Illegal Mass Graves Found:

 

Mass graves were unearthed in Pandharwada and Kidiad in December 2005. The remains were illegally dumped in forest wasteland near the Paanam river outside Lunawada town. The Gujarat high court ordered the human remains to be sent for DNA testing and analysis, to be carried out at the forensic laboratory at Red Hill, Hyderabad, under CBI supervision.

 

Overnight an FIR was registered against the victim survivors for illegal digging and they had to give their blood samples under threat of arrest. Seven months later the test results showed that samples from nine body remains matched the DNA samples taken from relatives of the massacre victims. Yet, three-and-a-half years later, the remains of those who were killed have still not been handed over to the victim survivors.

In late 2007 CJP approached the Supreme Court for a directive that would enable quick access to the remains, which are still lying in Hyderabad, in order to ensure speedy burial. The apex court only directed CJP to approach the trial court in Godhra. In a shocking denial of basic human rights, to date the remains of their lost ones have not been returned to the survivors for a dignified burial.

Below is a brief time-line of the Pandharwada Mass Grave Case:

 

March 1, 2002

Offence of Mass Massacre in Pandharwada in

Panchmahals district—CR 11/2002; Acquittals by November 2002

 

March 2002-December 2005

Victim survivors of the mass massacre at Lunawada made oral and written applications   addressed to the DIG Vadodara, Collector, Panchmahal, DYSP Godhra , Deputy Collector, Lunawada, Mamlatdar, Khanpur. They even went before the Medical Officer Panchal for recovery of dead bodies.

 

December 27, 2005

In third or fourth search for the remains of their loved ones, relatives unearth skulls and bones in a ravine near Paanam river, outside Lunawada. TV channels are present. The Citizens for Justice and Peace [CJP] was contacted by victims hence Shri Rais Khan was present. Teesta Setalvad, Secretary CJP informs Gujarat Police about the discovery of the bodies.

 

December 28, 2005

PI Puwar from the Lunwada Police station, goes to the house of Gulam Kharadi and shouts threatening abuse at him. Jebunissa Gulam Kharadi, wife files a complaint at the Lunawada police station against the police.

 

December 28, 2005

Ameenabehn Habib Rasool, a victim survivor who lost her son in the bloody massacre along with CJP filed a petition (Special Criminal Appln 1875/2005) praying for the transfer of the entire investigation to the CBI.

In the affidavit annexed to the petition dated December 29, 2005, Ameenabehn Habib Rasool who saw her 24 year old son been slaughtered in front of her eyes, states that she was shocked to hear DGP Bhargava of the Gujarat Police when confronted with the mass graves, immediately speaking of initiating action against victim survivors instead of showing concern and remorse over the appalling developments. Similarly Collector Dhirendra Brahmbutt went on to say that 'the anguished search of relatives for the remains of their lost ones was an illegal act." There were several contradictions too in the stance of the administration. While on December 27, 2007 DGP Bhargava told the media that the bodies could relate to the Pandharwada massacre, on February 28, 2005 he contradicted himself and said that they could even belong to an incident that took place prior to February 28, 2002. On the same day, in contrast the Collector and SP of the district JK Bhatt were categorical that they belonged to the Pandharwada massacre alone.

The petition that expressed strong disenchantment and loss of faith in the Gujarat police also pointed out that Lunawada town where all the survivors of the Pandarwada massacre are rehabilitated has  four  major grave yards one  belonging to The Ghanchi Jamaat, two to  The Sunni Muslim Jamaat, and one more to Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat.  This is a huge burial area altogether totaling around 250 acre where  major portion of the area is vacant  and is being used for cultivation. Why were not these bodies  given a dignified burial in this large area instead of  being surreptitiously  outside the town ?

           

December 29, 2005

The Gujarat HC passed an order transferring the investigation to CBI

 

December 2006

CBI issued summons to the victim survivors to be present at the Godhra Circuit House for blood sampling to enable DNA tests to proceed. CJP provided the CBI with a list of the victim survivors with their relationship with the deceased . Summons were received and signed by victims before 1-01-2006.

