Take action against police for public beating of Muslims under VHP pressure: Guj rights panel to govt.

By Twocircles.net Staff Correspondent,

Ahmedabad: In the first order of its kind, the Gujarat State Human Rights Commission(GSHRC) has recommended strong action against two police officials on charges of severely beating up publicly more than a dozen Muslims of Savarkundla town of Amreli district under pressure from the local unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

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The commission further directed the State Home Department and Director General of Police to withdraw all cases against the Muslims booked in false cases by the guilty police officials.

In a severe indictment of the police officials, commission chairman Chitranjan Singh observed that the police mischief and partiality against the Muslims could have led to large scale communal riots in January this year in Savarkundla town, about 250 kms from Ahmedabad.

The commission has given its orders on a petition by Iqbal Fateh Muhammed Ghori, president of the Savarkundla-based Akhil Gujarat Muslim Samaj.

Speaking to TwoCircles.net over phone from Savarkundla, Ghori said that a few Muslims including Tajuddin Qureshi had a trivial fight with a Hindu paint dealer Govind Parmar on January 9, 2009. However, the police booked a case of assault on Parmar as well as loot against the Muslims.

Ghori working as a reporter of a mass circulated Gujarati eveninger Akila published from Rajkot approached the police inspector M N Trivedi against the case of loot booked against Muslims.

Trivedi reportedly told him that it was done under pressure from local politicians.

Meanwhile, local unit of Vishwa Hindu Parishad as well as Savarkundla Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) controlled by Hindu right groups gave a bandh call for the next day if the accused were not arrested immediately.

Ghori was asked by police to arrange surrender of the accused. After the surrender at 2 a.m. on January 10, Trivedi told Ghori that the accused would be beaten up publicly at Riddhi Siddhi Chowk.

But Ghori protested saying it amounted to atrocity and violation of human rights. Though Trivedi reportedly withdrew his decision but Local Crime Branch (LCB) police inspector B P Sonara insisted that the Muslim accused had to be beaten up at a public place because there was tremendous pressure on the police.

However, Ghori strongly protested when the police resorted to public beating. Nasir Khan, photographer of Gujarati daily Aaj Kal, photographed the beatings but his camera was snatched by the police. Subsequently, Ghori and Nasir were also beaten up publicly. However, Ghori got himself admitted in a local government hospital for treatment. After discharge from hospital, he was arrested on January 11 in a case of rioting booked against him. However, he was released on bail the next day.

But the police atrocity did not end at that.

On March 9, Ghori was booked under provisions of PASA (Prevention of Anti Social Activities Act), applied against habitual offenders and after committing at least three offences. But before he could be arrested on March 11, Ghori had shot a missive to the GSHRC in Gandhinagar and National Minorities Commission about the highhandedness of the local police.

Ghori was, however, released by the PASA Board on April 25 as there was no sufficient charge to back the police action.

Meanwhile, the GSHRC asked the Amreli district collector and Superintendent of Police to give justification for applying PASA against Ghori. However, their reply failed to convince the commission.

The commission also took into consideration the representation made by various Hindu and Muslim organizations in favour of Ghori and other Muslims. In its order the commission observed that police had distorted the facts to conceal the police atrocity.

The commission further observed that in the light of the facts of the incident, there is enough reason to believe that the police had themselves arranged for public thrashing of the accused Muslims under pressure from Hindu organizations.

“What happened at Savarkundla was very unfortunate and shameful as the police must not organize public shows of human rights violation to please Hindu organizations. Instead, they should be watchful and prevent anyone from inflaming communal passions’’, the commission observed, saying further that innocent Muslims should not be victimized.

The commission also accused the police of misusing PASA in the incident saying that the law was clearly meant for habitual offenders. And Ghori and others had no such records. It also pointed out that the police had prepared a false ‘panchnama’ and registered a false FIR to victimize Muslims.

Taking note of all these facts, the commission directed revocation of PASA from the accused and asked the state home department, director general of police and PASA board to take all necessary action to help the victims in getting justice.