partliamentary Committee directing the Gujarat state board to delete these portions.
This has not yet been done.
The seriousness of the Gujarat carnage, said this witness, was evident from the shocking efforts to communalise public space especially hospitals, schools and courts. Among the leaders in violence are VHP members who are doctors like Togadia and Jaideep Patel. Muslim students found it difficult to get admission in some schools and even courts in Gujarat were not free of hate politics.
This had grown especially in the past four years with the impunity shown to perpetra- tors of communal crimes, said the witness. Ever since the BJP came to power, state cabinet ministers used pressure on the police to prevent the observance of the rule of law. Former revenue minister Haren Pandya, home minister Gordhan Zadaphiya, ministers Naran Laloo Patel, Niteen Patel, had been indicted for crimes. VHP leaders like Jagdish Taral (from Khhedbrahma, Sabarkantha) and H.Gilletwala (Ahmedabad) had several FIRs against them and yet they were scot free.
In August 2000, after Hindu pilgrims were killed allegedly by Lashkar-e-Toyba mili- tants in Kashmir and 100 died in cross fire, the international general secretary of the VHP who hails from Gujarat — Dr Praveen Togadia — held a press conference and declared, “Wahan ka jawaab yahan denge” (we will reply to this here)
Innocent Muslims of Rajkot, Khhedbrahma, Surat, Lambadiya, Modasa, Ahmedabad were made to pay for this vengeful medieval politics. At the time this witness’ group had, along with other groups brought out a report Saffron on the Rampage. No compen- sation was paid for the damage. Statewide Muslims suffered a damage of Rs 15 crore.
Pradeep Jain belongs to the Vishwa Samvad Kendra affiliated to the RSS/VHP. He spoke of how the television media, which does not even have a representative in each district, misrepresented the violence in Gujarat, suggesting that the whole state had been affected when only a few areas were affected. He also pointed out misreporting by the English media, when they reported on a police firing about a fortnight before the sittings of the Tribunal began, in which 6 people (Muslims) were killed. In fact, the firing had taken place after a police constable had been stabbed in a nearby locality. The Tribunal questioned the witness closely on whether he was making these statements based on his personal knowledge or on what he read in the vernacular papers. He replied that it was on the basis of his personal knowledge.
He also stated that on 5-6 occasions, persons living in refugee camps had started riots. When questioned about the details, he said that it was in the Dudheshwar and Millat Nagar camps that this had happened. He also stated that about a week prior to the day he deposed before the Tribual, such persons had burnt shops just outside the commisisoner of police’s office at Shahi Baugh. He said that in another instance, in Gomtipur area, a policeman was killed. An employee from the sale tax officer, Dev Anand Solanki was also cut up and killed. When asked whether this information was based on his personal knowledge or otherwise, he stated that it was partly personal knowledge and partly based on police statements. This witness and his colleague, Bupendra Modi, gave two booklets published by their group to the Tribunal. These books are entitled, ‘Godhra and Its Aftermath’ and ‘Terrorism Unmasked’. In these booklets, the theory that Godhra was a pre-planned, premeditated act in which local Muslims of Godhra were involved has been reiterated. Photographs of the burning train and the copses are widely used. There is no mention of the behaviour of the kar sevaks, who are called ‘Ram sevaks’ here. When the Tribunal questioned them about their knowledge of the behaviour of the kar sevaks, they were evasive. When asked about the participation of groups like RSS, they said that RSS had participated in two peace marches. Both these witnesses kept emphasising the ‘irrational and reactive behaviour’ of Muslims from Daryapur, Kalupur and Jamalpur. They kept asking that when Pakistan wins a cricket match, why should riots start in Daryapur, Kalupur and Jamalpur?
However, these witnesses, who claim to have personal knowledge of incidents at Gomtipur and other places, where completely blank and evasive about the violent incidents at Naroda, Chamanpura, Kadih, Vishnagar, Panchmahal etc.
This witness, an advocate in the Gujarat High Court, deposed before the Tribunal at the Vadodara ‘Open Forum’ on May 10. He said that he had not been adversely affected by the riots, but he was a keen observer. He said that the only reason for violence continuing for so long was that people wanted to claim false compensation. He said that the Congress party was responsible for the violence. He quoted exten- sively from the Manu Smriti, which, according to him, says that the existence of a traitor for even a second is not desirable. He should be killed and killed immediately.