 

January 2, 2006

At 1.30 a.m., the Lunawada police file an FIR (CR No. 1 3/2006) with Khanpur Police Station ) against the victim survivors and Shri Rais Khan of the CJP under sections 192, 193, 201, 120(B), 295A and 297 of the IPC. The Sahara Samay News Channel that had not only been present but also relayed the news nationally and internationally were cleverly (or deliberately) not made 'offenders to alleged offences named in the FIR.’ Interestingly the FIR that has been lodged by a sanitary inspector invokes sections that in normal circumstances requires state government sanction!! Victim survivors who are the aggrieved party having lost their near and dear ones to a massacre and thereafter been denied the dignified right of burial are being blamed by the state of Gujarat and its’ police for hurting religious sentiments. Of whom?

 

January 5-7, 2006

A unique and piquant situation took place when victim survivors came to the Godhra Circuit House trembling with fear as the state of Gujarat was accusing them of committing crimes when all they had done was search in vain for the remains of their lost ones. A specific assurance was given by the Collector, Panchmahals and the SP, Panchmahals to the Secretary CJP, Teesta Setalvad and Coordinator, Shri Rais Khan that the victim survivors would not be arrested when they were giving blood samples!!

 

January 9, 2006

The state government affidavit contradicts itself by stating in para 4 of its affidavit dtd. 9th Jan, 2006 that some bodies were unidentified, whereas later in another sworn affidavit, states that all the dead bodies were identified. Disgustingly, the state government claims that persons/relatives identified bodies and then let them be in an undignified pit without the dignity of last rites!! The callous and cynical attitude of the state is so galling that they have no problem stating falsehood upon falsehood in their affidavits. Later, in para 8 of the affidavit the state of Gujarat claims that the dead bodies were buried because nobody had come forward to claim the skeletons!

 

January 10, 2006

Mehboobbhai Rasoolbhai Chauhan, a victim survivor and all others accused in the FIR along with Shri Rais Khan approached the   Hon'ble Sessions Court, Panchmahals for anticipatory bail and the Hon'ble Court by the judgment and order dtd. 10th January, 2006 was pleased to grant anticipatory bail. In the order, the Ld. Judge was pleased to observe that the said FIR was prima facie filed to pre-empt the order of the Hon'ble High Court and deter the investigating agency being the CBI from investigating the offence pertaining the skeletons. The Godhra Sessions Court had stated that the Lunawada police’s action in registering an FIR was clearly “ a counterblast” to the matters pending before the Gujarat HC. Thereafter, the 'accused' in the FIR had approached the police several times, however the police did arrest them and release them on regular bail as is required under the law, deliberately not completing the formalities as required by the order dated 10 th Jan, 2006.  The state police was deliberately keeping a sword hanging over the heads of the victim survivors.

 

January 12, 2005

The local unit of the RSS and the VHP stages a 40 person 'morcha' to the Collector's office stating that 'Hindu' sentiments have been hurt and that Shri Rais Khan and Teesta Setalvad should not be allowed inside Lunawada.

 

February 1, 2006

Maksudabehn Yusufbhai Shaikh, widow of murdered Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh filed an application before the PSI Khanpur Police station stating that she has information that her husband's body has been buried at Lavanagam, illegally and without last rites and therefore appealed that, in the presence of her advocate and panchas, the body should be removed and she be allowed to bury the body in accordance with Muslim rites. The same police that is screaming itself hoarse about the 'illegal' act committed on December 27, 2005 has simply not entertained this application. Copies of the said application were given to DSP, Panchmahals, DYSP, Panchmahals, Collector, and even the CBI.

 

February 7, 2006

Teesta Setalvad of the CJP files an affidavit in Spl Cri Application 1875 of 2005 stating that at the time of arguments before the Gujarat HC ON 29-12-2005, where the government pleader was assisted by the local police, none of the contentions or so called offences made out in CR No 1 3/2006 with the Lunawada police station were submitted or made clearly indicating that the FIR was a desperate afterthought meant to adversely influence investigations. In this affidavit the repeated harassments meted out to Shri Rais Khan were also detailed.

