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Eyewitness account: 
‘We shall be killed tonight’
By Aziz Burney

Continued from

Then Sita Ram Pachori talks to Modi on phone and insists on going there. Modi said that your faces and ideas are known to everybody and hence we cannot guarantee your safety. Pachori said that this was a direct threat from the chief minister. Shabana also talked to Modi who told her too that your going there will further increase the tension.

During our conversations with Modi the state health minister Ashok Bhat and BJP’s youngest MLA, Bharat Pandya, were with us in the guest house. They said that they could have deployed the army the previous day but did not do so because last rites of those killed in Godhra incident are yet to be performed. Pandya named only a few other places, including Jamalpur, where greater tension prevailed and where Hindu-Muslim population ratio is 30 and 60 respectively. When we told him that tension is prevailing in the whole of Ahmadabad, he admitted it and said that people are face to face throughout the city. On being told that the former MP, Ahsan Jaffery, who was killed the previous day, was continuously asking for security on phone for six hours, he said that this former MP had at first fired on the crowd.

In the meanwhile UNI Mumbai’s reporter Sushil Parekh, who had come to Ahmadabad, enters our guest house accompanied by cameraman Uday Ivor. Sushil’s Indica car and his luggage were set ablaze the previous evening in Behrampura and both of them were shaken. They said that they kept asking for shelter for four hours in the riot-hit areas but no one obliged.

We came to know in the guest house that the worst affected people of the city are in Al-Ameen Hospital. On my asking the health minister about the location of this hospital, he expressed his ignorance, adding that this is probably a private hospital. 

It was here also that we came to know that in Watoajwapura area of the city, around two hundred and fifty first class restaurants were reduced to ashes, including Samanwar Hotel (Rs 20 million loss), Kabir Restaurant, Sunflower, Jhajjhar Bangla, Raj Kamal, Tasty Restaurant near Police Post, Abhilasha in Bajrapur, Topaz Hotel, Tulsi Ram Restaurant etc. etc. Burnt ashes can be seen everywhere here.

In spite of police warning, we tried to move out of the guest house but at that very moment a crowd of roughly two hundred people surrounded us. A local leader, Khurshid Sayyed, came forward and said only he knows how he had been able to reach there. He said right in the presence of dozens of policemen there that we should not trust them. We can of course trust the army. He requested and insisted that we should not to go to the riot-hit areas. According to him, he did not see such a terrible and horrible situation since 1959.

At that very moment Aaj Tak TV channel representative, Awasthi who had come alongwith Geroge Fernandes, arrived there. He told us that his Tata Sumo car was excessively stoned and he ran for his life. He also advised us not to go out. Aaj Tak’s cameraman, Ashwini, was hit on the head and was injured.

However, in spite of these warnings we went ahead and reached Police Commissioner’s office which was at a distance of about 150 metres. Throughout this small distance we saw gutted vehicles and horrible sights of torched shops which silently narrate the story of the terrible but real situation there. Amar Singh, seeing the words 'Sewa, Suraksha, Shanti’ (Service, Security, Peace) on a notice-board in the Police Commissioner’s office, asked him: ‘where are all these things in Gujarat?’

It is 12 midnight now. People are awake throughout the city. They are standing in groups at different places. Slogan-shouting is going on. We are in Police Commissioner’s office. Reporters and correspondents of different news agencies and newspapers are also here. They are narrating their experiences of the day. Slogans are also topic of conversation. The slogan that is particularly being talked about is: ‘Jai Shri Ram, ho gaya kaam' (Glory to Lord Ram: Job is done). (Translated from Urdu)

Aziz Burney, editor of the Rashtriya Sahara Urdu newspaper published from Delhi and Lucknow, wrote this report from Ahmedabad on 2 March. 
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