Pages

Sunday, 20 January 2013

CIVIL SOCIETY’S FACT FINDING REPORT

CIVIL SOCIETY’S FACT FINDING REPORT
Introduction


Dhule has been in news for past 10 days. It has been reported in the media that, a small altercation in Dhule led to an event leading to violence between Hindus and Muslims. As such death of 6 innocent youth and injuries to several more and massive loss of properties, burning of houses has taken place. The worst part of the episode is that all this has taken place with police force being very much around. Contrary to official reports, the people in the area stated that the behavior of police was very biased against the Muslim minorities. All the youth who died were Muslims. Most of the houses which were burnt belonged to the Muslims.


In the light of the disturbing reports and communications from the local activists we  decided that a citizen fact finding committee should visit the Dhule, to investigate and present the facts objectively.

The citizens Fact Finding Committee consisting, of Shabnam Hashmi- social activist ,ANHAD Delhi, Prof Ram Puniyani of All India Secular Forum, Prof Apoorvanand of Delhi University, Adv Nihalsing B Rathod- Human Rights Law Network, Manan Trivedi, Dev Desai, Tanvi Soni, Arma from ANHAD, Gujarat and Azhar from Jalgaon,  visited  Dhule on 13th and 14th  January 2013.

The Committee met several social, religious and political activists, government officials including the district magistrate, victims, families of the deceased and injured, and the people from different walks of life. It also visited the spot of the incident; the affected areas and the Hospitals on 14th January 2013. The committee procured the recordings of the violence which had taken place in the city. This report is based on the testimonies of these people, the records from the hospitals and its own observation in the area where houses have been burnt.
The committee found that the affected area, which was constantly referred as minority area was barricaded to separate it from the Hindu dominated areas. We found temporary police posts on the other side of the barricades (Hindu Majority area). We were told that the curfew which was enforced after the violence; was now relaxed from 9am to 5pm. Police did not prevent people from crossing the barricades from either side. Outwardly life looked normal. We were told that curfew had affected the livelihood of people who worked in the power looms which is the main source of living for majority of the Muslims as work had to be stopped at 5 in the evening. In normal times the power looms kept working round the clock. We also found that even in normal times the area also suffered from huge load shedding, making it impossible for the power looms to work. The stoppage of work is leading to the disruption of life.
There were differing versions of the cause of violence on 6 January. We were told that it was largely a result of the insensitive handing of a minor quarrel by the police. It was clear from the statements of both Hindus and Muslims that tension could have been diffused easily had police taken proper steps to diffuse the tension, which was building up. It did not intervene and told the people to settle the dispute by themselves. The police allowed crowds to assemble from both sides. One can see from the recordings that mobs which assembled started confronting each other with stones. We were also told that the first incidence took place at around 2 to 2.15 pm and mobs from both sides started assembling soon after that. It is clear that both Hindus and Muslims had indulged in stone throwing. What is perplexing is that the police decided to move into the Muslims areas with Hindu mob behind them. Police started firing indiscriminately at Muslims.

As per the testimony of victims and eyewitnesses the police did not make any primary effort to disperse the crowds. It did not use public address system to alert the crowd, nor did it use lathi or teargas shells before going for firing. The residents felt very aggrieved that the police resorted to firing in response to stone throwing. It was reported that the firing lasted for more than two hours and was stopped around 6.30 PM. This point was confirmed by the District Magistrate.
The police firing was intended not to disperse the mob. All the bullet injuries are above the knee, in the abdomen, chest, neck, back and face. The attitude of the police against Muslims is also evident from the recordings as they are found pounding on the motorcycles in the curfew hours when there was nobody on the streets. Media reported and District Collector told us that the police had no option but to open fire as they were attacked with lethal chemicals and many of them suffered grievous injuries when they were trying to control the mobs. This claim is not supported by the Civil hospital record which describes the injuries suffered by the police personnel as minor who were discharged after first aid and there are just a very few cases of minor burn injuries..
Forty two people suffered bullet injuries, six died. Legs of two of the injured had to be amputated. None of the injured went to the civil hospital. We were told that the Muslims avoid going to civil hospital due to their experience of experience of the 2008 riots. In 2008 Muslims were attacked by Hindus when they tried to go to the civil hospital as it falls in a Hindu dominated locality. Due to the experience of 2008 this time, all the injured were taken to private hospitals.
It was reported that none of the injured was taken to the hospital by the police. We were also told by the relatives of those killed that they were not allowed to lodge FIRs. They were told that the deceased had already been made accused and were treated as rioters. The injured have not been able to muster courage to file FIRs, nor have the owners of the damaged property been able to do so.
More than 35 Muslim houses were looted, burnt and destroyed. Destruction of these houses was complete. All of it seems to have been done with clinical precision. We also found four Hindu households burnt, one of them burnt totally. While Muslims are ready to name the attackers, Hindus told us that they did not want to name anybody although they know the attackers.   
The looting, burning and destruction of Muslim houses was done by mobs under the protection of the police. In one of the recordings, a senior police officer is seen exhorting the mobs to move forward and attack. The police is also seen standing silently while houses are being burnt.  What the police did was to drive away the Muslims by firing, leaving their houses unprotected and vulnerable.
 It was also reported that the area of incident and firing was cleaned with water the very next day without any Panchnama having been made.
We found no evidence of relief being provided to the uprooted families who had to flee bare handed from their houses. The DM told us that they were provided with ration through NGOs but was unable to explain how the ration was supposed to be cooked as the victims had no utensils with them to cook it. He also found it natural and sufficient that they were being taken care of by the community-fellows and there was no special need for administration to pitch in.   
The fact that when our committee visited the area neither the chief minister, nor the home minister felt it necessary to pay a visit to Dhule in the wake of this violence. This fact has made the Muslims very bitter. Several calls to offices of the CM and HM for an appointment by the Fact Finding Committee yielded no results. Muslims feel uncared for and left to fend for themselves. The announcement by a section of the business community, engineers and lawyers that the police action should not be investigated has also made them wary.  More than compensation, they want justice to be done and with these threats they feel that justice might be compromised. The political process of confidence building is absent leaving the field open for all kinds to forces to fill the void. It should be a matter of concern that since 2008, this has been the third major violence and Muslims feel that they are being hounded by the police. The fact, as reported by many; that the constables have not been transferred for more than fifteen years is also to be noted. It is evident that the police is biased against the Muslims and all minds of anti-Muslim stereotypes impact their mindset and action.
 Dhule, despite ‘only’ six deaths is a mirror to the nation and our response would also show whether there exists a social, civil and political resolve to protect the constitutional rights of minorities in India or not.

