Report on the visit of NHRC Team headed by Chairperson, NHRC to Ahmedabad, Vadodra and Godhra

from 19-22 March 2002.

             Justice J.S. Verma, Chairperson, NHRC, accompanied by Shri P.C. Sen, Secretary General, Shri Chaman Lal, Special Rapporteur and Shri Y.S.R. Murthy, P.S. to the Chairperson, visited Ahmedabad, Vadodra and Godhra from 19-22 March 2002.  The Commission had, by taking suo 12motu cognizance of the alarming media reports about the widespread communal violence in Gujarat beginning with the Godhra incident of  27 February 2002, registered the matter as case No. 1150/6/01-02 and issued notices on Ist March to the Chief Secretary and DGP, Gujarat to reply within 3 days “indicating the measures being taken and in contemplation to prevent any further escalation of the communal situation in the State”  which was causing continued violation of the human rights of a large number of people.  A copy of this notice was also sent to Shri P.G.J. Nampoothiri, Special  Representative, NHRC on March 4 requesting him to send a report on the subject involving in that exercise, also other members of the group constituted by the Commission for monitoring the rehabilitation work related to  the last year’s earthquake in Gujarat. 

          The Chief Secretary & DGP, Gujarat on 4th March requested for grant of further time of 15 days stating that “as most of the State machinery is busy with the law and order situation, it would take some time to collect information and compile the report”.  The Commission, vide its proceedings dated 6 March 2002 observed that while preparation of a comprehensive report may require some more time, the Government of Gujarat was expected to send “at least, a preliminary report indicating the action taken so far and that in contemplation together with an assurance from the State Government of strict implementation of the rule of law”.  A preliminary report was received on 11 March. The Commission considered this report and found it rather perfunctory and silent on  many vital aspects.  In the meantime a fairly comprehensive report giving a broad picture of the situation in Gujarat with mention of some major incidents in the city of Ahmedabad was received from the Special Group comprising Shri P.G.J. Nampoothiri, Smt. Annie Prasad, IAS (Retd.) and Shri Gagan Sethi, Director, Jan Vikas.  The Commission was also taking notice of media reports about continuing communal violence, and alleged inability of  the State Government to restore normalcy.  The Commission felt that consideration of the matter involving continued violation of human rights of a large section of people in Gujarat can not be deferred any further for want of the comprehensive report called from the State Government. The Commission, therefore, decided that a team led by the Chairperson should immediately visit the State for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation. 

AHMEDABAD 

The NHRC team reached Ahmedabad around 7 p.m. on 19 March.  That very evening the team received a briefing from Shri P.G.J. Nampoothiri, Special Representiative, NHRC about the chain of events starting with the incident at Godhra on 27 February.  On the 20th March the team began with a meeting with senior State Government officials including the Chief Secretary, Addl. Chief Secretary (Home), DGP, Home Secretary, Revenue Secretary and the Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad.  A number of prominent citizens including Shri Amar Sinh Choudhry, former CM, Justice T.U. Mehta, former Chief Justice, Justice P.D. Desai, former Chief Justice, Justice Akbar Divecha, Justice R.A. Mehta called on the Chairperson and gave him their assessment of the situation highlighting the prevailing sense of insecurity in the community in general and the minority community in particular.  In the afternoon, the team had a long interaction with a group of voluntary agencies, NGOs, Human Rights activists and some prominent citizens including Mr. R.K. Sayed, a  retired Secretary to Government of India and Justice A.P. Ravani, former Chief Justice, Rajasthan.  It also received a delegation of media persons and some more eminent citizens including Malika Sarabhai, Batuk Vora and Teesta Setalvad.  The team also visited two Relief camps – Shah-e-Alam camp holding about 9000 displaced persons of minority community and Saryu Das Temple camp where 471 Hindus moved from Prem Darwaza Bhagriwar area have taken shelter.  The team also met some victims of Godhra incident and traders’ delegations from both the communities. 

MEETING WITH THE STATE GOVERNMENT OFFICERS

In his opening remarks, the Chief Secretary, Shri G. Subba Rao, referred to the horrendous Godhra incident and subsequent violence in the State indicating the action taken by the administration in mobilising available resources and requisitioning the Army.  He expressed the resolve of the Government and administration to protect human rights of all sections of people without any distinction as to caste, creed and religion. 

            The Chairperson explained the purpose and timing of his visit.  He indicated that he had not visited the State earlier in order not to divert the State authorities from the task in which they were engaged. However, the visit could not be further delayed as normalcy had not been restored despite the passage of three weeks. The Commission’s concern for the stoppage of violence and restoration of normalcy in the State and the role of the NHRC as a facilitator to improve the quality of governance was emphasized. It was indicated that, as in the aftermath of Orissa Cyclone and the Gujarat earthquake it was the duty of the NHRC to ensure the prevention of any further violation of human rights and focus on the need for expeditious rehabilitation of the victims.   

Then followed a visual presentation by the Government officers in 3 parts entitled the Godhra incident of 27 February and immediate action taken by the Administration, ‘unfolding events as reaction to the Godhra incident from 28 February onwards’, and the relief and rehabilitation measures started by the Government.  The Team pointed out the following omissions in the presentation: 

i)                    It does not indicate specifically the details of the preventive measures, if any, taken at the sensitive points in Ahmedabad city which witnessed large scale  violence, arson and looting.

ii)                  Though it was stated that 273 preventive arrests were made on 27 February, the date and community-wise break up was not shown to counter the allegations of discrimination. 

iii)                Although the presentation mentioned some major incidents of arson and looting, it was silent about the registration of criminal cases against the miscreants.  

iv)                Details of Police/Army firing and date and community-wise break-up of casualties was not shown.

v)                   The presentation did not mention the alarming fact of  the spread of the communal violence to the rural, particularly the tribal areas, though some figures of evacuation/rescue operations were given.

vi)                The presentation made no mention of destruction of Mosques and Dargahs in Ahmedabad and elsewhere which the media has been regularly reporting.

vii)              The presentation gave the consolidated figure of arrests (10,196 till 18 March) without giving community-wise break-up and without showing separately the number of persons arrested in cases registered in connection with the incidents of killing, arson and looting. 

viii)            The presentation was also silent about the number of policemen killed or injured on duty or otherwise in connection with the communal incidents which may reflect their commitment and devotion to duty. 

