08, May 2017
Mass massacre in Pandharwada in Panchmahal district, registered as
CR 11/2002. Over 40 persons were massacred in two brutal incidents
in this village. The accused were acquitted in October 2002. After
this hasty acquittal and following rebukes by the Supreme Court in
the Best Bakery case, the state government has made token attempts
to reopen the investigation and trial.
Victim survivors of the Pandharwada massacre make repeated oral and
written applications addressed to the DIG, Vadodara, the collector,
Panchmahal district, the DySP, Godhra, the deputy collector, Lunawada
and the mamlatdar, Khanpur. They even approach the medical
officer, Panchal, for recovery of dead bodies. All their efforts are
In the third or fourth desperate search for the remains of their loved
ones, relatives unearth skulls and bones in a ravine near Paanam
river, outside Lunawada town. TV channels present do a live telecast
of the entire episode. Contacted by victims for legal support, Rais
Khan, Gujarat field coordinator of CJP, is present at the spot, while
CJP secretary, Teesta Setalvad informs the Gujarat police about the
discovery of the bodies.
Police inspector Puwar from the Lunawada police station goes to the
house of Gulam Kharadi to threaten and abuse him. His wife, Jebunissa
Gulam Kharadi files a complaint at the Lunawada police station against
Ameenabehn Habib Rasool, a victim survivor who lost her son in the
bloody massacre, files a petition along with CJP (Spl. Crim. Appln.
1875/2005) praying for the transfer of the entire investigation to the
In the affidavit annexed to the petition and dated December 29, 2005,
Ameenabehn Habib Rasool, who saw her 24-year-old son being slaughtered
in front of her eyes, states that she was shocked to find that when
confronted with the mass graves issue, DGP AK Bhargava of the Gujarat
police threatened penal action against victim survivors instead of
showing concern and remorse over the appalling developments.
Collector DH Brahmbhatt had a similar response, saying that Â‘the
anguished search of relatives for the remains of their lost ones was
an illegal act”. There were, however, several contradictions in the
administrationÂ’s stance. On December 27, Bhargava told the media that
the bodies could be related to the Pandharwada massacre; on the very
next day he contradicted himself, saying the bodies could be related
to an incident that took place prior to February 28, 2002. But on the
same day the collector and the SP of the district, JK Bhatt, were
categorical that the bodies were related to the Pandharwada massacre.
Expressing loss of faith in the Gujarat police, the petition also
pointed out that Lunawada, a town only a few kilometres from
Pandharwada (where all the survivors of the Pandharwada massacre are
rehabilitated), had a 250-acre burial ground, large portions of which
are unused. Why were those killed not given a dignified burial at the
Lunawada graveyard? Why were they dumped surreptitiously into a mass
Despite the fact that the post-mortem reports in most of the cases
contained names of the deceased in detail, the state had the gall to
claim that no family member had ever claimed the bodies.
Further proof of the state governmentÂ’s lies comes from the inquest
panchnamas and post-mortem reports. In identifying the dead, the
police were clearly concerned with little other than observing the
formalities. The dead bodies were shown to have been identified by
Mukundbhai Bhikhabhai Sheikh, Shankar R. Harijan, etc, persons who
were not even distant relatives of any of the deceased.
The body remains unearthed on December 27, 2005 were found bearing
traces of the same clothes that the victims were wearing at the time
of the assault. This is what made it easier for close relatives i.e.
witnesses to identify the bodies, a process that was telecast by the
electronic media in real time. This can only mean that the dead bodies
did not undergo proper post-mortem procedures. If post-mortem
procedures had been properly followed, the bodies would then have been
wrapped in white cloth and the clothes worn by the deceased would have
been collected and recorded through a separate panchnama. The
post-mortem reports produced by the prosecution along with the charge
sheet were apparently manipulated so that the weapons used by the
accused persons could not be matched to the injuries of the deceased.
The Gujarat High Court passes an order transferring the investigation
The CBI issues summons to the victim survivors to be present at the
Godhra Circuit House for blood samples to be taken so that DNA tests
may then be carried out. CJP provided the CBI with a list of the
victim survivors and their relationship with the deceased. Summons
were received and signed by victims before January 1, 2006.
At 1.30 a.m., the Lunawada police file an FIR (CR No. 1 3/2006 with
Khanpur police station) against the victim survivors and
representatives of CJP under sections 192, 193, 201, 120 B, 295 A and
297 of the Indian Penal Code. The team from the TV news channel,
Sahara Samay, which was present throughout and telecast, live, the
entire incident of digging and recovery of bodies, was deliberately
excluded from the list of Â‘offenders to alleged offences named in the
FIRÂ’. Interestingly, the FIR, which was lodged by a sanitation
inspector, invokes sections that in normal circumstances require state
government sanction. And the victim survivors who were forced to
resort to a desperate search for the remains of their near and dear
ones by a callous administration now stand accused of hurting
religious sentiments. Whose religious sentiments?
