25 Aug, 2006 IANS
AHMEDABAD: Muslims in Gujarat are angry at the administration after six members of the minority community were killed in recent months in police firings which they say were avoidable and in violation of the police manual.
While the killings of three Muslims in Vadodara in the first week of May are still fresh in memory, three members of the community, Rizwana Abdul Husain (25), Abdul Husain Ghanchi (38) and Magan Divshi Makwana (30), lost their lives to police firing Tuesday in Radhanpur of Patan district, 200 km from here.
The two episodes are similar in many ways.
It was the apparent necessity to demolish an ancient shrine for road expansion in Vadodara that led to violence while in Radhanpur it was the need to remove a graveyard compound wall that sparked trouble.
In both incidents, the Muslim community was not consulted before the administration moved ahead. Senior subdivision magistrate Ashok Mehta ordered the compound wall near Mina Darwaja in Radhanpur pulled down.
Official arguments that the wall had to be razed to tackle the surging floods have been countered by Muslims of that north Gujarat town.
They insist that the wall had been constructed to prevent drainage water from entering the graveyard.
Mohammed Hanif Modhwadia, a resident of the town whose sister-in-law was killed in the police firing, told IANS: "Under the pretext of letting out flood waters, the administration killed three people."
As in Vadodara, the police have been accused of not following the police manual while firing at the mob. The policemen fired at people's chests and heads, not at their feet.
"There was no caning or tear gassing, neither did police fire in air. It was direct firing," said Khan.
"Though they also fired at knee level, it was only later, to show they had followed the procedure," he added.
Refuting the charges, Patan District Collector JD Bhad said: "The official information is that when all methods to disperse the mob proved futile, the police were forced to open fire."
District Superintendent of Police DB Vaghela also termed the Muslim charges as false.
All six killed in the police firing had bullet injuries above the waist level, either in their chests or in heads. "How else can you explain a woman losing her life and a girl being hit by a bullet on her face?" questioned Modhvadia.
Many point out that consulting community leaders ahead of taking any drastic action could have avoided bloodshed.
Why did the administration not talk to the Muslims? Bhad refused to answer the question and maintained: "The wall was an encroachment. We had asked them to remove it earlier too."
The only difference between the two incidents is that while the police action led to communal tension in Vadodara and curfew had to be imposed, in Radhanpur no such thing happened.