Media, Rights Groups and Mass Crimes

Media, Rights Groups and Mass Crimes
One of the interesting fallouts of the battle for justice and reparation for the victim
survivors of the Gujarat carnage of 2002 has been the blatant attempts by stooges
for the state government like its counsel in the Supreme Court and others to
deliberately defame those human rights defenders and organizations who have stuck
it out for the past eight years and assisted eye-witnesses depose, without fear or
favour to ensure that justice is done. We have consistently been victim of this vicious
defamation drive. Few of those who told these stories in 2002-2003 have however
come to the rescue.
Woefully, unmindful of the kind of articles carried by their own publications during
the traumatic period of 2002, mainstream Indian newspapers and even the hysterical
news anchors of our “national” television channels have echoed the vilification drive
launched by the Gujarat state, never once looking back, over their shoulder into their
own archives where correspondent after correspondent have used space telling
these very horror stories.
A prime example of this abdication of media responsibility is the case of Kauserbano,
a victim of murder at Naroda Patia, accounts of eye witnesses at the time describing
how a bloodthirsty mob slit open her womb (carrying a foetus almost nine months
old), swirled it on a sword before burning mother and child alive. Not only did The
Times of India and The Indian Express apart from the Statesman and The Deccan
Herald extensively report the narrative in print, but Women’s Visiting teams
including one headed by former chairperson of the National Commission of Women
Syeda Hamid spoke, and wrote of it extensively. Feminists from Mumbai including
lawyer Flavia Agnes assisted women record their affidavits before the official
Nanavati Shah Commission and Kauserbano’s sad tale was a significant part of the
Now, today when the doctor who did the post mortem denies that such a murderous
attack took place before the burning, do not one and all who told this story in those
days after 2002 owe something to the memory of Kauserbano? Why are they all
--Teesta Setalvad, Secretary Citizens for Justice and Peace
The face behind Gujarat’s foetus headline
Father of Kausar Bano says they should have taken me and let her first child be
Mukta Chakravorty
Ahmedabad, May 22, 2002:
To put a face to the brutal story of Kausar Bano is to give a voice to her 70-year-old
father. Mercifully, Khaliq Noor Mohammad Sheikh didn’t see the mobs slitting
Kausar’s womb with a sword, dragging out the unborn child that nestled within her
and burning both in Naroda Patiya on February 28. He had fainted — when he woke
up, he couldn’t even find the charred remains of Kausar Bano and her unborn child.
‘‘I found out how my daughter and her baby had been killed after I went to the Shah
Alam relief camp. They could have killed me and spared my pregnant daughter,’’
sobs Sheikh. ‘‘My daughter got married only last year. This would have been her first
child. And they did not even allow it to come into this world.’’
Sheikh was a paint contractor who earned around Rs 4,000 a month. Until February
28, he had two houses in Naroda Patiya. He had two children: Kausar, in her early
thirties, and a younger married son.
Kausar’s was a love marriage. She and her unemployed husband, Shahid Sheikh,
stayed with her father. Shahid is said to be alive, but nobody at Shah Alam knows
his whereabouts.
Sheikh’s neighbours, who are also at the relief camp, remember Kausar as a quiet
person, who ‘‘would speak only when spoken to’’. ‘‘She wasn’t educated, but she had
learnt diamond-cutting and polishing. She didn’t work, though,’’ says her father. His
son Sharmuddin, his wife and two children lived with Sheikh. ‘‘We were a 12member joint family. My wife’s sister and her family of four also stayed with us,’’ he
says. Only three of the 12 — Sheikh, his son-in-law and his wife’s sister’s son —
A day before the massacre, Sheikh says he took Kausar to a hospital in Kalupur for a
medical check-up. ‘‘She was complaining of pain. The doctor said she was likely to
deliver in a day or two.’’
On February 28, Sheikh was leaving for work when he heard loud shouts outside.
‘‘We all tried to flee. The mob hit me with sticks and tried to douse me with petrol. I
managed to escape and reach a nearby dhaba, where I lost consciousness. When I
regained consciousness after 28 hours, I went back to see only ruins. Some
policemen escorted me to a nearby chawl, from where I was brought to the relief
camp.’’ Reshmabano Nadibbhai Sayed, one of Sheikh’s neighbours, says, ‘‘Ever since
chacha heard about the gory killing, he has turned insane with grief.’’ Reshmabano
says she witnessed Kausar’s killing. ‘‘As Kausar was being dragged out of her home,
she kept screaming, pleading with the mob to take away her money, her valuables,
but spare her and her unborn child. But they pulled out the baby and threw it into
the fire along with Kausar’s body. When her mother tried to intervene, she was burnt
as well. When an old man hears all this, won’t he be affected?’’
Sheikh says he will never return to Naroda Patiya.‘‘I will go back to Bangalore, where
my mother-in-law lives. My life is over, but I want to see the murderers of my
daughter brought to book before I die,’’ he says.
Gujarat women brutalised during riots
DH News Service
NEW DELHI, April 16, 2002
“Kausar Bano was nine months pregnant. But they did not spare her. They cut open
her belly, took out the foetus with a sword and threw it into a blazing fire. Then they
burnt her as well.”
