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
Sanjeli (Taluka: Jhalod)
There are about 425 houses of Muslims in the villages of Sanjeli, Vansia, Mandli, Kakreli, Picchoda, Anika from Jhalod Taluka and Dungarpur of Limkheda Taluka. The Muslim population in these villages is about 2,700. Sanjeli is the village with the largest number of Muslim households. There are 311 families occupying 400 houses. Amongst the Ghanchi community, the number of affected persons is 1921 from Sanjeli alone. There are also 89 Bohra houses in Sanjeli village alone.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and the RSS have been making members in these areas and also opening and running new shakhas since 1995. Before this also in 1998 there was communal violence against Muslims in the villages of Sanjeli and Randhikpur. In 1998, there was an incident where two Adivasi women, one of whom was married, had eloped with Muslim men from Sanjeli and Randhikpur. They were not traced for a few days. This incident had been used by the VHP and Bajrang Dal to incite the local Adivasi community in these villages against the Muslim community. A copy of the leaflet distributed at that time is inserted in the box below. This had led to communal violence in Sanjeli and the Muslim people had to leave the village for almost two months then. They finally returned to their houses which were not looted or damaged in the manner that they were this time. The eloped couples were found, a police case filed and settled later.
VHP peppers tribal regions with hate pamphlets
Hate campaign the PM knows nothing about
Inciteful pamphlets distributed and incendiary speeches made at the VHP-sponsored `dharam sabhas' have been ingenuously used by the BJP-RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal combine to intensely communalise neighbourhoods and communities before an attack is launched against the minorities. Reproduced here is the English translation of a pamphlet in Gujarati, which was widely circulated in Sanjeli town and its neighbourhood a fill month before the attack on the Muslims on August 12 and 15, 1998. (First published in CC, October 1998).
Onwards to Sanjeli!
Let's unite - to stop young, tribal women from being lured and kid napped. Let us unite to put an end to these unholy incidents of Hindu women being sold in Muslim countries - Let's respond to bricks with stones.
Onwards to Sanjeli! Public meeting Onwards to Sanjeli!
Date: July 7, 1998, Sunday afternoon, 3 p.m.
At Rein Bassera, Sanjeli
Leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and
Bajrang Dal to address the meeting
A young, 18-year-old woman, Kanta, of Randhikpur, and another married adivasi woman were seduced and kidnapped to some unknown destination by Muslim youths. We have no trace of them. This is not the first incident in our area. Whether it is Vandana from Bandibaar, or Ami and Surekha from Jhalod, or Varsha from Godhra. There have been innumerable such incidents of kidnappings and disappearances. For months and years, our sisters and daughters cannot be traced. Apart from that, tragic incidents like the suicides of several elders like Magabhai Ninama keep happening in our society.
Hindu young women are kidnapped and
Hindu elders commit suicide
Hindu population on the decline
Produce more children by kidnapping young women
Add to Muslim population
A widespread conspiracy to add to the numbers of anti-Hindu, anti-national elements is at work throughout the country
For the establishment of Ram Rajya, it was the people alone who came forward to help Bhagwan Ram. Now too, adivasi brethren will have to come forward and unite to destroy this conspiracy.
When there is a weekly village market what do these Muslim loafers do? How do these Muslim loafers behave with Adivasi women going to the river for river sand? Pretending to help, do you know how these loafers tempt and lure young adivasi women and their elders?
Without expecting anything from the police, the government, or any of the politicians who are only interested in securing our votes - come - let us save our sisters and daughters from the clutches of these yavanas (demons) who sell them to the Arabs.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad - Bajrang Dal - Sanjeli
This is a report published in Communalism Combat in July, 2000.
In Sanjeli there are still some Dalit and Adivasi women who have married Muslim men and they live with their husbands. This has always infuriated the RSS and Bajrang Dal. This time round too, the VHP has been demanding that any Adivasi women married to Muslims should be handed over to them. They are also demanding that the children of the Dalit women married to Muslim should also be handed over to them.
