Jhalod (Taluka: Jhalod)
We visited Jhalod twice, once on the 25th of April and then on 30th of April. Things altered drastically in between these two visits as the camps got closed down in the meanwhile and many of the people from the neighbouring villages got scattered around the town or went back. Subsequently we also met some people from Jhalod who came to Dahod town to submit their written testimonies for the Concerned Citizen's Tribunal on the 10th of May. The following is an account of Jhalod town as put together from these three encounters with residents from the village.
Chronology of events for Jhalod town:
In Jhalod, Muslim families are primarily in the agriculture and transport businesses. There is also a section of poorer daily wage Muslim labourers. The violence targeted all sectors of the Muslim community in this town.
In Jhalod all the Hindu houses were marked with saffron flags before the 27th of February itself. This was done the day before Id that is on 22nd of February, and the people said that they were surprised about this as there was no Hindu festival at that time. Further, in the evening there was a rally at 4 pm of around 100 - 150 people and then they had meetings everywhere after that.
The leaders of the BJP from Jhalod named by the local people are: Bhagwan Panchal, Agnesh Panchal, Bhavesh Babubhai Katar (son of the MP), Subhash Agrawal, Sunil Agrawal, Kaloobhai Sangada, Chhagan Bhunatar (ex-Corporator), Narainbhai (from Limli), Mukesh Karnawat, Dalsukh Maharaj, Mukeshkumar Nandkishor Purohit, Shankar Labana, Maheshbhai Bhuria, Suresh Charal, Ramanbhai Admat Khutawala (sarpanch) and others.
On 28th February, 2002, during the Gujarat bandh nothing happened in Jhalod but there was immense sale of petrol from the pumps and acid from the chemical companies. All night vehicles of Babubhai Katara (MP) ran around between their houses to all the villages around. Later it was realized that this was to get all the weapons together and also to collect people.
On 1st March at about 8 - 8:30 am two motorcycles and one Bohra-owned TVS showroom were burnt in Mowada. After this at about 9:30 am at the bus stand in the Nagar Palika Bureau first a gift shop and then other shops of Muslims were looted. At the same time in the Muslim area there was shoot at sight order in force.
While people were at home working in the morning, a large mob entered the village, beat the men and women and looted their homes. The attacking mob was equipped with guns, swords, revolvers, mobile telephones, truckloads of packaged chemicals, and drill machines. Then from the taluka panchayat they started looting all the Muslim establishments on the highway - Banswara road. Particularly along the highway, Muslim homes and establishments experienced extensive destruction and burning. Fires gutted shops, godowns and businesses as well as houses along the road owned by Muslims.
Muslims in this village also suffered terrible abuses including extensive physical attack as well. Those who survived the attacks were often covered in burns and serious wounds, which may or may not have been surgically stitched. They said that even if four police had patrolled the area the carnage and destruction could have been avoided.
One of the first persons to be stabbed was Bibiben who was stabbed by the mob inside her house and who died on the spot. Her daughter Safiya who came to save her was also attacked and was very seriously hurt. She was shifted to a hospital in Dahod after some days and suffered a lot. People could not even reach the hospital because the conditions were quite bad in Dahod also. She could not be shifted to Vadodara or Ahmedabad for a long time due to the continuing violence in these cities. Finally she was shifted only after the 1st of May but by then it was too late for her to recover and she succumbed to her injuries on 6th May, 2002, in Al Amin Hospital, Ahmedabad. Safiya's niece, who is 12 years old, was also stabbed and injured.
Then Yusufbhai Kaira was stabbed with a sword on both his hands when he was sitting in his house. After this people from all houses started running to save their lives. Yunus Yusuf Patel was shot by Bhavesh Katara (the MP's son) and Nanda Bagabhai Dindor's son threw stones at him and killed him. All houses here were looted and burnt. The mob was of about 500 here. From here they moved towards Koliwada destroying everything on the way.