 

February 7, 2006

State of Gujarat files an application (Misc Criminal Application 1613 of 2006) for cancellation of bail of those named in the FIR CR 3/2006. Shri Prakashbhai Thakkar appears for Shri Rais Khan Pathan and others.

 

February 10, 2006

The detailed affidavits submitted by petitioner and victim survivor Ameenabehn and CJP includes details of the procedure for burial of unidentified and missing persons as per the Gujarat Municipalities Act  and the police norms and rules as stated by us in   earlier affidavit.  None of the detailed factual claims are countered by the state of Gujarat at all in any of its affidavits.

Victim survivors have made it plain that the gameplan of the state of Gujarat is to target them, victim survivors and eye-witnesses as much as citizens groups who they approached of our own free will to guide us through the legal battle does no speak much for an administration and government that should be showing compassion, remorse to its own people. If wrongs have been committed, inadvertently or deliberately, the way to set them right would be to make good what went wrong. Instead all of us have been treated as common criminals and even today are facing non-bailable warrants.

Victim survivors made it clear that it was they who approached Teesta Setalvad of the CJP and asked them to be present on 27-12-2005. They had made three unsuccessful attempts to locate the remains of our near and dear ones before that. They were not sure of any success this time.    They had made repeated attempts to get the authorities to listen to our anguished pleas for the remains of our brutally killed relatives so that their souls rest in peace. All this has been stated and documented by them in subsequent affidavits, too. Yet this hostile and antagonistic attitude by the administration reveals their true motive.

CDs of December 27, 2005 substantively prove what the victim survivors and CJP saying to be true. They have placed the CDs with transcripts before the Court.

 

 February 21, 2006

The state government in it's rejoinder affidavit indulges in unnecessary falsehoods stating that victim survivor Ameenabehn Rasool who is the main petitioner was not aware of the facts contained in the affidavit. The state of Gujarat, in its rejoinder affidavit has

made a false statement saying that the victim Maqsoodabibi  had refused to exhume the dead body. To prove their case, the petitioners (in their rejoinder to rejoinder affidavits filed in the first week of March 2006) have annexed   affidavits of Maqsoodabibi and her mother-in-law  namely Umravbibi that contain details of the dead body of Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Sheikh.

 

March 2, 2006

Maqsuda Yusuf Shaikh, widow of Yusufbhai files as affidavit in the main Pandharwada matter (Special Criminal Appln 1875/2005) pointing out shocking and grave efforts by the Gujarat police to doctor records and in fact falsely create evidence justifying the petitioners' claim that the Gujarat state police simply cannot be trusted to handle an investigation against itself in a fair and impartial manner.

