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Dalits suffered heavily during Gujarat riots

Dalits suffered heavily during Gujarat riots

Author: Prof. Dr Suvarna Raval
Publication: Mumbai Tarun Bharat (Marathi) - Translation
Date: July 21, 2002

The news of Godhra inferno and the subsequent riots which erupted in other parts of Gujarat were highly disturbing events for the minds of any person interested in the welfare of the society. Yet among them, those of fights between Muslims and Dalits and Muslims and Adivasis were very surprising. Generally the slogan of 'Dalit, Muslims - Bhai Bhai' is raised and given a high pitch. There is also a talk of forming a federation of Dalit and Muslim by alienating Dalits from Hindu society. On this background, the news of Muslim crowds attacking Dalit localities or Adivasis shattering the Muslim localities was astonishing. The apprehension that perhaps, the Dalits are being used as shields in the Hindu Muslim riots also came to mind. This was the background in our minds, when we proceeded to visit Gujarat on behalf of the Survey Committee of Samarasata Manch.

But what awaited us was quite different.

The actual spectacle of the circumstances, the analysis behind it, the events that took place and their effects were altogether unexpected. It was distinctly felt that the experience we got of the mindset of Dalits in Gujarat is of quite an another kind from that which one gets in Dalits in Maharashtra. There the Dalit leaders and politicians are trying to establish an independent identity of Dalits separate from Hindu society. . But in Gujarat, in all strata of the society from Media to Dalits or Adivasis, the mindset of a different identify for Dalits from that of Hindu society is totally absent. Here, generally from the point of view of other religious societies like Muslims-Christians, Dalits-Adivasis are considered to be constituents of Hindu society. And therefore, it is not surprising here to see Anti-Hindu Muslims crowds attacking Dalit localities and express their anger against Hindus by wielding their swords on Dalits.

In the group of Ramsevaks in Sabarmati Express which was burnt to charred remains by Muslim fundamentalists, there were some Dalit youths also. Just as they became martyrs in the carnage, there were many Dalit brothers living in slums of different parts of Ahmedabad who were victims of Muslims attack. We heard a number of heart-rending reports from the relatives and neighbours of the dead persons during our sojourn in Gujarat. I am giving below a few of them by way of samples.

The burning of innocent Ramsevaks alive, was an event which made one's hair stand erect. Umakant Govindbhai of Saijpur was 25 years of age and working in the Collector's Office. On 27th February Umakant was in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express. A mob of 2000 Muslims swarmed on this coach with Petrol cans, stones and sticks. They first threw stones on it and as the doors and windows were closed, threw petrol and set the entire coach on fire. Umakant, who was trying to break the closed door and get away, was pelted with stones by them and pushed with the bamboos inside the coach.

Ramjibhai Parmar was a 24 years youth from Gomatipur area which is inhabited by Valmiki community. He saw Constable Amarbhai Patil patrolling near the Masjid was being attacked with swords by Muslims and went to rescue him but Muslims fired at him and shot him dead.

Devendrabhai Solanki from Radhanpur, working in the Ahmedabad Sales Tax Office as Notice Server had come to the Nanu Wadkar house for Holi. On 30th March, stone-throwing started in the direction of this house. Children were playing in front of the house and to take them inside the home, he came out. A mob of about 5000 Muslims rushed on him while Darmesh some how slipped out, but one of them cut his face with sword. He lost his front teeth. Miss Dipti Solanki, daughter of Dendrabhai Solanki weeping incessantly, told us bitterly that after 13 days, the dead body of Devendrabhai were found cut in 25 pieces.

25 years old Vasantkumar Parmar, earning Rs.1000 p. m. by working in a private factory, was looking after his old father and unmarried sister. After curfew was withdrawn, bombs were thrown near his house, the lights went out and by the deafening sound of explosion Vasantkumar rushed out of house running. The Muslims which were hiding in an ambush on the way-out, attacked him with swords and killed him on the spot. His death cries shocked his sister-in-law Gitaben but she had the presence of mind to beat the Dish (Thali) loudly and collected people nearby. Muslims attacked this locality of 125 families from all four sides. If we had weapons, we would have fought with them better. Gitaben was sobbing saying, "My younger brother-in-law became a victim without any reason.

Pravinbhai Mooljibhai Solanki. a 25 year old youth, living in the Ramanpura area, Saatchaali was running a Panpatti shop on lease. On Ramanavami day (21st March 2002) while he was returning home after closing his shop, Muslims attacked and killed him. Mooljibhai told us that Muslims from Daryapur-Kalupur area came in our locality and exploded a bomb. As the children and women were running away, Muslims fired on them. If Dalits kept arms with them for their protection, the Police took action on them, but they take no action on the Muslims when they keep them. He said they had a serious gripe against Police for this discrimination.

