From "We have no orders to save you", Human Rights Watch Report, April 2002, Vol 14 No. 3 (C)
Located just across the road from the State Reserve Police (SRP) quarters, Naroda Patia was the site of some of the most brutal attacks in Ahmedabad. On February 28 at least sixty-five people were killed by a 5,000-strong mob that torched the entire locality within minutes. Countless others sustained severe burns and other injuries. Women and girls were gang-raped in public view before being hacked and burned to death. Homes were looted and burned while the community mosque, the Noorani Masjid, was destroyed using exploding gas cylinders. Extensive use and access to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders has also been cited as evidence of official collusion.24
Naroda Patia used to be a mixed community of Hindus and Muslims. The nearly one thousand Muslims were in a minority and lived in a slum facing the state transport workshop.25 Most surviving Muslim residents are now scattered in relief camps.
In the days that followed February 28, hundreds of youths brandishing swords, daggers, axes, and iron rods were seen shouting "Jai Shri Ram" and roaming roads lined with gutted shops and littered with burned trucks, rickshaws, and other vehicles.26
Human Rights Watch visited Naroda Patia three weeks after the attacks. The Muslim homes were completely burned while the Hindu homes stood unscathed. The area's mosque, the Noorani Masjid, just across the road from the SRP post, had also been destroyed. According to one human rights activist who visited the site of the burned mosque soon after the attacks, at least sixteen gas cylinders, used as explosive devices, remained inside the mosque.27
A thirteen-year-old boy described the role of the police during the attack:
The police was with them. The police killed seventeen- and eighteen-year-olds. The mob also burned down our home. At 10 a.m. they went after our mosque. Thirty to forty tear gas shells were released by the police as we, about fifty boys, were trying to save the mosque.... They killed one seventeen-year-old and eight to ten other boys were injured.... We kept calling the police but no one came.... The police would pick up the phone and hang up when they heard it was from Naroda Patia.28
Another eyewitness interviewed by Human Rights Watch added: "When we tried to run, the police started firing. It was morning time. Many were hiding in Masjid Chali [lane]. We came here [to the camp] early on the morning of March 2."29
Fifty-five-year-old Salima Banu, a resident of Naroda Patia was a witness as her son was shot and killed by the police:
My son was running to save his life and the police shot him. Our home was behind Noorani Masjid. They were coming to set the mosque on fire. Then we started running. A bullet hit my son's arm and then his stomach. No one was answering the police phone. The police took their side and not ours. My son's name was Shafiq. He was eighteen years old... No one came to help. He was suffering so much. His arm fell off. I have received nothing from the government.... So many people are also missing. Some have lost their mother, their son, their father.30
Samuda Bhen, a mother of two, lost all her valuables in the looting and burning on February 28 and the days that followed and identified members of the Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena, and the police as the main culprits:
They took my daughter's dowry. This is my daughter [she pointed to her]. She is seventeen. Her name is Mumtaz. She was supposed to get married. Now the groom won't come. They also burned my son's rickshaw. They burned everything after we left. During the attack they were screaming "Kill them. Cut them." We left on March 1. We stayed at home until then. The police sided with them. They were Bajrang Dal people. They were wearing saffron bandannas. There were also Shiv Sena people. First the police came, they searched the mosque, they were checking for weapons to see if it was safe for the others to come. Then the others came. The police station is right near us. The police was with them for three full days. We kept telling them to help us.31
Forty-year-old Naseem Banu told us: "Wherever we hid, the police showed them where we were. The police remained standing when our homes were burned down."32
Attacks on Women
Naroda Patia residents interviewed by Human Rights Watch also witnessed rapes and other forms of sexual violence against Muslim women and girls during the attacks.