FINDINGS:
1.      This violence could have been prevented, had the police acted in time.
2.      While stone pelting was done by members of both the communities, the police action was selective and directed against Muslims only.
3.      The police did not follow the prescribed protocol to control the mob. Police firing was excessive and was done with an intent to kill.
4.      All bullets were above the knee, majority of the bullets were above the waist, many of them in the chest, neck and face. All six deaths were because of the police firing.
5.      Majority of the victims of the police firing were left unattended by the police and were taken to hospitals by friends.
6.      159 police personnel were taken to the hospital out of which only 18 were admitted is evident from the record of the civil hospital (attached with this report).  All the injuries suffered by the police were minor in nature due to stone pelting. 
7.      The burning and looting of Muslim household and shops was done by the Hindu mobs in the present of the police personnel and killings were done by the police. From the video footage obtained by us it is clear that Police also indulged in burning Muslim houses and destroying their property.
8.      Fire Brigade was not allowed to come to the Muslim locality to douse the fire.
9.      No relief camps were set up for those Muslims and Hindus who lost their houses (approximately 40 Muslim families and 4 Hindu families), no immediate relief provided by the State. Some food grains were distributed by the Red Cross.
10.  The victims were threatened when they tried to register FIRs and no FIRs were registered.

DEMANDS
1.      IMMEDIATE COMMISSIONING OF JUDICIAL ENQUIRY INTO THE WHOLE INCIDENT OF JANUARY 6, 2013 IN DHULE, MAHARASHTRA WITH ESPECIAL FOCUS ON ROLE OF THE POLICE.
2.      SUSPENSION OF THE DM , SP AND OTHER OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTS OF OMMISSION AND COMMISSION WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT
3.      ANNOUNCEMENTOF RELIEF AND REHABILITATION PACKAGE INCLUDING THE OPENING OF A RELIEF CAMP IMMEDIATELY FOR THOSE WHOSE HOUSES HAVE BEEN UPROOTED   (25 LAKHS TO THE NEXT OF KIN OF THOSE KILLED, 15 LAKHS FOR THOSE DISABLED FOR LIFE, 10 LAKHS  FOR THOSE INJURED WITH POLICE BULLETS, SUITABLE COMPENSATION TO THOSE WHOSE HOUSES, PROPERTY, BUSINESS HAS BEEN BURNT, LOOTED, DESTROYED AFTER ASSESSMENT BY A COMPETENT AGENCY ALONG WITH MEMBERS OF CIVIL SOCIETY AND NGOS).
4.      PROSECUTION OF ALL THOSE POLICEMEN WHO ARE INVOLVED IN KILLING PEOPLE AND DESTROYING THEIR PROPERTY.
5.      GOVERNMENT JOB TO ONE PERSON IN THE FAMILY OF THOSE KILLED / disabled for life IN POLICE BULLETS.
6.      IMMEDIATE LODGING OF FIRs IN ALL CASES OF DEATH, INJURED, PROPERTY LOSS ETC.
7.      IMPLEMENTATION OF TRANSFERPOLICY FOR THE POLICEPERSONNALE WHICH HAS BEENTOTALLY DISREGARDED IN DHULE.
8.      ESTABLISHMENT OF AN EXTENTION CENTRE OF THE GOVERNMENTHOSPITAL WITH ALL FACILITIES IN THE MUSLIM DOMINATED AREA.
9.      LIFTING OF CURFEW WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT AND RESUMPTION OF NORMAL WORKING HOURS ESPECIALLY IN POWER LOOM SECTOR.
10.   SETTING UP OF A COMMITTEE TO STUDY THE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS OF THE CITY INCLUDING JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH.
11.  IMMEDIATE STEPS TO BE TAKEN TO DE-TOXIFY THE MINDSETS OF THE POLICE AT THE STATE LEVEL, PROGRAMMES TO SENSITISE THEM ON CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY, SECULaRALISM.
12.  TO INVITE NATIONAL NGOS WORKING ON COMMUNAL HARMONY TO HELP SET UP A STRUCTURE AT THE LEVEL OF MOHALLAS FOR REGULARINTERACTION OF LOCAL PEOPLE ANDLEADERS OF ALL COMMUNITIES, FORMATION OF MOHALLA COMMITTEES.