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Citizens for Justice and Peace

Investigate Partisan Role of Police: Vadodara Violence

03, May 2006

A 38 year old young man,
Rafik Abdul Ghani Vohra, set upon by a mob that was led by Ashok Thakur
and other well known VHP activists including  his brothers in law, Jittu
and Chinu, Sunil Dhobi, Hardik and Bharat (total mob strength was over
1,000)  and burnt to death in his car, at Ajwa Road, while he was
returning from Gujarat refineries, around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Ashok
Thakur. Jittu, Chinu, Sunil Dhobi, Hardik and Bharat were rampaging though
Vadodara streets, unchecked by the police.

The mob had been gathering
at Ajwa Road in trickles, during curfew hours, unstopped by the police,
for two hours or so before the attack took place. Despite repeated calls
by his family, neighbours to the police control and Commissioner of
Police, a callous administration just did not respond. Some family
members of the dead boy have told the NDTV that when they called, they
were told ‘to go to Pakistan.’ Local social activists told us that the
situation was worse than even 2002 because the police, chief ministerÂ’s
office and the home secretaryÂ’s office was simply not responding to
cautionary voices and alerts.

The trouble has root in the
action of the Vadodara Police in shooting at and killing protestors
agitating the demolition of an old dargah in the city yesterday needs to
be looked at seriously. The durgah in question is the Durgah Hazrat
Rasiuudin, a target of communal forces since 1969. At least 200 years old,
it is present in the 1911 Vadodara City Survey plans. At the time the
outskirts of the village were where these shrines were located. Durgahs, a
symbol of India, and the sub continentÂ’s syncretic culture are often the
mazhars [graves] of Sufi saints. Worshippers and the mujawar
(caretaker) are often majority Hindu. Three persons died in the highly
questionable police firing, 27 are injured and two of the majority Hindu
community in retaliatory stabbings later. All these unequivocally
condemned but we need to understand how the administration—civic and
police—in fact stoked violence and miscommunication.

________________________________________________________________________

Nirant, Juhu Tara Road,
Juhu, Mumbai – 400 049. Ph: 2660 2288 email: [email protected]

Muslim residents of
Vadodara were worried about the hostile stance of the administration.
Hence they had agreed to a ‘compromise’ formula worked out between the
community leaders and the administration a day before clearly appears to
have been that a part of the shrine would be sacrificed for ‘development.’
Two and a half feet were to be ‘sacrificed’ since it slightly jutted out
into the road.

Instead, on the morning of
May 1, the police and corporation came with a sinister motive, demolished
the whole structure and by afternoon had even paved a road over it. Nalin
Bhatt and Yogesh Patel supervised the paving of the road. This is exactly
what had been done to Wali DakhaniÂ’s tomb in Ahmedabad just outside the
Commissioner of PoliceÂ’s office on March 1, 2002. The attempt appears to
be to culturally annihilate a section by targeting the places of worship.

Worse still, when the
police came to ‘demolish’ the place of worship and found protestors, they
shot to kill, This action of the police apart from being a crime and
punishable under law, is not in any way, conducive to building any trust
between citizens and the police.

Significant issues that
need to be addressed:

A.
Why
were ‘neutral’ members of the Vadodara Muncipal Corporation [VMC] and
police accompanied by notorious figures like Nalin Bhatt, Yogesh Patel
[MLA] and mayor Sushil Solanki [seen on TV] and all of whom made
provocative slogans calling the shrine a minti-Babri? The Mayor went on to
say that of the VMC did not demolish it, the services of the VHP and
Bajrang Dal could be called in!!

B.
Yogesh
Patel and Nalin Bhatt have been indicted by the Concerned Citizens
Tribunal –Crimes Against Humanity, Gujarat 2002, for their
involvement in the Gujarat violence.

C.
Why
did the Vadodara Police shoot to kill? Why was no effort made to restrain
the agitated mob with muskets, tear gas, firing in the air? As shots on
Channel 7 etc showed, the police were aiming their rifles to kill. This
action of the police is suspect and leaves it open to serious charges of
partisan conduct.

D.
Why
did the Commissioner of Police Deepak Swaroop relay inaccurate information
that community leaders had sought a stay on the demolition when this is
not factually true?

E.
Why
did the CP Swaroop conceal  information about the reluctant
‘compromise’ worked out by the leaders of the minority community to allow
2 and a half feet of the shrine to be sliced off, where it jutted on to
the road?

F.
Why
did the CP conceal information that the so called ten or twenty temples
demolished before are ‘deras” (home, private temples outside people’s
gates) not public ancient temples?

G.
In
fact on Old Padra Road there is a twenty year old temple that dates back
to the aggressive rath yatra  period carried out by Advaniji of the
BJP and yet another on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway just as you enter
Nizampura; there was no question of these being removed.

H.
As far
as the ‘development’ arguments are concerned, Vadodara after last year’s
deluge desperately needs road repair of potholes, has an acute water
supply shortage, there is a garbage problem, how come this is not being
looked into by the authorities.

I.
Now
there is fear that two more such shrines, Hazrat Yakubshahi durgah, opp
Yakubpura and another Zohawarpeer na durgah are the next targets.

J.
In
fact, as background, 270 shrines were destroyed in premeditated violence
of 2002 . Barely two dozen durgahs and masjuds have come again. More by
community support than anything else.

K.
A
sinister development has been that on the night May 2 and 3, 2006 the same
night that Rafik Vohra lost his life, one Ajay Dave owner of TNN Channel,
Vadodara was seen by residents moving around Ajwa Road area and video
shooting the entry and exit points of Bahar and Kismet Colony, Muslim
colonies on this road. This has led to trepidation and fear among
residents who hark back to memories of 2002 when such tactics were used
before to the state sponsored genocide to selectively target minority
Muslim life and property in various districts of the state.

L.
A fear
that an institution like Friends of the Police has been infilterated by
communal elements needs to be investigated as they have apparently played
a role in misdirecting the police.

M.
Any
one indulging in violence needs to be arrested.

N.
For
transparency the police must release NAMES and LISTS of those arrested to
ensure transparency and accountability. Have FIRs been registered against
prominent members of the ruling party who were present at the demolition
site and last night leading the mob that burnt alive Rafik?

O.
Is the
police and state government going to prosecute prominent members of the
political class (mentioned above) present at the demolition who raised
communal and provocative slogans (indulged in hate speech)

P.
Is the
police going to initiate action against top and other police officers
guilty of complicity and irresponsible behaviour when distress calls were
made for help and during the demolition when they fired to kill?


 

Teesta Setalvad,

Co –editor and Secretary
CJP

(09821314172)


 

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