Gujarat – One year later

I am writing this historic letter to you. I am making you aware of what is happening in the country after analysing history and assessing historic truth as well as the current situation, and warning you…. I have come to make you sleepless…. The life subscription for the Parishad is Rs. 2,000. The life subscription for Vishwa Hindu Samachar is Rs. 600. Donate Rs. 15,000 (rupees fifteen thousand) for each family of those arrested. Give the traitorous Muslims a taste of patriotism by boycotting them socially and economically……Peace cannot be attained by begging: Crores of united and powerful Hindus will be able to establish peace and security in the country.

— Chinubhai N. Patel, Vishwa Hindu Parishad state leader, Vishwa Hindu Parishad Office, Paldi, Ahmedabad
The only solution is financial boycott. Anti-national elements that are using the money they earn with our cooperation to weaken us. They buy arms and molest our sisters and daughters. The answer to these elements lies in — Financial Non-Cooperation Movement, Come! Let us resolve: (1) I will not buy anything from any Muslim shopkeeper (2)    I will not sell my goods to these elements (3) Neither use these traitors’ hotels or their garages (4) I will give my car to Hindus’ garages only. From a needle to gold, do not buy anything made by a Muslim nor sell anything made by us to them (5) Boycott movies casting Muslim heroes-heroines. Banish films of traitorous producers.(6) Never work in Muslims’ offices and do not employ Muslims.

Such a stringent economic boycott will suffocate those elements and break their backs. Then it will be difficult for them to live in any corner of the country. Friends, start this boycott from today so that no Muslim will have the guts to lift his head before us and live. Have you read this newsletter? Then make 10 copies and distribute it amongst our brethren….
— A true Hindu patriot

“Yeh kaum saamne hove nahin; yeh kaum kabhi aage badhe nain; yeh poore setting ke saath hua hai kaam!”
(That this community should not be seen or heard, should never move up in life; plans were swiftly put into operation to realise this objective)

These words, spoken by Usmanbhai Malek from Por village in Gandhinagar district barely 45 minutes drive away from the epicentre of hatred in Gujarat –Ahmedabad — on March 25, 2003, seem to sum up the situation.  The cycle shop that he had run for decades, catering to Hindus and Muslims alike, was destroyed, as were the 80 homes belonging to 400 Muslims in the post-Godhra genocide on the night of February 27-28 2002. In the traumatic months that he and other refugees from this area spent at the Mandali camp, a Hindu cycle shop was swiftly installed in its place. Today the Patel dominated village has no more use for Malek’s services and he and all other Muslims who are not solely dependent on land, face crippling economic and social boycott.

This coupled with clear attempts to pressurise victim survivors into not fighting for justice, makes everyday life in Gujarat an appalling and frightening experience.

Muslim women from over 40 households who used to work as agricultural labourers are not entertained, and youth who drove transport vehicles have had their businesses taken over. Hunger and deprivation continues to hit the 400 Muslim residents of Por, with over 70 young persons out of jobs. The total strength of this Patel dominated village is 5,000, of which Muslims number 1,100. Women were also involved in milching cattle, an occupation that is today unavailable to them as they do not have access to buffaloes that were either stolen or driven away. The mosque in Por, which was systematically pulled down using a bulldozer belonging to the municipal corpration, has however been re-built. While some of the village elders such as Nathubhai Nagar are trying to break the social boycott, others  insist that for Muslims,  the quid pro quo for leading a normal life will be their withdrawal of the pending criminal case where 35 villagers have been accused of rioting and arson. With the survivors adamant on getting justice, (senior advocate Allah Rakha is appearing for the victims), the deadlock, stealthily, continues.

In Por, Kasimbhai has been unemployed for over a year, after he lost his tabela and five milch cattle in the pre-planned destruction. He incurred a loss of Rs 1.5 lakhs and is one of the rare victims who received the full Rs 50,000 promised as house compensation. Recently he has bought, on loan, two buffaloes from a relative and is attempting to eke out a living.