Thereafter, this witness spoke about the “latest example” of treacherous behaviour – the attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. He said that the American reac- tion — when troops moved thousands of kilometres to invade Afghanistan, and killed mercilessly with no regard for human rights — was the necessary and right reaction. “They who have attacked our Parliament, all traitors, must be identified and killed”.
When the Tribunal questioned this witness in detail about whether all Muslims were traitors, he said he did not believe that: Whosoever shouts, ‘Pakistan zindabad’ is a trai- tor. Apart from this, the witness laced his testimony with a lot of examples of areas where weapons had been seized, like Yakubpura, in Vadodara. However, whenever the source of this information was sought, he quoted from Gujarat Samachar or Sandesh.
This witness, from Fatepura in Vadodara, spoke with anguish and pain of the trauma and alienation caused by the brutality of police behaviour in Vadodara. He said that his area was one where riots often started. However, this time, the extent and the depth of the terror was unimaginable. Ordinary people like him, he said, were afraid to speak. The police had spread so much terror that when children saw a police car, they would start crying. He said, “Although Gujarat is a prohibition state, the police come here completely drunk”. He felt that Hindus had nothing to fear from Muslims, it is the police that they were really afraid of. They had no complaints against the Muslims in their area. Although the Hindus and the Muslims of the area have worked side by side in the past, he felt that things have reached such a state that they no longer speak to each other. There was a time when they ate and chatted together, but now, they do not talk to each other. He felt that he could not even cross ‘the border’ and go and ask them how they were, how many of them were hurt and how they were managing to survive. The fear was very widespread. He stated that it was the police, which objected and beat them up if they ever tried to interact with their Muslim neighbours. The area falls under the Garnala police chowky. Although 4 policemen are stationed there, they would do nothing if a mob of 500 came there. The witness testified that a day before the deposition, i.e., on May 9, 12 policemen came and took away 20 people from the area, beating them relentlessly.
This witness is a renowned Gandhian from Gujarat, who runs this ashram on a 3-acre farm belonging to the Vadodara Zilla Sarvodya Mandal. He said that on the day of the Godhra incident, Dr. Jussar Bandukwala, Manubhai and himself — all members of Shanti Abhiyan — were together and they immediately issued statements condemning the incident. This witness commented that it was unfortunate that newspapers like Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar did not choose to print items dealing with harmony and peace. They preferred to publish unsubstantiated stories, like rumours, as news items.
This witness said that he had experienced a horrible example of this with Dr. Jussar Bandukwala, an eminent citizen. On February 28 itself, Dr. Bandukwala informed him that his daughter’s car, parked just outside his house, had been burnt. By the evening of February 28, there was widespread terror and people were asking him (i.e., Dr. Bandukwalla) to leave the area since his house could be attack that night.
Jadgishbhai went there and stayed with Dr. Bandukwala. Dr. Bandukwala’s daughter, another couple and his daughter’s fiance, Maulin, all of them stayed there that night. Until 6 a.m. next morning, nothing happened. Police and home guards were contacted continuously and a request for armed police protection was made. Around 2 p.m. on March 1, a mob came looking for Dr. Bandukwala, shouting, “Where is Bandukwala? We have to kill him”. They looted his house and then set it on fire.
Muslims living in the neighbourhood had left their vehicles (one 4-wheeler and a 2- wheeler) inside Jadgishbhai’s ashram premises, fearing that they would be burnt. A mob of 150 youth came from a neighbouring village and set fire to two of the vehicles in the premises. Jadgishbhai tried to reason with them, but to no avail. One of the boys who used to transport goods for the ashram, Karim, a Bohra, had his 3-wheeler and Jadgishbhai tried to save it. However, the attackers got wind of this, dragged it out of the house and destroyed it.
There were rumours that the mob was trying to burn alive a maulvi, who lived near a dargah next to a pond nearby. It was Jadgishbhai, who informed the police, and 15 minutes later, the police arrived. The police videotaped the confrontation with the attackers and this tape could be easily used to identify the accused. Karim and 25 other Muslims, who lived close to the ashram, have had their homes destroyed. Jagdishbhai stated that, ever since the incident, these Muslims had been receiving constant threats about their safety. The fears arising from these threats had prevented these victims from taking shelter in the ashram.
All over Vadodara, and in other parts of Gujarat, the Tribunal recorded testimony after testimony that revealed the utter brazenness with which the accused criminals — often influential politicians and leaders — were roaming free.
