Renounce faith or do not return, Indian Muslims told

Zafarul-Islam Khan for Milli Gazette 

9 June 2002

About a fortnight ago, more than 100 Muslim families of Sayla village 

in Panchmahal district, left the secured four walls of the Godhra relief 

camp and tried to return to their homes. They thought it was the best 

option in view of the trying conditions at the relief camp where they 

were forced to live with no basic facilities, braving the scorching sun. 

They thought that sanity might somehow have returned. They were assured 

of this by the officials of their district who had held meetings with 

village elders and people in the surrounding villages. But to their 

horror they were threatened with dire consequences and in some cases even 

chased out of the village as soon as they arrived. 

In one instance, a Muslim youth gathered enough courage to return to 

Kharsalia village in the same district and even managed to construct an 

eight-foot wall to restart his grocery store. But the very next morning 

he woke up to find the wall pulled down. He scurried back to the relief 

camp. Many similar attempts at rehabilitation have failed in moving the 

victims from the camps back to their original homes. 

Quite a few riot victims who had tried to return to their homes, and 

had started visiting their homes during the day and repairing their shops 

and businesses, have been forced to rethink and put their plans on 

hold. Their dreams of getting back to normality have been shattered and 

they are back in the relief camps they tried to leave to start anew. 

For those who are still adamant to return to their old villages at any 

price, there are many dangers. Extremist Hindus who killed their 

neighbours by burning them alive or lynching them, who raped the womenfolk, 

stabbed them and then burnt them beyond recognition in order to destroy 

the evidence are now making the return of their victims conditional. 

The conditions imposed vary from area to area and range from the 

dropping of charges of killings and rapes, offering Hindus written assurances 

that Muslims will never fight a Hindu, will never misbehave with Hindu 

women, or will never engage in businesses conducted by Hindus. 

Some villages go beyond these conditions and demand their victims 

convert to Hinduism as the ultimate proof of their loyalty and servility. 

Noor Muhammad, a farmer from the village of Raicha, said: "They told us 

that we can come back to the village only if we change our religion and 

become Hindus."


 n Randhikpur village, 160 kms north of Gujarat's main city Ahmedabad, 

the fate of more than 500 Muslims depends on a 19-year-old rape victim 

withdrawing her police complaint. This village saw one of the worst 

incidents when seven women and seven children were killed. All the women 

were killed after being brutally raped by three men each. This is the 

only village where a first-hand complaint of rape has been filed since 

one of the victims whom the marauders had left for dead miraculously 


. "The three Hindu men who raped me are important people of our 

village. I named them in my police complaint," said the victim. Fourteen 

members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, mother and 

two-day-old niece were slaughtered by Hindus from her own village, she 


She had fled Randhikpur with a group of relatives, when a mob burnt 

their houses on February 28, the first day of the pogroms. On the third 

day they were attacked in a forest by 30 men from their own village. 

"They stabbed me and then left me in the belief that I was dead," she said, 

adding that she remained unconscious for a whole night. Naked and 

bleeding from knife wounds, she staggered out of the forest to the nearest 

road in the morning where police picked her up and took her to the 

relief camp where she found her husband. Now she sits listlessly all day 

long, keeping to herself. 

Rasool Ibrahim, 55, was one of the 15 Muslims called for a meeting two 

weeks ago by some of Randhikpur's Hindus, including one of the accused 

named by the rape victim. 

The Hindus told us to bring her to work out a compromise. They told us 

they will allow us to return and help rebuild our burnt houses if the 

rape complaint is withdrawn, said Ibrahim. The Muslims decided 

unanimously not to comply. 

Hindus of Kadwal, a village 250 kms north of Ahmedabad, have found 

their own way of keeping Muslims at bay - by asking them to sign a long 

list of pre-conditions. "We (Hindus) have collectively drawn up a list of 

conditions which the Muslims have to sign if they want to return here,' 

said Bharat Singh, a village leader. "In other villages they are not 

even allowing the Muslims to return but we are not doing that," said a 

magnanimous Singh, showing a three-page document handwritten in Gujarati, 

which victims are not allowed to photocopy. 

The conditions in the document read: "Do not kill cows [considered 

sacred by Hindus] or eat beef; do not tease Hindu women; do not participate 

in Hindu festivals if you cannot maintain their sanctity; do not get 

involved in quarrels between Hindus, do not raise anti-India and 

anti-Hindu slogans, do not allow new Muslims to settle in the village...'

The Muslims, who formed six percent of Kadwal's population of 5,000, 

fled on March 3 when their houses were burned down. But even signing on 

the dotted line does not end their problems. 

In Raichha village in Chotaudepur, 28 Muslim families have been asked 

to convert to Hinduism if they want to return, says Muhammad Jafar 

Makrani, a former member of the local municipal council. These families are 

among the 100 which fled Raicha and took shelter in relief camps. 

Villages like Panwad in Vadodra district have laid no conditions. They 

simply don't want the Muslims to return. They have made this clear by 

attacking the Muslims under the noses of the police when they came back 

to survey the damage to their homes. These Muslims are now back in the 

relief camps with no hope of going back to their ancestral homes. 

In Pandarwala village in Panchmahal district where 27 Muslims were 

burnt alive, the conditions put forward by Hindus include that a Muslim 

doctor must be expelled, says Faiz Muhammad who attended a peace meeting 

organized by the district administration. Since this doctor has a 

computer, the villagers allege that he must be keeping in touch with the 

Pakistani Military Intelligence Agency (ISI). 

In Kadwal village, where 11 Muslims have reportedly signed on the 

dotted line accepting all the conditions, they live as outcasts. 'We have no 

shelter and sleep in the open,' said Mohammed Nikker who came back two 

weeks ago after spending 45 days in a relief camp. 'We have nothing to 

eat and depend on relatives from other villages to bring us food,' he 

says, sitting despondently with his family in the midday sun, in front 

of the ruins of what used to be his house. 

Muslims as well as Hindus live in constant fear of each other in 

villages where until recently they lived as friends. Hindus fear that Muslims 

will take revenge, said Singh, while Muslims said they were certain 

Hindus would attack them again once all the Muslims return from refugee 


There are a few examples where Hindus not only protected Muslims but 

also fought against the attacking mobs. But these instances are rare. 

Ramsinh Thakore in his sixties is one such person, from Balol Akkalpura 

village. He stood with a sword and warded off a mob chasing 485 Muslims 

who were on the run. "If people were being hounded by some who had 

murder on their mind, it was my duty to save them," Thakore says. Now those 

people live close to his village in shanties. They are sheltered and 

supported by the villagers. Their homes are destroyed and they cannot 

return to their homes, so Thakore is planning to rehabilitate them in the 

same place. But people like him are very few in Gujarat today. 

The National Commission for Minorities has expressed concern over the 

refusal of Hindu villagers to allow Muslim families to return home. 

The Commission is concerned that resettlement on religious lines would 

change the demography and result in a fragmented society. The 

Commission was also concerned that an area populated by victims with a 

collective wounded psyche would be a fertile ground for anti-national 


There are fears that Kutch district, with more than 60 percent Muslim 

population and a shared border with Pakistan, could react adversely to 

the plight of their brethren in Ahmadabad and other places in Gujarat. 

The authorities are already talking of "ISI [Pakistan Military 

Intelligence] activity" in Gujarat and claiming that Muslims are preparing for 

revenge. The stage is being set for a more subtle ethnic cleansing 



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