A similar situation prevails in many of the other villages of Gandhinagar rural district. In Adalaj, 25 homes were rebuilt and people have returned, without work however. Kunadasa and Koba have just one Muslim home each. Jametpura has 10-15 Muslim homes, and  residents of Khoraj  with 250 homes also face stringent boycott. In Khoraj, actually, the post-Godhra tension and violence was cleverly used to capture the kabrastan by force, that too, by the panchayat leader, Ganpatbhai Patel. He summoned terrified Muslims on the night of February 27-28, 2002 itself and told them directly that if they wished to live there in peace, they would have to hand over the graveyard land to the Patels because the land lies near their homes and “aakhon mein ata tha” (it offends our sight). If they did not agree it would be burnt down. Terrified, Muslims agreed and because they were given grazing land outside the village as a substitute, no case was filed.

One year after the gruesome genocide that shocked the nation, 10 of Gujarat’s 24 districts have achieved the VHP-BJP-BD aim, penned succinctly by Chinnubhai Patel in the pamphlet quoted above, which was distributed in hundreds of thousands. In most areas of Ahmedabad and Vadodara and villages of Gandhinagar, Vadodara rural, Anand, Panchmahal, Mehsana, Kheda and Dahod, insidious economic and social boycott  continues to cripple the Muslim minority that is still reeling from the effects of  last year’s brutal violence. It is only the villages and areas that have a sizeable Muslim population that has built up a steely resistance to the politics of hatred and division through the security of numbers — ghettoisation is the stark solution in post-carnage Gujarat.

Parts of hard core Ahmedabad are no better. While overt aggression and violence has subsided, and in many areas of business and enterprise a sharp cleavage may not be visible,  as Yakubbhai Shaikh of Karnavati Travels, a prosperous monopoly transport business puts it, “Dil khule nahin” (Hearts have not opened up). Despite the police having recorded a huge loss of Rs. 25 lakhs on his Hotel, there has been no compensation forthcoming except the minimal Rs 50,000. A long-time owner of the Karnavati Hotel at Vatwa GIDC, which was burnt down and has now been re-built, he painfully recalls how non-Muslims simply do not enter the premises anymore.

“My transport business is a monopoly business and I have a 16 year old relationship with factory owners so that side is okay. I still feel however, that if they had options, I would have been dumped as so many other have been.” He is hopeful however that the passage of time will heal the schism.

Divisive and corrosive sentiments in Ahmedabad run high and deep, Courts, hospitals, bastis —none seem immune. A week ago, a well-placed advocate in the Gujarat High Court (name witheld) was shocked when he could get no doctors to examine and attend to one of the 6 accused, allegedly held for a plot to kill chief minister Narendra Modi. There is scant proof of the charges levelled against the hapless accused but when one of them fell ill, doctors he contacted simply refused to see him because one, he was Muslim and two he was an accused! So much for fair trial and justice.

In another bizarre incident some months ago, a senior advocate of the Gujarat bar quietly told his junior, a Muslim, to stop attending his chambers. While no pointed reasons were given, the generally held belief among senior members of the bar is that it was the identity of the lawyer that had guided the decision.

Naroda Gaon and Patiya will be remembered for the planned and bloody decimation of over 110 innnocents, in cold blood, led by elected representatives. The changes to these mass crimes have not yet been framed. Instead of honest and fair investigations, trumped-up charges on an FIR (No. 101/2002) filed by ASI Satuji Shivaji, which did not then name the accused, has, on August 5, 2002, falsely named and led to the arrest of one Bismillah Khan Pathan and 11 others. These 12 are believed to be eye-witnesses to MLA Dr. Maya Kotdani and Gujarat VHP general secretary, Dr. Jaideep Patel’s direct participation in the violence. It is only recently that six of them  obtained bail. What is more shocking is that none of the persons who were listed in these complaints, especially the leaders of the organisations, have been arrested, no identification parade held and no action whatsoever been taken against the police officers, despite repeated allegations and complaints of police complicity.

