A report on incidence of communal riot reported at
Patan-Somnath on 25thNovember, 2014.
Alliance for Peace and Justice and All India Secular
Forum decided to investigate the incidence of communal violence that
occurred on 25th November
2014 in Patan-Somnath town in Gujarat between Hindus and Muslims and was
reported in the press.
A team of Adv. Irfan Engineer, All India Secular Forum
and Rafi Malek, Alliance for Peace and Justice (APJ) and Jagdish Bamaniya
(APJ) was constituted. The team visited Somnath-Patan on 7thand
8th December 2014.
They met Assistant Sub-Inspector of Shiv Police Chowki, Shri Babariya,
Yusuf Hussain Kachara, President, Patan Ghanchi Samaj, Dadabhai, Secretary
of Patan Ghanchi Samaj, Mohammed Haji Yakub, Treasurer of Patan Ghanchi
Samaj, Suleman Kapadia, victim whose shop was attacked, Sarman Solanki,
Presidant, Veraval Taluka President of BJP and Nusrat Panja. The team also
tried to meet Hindu Victims and their representatives but they were not
prepared to talk to the team officially. We also tried to meet Kanabhai,
leader of the Koli community but he refused to meet us and even scolded
the member of the team contacting him stating that he was under pressure
and could not talk to the team.
Patan is a small town in Southern Saurashtra. Patan and
Veraval are under a joint municipal body called Patan-Veraval Sanyukta
Nagar Palika. Somnath temple in Patan is well known for two reasons – 1)
it is one of the Jyotirling of Lord Shiva and therefore auspicious for
Hindus, and 2) in 1992 L. K. Advani, the then president of BJP commenced
his campaign against Babri Masjid on a rath
yatra from this temple town
which ultimately led to the demolition of the Masjid in Ayodhya. The Hindu
nationalists use Somnath temple as a symbol of “aggression of Muslims”
over Hindus as Mohammad Gazni, a Muslim warlord attacked the temple
several times for looting its wealth. The Hindu nationalists represent the
aggression as Muslim rulers desire to attack Hindu faith and idol worship.
Total population of Patan is around 60,000 with Muslim
communities constituting roughly about 25-30% of the population. The two
major communities that inhabit Patan are the Ghanchi (Muslims) – about
1,000 to 1,200 houses and Koli (Hindu) – about 1,500 to 2,000 houses.
Besides the Ghanchis, there are other communities as well. The other
Muslim communities are Patnis, Syeds, Pathans, Sheikhs, Memons etc. There
are about 14 Muslim Jamats (communities). The Ghanchi and Koli communities
are backward educationally and socially. Literacy rates are lower than the
national average and dropout rates high. Roughly on 5% of them complete
schooling. There aren’t three professionals – lawyers, doctors or
engineers in both the communities. The other dominant communities in the
Gir-Somnath and Junagadh are Kharwas, Karadia, Ahir and Patel.
Large number of people inhabiting Patan town are daily
wage earners employed in Patan GIDC, in the fishing industry, port, ice
factories etc. Every morning, labourers largely belonging to the Ghanchi
and Koli communities travel in shared auto rickshaws hailed from Shiv
Police Chowki junction to work. Ghanchis and Kolis live in wadis
(residential neighbourhoods). The wadis belonging to both the communities
are peculiarly interspersed and to reach any destination, they have to
pass through each other’s wadis. The wadis are linked through common roads
that are poorly illuminated and extremely narrow. We were told that one of
the reasons why there were no communal riots in Patan is that any access
to the town is passage through each other’s wadis. The only communal
incidence that occurred was in 1983 which began in Veraval between the
Sindhis and Muslims and Patan was also affected. Hussain Kasam Kachra, the
then Vice-President of Municipal Council had sustained 7 fractures. Other
than the 1983 incident, there is no history of communal violence in Patan.
People of Patan live peacefully in wadi area and share common culture and
identity, exchange of food and participate in each other’s functions and
festivals. The Hindu Muslim fabric was strong in this town but in last
couple of years the bonds seem to have weakened.
The Ghanchi community leaders told us that the
community did not take political stance either way. Both parties –
Congress as well as BJP had opened their electoral offices with the help
of members of the community to campaign within the community. They gave
liberty to their members to vote for any candidate of their choice.
However, informally the leaders preferred to ally with the BJP,
particularly as the BJP candidate was Jasabhai Barad who was formerly from
the Congress. The Ghanchis, in order to get even their routine and easiest
work done, have to align with the ruling party without which they have to
suffer. Kolis and Ghanchis – both are politically with BJP.