Kausar’s story has come to embody the numerous experiences of evil that were felt
by the women of minority community in Gujarat. It was revealed by a fact-finding
team, which visited the riot-torn areas of the state to investigate crime against
The team comprising eminent social activist Syeda Hamid, Ruth Manorama of
National Alliance of women, Bangalore, Malini Ghosh of Nirantar, Delhi, Sheba
George from Sahrwaru, Ahmedabad, Farah Naqvi, a journalist from Delhi and Mari
Thekaekara of Accord, Tamil Nadu, visited Ahmedabad, Kheda, Vadodara,
Sabarkantha and Panchmahal districts and spoke to a large number of women
survivors of the post-Godhra communal carnage.
Stating that the team has found ‘compelling evidence of the most extreme forms of
sexual violence against women’ Syeda Hamid said the pattern of violence did not
indicate spontaneous action. In fact there was a pre-plan, organisation and precision
in the selection of targets.
“There is evidence of state and police complicity in perpetuating crimes against
women. No effort was made to protect women. A majority of rape victims were
burnt alive. No Mahila police was deployed.
There were complaints that women survivors were not allowed to file FIRs,” the
report said.
The representatives of National Commission for Women, mandated as the apex body
for protection of women’s rights, went to Gujarat only late last week and are yet to
come out with a statement on the condition of the women victims.
Guajarat does not have a state women’s commission.
The report has also revealed how rural women have been affected by communal
violence of this scale for the first time. It has also highlighted the alarming trend
towards ‘ghettoisation’ of the Muslim community in rural areas for the first time.
© Copyright, 1999 The Printers (Mysore)Ltd.
Naroda victim saw mob kill pregnant woman
AHMEDABAD, DECEMBER 12, 2003 : A chilling tale of the post-Godhra riots, the
killing of pregnant Kausar Banu, was told by two women of Naroda-Patiya, to the
Godhra commission today. Deposing before retired Justices G.T. Nanavati and K.G.
Shah, Zareena Sheikh, a resident of Hussain Nagar slums, claimed she had
witnessed the killing of Kausar Bano on February 28, 2002, whose ‘‘stomach was slit
open, foetus removed, whipped over the tip of the sword and later flung away’’.
Six of Sheikh’s family members were attacked the same day. Sheikh said Kausar and
her daughter scaled a wall, dividing their locality and Gopinath Society, and landed in
front of a mob. Kausar attempted to escape but fell unconscious after being hit on
the head, she said.
Sulekha Bano Sardar Ahmed Chaudhary, a vegetable vendor, also told the
commission that she had seen her cousin Kausar being burnt to death. Sulekha said
as Kausar was pregnant, she was not able to escape the mob which attacked a small
room in the adjoining Gopinath Society where she had — along with several other
women — taken shelter during the attack.
‘‘We could hear her screaming,’’ she said. She also alleged that several other young
girls and women of the locality were raped. She named one Zubeida, her husband
and three children among other people whom she had seen being set ablaze.
Doubtful Promises
With the accused going free, Modi’s pledge provides little salve to the
By Uday Mahurkar
On the day Narendra Modi met leaders of the minority community and assured them
that the police would register fresh firs against rioters and speed up the probe in
pending cases, the chief minister’s party colleagues were preparing to launch a
major offensive against his Government. Their ire was sparked off by the arrests of
some prominent bjp leaders and party members earlier in the week, which they say
were “politically motivated”. Two senior panchayat-level partymen were among the
180-odd bjp leaders arrested for rioting and murder in Panchmahal district, of which
Godhra is the headquarters.
“Our workers are being targeted as part of a strategy aimed at discrediting us,” says
Nalin Bhatt, bjp state general secretary, citing the arrest of Chandra Singh Parmar,
the 66-year-old president of the bjp’s Kalol unit in Panchmahal district. “Most people
in the area believe he was not involved. At his age, he is accused not just of murder,
but also rape, which is unbelievable.”
So are the police overenthusiastic about implementing Modi’s pledge? Hardly.
Though over 3,700 firs have been registered so far in the post-Godhra riots—which
have already claimed around 1,000 lives—till last week, there was little to indicate
the police were following up on the complaints. In Eral near Godhra, Madinaben was
witness to the rape and murder of her 16-year-old daughter. “The police registered
an fir against the killing but refused to enter the charge of rape,” she says. They
relented only after she met the National Human Rights Commission members who
toured the state.At Naroda Patiya, where 82 Muslims were killed by riotous Hindu
mobs on February 28, the police registered the complaint of Jannatbanu Shaikh who
claims to have seen Ratilal Rathod, a bus driver, raping Kausar, who was eight
months into pregnancy, and then ripping open her womb. Only last week, after the
intervention of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, did the police arrested Rathod.
Several others accused of arson and killings in Naroda Patiya are yet to be arrested.
The police claim that many of them are absconding and they are trying their best to
get them. They say they have arrested 25 people. But most of the arrested seem to
have no association with Hindutva outfits. They belong to a “criminal” tribe which
has a settlement on the outskirts of Naroda Patiya.