There Ishaq Abdul Karim Kooka was shot at in private firing. Some residents have reported that the following people were with guns here: Subhash Makhanlal Agrawal, Bhavesh Babulal Katara, Gopal Makhanlal Agrawal, Kirit Makhanlal Agrawal, Mukesh Makhanlal Agrawal, Suresh Charel, Balji Patel, Rajni Patel. They continued violence all along and finally in the evening went to a large timber mill and burnt that completely.
All night they kept making noises, firing shots, bursting crackers, hooting, leaving everyone in tension and fear. The whole Muslim community got together in Mandli Faliya main bazaar. As they said they managed to protect themselves through the night because they had all gathered in one "safe" area of the town and were also defending themselves in whatever way they could.
2nd March, 2002: Around 15 to 20,000 people blocked and surrounded the whole town from all sides. They were trying to enter but could not. Although the Muslim community was trying to defend themselves, they were finding it very difficult to do so. In that situation at about 3 pm they agreed to a meeting of the peace committee, which was held with Congress leaders, BJP leaders and Muslim leaders. They had a lot of discussions but could not arrive at any "solution". So they decided to meet again the next day. While the meeting was going on, houses of a community of Fakirs were burnt.
The settlement next to Loharwada, called Bapu Nagar where a fakir community lived was completely destroyed; the roofs and walls of about 10 houses were collapsed. This settlement faces huge open space, so they could see large mobs of people approaching them, shouting loudly as they advanced towards them. The mob consisted of Adivasis from Kaljiki Saraswani, Velpura and Lakhanpur communities. At that point all the people from the settlement fled towards the main village. The mob proceeded to loot and burn the basti as well as the graveyard nearby and they even dug up the graves. The destruction also included completely breaking down the water pumps, tanks, pipes, and rooms. All the trees, including fruit bearing trees were cut down. All the stored grain was burnt. They are requesting that their land should be exchanged for some land in the middle of the village.
3rd March, 2002: The peace committee meeting was again held around 12 noon. In this meeting the Deputy Collector Mr. Pagi, the Mamlatdaar Pateliya Sahab, the BJP MP Babubhai Katara, VHP leaders Bhagwanbhai Panchal, Agneshbhai Panchal, Subhash Agrawal, Bharat Patel were present. In this meeting the BJP leaders put some conditions before the Muslim community in return for being spared any further violence. The conditions were as follows:
1. No Muslim boy should come out of the house after 10 pm.
2. No ajaan on the mike in the Masjid.
3. Close Muslim students hostels.
4. Close slaughter houses on the highway.
5. Whenever our band crosses the Masjid we will not stop playing.
6. No Muslim children should even stand and watch Hindu Barat.
The community panch agreed to these conditions at that time as they were all under tremendous pressure. As one of the persons who submitted his written testimony to the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal said to us, "Our condition was very bad. We were moving with three dead bodies from the 1st. They had not been buried as we could not go to the graveyard. All the Muslims from the town were in this Mandli Faliya, Main Bazaar, and were surrounded from all sides by this large, violent mob. Finally the three bodies we buried in our bazaar in our jamaatkhana, the place where we eat. Jo zinda thhe unki to halat kharab thi hi, jo mar gaye thhe unki bhi kahin jagah nahin thi. At that time we had no choice but to accept the conditions."
Until about the 13th people stayed inside their houses, in their mohallas in Mandli Faliya, not coming out at all. From the 4th other people from the villages around Jhalod also started coming and then on the 14th, the camp started and all the people from Jhalod whose houses had also been destroyed, went and started staying there.
Overview of Camps:
There were three camps in Jhalod, roughly from March 5 through April 25. Since the Muslim people in Jhalod had been able to protect parts of their areas, it was therefore one of the places where Muslim people from the nearby villages took refuge. The people started arriving from the 4th of March and started living here. The camps were formally set up from the 13th of March. As in most places, the camps were put together by the local community people themselves and were run with great difficulty by them.