            In this affidavit, Maqsuda states that

  • She made applications on dated 1.2.2006 and 6.2.2006 to the Prant Officer, Lunawada, Collector, Panchmahal at Godhra, D. S. P. Panchmahal, Dy. S. P. Lunawada, C. P. I. Lunawada etc. to get the   dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh, and after following legal procedure, the same may be handed over to C. B. I. and after carrying out its analysis in the Laboratory of Hyderabad through C. B. I. the dead body should be handed over to her for burying in the local Kabrastan as per Muslim law
  • The dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh was not handed over to her either on dated 5.3.2002 or on any other day by any police, she has not made my any thumb impression regarding receipt thereof. She states that the police is trying to make a false case against her and refusing to process her application to exhume/remove the body.
  • She states that the police has not handed over dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh to her or her mother-in-law (her mother in law also files an affidavit) and she has not made any thumb impression anywhere thereof.
  • She states that she and her in-laws sent some applications and made representations to concerned authorities   to get dead body of my husband, however, till today they have not been handed over  the dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai.
  • She states that the police claim that they have handed over   the dead body of her husband to her on dated 5.3.2002 is absolutely false and an irresponsible statement; if the dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh was handed over to her, then, male members   of my community should have cleaned his dead body i.e. should have performed the final bathing rites and then, by wrapping him in the traditional white coffin cloth, and  after performing the Namaz of 'Janaza', the final prayer, they would   have buried him at  the family's  Kabrasthan of their village or in Kabrastan of Pandarwada at distance of 5 kilo meter from Lunawada. It is very clear that nothing   of this sort  has happened and the police has no record of it's so called version of handing over the body to me. It appears therefore that the   police is suppressing  the truth.
  • She further submitted that if the dead body of her husband was handed over to her on dated 5.3.2002 then where was  no  need for her mother in law to make an application in writing on dated 19.3.2002, and before making that application, why would she have given copy without her thumb impression to her, which was also produced by her before the Prant Officer on February 2, 2006.   Moreover, if the body had been obtained and buries why would the family have made applications inquiring whether he (Yusufbhai) is alive or dead to the Collector, Godhra, Kheda etc. on many occasions after March 1, 2002. She also questions as to why the police not even dignified her applications with a response at the relevant time. In a daily newspaper namely   "Gujarat Today" dtd 3.4.2002 at  page No.10 it was reported that there is possibility that dead body of her husband Yusufbhai Ahmedbhai Shaikh    along with the dead bodies of three other young men are buried in the nearby jungles, and though guardians of all four young men informed Collector, Godhra in writing   about the same, no reply whatsoever  has been given. 
  • She states that if the police version if handing over the body of her husband on 5.3.2002 was true,  why then would her mother in law Umravbibi  make applications dated 19.3.2002 to the Collector, Panchmahal etc. and how did this matter come to be reported in Gujarat Today News paper dtd.   3.4.2002.
  • This victim survivor also points out that when the police carried out inquest panchnama dated 5.3.2002, she was not called to the site nor was she present. However, her false name and presence has been recorded. No thumb impression or signature of hers can be found o this inquest panchnama. The Police inquest panchnama is said to have been carried out on 5.3.2002 during hours 16.00 to 16.45 P.M. and it has also been stated at serial no.6 of the police report  that the police had seen that dead body on 5.3.2002 at hours 14.30 in and sent it to the Medical Officer, Pandarwada
  • She points that this  is an act of obvious falsification of records in terms of her presence shows that the police has, in fact, not carried out any inquest panchnama. Besides this, I further state that, if so called inquest panchnama was carried out during hours 16.00 to 16.45 on dtd 5.3.2002 then how come the post mortem was performed at hours 4.30 PM (16.30) on dtd 5.3.2002.  It also apparently appears that even the date of receipt of the dead body mentioned in column no. 4 of the post mortem report shows that the date of receipt of the dead body was written as 6 th March, 2002 and the 6  was changed to 5. She concludes that from the material  and facts mentioned above,   it is clear that the police or the administration  has not handed over the dead body of my husband to me either on date 5.3.2002 or on any other day thereafter.

 

 March, 2006

 Victim survivors and CJP file 600 pages of detailed affidavits, contradicting point by point all the claims made by the respondent 1, state of Gujarat in their affidavits. Ameenabehn Habib Rasool in her Rejoinder to Rejoinder Affidavit dated March 2006 filed by respondent, state of Gujarat states that:

 

   the dead bodies were buried in the survey no. 69 on the banks of the river 'Paanam'. 

   Through their own investigations, petitioners learned that the said land is 'forest land' as per the 7/12 village form. They have annexed the copy of the village form.     This proves that the local administration ought not to have buried the dead bodies without handing over the same to the survivors of the deceased.  

 

Ameenabehn Rasool states categorically that it was the victims who learnt about the place where the dead bodies were actually buried, informed the villagers and soon in presence of the electronic media   the skeletons were unearthed. Further, the petitioners state that it was only because of the electronic media's exposure that the police  could not tamper with the skeletons and the local administration was caught on wrong footing especially because the skeletons were found from the forest land. Thus it was wise decision for the victims to avoid the competent authorities under the control of the state government.

 

 The petitioners state that the CBI, which is  Respondent no. 2 be asked to seized the   case diaries and the weekly diaries of the police are required to be seized immediately or they be asked to produce the same forthwith so that the role of the state's police and the local administration can be properly appreciated. The petitioners further state that the respondent no. 1 has been given enough chance to 'tamper' with the evidence.