Sometimes charges are pressed just to harass prominent politicians. State vhp Joint
General Secretary Jaideep Patel and bjp MLA from Naroda Mayaben Kodnani are
accused of leading Hindu mobs that killed eight Muslims in Naroda village and both
face charges of arson, though on the day this allegedly happened, both were in
Ahmedabad. Hindutva leaders are not the only ones thus targeted. Congress MLA
from Kaulpur in Ahmedabad Farooq Shaikh is accused of leading a mob that attacked
Hindus and burnt the Sindhi market, though there is no evidence to suggest that he
was involved.
Modi’s decision to allow fresh firs to be filed assumes significance in the wake of
reports that in rural areas, particularly in the tribal belt, Hindu villagers are forcing
the Muslims to withdraw complaints against them as a condition for their return.
While some victims have refused to file complaints for fear of not being allowed to
return home, those who had filed complaints are now ready to withdraw them. The
new Ahmedabad police commissioner, K.R. Kaushik, says his force will be evenhanded in dealing with the situation. “We won’t leave any doubt in the minds of the
victims where transparency in the Police Department’s working is concerned,” he
While Modi’s decision holds out the promise of justice, it also threatens to open a
Pandora’s box. With assembly polls due in the state in a few months’ time, a spate of
politically motivated cases is bound to pile up.— Uday Mahurkar
Police Inaction # Over 3,700 FIRs registered so far but few arrests have taken place.
# Muslim victims say their complaints are acted upon only after intervention of
higher authorities.
# The National Human Rights Commission has expressed dismay over the role
played by the police.
# The police are patting themselves on the back for the arrest of members of a
‘criminal’ tribe.
# In the run-up to assembly polls, a spate of motivated FIRs against politicians are
‘I will get justice for the raped women even if I have to die for it’
Jannatbibi says she saw women being raped and killed in Naroda Patiya, her
testimony results in first FIR, first arrest in rape case in Ahmedabad
Shefali Nautiyal
Ahmedabad, May 16, 2002: One woman’s courage is responsible for the first arrest
in the first rape case to be registered in Ahmedabad. But for Jannatbibi Kallubhai
Sheikh, the arrest of Ratilal Rathod alias Bhavani Singh, who is accused of murder,
rioting and raping five women in Naroda Patiya on February 28, is hardly cause for
cheer yet.
‘‘I am going to do everything I can to see this man behind bars, even if I have to die
for it,’’ says Jannatbibi. Rathod, a 50-year-old Ahmedabad Municipal Transport
Service driver, was remanded to judicial custody today.
Jannatbibi, who says she witnessed the rape and murder of women during the
February 28 Naroda Patiya massacre, filed a complaint in the case, submitted written
statements and even travelled to New Delhi to plead her case.
‘From the very first day, I have been telling everyone that I saw this man killing
people and raping not less than five young women. I gave a written statement to the
Crime Branch, I filed a complaint at the Shah Alam police chowki. And when Sonia
Gandhi came here, I gave her a written statement as well,’’ she says.
Jannatbibi met the President and several ministers during her New Delhi visit. ‘‘There
too, I told everyone that I could identify the rapists and murderers. I repeatedly
named Bhavani Singh in Delhi too.’’ She says she recognised Rathod since he lives
with his family in a housing society behind Naroda Patiya. But she only knows him as
Bhavani Singh. ‘‘I don’t know any Ratilal Rathod, his name is Bhavani Singh,’’ she
says. ‘‘I didn’t know the rest, but we’ve seen Bhavani Singh several times.’’
According to Jannatbibi, it was Bhavani Singh who surveyed their homes and gave
the green signal to the rest of the mob that was waiting outside. It was Jannatbibi’s
testimony that helped bring to light the brutal murder of Kausar Bano, the eightmonth pregnant woman who was dragged out of her home, whose stomach was
torn open with a sword and whose foetus was burnt before her eyes.
‘‘Many of us who were hiding saw the brutal murder, but we were so frightened we
could not come out to help,’’ says Jannatbibi.
‘‘When we visited Naroda Patiya after a few days, I met Singh’s daughter, there,
looking bright and cheerful in a salwar kameez. She said, ‘Aao paani piten hain
(Come, we’ll serve you water)’. I told her ‘bahut paani pilaya tum logon ne (you
people have given us enough water)’. She just laughed.’’
Kausar Bano case sees some action
AHMEDABAD: After the Kausar Bano case rocked Parliament, the prime accused in
the case, a part of the Naroda-Patia massacre, Ratilal Rathod alias Bhavani Singh,
was arrested by the city crime branch late on Monday.
Rathod (50) works with the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service as a driver. This
is the first riot-arrest effected in the city on charges of rape and murder.
Interestingly, on Monday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister
Vajpayee stating that a separate FIR be filed in this case and investigations be
carried out by the CBI.
The arrest comes 11 weeks after the incident shook the city with its gory details
being repeated over and over again at the Shah-e-Alam relief camp. The incident's
sole eyewitness, Jannatbibi Kalubhai Hidubhai Shaikh, claimed to have seen the
eight-month pregnant Kausar Bano's stomach being ripped open by a sword, the
foetus removed, flung around and then burnt. Shaikh also claimed that the woman
was first raped.
