[Gujarat recently witnessed a serious communal flare up in Bharuch district. Hansot and Ambheta were the prime target of lunatic Hindutva fringe. Muslims were the worst affected during the communal riots which took place about ten days ago. Some of the prominent Muslims of Gujarat visited the ground zero and found some shocking realities. Our senior colleague Abdul Hafiz Lakhani, who is Associate Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com” and also Editor of Gujarat Siyasat talked to a cross section of people and presents a vivid accout of their unforetold miseries. — Danish Ahmad Khan, Founder-Editor, IndianMuslimObserver.com]
By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani
Ahmedabad: There was an undercurrent of tension in the villages after a youth identified as Sunil Patel of Ambheta village had posted an offensive picture of Prophet Muhammad on Whatsapp and circulated it among the villagers a month ago. About 25,000 Muslims of nearby areas had taken out a rally and submitted a memorandum to the district authorities to take action against Sunil. The prime accused Sunil was arrested but was released a week ago on court orders. The tension was building up in the area since then. A ‘Dharam Parishad’ was also organised about 15 days ago in nearby Katpor village allegedly by Vallabh Patel, brother of local MLA Ishwar Patel. He alleged that two Muslim families of Katpor village were also asked by the local Hindus to convert to Hinduism or quit the village.
Muslim youths were frequently attacked whenever they happened to travel from one village to another for their daily works. He said that youths were sometimes stopped in presence of police when they could not be identified from their outer appearance and their driving licences were checked. If they happened to be Muslims, they were roughed up. However, police deny these allegations.It is alleged that it was a “pre-planned” attack and that police encouraged the mob to attack Muslim properties.
All these villages fall in the Bharuch parliamentary constituency which is currently represented by Mansukhbhai Dhanjibhai Vasava of the ruling BJP. Congress leader and Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel has also won four Lok Sabha elections from this seat.
A communal riot broke out at Hansot lying between Vadodara and Surat on January 14. The intensity of the riots in an area, which didn’t see communal trouble even during 2002 riot, was a cause of serious concern. The worst part of the riots is that it saw active involvement of tribals and Koli Patels against Muslims. A delegation consisted of JUH Gujarat President, Maulana Rafiq Badodvi; AIMMM Gujarat President, Maulana Habibur Rehman Matadar; Maulana Salman; Zidni Ilma President J.S.Bandukwala; and the All India Majlis Tameer e Millat, Gujarat organiser, Munir Kheruwala.
Hansot has a Muslim population of about 5,000 out of a total of 11,000. The community leaders said that a firm police action could have saved Hansot. Sadly, the Police Superintendent Bipin Ahire actually directed attacks on Muslims. Any man with a beard and topi was roughed up, with police being a silent spectator. Over 200 bighas of standing sugarcane crop was burnt, in such a way that the touching Hindu plot was not affected at all. Muslim businesses were looted and burnt. Within a few hours, the loss was about Rs. 4 crores. Two people died of stab wounds and a 33-year-old tempo driver was killed.
The violence spread so fast, that it appears to have been meticulously planned. The presence of a Union Minister, Mansukh Vasawa two days prior to the riot, also appears to be suspicious.
About 25 Muslims have been arrested. But the police is most reluctant to arrest Hindus. The main culprit Vallabh Patel, brother of a local MLA, is moving in the town freely. About 200 BJP members have resigned from the party, protesting that the name of the brother of the MLA, is not yet removed from the FIR. The other demand is that Muslims must not receive any compensation for the loss suffered.
The Muslim leaders have strongly protested the manner in which the Gujarat administration is handling this sensitive case. Muslims have almost no voice in this government.
The Muslim leaders in their fact fnding report on the two communal incidents have provided the following suggestions to the government:
1) The Government machinery must be neutral and fair. The culprits must be arrested and the law must take its course.
2) Two mosques and one madrassa were vandalized. The Government must compensate for the same.
3) The property and business loss has been huge. They must get the full compensation.
4) The burning down of standing sugar cane , must also be compensated.
5) Disciplinary action must be taken against the Police Superintendent Bipin Ahire
The community leaders have demanded that the state government should take immediate notice of these suggestions in the interest of justice and to prevent a recurrence of such bloody riots in future.
[Abdul Hafiz Lakhani is a senior Journalist based at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is associated with India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com” as Associate Editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on his cell 09228746770]