 Several testimonies and sworn affidavits before the Shah-Nanavati Commission reveal that witnesses have identified, by name, Guddu Chhara, Suresh Chhara, Jai Bhavani Singh as accused in heinous crimes of sexual violence and rape. Yet these men roam scot-free, as do the instigators who are men and women with clout and power. Today their freedom is a daily taunt to the survivors at Naroda Gaon and Patiya, and it makes a mockery of the process of justice in this country.
 This and most of the other   Ahmedabad cases are yet to begin, and no charges have been framed by the Sessions Court so far.

Though over 110 persons were quartered and killed at Naroda Gaon and Patiya, few bodies were recovered. Before the violence, there were 825 houses at Naroda Patiya. Only 400 homes have been repaired, and in which families have returned to live. Forty-five families from here now have homes in Vatwa, while 16 homes for widows and another 25 homes were built by the Citizens Relief Services (management of Shah-e-Alam camp) around Narol-Bombay Hotel. This makes a total of 486 families. Another  140 families who  could afford it resettled elsewhere. This makes a total of 626 families within Ahmedabad. A total of 199 families from Patiya have fled. The homes are in the same state as they were after the violence erupted. Forty-five widows here receive monthly aid. But the rest of the families, who used to work as rickshaw drivers and pullers and daily wage earners are without work, on the verge of starvation. The children cannot go to school. In all, before the violence there were 445 families at Naroda Patiya, working in nearby factories. For four-six  months they lived in camps. They were replaced at work, both men and women. Today they are all unemployed because their jobs have been filled. If they get work at all, they are paid half the daily rate. This may not be called a direct boycott but it is nevertheless a fall out of the violence. Men used to be paid Rs. 100-150 a day, working in small-scale units making plastic items, while women were paid Rs. 50. Today, if and when they get work, it is at half the amount.

But it is the raw humiliation of knowing that those guilty of unspeakable humiliations and violence roam free and taunt them that makes daily life unbearable. Fatimabi, a victim survivor who lost eight family members in the massacre, has three girls of marriageable age. She used to run a flour mill. “Earlier I used to earn Rs. 400 per day, and after paying the electricity  bill used to have Rs. 350 left over. Today, there are no Muslims to give me custom and the Hindus who used to come earlier have stopped coming to my chakki. How do I survive?”

“Ham majboori mein reh rahe hai, we have to because we have homes here. Where else can we stay? We are terrified. Every 15 days or two months when there is tension, we flee our homes. Is this living?” she asks. The last time they fled was about a fortnight ago, after Haren Pandya was killed. “Yeh koi zindagi nahin hui..this is no young girls, they are taunted at by the same —s who performed those acts on so many girls and women..they roam scot- free. Guddu Chhara, Suresh Chhara, Bhavani Chhara..They taunt us that ‘we will rape you.’ We want justice,” she says, “even if we remain hungry…Roti mil jati hai; lootne ke baad aadha pet se bhi aadmi ji sakyta hai.” Hame sirf insaaf chahiye.” (Food we can get; someone who has been looted of all their worldly belongings can live with hunger. But we want justice.)

Legal Status

  • Out of 961 registeread cases, 447 cases are being consigned away as “A” or “B” final summary.
  • In sector–I, out of 15 police stations, there are 496 cases registered. Out of these, 200 cases are being consigned away as “A” or “B” summary (registered complaints are wrong or accused are not available). In 293 cases, inquiry has been completed and in 3 cases inquiry is still going on.
  • In the same way, in sector–II, out of 15 police stations, there are 465 cases registered. Out of these, 214 are being consigned  away as “A” or “B” summary (in 80% cases “A” summary and in rest “B” summary), in 215 cases inquiry has been completed and in 36 cases inquiry is still going on.

Gauri Beevi Mohammed Qureshi has stated in her complaint that on February 28, 2002, the police were present but did not do anything to stop the mobs. On the contrary, the police fired at the victims, and, in this firing, the husband of Ayesha Beevi one Abidbhai Pathan and Shabnam Beevi Sheikh were killed. A number of shops were looted, houses were burnt with kerosene, petrol and gas cylinders. The police were present during this entire episode and when victims approached them, the police asked them to run away elsewhere.