More arrests in rape, murder cases likely
AHMEDABAD: After the first arrest in the Kausar Bano case following the uproar in
Parliament, the crime branch is expected to arrests some more persons in connection
with rape and murder during the riots.
Sources said the arrest of a bus driver in the infamous case of Kausar Bano's rape
and murder was just the beginning. Four other cases with rape and murder charges
have also been registered by the city's crime branch against the accused named in
various FIRs lodged by riot-victims. "Offences have been recorded after
investigations have proved that those accused had instigated the mob, were on the
spot and had even taken lead in the rape, murder and loot," said sources.
The prime accused in the Kausar Bano case, which was part of the Naroda-Patia
massacre, Ratilal Rathod alias Bhavani Singh, was arrested by the city crime branch
late on Monday night. Rathod is 50 years old and works with the Ahmedabad
Municipal Transport Service as a driver. This is the first riot-arrest made in the city
on charges of rape and murder.
On Monday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister
Vajpayee stating that a separate FIR be filed in this case and the investigations be
done by the CBI. She had also taken objection to the remark of union defence
minister George Fernandes in parliament in which he had allegedly tried to trivialise
the rape cases as "nothing unusual."
The arrest of Rathod comes 11 weeks after the incident shook the city. The arrest
was based on the incident's sole eye-witness, Jannatbibi Kalubhai Hidubhai Shaikh,
who claimed to have seen the eight-month pregnant Kausar Bano being raped and
Shaikh's complaint was included in the same FIR 100/2002 of Naroda-Patia only on
May 2 and section 376 (rape) was roped in. Eighty-six persons had been hacked and
then burnt alive during the Naroda-Patia slaughter.
Rathod's son is a lawyer and they reside in the Gangotri society's first house located
just where Jawannagar ends. Kausar Bano lived in Jawannagar in Naroda-Patia.
"I had approached the police time and again but leave alone lodging an FIR, the
investigating officer did not even wish to take note of my narration," Jannat bibi is
heard as having said. Sources said the matter was hastened after Sonia Gandhi's
letter to Vajpayee.
For over two months after the incident occurred on February 28, a police inquiry,
headed by an additional police commissioner of the city, had remained inconclusive.
The Naroda-Patia, an area which houses around 800 residential quarters, case had
later drawn in no less than 756 FIRs of which 598 were registered by eye-witnesses
and riot-victims sheltered in different relief camps like those at Shah-e-Alam Roza
and Dariakhan Ghummat.
Sonia, during her visit to Ahmedabad and Godhra soon after riots along with an allparty delegation on a fact-finding mission, was not allowed to visit the relief camp at
Shah-e-Alam Roza lest such matters get "blown out of proportion."
Gujarat destruction ‘systematic’
Statesman News Service
GANDHINAGAR, May 15. — The Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal has received “serious
and grave accusations of largescale violation of human rights on sections of the
“These violations include barbaric attacks on life and dignity, including brutal sexual
violence on women, systematic destruction of homes and livelihoods and attacks on
places of worship of the minority community... The bodies of the victims were
charred beyond recognition. Homes and businesses that were rampaged and
destroyed through arson were thoroughly looted first,” it says.
(In possibly the first action against rioters, a 50-year-old man, accused of raping a
pregnant woman and then killing her in Naroda Patia area here on 28 February, was
arrested two days ago even as police formalities in the case concluded today, adds
PTI from Ahmedabad. The FIR, lodged by a witness, says Ratilal Rathod, alias
Bhavani Singh, was seen raping a pregnant woman in Naroda Patia. The victim’s
stomach was ripped apart and the foetus flung into fire. Rathod, who works as a
driver with the city municipal bus service, was named in the FIR as the prime
accused in the Kausarbanu murder case, police said.)
The Tribunal’s final report on the riots, Gujarat 2002, will be ready by 15 August.
Preliminary findings have been forwarded to the state and the Centre. Mr Narendra
Modi was invited to the Tribunal, but, “there was no... confirmation of whether he
intended to meet the Tribunal,” a spokesman said.
The interim observations, signed by Mr Justice PB Sawant (retd Supreme Court
judge), Mr Justice Hosbet Suresh (retd Bombay High Court judge), Mr KG
Kannabiran, (senior advocate) and Dr KS Subramanim, IPS (Retd), say: “It’s a matter
of serious concern that thousands of men, women and children are missing; large
number of women widowed or children orphaned ... the mutual trust among
communities has been totally destroyed. A pervasive sense of fear haunts the people
and the displaced people are unable to return to their homes.”
Mr Justice Krishna Iyer (retd Supreme Court judge) is the Tribunal chairman while
other members include Mr Justice Lone (retd Bombay High Court judge) and Ms
Aruna Roy, former IAS official and social activist.
The Tribunal has been conducting inquiries in various parts of Gujarat over the past
few days.
“During the course of the hearings where dozen testimonies were recorded,
witnesses have repeatedly testified to the abject loss of confidence in
the...administration, including police. The Tribunal received complaints from victims
about police inaction, participation and connivance in the crimes that were
committed. Worse still, police, according to the testimony of witnesses, have been
working to positively sabotage the due process of law. The Tribunal recorded
evidence that revealed that the police simply did not follow the legal procedure for
registration of crimes and the process of investigation.”