 

The petitioners state that the 'role' of the state government in not protecting its citizens and in defending the accused has  shown its ugly face in several matters. The non-governmental organizers had to venture and make sincere attempts to wipe of the tears of poor victims. That the Hon'ble Supreme Court while deciding Criminal M. P. No. 3740-42/2004 in Writ Petition (Cri) No. 109/2003 in the matters of National Human Rights Commission v/s The State Of Gujarat and allied matters had observed that the non-governmental organizations be asked to do the needful for poor victims; though the petitioner craves leave to rely upon the said order at the time of the hearing of this writ petition.   Moreover, the petitioner no. 2  has made strenuous efforts to enable justice to absolutely poor victims of the state.  

 

 March  2006

Special Criminal Application Nos. 408 of 2006, petitioners who are also victims survivors ,  Mehboobbhai Rasoolbhai Chauhan and Rasoolbhai Ashrafbhai Sheikh have prayed for a transfer  of entire investigation of the alleged offences to the CBI

 

April 5, 2006

Gujarat HC refuses to cancel anticipatory bail. On April 5, 2006 the Gujarat High Court passed a speaking order rejecting the Gujarat state's appeal to cancel anticipatory bail granted by the Sessions court at Godhra. Though one of the conditions of the High Court order of April 5, 2006, formally allowed the police to apply for remand (an practice in all cases) and the victims and Shri Khan remained present at Lunawada court while arguments took place on April 17, 2006,   the single-handed vindictiveness of the Gujarat police can be seen in that they obtained non-bailable warrants by misleading the court despite the fact that there were no orders asking these persons to remain present in court on April 18, 2006.

 

April 18, 2006

The non-bailable warrants have been issued against Mehboob Rasul Chauhan, Habib Rasul Saiyed,Sikander Abbas Shaikh, Kutubsha   Ayubsha Diwan and Gulam Ghani Kharadi who are victim survivors of the ghastly massacre that took place in March 2002. Citizen for Justice and Peace has also been targeted by the issuance of non-bailable warrant although there is no order directing the ‘accused’ to remain present in Court. This is nothing short of an attempt to browbeat victims who had keen searching in vain for the bodies of their lost ones. Application for remand to police custody have been made against all.

Despite the order of the High Court refusing to cancel the anticipatory bail order and permitting the ‘accused’ to apply for nail under section 439, the Gujarat police is not only using intimidatory tactics to browbeat victims of a massacre and representatives of organisations supporting the struggle for justice but in fact attempting to influence the investigation itself. In this entire matter, the Gujarat police is the chief culpable party being responsible for the undignified and hasty burials of victims of a mass crime. Today, despite the fact that the matter has been seized of in the Gujarat High Court, the Gujarat police functions with impunity and is trying to subvert the investigation to escape liability for the illegal and unauthorised burial of bodies of victims of a mass crime.

 

April 20, 2006
After lengthy arguments made by Shri Prakashbhai Thakker, senior counsel for the petitioners, Justice AS Dave of the Gujarat HC has issued notice to the Gujarat Government on the petitioner’s plea for stay and transfer of the FIR-related investigations to CBI and posted the case for urgent hearing on April 28, 2006. Meanwhile no action can be taken by the Gujarat Police on the investigation.

In 2009, the Supreme ourt of India dismissed the woman victim’s plea for correction of the investigation. Now survivors are approaching the Apex Court in a Curative Petition. Worse still the Apex Court makes no order for allowing speedy and dignified disposal of the remains of the missing persons.

December 2008
The Apex Court refuses to order the deignified return of the remains to the survivors. The survivors has then to separately approach the Trial Court which ordered the return of the bodly remains on December 16, 2008. Despite this, for eighteen months the the Gujarat Police deliberately refuses to act, delays the claiming of remains from FSLR Laboratory, Red Hill Hyderabad, Finally after repeated applications to the Trial Court the remains are brought back to Lunawada only in August 2010, i.e. eighteen months after the Trial Court Order and four years and eight months after survivors first approached the Gujarat High Courts for the Fundamental Right for Dignified Burial.