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The Indictment of the Gujarat Police
by Shalini Gera

Police Complicity in the Ahmedabad Carnage:

  • "Fatima Bi was one of hundreds who tried to hide in the State Transport staff colony. "The police pushed us out of there," she says, "saying it was our night to die." The people who lived in the colony were giving the mob tyres and petrol to burn people with. While Fatima Bi found a place to hide, others were less lucky. She watched as her pregnant friend Saliya Behn had her belly slit, and was then set on fire along with her children, three-year-old Muskan and six-month-old Subhan. Her badly injured son Khwaja Husain now sits in the Shah Alam refugee camp, unable to talk." Saffron Terror, Frontline, Volume 19 - Issue 06, March 16 - 29, 2002

  • "The fact that Mrs Rochomal lived 80ft away from a police station reveals a bleak truth about the violence that has convulsed India over the past four days: it has been state-sponsored.

    "The authorities have done little to prevent the inferno that has swept the western state of Gujarat - not because of incompetence but because they share the prejudices of the Hindu gangs who have been busy pulping their Muslim neighbours." Police took part in slaughter, The Observer, Sunday March 3, 2002

  • "In many places, shops were looted and set afire right under the nose of the policemen and they even collected a part of the booty. Even as the hooligans were breaking a small mausoleum in the middle of a road barely a few metres away from the police commissioner's office, the police vehicles passing by, not only did not bother to intervene, the police actually gestured to the hooligans to go ahead. There had been at least 15 incidents of damaging and destroying minority places of worship which were overnight converted into ``temples'' with the police remaining a mute spectator." Saffronised police show their colour, The Hindu, Sunday March 3, 2002

  • "Even those neighbourhoods in Ahmedabad which had escaped violence, the residents are gripped by a fear psychosis, as it became more than ever clear that the state and Central governments did not act in time and with the necessary will and force to curb violence.
    "Senior citizens say that the mobs went about their murderous ways with the full knowledge that the state government supported the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and they would not face the wrath of the police." 28, including 14 women, 4 children, burnt in Mehsana, Tehelka, March 2, 2002

  • "An eyewitness told this writer that a police officer offered bangles to some onlookers and told them to enjoy the booty when the C.G.Road Muslim owned shops were not yet targeted.

    "Dr Mukul Sinha, an activist working among the workers of east Ahmedabad's thriving industrial area of Khokhra-Mehmdavad told that he with his colleagues tried to save a Janatanagar slum from 12 midnight of first day of Bandh by organizing the slum dwellers and shouting back at the Rama-chanting mob till next day's 1 pm, when a PSI [Police Sub Inspector] himself was seen helping the mob with his own diesel from his jeep prodding the mob to dowse the slum and its 60 residents with fire. "

    "In front of this writer's eyes, three properties - a posh vegetarian restaurant Bhagyoday, a cleaner's store Edward and a beauty saloon of Shabnam were ransacked, looted and burnt down within minutes by another "Jai Shri Rama" chanting crowd, with at least half a dozen policemen watching the scene from the close-by Gurukul corner." Gujarat: Lab of Hindutva Comes Alive, Mainstream, March 3, 2002

  • "In Ahmedabad, 249 bodies had been recovered until the midnight of March 5. Of these, six could not be identified, while 30 were of Hindus. Of the Hindus killed, 13 were shot by the police, while several others died in attacks on Muslim-owned establishments. Six bodies of Hindu workers were, for example, recovered from Hans Inn and Tasty Hotel. Although there were almost no attacks by Muslim mobs on Hindu-dominated areas, 24 Muslims were killed in police firing. " Saffron Terror, Frontline, Volume 19 - Issue 06, March 16 - 29, 2002

  • "Says Nilesh Shah, a resident of C.G. Road: 'I have never seen a situation like this. Shops being looted, people being burnt, respectable people getting out of cars to loot. In a situation like this, the only ones ice-cool were the policemen.'" Thy Hand, Great Anarch, Outlook Magazine, March 18 , 2002

Police Inaction in Rajkot:

Police Involvement with Violence in the rest of Gujarat:

  • "The violence in Gujarat - which has been encouraged by the state's Hindu nationalist government - amounts to nothing less than religious cleansing. It is clear that Gujarat's ultra-rightwing chief minister, Narendra Modi, would like his Muslim minority to disappear, though it is not clear where he expects them to go. "

