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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 28.03.02
"The distinguishing" characteristic of these riots which merit the label of an ethnic carnage is the widespread appropriation and misuse of Hindu religious symbols and figures. These include the following: shouting "Jai Shri Ram" as a battle cry by marauding mobs and politicians of the ruling party; forcing Muslims to utter the name of Ram...and in many cases accompanied by the pulling of their beards; projecting the Godhra dead as martyrs to the Hindu extremist cause; organizing frenetic chanting and bhajans in the name of Ram, for example on March 15 in Baroda; mass singing of Hanuman Chalisa organized by the very elements involved in looting and arson (for instance even now, in the Tarsali area this is done by Bajrang Dal elements every evening - those very elements which played a major role in setting to waste 185 houses in Noor Park, Tarsali on February 28). ...We would like to highlight the failure of the police in performing their duty. As has been widely reported in the print and electronic media, the police did not respond to numerous and repeated phone calls by people who were seeking their protection and help. For example, in Indira Nagar of Makarpura, after the Bajrang Dal people had vandalized a mosque, the residents made around 100 phone calls to the police. However, the police showed up only after four hours only to say that they (the people) should make their own arrangements for security...Often incidents took place near police stations and temporary police chowkies. Police and state administration had not taken action in spite of being given details well in advance...of sensitive areas and persons... Other such examples of post-March 15 incidents where police were repeatedly given advance notice by us are: Panvad and Kawant of Baroda district; Borsali Apartment in Ajwa Road, and Bahaar colony in Baroda, Rain Basera in Machhipith, Wadi, Nawapura, Patel estate at Pratapnagar, Sardar Estate ...On March 15, in front of the Pani Gate Nawapura Naka Police chowki, three boys burnt a house belonging to the minority community while six policemen stood watching. A shop of a Muslim in full view of the Panigate police station was burnt. Similarly, in front of the Mandvi police control room, one shop was burnt without any police action and on Shastri Baug Road, very close to the police point, Syed Studio was burnt...Even worse, there were many instances of the police taking active part in the violence - in the looting, arson and in the killings. In Navayard (Roshan Nagar and Ashanagar) kerosene was seen in a police vehicle during the riot according to Muslim eye witnesses... When 32 persons of the minority community were returning to fetch their belongings accompanied by two police vehicles... they were attacked by a reported mob of at least 2,000 in the Makarpura area of Baroda. Two persons of the minority community died on the spot, four are in critical condition in the intensive care unit in the Medical College Hospital and 18 others were injured. ...Over and above this, we would like to point out the atrocities on women committed by the police during the past three weeks. Not only were the women subject to verbal abuse, they were also subjected to physical and sexual abuse. In Bahaar colony of Ajwa Road, women went out to request the police to set up a police point as tension had been increasing in the face of violence. The police refused to listen to the women and in fact, laathi charged to force them into their homes. At Rain Basera, Machchipith, under Karelibag police station, several women were assaulted by the police during "combing operations". Four policemen entered the bustee at around 3 pm on March 16, 2002 and started beating them indiscriminately - Sairaben Shaikh, Faridabanu Shaikh, Hamidabibi Pathan all age between 30 and 45 were among those who were beaten so badly that their wounds are still visible. Faridabibi was hit on her chest by a laathi, and Hamidabibi in her pubic region. In Bahaar colony, women were pulled out of their homes by dragging them by their breasts. Even 18 year old girls were not spared - they were threatened with swords and sticks by the police. Rukiabibi, a 70 year old woman in Kasamala Kabristan, who went out to prevent the police from taking away her young son, was hit by the laathi so hard that her head split open. ...The problems of the affected population did not end with the halt in the active incidents of violence. These continued in various hidden forms. Many people have fled the areas in which they were living because they no longer feel safe there. However, the FIRs have to be lodged in the area of their permanent residence. Those who have only just managed to save their lives fear to go back to these areas to lodge their FIRs. Also, there is no guarantee that their FIR will be registered. For example, in Bhutadi Zhampa and Old Padra Road, police refused point blank to lodge FIRs of affected Muslims. When they did admit their complaints, there was an under valuation of the property losses - this happened at the Old Padra Road police station and Indiranagar police stations for instance. To be concluded