Justice denied, she recalls: they cut off my hands

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 - 13:58

Fifty-year-old Havribibi struggles to sit on the low cot outside her hut, using for support the stumps that were once her hands. She lost them 13 years ago when, on March 2, 2002, a mob hacked at them a little above her wrists.

Havribibi was among the 34 injured in the violence in Sesan Nava village in Deodar taluka of Banaskantha district in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning two days earlier. Fourteen Muslims were killed in the riots, and two Hindus died in firing by the police.

On February 13, a local court acquitted all 70 accused in the Sesan Nava attack after witnesses turned hostile, and the police failed to produce material evidence against the rioters.

“There must have been around 4,000 or 5,000 of them, I couldn’t count the numbers. They came with swords and rifles and pistols, and started to set homes on fire. The women were screaming, and the men were running to find a place to hide the children,” Havribibi said.

She lost her hands, Havribibi said, before she could run away. She remembers the hacking blows, the blood, and the sight of them falling to the ground.

“Hau, hau (Yes, yes), I remember everything. I saw my hands fall to the ground, and the gushing stream of blood. I collapsed, thrashing about in pain. There was blood everywhere, only blood and fire. They started torching houses, and in no time, 14 of our people were dead,” she said.

The arid, dusty village deep inside Deodar taluka is home to over 1,000 Muslims who migrated from Balochistan several generations ago. The taluka is now dominated entirely by Hindu Darbars and Thakors, and the tall, dark and brown-eyed residents of Sesan Nava are the only Muslims there. The communal divide is complete.

Bhalsinh Parbatsinh, the nephew of Hiraji Savaji, one of those acquitted but now dead, told The Indian Express on Sunday, “My uncle was simply walking on the road, and the police picked him up on suspicion of involvement in the violence. The mob was so huge that no faces in them could be recognised, but the Muslims blamed us only because we live barely half a kilometre away, and they knew us.

“They (the Muslims) have always been a nuisance to the village,” Parbatsinh said. “My uncle was in jail for seven years before being released on bail.”

Hiraji, who died in 2013, was among the nine accused who got bail that year. A batch of 51 others were released separately on bail, while 10 were jailed in Palanpur sub-jail for 12 years before Sessions Judge V K Pujara passed his order on Friday.

Among the Muslim families of the village, the anger at the acquittals was palpable. Despite the simmering hostility towards the Hindus. ( The Nation)