Police joined Gujjars in firing at us, say Gopalgadh riot victims

By Md. Ali, TwoCircles.net,

New Delhi: Two days after a communal clash between Meos and Gujjars in Gopalgarh area of Bharatpur district in Rajasthan was reported, the situation continues to be tense and disturbing. Muslims of the area are scared as they find themselves in a situation where they can’t trust any body, neither police nor any other government agency. Several members of the minority community, Meos Muslims, got killed in the firing between Gujjars, local police and Meos on Wednesday (14th September).

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There are strong evidences to suggest, that police and the local administration in Gopalgarh acted in a completely partisan and biased manner while dealing with the clash between Meos and Gujjars. The clash started with a controversy over an Eidgah land, but soon it took the form of gun firing between the two communities.

Burnt and charred body, thrown in a well in the premise of Eidgah

Police reportedly not only joined Gujjars in gunning Meos down, when the firing started but also they didn’t take action against Gujjars when they were allegedly burning Muslims alive on Wednesday evening. There are enough instances to prove that at present, police is trying to suppress and destroy evidences related to the horrible, human rights violations of the members of the minority community by the local police and Gujjars.

“We were completely helpless as police joined Gujjars in firing. We saved our lives by running from the spot and jumping into the pond. But I could clearly see police and Gujjars firing at people in the mosque, killing most of them on the spot. They were also burning people,” this was how one of the survivors who was present on the spot, recounted his experience to the fact finding team from ANHAD which included Shabnam Hashmi, Navaid Hamid and this correspondent. The team visited Bharatpur on Thursday (15th September).

We saw two completely charred bodies in the well, located within the premise of the Eidgah mosque. There was nothing inside the mosque which was not broken. We found more than 6 spots on the floor and roof of the mosque which were bloodied, and which suggested killing/ serious injuries of people who were present there.

There were several spots which suggested how the bloodied bodies must have been dragged from one end of the roof, and floor of the mosque to another extreme of the mosque roof. Some of them leading to dead wall ends from which obviously bodies/ injured must have been thrown down. The outside wall had more than 15-20 bullet marks and so did the inside walls. There were torn pages of Quran scattered in two places, broken glasses, bricks, blood soaked clothes , utensils etc.

When the police realized that the fact finding team had seen the truth of the gross human rights violations and killing of Muslims by the police, it arrested the entire team. Police prevented us from seeing the horrible facts on the ground which, it had till that time, successfully managed to suppress and hide from the outside world, and from the national and local media as well.

The police arrested us, right at the moment when we were going towards the direction from where smoke could be seen coming out from several places. Local Meos suggested that there, in order to destroy all the evidences of its complicity in the human rights violations, the administration was burning the dead bodies. A very strong smell of human bodies being burnt had pervaded the atmosphere.

There were several charred bodies, which had been suppressed by the time ANHAD team had visited the spot. The local Muslims said that several members of the community are missing. It’s only after we dared to go near the well within the campus of the mosque only to be horrified at the complete acts of suppression of evidences by the police, that the news came out in public. The bodies are yet to be identified.

There seems to be some truth in the version of the Meos that there were also attempts to burn members of the Meo community. According to the District Magistrate, Kumal Krishna, one survivor, who is also badly burnt and is hospitalized in Alwar, had said that he was burnt by the rioting mob but he saved his life by jumping into the nearby pond.

Importantly the local police haven’t yet registered any FIR from the survivors and relatives of those killed. It has registered an FIR against unknown Meos and Gujjars for gun firing.

While talking to the fact finding team, the local administration didn’t tell us any thing about the charred and burnt bodies. They were trying to downplay the incident, as just a clash between the two communities. Their statements on number of dead, injured and situation turned out to be completely false. For instance, soon after we discovered those two burnt bodies, their claim of only death by firing, collapsed, so did the number of dead.

Importantly the media was barred from talking to the victims and visiting the spot of police firing. So the reporting about the incident was happening completely from the point of view of the police and the local administration which didn’t want the reality of their police firing to go out.

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Police and the local administration didn’t want us to visit the spot. They made us wait at the Rajasthan-Haryana border for more than one and half hour. Our vehicle was stopped before we entered Rajasthan. The police officer said we have orders to stop you. It took us one and a half hours of negotiations, shoutings, several telephone calls to the CM and principle secretary’s office, and conversations with the collector before we were allowed to proceed. Meanwhile 7 jeeps full of policemen and a bus arrived to stop us from going any further.

The police throughout, tried their best to misguide us and not to let us enter the villages, they forced us to go to some madarsa saying victims were there. Again after a battle of words and shouting matches we were finally allowed to enter the mosque. As we were going in, the police officer literally threatened us, “if you take too much time we will leave,” conveying that they won’t be responsible for our safety. Our team promptly told them to leave as we did not need their security.

In the villages we heard stories of indiscriminate police firing on Meos, petrol being thrown on people before burning them, people missing, search for bodies still scattered over places etc. The villagers were constantly being threatened by the police not to give any information. Whereever we went the police force in hundreds reached before us. There was tension, fear, apprehension and a strange smell in the atmosphere.

Before we could go and see that we were surrounded by police and arrested. We were not allowed to go any further, to meet anyone else. We were taken to the police station and from there soon with police escort pushed out of Rajasthan border.

[Photos by Md Ali, TwoCircles.net]

(Md. Ali is a journalist with TwoCircles.net. He was part of the ANHAD fact finding team which visited Gopalgadh.)