One of the main camp organizers was actually running the camp and later distributing rations from his home which was not destroyed during the attack. His business has, however, been closed for two months. He had a balance of his own of Rs. 7,000 at end of February, which he distributed to 100-200 people whose homes had been destroyed. "Where do we go now?" he asks. "BJP? Congress? Where is our safety?" "If RSS/VHP want to fight, why don't they go on the border and fight Britain or China? Why this internal fighting amongst us?" "So much harm ("nuksan") done here, but no one ready to take responsibility."
When we visited Jhalod on 25th April, Camp 1 housed 362 people, Camp 2 housed 998 people, and Camp 3 housed 950 people. . Apart from the people from Jhalod town itself, many others came from several different villages around Jhalod including Rajpur, Chitrodia, Kahardungra, Sitavali, Munkhosla, Sanjeli, Talav Phalia, Seetavatli, Rangrej, and Moti Bandibaar.
In camp no. 1, no deaths were reported. This camp was started on March 13 after the return of people from Rajasthan. This camp area itself was very small. Men and women had no space. Here people were slightly poorer than those in Camp no.2. These camps were divided along caste lines. People in this camp were from the Sipai, Kasba, Pathan, Sheikh, Sayyad, and Diwan, communities, among others. Initially there were 403 people in this camp, but some had relocated to their villages. When we visited, there were 362 people there. They were from - Munkhosla (138), Talav Phalia (40), Seetavatli (77), Rajpur (21), Rangrej (7 households), Jhalod town (102), Sanjeli (13) and Moti Bandibaar (13).
We first visited the camps on the 25th of April. On the same afternoon, the new Collector of Dahod, Mr. Pandor, who had just taken charge the previous day, visited the camps and, against the will of the residents and camp organizers, had the camps dismantled that very afternoon. This was his first visit to the area on taking office. When another team of interviewers reached the same site on 25th April later in the afternoon, the tents were already being dismantled and the people dispersing into the nearby neighbourhoods.
Since then, the Mamlatdaar has told the camp organizers that they can restart the camps, but the people had already dispersed and forced to relocate to other places. There is distribution of ration through the camp organizers but as in other places, that too is to continue only till the 31st of May. Now many of the people are either living with relatives or have rented houses. The rent is very high and is very difficult to put together as all of the survivors of the attacks have lost their source of income. But people are forced to do this, as they do not have anywhere else to go to.
For instance, women from a village called Munkhosla continued to live in Jhalod after the camps shut down because they do not feel safe to go back to their village. J. ben is from Munkhosla gaon. There were about 150 Muslim people living in Munkhosla belonging to the Kanoya community. J. ben's family consists of about 50-60 people. When the carnage started (she did not mention dates), a young Adivasi boy, who is a driver, warned them that there were riots in Jhalod so they should run. Her entire family fled to Himmatgad in Rajasthan where they were for four days and then they went to Banswada, also in Rajasthan, where they stayed with some relatives for the next 15 days. When they came back to Munkhosla around Holi (i.e. 28/03/02), they were subject to stone throwing and the Adivasis tried to fire at them. Thus they ran away and came to Jhalod where they were in the camp.
The need for the camps is felt even now. As late as May 21, when the people from the area went and met the Collector, one of the demands was for reopening the Jhalod camps and he has agreed to do so in principle, provided there were enough letters from the people asking for the same.
Women are receiving no ration or relief cards, especially women in female-headed households. "With a camp, we don't get what we are owed," many of them said. They also kept repeating, "Hamari izzat ko kutch nahi kiya," when talking about the attacks. Many women were talking at the same time and very softly. They kept saying, "what can we say where all they have touched us and what all they have done, what all they have done to women, kya batayen". Women were saying that they have heard that at all other places a lot happened with women. They were also asking what exactly happened.
The women from Munkhosla were very clear about not wanting to return to their village. They felt that they were isolated in their small village and that it would not be safe for them to return. While they did mention about sexual abuse, they did not say if there had been instances of assault and rape. But all were clear that they did not feel safe and wanted land to be given in Jhalod itself for them to stay. The women of Talav Phalia also felt the same and did not want to go back at all.
Most women in this camp kept saying that it was very bad and "Jo bacha hai voh hamari izzat bachi hai".