It further says: “Hearing evidence about heinous crimes on women was also
recorded. The Concerned Citizen Tribunal also recorded evidence, through oral
testimonies and written evidence, about government policy and functioning that
relates to the build-up of the atmosphere and tensions prior to 27 February.”
The Tribunal heard evidence presented by representatives of the media, academics,
representatives of the Vishwa Samvad Kendra, police and government officials.
It has examined witnesses from Ahmedabad, Abasaum, (Ahmednagar district),
Himmatnagar (Sabarkantha district), Kadih and Visnagar (Mehsana district), Kalol,
Dailol, Pandharwada, Eral, Godhra (Panchmahal district) Dahod, Bharuch,
Ankleshwar and Vadodara.
In Ahmedabad, evidence was recorded at camps including the Shah Alam Camp, the
Charroda Kabrastan, Sundaraninagar, Kankaria and Anand Flats. Relief camps
housing the Hindus were also visited.
There is evidence on the record of the Tribunal that includes statistics of losses,
details of FIRs filed, fact-finding reports by independent teams and official
documents. Tribunal members also visited the Godhra carnage site.
Having recorded the evidence, the Tribunal will now examine and analyse the
voluminous material placed on record.
According to the report, evidence has been received accusing the VHP and the
Bajrang Dal of recruiting volunteers, training them in the use of arms and
ammunition, collecting information about houses, shops and other business
establishments of the minority community.
There is also evidence to the effect that attacks on the minority community started
simultaneously in all the places in the state on 28 February 2002, the report says.
Witnesses told Tribunal members that the police, when approached by the public for
help during the violence, told them they were under orders not to do anything.
The reports says compensation for the strife-torn state should not only be monetary.
It should include reparation of loss of life, dignity, and assaults on the freedom of
Meanwhile, the Centre had despatched 12 more CRPF battalions to Gujarat to help
the state deal with the continuing violence, officials said, PTI adds from Delhi.
Ahmedabad, May 16:
Eight-month pregnant Kausarbanu was molested/raped at Naroda-Patia in
Ahmedabad on February 28. An eyewitness filed an FIR saying that Kausarbanu’s
stomach was ripped apart and the foetus was flung into a raging fire. The complaint
named Ratilal Rathod, a driver with the municipal bus service, as the man
responsible for the crime. Fifty-year-old Rathod, also known as Bhavani Singh, was
arrested earlier this week.
Why did it take police over two months to arrest Ratilal Rathod?
It so happens that three days before he was picked up on Monday, Ahmedabad got
a new police commissioner K.R. Kaushik along with a couple of fresh faces as his
deputies. And the police shakeup came days after K.P.S. Gill landed in Gujarat as
chief minister Narendra Modi’s security adviser.
The coincidence was hard to miss, particularly as Rathod’s arrest was the first big
action against an accused in a case that prompted Sonia Gandhi to write to the
Prime Minister, as Kausarbanu’s story was told again and again.
In the FIR, Rathod has been named as the prime accused.
A wave of arrests has taken place since May 10, more than 2,200 out of over 3,200
since the outbreak of violence.
For the third day today, no one was burnt or stoned to death in Ahmedabad and
there were even traffic snarls in parts of the city, though temperatures soared as
tempers cooled.
It was not as though there were no incidents at all — shops were looted at NarodaPatia — but life in Gujarat’s biggest city is beginning to look more normal than
K.P.S. Gill has reasons to feel satisfied, but is being very careful. “Till peace remains
for a considerable period of time, I cannot say Gujarat is normal,” he has said.
Technically, he is no more than an adviser, but in reality he is pulling more weight
than even the minister of state for home Gordhan Zadhaphia. In the police reshuffle,
Zadhaphia was not even consulted.
The police, accused of being struck by paralysis during the riots, have swung into
action with 70 people named in FIRs picked up in only 24 hours after Gill told officers
“not to spare the guilty” and asked them to file “regular progress reports”.
The new police commissioner is in touch with Gill who has opened other channels of
communication with senior officers.
Taking the cue from Gill, Kaushik met Muslims in Juhapura, Ahmedabad’s biggest
Muslim ghetto known as “mini-Pakistan”, where, until recently, the police did not
dare go in.
After his visit there, last Saturday, when he also met retired police officers settled in
the area and sought their cooperation in restoring peace, traffic is again out on the
Until now the chief minister has accepted Gill’s suggestions because Modi himself has
been under pressure to put an end to the violence. On Gill’s advice, he announced a
number of confidence-building measures at a meeting with minority leaders.
But how long? A senior minister believes sooner rather than later Modi will put his
foot down and that will be the beginning of a conflict between two egocentric
persons. Gill is known to make his own rules — and so is Modi — though the retired
Punjab police chief has been cautions not to rile the state government after burning
his fingers in the controversy over his request for commandos from outside.
Asked today about “saffronisation” of the police force, he gave a guarded reply to
PTI, saying that he had not been around long enough to make a comment. In this
short stint, though, he has come to the conclusion that Gujarat is “underpoliced”.