A piquant situation arises when victim survivors come to the Godhra
Circuit House, terrified because the state of Gujarat has accused them
of committing serious crimes when all they were “guilty” of was an
agonised search for the remains of their lost ones. CJP seeks and
receives assurances from the collector and the SP of Panchmahal that
the victim survivors would not be arrested when they arrived to give
The state government affidavit contradicts itself. Para 4 of its
affidavit dated January 9 states that some bodies were unidentified.
(In another sworn affidavit filed later, it claims that all the dead
bodies were identified.) The state government also claims that
relatives and others had identified bodies and then let them remain in
a pit without the dignity of last rites. The Gujarat government
obviously has no qualms stating falsehood upon falsehood in sworn
affidavits. Later, in para 8 of the affidavit the government claims
that the bodies were buried because nobody had come forward to claim
Mehboobbhai Rasoolbhai Chauhan, a victim survivor, and all others
accused in the FIR along with CJP representatives (Rais Khan and
Teesta Setalvad), approach the Sessions Court, Panchmahal, situated at
Godhra, for anticipatory bail. Bail is granted. WhatÂ’s more, in his
order the judge observes that the said FIR was, prima facie, filed to
pre-empt the order of the high court and deter the CBI from
investigating the offence pertaining to the skeletons. The
judge also observes that the Lunawada policeÂ’s action in registering
an FIR was clearly “a counterblast” to the matters pending before the
Gujarat High Court.
Thereafter, the Â‘accusedÂ’ in the FIR approach the police several times
(as is the norm in Gujarat) but the police does not formally arrest
and then release them on regular bail as is required under the law.
This is a deliberate act so as not to complete the formalities
necessitated by the court order of January 10. The state police thus
keeps a sword hanging over the heads of PandharwadaÂ’s victim
Some 40 persons from the local unit of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) stage a Â‘morchaÂ’ to
the collectorÂ’s office, asserting that Â‘HinduÂ’ sentiments have been
hurt and therefore Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad should not be allowed
inside Lunawada. The CJP secretary visits Lunawada and Pandharwada
anyway, to stand by the survivors.
Maksudabehn Yusufbhai Shaikh, widow of murdered Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai
Shaikh, files an application before the police sub-inspector, Khanpur
police station, stating that she has information that her husbandÂ’s
body has been buried illegally and without last rites at Lavanagam.
She therefore appeals that the body be exhumed in the presence of her
advocate and panchas (witnesses), and she be allowed to bury
the body in accordance with Muslim rites. The same police that was
screaming itself hoarse about the Â‘illegalÂ’ act committed on December
27, 2005, simply ignores her application. Copies of the said
application were given to the DySP, Panchmahal, the collector and even
the CBI, but to no avail.
CJP files an affidavit (in Spl. Crim. Appln. 1875/2005) pointing out
that in the course of arguments before the Gujarat High Court on
December 29, 2005, none of the so-called offences made out in CR No 1
3/2006 by the Lunawada police station had been committed. This clearly
showed that the FIR was a desperate afterthought meant to adversely
influence investigations. The affidavit also details the repeated
harassment of Rais Khan by the police in Ahmedabad.
The state of Gujarat files an application (Misc. Crim. Appln.
1613/2006) for cancellation of bail of those named in FIR CR 1 3/2006.
The court rejects this application.
Affidavits are submitted by petitioner Ameenabehn Rasool and CJP that
include details of the procedure for burial of unidentified and
missing persons as per the Gujarat Municipalities Act and the police
norms and rules as stated by them in their earlier affidavit. None of
this has been countered by the state of Gujarat.
Victim survivors have made it plain that the game plan of the state of
Gujarat is to target them, and other eyewitnesses and citizens groups
whom they have approached for legal help. Rather than showing
any compassion or remorse, the administration and the governmentÂ’s
sole aim is to treat aggrieved citizens as criminals. The spectre of
non-bailable arrest warrants continues to hang over them even today.
Video recordings of the events of December 27, 2005, which have been
placed before the court, substantively prove the petitionersÂ’
contention that there was no instigation by outsiders when the mass
grave was dug up. It was a spontaneous act by anguished relatives.
In its rejoinder affidavit the state government indulges in further
falsehoods and claims that Maksudabehn Yusufbhai Shaikh had refused to
allow the exhuming of her husbandÂ’s body.
Maksudabehn Shaikh files an affidavit in the main Pandharwada matter (Spl.
Crim. Appln. 1875/2005) pointing out shocking attempts by the Gujarat
police to doctor records. She charges the Gujarat police with
fabricating evidence. This justifies the petitionersÂ’ claim that the
Gujarat state police simply cannot be trusted to handle an
investigation against itself in a fair and impartial manner.
In her affidavit, Maksudabehn states that:
made applications on February 1 and 6, 2006 to the pranth
officer, Lunawada, the collector, Panchmahal at Godhra, the SP,
Panchmahal, the DySP, Lunawada, the PI, Lunawada, etc asking that her
husbandÂ’s body be exhumed. The application requested that after
following legal procedure, the same should be handed over to the CBI
for samples for DNA analysis after which the dead body should be
handed over to her for a proper burial as per Muslim law.
dead body of her husband, Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh, was not handed
over either to her or her mother-in-law, either on March 5, 2002 or on
any other day, by any police, and she had not affixed her thumb
impression acknowledging receipt of the body, as claimed by the state.
