Muslim residents of Khambhat in Gujarat's Anand district have filed a petition in the High Court stating that they are the victims of the communal violence that took place during Ramnavami on April 10. The petition has been filed by four Muslim residents - Vasimbhai Vora (35), Imtiyazbhai Vora (41), Shakirhussein Shaikh (35), and Ismailbhai Vora (65) whose homes and shops were damaged in the incident.
The petitioners have demanded that the case probe be transferred to the state CID or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), claiming that local police have so far shown diligence in only investigating one of the two FIRs filed post violence, and it is the one filed by Hindus of the area.
"Police has shown its religious bias and that police, directly and indirectly, encouraged the mob," reads the petition seeking the court's intervention "to initiate departmental, civil and criminal action against erring officers responsible for non-transparent, unfair, discriminatory treatment in connection with both the FIRs."
The petitioners have also demanded the immediate arrest of the accused named in the second FIR, who are the leaders of the Ram Navami procession. They stated that "despite the availability of visual media, the investigation is not adequately and satisfactorily being carried out."
The petition stated that "two FIRs were lodged at Khambhat city police station on April 10 in the aftermath of the incident." The petitioners submitted that all those arrested to date belong to one section of society, namely the minority, and that the "investigation has been one-sided based on religious consideration and religious bias".
No arrests have been made on the second FIR so far that was filed by the Muslims of the locality, the petition further stated. It added that the violence resulted in the looting and burning of four cabin shops, one shop, one building and one house, and a dargah was substantially damaged to hurt the sentiments of one section of the society.
Noticeably, the first FIR was lodged under sections 143, 149 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 337, 338 (hurt and grievous hurt caused due to rash or negligent action), 307 (attempt to murder), 332 (voluntary hurt to public servant), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). More than 30 arrests have been made by Anand police while investigating this FIR.
The second FIR was initially lodged on April 27 under sections 143, 149 (unlawful assembly), 147 (rioting), 337 (hurt caused by rash or negligent act) and 504 (intentional provocation to break public peace) of the IPC. Later offences under sections 435, 436 (mischief by fire), 447 (criminal trespass) and 427 (commits mischief causing loss or damage to the amount of fifty rupees or more) under the IPC were added to the FIR. This FIR is yet to be investigated by the local police.
"Every day a new arrest is being made in the first FIR whereas in the second FIR, nothing happens. The same police investigating both the FIRs deliberately, consciously, and in a mala fide manner, don't take any action with respect to offences arising out of second FIR. Therefore, the investigation is biased, manifestly arbitrary, grossly discriminatory," claimed the four petitioners on behalf of the Muslim residents of Khambhat.
Shakkarpur, a village about two kilometres from Khambhat city, is dominated by patels and out of about 1000 households, only 200 – 250 are Muslim families who live at one end of the village.
The village witnessed communal tension on April 10 when a rally on the occasion of Ramnavami passed through the Muslim dominated part of the village, stopped and played loud, provocative music in front of the local dargah.
Following the riots, the Anand police swung into action and arrested Muslim youths from the village and claimed the violence was a 'pre-planned conspiracy' and said that the local sleeper cell modules were "financed from abroad" and were turned active by clerics.
"During the Ram Navami rath yatra in Khambhat, one incident of stone-pelting and arson occurred in which one person died while several others were injured. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) has been formed that includes cyber experts to probe the case. The main accused, Razzak Hussain Patel Maulvi, is from the nearby dargah. He came to know about the police permission given for the yatra and started the whole conspiracy. It was pre-planned, and as per their planning, just a day before the riots, the accused had sent their families to different places to execute their plans of creating communal disturbances. Their motive was to ensure that no such yatra takes place in the future. We have recovered chats, audio recordings and messages," Anand district Superintendent of Police Ajit Rajian said in a press conference held on April 13.
On April 15, two days after the arrests of the Muslim men, several shops belonging to Muslims in Shakkarpur were demolished in an anti-encroachment drive, and many got eviction notices served.
Notice of anti encroachment drive on shop belong to Muslim in Khambat
Following the arrests by police, Muslim men of Shakkarpur fled the village leaving behind women, children and a handful of older men. The women claim they have faced social boycott within the village since then and have been dependent on food donated by various Muslim organisations to feed their children and themselves.