PUCL Report


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between 29-11-1997 and 1-12-1997

PUCL - Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry constituted a team to probe the recent violence in Coimbatore. Its members are :

1. Kalavathi.S Scientist, Kalpakkam; Treasurer,.PUCL
2. Chandran.P. Bank officer, Chennai; PUCL, Chennai.
3. Venkatesh.R. Law Student, Chennai; PUCL, Chennai.
4. Natarajan.D.V. Scientist, Kalpakkam; PUCL, Chennai.
5. Sridhar.V Scientist, Kalpakkam; PUCL, Chennai.
6. Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai.
7. Sandhya Matre , Researcher, Mumbai.
8. Pouran.P.A. Advocate; General Secretary, PUCL, Kerala.
9. Venu Vilayudi, Social Activist , Kerala.
10. Gopal.S. Engineer, Kalpakkam, PUCL, Chennai.
11. Kurinji.G. Educationist, Erode; Treasurer,PUCL,Erode.
12. Sukumaran.G. Secretary, PUCL, Pondicherry.

The team visited the affected areas namely Fort, Kempatty Colony, N.H. Road, V.H. Road and R.S. Puram from 22nd December to 25th December, 1997. The team met most of the officials concerned and affected persons. The team visited the houses of several musl ims who were injured/killed.
1) Nanjil Kumaran, Commissioner of Police, Kovai.
2) Lallawm Sangha, Deputy Commissioner, Kovai.
3) C.T. Dhandapani. M.L.A.
4) K.N. Murali, Inspector, B-1 Police Station
5) Ansari, State Secretary, Al Umma
6) Jaffer Ali, District President,TMMK
7) Office-Bearers of the Federation of All Muslim Organisations of Coimbatore .
8) Kottai Saravanan, District Secretary, Hindu Makkal Katchi
9) Ramasamy, Convenor, Youth wing, Tamil Nadu Arunthathiyar Democratic Front.
10) Moogambikai Mani, State Secretary Hindu Munnani
11) RajMohan,District.office Sec., Hindu Munnani
12) Dr. Aslam, Kottaimedu
13) Dr. Fakir Mohammed, Kottaimedu
14) Prof.Jawaharullah,President,TMMK.
15) Hyder Ali,Secretary,TMMK.
16) Basha, President, Al Umma
were the people met by the team.