Muslim residents of Sanjeli said that such kind of mobilisation has been consistently going on in the village up until very recently. Just three months prior to the recent attacks, for example, there were huge meetings in which VHP and Bajrang Dal had announced that "Sanjeli will Burn" and burn it did.
Now, this town looks like some ghostly archaeological sight. A painful survivor of a war, a severe bombing. Lanes after lanes, all one can see is rows of houses that have been completely devastated. With no roofs, no walls and completely burnt. There is not a shred of any belongings anywhere. Every house is completely stripped of everything and burnt. There is not even electric wiring or meters, no water pipeline or even wooden frames or windows and doors remaining. These are around 450 houses altogether. All animals, crops, and trees (flowering, fruit bearing or other) have been so destroyed that we cannot tell if such ever existed here.
In one lane in between these bombed out ruins there are two Hindu houses which have saffron flags fluttering and Ram and Hanuman written on them. These houses are intact, with no damage at all. Even the paint on the outer walls looks undamaged by any of this destruction around. If one raises one's head to look beyond these lanes, then one sees life going on uninterrupted in other houses. There are clothes hanging on the clotheslines, men are reading papers in the morning sun, fragile TV antennas are safely on their perches, unseen hands are preparing food and the occasional flower, this is a very hot summer, blooms cheerfully in the flowerpots on the terraces or on the doorstep. These two realities exist simultaneously with only one side even aware of the irony of it and the horror.
The Sequence of Events:
On 28th February, the day of the Gujarat Bandh, there was no trouble in the village. The next day, on the 1st of March, the Bharat Bandh day, the mob came after the afternoon namaaz and started throwing stones. They also attacked the houses in the outskirts of the village and burnt some of them. They also created trouble all through the night outside the village.
The next day, on the 2nd of March, they came with a large crowd, maybe 15 to 20 thousand people and entered the village. They set fire to shops, houses and vehicles and attacked the Muslims. They carried guns, bows and arrows, dharias, swords, trishuls, and they were shouting slogans and hurling all kinds of abuses. The slogans were of the kind, "Musalmans go to Pakistan, Hindustan is ours."
The police did not do anything to stop the mobs. At that time one person died in private firing by the mob. They had set things on fire on all sides in the village. Then the SDM's car came and ordered a curfew in the village and talked to the villagers. The Muslims were told to go inside the house and that there were orders for shoot at sight, so they went inside the houses. The curfew was not implemented and the mob kept attacking in the presence of the local police and homeguards. The mobs were in no way dispersed or asked to leave.
Much after that the DSP came and spoke to the Muslims and said that if they wanted to be safe, they should move to Dahod. He himself brought them out from the village to Dahod. When the people were fleeing the village in vehicles, on the way also there was stone throwing and private firing at them all along the way. The DSP brought them to Dahod putting his life also at risk. On the way one of the vehicles had a punctured tyre near Rayaniya village. Four people were burnt alive here. There were two women amongst these and they were raped and then burnt. Due to the stone throwing on the vehicles and the suffocation, many people lost their lives while fleeing.
After all the Muslims left for Dahod, back in the village the destruction continued. They removed all the windows and doors and did complete destruction of all the Muslim owned houses. The Hindu houses amongst these houses were saved because they had been marked with a cross or saffron flags put on them. So the marked houses were spared by the mob. Till date the local police has not taken any action.
After the people left the village, every house and shop was burnt, and looted. All the religious books were burnt. The Masjid and Madarasa were also completely destroyed. There are obscenities scratched on the walls. Inside the Masjid it is written that "Hindustan is For Hindus and Muslim should go to Pakistan". Besides on the walls Hindu Gods' names are written. The Masjid was also dug up inside, all the minaras of the Masjid were broken down and it had saffron flags mounted on it. There is one church in Sanjeli, which also has been destroyed in the same manner. It is now completely bare and a saffron flag mounted on the top. All the surrounding trees have been cut and the garden completely destroyed into non-existence.
The Attack While Fleeing:
Many women and men recounted that when 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, tempos and jeeps. Several people, almost all had some sort of injury, were severely injured in these attacks and many died in this nightmarish escape. They also recounted how not all people could escape in the trucks and many escaped into the jungle and walked to Dahod for three days without food and water and with young children.
