On Saturday like any other day Amzad Belim (19) returned from the fields to have lunch with his brother Imran (21) in the afternoon, when he heard a group of young boys from neighbouring Sunsar marching towards their village shouting “we will kill you all Muslims”. “But, after elders of our village calmed them down, they returned,” said Amzad. This was first of the three angry groups, mostly comprising the Thakors from Sunsar, that had reached Vagjipara — an extended colony of nearly 1500 Muslims — at Vadavali on Saturday following a clash between school students
In the subsequent violence, Amzad’s father Ibrahimkhan Lalkhan Belim (45) lost his life, while 20 others were injured, five of them seriously. All were residents of Vagjipara. Nearly 25 vehicles were gutted, similar number of homes ransacked and set afire, cattle taken away, and grains and fodder burnt in the arson. with police. One compliant (filed by Manharsinh Zala) cited a Muslim boy from Vadavali “pushing” a girl from Sunsar and the resultant fight between Hindu and Muslim school students as reasons for the violence, the other (filed by Rehmanbhai Alibhai Malek) named the Thakors as the accused. So far, no arrest has been made in this connection. Ibrahimkhan is the accused number 13 in the list of 14 in the FIR filed on the basis of Zala’s complaint.
According to his son Amzad, however, around 30 minutes after the first group of around 10-15 boys returned after being persuaded by the village elders, a mob of 100 youths armed with sticks and sharp-edged weapons reached Vagjipara. His father and other elders of the village again tried to reason with the group that the issue has been sorted out and not to further stretch it. “But the group started hitting us with the weapons ,” said Imran, Amzad’s elder brother. Soon, a police vehicle reached the village with nearly five to six policemen, following which the mob fled, but with a warning that they would return, he said.
“Hardly after 30 minutes, an armed mob of over 5000 people from Sunsar started arriving. Since, we were already alert, we rushed the women and children to the mosque at Vadavali village. Only 15-16 men were left behind ensuring safety of the cattle and our houses,” said Imran. Before the mob arrived for the third time, Ibrahimkhan hid his two sons and his nephews in a room on the first floor at his brother’s house in the lane opposite his house and locked the door from outside.
“That was the last time I saw my father alive. He said he is going out to see if the mob has left and directed us not to come out,” said Amzad as he started crying. While inside the room, Amzad said he could hear four to five gun shots, vehicles being torched and people shouting for help. He suspected that his father was ambushed by the mob hiding in the houses. “They ransacked and burnt everything that came in their way.”
“Suddenly, we heard people shouting from the outside and trying to break open the door rigorously. We had locked the door from inside too. Soon, police reached and the mob fled… else we too have been killed,” said Amzad, who is pursuing a course at Industrial Training Institute (ITI). Escorted to the village mosque, Amzad and his cousins hardly had any clue what happened to Ibrahimkhan and the other villagers who were outside. Only by Saturday midnight, police informed them of Ibrahimkhan’s death.
His family members and other villagers waited for the body, which reached the village mosque late on Sunday morning. “ We have not been given the post mortem report, so far. I do not know anything, but that he was killed in an attempt to save his family members and to pacify the mob,” said Amzad. Ibrahimkhan’s wife Naseembano was inconsolable. “My husband folded his hands and requested them to go back. Was that his only fault? He ensured that his family is safe,” she said as the body was being taken for cremation amid heavy police deployment.
Moments after Rashidaben Qureshi (40), elected uncontested as sarpanch of Vadavali on Saturday afternoon, her husband Sultanbhai Bhikubhai Qureshi (45) was shot in his groin during the attack. He is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Patan. Vadavali became a samras panchayat under the Gujarat government’s scheme wherein the village co-opts the sarpanch and the body harmoniously and qualifies for special funds from the government.
Like Ibrahimkhan, Sultanbhai is also an accused in the complaint lodged by Zala. He told The Indian Express: “We were going to Chanasma taluka which is nearly 7-8 km from Vadavali to complete paperwork for the sarpanch election. When informed about the incident about a clash between students, we returned midway,” he said. After leaving his wife at the mosque, he headed towards his home. “I wanted to ensure safety of my two buffaloes and collect some valuables and documents from my house. Hardly, when I reached my house I heard the mob shouting from outside. I hid behind a small wall of the graveyard behind my house. But unfortunately, one of the attackers spotted me and ran after me with a gun in his hand. I tried to run, but fell down and the attacker too lost control and in this struggle he shot me in groin,” he said from the hospital bed.
When asked who brought him to the hospital, he said, once the mob left, he himself managed to walk down to the mosque shouting for help. In the complaint with police, however, Sunsar villagers have accused Muslim school students of beating a group of Hindu students and them being attacked by Vadavali villagers when they reached there.