Nanavati Commission report tabled in Assembly: ‘Bows, arrows used to attack minorities in tribal districts’

Sohini Ghosh
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In the case of Panchmahal, the Commission has observed that in some incidents “persons having some political background were involved,” even though it goes on to give a clean chit to the state government or any ministers or its officers. (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

The Nanavati Commission’s final report has recorded incidents of how bows, arrows and slings were used to launch attacks on minorities in the tribal districts of Panchmahal and Dahod.

The report tabled in the Gujarat assembly Wednesday notes how one Husenbhai died because of injuries caused to him on his abdomen by two arrows in Khanpur town of Panchmahal. In another incident in Sanjeli village of Dahod, the report states, “A mob of about 10,000 Hindus attacked Muslims. Some arrows were darted at Muslims...”

Citing another incident in Dhanpur town of Dahod, the report states, “In Dhanpur town, a mob of about 4,000 from nearby villages attacked the shop of Babubhai Vohra. The mob was armed with swords, bows, arrows and slings.”

In Panchmahal, the report concludes, “At some places, adivasis attacked Muslims and their properties and a large number of deaths of Muslims had taken place... But there is no evidence to show that those adivasis and the persons residing in villages either belonged to or were under the influence of any political or religious organisation.”

In the case of Panchmahal, the Commission has observed that in some incidents “persons having some political background were involved,” even though it goes on to give a clean chit to the state government or any ministers or its officers. The report has also indicated VHP involvement, but for a different reason. It states, “However, initiative and participation in such incidents by local VHP workers cannot be ruled out because a large number of people belonging to VHP were killed in the Godhra incident.”

“Only thing that is disclosed by the material is that in about 10 incidents, persons having some political background were involved. There is nothing to show that either the state government or any ministers or any of its officers had in any manner tried to influence people to attack persons and properties of minority community... The incidents were sudden and stray though many persons participated in them,” the report states.

Notably, the report while mentioning a single “serious incident” involving an adivasi’s death that led to communal violence, has also recorded different death toll of Muslims in the same volume of the final report, 30 pages apart.

The incident as described in the report was such that “...near the bus stand of Pandarwada, three Muslims attacked Shambhubhai, an adivasi and brother of Sardarbhai Khatubhai, with swords and spears and killed him.” Following this, the next day, “a mob of about 4,000 to 5,000 armed with weapons attacked houses of Muslims. Adivasis in large numbers had gathered on the occasion of cremation of Shambubhai...”

The paragraph goes on to state that, “After investigation, it was found that 22 Muslims were killed by the mob on that day and some Muslims were injured.”

However, 30 pages later, the then DSP Raju Bhargav’s affidavit is referred to, where the Muslim deaths are pegged at 28. The Commission seems to have ignored this discrepancy in data.

Paraphrasing Bhargav’s affidavit, paragraph 70 states, “As a result of killing one adivasi..., adivasis gathered in large number and attacked Muslims of Pandarvada. Their houses were looted and set on fire. Muslims of the village tried to escape by going to nearby villages but they were chased and attacked and 28 Muslims were killed.”

Agreeing with Bhargav’s affidavit, the Commission concurs, “He (Bhargav) appears to be right in his assessment that the serious incident which took place in Pandarvada was a sequal (sic) to the killing of an adivasi there.”

In case of Dahod, the Commission does not acknowledge specifically any role or involvement of adivasis in violence, unlike in Panchmahal.

The Commission found out that in about 140 villages, incidents of communal violence had taken place. Mostly shops belonging to persons of minority community and situated in villages were either looted or burnt. “At some places, Hindus of those villages had opposed outsiders, who had attacked shops or houses of Muslims,” the report records.

Instead, communal violence in Dahod district is attributed as a reaction to the one person who was burnt alive in the Sabarmati train. “One person, Pujaben Dipakbhai Deshpande of Dahod was burnt alive in the Godhra incident of 27.2.2002 and that appears to be the reason why communal violence started right from 27.2.2002 and then spread to other talukas on the next day,” the report states.

Dang, another tribal majority district, has been recorded by the Commission as “the only district in the state which remained free from communal riots following the Godhra incident.”