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First arrest in Ahmadabad on rape and murder charges

Jannatbibi Kallubhai Sheikh (above left) started pursuing this dastardly case immediately after she reached to safety in Shah Alam camp. She filed a complaint in the case, submitted written statements and even travelled to New Delhi to plead her case where she met Sonia Gandhi and the President as well. From the very first day, I have been telling everyone that I saw this man killing people and raping not less than five young women. I gave a written statement to the Crime Branch. I filed a complaint at the Shah Alam police chowki and when Sonia Gandhi came here, I gave her a written statement as well’ says Jannatbibi. She says she recognized Ratila Rathod (alias ‘Bhawani Singh’ - above right) since he lives with his family in a housing society behind Naroda Patia. 

A macabre case went on to become the focal point of the pogrom in Gujarat. Everywhere this incident will be reported. Every woman in every relief camp in Ahmadabad seemed to tell the story as if it was she who suffered it. They wept while recounting the story of one Kausar Bano from Naroda Patia who was raped, her womb torn apart and eight month old foetus taken out in front of her and then slashed into two pieces and thrown into fire along with that hapless lady. Women who survived say at least 25 women were raped on the same spot and then burnt alive. But there were no arrests and no specific FIRs.

It was only on 13 May when the person who not only raped Kausar Bano, burnt her alive and her yet to be born child but also raped four other young women on the same spot, was arrested by Ahmadabad police. The four other women who were abused on the spot were also set afire by him and his goons. 

The prime accused in this case, which was part of the Naroda-Patia massacre, Ratilal Rathod, 50, alias Bhavani Singh, was arrested by the city crime branch late on 13 May night. It is reported that he was one of the mob leaders. Rathod works with the Ahmedabad Municipal Transport Service as a driver. This is the first riot-arrest made in the city on charges of rape and murder. He was arrested on the basis of statements given by survivors of Naroda Patia the site of one of the worst massacre sites in the Gujarat pogrom. Eighty six people were reportedly hacked to death or burnt alive there under the nose of State Reserve Police.

But the FIR and the arrest did not come easy. It took almost two and a half months’ pleading and struggle of the survivors who have taken shelter in the Shah Dargah relief camp. It was only possible when on 13 May, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee stating that a separate FIR be filed in this case and the investigations be carried out by the CBI.

The arrest comes 11 weeks after the incident shook the city with its gory details being repeated over and over again at the Shah- e-Alam relief camp. The incident’s sole eye-witness, Jannatbibi Kallubhai Shaikh, claimed to have seen the eight- month pregnant Kausar Bano’s stomach being ripped open by a sword, the foetus removed and swirled on its end, flung around and then burnt. 

Jannatbibi Kallubhai Sheikh started pursuing this dastardly case immediately after she reached to safety in Shah Alam camp. She filed a complaint in the case, submitted written statements and even travelled to New Delhi to plead her case where she met Sonia Gandhi and President as well. ‘From the very first day, I have been telling everyone that I saw this man killing people and raping not less than five young women. I gave a written statement to the Crime Branch. I filed a complaint at the Shah Alam police chowki and when Sonia Gandhi came here, I gave her a written statement as well’ says Jannatbibi. She says she recognized Rathod since he lives with his family in a housing society behind Naroda Patia. 

Kausar Bano’s case has been filed and the accused arrested. But that is not the lone case of its kind. Hundreds of similarly heinous cases are being reported from all over Gujarat including Panchmahal, Vadodra, Mehsana and Modassa. But no FIR has been filed. No arrests have been made. In an effort to destroy the evidences the saffronite criminals burnt alive the victims of sexual abuses. Only one such victim is reported to have survived. She is 21 years-old Bilqis from Randhikpur who now lives in Godhra relief camp. Six women from her family were abused besides her while they were fleeing their village on 28 February. All of them were killed. She too was taken to be dead but lived to recount the horror.
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