(ix)              Particulars of visits to relief camps of VIPs / political leaders / senior officers were also not indicated, nor were the facilities provided in these camps mentioned in detail.  

The team drew the attention of the Chief Secretary to the media reports of the date (20 Feb.) about the application of POTO to the cases registered against the accused persons of the Godhara incident without indicating that a similar move is contemplated against the criminals of violence in other parts of the State.  The Chief Secretary was asked to examine this question  in the light of likelihood of allegations of discrimination between offenders.  

 The Addl. Chief Secretary (Home) Shri Ashok Narayan mentioned the move of the VHP to take out the Asthi-kalash Yatra to various States of Godhra victims and their advice to the CM to prevail upon the VHP to exclude Gujarat from this programme to which he stated that the CM was receptive.  The Chairperson asked the Chief Secretary to advise the Government to use its influence over the VHP to stop this programme altogether in all parts of the country in view of its dangerous implications to communal harmony.   

DGP, Gujarat, Shri K. Chakravarthi, described the communal riots as unprecedented in terms of scale and intensity and as a reaction to Godhara incident and narrated the difficulties of the Department arising from shortage of manpower, lack of equipment and total absence of “specific prior information” about Godhra incident.  He explained that available resources including even the recruits in the training were utilised and officers were recalled from leave. 

Shri P.C. Pande, Commissioner, Ahmedabad was asked to explain his widely publicised statement in an interview given to Rediff.com to the effect that the policemen have their own feelings and cannot be expected to remain uninfluenced by the mood of the community.  He said, all he had told the reporter was that the police force being drawn from the same society cannot remain totally insulated and immune to the external influences. On being complimented by the Chairperson for having stated in the interview that his head hangs in shame, he clarified that he had said this in reply to the question put by the correspondent as to how he felt that this time the well-to-do people coming in expensive cars were involved in looting in the posh areas of Ahemdabad which meant he was ashamed to belong to that very society.  Shri Pande tried to explain the inability of his police force to control the violence because of the enormity of the challenge and unanticipated emergence of new trouble spots  different from those of the past and the shortage of manpower and equipment. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Chairperson observed that it was evident that normalcy had not till then been restored and that there was a prevailing sense of insecurity, felt even by a sitting and retired High Court Judges. He stressed on the officers exercising their statutory powers uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration. He reminded the officers that democracy is not majoritarian rule but should be ‘inclusive’ in character representing the interests of all sections of the society. He concluded by adding  that the tragic events which had occurred should never be allowed to recur.  

The team met many prominent citizens – individually as well as in groups – and thereafter had a long meeting with NGOs/Human Rights activists numbering 72.  A summary of what was said by the above is: 

Gujarat has, over the years, become prone to frequent outbreaks of communal riots. It had serious communal riots in 1969, 1985, 1992 and 1996.  However, the present riots are different from all earlier riots in terms of intensity of violence and degree of brutality. New areas and not only the usual trouble spots identified on the basis of past experience were affected by the menace this time.  While the riots in the past involved both the communities in group clashes resulting even from minor incidents, the incidents following the Godhra incident are characterised by assaults by huge Hindu mobs on the members of the minority community.  The size of the marauding crowds involved in the major incidents was found to be between five to fifteen thousand and the scale of violence and brutality of methods of killing and looting indicated long planning and indoctrination.

 

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) gave a call for “Bandh” on the 28th, Feb. pursuant to the Godhra incident of burning alive of Karsewaks which was  supported by the State BJP.  The police did not take effective steps to make proper security arrangements in several areas known for their communal sensitivity.  Many felt that the police should have learnt from the past experience that Bandhs supported by the ruling party are never peaceful and should have therefore made full preparations. Whereas the VHP leaders could mobilise their supporters for the ‘Bandh’, the police did not take any effective measures to control the unlawful crowds, while they were building up.  The police, by and large, chose to act as silent spectators allowing the crowds to swell in size and become uncontrollable.

 

 While in the previous riots also political elements did play a major part and the police and administration failed to control violence, they were not accused of direct involvement in the carnage.  The failure of police and administration in the current riots is attributed not to their professional incompetence but to their attitude of apathy and callousness in general and the accusation of connivance and complicity was made in some cases.

 

A number of persons holding responsible positions in public life alleged involvement of some Ministers and MLAs in these riots.  They mentioned that Shri Gordhan Zadafia, Home Minister and Shri Ashok Bhatt, Health Minister were monitoring the progress of riots from the City Police control room.  Shri I.K. Jadeja, Urban Development Minister was accused of controlling things at Police Bhawan, Gandhi Nagar. Someone stated that he had seen the Home Minister moving about in the riot affected areas openly displaying the “V” signal.  Smt. Maya Ben Kudnani, MLA and former Dy. Mayor, Ahmedabad and Dr. Jai Deep Patel, VHP leader were named by a number of victim families of Naroda Patia who appeared before the team at Shah-e-Alam Relief Camp. Shri Usman Bhai, MLA alleged that the Home Minister Gordhan Zadafia was directly monitoring the progress of attacks on Muslim localities from the room of Shri Ashok Raina, Home Secretary.

 

Representatives of many NGOs and some prominent citizens narrated a number of cases where they contacted the police and requested them to rescue the members of the minority community under attack from the marauding mobs but their pleas evoked no response.  Shri Amar Sinh Chaudhary, former Chief Minister, Gujarat, narrated to the team his futile efforts in seeking police help for Shri Ahsan Jaffrey, former MP.   He claimed to have personally contacted the Police Commissioner, P.C. Pande, at 10.30 AM on 28 February and apprised him of the imminent danger to the life of Shri Jaffrey.  The Police Commissioner assured him that police assistance will be despatched rapidly. He reminded him again after receiving another frantic call from Ahsan Jaffrey that no police reinforcement had reached his place and that the few policemen present were  ineffective and unwilling to control the violent mob.  Shri Chaudhary said that he also spoke to the CM Narendra Modi in the afternoon and found him well informed about the presence of a violent crowd outside Shri Jaffrey’s house .  He also spoke to the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary between 12.30 and 2 PM.  Shri Jaffrey was burnt alive along with his family and 39 others (total  killed -50).

