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‘You can come back to your homes only if you...’
|Drop rape charges, convert to Hinduism...villagers in Gujarat are setting terms for Muslims to return
Vadodara, May 5 CONVERT to Hinduism, shave off your beard, drop your rape charges, don’t participate in our functions, let us use your vehicles for free. These are some of the terms being set by Hindu villagers for their Muslim neighbours who fled after the Godhra massacre and now want to return home.
» In Randhikpur village of Dahod district, Hindu villagers want rape charges against three persons dropped. A 22-year-old woman alleged she was raped in the nearby Panivella village where she hid after seven of her family were killed.
Relief camp to home is a long, long distance.
At a meeting on Thursday, Muslims were told that 65 of their families could return if the ‘‘rape charges were dropped and replaced with minor offences,’’ villager Majid Ali who attended the meeting told The Indian Express.
» In Pandarwala village in the Panchamahals, where 27 people were burnt alive, No 1 on the majority community’s list is the condition that a doctor who hails from Kutch and lives in the village be expelled. Says Faiz Mohammad, who attended a peace committee meeting organised by the district administration: ‘‘Since the doctor had a computer, the villagers felt that he keeps in touch with the ISI. Our return depends on him being expelled.’’
» In Kadwal village of Chhotaudepur taluka in Vadodara district, Muslims have been asked to agree that they ‘‘won’t engage in the same business as ours,’’ ‘‘you won’t take part in our functions’’ and ‘‘you won’t prevent us from using your assets, for instance, your vehicles.’’ A couple of Muslim families have returned after they agreed to these conditions.
» In Raichha village, about 15 km from Chhotaudepur, 28 families have been asked to convert to Hinduism if they want to return, says Mohammed Jafar S Makrani, a former councillor. These families are among the 100 who fled Raichha and are now in a relief camp that he runs.
» Villages like Panwad in Vadodara have laid no conditions: they simply don’t want the Muslims to return. They have made this clear by attacking the refugees right under the nose of the police when they came this week to find out how badly damaged their houses were.
Says head constable Jaswantsinh Chavda attached to Panwad outpost: ‘‘Aa gamma koi condition nathi, emne Muslim joitaj nathi’’ (There is no condition here, they don’t want Muslims back). Two days ago a Muslim returned to collect his bank passbook and he was attacked. ‘‘Had I not reached there they would have killed him,’’ Chavda says, adding: ‘‘It’s good if they don’t come back. So far they haven’t lost any life, now they will.’’
» Even in Vadodara city, at least half a dozen houses of Muslims were torched in Bagwada because they didn’t agree to drop charges against Hindus involved in a case of stabbing.
Says Bhagyesh Jha, District Collector, Vadodara: ‘‘We are aware of these conditions. We have told the people, please don’t do this, sit down and talk it out. There is little that we can do, this has to be sorted out at the community level.’’ In some cases, like in Panwad, the message has been conveyed through writing on the wall, threatening the refugees that if they return, their wives and daughters will be raped.
-Milind Ghatwai & Rohit Bhan
Indian Express, 6 May 2002 q