    "Last week Mr Modi instructed his police force to turn a blind eye to the anti-Muslim violence that began in Ahmedabad, the state's main city, then rapidly spread to rural areas. "

    "In some places, including Savala, the police even coordinated the destruction. A large group of local Hindus advanced on Savala on Friday afternoon, accompanied by six police officers. They set light to the village's outlying mustard fields, its main source of income. The police prevented Savala's farmers from intervening by shooting at them, injuring a youth in the hand." Burned in bed as Indian violence spirals, The Guardian, Monday March 4, 2002

  • "'Andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai. [It is an inside deal, the police are with us]' This was the rioters' war-cry to Muslim residents in Vadi,Vadodara, as they soaked shops with kerosene that once sold kites, bindis and bangles for the Hindu festivals of Makar Sankranti and Ganapati Puja. But the mob had missed the irony of what they were destroying, as had the two cops looking on languorously. Once again, the attitude-and in most cases, absence-of the police was inextricably linked to which community was at the receiving end. Was it covert patronage from the establishment or a communalised mindset?" Covert Riots And Media, Outlook, March 25, 2002

Could the police have done more?

  • "As one who has served in the Indian Administrative Service for over two decades, I feel great shame at the abdication of duty of my peers in the civil and police administration. The law did not require any of them to await orders from their political superivisors before they organised the decisive use of force to prevent the brutal escalation of violence, and to protect vulnerable women and children from the organised, murderous mobs. The law instead required them to act independently, fearlessly, impartially, decisively, with courage and compassion. If even one official had so acted in Ahmedabad, she or he could have deployed the police forces and called in the army to halt the violence and protect the people in a matter of hours. No riot can continue beyond a few hours without the active connivance of the local police and magistracy. The blood of hundreds of innocents are on the hands of the police and civil authorities of Gujarat, and by sharing in a conspiracy of silence, on the entire higher bureaucracy of the country."

    "I have heard senior officials blame also the communalism of the police constabulary for their connivance in the violence. This too is a thin and disgraceful alibi. The same forces have been known to act with impartiality and courage when led by officers of professionalism and integrity. The failure is clearly of the leadership of the police and civil services, not of the subordinate men and women in khaki who are trained to obey their orders." Harsh Mander, an IAS officer in Cry, The Beloved Country

  • Contrast the Gujarat situation with Ajmer, another potential flashpoint, where the Superintendent of Police did a commendable job of maintaining order at considerable risk to him well-being."

    "Here, the state BJP unit wants the head of Ajmer's Superintendent of Police Saurabh Srivastava, who's credited with having prevented a demonstration in Kishangarh in the district from reaching its bloody conclusion."

    "He and his force staved off around thousand people from both communities who were armed with kerosene bombs, soda water bottles, jagged marble stones and tubelights during a four-and-a-half-hour face-off. Five policemen sustained head injuries, and the 40-year-old SP himself was badly bruised on the legs. The skin on his hands is still raw from catching the stones, much like a cricketer." Varanasi to Ajmer: SP braves saffron rage to keep peace, Indian Express, Monday, March 18, 2002

  • "The city [Ahmedabad], like other communally sensitive areas, has a well-established preventive drill to contain potential riots. "The Director-General of Police, the Additional Director-General in charge of intelligence, the Commissioner of Police, the Home Secretary, the Chief Secretary and the Home Minister or the Chief Minister meet to discuss what must be done to deal with the situation," says Ahmedabad's former Commissioner of Police M.M. Mehta, who years ago won the National Citizen's Award for his handling of riots in Vadodara. Each police station carries out preventive arrests, curfew is imposed and the Deputy Commissioners of Police meet their Commissioner regularly to review developments.

    "Contrast this with what actually happened. Although reports of attacks on Muslims came in within hours of news breaking of the killings in Godhra, no meeting was held. Ahmedabad's 30 police stations and posts carried out just two arrests on the night of February 27, both of Muslims on charge of shouting inflammatory statements. The State Armed Police was deployed in small groups of four or five through the city, but was given no orders to fire on mobs. The result was predictable." Saffron Terror, Frontline, Volume 19 - Issue 06, March 16 - 29, 2002

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