KK Mysorewalla PSI has been quoted in testimonies (see Gujarat genocoide 2002) as telling victims who appealed for help that, “Today your time has come. We have been told not to help. There are orders from the top.”  In an affidavit sworn before the Shah-Nanavti Commission of Inquiry, Mohammed Iqbal, a labourer residing at Naroda Patiya,  affirms that he was eye-witness to MLA Maya Kotdani, along with others whom he identified, indulging in attacks and arson. “My family and I attempted to escape to save our lives and at that time I saw Mayaben Kotdani, Bipin Singh and some members of the VHP and Bajrang Dal. They attacked and looted my house and injured my family.”

A similar refusal by the state of Gujarat to push the justice process marks the proceedings of the trial in the Gulberg society case. The ghastly massacre of former MP, Ehsan Jafri and at least 70 others at the Gulberg society, Chamanpura on February 28, 2002, shook the conscience of the nation. Two FIRs were filed by the Inspector Erda of the Meghaninagar police station. Even now, more than a year later, the trial of the above case has not  begun. The ‘charge’ is yet to be framed.  Moreover, 18 eye-witnesses to the crime, have petitioned the trial court hearing the case in a special application, and accompanied by affidavits sworn on oath, detailing the blatant attempts to subvert the investigations. Investigations were undertaken without the preliminary and necessary legal practice of recording statements of eye–witnesses.

The charge-sheets were filed by the Gujarat police in November 2002, but the charge-sheets have excluded the names of key accused named in the FIR – Ramesh Pandey, Choti, Rajesh Dayaram Jinger, Bharat, Kali, Dilip, Gabbar, Kapil Munnabhai, Bharat Kali Mansingh, Prabhudas Jain.  Witnesses petitioned the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad, Kaushik on November 25, 2002, pointing out this discrepancy, to no avail. This amounts to the investigating agency protecting the accused..

Eye-witnesses to the quartering, slaughter and burning alive of Mr. Jaffri have testified on oath to the fact that Police Commissioner PC Pandey visited the colony at 10.30 a.m. when the Gulberg society had been under seige by a carefully orchestrated mob of thousands since 7.30 a.m. on the fateful day of February 28, 2002. The NHRC, in its confidential report on Gujarat, has stated,“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 Chaudhry, former Chief Minister, Gujarat narrated to the team his futile efforts in seeking police help for Shri Ahsan Jaffery, former MP. He claimed to have personally contacted the Police Commissioner, P.C.Pandey, at 10.30 A.M. on 28 February and apprised him of the imminent danger to the life of Shri Jaffrey. The Police Commissioner assured him that police assist-ance will be dispatched rapidly. He reminded him again after receiving another frantic call from Ahsan Jaffery that no police reinforcement had reached his place and that the few policemen present were ineffective and unwilling to control the violent mob. Shri Chaudhry 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 2.00 P.M. Shri Jaffery was burnt alive along with his family and 39 others (total killed–50).”

Trade uionist and advocate Amrish Patel, secretary of the Gujarat Mazdoor Sabha, has recently taken up 16 cases of Muslims from Ahmedabad summarily dismissed from their workplace after 10-20 years of service on grounds of identity. He will be challenging their dismissal under section 25(1) of the Industrial Disputes Act and also on grounds of social boycott. Of the 16 victimised employees, some were small dealers, three worked as watchmen and three as clerks in small businesses. This is probably for the first time that labour laws will be used to challenge the social and economic boycott of a community.

Similarly in Vadodara, over 17 persons were dismissed from the Gujarat Electricity Board following anonymous complaints on their character being received by the authorities. All of them are Muslim.

