Gujarat violence: How a mob destroyed everything Vadivali's Muslims ever owned
On 25 March, a large mob of 5,000 Hindu men attacked Vagjipara, Vadavali, a village in Patan district in North Gujarat and burnt down about 80-100 homes belonging to Muslim families. They ransacked and gutted three shops and 10-12 vehicles. Two Muslims died and another 25 were injured on that day.
After 15 days, a Mumbai based fact finding team visited Vadavali and submitted a report which wasn't taken up by the mainstream media for whatever reasons. The team comprised activist Vinod Chand and Advocate SS Sayyed.
It all began with a scuffle between two school students – one Muslim and the other from the Hindu Thakor community. It took place at the Nutan Vidyalaya high school, which was the examination centre for students of several neighbouring villages. The Muslim boy was from Takodi village and the Thakor boy was from Sunser village.
When the fight escalated, elders from Vadavali intervened and urged them to not fight. About half an hour later, a group of Thakors from Sunser village reached the spot, followed by another 200-250 people who threatened Vadavali's Muslims. They left after roughing up some of the elders. But at around 2 pm, a larger mob gathered.
Hussainbhai, a local, claims that there were as many as 5,000 people comprising people from four villages – Dharpur, Sunser, Rampur and Merwada. These villages are more than ten kilometres apart.
“Today is 10 April, a good 15 days after a mob of Hindus attacked an unarmed village in broad daylight between 1:30 PM till 4.00 PM. under the protection of local police and systematically looted and burnt the houses belonging to Muslims. In the mayhem that followed, property worth crores was destroyed, household goods vandalised, cash and jewelry looted. Even goats were not spared; they were taken away by the murderous mob that came armed with pistols and swords.”
Out of the 150 houses that we surveyed, more than 100 had been completely looted and burnt to the ground. Barely 50 houses survived the carnage because of arrival of State Reserve Police that made the mob run away from the scene.
The entire incident was sparked by a tiff between two students at a school. One of the boys, from a neighboring village, was throwing stones into a beehive and a local boy from the village that happened to be Muslim told him not to do so, when the Hindu boy persisted, they got into a fist fight.
Within hours, a mob of 5000-8000 people arrived at the village from Sunsar, Dharampuri and some other nearby villages. They were carrying weapons including swords, pistols and corrosive chemicals. Such was the size of the mob that the police advised local women to run away and hide.
The mob then systematically went about looting houses and burning them to the ground. They took away all the cash and jewelry by forcing open cupboards using crowbars and then burning everything in the house. Vandalised television sets, refrigerators, doors, vehicles, cars and motorcycles littered about the Muslim part of the village.
Hindu villagers tried their best to protect Muslims but their efforts were in vain as the mob would have nothing to do with it. The inaction of the local police and the fact that some policemen allegedly accompanied the mob, enabled the goons to unleash destruction.
Gujarat is the Hindutva laboratory of the BJP and RSS. The 2002 riots that followed the Godhra incident are still fresh in the minds of the citizens of the state and the country. It appears that the focus has now shifted focus on smaller villages where Muslims are in larger numbers. One hopes that this is not a precursor to a larger attack on the community.
During our meetings, the Muslims of Vadavali told us that there was no enmity between them and the Hindus who live there. They had stood together and elected a Muslim woman as the head of their Panchayat for half of the 5 year term. The second half would then be headed by a Hindu who was yet to be selected.
Most of the Muslims work as labourers for the affluent Patel community. Only a few are into farming. Nobody owns any land. Some Muslims have come and settled in this village because they were forced to leave their original villages as they had become miniscule minority there.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind runs a relief camp at the village. They have also made funds available for reconstruction of the burnt down houses. The Jamiat has also promised to provide white goods and utensils once the village is rebuilt. Most of the affected people were living in houses built under the Indira Awas Yojana and some of the houses were just one or two years old.
Almost all important documents of the affected people were burnt along with their homes. The collector of Patan came on a visit to this village seven days after the violence, even though the village is just 30 km away from his office.
There has been no effort from the government to rehabilitate those affected by this one sided mob attack.
One of the victims has been shot 19 times in his penis. The doctors have been able to remove shards of bullets from his penis which remains in a bandage.
Fortunately, the loss of life was minimised as most of the men from the village had gone on pilgrimage to Haji Pir for the Urs.
Many people have been arrested but no property has been recovered so far. Around five victims are undergoing treatment at Vadilal Hospital in Ahmadabad and they are bearing their own expenses. Even though they are in need, the government has not announced any ex-gratia payment to any of the affected.
(This article is based on first hand reports by Vinod Chand and SS Sayyed. It first appeared on the website ironyofindia.com It has been edited and shortened. Vinod Chand has initiated a Non-Profit Organisation India for Actualization of Democracy, which aims at fighting for the democratic rights of citizens.)