People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 29

July 16, 2006

What Ails Gujarat?

Teesta Setalvad


A vindictive political leadership that refuses to acknowledge, leave alone apologise for, the horrors of the carnage of 2002, the systematic political rehabilitation of  perpetrators of crimes, the intimidation of survivors who dare fight for justice, the alienation of those individuals in the police and bureaucracy who have stuck to their Constitutional oath.  Plum rewards for those who assisted murder and mayhem. If this does not constitute a continuing breakdown of the constitutional machinery, what does? Gujarat 2002-2006.


Ironically for at least five years before the state sponsored genocide that shocked to the root, Indian democracy and secularism, the signs were there. Arms training camps by the RSS/VHP/BD, trisul diksha ceremonies that were arming youh with manipulated and malevolent tales against the minority and infiltration of state and civil society organisations to sing Hindutva’s tune.


Since 2002, over 220 persons are officially, by Gujarat state government records recognised as missing after the 2002 carnage in which 2,500 persons belonging to one community were massacred. Rights groups place the figure of missing persons closer to 500. Due to the blatant discrepancy in the preliminary police record and arrests related to the Godhra mass arson, Hindu families have approached the Supreme Court for a re-investigation by CBI and a transfer of the Godhra trial out of Gujarat. The National Human Rights Commission had first made this plea related to Godhra and other major carnages in 2003. The NHRC has also asked for transfer of these major trials out of Gujarat.


One of the major massacre of the genocide happened on March 1, 2002 at Pamdharwada village. Over 7- persons were massacred as the police looked on though officially the dead are just about two dozen. Within 8 months of the tragedy, all the accused had been acquitted (November 2002). As in the case of other massacres, bodies of relatives were not returned and a dignified burial was denied. Between March 2002-December 2005, victim survivors of the mass massacre at Lunawada made oral and written applications  addressed to the DIG Vadodara, collector, Panchmahal, DYSP Godhra , deputy collector, Lunawada, Mamlatdar, Khanpur. They even went before the medical officer Panchal for recovery of dead bodies. On December 27, 2005, in third or fourth search for the remains of their loved ones, relatives unearth skulls and bones in a ravine near Paanam river, outside Lunawada; TV channels were present; Citizens for Justice and Peace was contacted by the victims and hence its coordinator, Rais Khan was present. At the first sign that remains did exist at the spot, Teesta Setalvad, Secretary CJP requested survivors to stop their search and informed the  Gujarat Police about the discovery of the bodies. On December 28, 2005, PI Puwar from the Lunwada Police station, goes to the house of Gulam Kharadi and shouts threatening abuse at him. Jebunissa Gulam Kharadi, wife files a complaint at the Lunawada police station against the police. On the same day, December 28, 2005 Ameenabehn Habib Rasool, a victim survivor who lost her son in the bloody massacre along with CJP filed a petition (Special Criminal Appln 1875/2005) praying for transfer of the entire investigation to the CBI.


In the affidavit annexed to the petition dated December 29, 2005, Amenabehn Habib Rasool who saw her 24 year old son been slaughtered in front of her eyes, states that she was shocked to hear DGP Bhargava of the Gujarat Police when confronted with the mass graves, immediately speaking of initiating action against victim survivors instead of showing concern and remorse over the appalling developments. Similarly collector Dhirendra Brahmbutt went on to say that ‘the anguished search of relatives for the remains of their lost ones was an illegal act.”


There were several contradictions too in the stance of the administration. While on December 27, 2007 DGP Bhargava told the media that the bodies could relate to the Pandharwada massacre, on February 28, 2005 he contradicted himself and said that they could even belong to an incident that took place prior to February 28, 2002. On the same day, in contrast the collector and SP of the district JK Bhatt were categorical that they belonged to the Pandharwada massacre alone.


The petition that expressed strong disenchantment and loss of faith in the Gujarat police also pointed out that Lunawada town where all the survivors of the Pandarwada massacre are rehabilitated has  four  major grave yards one  belonging to the Ghanchi Jamaat, two to  the Sunni Muslim Jamaat, and one more to Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat.  This is a huge burial area altogether totalling around 250 acre where  major portion of the area is vacant  and is being used for cultivation. Why were not these bodies  given a dignified burial in this large area?


On December 29, 2005, the Gujarat High Court passed an order transferring the investigation and within days, the CBI issued summons to the victim survivors to be present at the Godhra Circuit House for blood sampling to enable DNA tests to proceed. CJP provided the CBI with a list of the victim survivors and their relationship with the deceased . Summons were received and signed by victims before the FIR against the victims was lodged.