In the Savli taluka of Vadodara rural, that has 252 villages,, Muslims live in Manjusar, Tundav*, Paladhi, Lasundhra, Gothdra*, Savli*Karchia*, Vakaner*, Ranier, Devnagar, Mokshi, Bhadarva, Desar, Pandu*Dhantej*, Vaccheshwar* (*Muslims majority). Traditionally Savli was a Congress bastion; this election brought the BJP to power. The shift has also meant a distinct shift in the atmosphere with Muslims suffering discrimination and boycott. The local police is also extremely partisan. In Bhadarva, the local Masjid pulled down with a bulldozer, was not repaired, In Sokhda, the  BJP man won seats after garnering Muslim votes in a ‘compromise’ offer for their safety therafter. Dilip (Dilavar) Dadhi, a Gharasia who had run a camp for 600 refugees until May 2002 was the chief negotiator for the Muslims.The dargah at Samliah, in Savli taluka, Vadodara remains destroyed and damaged with no repairs, one year later.

At Manjusar, 3 km from Tundva (18 km from Vadodara), also in Savli taluka, Shailesh Patel, who is the VHP president of Savli taluka unit, has his wife, Mrs. Meenabehn as the taluka panchayat member of the BJP. Shailesh’s friend, Raju Sanabhai Patel (Maya Traders), has a hooch and petrol business, and the violence was led by him. Both Shailesh and Raju had gone to Ayodhya by bus; the bus returned on March 1. Three police officials here, circle police Inspector  Katara, deputy sup. of police DN Patel (allegedly responsible for most of the atrocities against Muslims), and Tundav head constable (jamadar) Pardhi, have and continue to display a strong anti-Muslim bias. Victims stated that they sit at Maya Traders and make programmes of how “Mussalmanon ko kaisa “fit” karte hain.” (How we can fix the Muslims). The atmosphere as one drives through the villages of Vadodara rural, many of which cultivate the best quality tobacco in the country is infected by terror and suspicion.

Godhra epitomises the deep divide that prevails in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat. Villagers who returned to Pandharwada village where over 70 innocents were brutally killed, continue to eke out a minimum existence, living in terror.
The manner in which the criminal trial into the Godhra mass arson is being handled raises serious questions.  Fifty-eight Kar Savaks were burnt alive in the S 6 coach of the Sabarmati Express. That the Godhara tragedy reflected abysmal failure of State intelligence, both before and after the incident is a fact that has been stated before. The unprofessional manner in which the trial has been conducted can be judged from the proceedings. The state has arreste 71 persons who have been detained allegedly violating due process of law since they have not appeared in court since last June 2002, after their arrests.

POTA has been invoked post-facto in the Godhra case, indicating malafide intent and violating the provisions of the act itself. The Ahmedabad based government Forensic Science Laboratory report has interesting findings about the mystery of the fire, that should  warrant neutral investigations but these findings are not being taken into consideration at all.

Serum has been injected into 5 accused before questions were put to them last May 2002, in gross violations of human rights laws and international regulations.

The affidavits of six relatives, including the wife of Maulana Umerji, filed before the Supreme Court in late March 03 (in the petition filed by eminent citizens and supported by the Citizens for Justice and Peace, Mumbai urging transfer of investigations to the CBI) reveal how the due process of law has been subverted in the Godhra trial. They have appealed that in the course of the investigations fair and due process of law is not being followed, that their relatives have been wrongfully confined and illegally detained, to no avail, and therefore, the apex Court should intervene. There is a real possibility that,  in the Godhra trial, innocents will be punished and those guilty of this heinous crime will escape unpunished.
The affidavits filed by the relative of six, allegedly illegal detainees reveal:

1) The wife of Inayat Abdus Sattar Jujhara, a government servant, who was arrested for alleged involvement in the Godhra arson states that his office records show that between 11 –1 a.m on February 27, 2002 he was working at  Panan Jara Sarai Yojana, a ward of the education department of the Gujarat government. Yet, the police have stated in their statement that they have arrested him at 9 a.m.on that day when government records show to the contrary. He was wrongfully arrested and therefore his arrest was malafide.

His past record in government service has been good and he has no criminal record. Given the injustice of his arrest, she approached the Honorable trial court in an application for fair trial, yet there was no redressal.

2)The father of Ishaq Mohammad Mamdoo has also testified on oath that his son Ishaq Mohammad Mamdoo who is totally (100 per cent) blind has been wrongfully confined and named as accused in the Godhra arson. He is 24 years old and had even applied for government aid in 1997 claiming 100 per cent blindness. How could he have had any part in the crime? Due to the anguish caused to the family by the shameful detention of their visually handicapped son, his mother died out of sorrow two months ago. Their whole family has been ripped apart by the unfairness of the trial that has left them little faith in justice.

