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Crippling a community every which way

8 Mar 2002

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AHMEDABAD: We have paid the price for living decently, a Muslim resident told me (Teesta) today. He is a resident of Paldi, an area dominated by Jains. Paldi is a locality in Ahmedabad inhabited by the upper middle class. Of the 5-6,000 population, there are about 1,000 Muslims. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 1, 02 the residents experienced utter terror and helplessness as a mob of 3-5,000 surrounded the apartment blocks dominated by Muslims and gutted them completely 

Kazmi Apartments, Elite Apartments, Delite Apartments, Corner 2 and Tarana Apartments were totally gutted. Abdullah Motimahal, Nizamuddin Momeen and Iqbal Hasmani, all above 60, were attacked by men wielding swords. Despite the fact that the violence raged for seven hours, and not less than 100 calls went to the Police Commissioner, no help was forthcoming from the police or the fire brigade.

This area has been the target of Hindutva fanatics since February 2000 when a crude bomb was placed in a flat in a building owned by one Naved Siddique to send out a clear message — no Muslims moving into Paldi please! It has also been the scene of communal polarisation in 1990, the year of LK Advanis infamous rath yatra.

At the Naroda fruit mandi where we visited next, all 17 wholesale fruit godowns owned by members of the Memon community were gutted with military precision. Apart from the wares (fruit), offices, computers and trucks carrying fruits were destroyed. The total loss from this is an estimated Rs 2.5-3 crore. Though distraught businessmen -- hearing news of the well-planned and selective destruction of their businesses -- made no less than 50 calls to the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC), they received no help or protection. 

The police are reported to have aided the mob of 5,000 and there are unconfirmed reports of daily wage earners of Hindu businessmen being engaged to carry out the job. 

The Baben Shah Masjid on the Swami Narayan Chawl road, just behind the fruit market was turned to rubble. When we reached there, we found torn and burned pages of the Koran strewn all over and the photograph of the idol of Hanuman, some diyas and Jai Sri Ram! painted in red on the wall ruins.

This is the fate of 26-30 masjids/mazaars all over the city and, unconfirmed reports say, of 250 for all over the State. 

we visited Naroda pattiya, the scene of the worst violence where nothing but charred remains and ruins greeted us. All the survivors of this most brutal round of violence are in relief camps. Charred remains, a gas cylinder inside the mosque, used to effectively blast the place of worship were all that we could see. 

A preliminary assessment by the Muslim community of the total loss it has suffered is around Rs 3,000 crore. Seventeen-18 factories in interior Gujarat, 1,100 hotels belonging to Chiliyas and at least 1,000 trucks owned by Muslims were targeted. All over Ahmedabad a quick tour is enough to show that the violence was both targeted and selective. 

Response
We had an intensive meeting to discuss legal strategies on the Gujarat situation today. The good thing was that this was a collective meeting cutting across different groups and the consensus for concerted, not dispersed action. Initial drafts of different legal interventions proposed will be ready by the weekend.

The voice of sane civil society needs to be asserted in a concerted manner through mobilisation and legal action,” said Girishbhai Patel, senior jurist adding that we need to do whatever we can to build up a stiff and sustained resistance. It was unanimously decided to make a universal and public demand on the official Commission that has been announced by the State Government. These are:

To reject the appointment of a local Judge and demand that due to the extent of breakdown of the  constitutional machinery of the State a diverse and representative team of Supreme Court Judges be appointed to conduct the inquiry; That the terms of the Commission be made powerful That the State commit itself to accepting the recommendations.

In addition, a Peoples Judicial Commission of Inquiry with a time frame of a few months and a series of other interventions have been worked out and will be initiated shortly. 

Relief
On the issue of relief and rehabilitation, of no less than 35,000 displaced persons within Ahmedabad alone, we need to make a concerted demand on the following issues:  

Bare necessities like food, clothing and temporary shelter have not reached several of the camps on the outskirts of Ahmedabad Tin sheets in large numbers are needed to make temporary shelters, There are still unconfirmed reports of corpses lying in a well at Naroda, the scene of the most brutal violence. It is important that the Army goes, with some community leaders among Muslims, to recover these bodies and give them a dignified burial, The issue of rehabilitation on government land with constructed homes is looming large especially as in many areas persons are not willing to go back. Relocation without sensitivity and examination can however be mindless as locations of communities have more to do with economic reasons, the sources of livelihood rather than any other; urgent attention needs to be paid to the matter Civil society groups need to ensure that ration cards are issued afresh and swiftly for all inmates of relief camps. If this is not done there is a real danger that the State, which has already displayed a blatantly partisan and fascist role, will tomorrow actually rob these residents of Ahmedabad their basic right, that of citizenship. All groups working in these areas, and there are many, need to pay special attention to assisting eye witnesses and survivors registering FIRs promptly. The State government needs to provide on a mass basis bore wells to the Muslim peasants of the State who have already been targeted and their bore wells destroyed.

Please join our campaign for speedy and meaningful relief and rehabilitation by faxing the above mentioned demands to: 

K. Subha Rao, Chief Secretary Government of Gujarat, Gandhinagar Fax: 079-3250305

The Alliance for a Secular and Democratic South Asia was formed in 1993 to combat rising religious intolerance in South Asia and to campaign for peace and justice in the region. We are committed to working towards a just, non-violent resolution of the crisis we are currently living through. If you are interested in joining us in this work, please call 617-983-3934 or e-mail info@alliancesouthasia.org

2 Jul 2007

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