How Mehsana District was racked by Violence during the Post Godhra
Justice VR Krishna Iyer,
Justice PB Sawant, Justice Hosbnet Suresh and Several Others
The Tribunal recorded 64 oral and written statements from Mehsana.
This district, too, saw two brutal massacres in the first bout of
post-Godhra violence. One of them was at Sardarpura village, in
taluka Vijaypur, where, in a single attack, 33 Muslims were
electrocuted to death, 29 of them from one family. In the other
case, 11 Muslims were hacked and burnt to death in Visnagar town, a
On February 28, 2002,11 family members of two Khan brothers were
hacked and some burnt thereafter, in one of the Hindu-predominant
localities, Deepda Darwaza, in Visnagar town, Mehsana district,
leaving just three survivors – Yusufbhai Khan, his nephew, Pathan
Arif Khan Yakub Khan (13) and his niece, Noorjahan Yakub Khan (11).
Those killed included five women, one man, and five children. One
child was only 6-months-old. The two surviving children saw their
family members being hacked and burnt with their own eyes.
With a deep sense of hurt and pain, Yusufbhai tells everyone that
even till the last minute he had believed that the attackers were
all neighbours and would not kill his family members. Engaged in
wage labour or petty shop-keeping, the Khans lived in a small
cluster of huts in Hindu-predominant Deepda Darwaza.
Witness Morad Khan (45), a trader from Deepda Darwaza said that in
his mohalla there are over 800 Patel (Patidar) houses and
some 20-25 Muslim houses. On February 28, at about 5-6 p.m. about
200 Patels of the mohalla got together. Their leaders were
Lalitbhai Ladhabhai, Dahyabhai Madhabhai, Babubhai Purshottam Patel.
Under their leadership, all the Muslim houses in the mohalla
were looted and torched. What was far worse, 11 members of the
witness’ family were cut up and some were burnt thereafter. At the
peace meeting held three days later, he pleaded for the remains of
his deceased family members but they refused.
The attackers cut the dead bodies of some victims to pieces and
stuffed them in gunny sacks that were dumped in the pond on Kada
Road. The police later recovered the bodies. The attack started at
around 2.30 p.m.; the police, who were called repeatedly, finally
arrived only at 5 p.m. The trapped Muslim residents were rescued
only after that. The Times of India reported on March 12 that
with the retrieval of two bags filled with bones, a few skulls and
remains from Malap Pond, where the sewage from Visnagar gets
collected, the district police had traced the remains of all 11
persons reported missing from this area.
The witness had named 65 persons in his complaint but not one of
them had been arrested till May. Later, eighteen persons were
arrested and then released. "All of
them are from my locality, not just from the village." Moreover,
according to Yusufbhai, they were arrested in connection with
smaller offences committed earlier. SP A Gehlot (now transferred)
had sent the victims’ remains for examination to the Central
Forensic Science Laboratory. The accused include Daya Purushottam,
Babubhai Purshottam Patel, Ramesh Daya Madhabar; the person accused
of supplying arms to the killers is the BJP MLA, Prahladbhai Mohan
Lal Patel Ghosa.
There were about 100 Muslim families living in all of Visnagar
constituting a tiny percentage of the town’s total population. Apart
from the massacre of the11 family members, elsewhere in the town,
too, Muslims suffered substantial devastation and casualties. A
violent Hindu mob of about 10-12,000 people attacked the various
Muslim clusters on the afternoon of February 28. The attackers were
armed with swords, dharias (sickles), sticks, acid, petrol,
lighters and country-made bombs.
In another part of Visnagar town, Kaziwada, one Ashrafbhai was
attacked with a sword. His sister Zainabbibi and neighbours
Hanifbhai and Yunusbhai Mansuri took him in a handcart to the civil
hospital. Thereafter, Yunusbhai disappeared and has not been seen
since. Zainabbibi, Hanifbhai and Ashrafbhai were taken to the third
floor of the hospital and thrown down from there. While Hanifbhai
and Ashrafbhai died, Zainabbibi, who was alive, was dragged up the
stairs and thrown down again. Acid was then poured on the bodies,
and they were also slashed with swords. Noor Jehan, a witness, was
in the hospital when this happened. According to her, all the
attackers were outsiders; there were 50-60 attackers who had entered
the hospital and killed the three persons.
