The killing of 24 people in Ode village of Anand district on March 1, 2002, was probably due to a “misunderstanding”, states the Nanavati Mehta Commission report on the 2002 Gujarat riots.
In its volume on Central Gujarat, which includes the districts of Anand, Kheda, Panchmahal and Dahod, the Commission states, “…the serious incident that happened in village Ode was probably because of a misunderstanding” and goes on to elaborate how “…one Patel boy Nitesh had died in police firing earlier on that day. It was believed by the Patels of the village that he was shot dead by Muslims. That had led to attack on Muslims by Patels”.
Ode saw two incidents — one in Pirawali Bhagol where 24 Muslims were killed and another in Malav Bhagol where three were killed. Both the cases were among the nine cases reinvestigated by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) and saw 23 and 10 convictions respectively.
The Commission also observed that “…about 50% of the incidents happened in villages… In most of the cases, Hindu mobs attacked properties belonging to Muslims. In about 10 to 12 incidents, Hindu and Muslim mobs attacked each other”.
In the case of Anand, affidavit by government officials to the Commission had stated that they had expected communal violence as six kar sevaks from the district were killed in the Febru-ary 27 Sabarmati train carnage.
“In order to control violence and prevent damage to the persons and properties of Hindu and Muslims, police resorted to firing at 36 places and fired tear gas shells at 33 places… Police resorted to firing when it was required and as a result of police firing, 11 persons died and 31 persons received injuries,” the report notes. Despite this, the Commission observed that “…the material indicates that the police had acted promptly, sincerely, impartially and effectively… The material also discloses that the police had rendered good help to the Muslims. Police had rescued and saved lives of Muslims at many places”.
An incident from the report alleges the involvement of a BJP MLA. “…Twelve persons of Bakrol have complained against police and MLA Dilip Patel of Karamsad and 2 others to the effect that they had tried to incite communal violence on 29.4.2002 and pursuant thereto a false complaint has been filed at Vidyanagar police station against Muslim boys of Bakrol and those those boys have been arrested and beaten by the police…” In this regard, the Commission observed, “The complaint made by them (12 from Bakrol) is vague and does not appear to have anything to do with the post-Godhra communal riots…”
For Anand district, a “noticeable feature” from the materials on its record was that “Muslims were given shelter by their neighbours or other persons of their villages” when their houses were attacked. The report also adds, “Material also disclose that in villages in many cases, Muslims were not attacked but were asked to go away before their properties were damaged.”