 

The team heard several allegations of connivance of police in incidents of arson and looting by the marauding crowds.  It was alleged that the crowds involved in the destruction of slums opposite Ambika Mill No.1 near Khokra over bridge, Gomtipur, Ahmedabad had the support of the administration (275 hutments housing approximately 1800 persons with 90 % Muslims and the other Dalits were totally destroyed).  These hutments have been in existence for over 30 years and the Gujarat High Court had ordered status quo in 1999 when the authorities sought to demolish them.  It is alleged that one PSI Modi from Gomtipur police station had come to the site in police jeep (GJ1-AR-5342).  He parked his jeep near the gate of Ambika Mill, spoke to the mob in the presence of Shri Mohan Bundela, Shri Israil Bhai Ansari and some other activists of Jan Sangarsh Manch.  The mob took out 4 to 5 bottles of diesel from the jeep of Shri Modi, which were subsequently used in torching the hutments. Another specific allegation of connivance of police was narrated by some victims at the Shah-e-Alam camp.  They charged a senior police Inspector K.K. Mysorewala with misdirecting some helpless Muslims including some young girls into the arms of a murderous mob.  (These cases were brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary by the Chairperson for immediate action).

 

      Many representatives of the NGOs/activists accused the police of outright discriminatory approach in the matter of arrest.  It was alleged by many that though it was the minority community which was under attack at all the places after the Godhra incident, the bulk of the arrests made by the police were from minority community.  Since the official presentation made before the team did not give community-wise break-up of arrests which is an important parameter of police action in the handling of communal riots, the allegations made by people holding responsible position and enjoying high reputation for their integrity cannot be rejected outright.

     

It was alleged by many that the police allowed the crowds to swell and turn violent by ignoring the calls for help from the victims of mob attack. Admitting that the police presence on such spots was very thin, it was asserted that their sense of duty demanded that they should have used  firepower to rescue the persons under attack from mob fury.  It was said by many that the police either did not use the weapons or merely fired a couple of rounds in the air without producing any deterrence.

 

It was alleged that the mobs were led by VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP activists some of whom carried mobile phones to contact others and coordinate operations.  The mobs were equipped with items like gas cylinders, kerosene oil, petrol bombs for burning people and torching people and houses, shops and business establishments.  They were seen carrying lists with full details of Muslim houses and establishments which were to be targeted.  Hotel businesses on the N.H-8 had suffered most.  About 90 percent of the commercial establishments including small shops, godowns and factories were wiped out on national highway No.8.

 

      One of the NGO representatives referred to the Govt. claim to have controlled the riots in 72 hours.  She said that all it means is that the VHP elements supported by the police were given freedom of loot and plunder for 72 hours to finish the Muslim population. It is believed by many that deployment of Army to control violence was deliberately delayed.

 

      Describing the prevailing sense of insecurity and fear in the minds of the members of the minority community, a number of representatives of the NGOs/activists including A.P. Ravani, former Chief Justice, Rajasthan, referred to the cases of Justice A Divecha, retd. Judge of Gujarat High Court who was forced to leave his house which was later burnt and Justice Qadri, a sitting High Court Judge who had to leave his bunglow in Law Garden area and move to the Judges colony as no one  assured safety and security to him and his family.

 

      Even the police officials belonging to the minority community were targets of threats from the marauding mobs. A number of gazetted police officers belonging to the minority community were advised by their superiors to remain confined in their homes during the period of violence.  The incident involving IGP, Saiyed who was in uniform with name tag and was menacingly accosted by a mob in the presence of some policemen was mentioned by a number of speakers.

 

      A number of NGOs/activists stated that the violence and destruction witnessed in Ahmedabad and elsewhere was not entirely a spontaneous reaction of the majority community to the Godhra massacre.  The suggestion made by many was that the continued disturbed situation in Gujarat appeared to be the result of at least tacit support by acts and omissions of the State Government without which this situation could not prevail. They stated, inter alia, that leaders of mobs were in constant touch with others on mobile phones, that every wing of the State Government was used to ascertain full or partial ownership of assets by the minority community.

 

 A  distressing and alarming feature of these riots pointed out is that for the first time rural and tribal areas were also affected by communal virus.  It is estimated that more than 1200 villages, particularly in districts of Panch Mahal,  Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Bharuch, Bhavnagar and Vadodra witnessed mob attacks on minority communities leading to large scale exodus.  The migration of Muslims from rural areas is attributed by many to a sustained drive launched by the VHP and Bajrang Dal during the last 8-9 years to mobilise the tribal population in revolt against the Bohra Muslim community which it is alleged is controlling businesses in rural areas.

 

 Over 100 mosques and dargahs were desecrated and damaged in Ahmedabad and about  500 in other parts of Gujarat.  (Two members of the team saw the site of Dargah of Sufi poet Wali Gujarati, revered by both the communities, near the underground bridge at Shahibag, which had been razed to the ground.)  Allegedly, the Govt., instead of protecting the site for reconstruction of the Dargah, has got the old historic Dargah ground flattened and now one sees an asphalt road with vehicles moving over it.

 

The President of Ahmedabad Sunni Muslim Waqf Board stated that 33 mosques including 7 identified as heritage sites by the ASI have been damaged.  He expressed the concern of his community for the protection of the remaining mosques particularly the ‘Jali masjid’ which is considered a treasured monument.  (The Chairperson directed the officials present in the meeting to take immediate steps in this regard.)

     

Organised attempts for effecting a social and economic boycott of the minority community was another distressing feature of the current riots stressed by many. Pamphlets and handbills were widely circulated exhorting Hindus to boycott Muslims in matters of employment and business activities.  Shri R.K. Sayed, a retired Secretary to the Govt. of India and former advisor to the Governor of J&K said in anguish that the husband of his maid servant, Rayeesa Banu, has been told not to report for work at a motor garage whose Hindu owner has been threatened not to employ any Muslim workers.  He further said that the authorities of Don Bosco school have also received threats not to allow students from the Muslim community to attend. 