In another locality, Khada Darwaza, about 15-20 Muslim men and
children were injured in an attack. As the mob approached this
locality, about 100 women hid in a house, while the men tried to
resist the attack by hurling back stones. The confrontation
continued for about 2-3 hours.
According to the survivors, the local MLA, Prahladbhai Mohan Lal
Patel Ghosa was the main instigator. He had organised several
meetings in the town and had been heard announcing a reward of Rs. 5
lakh for every Muslim killed and guaranteeing that there would be no
case or imprisonment.
Witness Imran Haniefbhai Behlim, a vegetable vendor in Visnagar,
lost his father in the violence. Some persons from a mob killed his
father, Haniefbhai Dawoodbhai Behlim, with a sword on February 28.
"There were 15-20,000 people in the mob but I do not remember
anyone’s names." His father, who was taking someone for medical
treatment, was killed just outside the hospital. The police did not
give him any protection but fired at the family when they were
taking the deceased for burial.
Several hundred Muslims from Visnagar who have fled to Sawala were
too scared to go back. The 84 autorickshaws that they plied for a
living are now idle as it is dangerous for the drivers to ply them.
Students who attempted to go to school continued to be threatened by
groups of 10-15 people. As late as early May, sporadic incidents of
attacks on Muslims continued to take place. They recognise some of
the attackers, all Patels. According to them, even Patel women
participated in the attack, throwing stones on Muslims from the roof
Muslims constituted about 10 per cent of the total population of
Sardarpura, in Mehsana district, which included about 25 families of
Pathans, 20 of Sheikhs (Ghanchis) and about 20 families of Mansuri
Muslims. On February 28, 2002, at about 9 p.m., several kiosks owned
by Muslims, Harijans and Rawals were burnt in Sardarpura by a
mob of local Hindus. The police were called but the attack continued
even in their presence and even after they had left. Fearing further
attack, the Muslims again called the police the following day. Led
by two sub-inspectors the police arrived in two jeeps. The idea of
forming a peace committee was mooted and names of people from
various communities were short-listed. A meeting was fixed for 4
p.m. Apart from the sarpanch and an ex-sarpanch (both
Patels), representatives from Harijans, Rawals, Prajapatis and
Muslims reached the venue but the Patels stayed away. The
sarpanch, too, left the venue shortly saying he would try to get
the Patels. He did not return.
An electrician promptly repaired the streetlights of the village,
which were not working for about a month prior to the incident, that
evening. A halogen light was installed near the colony of the
Sheikhs and a long wire was attached to the same point. By 9.30
p.m., a Hindu mob from 8-10 villages started collecting in
Sardarpura. All the three Muslim localities (of Pathans, Sheikhs and
Memons) were simultaneously attacked. While shops were being burnt
in the localities of the Memons and the Sheikhs, houses of the
Pathans were stoned.
The two sub-inspectors were still in the village when the attack
started. Making excuses about going to the other end of the village
to stop the attack on the Memon shops, they disappeared and gave
inaccurate feedback to the SP that everything was all right in the
village. In the Sheikh locality, a two-year-old girl child was flung
and killed by the mob. Some of the Muslims ran to the Rawals’
houses for shelter; together with the Rawals then ran away through
the fields. One person saved himself by hiding in a grave.
Thirty-one people, mostly women and children, had taken shelter in a
house in the Sheikh locality. The mob surrounded the house, locked
them all in a room, and threw acid at them from outside. An iron
rod, attached to the loose end of the live wire was then shoved
inside the room packed with Muslims. This instantly electrocuted 29
persons to death. Two children who fell beneath the pile of bodies
somehow survived the attack.