 3) The mother of Abdul Razzak, states that her son, a prominent businessman of Godhra was illegally detained for a whole year, suffering loss in personal reputation and business for alleged involvement in the arson.  She made an application to the trial court for proper investigation. Yet the court did not act. The family was kept in anguish for a whole year, her son was kept in a place they did not know, taken 156 km away to high security prisons. Shockingly, her son was also injected with serum for questioning that dulled his mind.

Justice Denied

Best Bakery Incident, Vadodara City
On March 1,2003 at 8.30 p.m. a mob of 200-300 people looted the Best Bakery,  set fire tao the room. A family of 5 people was burnt alive, 3 workers were hacked to death, 16 people were attacked and 4 workers injured. The incident took place after the staff from the local police Panigate police station drove by. Zahira, a victim and an eye-witness, was made to give her statement 3 times, and sign it, but the statement was not read out to her nor was she allowed to read it. Police did not come for over an hour even after being repeatedly called. The NHRC has recommended that this case requires to be investigated by CBI. The chargesheet has been filed but the trial is yet to begin.

Abasana Trial
The trial is on and victims have approached the Supreme Court for cancellation of bail after the Gujarat High Court granted bail to 29 of the 33 accused.
The criminal  trials at Ghodasar, Kheda, Kalol and Sardarpur Mehsana are underway.            

 4)  The wife and brother of of Abdur Rehman Yusuf Dhantiya have also stated that he has been illegally detained in connection with the Godhra arson when he was not even in Godhra at the time. He was in Bhudaaya, 7 kilometres away at a flour mill at the GIDC there. The person falsely accused was, it is their contention, helping to put out the fire.  Yet a man who was helping the police with water to douse the fire has been illegally detained and this shows malafide intent of the authorities. Due to this, they even approached the trial court urging for proper investigation.

5)  The allegedly illegal detention of Maulana Umerji is also a case in point. The accused, a religious preacher with a strong social conscience, has been illegally detained since February 6, 2003 and denied basic rights as a prisoner. His health, which is very frail, is faulty, he has been refused even a walking stick.

His record, during the past communal disturbances of Godhra,  in 1965, 1969, 1980 and 1989, when he helped the authorities to maintain peace by being active part of a peace committee are well known. Local DMs, DSPs and government officials have appreciated his role at times of conflict.

Mehsana is another district still reeling under the politics of the sangh parivar. While Muslims of Dasaj town have managed to carve out a secure corner for themselves —Dasaj proved a challenge to the BJP-VHP onslaught from over 45 villages last year when they held out against the onslaught led by MLA Naran Laloo Patel and others and moreover also gave shelter to refugees from nearby villages.

Says, advocate Yunusbhai Khan Faridkhan Pathan “ Position theek hai” The position is alright as far as survival goes. People living in Dasaj, about  1000-1200 of the total population of 5,500 have been left alone because we had put up a resistance…But the economic boycott is strong. They don’t let us buy from their shops; kheto mein kaam nahin karne dete. (They don’t let us work in their farms) Kaam aur roji roti cheen liya hai.(They have snatched away our daily earning)  As many as 50-60 labourers are jobless.Whatever we have is land, which is badly affected by drought this year.”

Residents in and around Dasaj  cannot even step into Patel areas of Dasaj town, nor work in their fields. The worst impact is the denial of access to shops with basic commodities —electric/cement/milk/vegetables/medical. The shops are all located on ‘their’ (Patel) side and they simply do not let the Muslim residents use them.