At 1.30 a m on January 2, 2006, the Lunawada police filed an FIR (CRNo.3/2006) with Khanpur Police Station ) against the victim survivors and us of the CJP under sections 192, 193, 201, 120(B), 295A and 297 of the IPC. The Sahara Samay News Channel that had not only been present but also relayed the news nationally and internationally was cleverly or deliberately not made ‘offenders to the crime’. On January 5-7, 2006, a unique piquant situation took place when victim survivors came to the Godhra Circuit House trembling with fear as the state of Gujarat was accusing them of committing crimes when all they had done was search in vain for the remains of their lost ones. A specific assurance was given by the collector, Panchmahals and the SP, Panchmahals to the secretary CJP, Teesta Setalvad and coordinator, Shri Rais Khan that the victim survivors would not be arrested when they were giving blood samples!!


On January 9, 2006,  the state government affidavit contradicts itself by stating in para 4 of its affidavit dated  January 9, 2006 that some bodies were unidentified, whereas later in another sworn affidavit, states that all the dead bodies were identified. Disgustingly, the state government claims that persons/relatives identified bodies and then let them be in an undignified pit without the dignity of last rites!! The callous and cynical attitude of the state is so galling that they have no problem stating falsehood upon falsehood in their affidavits. Later, in para 8 of the affidavit the state of Gujarat claims that the dead bodies were buried because nobody had come forward to claim the skeletons!


January 10, 2006 –  Mehboobbhai Rasoolbhai Chauhan, a victim survivor and all others accused in the FIR along with Shri Rais Khan approached the  Hon’ble Sessions Court, Panchmahals for anticipatory bail and the Hon’ble Court by the judgment and order dated  January10, 2006 was pleased to grant anticipatory bail. In the order, the Ld. Judge was pleased to observe that the said FIR was prima facie filed to pre-empt the order of the Hon’ble High Court  and deter the investigating agency being the CBI from investigating the offence pertaining the skeletons. Thereafter, the ‘accused’ in the FIR had approached the police several times, however the police did arrest them and release them on regular bail as is required under the law, deliberately not completing the formalities as required by the order dated  January 10, 2006.  The state police was deliberately keeping a sword hanging over the heads of the victim survivors.


January 12, 2005The local unit of the RSS and the VHP stages a 40 person ‘morcha’ to the collector’s office stating that ‘Hindu’ sentiments have been hurt and that Shri Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad should not be allowed inside Lunawada.


February 1, 2006 Maksudabehn Yusufbhai Shaikh, widow of murdered Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh filed an application before the PSI Khanpur Police station stating that she has information that her husband’s body has been buried at Lavanagam, illegally and without last rites and therefore appealed that, in the presence of her advocate and panchas, the body should be removed and she be allowed to bury the body in accordance with Muslim rites. The same police that is screaming itself hoarse about the ‘illegal’ act committed on December 27, 2005 has simply not entertained this application. Copies of the said application were given to DSP, Panchmahals, DYSP, Panchmahals, collector, and even the CBI.


February 7, 2006 Teesta Setalvad of the CJP files an affidavit in Spl Cri Application 1875 of 2005 stating that at the time of arguments before the Gujarat HC, where the government pleader was assisted by the local police, none of the contentions or so called offences made out in CR No 1 3/2006 with the Lunawada police station were submitted or made clearly indicating that the FIR was a desperate afterthought meant to adversely influence investigations. In this affidavit the repeated harassments meted out to Shri Rais Khan were also detailed.

February 7, 2006State of Gujarat files an application (Misc Criminal Application 1613 of 2006) for cancellation of bail of those named in the FIR CR 3/2006.

February 10, 2006 The detailed affidavits submitted by petitioner and victim survivor Ameenabehn and CJP includes details of the procedure for burial of unidentified and missing persons as per the Gujarat Municipalities Act  and the police norms and rules as stated by us in  earlier affidavit.  None of the detailed factual claims are countered by the state of Gujarat at all in any of its affidavits.


Victim survivors have made it plain that the gameplan of the state of Gujarat is to target them, victim survivors and eye-witnesses as much as citizens groups who they approached of their own free will to guide through the legal battle does not speak much for an administration and government that should be showing compassion, remorse to its own people. If wrongs have been committed, inadvertently or deliberately, the way to set them right would be to make good what went wrong. Instead all of us have been treated as common criminals and even today are facing non-bailable warrants.


Victim survivors made it clear that it was they who approached Teesta Setalvad of the CJP and asked them to be present on 27-12-2005. They had made three unsuccessful attempts to locate the remains of our near and dear ones before that. They were not sure of any success this time.   They had made repeated attempts to get the authorities to listen to our anguished pleas for the remains of our brutally killed relatives so that their souls rest in peace. All this has been stated and documented by them in subsequent affidavits, too. Yet this hostile and antagonistic attitude by the administration reveals their true motive.


CDs of December 27, 2005 substantively prove what the victim survivors and CJP are saying is truth. They have placed the CDs with transcripts before the Court.


(To be continued)