Jaspal Singh, a retired IPS officer who was Gill’s batchmate, said: “Modi and Gill
cannot get along for long.” Gill is an outsider, has no local influence and is
completely dependent on the local administration, which is now cooperating under
the orders of a chief minister who is a slave to circumstances. First, Modi is aware of
a growing lack of confidence in his ability, both in Delhi and in his own state. And it
does not take much intelligence to figure out Gill has been despatched to create a
parallel power centre.
There are optimists like Mohsin Quadri, a minority leader, who believe Gill will
succeed and set store by his “unorthodox style of working and ability to deliver
As the police crackdown goes apace, a potential source of confrontation will be
possible arrests of VHP leaders. Already a 20-strong team of VHP advocates is
working to get arrested activists released. For instance, Jaydeep Patel, VHP vicepresident for Gujarat, has been named in an FIR, as has been Mayaben Kondani, a
BJP legislator — both in connection with the incident at Naroda-Patia where over 60
people were killed.
How long will the VHP suffer Gill and Modi?
Once again, police blame victims
Express News Service
Ahmedabad, June 4: Gujarat police on Tuesday filed a chargesheet in the Naroda
Patiya massacre of Feb 28, in which over 80 Muslims were burnt alive, in part
blaming the victims for bringing the attack upon themselves.
In the Gulbarg case too, the chargesheet had said the mobs had turned murderous
only after former MP Ehsan Jafri had opened fire upon it.
The chargesheet filed by the Crime Branch says the armed crowds that had gathered
in Naroda had turned violent after two incidents: Discovery of a ‘‘mutilated body of a
Hindu’’; and killing of a person by a ‘‘Muslim driver’’ who drove his Tata 407 minitruck into the crowd.
It that ‘‘anguished by these incidents’’ a mob led by Naresh Chara set ablaze houses,
shops, and vehicles of Muslims. His name, however, does not figure in the FIR (No
100/2002) registered at Naroda Police Station.
Besides Chara, the chargesheet names 48 accused. But charges have been made out
only against 44 of them, with 23 shown as arrested and 21 as absconding. The other
five accused — in police remand till June 6— are Bajrang Dal member Babu Bajrangi,
VHP member P.J. Rajput, BJP member Kishan Korani, and Suresh Chara and Prakash
Chara. Charges against them will be made out subsequently, police said.
Bajrangi, Korani, and Rajput have also been named as accused in the Naroda Gam
case, in which eight were burnt alive. Among those named as absconders in the
chargesheet are Ashok Sindhi, Harsh Rohera, and Raju Chobal. Sindhi was linked to
the massacre after his mobile phone was found at the crime scene by a survivor.
Rohera and Chobal figure in the FIR filed by Naroda police.
The charges made out against the accused are more or ess the same as in the
Gulbarg case: Spreading communal disharmony, defying ban orders, murder, rape,
dacoity with murder, arson, rioting, and criminal conspiracy.
The chargesheet is a complicated document, running into 152 pages. Attached to the
FIR made out by the Police Station are 720 statements from witnesses and 600
Also clubbed with it are 27 other FIRs, summarised from 148 complaints lodged by
survivors. Then there are reports from forensic experts on evidence found at the
Among the statements is one by 12-year-old Anisha Mansuri, who said she saw
Shabana Sahed, 15, being raped and then burnt alive by unidentified persons.
Another from Janatbibi and Reshma Nadibhai Saiyeed said they saw a pregnant
woman, Kausarbanu, being raped and then cut open, the foetus pulled out on a
sword tip. They said Kauserbanu was then burnt alive.
It was on the basis of this statement that AMTS driver Ratilal Rathod alias Bhavani
Singh had been arrested.
However, the chargesheet does not include complaints that name BJP city unit
president Maya Kodnani, VHP state vice-president Dr Jaideep Patel, and Police
Inspector K.K. Maisurwala, then posted at Naroda Police Station.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) P.P. Pandey said,‘‘Our work is not find out the
why of an incident. It is for the trial to decide. We just present the facts on the basis
of our investigations.’’ He said investigations in cases relating to BJP and VHP leaders
was in progress and arrests would be made as and when evidence was accumulated.
What Kalam didn’t see, didn’t hear: notes from Naroda
Father of Kausar, pregnant woman who was killed, not among ‘select’
victims allowed to meet him
Tanvir Siddiqui & Shefali Nautiyal
Ahmedabad, August 12: President A P J Abdul Kalam came here for 5 minutes, spent
the next 30 with a few victims. That was the news. Here is the noise:
The Evening Before
6.30 pm-9 pm: Barricades up, debris cleared, disinfectant sprinkled outside the
public toilet, whitewash, streetlights — all in a single day. ‘‘Woh miyanbhai
hai...hamari baat dhyan se sunega (He’s a Muslim, he’ll lend us his ear),’’ says Lalbibi
Ismailbhai, whose house was ransacked. Her neighbour Majeed and his family
weren’t so lucky—they were killed.
Halogen lamps are up, the street is flooded with light, inside it’s dark. Houses have
no doors, no windows, no roof. ‘‘The shop owner does not give us adequate
kerosene,’’ complains Bundubhai, who lost his wife and daughter in the riots. His
daughter-in-law tries to light a fire with damp wood. Stoves have been distributed
but with no kerosene, they are of little use.Bangle-seller Akhtar Husain’s family of
seven watches mother Subaida cook rice and dal on a makeshift oven using wood.
