Locked houses in Dhanpur locality of Devgadh Baria in Dahod district bear testimony to police excesses that the residents here underwent on March 14, when a minor traffic problem snowballed into a full-blown clash between the police and public.
Two dozen houses, belonging to Ghanchi Muslim community, have been abandoned, as residents fear they will be roughed up by the police when they return.
As many as 26 persons named in an FIR are absconding along with their family members. Many more have left their homes fearing police atrocity.
Among five arrested are four women who were allegedly beaten up by the police and taken to Godhra Civil Hospital. They are facing, among other sections of the Indian Penal Code, section 307 for attempt to murder. On Tuesday, they were sent to judicial remand at Godhra sub-jail and their bail plea will be heard on Wednesday.
Those arrested were — Mumtaz Siraj Bhimla, Abeda Taiyab, Hazra Siddique Dal, Tahira Siraj Mafat and Mohammad Hanif Qalandar. The women were arrested during combing operation as men in their houses were away at work, locals alleged. They were beaten up by the police and sustained injuries in their stomach and legs. While civil hospital in Godhra discharged them on Tuesday for the police to produce them before a local court in Devgadh Baria for jail warrant, none were in a position to walk and had to use stretcher while being taken to the police van and being produced before the judge. They are facing attempt to murder under section 307 of the IPC for attacking the police.
Another woman, Farzana Bhimla, was also beaten up by the police but not arrested. Many more women and children were targeted by the police during combing operation in this locality. Those left here narrate the tale of horror and shudder. They include at least seven students who are appearing for the ongoing Class X state board examination.
The clash began after police beat up an auto-rickshaw driver, Ashraf Ahmed Gheri, for disrupting traffic at Dhanpur road crossroads. A mob of around 300 gathered at the site upon which police fired three rounds in the air. The mob pelted stones. To nab them, police began combing operation in the largely Muslim locality, targeting mostly women and children, said locals. Nearly half of population of Devgadh Baria, with a population of around 20,000, is Muslim.
“A dozen policemen forced their way into our house. They damaged furniture, threw away books of our daughter who is appearing in Class X board examination, asking us to make brother surrender before them. They beat up my sister-in-law, Farzana Suleiman Bhimla, breaking her teeth,” said Nisharbhai Bhimla, a local resident whose name was not included among accused.
Other than Bhimla’s daughter, there are at least six other students from the locality who are taking Class X board examination amidst tension.
“When I told policemen who came to our house to arrest me that I had been operated for an arm fracture, they said I was lying. They beat up my sister-in-law when she resisted. They took both me and my sister-in-law to the police station and made us stay there for 10 hours. My son who is appearing for Class X board examination says he is not able to concentrate on studies,” said Riyaz Bhimla, a businessman.
“We were just back in the afternoon after examination when police came to our house. They were looking for my father. I could not revise my mathematics lesson as police tore up our books,” said Aamir Bhimla, a student.
Slapping sections 307, 353, 339, 323, 143, 147, 148, 149, 186, 504 and 506 (2) of the IPC and section 3(1) of the Public Property Damage Act, the police said in the FIR that “people illegally gathered in large number with the intention to block traffic and hindered police from carrying out its duty. They attacked police with the intention to kill and pelted stones and damaged police vehicle. They shouted and threatened to kill us.”
“The five accused have been sent to Godhra sub-jail after been discharged by civil court there. Other accused are absconding. We hope to arrest them soon,” circle Police Inspector J S Nayak said.
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