Port, fishing and allied industries, particularly ice
factories and ship building are the major industries in Veraval and Patan.
There are two gangs of anti-social elements operating in these areas – the
Magra Gang and Farookh Maulana gang. They often compete with each other.
The Koli community leaders in Gujarat have been
asserting and organizing themselves with the objective of increasing their
political representation. The dominant community in Gir-Somnath and
Junagadh Districts are Kolis. Until recently they were with the Congress.
Their strong organization and political assertion led to bagging large
number of tickets from the BJP. In the last state assembly election
unprecedented number of Koli MLAs had been elected. The Kolis are
demanding 95 tickets for their community members and should that happen,
they would decide the Chief Minister of Gujarat, however, that does not
seem probable. BJP for the first time gave MP ticket to a member of Koli
community – Rajesh Chudasama – elected in the 16th general
election from Junagadh constituency in which Patan town falls. The renewed
assertion Kolis is impacting on their social interactions. Every two or
three months, there have been disputes between members of Koli and Ghanchi
community over petty issues of payment to a rickshaw drivers etc. with
potential of widening the conflict. However, the leaders of both the
communities immediately intervened in the past and settled the dispute
amicably. Mostly the Ghanchis would be made to pay some minor
The team did not find material difference in the
narration of the incidence of communal violence that had occurred on 25th November
2014 by various people they talked to. The ASI Babariya was present during
the communal incidence on 25th November
as the violence broke out near Shiv Police Chowki at about 8.30
am. The Police personnel of the Chowki had just resumed
their respective duties when the violence occurred and they were
completely unprepared. According to the ASIthere was a dispute about a Rs.
10 currency note belonging to a “Mohammedan” which was claimed by a Koli.
According to Yusuf Kachara, Muslim passengers were sitting in an auto
rickshaw being driven by a Muslim. A Rs. 10 currency note belonging to
Muslim passenger fell down, but was claimed by a Koli. According to
Suleman Kapadia, who owns several shops, including a cold drink shop,
youth had written his cell number to pass it on to his girl friend for her
to call him. Girls are not allowed to keep cell phones with them so they
exchange cell numbers in this way and use someone else’s phone to call.
When the currency note was claimed by a member of Koli community, there
was heated argument.In the scuffle, the Muslim passenger was hit bya
tiffin box.This injured the Muslim youth and his head and started
bleeding. SulemanKapadia further informed the team that the wound was deep
and there were three stitches. The Ghanchi neighbourhood and the Koli
neighborhood is separated by Veraval-Una Highway and the Shiv Police
Chowki too issituated on the Highway. According to the ASI and all others
the team talked to, elders of both the community intervened and separated
those fighting. However, after about half an hour, the Kolis from Shanti
Nagar reassembled and started pelting stones on Muslim neighbourhood
across the highway. We observed the shop facing the road located on the
Muslim side had been damaged. ASI further informed the team that the bikes
on the road were also burnt.In the attack by Koli youth, one fruit stall,
and two refrigerators of cold drink shop owned by SulemanKapadia were
damaged. They looted the chocolates, biscuits and other eatablesin the
shop. SulemanKapadia claims that he suffered a loss of about Rs. 4-5 lakhs
and has no insurance. One motorbike(pulled out from house by breaking
doors) and two fruit stalls and a fruit shop were damaged in the attack
led by the Koli youth.
Muslim youth too gathered and retaliated by pelting
stones from the roof top. They burnt 8 motorbikes, damaged two fruit
stallsand one fruit shop and 10 to 15 Kolis suffered minor injuries while
8-10 Muslims also were injured.
Yusufbhai informed the team that once every 2 – 3
months such scuffles happen over some minor issue or another, including
payment of rickshaw fare. Elders of both sides intervene and do not let
the violence escalate even if sometimes they have to compensate in order
to settle the dispute. However, this time the Muslim youth did not listen
to them. Yusufbhai along with the ASI and his team of two constables that
were available at the time were trying to keep stone pelting mobs
separate. The ASI was injured too as a stone hit him behind his right year
causing swelling. Yusufbhai too was injured. The police team of three was
hopelessly outnumbered and ill equipped, without even helmets for their
protection. Half an hour later, police reinforcements came along with Dy.