She wants to speak to Kalam, they haven’t got compensation. ‘‘But they won’t let us
approach him,’’ she says.
Inside the chawl, Social Welfare Department officials tell victims to collect their
cheques—compensation for small businesses—in the morning. Collector K Srinivas
arrives; Shah Alam camp inmate Sabir Mehboob Shaikh has come here in his
wheelchair to speak to Kalam. Srinivas asks an official to look into his case. Pat
comes the reply: ‘‘I will prepare his papers tonight and we can give him the cheque
tomorrow morning.’’ Sabir wonders what’s happening.
The Night Before
10-10.30: Ilyas needs money for a pillar in his damaged scrap shop. ‘‘With the
President here, they’ll do it,’’ says a neighbour. A young Noor Mohammad couldn’t
care less. ‘‘The President is not a true Muslim,’’ he says.
Women start moving to ‘‘safer places’’ to sleep, all across the road. Bundubhai, who
lost his wife and daughter, is unable to sleep. Asks Abdul Rahimbhai, a fabrication
worker: ‘‘What difference will his visit will make, except perhaps for this streetlight?’’
The colony turns in for the night but PWD men are still at work: painting black and
yellow stripes on the highway roundabout.
The Morning
08 am-12 noon: Noor Mohammad Shaikh — the father of eight-month pregnant
Kausar Bano who was killed after her foetus was ripped out—has arrived from Shah
Alam camp. He wants to meet the President. Like him, others who don’t live here
have come, hoping that they get in a word or two.
By 9 am, Govt officials have reached along with the corporation’s garbage vehicles.
The road is scrubbed clean. The bylanes, where Kalam will not go, are untouched.
Police pour in. A makeshift stage is set up. Naseem Aapa is sifting through the wheat
she received from the Collectorate last week. Ask her who’s coming. ‘‘Must be some
neta,’’ she says. ‘‘Only then does the Government do anything here.’’
Voluntary organisations start putting up banners. More policemen arrive, most of
them gather around a tea stall.
At noon, more police vans arrive, so do senior officials who ask local organisations to
bring the ‘‘select riot victims’’ for screening — only they will meet Kalam.
Raja Bundebhai, the 9-year-old, who became famous when he spoke to Justice J S
Verma of the NHRC, is told he will meet the President. The boy rushes home to take
a bath and wear new clothes.
The Countdown
1-4.50 pm:‘‘Where were all these people all these months?’’ asks a Munnabibi
Ghulam Mohammad. The officials — in safaris and shiny shoes — go from house to
house, followed by another team handing out compensation cheques.
‘‘Just because he is coming, they think of distributing cheques. We have made
hundreds of rounds in the last five months but had to do without. Now Narendra
Modi will say ‘see how many cheques we have given’. How will Dr Kalam know?’’
asks Mariyum Begum.
Naseem Khaalu, 85, has an early lunch and guided by her nephew, sits near Noorani
Masjid. ‘‘Some bada saaheb is coming,’’ she says.
Police shoo away bystanders, stray dogs. RAF columns arrive.
At the nearby office of a local organisation, Collectorate officials hand out cheques to
widows. Some of them begin crying.
Javed, another orphan who will meet Kalam, sports a new shirt. Truckloads of
officials arrive. Mere desh ki dharti blares from the loudspeakers. Traffic is diverted.
‘‘Why didn’t so much police come that day?’’ asks someone. ‘‘I want to see Kalam’s
hair,’’ says another.
The President
5-5.30 pm: Kalam aaya, goes the crowd whenever a car pulls up. The convoy stops:
the President gets down and instead of walking into the lane, walks towards the
crowd and waves. TV cameras, police and Government officials all rush towards him.
Chief Minister Narendra Modi escorts Kalam, who stops at two houses.
In five minutes, he is out of the Naroda-Patiya lane.
5.15 pm: He walks up the dais where ‘‘selected’’ victims are waiting. He listens
patiently and asks a few questions. Collector K Srinivas stands by, translating while
Modi stands at arm’s length. Outside, the crowd shouts Kalam zindabad
5.30 pm: The President has left. ‘‘Gaya. Sab ghar jao (He’s gone. Go home now),’’ a
youth shouts. The selected victims are surrounded by the media, ‘‘No one will come
here from tomorrow,’’ says a widow.
Noorbhai, the father of the pregnant Kausar Bano who was killed and her stomach
slit, leaves. He didn’t meet Kalam.
September 6, 2002
‘They slit open her stomach. I think I heard my child cry’
The story of Kausarbano, and Suphiya Bano and S... And many more. Geeta Seshu
reports on the affidavits filed by witnesses of rape and sexual violence during Gujarat
‘‘Two men snatched S, from my locality. When I understood what they wanted to do,
I lay there pretending to be dead. They kicked me on the stomach to see if I was
alive. It hurt me a lot but I quietly endured the pain for the sake of my dignity. They
raped S... and after they were done, they began hitting her with a sword. Another
girl ran past and their attention was now on her, so S escaped.’’