 

      Godhra incident was condemned strongly and without any reservations by all.  However, a few persons attributed irresponsible behaviour of Karsevaks as the immediate provocation for the incident.  Everybody who referred to this incident emphasized the need for immediate apprehension and prosecution of the culprits and awarding of the harshest possible punishment to them.  Some members of the minority community said these persons deserve unusually severe punishment for having caused barbarous reprisals on the community by their ghastly criminal act.

 

      A total lack of faith in the State police to investigate the riot cases was voiced by many. The popular perception was that these cases will not be investigated fairly and the culprits will go scot-free. Many stated that the FIRs are either not being recorded or not recorded honestly by mentioning the accused persons named by the complainants. There was a general  demand for investigation of these cases by an outside independent agency like CBI.  This suggestion was voiced also in respect of the investigation into Godhra incident which is suspected to be pre-planned and widely believed to be the origin of the communal disturbances.

 

 A number of persons criticized the Govt. decision to modify its order regarding postponement of class X and XII examinations. They said the Govt. is forcing the traumatised  students throughout the State, except in Ahmedabad and Vadodara, to take the Board examinations at their own risk just to show that normalcy has been restored.  (On request from several persons for immediate intervention, the Chairperson advised the Chief Secretary to convey to the Chief Minister the Commission’s desire for reconsideration of the matter keeping the welfare of the students in mind.)

 

Delegation of Media persons and Activists 

A delegation of prominent media persons including Mallika Sarabhai, Teesta Setalvad and Batuk Vora met the team  and apprised it of the attempts of the Govt. to bar some TV channels for a few hours on the crucial day of carnage while allowing the Gujarati print media, which grossly violated the code of ethics laid down by the Press Council of India by its inflammatory reporting of incidents, to operate freely.  The delegation informed the team about physical attacks on several media persons, particularly  of the electronic-media, and damage caused to their cameras.  A specific instance of the burning of the branch office of Gujarat Today Daily run by a Muslim trust was cited.

Visit to relief camps

            The team visited two relief camps, one each of the minority and majority community. 

Shah-e-Alam Relief Camp 

            The camp holding about 9000 refugees is being run by Shah-e-Alam Relief Committee.  The office bearers of the Committee apprised the team of the atrocities at Naroda Patia and Naroda village which had borne the brunt of communal riots in Ahmedabad.  The Committee was informed that a 5000 strong mob armed with swords, daggers, lathies and petrol bombs attacked Naroda Patia around 9 AM on 28th February.  After damaging a masjid and razing one of its minarets to the ground, the crowd hoisted a saffron flag and burnt a heap of religious books including Holi Quran.  When the terrorized residents went to the nearby SRP camp for shelter they were pushed back by the jawans.  They went to the nearby police station where PSI K.K. Mysorewala turned down their request for a safe passage.  Ultimately these people were surrounded by the mob.  Men and women were segregated; young girls were stripped, gang raped, lynched and thrown into the burning fire.  No man was spared.  A young woman, Quasar, in advance-stage of pregnancy, pleaded for her life.  Her abdomen was slit open, the foetus was taken out and thrown into the fire. They picked up the woman and threw her into the same fire.  The survivors of Naroda Patia were brought  to the relief camp by the Shah-e-Alam Committee members.  In village Naroda, the entire Muslim locality was wiped out.  A few survivors were rescued by the Addl. Police Commissioner, Tandon, who was praised by many victims. 

            The team went round the Relief Camp and spoke to a number of families.  Each had a horrible tale of suffering to narrate.   Ameena Bibi narrated the incidents of arson and rape from 9 AM to 9 PM in Naroda Patia.  She said that MLA, Smt. Maya Ben Kudnani, was moving about in the area and encouraging the rioters.  Jannat Bibi stated that she was raped and her nephew and his son were burnt alive.  Bilkis, sole survivor of her family, stated that her mother-in-law, her husband and his brother were burnt alive.  Mariam Bibi lost her disabled son and Noor Jahan her husband.   Sharifa Bibi, wife of Iqbal Sheikh, stated  that her 18 year old son was burnt alive before her eyes.  She stated that she was a witness to the murderous attack on the pregnant woman, Quasar. Mehjabeen, wife of Iqbal Hussain,  stated that MLA, Smt. Maya Ben Kudnani, and VHP leader Dr. Jaydev Patel were openly leading the miscreants in acts of arson, killing and looting.  Naimuddin said that  his mother, sister, niece, brother-in-law and two nephews were burnt alive by the mob, some of whose members came from Gangotri Society and Gopinath Society.  He produced before the team his wife who suffered a head injury and had her right arm chopped off. 

            11 year old Raja, s/o Munna,  gave a graphic account of the incidents at Naroda Patia from 8 AM onwards on 28th  February.  He lost his mother and sister and his father is lying in a state of trauma.  

Nanhoo Miyan accused PSI K.K. Mysorewala of directing the fleeing Muslim-men and women-into the arms of the marauding crowd and ensuring that no one escaped unhurt.  Abdul Majid said that his daughter was raped by one Bhawani Singh and she died after 8 days in the hospital.  Reshma said that she took 6 days to trace her children who got separated from her in the attack.  She said she had saved 8 children from the marauding mob.  She confirmed the incident-involving the pregnant women, Quasar.  

            The office bearers of the Camp Committee praised the Collector, Ahmedabad, for being sympathetic and responsive to their needs and calls adding with a sense of hurt that no senior officer of the Government or political leader from the ruling party has visited the camp. 

            The team visited a relief camp operating from Saryudas Temple where 106 Hindu families comprising 471 members have been living since 28 Feb. Smt. Kailash Ben and two other inmates spoke to the team.  They stated that these families had moved out from their houses in Prem Darwaja Bagrivan situated in the heart of a Muslim locality. They said that they were attacked by a group of Muslims and have lost all their properties. In reply to a specific question asked by the team they said that none of their family members had been killed or injured in the incident.  They accused the SRP of not providing any help to them. The inmates had no further complaint to make either orally or in writing.  

