Muslims flee homes in riot-hit Bombay

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 16 Apr 2002 09:48:33 +0100

KALYAN: Her voice choking with sobs, Mumtaz Feroz Khan displayed large
bruises on her legs and described her horror when once friendly Hindu
neighbours turned against her as India's religious violence spread
toward Bombay. "I would have been beaten to death, if I was not saved in
time," Khan said, tearfully recounting the attack as India's worst
religious violence in a decade spread last week to the outskirts of the
commercial capital, Bombay. 

More than 800 people, most of them Muslims, have died in the
neighbouring western state of Gujarat since the end of February. Police
have stepped up security in Bombay, which witnessed religious violence
nine years ago that killed hundreds. "My neighbour Savitra and five
other Hindu women caught me by my hair, shouted obscene words and beat
me with iron rods," Khan said. "I fell at Savitra's husband's feet and
begged for mercy. "He saved my life," Khan said. 

Along with her husband and four children, she fled their home in
Rohidaswada, a Hindu and Muslim neighbourhood in Kalyan, when mobs from
both communities burned and looted houses late on Tuesday night. More
than 700 Muslims from Rohidaswada have taken shelter in the Bazme
Sadaqat Madrassa left with nothing except the clothes they are wearing. 

Hindus whose houses were torched by Muslim mobs also have lost
everything and have nowhere to go. Many of them are sleeping out in an
open ground in Rohidaswada. Large parts of Kalyan are still under curfew
with police and armed paramilitary troops keeping vigil. 

The religious violence has cast a shadow over the future of the BJP-led
federal coalition government. The 20-member coalition is in danger of
losing its parliamentary majority if a key party carries out a threat to
abandon the government over the communal violence. Key coalition members
and the opposition are demanding Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to
sack the chief minister of Gujarat and are angry that he has instead
called elections. 

The refugees at the Madrassa say they get threats when they try to
return to their homes. "They (Hindus) tell us they will turn Kalyan into
Gujarat. They throw stones and bottles at us," said Saeeda Sheikh,
another refugee in the Madrassa. "We had good relations with our Hindu
neighbours. I just cannot understand why they suddenly did this," said
Khan adding her house has been completely ransacked. 

"The savings we had collected rupee by rupee and household items we
gathered over the last 20 years have all gone in a single night," she
said Muslims in the camp said police had picked up scores of young men
from their homes. "Three of my sons were beaten mercilessly by the
police and taken away from home," said Hussainabi Sheikh, weeping. "We
have no trust in the police. If they had helped, our houses would not
have been burnt and looted," said Khan. 

The refugees also accused the police of failing to extend any help. But
police officials deny the charges. Thane police commissioner SM Shangari
told Reuters on Sunday that 350 people had been arrested since the riots
broke out. "People who have any complaints should go to the nearest
police station. I have instructed them to give all help," he said. He
said those arrested would be questioned over the next couple of days and
would be released if they are found that they did not take part in the
riots, arson and looting. 

Source:  NewsService

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