In an act of exemplary courage, perhaps bordering on the desperation of those who
have lost everything, 42 victims of the Gujarat riots have come forward to file
affidavits with the Justices Shah and Nanavati Commission of Inquiry about atrocities
they have experienced or witnessed. The affidavits affirm facts everyone knows but
are slowly slipping from public memory: that sexual assaults against women was the
most devastating weapon used in Gujarat.
Save three affidavits from men who are relatives of victims of sexual violence, the
remaining affidavits are from women who have witnessed or experienced sexual
violence. At least 26 affidavits speak of violence committed by mobs, the remaining
of atrocities committed by the police.
The testimonies, filed in June 2002, are a result of the painstaking efforts of
volunteers of the Mumbai-based legal resources centre for women, Majlis, along with
the Ahmedabad-based women’s group, Sahr Waru.
In a perspective affidavit filed before the commission on June 27, lawyer Flavia
Agnes of Majlis, sought special rules for procedures and the trial of these offences.
She has demanded that the commission prescribe a time-bound hearing of these
Worried at the issue of the safety and security of the women who filed these
affidavits, she argues that in the present climate of fear and mistrust, a special
forum is necessary to ensure that justice is done to women victims.
Indeed, she says, few affidavits were recorded on sexual violence against women
during the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. Today, these incidents have been erased from
public memory.
Agnes’s affidavit stated that the stage was set for ‘‘the pre-planned, pre-mediated
sexual assault on women on the totally false and baseless news report in the
Gujarati newspaper Sandesh, on February 28 itself.
The news item stated: during the burning train incident, several Hindu women were
dragged out, raped and their breasts cut off.’ Two days later, the newspaper printed
a correction and apology, but the damage was done: girls and women were picked
up, stripped, gang-raped or objects inserted into their vaginas and then burnt to
Recording and attesting the affidavits was no easy task. Repeated visits were
undertaken to record oral evidence, maintain contact with the women, gain their
trust and prepare only those ready to sign affidavits.
Several women had equally horrifying tales to tell but couldn’t for fear of reprisal.
Some were ashamed to speak of the atrocities. A male relative gave a hand-written
note containing details of the horrors he had witnessed to the legal activist, telling
her, ‘‘Aap tho ladki hain aur mujhe yeh sa batein kehna mushkil hai.’’
The legal activists also had to safeguard against any possibilities of affidavits being
retracted under pressure and ensure that there were no contradictions between their
affidavits and the statements that police had taken.
Some of the women who spoke up are older and well known in their community. The
women are poor and self-employed, usually working as housemaids or doing sewing
or zari-embroidery work.
In fact, their poverty and the complete absence of any sort of political support
makes them extremely vulnerable.
The affidavits detail the sexual violence of the rioting mobs, but they also accuse the
police and different law-enforcing agencies, notably the State Reserve Police and the
Rapid Action Force. According to the affidavits, they teased, harassed and taunted
the women during the riots, making sexually suggestive remarks, sending a clear
signal to the mobs to go ahead. In the post-riots situation, say the women, these
agencies launched massive combing operations again, harassing the women with
vulgar remarks and innuendoes.
In her affidavit, a woman said that a policeman entered her house asking for her
husband and when told he was not in, said, ‘‘It doesn’t matter, I’m here.’’
Then, there was the horrific case of Kausarbano. Mobs slit open her stomach and
threw her body and that of the foetus into the fire. But political leaders dismissed
accounts of her story, saying that no one by the name existed!
Now, three affidavits filed by Kausarbano’s friends and relatives nail this lie. Her
husband’s affidavit states, ‘‘I ran part of the way carrying her in my arms. After some
distance, I put her down and both of us began running. They caught her, slit her
stomach with a sword pulled out our child from her stomach and paraded the baby
on the tip of a sword. I think I heard my child cry. Then, they poured petrol on both
of them and lit them.’’
The fear-stricken man, hiding behind a wall, witnessed the entire incident. His friend
held him back and forced him to run away. Otherwise he, too, would have died.
Deception, and then death, worked in the case of Suphiya Bano too. The 15-year old
girl was raped and later taken to the Civil Hospital, Ahmedabad. First, her name was
changed and given in the hospital records as Supriya Marajad. This made it difficult
for her relatives to locate her.
After a long search, her father located her and she told him how Naroda Patiya
resident Bhavani Singh’s son and others caught her. She gave her statement to the
police on March 1.
On March 4, doctors told her father that she was recovering. But when her father
went to visit her on March 7, he was told she had died. ‘‘I feel she was killed
because she gave a clear statement to police indicting the people who ruined her
life,’’ says the father’s affidavit.
Several affidavits pertain to the violence at the residence of MP Ehsaan Jaffri. A
housemaid standing in front of his house was caught, stripped with a sword and
raped. Another girl witnessed the rape.
‘‘She begged for mercy... Three sisters were also burnt and we could hear them
crying for help. My own sister-in-law was stripped. I fell unconscious and later, we
found her dead body, her clothes were torn and her private parts mutilated.’’
Not surprisingly, there are no affidavits from rape victims. As a riot victim said, ‘‘We
won’t talk of what happened in your house, don’t speak of what happened in our
The writer is a freelance journalist