Meeting of the Chief Minister with the Chairperson 

            Shri Narendra Modi, CM, Gujarat, called on the Chairperson at Raj Bhawan Annexe at 9 AM on 21 March and had a discussion lasting over an hour during which he assured the Chairperson of the needful being done by the Administration to restore normalcy in the State while promising to send the comprehensive report to the NHRC within the next few days.  The CM also invited the Chairperson to visit the State again after a month to see for himself the restoration of normalcy. He requested the Commission to issue suitable directions/appeal to the Insurance Companies for an expeditious settlement of property claims of the sufferers of the riots. The CM also assured the Chairperson that no student will be allowed to suffer on account of the examination policy decision. 

Delegation of Traders 

            A delegation of Beopar Mandal (Hindu) from machinery area met the team and apprised it about the burning and looting of 17 shops on  28-29 February by the members of Muslim community.  They expressed their sense of insecurity and requested the posting of an SRP picket which was there since 1985 but was removed some 8 months back by the Municipal Corporation to establish a water-piao.  (The Chairperson asked Shri Kumara Swamy, IGP, Human Rights Cell to get the request examined and make necessary arrangements for the security of these people). 

Some Karsevaks meet the team 

            Two victims of Godhra incident met the team at Raj Bhawan Annexe on 20 March. 11 year old Gayatri, d/o Harshad Bhai, is the sole survivor of her family.  She said that her mother, father and two sisters died in the fire in compartment S/6 of Sabarmati Express.  She could manage to jump out to the safe side from the burning coach.  She said that the train was attacked by a crowd, which was 1500-2000 strong.  She added that the crowd was shouting ‘Get the girls out’.  Smt. Urmila Trivedi  who accompanied Gayatri said that she was travelling in coach S/5 and was injured in stone pelting. 

            Sunil Kumar Jamna Prasad Tiwari and his brother Amarjeet met the team at Govt. Guest House on 21 March, 2002 morning.  They said that their father Jamna Prasad (67) and mother Surti Ben (54) were among the Godhra victims.  Only one of them is employed in a private TV repair shop.  They have two unmarried sisters to look after.  They requested for assistance and employment. 

            Smt. Veena Ben Rajut, a VHP activist appeared before the team at Govt. Guest House on 21st March morning. She said that the Godhra tragedy could have claimed many more lives if the train was not running late by six hours.  She said that about 2800 karsevaks were travelling in this train.  She claimed to have saved 18 people by pulling them out from the burning coach.  She said that the Muslim community wants to make Gujarat into a Kashmir.  She said that the women were particularly targeted by the mobs.  She said 3-4 women among Karsevaks are still missing.   On being asked to furnish their names, she said that they belonged to Bihar and as such she did not know their names. 

VADODARA 

            The NHRC team reached Vadodara by road from Ahmedabad around 3 p.m. on 21.3.02.  After a two hour long meeting with the district officials, it held an interaction with some eminent citizens representing various sections of civil society and thereafter received 17 delegations – 7 Muslims and 10 Hindus ranging in strength from 2 to 20.  The team, thus, met a total of 176 citizens.  The meeting with officers started with a presentation by DM, Bhagyesh Jha.  He claimed to have effectively controlled the reaction of Godhra incident in his district by mounting a vigil at the communally sensitive areas of  Dabhoi, Padra and Karajan.  On his own initiative, he could arrange a flag-march by the training unit of EME stationed at Vadodara on 1st March, in addition to the deployment of Forest Guards in rural areas. 

 The DM said that for the first time in the history of communal riots in his district, rural tribal areas were affected by the communal violence.  Army had to be diverted to tribal areas on 5th March.  2517 persons belonging to minority community were rescued and evacuated from 22 villages to safer places.  The SP, Keshav Kumar, described the particularly difficult job of shifting 100 persons from Kawant.  The DM and SP confirmed that these villages now have no member of minority community.  They did not sound confident about the safety of the property – houses, agriculture land and standing crops left behind by the evacuees.  All these persons, they informed, have been moved to the Relief camps at Godhra and Dahod.  They tried to explain the attack by tribals on members of minority community (largely Bohra Muslim traders) on the ground of economic exploitation of tribals by the traders.  Rural economy is largely controlled by the Bohra community which they said, has earned the wrath of the tribal population. 

            I.G.P (Zone) Vadodara, Deepak Swaroop who was also present, confirmed that all the districts in his range namely Bharuch, Narmada, Panchmahal and Dahod have been affected by unrest in the tribal villages resulting in the exodus of Muslim population. 

 The DM informed that 8 lives have been lost (Hindu –6 and Muslims –2) till 20 March in the district.  While the Muslim casualties (2) were at the hands of riotous mobs, 2 Hindus were killed by the rioters and 4 died in police firing.   

Shri Tuteja, Police Commissioner,  Vadodara, briefed the team about the situation in Vadodara city.  He stated that almost the entire city was affected and curfew was imposed well in time.  The Commissioner read out date-wise account of major events from 27 Feb. to 20 March. The city police swung into action from 1020 hrs. on 27 Feb. after receiving a message from the State Control Board about the attack on Karsewaks at Godhra Rly. Station.  All the P.Is and SRP personnel were alerted and patrolling was intensified. All the P.Is were briefed properly for dealing with the Gujarat Bandh on 28 February and a company of RAF was also requisitioned.  95 preventive arrests were made during 27-28 Feb. night.  The Police Commissioner accepted the observation of the team about the stabbing incident at the Rly. Station Vadodara on arrival of Sabarmati Exp. from Godhra in which one person was killed and two injured.  He said he had excluded this incident from his presentation on ‘technical reasons’ as the incident had taken place in the jurisdiction of Railway police.  Two deaths of stabbing were reported in early hours of 28 February –  one was a truck-driver and the other auto-rickshaw driver.  Curfew was imposed in areas of 6 PSs from 8 AM on 28 Feb.  It was extended to six more PS at 5.30p.m. onwards.   

