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How communal harmony of Gujarat village’s Samras Panchayat model was disturbed

A team of human rights activists and social activists from various organisations based in Ahmedabad, such as Jan Sangharsh Manch, Human Rights Law Network, Janvikas, Action Aid, Aman Biradri etc. recently visited the Vadavali village in North Gujarat, which saw communal flareup on March 25, 2017. Text of its fact-finding report:
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Vadavali village is situated in Patan district of North Gujarat. Out of the 4 MLA seats from this district 3 seats belong to BJP and 1 to Congress. Vadavali village comprises of nearly 350 Muslim, 700 Patel, 60 Darbar, 150 Thakore, 150 Dalit, 50 Rawal, 50 Prajapati, 30 Rabari, 40 Devi pujak families. This village is part of the Gujarat Government Samras Gram Panchayat Model. The Samras Model was welcomed by this village and especially by Ibrahimbhai Lal Belim who was shot at in the recent rioting incident. In the 2002 Gujarat genocide this village was not affected, in fact the villagers did not participate in the genocide and had also rescued some injured people during the 2002 riots and hence became a bright example of communal harmony.
The village school in Vadavali was one of the centre’s for the Class 10 board exams and children from neighbouring villages were also taking their exams in this centre. On 25/3/2017 post the exams, a scuffle between a Muslim boy from Takodi village and a Thakore boy from Sunsar village broke out. The Muslim residents of the village Vadavali intervened in the scuffle and asked both the children to go back to their respective homes. A while later 15-20 people from Sunsar village arrived at Vadavli village and started thrashing the Muslim boy from Takodi village, the elders from the village intervened and tried to resolve the issue amicably.
The Panchayat elections of Vadavali village are due, in order to declare the village as part of the Samras Model, a gram sabha was organised where all the leaders of various communities came together at the Shiv Temple, and with unanimous consensus Rashidaben Sultanbhai Kuresh was declared the Sarpanc(Village head). Just as the gramsabha was ongoing, huge mobs of nearly 7-5 thousand people who belonged to the Thakore community from Dharipur, Rampur, Merwada approached Vadavali village. The mob attacked the villagers, nearly 142 house of the Muslim community were damaged, 100 houses were burned down, 42 houses were damaged and looted.
Ibrahim Lal Khan Belim was killed during the violence and nearly 15-20 people were injured. 2 FIRs were registered in this incident; one of the FIR was filed against the Muslim community and the other against the Thakore community. 14 persons from the Muslim community and 31 persons from the Thakore community were implicated in the FIRs that were filed. Indian Penal Code sections such as Section 120 B which is a section attributed to criminal conspiracy has been included in the FIR. 13 people have been arrested and FIR against the Muslim community was falsely filed as a strategy to create pressure and fear among the community. The FIR is an integral part to prove the communal violence against the Muslim community of Vadavali village.

Conversations with the Locals

It was decided that Vadavali village will be part of the Samras Model and for 2.5 years there would be a Patel Sarpanch and for 2.5 years there would be a Muslim Sarpanch. Rashidaben Sultanmiyaan was elected immediately after which the incident of violence broke out. Rashidaben’s husband Sultanmiyan was the target in the violence and it was he who was injured. Ibrahimbhai, who welcomed this decision of samras and he also felicitated everyone with garlands was also targeted.
The mob seemed to have planned the attack, they arrived with barrels of petrol, private guns and other weapons etc. The mob started damaging and looting the gold and silver ornaments and burning vehicles of the Muslim houses, the young Muslim men who tried to resist were attacked with swords and gun firing and were grievously injured.
The scuffle between the students was resolved, but one person there threatened saying “within an hour all of you will be finished” this person is a member of Shiv Sena. One of the teachers name Mr Jhala played a pivotal role in instigating this whole incident, he also directed the rioting mob.
Two SRP Jawans were also part of the rioting mob, these two Jawans were from the Thakore community and they were firing with a private gun, a bullet from this firing hit Rashidaben’s husband on his thighs, he is currently undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Patan.
The mobs came from villages close to Vadavali, from a distance of not more than 10 Km. Within an hour a mob of 5-7 thousand people emerged loaded with petrol barrels, guns and other dangerous weapons. People said that the police did not do anything and the mobs went unruly and looted and burnt our houses and vehicles.
The Haji Peer’s fair was also on the same day as the incident took place, there were several people from the Muslim community who were going on foot to the Haji Peer Dargah, there could have been even a bigger causality. The mobs were aware that there would not be too many people in the village and hence it would be easy to attack.
One of the injured persons said that the police was clearly biased, when the mobs were burning the houses and vehicles, beating up residents the police stood there watching, especially Jamadar Gambhirsingh. Jamadar Gambhirsingh thought that I was dead and said “this one is dead, go and kill as many as you can in the village. When the mob finished looting and burning it was then that the police used tear gas. Had the police stopped the mob, there would have not been such a huge loss and Ibrahimbhai would not have died.
Vinay Singh who is a member of the BJP and also a lawyer, he has played a very crucial role in the entire incident. He was leading the mob and he directed the mob in various directions to loot, kill and burn.
Ibrahimbhai who died in the violence, his body reached Vadavali village from Chanasma Government hospital on 26/3/17. The people in the village decided that the last rites of Ibrahimbhai will not be conducted, his body will not be buried until the accused were arrested. The police was quite rattled by this and hence the village elders agreed to perform the last rites after the range IG gave an assurance that the accused would be arrested. The entire village including people from various communities participated in the burial of Ibrahimbhai.
Khorsan is a village close to Vadavali, the Thakor’s of Sunsar had threatened the Muslims of Khorsan that if they helped any Muslim from Vadavali their village too will meet with the same fate as Vadavali. It is interesting to note that for the past 4-5 years the Muslims of Khorsan village have themselves been excommunicated. They are not allowed to associate with any of the people of the Hindu community, this was decided by the Hindu community of the village. Just after a member of the Muslim community filed his nomination for the Panchayat election, the community had started interacting with the rest of the village normally only since the last 15 days. The deputy Sarpanch was Muslim person who was unanimously elected.
The miscreants have also recorded the whole incident on video and have also posted it on social media to display their gallantry in sparking communal violence.

Observation

Across Gujarat communally coloured incidents are becoming rampant and also in a very organised manner. This is also dividing the both the communities on the lines of hatred, the communal powers are also moving ahead in an organised manner, the incident at Vadavali is one such example.
The Vidhansabha elections in Gujarat are due, BJP is strategically using violence through its various wings, to create a communal tension in the atmosphere.

Fact finding team:
Advocate Samshad Khan Pathan, Jan Sangharsh Manch
Advocate Govind Parmar, Human Rights Law Network
Hozefa Ujjain, Jan Vikas, Gujarat
Kherunisa Pathan, Parvaz Organization, Gujarat
Dashrat Bhai Thakor, Action Aid
Usman Bhai Sheikh, Aman Biradri
Asim Shaikh, Jan Sangharsh Manch
Makrani Mir Khan, Aantarik Vistapit Committee

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