The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Riots witnesses speak out against police

Ahmedabad, July 28: For a change, some witnesses had unflattering things to say about the police to the Nanavati Commission, which today began its second phase of recording statements of victims and witnesses from the city.

The two-man inquiry commission, comprising Justice (retd) G.T. Nanavati and Justice (retd) K.G. Shah, is probing the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat in 2002.

The majority of witnesses today praised the police for maintaining law and order during last year’s riots, but there were some who did not parrot that line.

Instead, Rashida Bano, 30, told the panel her husband Yusuf was killed by the police on March 1, 2002. She said police came to her house to take her husband away to the police station for interrogation.

“As we did not know where the police were taking my husband we followed them. On our way to the police station we were told by some people about a body that ‘resembled my husband’ lying unattended (on the road). When we reached there, I found it was my husband. The police murdered him, ’’ Rashida said.

She added that police refused to register her FIR that Yusuf had died of police-inflicted severe head injuries.

Bharatbhai Datanya, a home guard, told the panel he was punished because he had tried to bring the riots under control. “The only crime I committed was that I tried to perform my duty. At that point of time my duty was to control the riot. This angered the police and they framed me in a false case,” said Bharatbhai, who spent six months in the central jail.

Another witness, Rafi Memon, was willing to talk about police atrocities if the commission ensured he would not suffer for speaking up.

Many witnesses said the police were trying to paint themselves white and undo the damage to their image. This was the reason, they said, that so many witnesses had told the panel that the police did their duty and did it well during the riots.

A number of victims thought the panel was responsible for distributing relief and many of those who turned up today complained about inadequate compensation. The commission informed them that they were not handling such matters.

More than 150 witnesses turned up to depose before the panel today, a marked improvement on earlier days.

During its second phase of hearing, the panel will cover the police station areas of Shahpur, Karanj, Kalupur, Sher Kotda, Khadia and Gaekwad Haveli. No gruesome killings were reported from these communally sensitive areas, but there were incidents of stabbing, arson and rioting. The hearing will last till August 1.

The panel is yet to announce the dates when statements of residents of the worst-affected areas will be recorded. Hearings for residents of Naroda-Patia (where more than 90 people were killed), Naroda Gaam and Gulbarg Society in Meghaningar (where over 39 people were burnt alive) are likely to be held in the third phase.

According to police records, 959 cases were registered during the riots. Of these, 516 are pending trial and 19 are awaiting investigation. The commission has received 4,000 statements in the form of affidavits from all over Gujarat.

Those who submitted affidavits are not required to depose.

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