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Panel hears of riot rapes

Ahmedabad, Aug. 28: Bibibano broke down and wept inconsolably as she recounted how her sister-in-law was raped and burnt before her eyes. Naeemuddin Shaikh, another riot victim of Naroda-Patia, cried as he recalled how a mob molested his wife.

Deposing before the two-man Nanavati Commission, riot victims from Naroda-Patia today described the horrific violence unleashed by a charged mob on February 28 last year.

“They behaved worse than dogs and scratched and bit our girls and tore their clothes off, even chopping off my wife’s hand. The worst part is that our long-time neighbours also took part in the killings and plunder,” Shaikh told the panel.

This is the first time since the panel began recording statement of riot victims and witnesses that allegations have been made of women and girls being molested by frenzied mobs.

Bibibano and Shaikh told the panel they begged policemen present to protect them from the mob, only to be told: “We have orders from above not to protect you.”

Bibibano said her sister-in-law was burnt alive after being molested right in front of her. The mob then hacked her brother-in-law to death. Bibibano’s husband, daughter and mother-in-law were also killed in the attack along with three of her nephews and nieces.

“When we pleaded with the mob to spare us, they said we deserve this treatment because Muslims were responsible for the Godhra carnage (of the previous day),” she said.

Shaikh, a bread vendor, described graphically how some people sporting saffron headbands and wearing shorts and vests, gathered at Naroda on the morning of February 28. They then randomly began to torch houses and hack people to death.

“The attacks began in the morning and even the police drove us towards the mob. Even our long-time Hindu neighbours of Gangotri and Gopinath Societies took part in the massacre. While we were running, Hindu youths poured kerosene from the terrace and set ablaze whoever was drenched,” Shaikh said. The bread vendor said youths belonging to the two building complexes took advantage of the confusion, molesting many women and tearing off their clothes.

Fatima Bibi, 50, the first victim from Naroda Patia to depose before the panel, said police did not attempt to save them. Instead, they pushed women and children towards the armed mob.

She said when she approached some state reserve police personnel stationed nearby, she was told: “If Muslims in Godhra had not done that (burning kar sevaks) then your condition would not have become like this.”

Sharada Patel, a 62-year-old retired principal of a girl school in Naroda Gaam, said local MLA Mayaben Kodnani was spotted in the area at the time. Patel, who claimed to be a social worker, said local Congress and BJP leaders, including Mayaben, were trying to pacify the mob.

But yesterday, responding to another riot victim’s testimony that she instigated the mobs, Mayaben had denied being at Naroda-Gaam on the morning of February 28. The BJP city chief and Naroda MLA said she was in the Assembly that morning and then spent time at two hospitals.

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