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GUJARATH RIOTS : A Window To The Horror : TEHELKA part 3

The grisly massacre at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad lasted 10 hours in front of the police’s approving eyes. It’s the perfect example of how the Gujarat government orchestrated the genocide

TEHELKA BUREAU

IN THE MOST horrific of massacres of Gujarat 2002, hundreds of defenceless men, women and children huddled together in a small Ahmedabad locality were hacked, burnt alive and raped in a 10-hour murderous frenzy by saffron mobs armed to the teeth. The localities were Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon, less than four km from the Ahmedabad police headquarters and five km from the local police station, and the date was February 28, a day after 59 people died in the Sabarmati Express fire at Godhra. The policemen who reached Naroda were described by survivors as exhorting the mob to kill and rape. When the killing stopped late in the night, the official death toll stood at 105: 97 in Patiya, 8 in Gaon.

Babu Bajrangi, the Bajrang Dal leader who led the mobs, told TEHELKA that Ahmedabad Police Commissioner PC Pandey had the corpses stuffed into trucks and jeeps and strewn around the city to reduce the death count at Naroda. Hundreds of witnesses to the grisly dance of hate have been denied a hearing in India’s institutions of justice for six years now. The Special Investigation Team (SIT), tasked by the Supreme Court last month to re-investigate high-profile post-Godhra violence cases, simply needs to compare the TEHELKA tapes with the hundreds of eyewitness accounts and depositions. Besides the sting operation, TEHELKA and lawyer Somnath Vatsa of the NGO Action Aid analysed the police investigations and chargesheets in the Naroda Patiya case to find that instead of playing its role of the protector, the police was involved in a massive cover-up. Some instances:

Bodies disposed of to reduce the death toll

Once the massacre was over, began the mopup operation. As Bajrangi told TEHELKA, the police had the bodies from Naroda Patiya rounded up and dumped at various places across the city. According to Bajrangi, over 200 people had died that day. Late that night, then Ahmedabad Police Commissioner PC Pandey, who was recently promoted as Gujarat’s Director General of Police, came to Naroda and ordered the police to have the bodies removed. “They were piled up in trucks, it took so many vehicles, some were even stuffed into jeeps,” Bajrangi recalled. When the bodies were collected the second time and brought to the Civil Hospital for the post-mortem, they were recorded as being from the area where they were found. In this manner, the police managed to keep the death count down. The postmortem records show that even these 105 bodies from Naroda were brought to the hospital piecemeal, with the last few bodies being brought in a full four days after the massacre.

No autopsies on 41 bodies

After this evidence was destroyed came step two. The bodies — charred, hacked at, bearing shot wounds, stab marks and marks of rape — could have been strong evidence of a brutal massacre and of the administration’s complicity. But the police did not carry out postmortems on as many as 41 bodies recovered from Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon. No explanation has been offered for this act of grave negligence and omission.

Crucial evidence destroyed

The pit in which a large number of people were burnt alive was not even examined by the police. No samples were taken of the soil, of the traces of human tissue or of the remains of burnt fuel. The pit does not even figure in the police version of the massacre. The dying declarations of as many as seven victims were not recorded; two of them died on March 11 after prolonged treatment, but no explanation is forthcoming in the chargesheet on why their statements were not recorded.

No proceedings against absconding prime accused

Many important accused were allowed to flee after the police was forced to register FIRs against them. Babu Bajrangi, Kishan Korani, Prakash Rathod and Suresh Richard, for instance, were arrested three months after the FIR was issued. Bipin Panchal was arrested after a year and a half. But the police did not follow any of the usual procedures when an accused absconds, such as pasting notices outside the accused’s house declaring him an absconder, confiscating his properties, nothing.

Not one confession recorded

Those arrested for the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gaon massacres were taken in on remand. But the remand and interrogation were a farce. Not one confession has been annexed to the chargesheets filed in the Naroda massacres.

No mention made of rapes

Three chargesheets were filed in the Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya massacres. None of them mentions a single rape, although dozens of survivors reported that women were raped. At least one post-mortem indicated a possible case of sexual assault, yet no investigations were carried out.

Mobile phone of an accused recovered from the spot not examined

On the day of the massacre, a survivor named Mirza Hussain Biwi Moherble recovered a mobile phone near her residence in Naroda Patiya. It had been inadvertently dropped by one of the accused, and was handed over to the police. On enquiry, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, AK Surolia found that it belonged to one Ashok Sindhi, an accused in the massacre. Surolia launched an investigation and started collecting the call records of Babu Bajrangi and other accused, including Sindhi. Surolia was subsequently transferred.

TEHELKA FOUND as well as recorded during its six-month-long investigation how the rioters had the complete support of the powers-that-be in the Gujarat government and how the political establishment had planned the pogrom. Many accused praised the police for its role. They named senior leaders of the Sangh Parivar, including the then Minister of State for Home Gordhan Zadaphia. TEHELKA has Babu Bajrangi on record saying he spoke to Zadaphia after the Patiya massacre. Not only this, Bajrangi, who is the main accused in the killings, said Chief Minister Narendra Modi visited Naroda twice after the massacre — first in the evening of the day of the massacre (when he came to the locality but was unable to enter it) and second on the next day, when he went inside the locality. On both occasions, Modi patted the killers, Bajrangi said, and told them that whatever they had done was good and that they should do even more.

Another important accused, Suresh Richard, too corroborated this and said Modi had also visited Chharanagar (an area near Naroda Patiya from where many rioters came) on the evening of the massacre and garlanded the rioters. Bajrangi said after the Naroda killings, Modi kept him in hiding for more than four months and then stage-managed his arrest. If that was not enough, he also brought in a favourable judge, Justice Akshay Mehta (see accompanying story) to hear Bajrangi’s bail petition and got him out of jail.

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