TCN investigates the case and digs out the unpublished inquiry report of National Commission for Women,
By Rehan Ansari & Afroz Alam Sahil for TwoCircles.net,
A simple arrest goes wrong, horribly wrong but incidents that follow are not less than a heinous crime. In December of 2009, Gujarat Police went to Geni Plot area of Godhra to arrest one Rafiq Husain alias Haji for alleged cow slaughter complaints against him. Police encountered resistance from Husain’s family and friends and he managed to give them a slip. Same night, a large battalion of police force came back to the area, forced their ways into many homes and sexually abused and assaulted many women.
On a complaint by Teesta Setalvad, Secretary of Citizen for Justice and Peace, a delegation of National Commission for Women (NCW) visited the area on a fact-finding mission. The NCW report released after an RTI application filed by noted RTI-activist Afroz Alam Sahil, documented findings, recommendations of the three-member NCW inquiry committee and also include submissions made to them by different parties including various NGOs. The Report which is being made public for the first time by TwoCircles.net makes for a difficult reading and shows the conditions that Muslims in Gujarat are living in and also difficulties that even a statutory government body like NCW faces in working in this state.
Rafiq Husain alias Haji has a number of complaints registered against him for stealing and killing cows. On December 19th, 2009 a group of policemen went to arrest him. They were able to catch him but his family and friends resisted and in that confusion Haji was able to escape. Later that night, a battalion of police force again descended in the Geni Plot area of Godhra. This time they arrested 31 people including eight women.
NCW noted that the Godhra Police allegedly forced themselves into the houses in around 1.30 in the night, abused and misbehaved with a woman observing iddat (religiously mandated seclusion), a mother with a new-born was badly beaten while she was holding her baby. The policemen indulged in crass acts like taking off their pants and displaying their genitals to the women.
NCW further observed, “The Senior Inspector Mr. A.V. Parmar, constables, Prabhatsingh and Suresh from Godhra had led the “criminal group” of Policemen.”
NCW is extremely critical of Police Sub Inspector, Parmar and the constables and said, “They crossed all the limits of indecency, when their gruesome acts included grabbing and applying brutal pressure on the breasts, buttocks and other private parts of the women victims, while verbally and physically assaulting them.” It further observed that on resisting the women were brutally beaten by lathis and kicked dangerously on the stomach and other body parts.
The commission also noted in its report that even after 14 days, marks of clots and of having sustained injuries were there all over the victims’ body. It reported, “The Children and young adults who had been eye witnesses of such violence are in a state of shock. The trauma has been so great, that family members of most of the victims still find it laborious task to even fall asleep at night.”
The Chief Judicial Magistrate of Godhra court ordered an inquiry on December 28th, 2009 to look into the allegations by some Muslim women that they were physically and sexually assaulted by policemen while in custody.
The police allegedly showed the arrest only at around 5.30 p.m. on December 20th although the women were in detention from the wee hours of the morning around 3.00 a.m. However when the women were finally produced before the magistrate, who happens to be a woman, she listened to the victims, examined their injuries and ordered the police to take them right away to the civil hospital.
Even this, the police delayed and also forced the medical staff to get the medical examination done in their presence and by male staff.
A state of intimidation
Set up in 1992, National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body to protect and promote the interests of women. The three-member NCW inquiry committee was repeatedly told by a group of people not to listen to the affected Muslim women. In its report the NCW noted that a particular group of around 60 people acted in an excessively aggressive manner.” They refused to move out of the corridors of Circuit house, where the NCW members were hearing all parties. The report noted that “even the Police force didn’t ask them to move away.”
The intimidation was so severe that NCW committee members feared that in such hostile circumstances, there was a possibility that the affected women might have been intimidated or attacked by this group and therefore NCW asked the Collector and the SP to get the crowd dispersed not only from circuit house but from the adjoining area and requested the women victims for their support and patience, in waiting for this mob to disperse and then only come to Circuit house to make their representation.
The representation of these NGOs also tried to influence the NCW and was malicious and defaming against Muslim Community specially Ganchi Muslims.
Siddhi Joshi of Shri Siddhi Sarvajanik Trust which has its registered office in Panchmahal district, Shahera alleged that “Why the NCW is not taking steps to prevent atrocities on majority of women.”
NCW further reported their statements as “The area in which the alleged incident took place is a dangerous area. People support criminals there and it is very difficult for police to enter this area. Muslims are committing various crimes against women. They have abducted 3 women and converted them. They are married but have abducted 18 years old girl to marry her.”
About Ganchi Muslims they said, “Muslims from Godhra are decent but only Ganchi community who live in that area are criminals.”
Representations of Secular and other NGOs
NCW have also reported the representation of other secular NGOs. Prof. J.S. Bandukwala, President Gujarat PUCL had demanded strong action against P.I. Parmar and other accused named by women and was extremely critical of the inaction of SP and Collector.
PUCL and 105 people Human Rights and women’s organizations from Gujarat and more than 150 local residents of Godhra signed and submitted the memorandum which states, “We are not supporting any criminal. We believe that there should not be cow slaughter if it is hurting the feelings of our Hindu brothers. But in the name of combing operation the inhuman atrocities and sexual abuse on Muslim women by Police cannot be tolerated. Prof. Bandukwala himself has visited the area and women cannot describe their plight in words. The Police have not spared even a 15-day infant or a 60 year old widow who was in her iddat and the girl who was getting married that day.”
ANNADI, Aman Samuday and other NGOs also presented the case before NCW and was extremely critical of police atrocities specially P.I. Parmar and his colleagues. NCW has reported their statement as, “they were disturbed by the attitude and action/inaction of the entire state machinery and asked a direct question to the Collector and SP that: Is a Muslim life so cheap or being a Muslim is a crime in Gujarat? According to them the only relief in this entire episode was the inquiry ordered by the judicial magistrate against police under 202 of CrPC.”
Women were sexually assaulted and booked by the Godhra police
The police booked complaints against Salma (19), Naseembanu (22), Haksabibi (27), Fareeda (28), Ruksanabibi (30), Saraben (35), Rahimabibi (39), and Saberabibi (40) under sections 224, 225, 332, 333, 353, 506(2), 186, 147, 148 and 149 of IPC and Bombay Police Act for rioting, illegal assembly, causing hurt to public servant, resisting arrest and obstructing the arrest of another person. The women were released on bail on December 21.
Three-member team of National Commission for Women consisted of Wasnuk Syiem, member of NCW, who led the team of Advocate Priya Hingorani and Professor Tripti Shah of MS University, Baroda.
The Commission submitted its report on April 26th, 2010, with 7 recommendations, including actions against the concerned police officers, compensation, counseling and security to the victims who have been traumatized by the inhuman act of the police personals, government lawyers for the case pending before the high court along with an apology by the state government.
“The Gujarat Government has to come out with a statement accepting responsibility for this serious atrocity and human rights violation, apologize to the women victims and circulate clear written instructions and warning to the police across the state so that similar atrocities do not happen in the future.” National commission for women recommended.
No Information available about the NCW Report and action on it
Teesta Setalwad, the complainant to the NCW told TwoCircles.net that the case is still pending in the High Court and despite repeated attempts they could not get the copy of the of report of National Commission for Women. She said, “We tried many times to get the report but failed due to which the case could not move forward in the high court.”
Alfazal Education & Charitable Trust of Godhra tried to get the report of NCW but in vain. Mohammed Yusuf of the trust said, "We have been trying to know about the commission report, even filed the RTI but could not get the report since last one year."