This witness and many others in Vadodara spoke of the highly questionable role of the Vadodara police. The section on incidents of violence gives details of the terrible conduct of the Vadodara police. Often, the policemen were aggressive, drunk, abusive towards Muslim women. The attacking mobs roamed the streets with impunity, fearing no detention by the police whereas, whether here or in Ahmedabad, peace makers, i.e., brave women and men who stood up to the violence, were refused curfew passes. This witness and others observed that the combing operations were more relentless and sus- tained in Muslim areas than in Hindu localities. Despite the fact that Hindu leaders and mobs stood in their neighbourhoods, carrying weapons, spears, big iron pipes and swords, police cars on patrol passed them by, without even looking their way.
The Manjrekars live very close to Dr. Bandukwala’s house. Shri Johannes Manjrekar and his wife stayed back with Dr. Bandukwala during the attack. They kept calling up the police – they called the the Fatehgunj police station under which their area falls and also the central police control room. They spoke to the collector personally, who said that he would send somebody but did not do so on time. The police commissioner’s mobile was off throughout. The collector sent some policemen 45 minutes after he had been contacted but by then, Dr. Bandukwala’s house had already been attacked.
A mob of about 250-300 people attacked the house that was being protected by two armed police guards. They held off the mob for at least half-an-hour. Finally, the mob came from the other side. The attackers were armed with sticks and guptis, swords and stones. They had also brought along in a rickshaw two gas cylinders, which were kept in readiness. These were not used finally, but they had been brought along. Once the mob came from the other side, Prof. Bandukwala and all the persons with him fled from the house and went to a neighbour’s house. The neighbour’s house continued to be stoned for about half-an-hour, when a police van and a police jeep arrived. That was when the mob started dispersing, but the police made no attempt whatsoever to arrest anyone or to chase anybody. Prof. Bandukwala and his daughter were taken away under police escort. Despite repeated requests made by the witness and others for calling a fire engine, since a portion of Dr. Bandukwala’s house had caught fire, they were told that the fire brigade was busy elsewhere and would come later. They learnt later that the mob had recollected after the police left, and had physically pre- vented the fire engine from putting out the fire, resulting in the total destruction of Prof. Bandukwala’s house, his books and belongings.
The witness testified to the fact that on the previous evening, after the first attack on February 28, on Prof. Bandukwala’s vehicle, he and others had gone to the resi- dence of Pradeep Joshi, the area councillor of the BJP, who is also a VHP leader. They went as citizens of the area to tell him that they were concerned over the vio- lence on February 28, and that as their representative, they would like him to try and ensure peace in their area. What this elected representative told the delegation was shocking. He was very clear that he would not be able to ensure peace because, he said, these were all uneducated mobs and he and his party had no control over them. One of the members of the delegation said that he would not like his children to experience this kind of violence. Joshi was completely dismissive, saying that they (the children) also have to see the facts of life. He also asked why ‘they’ (referring to Prof. Bandukwala) were living in ‘mixed’ areas, that ‘they’ should move to ‘their own’ areas. While talking to the delegation, he also produced a list, which, according to him, showed the booth-wise break-up of a recent election where automatic voting machines had been used. He said that it is clear from that list who voted for whom, and besides, it clearly showed that Muslims had been voting for the Congress. So, in the end, the only assurance the delegation got from their elected representative was that there would be more violence. A local grocer sitting there said this in so many words. The day after Prof. Bandukwala’s house was burnt, that is on March 2, all mutton shops owned by Muslims in an area called Sanjaynagar were completely de- molished, except for one shop, which was converted to a Hanuman temple.
This witness, a professor of English at the MS University of Vadodara, was part of the active citizenry that monitored violence, intervened and put constant pressure on the Vadodara police. She spoke in detail about the fact-finding team’s visit to Roshannagar, Nava Yard, an area basically comprising the poorer UP migrant labour. Many of their houses and business establishments were burnt during the violence of March 1. Subse- quently, around the middle of March, almost all the 75 families sent all their girls back to their villages in UP. Many of these girls were studying in Vadodara but now that they were back in a village situation, having experienced brutal violence, their parents felt that the opportunity to get an education was lost to them forever.
