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Pak flag was hoisted after Godhra carnage: witness
September 19, 2003 00:41 IST
A witness deposing before the two-member commission inquiring into the Gujarat riots said today that Muslims in the sensitive Amraiwadi area unfurled the Pakistani flag and raised pro-Pakistan slogans ten days after the Godhra riots. He also claimed that Hindus are still being tormented in the area.
"A large group of Hindus, who were returning after completing the final rites of 15 from Amraiwadi killed in the Godhra train carnage, found a mob of Muslims gathered near Khanwadi locality and heard statements like 'kafeeron ko kaat dalo, makan khali karao (Kill the infidels and empty their houses)'," said Ashok Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party member and municipal corporator from Bagh-e-Firdaus ward.
Patel told Justice G T Nanavati (retired) and Justice K G Shah (retired), "After nearly 10 days of the train carnage, Pakistani flags were unfurled on top of a public tank in Ramol area and Muslims shouted slogans like 'Pakistan zindabad [Long live Pakistan]'."
He claimed that though Hindus had observed restraint and averted any major clash on the day of cremation of the Godhra victims, riots were triggered after Muslims instigated them "with an intention of spreading fear".
Patel alleged that after the riots, a large number of Hindu families vacated their houses and moved elsewhere.
During cross-examination, the corporator said no Hindu had ever made a representation to him about confiscation of property by Muslims.
At least 15 persons from Ramol and Jantanagar, under the Amraiwadi police station, were among the 59 karsevaks charred to death when a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set ablaze near Godhra railway station on February 27 last year.
Another witness told the commission that "Hindu outfits like VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] and Bajrang Dal, under political pressure, had made concerted efforts to vitiate the atmosphere of communal amity prevailing in Ramol by organising public rallies and inflammatory speeches."
Rashid Multani, a member of the Ramol gram panchayat and social worker, said, "Even Muslims had attended the cremation ceremony of those from the area killed in Godhra. There was no communal tension there and amity prevailed between the two communities till February 28."
But on March 1, after instigation by the VHP and Bajrang Dal, widespread riots broke out in Ramol-Jantanagar and a mob of 50,000 pelted stones at and burnt shops, houses and other properties of Muslims, he said. One Muslim was killed and five or six were injured in the violence. "Though police reached the spot," he said, "their strength was very less compared to the number of miscreants."
When Multani said police had arrested only four of the 123 persons accused of rioting, the public prosecutor told the commission that they were let off for lack of evidence.
A riot victim produced a videocassette reportedly showing the damage to his shop and urged the police to form a 'committee' of both Hindus and Muslims so that "people can come closer". He said he had given the same cassette to the National Human Rights Commission.
The victim, Yakub Ali Sayyed, who shifted to Rakhial after communal riots in Amraiwadi, said miscreants looted his garage-cum-residence and other shops and houses there. A month after the Godhra carnage, his two sons were severely beaten up by a mob in Rakhial.
Sayyed also accused a senior police inspector in Amraiwadi of using "very abusive language", but said the deputy commissioner of police and other officials gave him a patient hearing and assured him that a police post would be set up near the new Cotton Mill Road area in Rakhial.
Another riot victim told the commission that a large crowd returning from the cremation of some Godhra victims started rioting in the Ramol-Jantanagar area and women had to flee along with children to a mosque after the State Reserve Police posse stationed nearby declined to help them. "Next day also, Hindu mobs continued rioting in our area in the presence of the police, who turned deaf ears to our pleas to protect us," Naseem Khan Pathan, 50, said.
The commission on Thursday recorded the depositions of almost 125 victims and witnesses of the post-Godhra riots from the area under the Amraiwadi police station. Several of the victims also complained about the 'meagre' compensation for damage to their shops and business establishments.