The Police Commissioner claimed police effectiveness in rescuing 102 Muslim children studying in the Islamic Centre in Panigate PS.  In response to a query from the team, he admitted that the Islamic Study Centre was burnt – a fact which finds no mention in his written presentation submitted to the Commission.   

During the night intervening 1-2 March, Best bakery was set on fire in the Hanuman Tekri area on Dabhoi Road in the outskirts of the city.  A 300 strong mob armed with swords, stones and kerosene attacked and looted the bakery. After stabbing the families and workers staying in the Bakery, the building was set on fire.  9 Muslims and 3 Hindus were killed and 6 Muslims were injured in this incident.  18 accused have been identified in the FIR but no arrests could be made till then. 

The presentation made by the  Police Commissioner, Vadodara, gave the following information: 

      A total of 37 persons ( 24 Hindu, 12 Muslims and 1 other) had died in disturbances in Vadodara till 21 March (morning).  17 of them were killed in arson, 13 in stabbing incidents, 6 in police firing and 1 in pvt. firing.  The police firing resulted in killing of 3 Hindus and 3 Muslims.  A total of 125 persons – 45 Hindu & 80 Muslims have been injured in disturbances till 21 March.  16 police personnel are also reported to have been  injured.

 

The details of arrests furnished by the Police Commissioner have been found incomplete and confusing. However,  what is clear is that only 4 persons –  3 Hindu and 1 Muslim have been arrested under Arms Act and 2 (one Hindu and one Muslim) under Explosive Act.  The rest of the arrests are under Section 151 Cr. PC, Section 135 Bombay Police Act and for Curfew violations. The presentation made by the police shows that 132 vehicles including 6 luxury buses and 11 trucks were burnt and property worth over Rs. 10 crore was looted/damaged.  A total of 380 offences have been registered, 72 cases detected and 3746 arrests have been made.   

The Police Commissioner stated that 8 Mosques, 7 Dargahs and one Temple have been damaged in the disturbances.   

The death toll in Distt. Vadodara till 20 March comes to 46 including 37 in the city, one at Rly. Stn. and 8 in rural area.  The community-wise details are: Hindu 30, Muslims 15 and other 1. 

INTERACTION WITH PROMINENT CITIZENS 

            Following points emerged from the interaction: 

1.    Many members of the majority community stated that the riots were a reaction to the incident at Godhra.  They added that there had been a feeling of resentment over the increasing visits of people from Pakistan who are using Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Godhra for subversive activities.  They feel that the  Godhra attack on karsewaks was pre-planned and there is involvement of a foreign hand in it. Local Muslims and Hindus have no problem in living together peacefully.  It is only the visitors from the neighbouring country receiving huge amount of foreign money who are working to create disaster in India. 

2.     Media played a negative role by repeated display of pictures of Godhra incident which inflamed passions and infuriated the people. 

3.    Expressing a feeling of disappointment, it was stated by some persons that not many people/parties came forward to condemn the Godhra incident.  It is believed that a strong condemnation of the attack on Karsewaks at Godhra regardless of ideological differences could have cooled tempers and prevented unprecedented retaliation. 

4.    The trouble in rural areas is rooted in the economic and other forms of exploitation of tribals by traders belonging to minority community.  However, one person mentioned that it is a part of the political strategy of the ruling party in the State to mobilise grievances of the tribals in their ultimate aim of driving the Muslims out. 

5.    These riots are different from the past riots in the sense that new areas, not the traditional sensitive spots, were affected and Hindus turned offensive for the first time. 

6.   Most of the speakers praised the Administration for effectively handling the communal situation in the first phase of violence but found the same Admn. weak and also partisan after 15 March when the Ram Dhun procession in response to developments at Ayodhya was taken out.  The incident of Machhipeeth was mentioned in this connection. 

The delegations of voluntary agencies and various Citizen Committees made the following submissions before the NHRC team: 

i)                     Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Forum of Industries (18) said that the intensity of violence in the aftermath of Godhra incident would have been much less had the burning alive of Karsewaks at Godhra on 27 February been condemned promptly by all parties regardless of their ideological differences.  They blamed the ‘pseudo-secularists’ for the communal violence.  They praised the District Administration and the police for doing well despite being under tremendous strain.   

ii)                   The representatives of the Qureshi Jamat Khana praised the Collector for rescuing 400-500 Muslims.  However, they expressed their anguish over the burning of the Islamic Study Centre. 

iii)                  Representatives of Machhipeeth Musafirkhana (10) described the events of March 15 at Machhipeeth arising from the ‘Ramdhun’ call given by the VHP and Bajrang Dal after the ‘Shilladan’ at Ayodhya.  At about 2.30 p.m. a crowd of about 500 after the spiritual Aarti in the temple at Ahmedawadi marched towards Machhipeeth.  The police did not intervene in spite of an order under Section 144 Cr.PC being in force.  In the presence of 6-7 policemen who were accompanying the mob, the crowd went on raising slogans “Bandiao, go away to Pakistan”, “Babar ki Aulado Hindustan chod do”.  The rally reached Machhipeeth Naka around 3.10 p.m. after burning a number of Muslim shops including Boot House and Tower Shoes en-route .  On reaching Machhipeeth some of the rally members rushed to residential lanes with trishuls and swords and started pelting stones. Some took off their pants and danced around in the lanes.  By the time police reinforcement came in 4 Jeeps, both sides – the attackers and local residents – were engaged in stone-pelting.  The police started firing directly from stenguns and service-revolvers.  The police firing lasting for about 25 minutes was directed at the residents of Machhipeeth.  They also lobbed some tear-gas-shells. After about 15 minutes of police firing, the army personnel reached and the situation was brought under control and the rally left the scene.  The police conducted combing operation, abused the residents and arrested 13 persons including a boy of 12 years and a 60 year old TB patient.  All these people were beaten up and taken to Police Station.  