This witness spoke at length about the impact of the violence on children’s educa- tion. Young children and older students from the victim Muslim community could not attend school in the non-curfew areas. For many months, a large number of children where in relief camps, which has also negatively impacted on their education. This witness pointed out the discriminate treatment of the state in shifting the examina- tion centres of Hindu students to Hindu-predominant areas. This facility was not extended to the Muslims students, who were forced to go into majority-predominant areas for taking their exams, where goon squads of the RSS/VHP/BD/BJP moved around creating terror. Even the graduation and post-graduation examinations were not postponed.
A pertinent observation made by this witness, who has been teaching on the MS University campus for many years, related to the state of mind of Muslim women students on the campus. Their community had just emerged from a brutal round of violence. Children and women were especially targeted by the mobs. In the many years that she has been teaching at the university, she had never come across a burqa on the campus. However, since mid-March, she had seen 3 women wearing full burqas. This was a particularly sad development, given the fact that Vadodara is generally a very safe place for women. Complete ghettoisation of Vadodara city in the future, especially within academic institutions, may actually deny Muslim children admission into some schools.
This witness is a resident of Kisanwadi in Vadodara. He hails from Kerala and handles construction jobs. He spoke of the atmosphere of fear that prevailed in this locality of Vadodara since February 27. He said that the Muslims of Kisanwadi are poor and simple people, generally engaged in selling vegetables, handling small ma- sonry jobs or selling cut pieces and dresses etc. They are god-fearing people, who never ever talk loudly or fight.
On February 28, one Nizambhai from the area came and met this witness and his wife and told them that the atmosphere was very tense. There are strong rumours that they (Muslims) would be attacked. Immediately, this witness went, along with Muslims from the area, to find out what was happening. He spoke to the CP of Vadodara and told him that the situation was deteriorating. At about 7.20 p.m., the witness, along with the others, heard shouts of ‘Kill, slaughter!’ and immediately went in the direction of the madrassa. A mob of about 500 people was coming to attack the madrasa and had already started breaking down some Muslim huts on the way. Pillai spoke to the leaders of the mob and managed to defuse the situation temporarily. He recognised some of them. How- ever, after moving away from the mosque, the mob started attacking Muslim homes. Pillai and his brothers did a heroic and humane thing. On the night of February 28, they shel- tered as many as 500 Muslims in their house.
That same night, since Muslim residents had run away from their homes to save their lives, the attackers returned and looted all the belongings, destroyed homes, broke TV sets, burnt clothes and stole whatever cash was there in the cupboards. These attackers stole and destroyed the carefully collected belongings and jewellery of poor daily wage earners. Much of this had been collected for their children’s wed dings.
The next day, on March 1, Pillai and his family gave the refugees tea and arranged for lunch. He tried to contact the police control room once more, and a woman officer answered the call. He told her that the situation in Kisanwadi was bad, that, as a woman, she should sympathise, that there were Muslim women there who were vul- nerable. This woman police officer responded and informed the police station. PSI Baria, PSI Solanki, Shri Damor and ‘D’ Staff PSI Parmar came to Pillai’s house. But they refused to provide any vehicles and Pillai had to request the local councillor, Mohanbhai Savalia for two tractors to transport the refugees to relief camps. The councillor warned him that if the tractors were damaged, it would be Pillai’s respon- sibility. Finally, Pillai took the Muslims to Qureshi Jama’atkhana. For some of the remaining people, he arranged a bus. Despite the presence of some policemen on the bus, it was stoned and attacked and one Rasoolbhai was hit on his head by a stone. A mob of 2,000 surrounded the bus and began pelting it with stones. The bus driver was smart; he kept on driving and managed to save the lives of the passengers. Otherwise, they would have been burnt along with the bus.
Pillai painted an accurate picture of the situation when he deposed before the Tribunal on May 11. Even then, the steady loot of doorframes and windows of Mus- lim homes had continued. The looters sold the material as scrap, while the police refused to intervene. The Muslims of Kisanwadi had no protector, they were like orphans. Pillai expressed great dissatisfaction at the conduct of the Vadodara police under CP Tuteja, who refused to intervene promptly. He said that religion has its place but humility should come first. There had been a lot of pressure on the police from BJP and VHP members. They had put pressure for the removal of names from FIRs and had targeted Pillai because of his humane behaviour. DCP Pritam Singh Thakore, PI Kanani and sub-inspector Rana had launched a harassment campaign against the Pillai family. They arrested one of the Pillai brothers under section 307 (attempt to murder). He was thereafter released on bail. It is clear that the police that wants to implicate them because of their empathetic behaviour.