In the Khariwadi of Shahpura slum, there are about 220 Hindu and 10-15 Muslim families. To the left of the slum, there is a restaurant Relief Club. The Muslim manager of this hotel, got together fanatic Muslim youths from the same locality and set the houses in the locality on fire, first taking care to remove all inhabitants of Muslim houses to a safe place. They burnt houses of 35 Hindu families. Everywhere there was a desperate cry. Two girls from two houses were burnt alive. Seeing this spectacle, a 10 year Hindu boy, Suresh Mehru died of the shock. The Sindhi owner of the Hotel Reviera which is to the right of the slum, gave asylum to all these people and made arrangements for their food. These people of the slum belonging to Vaghari community were running the business of selling old clothes.

Behrampura is a Muslim-majority area having a population of 1,20,000. We found that in the minds of the Dalit community, there was a terrible anger against Muslims who had shattered the life of their community. Yusuf Ajmeri with a 1000 strong mob and with swords and guptis in their hands rushed to Hindu locality shouting "Kill Hindus, Allah is with us". On 28th February, Kisanbhai Bhikabhai Dantani who was returning from work, was attacked on his chest with swords and was killed on the spot.  His 70 year old mother was telling with deep sorrow depicted on her face.  She told that this treachery was done by their neighbours who were living along with them for last 8-10 years. She said, "they had come to finish us. My son was killed, my daughter-in-law could not stand it and has left for her village. What will be the fate of my grandson Sanjay? They have completely made our life desolate and barren."

Muslims living in Behramura have houses with 2-3 storeys. They resorted to heavy stone-throwing on the Dalit localities. Jaisinghbhai Shyamjibhai, who had passed 9th Standard and working in a Hosiary shop was standing near his house. A heavy brick came down spinning at a great speed and hit Jaisinghbhai on the chest. The impact was so disastrous that his chest cage nearly broke open and he died on 1st March. Father of Jaisinghbhai works on daily wages in the Municipality. He was narrating us this history along with his children, all of them were terrified and jittery.

Dani-Limda area of Ahmedabad has a large population of weavers community. Piyushkumar a youngster living in the Annpurna Housing Society was told by Mustak Kania, Mohamed Rafique, Kasimbhai Ganichiya and Mustak Menon from Dhruv Society just in the front side, that they were planning to launch a rocket from their building and as the rocket will take off, Mecca - Madina will be visible. Believing this story, he went to see it with curiosity, but on going there, was riddled with bullets in the throat and liver. His father and other youths from the society took him to Lallubhai Govardhandas General Hospital, But before anything was done, he died on 12th April at 6 p.m. His parents were unable to speak anything to us and hence, his grand father related us this terrible story.

Dayabhai Rathod from Nirmalpura had taken Voluntary Retirement and was living along with his wife, 3 daughters and his only son Pinakin of 26 years old. When stone-throwing started, a bullet from the Police hit him and he was killed on the spot. We were simply short of any words of consolation for the continuously weeping parents. His maternal uncle was expressing terrible anger against the Police.

Ms Induben Laljibhai Gohil living in the Municipal Sweepers Colony near Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar bridge in Chamunda died of a Police firing. Jitu of Marwari community living in Behrampura locality also died in Police firing.

Dinesh Kantilal Makwana from Damodar Chawl was returning on 3rd March from his work. Near the graveyard, two Muslim youths stabbed him to death. His address was found by the police from some papers in his pocket and his body which had undergone post-mortem, was handed over to his grandmother who was the only relative he had.

Soft Target:

Generally, Muslim community lives close together. In many areas, there are Dalit localities or slums alongside. Around such area there are many small factories run by Muslims and Dalit labourers working in them, live surrounded by the factories and Muslims. Those Dalit brothers who could not go out due to curfew, got caught in the deadly grip of Muslims. These financially weak people were the soft target for the Muslims. From the terraces of houses, it was easy and safe for Muslims to attack the single storeyed houses, slums or sometimes two storeyed houses with stones, and crude bombs. In the closed Muslim locality of Gomatipur, even an electric current was sent preventing Police to enter.

Crooked and selfish Politicians:

These stories are indicative and not exhaustive. Atrocities on Dalits were done on such a vast scale, but no secular politician from Sonia Gandhi to Ramvilas Paswan felt like visiting the affected Dalit localities. The reporters of English press or channels did not come at all to these areas. No progressive person wearing the mask of 'anti-fanaticism' felt like to wipe the tears of Dalits. Anti-fanaticism means unleashing criticism on Hindus is their equation and they have firm belief in the convictions that the love for Dalits is only a point for propaganda. The Dalits in Gujarat have got the test of this naked truth in the recent riots.

At the same time, Dalits got experience of the people from so-called Anti-Dalit organisations, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal etc. coming to their rescue risking their own lives.

During this survey, we came to know as to how true was the minute analysis of Muslim mindset done by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar

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