A female eyewitness told Human Rights Watch, "they raped them, cut them and then threw them in a well. They cut them with swords. Everything is gone, you won't even find dogs there."33 Samuda also witnessed the raping and killing of young girls: "They took young girls, raped them, cut them and then they burned them."34 Others simply did not have the words to describe the attack: "You won't be able to bear it if we tell you. They are scared, they won't speak, people have been asking for days what happened. What difference has it made? We don't want to go back there. Our lives are in danger there [Naroda Patia].... We won't go back to Patia; we will go anywhere else. We even left without our shoes, all our hard-earned saving are gone."35 One female resident said, "Some girls even threw themselves into the fire, so as not to get raped."36 A ten-year-old girl added, "I saw it also, they cut them down the middle."37
Testimonies collected by the Citizens' Initiative, a coalition of over twenty-five NGOs, and submitted to the National Human Rights Commission are replete with incidents of gang rapes of Muslim girls and women and the role of the police during the attacks, particularly in Naroda Patia. These testimonies are cited as transcribed by the Citizens' Initiative. A resident of Naroda Patia, Ahmedabad testified that eight out of eleven family members were killed on February 28, two after being raped. The surviving three members sustained serious injuries:
It was morning and I was cooking. My husband, my three children and I were in my house while my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law and his wife along with their three children was in the adjoining house. A mob of 5,000 came and we started running. We were cornered from all the sides. SRP (State Reserve Police) personnel were also chasing us. It was 6:30 by now in the evening. The mob caught hold of my husband and hit him on his head twice with the sword. They threw petrol in his eyes and then burned him. My sister-in-law was stripped and raped. She had a three-month baby in her lap. They threw petrol on her and the child from her lap was thrown in the fire. My brother-in-law was hit in the head with the sword and he died on the spot. His six-year-old daughter was also hit with the sword and thrown in the fire. My mother-in-law had with her the grandson who was four years of age and he was burnt too. We were that time hiding on the terrace of a building. My mother-in-law with her heavy body was unable to climb the stairs so she was on the ground. My mother-in-law told them to take away whatever money she had but to spare the children. They took away all the money and jewelry and burnt the children with petrol. ([My] mother-in-law was raped too). I witnessed all this. Unmarried girls from my street were stripped, raped and burnt. A 14-year-old such girl was killed by piercing an iron rod in her stomach. All this ended at 2:30 A.M. The ambulance came on the scene and I sat in it along with the bodies of my husband and children. I have injury marks on both my thighs and left hand that was caused by the police beating. My husband, my daughter and son had 48%, 95% and 15% burns respectively. Both my husband and daughter died in the hospital after three days.... The police was on the spot but helping the mob. We fell in their feet but they said they were ordered from above (not to help). Since the telephone wires were snapped we could not inform the fire brigade.38
Like hundreds of others, a resident of Naroda Patia witnessed the gang rape of girls and women. The names of the victims have been omitted to protect their privacy:
We were cooking and were informed to be in the house only as there was tension in the area. We went to the nearby society [neighborhood] and took shelter on the terrace. People from the Hindu society told us to take shelter in their houses. There were only men in there and none of the women and children. Then they told us to escape towards Naroda (an area). We requested them to allow us escape towards the SRP (colony). SRP said, "24 hours have been given to beat you up." Society (place of refuge) brought us out on the road and told us to go to Naroda. We disagreed knowing that it is a far place. So they started beating us with sticks, hockey sticks and pipes. They accused us that we had come there to riot and asked us to get out. We came out to face a big mob armed with sharp weapons, kerosene and petrol cans.... All adult males were then beaten, fallen on the ground and burnt. The residents of the gopinath society [neighborhood] segregated young girls (Muslims) and made them stand on one side. They were raped and we watched this as some of us were on the terrace.
We were 400-500 people on the terrace.... The girls were stripped and then two men held them down by legs and arms. Those who raped were 20-25 in number. The girls screamed so loud that even now when I remember my blood boils.
They [the attackers] were given twenty-four-hours time (to beat us). If we were given even two hours time we would have shown them (dealt with them). I know the face of the persons who raped. The rape started at 6:00 in the evening until 9:00 at night. The girls were then burnt. I still remember their loud screams. When Asif Khan, a 25-year-old youth pleaded SRP to let us go he was beaten up badly and he managed with difficulty to get out of their hold. We can identify the SRP men. We can also identify the residents of gopinath society.... 11 of our youth died in private gun firing.39
24 Prasenjit Bose, Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Vijoo Krishnan, and Vishnu Nagar, "Ethnic Cleansing in Ahmedabad: A Preliminary Report," SAHMAT, March 10-11, 2002, http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20020322&fname=sahmat&sid=1 (accessed April 15, 2002).
25 Radha Sharma and Sanjay Pandey, "Mob burns to death 65 at Naroda Patia," Times of India, March 2, 2002.
27 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.
28 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
29 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
30 Human Rights Watch interview, Salima Banu, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
31 Human Rights Watch interview, Samuda Bhen, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
32 Human Rights Watch interview, Naseem Banu, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002. See also Bose, "Ethnic Cleansing in Ahmedabad."
33 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
34 Human Rights Watch interview, Samuda Bhen, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
35 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
36 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
37 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.
38 Citizens' Initiative, "Sub: Asking for appropriate action in the communal riots of February 2000 in Gujarat." (Signed petition submitted to the National Human Rights Commission of India, New Delhi), March 2002.
Go back to "Childreningujarat" page