(iv)        At 7.30 p.m., on instigation from Municipal Councillor and Bajrang Dal Chief, Neeraj Jain and Ajay Dave, Bajrang Dal activists attacked the  mosque from the top of the building in the adjacent lane when a number of Muslims were offering evening Namaz.  Mr. R.N. Rathore, a Police Officer, fired some 20 rounds under the directions of Neeraj Jain.  Thereafter in combing operation, the police arrested 12 persons including a stage singer and an Advocate. All the persons arrested from Machhipeeth were booked under section 307 IPC.  The Leader of the Delegation mentioned that the 12 year old boy arrested in this case was actually a riot victim who had come to the relief camp from Tarsali area.  They also told the team that many Muslims of Machhipeeth have been relieved from their jobs by Hindu employers. 

(v)         The delegation stated that the police are reluctant to record FIRs on their complaints.  The names of the accused mentioned by them are not being recorded.  The police knows the persons in some cases who are involved in looting of shops.  The police is persuading them to throw away the looted property on the streets which is being seized as unclaimed property without initiating any action against the looters.  However, even this delegation stated that the performance of the administration has been satisfactory and many lives were saved. 

(vi)        The delegation of Bajrang Dal stated that disturbances were a reaction to the Godhra incident. They referred to strong resentment among  Hindus over the news of slaughtering of 300 cows at Bharuch on the last Id day.   

(vii)               Praveen Rawal of Hindu Suraksha Dal said that the large concentration of refugees near Wasna Road, Diwalipura area, was causing tension and the camps should therefore be shifted from there.  

(viii)       It was mentioned by most of the delegations that the media had over-played the incident of 27 February at Godhra and thus played a negative role by inflamming passions. 

(ix)        Shri Kirit Bhatt, President, PUCL, Gujarat, informed the team about the plight of Prof. J.S. Bandukwala, a respected citizen of Vadodara and an active member of PUCL who has been a consistent critic of both Hindu and Muslim fundamentalism.  A mob of around 20 people attacked his house at 10 a.m. on 28 February.  One car in his compound was completely burnt and the other was damaged.  Prof. Bandukwala and his daughter were saved by their Hindu neighbours who gave them protection.  However, he had to leave his house under police escort after his house was attacked again the following day and his Hindu neighbours went into hiding for 3-4 days fearing an attack on them.

(x)        Shri Kirit Bhatt informed the team that situation in Vadodara had become tense on 27 February afternoon after the incident of stabbing in the presence of police at the Railway Stn. when the Sabarmati Express arrived from Godhra.  One Muslim was killed and two were injured. Shri Bhatt blamed the local political leaders for using the electronic local media in the most despicable manner.  He requested the Commission to see the video-cassette of the speeches made on Local TV Channel (JTV, Deep and VNM) by Ajay Dave, Nalin Bhatt, Deepak Kharchikar, Neeraj Jain, Bhartiben, Jitendra Sukhadia and others.  Shri Kirit Bhatt stated that from the 15th of March, the second round of violence erupted when the VHP gave a call for Ramdhun procession in response to the Shilladan at Ayodhya.  The Muslim establishments which survived the fury of first round were systematically attacked in the second round. 

GODHRA 

            The team arrived at Godhra around 10 AM on 22nd March. The District Magistrate, Ms. Jayanthi S. Ravi, briefed the team about the current situation. The team thereafter visited the site near the railway station where the coaches S-5 and S-6 of Sabarmati Express which were the target of attack on 27th Feb. stand parked.  The team inspected both the coaches and observed that in coach S-6 everything except the steel frame was completely gutted.  The team then went to the railway station and spoke to Shri Jai Singh Katija, Station Superintendent, and some eye witnesses of the incident of 27th Feb.  Shri Shafi Ghulam Rasool, a tea stall owner, said that around 8 AM on 27th Feb. when the Sabarmati Express arrived, he had seen  the slogan-shouting passengers who alighted from the train.  He heard about their altercation with tea vendor, Siddiqui Bokkar, only after the train left.  Shri Bhairon Singh, tea vendor, stated that the karsevaks had quarreled with Siddiqui.  Constable Karan Singh Yadav of RPF said that he had seen 2-3 passengers in a scuffle with the tea vendor.  ASI, GRP, Chatter Singh Chauhan, said that the karsevaks were trying to force the tea vendor to raise the slogan ‘Jai Shri Ram’.  He also stated that one of the karsevaks had pulled the beard of a Muslim tea vendor and asked him to utter the words ‘Jai Shri Ram’.  They also beat the vendor.  After the train started and before it could leave the platform, the  chain was pulled.  As the train halted, it was attacked with stones from the left side. The GRP staff rushed to the train, chased away the crowd and the train was made to leave.  However, there was second chain pulling and the train stopped at a distance of about one kilometer from the railway station near ‘A’ cabin.  It was at this spot that coaches S/5 and S/6 were heavily stoned by a mob, which later burnt coach S/6.  SI M.J. Jhalla, PSO , GRP said that he had learnt about the incident at 8 AM and before he reached the spot at 8.15 AM, the coach had already been burnt.  His estimate of the crowd was 500 to 700.  He said that on his orders the RPF had fired 4 rounds to disperse the mob.  Shri Jai Singh Katija, Station Supdt. said that he had come after the incident and learnt about the altercation between the karsevaks and Muslim tea vendor  over the raising of ‘Shri Ram Bolo’ slogan and subsequent attack on the train.  He said that the train had arrived at 7.43 AM and left at 7.48 AM.  The first chain pulling was at 7.50 AM.  The train again left at 7.55 AM and came to halt at 7.58 AM with the second chain pulling.  He said he alerted the civil authorities, the RPF and GRP rushed to the spot.  After the district police came, situation was brought under control by resorting to firing, which resulted in killing of 2 attackers.  The police firing was effective in chasing away the attackers and preventing any further loss of life. 

            The DM briefed the team about the action taken by the District Administration to arrange medical aid for the injured, and move the train at 12.40 PM after detaching the coaches S/5 and S/6. The tragedy had taken 58 lives – 26 women, 12 children and 20 men – all burnt alive.  She described the arrangements made by the District Administration for the despatch of bodies after the post mortem examinations were conducted the same day.  