This witness is a representative of PUCL Vadodara. He explained that the violence in Vadodara began on February 27itself, when the Sabarmati Express came from Godhra. There was a huge ‘reception’ for the kar sevaks at the station. One Muslim was stabbed in the presence of many policemen. The violence spread in the next few days when a lot of looting and arson took place. Kisanwadi is a residential pocket of Muslims and all such existing pockets in Vadodara had been torched. Pushcarts of Muslim vendors had been burnt all over the city, especially in Kisanwadi. From March 3 there was some sort of respite but the violence resumed on March 15 — the day of the Ayodhya ‘shila daan’. On March 20, another round of violence started, and the latest round of violence in Vadodara took place on April 26-27. This witness spoke about the thoroughness and depth of the destruction, which had completely destroyed the lives of the survivors. Muslim women were subjected to filthy verbal abuse in public and openly threatened with sexual violence.
This witness is associated with a group called Arch Vahini, which has been working with the affected people of Narmada dam. His family migrated here from Uttar Pradesh in 1935, and he has been brought up in Kawat village in Chhotaudaipur (Vadodara rural). He explained how the incidents in this south-eastern tribal area of Vadodara district, which started from March 4 onwards had been carefully engineered, as there had been no history of communal tension between Muslims and Hindus or Muslims and the tribals prior to this.
Both witnesses are activists with the PUCL, Vadodara and Shanti Abhiyan. They deposed before the Tribunal and submitted a huge volume of data for it’s scrutiny. They stated that during the violence in Gujarat, Narendra Modi and his government in collaboration with the state machinery surpassed Hitler’s methods adopting a strat- egy which was directly and indirectly supported by the BJP-led central government. Based on personal experience during their peace missions and fact-findings they had concluded that the communalisation of the state machinery had reached an unprec- edented scale and depth. The state machinery not only supported the violence but it was proactive in organising the violence during the carnage. The government sup- ported the bandh called by the VHP.
From day one, the government and the state machinery came out with a number of justifications for the carnage. In the name of “spontaneous reaction”, the government justified the violence and the state machinery in many places gave assurances to the mob that no action will be taken against them. The open vocal support of the govern- ment and state machinery brought huge mobs on the streets that was observed for the first time in Gujarat’s history of violence. Not only were houses and shops of Mus- lims burnt, even industries were put to fire to economically paralyse the community.
In many instances across the state, policemen were openly instigating the mobs, giving them a time deadline within which they were free to attack the Muslims. In the second phase of violence after March 15, wherever the mobs lead by the Hindutava forces were not able to attack the Muslims, because of their location, the police took on this role, particularly in Vadodara, in the name of ‘combing operations’. Due to this complicity of the government, policemen were bold enough to ignore most of the com-plains made by the victims and even human right’s activists and their organisations.
This witness and their groups had documented several complaints about police brutality during arbitrary combing operations in minority areas. Women were abused, pulled, dragged, and beaten mercilessly. Pregnant women were particularly attacked in several areas. In spite of their oral and written complains, supported by human rights organisation’s investigative report, even FIRs were not registered against the accused.
The role of some of the language press was not only communal but also provocative and instigated the violence. Some of the minority-predominant areas were spe-cifically targeted by spreading rumours about them, precipitating some incidents in the area to justify the violence on Muslims in other areas. The present status of almost all FIRs and charge sheets reflect the state machinery’s bias against the minority community. People from minority community were charged with tough and non-bailable sections of IPC while where there were actual instances of looting, burning and deaths, people from the majority community were charged with milder sections of the IPC.
The government did not open relief camps for the victims of the violence. Instead, it played a proactive role to forcefully close the relief camps organised by the commu- nity. In the name of negotiation for rehabilitation, arranged by the state machinery, victims were forced to withdraw their complaints and accept a life at the mercy of the perpetrators of violence.
(The Tribunal had sent out letters of intimation followed by a written request to the chief minister, cabinet ministers, IAS officials, IPS officials for a meeting with the panel members of the Tribunal in connection with its proposed inquiry. (See Annexure 17, volume I). In response to this, the collectors of Godhra, Vadodara and Bharuch did meet the Tribunal, as did the DySP of Panchmahal district (Godhra comes under this district). A minister of the state cabinet also met the Tribunal and so did senior police officials including the commissioner of police, Vadodara. These testimonies contributed substantially to the Tribunal’s understanding and had a bearing on the findings. The names of some of these witnesses, however, are being witheld on request).
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