home > Reports
Genocide in Rural Gujarat: The Experience of Dahod District
A report prepared by
Forum Against oppression of Women and Aawaaz-E-Niswaan
Bombay, June 2002
Violence Against Women
The specific situation of women from the villages having to go back to the small place and live with the same people who have seen the kind of violence that has happened against them and the pressure from within the community to not talk about the kind of violence that women went through, has resulted in no specific complaints of sexual violence against women from this area. In some places people have spoken about it but in confidence and they do not want to make a complaint under these circumstances.
The mention of violence against women or the threat of sexual violence to women was always there but in the third person or in the form of a story of some other place. Knowing how difficult it is for women to come to terms with such violence and also knowing the pressures that act on the women from outside and within the community, we chose not to probe this issue much during our conversations. Through our conversations with different people we feel that the incidence of all kinds of sexual violence against women is quite high.
The threat of sexual assault has been verbally given all the time. When the mobs came into the villages, one of the things that they kept saying was "Give us your women and girls. We shall look after them." Such things were also written on the walls of the houses that had been damaged. Where people were generally able to run away, women did not have to go through actual physical sexual assault but in all places where they were caught by the crowd, there has been all kinds of sexual violence and abuse like stripping the women, touching them in all possible abusive ways, making them run naked on the streets of the village and even gang rapes.
For example, apart from Fatehpura, women from Sanjeli and Munkhosla also hinted at sexual violence. In one incident from Sanjeli village two women were raped and killed and people are talking about this. People from Sanjeli escaped in 18 vehicles with police escort. As they were fleeing the mobs in tempos and trucks, many people were gathered along side the road with stones and threw them from the hillsides on the people in the trucks. Many persons were severely injured in these attacks and some people lost their lives as well.
Around twenty two people were fleeing in a tempo when the vehicle had a punctured tyre because of the stones and nails on the road. While they were trying to escape quickly, the mob came and pulled out four people. These were Fatima Murtuza, her husband Murtuza and father-in-law and sister-in-law Zainab. First the two men were killed and then the women were also killed. The people who narrated the incident said that when their dead bodies were recovered they found that they had been burnt with tyres around their torso in such a way that their face and legs were not burnt. They could thus be recognized and it was realised that they were sexually abused and mutilated in the genitals and so burnt in this manner. Fatima also had a four month old child who was saved because he was with someone else. The assailants in this case were unknown people and so no specific complaint has been registered.
The other people who could not escape in the trucks escaped into the jungle and walked to Dahod for three days without food and water and with young children until they reached Dahod. These stories became even clearer as we visited Sanjeli. The landscape is very dry and arid. This also seems to be a drought year. Many of the trees around are only keekar filled with dry thorns. There is hardly any scrub either which could afford protection to the people fleeing into the forest. The whole area is also hilly and often the road winds up and down a narrow path between short stumpy hillocks. This is where the people stood with piles of stones and brick to attack the fleeing people. We saw many piles of stones and some scattered bricks still there when we went.
Many women also hinted at sexual abuse, but no one acknowledged the prevalence of rape during the attack other than the rapes of women who died. But most women expressed a strong sense of insecurity and sorrow for those who had to run across the land and walk to Dahod. "Our feet were full of thorns which we did not pull out till we reached Dahod." "Only we know and our Allah knows what we have lived through."