These narratives became even clearer as we visited Sanjeli. All people kept on insisting that we visit Sanjeli as "if you have seen Sanjeli, you have seen what has happened to Dahod." 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, which 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 possibility of rape other than against the 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." They did share repeatedly how the two women who had been pulled out from the tempo while fleeing were raped and then burnt.
When we spoke to the Bohra community leaders, they too acknowledged that women had traveled with great difficulty across land with their children and "unke saath bahut bura hua." But they too refused to say anything further. They gave us extensive figures on the destruction of property and affected Bohra community members which are attached. Their relief and rehabilitation is being centralized through their office in Bombay. Many of those from nearby villages also had their own houses in Dahod and had shifted to those houses, while others had been given houses by the community itself. Bohras from other villages like Fatehpura were also staying with relatives in Rajasthan.
The residents of the village said that the Hindus had been organising and planning these attacks. As recounted to us, the people associated with the violence in this round are as follows and these same people were responsible for the violence against Christians in 1998:
1. Dalsukhdas Maharaj 2. Mukesh Nandkishor Purohit
3. Jagdish Premchand Jain 4. Dimple Occhavlal Desai
5. Vijaysinh Dalpatsinh Raolji 6. Prakash Jagannath Dhobi
7. Ramchandra Ghanshyam Agrawal 8. Digvijaysinh M. Chauhan
9. Vaktabhai Salabhai Khant 10. Chandubhai Prajapati
11. Ramesh Maharaj (Nenki Sarpanch) 12. Shankar Kotha Prajapati
13. Bhopat Luna Prajapati 14. Chadiya Ghala Harijan
15. Prakash Shomabhai Raval 16. Popat Somabhai Raval (driver)
17. Mansingh Ravat (Picchhoda) 18. Shashikant Mahida
19. Pardhibhai Kamabhai Marel 20. Dalsingh Bhagabhai Marel
21. Tajsingh Bhundabhai Marel 22. Ashok Bhoi
The residents of Sanjeli have made a consolidated written complaint as well as have attempted to file individual FIRs with the police. The police have made a general FIR for the village and have not included any of the names of the accused in it. They have not registered individual FIRs and no action has been taken against anybody. The police had also added some things in the FIR against the Muslim community, which were not there in the complaint submitted by the residents. The police have said that some Muslim people attacked a few Adivasis and so the crowd got out of control and angry and attacked the village. No such incident had taken place and this is a complete fabrication. The Muslims have made an affidavit correcting this in court. These documents were submitted to the Concerned Citizen's Tribunal.
Camps, Claims and Compensation:
All the Muslim people from here got spread over Jhalod, Dahod and some villages in Rajasthan. The police insisted on them going back to Sanjeli and so on 23rd April 325 people went to Sanjeli. On 24th the camp at Sanjeli started and on the 25th, when the camps at Jhalod were suddenly shut down, many people who were in those camps also were forced to go back to Sanjeli. The government has been giving ration and there are now arrangements for electricity and water but the first cheque for the amount of 5 Rs. per person per day, was received only on the 8th of May. There is no tent provided by the government and the camp is being run in a pucca house which is partially damaged.
Of the 15 dead, only three have received compensation. In subsequent meetings with the Collector and other officials, this issue has been discussed and assurances that this will be looked into has been given to the residents. This is still being followed up.
Most of the affected residents have received the cash dole but there are some who still have not received any. The shops have been completely destroyed but the compensation has not been more than five to ten thousand. The survey of the houses has not been accurate and was done in the absence of the residents. The extent of the damage is much more than what the survey states. The Hindu houses that have been partially damaged have received more compensation. An application about this has been made to the Dahod officials as well as to the State officials at Gandhinagar. As a result, the Commissioner has sanctioned a re-survey but its outcome is so far unclear.
All the houses will have to be newly constructed as they are completely destroyed. Till then where do they live? What do they earn? How would they feed themselves once government stops rations by end of May. And once the BSF goes away will they live at all? These are questions that haunt them. At present BSF patrols the area and SRP also has tents on both sides of this temporary camp. But people are apprehensive about their future.