            Anticipating violent reaction to the ghastly incident, the DM imposed curfew in Godhra city at 10.55 AM on the same day.  Curfew was imposed in Kalol city, Vejalpur, Derol and Halol, Lunawada and Gohoghamba cities on the 28th February. Curfew was imposed in Santrampur city on 1st March and at Mora, Rampur  (Kasanpur) Natapur and Morva Hadaf on the 2nd March.  Army was called on 1st March and its 3 columns were deployed at  Godhra, Lunawada and Halol where effective flag-marches were held.  8 miscreants were injured in army fire on 3 March and one on 4 March.  Army had to resort to firing to clear access to some villages blocked by the miscreants from where members of minority community had to be rescued. Army columns were used effectively in intensive patrolling and were helpful in rescuing members of the minority community. 

 

The DM informed that a total of 7569 persons were rescued – 1065 from Godhra and the rest from 27 villages and taken to safer places.  The SP and the DM confirmed that no Muslim population has been left behind in these 27 villages.  They could not give a definite reply about the safety of their houses, agricultural land and the standing crops left behind by these persons.

 

            Special police protection has been provided at the following places with estimated number of the Muslim population given against each:

Sr. No.

Places

Taluka

Estimated No. of people

1.

Karanta

Khanpur

4000

2.

Aantalwada

Kadana

5000

3.

Pallav

Rajgadh

2100

4.

Baska

Halol

1200

5.

Khandivav

Jambughoda

100

6.

Vejalpur

Kalol

800

 8169 persons are accommodated in 7 relief camps including the Iqbal Primary School camp at Godhra.  These camps are being run by the minority community itself with supply of food-grains and milk by the administration.

             The DM stated that 81 riot causalities have been reported from the district – 77 Muslims and 4 Hindus.  9 persons have died in army/police firing.  Pandarwada (23 killed), Kalol (14), Limidya (13) and Anjanvav (11) are the worst affected villages. 

 Casualties in firing are: Army – 1 (Hindu) GRP 2 (Muslim), police 6 (3Hindus and 3 Muslims). 

 As per preliminary estimates, 2595 houses, 801 shops and commercial establishments and 223 vehicles have been damaged in the riots.

             A total of 144 offences have been registered on charges of murder (17), attempt to murder (3), robbery/docoity (45), arson (54) and     rioting (25).

 A total of 405 persons (320 Hindus and 85 Muslims) have been arrested during the period from 27th Feb to 20 March 2002.  They include 11 prominent public leaders, 4 of minority community and 7 of majority community. 

 Shri P.P. Agja, Spl IGP, CID Crime, could not answer satisfactorily the team’s queries about investigation of the crime case registered in connection with the train burning at Godhra on 27 February.  He informed that two cases have been registered under relevant sections of the IPC, Indian Railways Act and POTO on 27 February.  Both are being investigated by Shri K.C. Bava, SDPO, Western Railway, Ahmedabad,  and are being supervised by him.  It shows that the investigation of this important case, has not been formally transferred to the State CID.

 A total of 12 Dargahs and 23 mosques have been destroyed in the district during communal violence.  Cases have been registered for each incident and a total of 76 persons of Hindu community have been arrested.

 Visit to Relief Camp at Godhra

             The team visited the Iqbal Primary School Relief Camp which is holding 3040 persons.  It is the only relief camp at Godhra.  The team met some victims of violence and heard pathetic accounts of their suffering and misery.

 Noorunisa, a ten-year old girl from village Pandarwada stated that her uncle was killed in the riots.  Bilkis, about 25 years, of Mora village in Morva (H. Taluka) said that she was raped by a group of persons at village Randikapura in Limkheida Taluka of District Dahod.  The DM informed that her complaint was recorded by the Executive Magistrate in which she has named 12 persons.  The FIR was also registered and transferred to Limkheida police station for further action.  In the FIR she had mentioned only 3 names.  Additional names mentioned before the Executive Magistrate are being intimated to SP, Dahod.

 Maqsooda, a young woman bearing marks of injury caused by sword on her head, has been rescued from village Anjanva.  She said  that she was thrown into a well along with her two children who are no more.  She said that a total of 12 persons were thrown into the well.  Only three of them could be rescued.  The rest nine died.  This was confirmed by the D.M.

 Delegations

 The team heard 6 delegations of Hindus and 2 of Muslims.  Shri KP Seth, representing Federation of Panchmahal Industries stated that the Hindus have been the target of attacks by Muslims since Independence and their patience is wearing out and it is, therefore, natural for them to take the offensive.

  Mr. Sharad Shah, Educationist said that the disturbances are caused  only by ‘Goondas’ belonging to both the communities.

 Shri Kishore Lal Bhayani. Ex-President, Nagar Palika Sindhi Society pointed out the need for strengthening police presence at railway station, old bus stand and two other places.  He stated that frequent reports of cow-slaughter by Muslims is causing provocation to Hindus.

 Son of Sanji Bhai Damor, 7 time MP (Lok Sabha) from Dahod said that the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had incited tribals to attack Muslims and that property worth crores has been destroyed in these attacks.

 Ahmed Bhai Kalota, District President, Janta Dal, said that the present policies of Govt. cannot bring about peace.  He criticized the Govt. for arresting innocent persons including the President of Godhra Municipal Corporation in the Godhra incident case.  He also criticized selective application of POTO.  He said that about 100 Muslims have been burnt in village Pandarwada.

             Jainuddin of Bohra community condemned Godhra incident and held both the communities equally responsible for communal violence. He appealed for speedy rehabilitation of the displaced persons and restoration of communal harmony.

 As the number of persons desirous of meeting the team of the Commission in each city was vast, they were encouraged to express their views, whenever possible, in groups and to submit their views in writing.  The Commission regrets that it was impossible, within the constraints of the time available and the circumstances prevailing on the ground, to meet individually with all of those who sought to interact with the team.  However, all such persons were also requested to submit their views and concerns to the Commission in writing, for the study and consideration of the Commission.  A large number of written representations were thus submitted to the team, both during its stay in Gujarat and subsequently.  All of these are being carefully examined.

 Sd/-

                                                                                    (Y.S.R. Murthy)

                                                                               PS to Chairperson

31 March, 2002