Finally, after receiving desperate pleas from trapped Muslims on
phone, the SP, A Gehlot, reached the village with two vehicles at
about 2.30 a.m. The Sardarpura survivors were rescued and taken to
Sawala village. The police found that the roads out of Sardarpura
were blocked at frequent intervals up to Ladol, 9 km away, to
prevent the Muslims from escaping. An FIR was lodged and 28 persons
named by survivors. One of the chief accused, Chandra Kant is a
Bajrang Dal activist. As of early May, he had still not been
Kadi town is one of the taluka headquarters of Mehsana
district, situated about 50 km from Ahmedabad. The town has
approximately 35 per cent Muslims. February 28 witnessed mob attacks
on different Muslim inhabited areas and Muslim commercial
establishments in the town. In all, 56 shops were set afire, four
dargahs damaged and one mosque was destroyed. The police
registered 18 FIRs covering the different incidents in the town. In
one of the FIRs, prominent persons of Kadi, including Ramesh
Bachhubhai Patel, a municipal councillor, were named as accused. All
the 13 accused were arrested on March 25. The very next day, the SP
was transferred. It was alleged that the transfer was punitive since
he had refused to toe the government line. The chief minister
refuted these allegations and justified the transfer as a promotion.
However, on the very day of the transfer, the 13 accused were
released from custody. Gujarat cabinet minister Niteen Patel hails
On March 28, there was re-escalation of tension in Kadi when the
persons released led a victory procession (‘shobha yatra’)
through the town, accompanied by a frenetic beating of drums. The
next evening, a small mob set fire to a kiosk owned by a Muslim and
pelted stones at Muslim properties. By 10 p.m., a 500 strong mob
started an attack near Kinara Talkies. Another mob attacked the
shops owned by Bohra Muslims in Vorvad area. The Bohras repulsed the
attack and stone pelting between the two sides continued for some
time. A police party used tear gas to disperse the Bohras. Through
the night, 45 Bohras and 25 Muslims from the Kasba area were
arrested. Muslim women staged a demonstration outside the police
station on the morning of March 30, demanding the release of those
arrested. The women continued their protest despite lathi-charge
and the use of tear gas by the police. Finally, the 70 arrested
people were released.
Following the violent incidents of the previous night, a BSF party
arrived at Kadi in the morning. Both the SP and the collector were
present in the town when the mob attacks resumed at around 10.30 am.
Until 1 p.m. different group of attackers targeted Muslims
settlements. The major attack occurred at Kalalwas, a locality
inhibited by 100 Ghanchi Muslim families and 300 Patel Hindu
families. The mob came armed with firearms, explosives, swords, and
dharias. A posse of 8 policemen posted at Kalawas remained
At 11 a.m., Razak Vazir Kalal, a fruit seller, received four gun
shot wounds. Fortunately, he received medical help in time and
survived. In his statement to the police, he identified one Amrit
alias Dada as the one who opened fire as well as other leaders of
the mob. All the Muslim residents of Kalawas tried to escape to
other localities. Mohammed Javed, who worked as a cleaner, was
fleeing with others when stones were pelted at them. He was trying
to avoid being hit when a bomb was hurled. He tried to stop it with
his hand and it exploded. His hand was blown off at the wrist. The
residents kept making desperate phone calls to the SP and the BSF
commandant but to no avail.
Curfew was declared at 1 p.m. but by then 36 houses in Kalawas were
destroyed by fire and the rest had been looted and damaged. Around 3
p.m. one house was set on fire in the Sahdwas locality. Two hours
later, the house owner, Ismail Ghanchi (70), went to look at the
damage. An eyewitness had accompanied Ismail and identified the
attackers, who included the local president of the Bajrang Dal. The
BSF, which was deployed by the district administration at 5 p.m.,
staged a flag march and violent incidents ceased.
In their complaints to the police, the victims had identified over
125 persons from the mob. Only one FIR was registered for the entire
period, and covered all the different incidents listed above.