SP and Mamlatdar and they brought the situation under control. The police
had to burst teargas shells near Vadli to disperse the Muslim mob. In the
melee, someone snatched a mobile worth Rs. 500/- (five hundred only) of a
None from any community lodged any complaint with the
police pertaining to the incident. Police suomoto registered an FIR.
Later, the police arrested 42 Muslims and 14 Koli youth who were still in
their custody. The police have charged all the 56 persons, amongst other
sections for rioting, with S. 395 of IPC (dacoity) for loss of a mobile of
the policeman.Ghanchi community members told the team that police arrested
by-standers and innocents who happened to be there during the incident on
both sides – Muslims as well as Hindus. The Ghanchi Community was taking
care of all the expenses of the Muslims who were arrested and providing
them food from a hotel. They also paid the family of the poor among the 42
who were arrested as their earning members were in police custody. The
office bearers of the Patan Ghanchi Muslim Samaj were appreciative of the
role of the BJP MLA Jasabhai Barad who promptly intervened when the police
were arresting large number of Muslims. This stopped the police from being
hostile to the community. Jassabhai Barad crossed over to BJP from
Congress as he could not get any work done while in his former party.
Jassabhai had polled votes from Muslims too.
A Hindu shopkeeper on the Muslim side of the Highway,
who was sympathetic to RSS, talked to a team member but did not want to be
identified. He derived satisfaction from the police action arresting large
numbers of Muslims compared to Hindus.
Shops in the Patan area were closed on the day of the
incident. However, the leaders of both the community met and decided to
open their shops next day. Hindus were still afraid of opening their shops
though Muslim shops had opened. Yusufbhai then called Kanabhai, leader of
Koli community to open their shops as well. Similarly, the workers working
in the GIDC from both the communities were afraid of getting out of their
homes and travel to the GIDC area where factories are situated as they
would have to negotiate “hostile” territories. However, here too, the
elders of both the communities got together to persuade the workers to
come out and go for work.
Our Findings and observations:
The communal riots in Patan seem to be spontaneous
however, the root cause of the riots is continuous communal discourse in
media and by communal organizations that is deepening communal
consciousness. The Hindu communal forces have considerably succeeded in
deepening Hindu communal identity based on “othering” of Muslims who are
at best perceived as a problem to be tolerated and from time to time
reminded that they are second class citizens living at the sweet will of
Hindus. It is because of this that smallest and most insignificant
conflict of daily occurrence takes communal turn and mobilizes non-Muslims
against them. Patanriots is an excellent example of that. Why should
ordinary dispute over payment of rickshaw fare or anything else become a
cause for communal mobilization? The state and civil society both will
have to do a lot neutralize these communal feelings, particularly, the
“othering” of Muslims. Such propaganda are also an offence under s. 153A
of IPC but the section has remained mute witness to offences committed
against Muslims in Gujarat and indeed in India without being invoked ever.
This time the riots could be easily controlled, but the violence may
escalate and may be uncontrollable in future.
As we were tracking through the narrow lanes of Patan,
on the surface peace seems to have been restored and everything normal.
Women belonging to the Ghanchi community and Koli community were treading
on the street together and conversing with each other. Women belonging to
both the communities were sitting next to each and hawking fruits and
vegetables. However there is a deeper division below the surface and
communal divisions are widening with each such incident. RSS affiliated
organizations are active in the
area resorting to communal discourse which “others” Muslims. Though the
Muslims had voted for the BJP in the last elections, but as the BJP Taluka
President SarmanSolanki told the team, they (the BJP) would not change
their ideology and Muslims could not be trusted just because they voted
for them. Solanki said he personally did not believe in casteism of
Though the police could control communal violence this
time, their post riot action of arresting 42 Muslims and 14 Hindus seems
to be arbitrary. We were told that the Muslims in custody were sharing
their food with the Hindus. The real culprits may still be free on both
sides. Police need to do thorough investigation of the incident and
marshal evidence to see that the guilty of violence on both sides are
punished as a deterrence for future such escalations. It appears that
police are not investigating the offence with the degree of seriousness it
requires. The signals it is sending to both the communities is that the
police are taking some action for records and soon everybody will be out
of the custody and go scott free. Community members too seem to be
relieved that no one from “their” community would be punished, and indeed
innocent bystanders seem to have been arrested. The real instigators of
the riots and stone pelters should not be allowed to go unpunished.
Civil Society organizations would have to promote
harmony and understanding between various communities respecting
differences and learning and benefiting from the rich diversitythat
prevails in India. Urgent and serious attempts are needed here.