She also states that the police was trying to make out a false case
against her and was refusing to process her application to exhume her
deceased husbandÂ’s body.
police claim that they handed over the dead body of her husband to her
on March 5, 2002 is absolutely false and an irresponsible statement.
Had the body been handed over to her as claimed, it would have been
buried according to proper religious rites, in the Muslim graveyard,
by Muslim men from the local community. It is very clear that nothing
of this sort has happened. It appears therefore that the police was
suppressing the truth.
her husbandÂ’s body had been handed over to her on March 5, 2002, then
where was the need for her mother-in-law to make a written application
for the same on March 19, 2002? (This was reported in the Gujarati
daily, Gujarat Today, at the time.) Moreover, if the body had
been obtained and buried, why would the family make repeated
applications to the collectors of Godhra and neighbouring districts
after March 5, 2002, inquiring whether Yusufbhai was alive or
dead. Why did the police not respond to her applications at the
the police carried out the inquest panchnama as claimed on
March 5, 2002, she was not called to the site nor was she present.
However, her name and presence has been falsely recorded therein. No
thumb impression or signature of hers can be seen on this inquest
panchnama. The police inquest panchnama is said to have
been carried out between 4.00 and 4.45 p.m. on March 5, 2002. It has
also been stated that the police had seen the dead body at 2.30 p.m.
on the same day, after which they sent it to the medical officer in
If the so-called inquest panchnama was carried out between 4.00
and 4.45 p.m. on March 5, 2002, how does that tally with the policeÂ’s
claim that the post-mortem was performed on the same day, at virtually
the same time i.e. 4.30 p.m.?
From the material and facts mentioned above, Maksudabehn Shaikh
concludes that the policeÂ’s claim that they had handed over her
husbandÂ’s dead body to her on March 5, 2002, or any other day, was a
Victim survivors and CJP file 600 pages of detailed affidavits
contradicting, point by point, all claims made by the state of Gujarat
in their affidavits. Ameenabehn Habib Rasool in her rejoinder to
rejoinder affidavit dated March 2006 states that:
The dead bodies were buried on the banks of the river Â‘PaanamÂ’.
their own investigations, the petitioners learnt that the said land
has been classified as Â‘forest landÂ’ in village records. This proves
that the local administration ought not to have buried the dead bodies
there. Instead, they should have been handed over to the survivors of
learnt of the illegal dumping site from the sanitation inspector,
victim survivors then informed other villagers and soon thereafter the
skeletons were unearthed, in the presence of the electronic media. It
was only because of the electronic mediaÂ’s exposure that the
police could not tamper with the skeletons, the evidence. The local
administration was caught on the wrong foot, especially because the
skeletons were unearthed from forest land. Thus the family members
took a wise decision in not providing prior information to the
relevant authorities, all of which are controlled by the state
The CBI should be asked to immediately seize or take charge of
the case diaries and the weekly diaries of the police so that the role
of the state police and the local administration can be scrutinised.
As it is, the state police has had enough opportunity to Â‘tamperÂ’ with
The role of the state government in not protecting its citizens and in
defending the accused has repeatedly come to light in this and several
Petitioners Mehboobbhai Rasoolbhai Chauhan and Rasoolbhai Ashrafbhai
Sheikh pray for a transfer of the entire investigation of the alleged
offences to the CBI.
The Gujarat High Court refuses to cancel the anticipatory bail granted
to victim survivors and CJP representatives by the sessions court at
Despite the Gujarat High Court order of April 5, 2006, the Gujarat
police illegally obtains non-bailable warrants against victim
survivors and representatives of CJP by misleading the court.
The Gujarat High Court issues notice to the Gujarat government on the
petitionersÂ’ plea for stay and transfer of the FIR-related
investigations to the CBI, and posts the case for urgent hearing on
April 28, 2006. Meanwhile, no action can be taken by the Gujarat
police in respect of the investigation.
February 1, 2008
The victim survivors had moved the Supreme Court and in an interim
application (Criminal MP No 15666/2007 in SLP (Criminal) No 4816/2007
obtained orders to go to the relevant Trial Court for funeral rites of
the remains of persons whose identities had been established by the
DNA sampling at Hyderabad.
December 16, 2008
Following these orders, and after repeated efforts, the victims on
December 16, 2008 obtained relevant orders from the Trial Court.
Trial Court Order (December 16, 2008)
August 27, 2010
Even after this Order was passed, it took close to one
and a half years for the victims to actually reclaim the identifies
skeletal remains from the police and perform the burial rights.
later, riot victims laid to rest in Gujarat villages
(Indian Express, 27 August 2010)
This is evident of a truly vindictive administration.
November 24, 2010
The stay on arrest is lifted as prayers have turned infructuous.
But Gujarat police uses this to intimidate and victimise Rahul
Singh journalist and Teesta Setalvad.