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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Gujarat round up

Riot cases: police inaction evident

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

The Milli Gazette Online 

Ahmedabad: A tailor from Radhanpur, about 150 km from Ahmedabad, whose nephew was allegedly shot dead by the local MLA during the post-Godhra riots wants Gujarat high court to have the case investigated by the CID or an IPS officer.

After hearing the petition, the court issued notices to the state government, the police chief of Patan district and the then inspector in-charge of Patan police station. Further hearing was set for March 3.

In his petition Nanabhai Sheikh alleges that during the bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on March 1, 2002, to protest the Godhra carnage, Radhanpur MLA Shankar Chaudhari had led a mob that attacked Muslims. The mob had looted and destroyed Muslim property on the stretch between Lal Darwaja and Patni Darwaja and set afire a mosque at Gol Otla. 

Sheikh alleges that Chaudhari fired at his nephew Ghulamnabi Sheikh and another youth Ghulam Jilani Sheikh, hitting both in the chest. A mob waylaid the jeep in which they were being taken to hospital and set it afire. Ghulam Jilani was burnt alive in the jeep. Ghulamnabi who tried to runaway was caught and hit on the head with some sharp-edged weapon. He died in the hospital.

Sheikh’s counsel MM Tirmizi told the court that the petitioner could not lodge police complaint the same day because of the curfew. However, he had sent written complaints to then district superintendent of police of Patan and other district officials. 

Since no action was taken on his complaints, Sheikh wrote to the judicial magistrate (Class-I) in April, 2002 and also to the high court. When the magistrate ordered the then district superintendent of police, Rajiv Ranjan Bhagat, to investigate the case, Sheikh withdrew the petition from high court.

Tirmizi told high court that the DSP filed a report that two youths were accused in a criminal case and had died in police firing. Shocked by the accusations, Sheikh again approached the magistrate armed with panchnama and postmortem reports in which the cause of death was shown as bullets and burn injuries. He also told the magistrate that the DSP had prepared his report after recording the statements of the complainants and witnesses. 

The magistrate directed the DSP to investigate again and after two years and seven months after the killings, an FIR was lodged. 

Meanwhile, the high level police team reviewing post-Godhra cases on supreme court’s order has registered three new cases, based on burnt clothes and human remains found near villages in the Dahod district, 200 km from Ahmedabad. In all these cases, victims deemed missing have now been declared dead. 

"The evidence was always there, but the investigating officers either ignored or overlooked it," says Director-General of Police AK Bhargav, who heads the 10-member team. "In the Bilqis Bano rape and massacre case policemen tampered with the evidence. Here they neglected it". 

In the days that followed after the Godhra carnage, the tribal areas of Gujarat including Dahod district had seen widespread anti-Muslim violence. While several cases were registered, rights activists have complained that police did not take note of many other incidents despite eyewitness accounts.

According to IG Rakesh Asthana, present police chief of the tribal regions of central Gujarat, in the Dahod district some 50 people had been declared missing and in the Godhra district at least 100. But no cases were registered.

The review committee is going through over 2,000 post-Godhra cases. It has already reopened 500 of them, and is yet to review another 1000. Senior officers said that they would be able to report to the Supreme Court on it by May. 

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