Says Pathan, “Even for medicines we have to go 16 km away to a town like like Sidhpur where the local situation is better. In Dasaj the boycott is very strong. The medical shop belongs to a Prajapati  and we are not allowed to go there. Dr. Narottambhai Patel, refuses to even treat us whereas one other Patel, Dr. Laksmanbhai Patel does come to our areas to give us treatment; Narottambhai follows the pratibandh (boycott).” As a result of this sustained and successful denial of access to basic amenities, Muslims have now set up their own rented vegetable outlet and shop for groceries.  They have also made arrangements for a Muslim khalifa (barber) since the Hindu one does not or cannot meet their requirements and a Muslim dhobi too, has been brought to Dasaj for its residents.

In the land of Gandhi, his bitter detractors have managed to sow deep distrust and division.

Schooling remains a critical problem for the residents of Dasaj because, again, the school for Stds IV-X, to which about 70 Muslim children need to go, is located in a Patel mohalla. The school for the little ones is regarded as relatively safe as it is at Char Rasta, Indira Nagar, a mixed mohalla, which is not such a frightening prospect.

Elderly residents from Dasaj including chacha Hatikhan Hayat Khan Pathan ex-sarpanch of the town, who had testified before a national audience in April last year and even met the then President, KR Narayanan, is bitter and sad. “Bahishkar chaloo hai… Dil toot gaye; Allah ke madat se Dasaj bach gaya. (The boycott is on. Hearts have been broken. Due to the will of god, Dasaj was saved.)The main aim was to destroy the Muslims of Dasaj who, living in 150 homes, faced an attack of huge mobs from 45 villages. “They did not succeed but we still suffer.”

Of the other towns in Mehsana district, Siddhpur and Mehsana itself are  manageable. Businesses on the highway, too, continue.

But Unjha, a huge agricultural market, has been purged of Muslims.There was unmentionable violence and marginalisation; so no one returned. The land on which the Mosque and Madrassa stood—that were destroyed by a bulldozer—is today still in the possession of the collector. Earlier, 100 persons from Dasaj would go to earn their living at Unjha, in different businesses. “This is out of the question now…who knows whether we will come back?”

Kadih is another economic centre where some business and earnings for the minority have been possible.  The former MLA and minister Niteen Patel who led the violence lost in the elections and has been replaced by a candidate from the Thakore community who has helped to restore a semblance of normalcy.

In Umta gaon, in Mehsana, where KPS Gill himself had started a rehabilitation programme, though 225 homes were built, a bitter boycott against the minorities continues. “Intermingling has stopped,” says one resident afraid of revealing his identity. “Earlier businesses ran on the barter principle; sharing of resources. Now none of that is possible. Even our barbers are separate. Bahut gandha hua.”(It is a terrible development).

No Muslims reside in Maktoopur anymore;  25 homes were destroyed and former residents are now settled in Sidhpur and Mehsana. Here, too, the Mosque was destroyed and the private land on which they stood is today being held by the collector.

Similarly, there are no Muslims left in Pilodra village though the Mosque still stands here. In  Kuwasna, Muslim residents have been unable to return because the local sarpanch is trying to bullying them into assuring the other villagers that they will return but not worship audibly. “Azaan nahin dena” (Do not give the call to prayer.)

Visnagar in Mehsana saw two major carnages were over 20 people were slaughtered brutally. None have returned to live in the Dipla Darwaza area, which is in the mdst of the Patel locality, and where severe betrayal was experienced as residents had been assured of their safety by their neighbours before they were attacked. In Pathan mohalla 13/14 families have gone back to live.

Similarly, in Sardarpur, where there was another brutal carnage,  about one and a half months back some Muslims have returned. They have no desire to stay there however. “It is a matter of months or a year. We are simply waiting for a decent price for our land and we will sell. There can be no question of living there, with those memories any more.”

Says Shahabuddin Nizamuddin Kazi, an employee of the State Transport corporation, who took three months leave to run a camp for 1,000 destitute refugees, speaks of the terrible situation at Chansama in Mehsana where there used to be 110 Muslim homes. “There is not a trace of them now. They have fled to Patan, 17 kilometres away. The land lies without owners, it is a matter of time. The homes, devastated, stand as painful relics. The entire topography of many of our villages has changed, been wiped out in front of our eyes.”


Archived from Communalism Combat, April 2003 Year 9  No. 86, Cover Story 1




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