It also visited the residence of M. Ramanathan, M.P. and spoke to his wife and son. The efforts to meet the Dean of Coimbatore Medical College Hospital turned out to be unsuccessful but still it could meet a few doctors, staff nurses, affected persons and patients who were in the ward at the time of the violence. The team could not meet the District Collector Santhanam as he was busy with his schedules. The team also spoke to several eye witnesses.
The conflict and rivalry between sections of hindu and muslim communities, which started from early 1980 onwards, are allegedly due to the intolerance of the leading hindu business men to the growth of muslim business men (like the owner of Shoba cloth centre).
Hindu Munnani leader Ramagopalan had visited Coimbatore many times and delivered highly provocative speeches insulting muslims and Islam. Hindu Munnani has also gone on a campaign asking the hindus to purchase only from shops owned by hindus.
Immediately after the demolition of Babri-Masjid, there were protests in the Kottaimedu area. On 8th December 1992, the police unnecessarily opened fire on a Masjid and lathi charged muslims who had assembled there. There were no injuries or death.
Following the blast of the RSS building at Chennai in November, 1993, the Kovai police arrested Basha and fifteen others under TADA. The police also entered Kottaimedu, terrorised muslim people and ransacked their houses. They also arrested almost all muslim youths and boys on false grounds and beat them up brutually in custody. This brutalised the minds of muslim boys and youths against the police.
To add insult to injury the police put up three check posts at important entry roads of Kottaimedu and four pickets inside Kottaimedu thereby isolating the place as an island. This further exacerbated the psyche of the boys and youths who thought they were being perceived as criminals. PUCL in its report dated 28/2/94 on the above incidents specifically recommended the removal of the check posts. It also named some of the police officers like Ganesan, Commissioner of Police, Masanamuthu, Assistant Comm issioner of Police as responsible for the brutal and illegal attack on the muslims. Many people whom the present team met have told that the very same Masanamuthu was seen instructing his men to shoot during the events on 30th November,1997.
In the recent past some muslims had got organised under various organisations like Al Umma and TMMK for their protection and safety. Another organisation JAQH works for removing the ills in the muslim community.
During the last election campaign, the DMK candidates promised that the check posts would be removed if they come to power. As the winning trends were known some muslim youths smashed the check posts and stabbed two constables who had protested against it. Some policemen took the above incident as a challenge to their authority. Ansari, Secretary, Al Umma, admitted to the PUCL team that such an event took place and several youths were arrested.
In Kottaimedu about 80hindus and others. All along they have been living peacefully even during some of the worst periods mentioned above.
It should also be noted that the percentage of muslim policemen in Kovai is less than 1
PLATFORM SHOPS AND MAMOOL: There are about 1200 platform shops in and around Ukkadam, Big Bazaar and Kotaimedu mostly owned by muslims. The police has been collecting as mamool approximately Rs.25/- to Rs.50/- per day per shop. After the elections thes e traders got themselves organised under various organisations like TMMK, AITUC and Al Umma. It is to be noted that Al Umma and TMMK have played a crucial and effective role in curbing the mamool collections by the police. This loss of revenue also seems to be at the back ground of the conflict between muslim community and the police.
POSTER WAR: TMMK had been giving calls since September, 1997, to muslims all over Tamil Nadu to attend the procession to be held on December 6th, the day on which Babri Masjid was demolished. They have also declared it as a black day. Hindu Munnani also put up posters calling December 6th as a victorious day for the hindus; a day of destruction of the symbol of slavery and soon it will be Mathura and Kasi (Indhukkalin vetri Naal; Adimai chinnam agatria naal; viraivil Kasi Mathura). This poster of Hindu Munnani affected the sentiments of muslims and also instilled a sense of insecurity among muslims. Later a poster, claimed to be put up by "Indian", appeared calling that day as the day on which Bharat Matha was raped.(Bharatha Matha karpazhikapatta naal). Hindu Munnani objected to this poster. No muslim organisation claimed to have put up this poster. However, no steps were taken by the authorities to remove this poster. This started off a poster war. The current crisis should also be seen with this background.
On 29th November around 7.00p.m. two muslim youths on an M-80 vehicle were stopped by Chandrasekhar, S.I.of B1 Police station. One of them was Jahangir, office bearer of Al Umma. S.I. Chandrasekhar asked for his licence and Jahangir did not have it at tha t time. He claimed that the licence was at his home. When the S.I. asked his name he did not divulge it but said he was an Al Umma member. This led to a wordy duel and he was taken to the B1 station.The vehicle was also taken. "The young blooded, recently recruited, volleyball playing probationary officer", S.I. Chandrasekhar used foul language against muslims. On hearing of this, Ansari, Secretary of Al Umma went to the police station at about 7.30p.m. to enquire about it. According to Ansari, he went st raight to Inspector Muthuswamy and complained about the incident. In the presence of Ansari too, S.I. Chandrasekhar told Jahangir that all muslims should be packed off to Pakistan and used denigratory language against the muslims. Ansari used abusive lang uage in retaliation. He was beaten with a lathi by the S.I. and the constables. Inspector Muthuswamy intervened and stopped the beating. Ansari said that he would take up the matter with the higher-ups and left at 8.30p.m. The news of 'Amir' being beaten up spread and a large number of people assembled before the Al Umma office. When Ansari reached the office they started debating on a road-roko to protest against the S.I. Chandrasekhar. As the meeting was in progress, at around 11p.m., Commissioner Rajen dran came with a police force to the Al Umma office for "searching". The restive crowd objected to this. The police then informed that they had come to nab the three persons who had killed a traffic constable named Selvaraj at 9.00p.m. Ansari told that he was not aware of such an incident and that he would help nab the killers and hand them over by 11a.m. the next day. Ansari told PUCL that he still was unaware of the reasons for the killing of Selvaraj. According to him Inspector Muthuswamy and Inspector Sunderrajan were also present. The Commissioner agreed and asked the police to retreat.
The police, while retreating from Kottaimedu, allegedly set fire to the platform shops. Kottai Saravanan, District Secretary, Hindu Makkal Katchi told the PUCL team that it was "the hindus" who burnt down the platform shops. Leaders of TMMK who were retur ning from Pollachi at 1.30a.m. of 30/11/97 saw the shops burning. Even Arunthathiyars (a dalit community) living across Ukkadam confirmed that the shops were burnt during the night of 29/11/97. The PUCL team could not visit the police quarters to meet the police constables as "the situation there had not yet returned to normal."
The burning of platform shops lends credence to the theory that the mamool collection was at the backdrop. In fact TMMK leader Jaffer Ali asked PUCL team if this was a mere reaction to the attack on the police then it should have happened when the police were stabbed earlier. Even if one were to go by the logic that this could have been due to death, then the PUCL team was asked why other shops were not damaged and why only the muslim shops were targetted on all the three days that followed.
Based on a few eyewitness account, the Al Umma located the three suspected in the killing of Selvaraj Abbas (22), Shafi (22) and Azeez (20) - and handed them over to the police at 9a.m. on 30/11/97. While Abbas and Shafi were iron scrap traders, Azeez was a platform vadai vendor. The three belonged to Pothanur, N.H. Road and Karumbukadai. Both Ansari and Al Umma cadres were unequivocal in condemning the murder of Selvaraj and told PUCL that even if the police had shot down those three, Al Umma would not ha ve objected. They even showed PUCL, press reports of condemnation by Ansari. PUCL also saw reports of Basha's condemnation of the act.
By 8.00a.m. on 30/11/97 about 100 policemen staged dharna at Ukkadam. Kottai Saravanan told PUCL that Arjun Sampath and (Adhiradi) Ananthan, Senior leaders of Hindu Makkal Katchi and also cadres of Hindu Munnani participated in the dharna. Moogambikai Man i and Rajamohan of Hindu Munnani denied the participation of their cadres. They however did not refute the possibilities of BJP and RSS cadres participating. Moogambikai Mani also suggested that rowdy elements who are available on payment might have joine d. (This additional crowd, comprised mostly of people attired in Iyappa Swami dress, will be referred to as hindu fundamentalist forces in the following text.) The police staged a dharna for over one and a half hours and then took a procession towards G.H., blocking the railway subway on the Trichy road for sometime. Several senior police officials said that no one could get any policemen to carry out law and or der work. They could get drivers only with some difficulty. Some officers told that several police men confided that they were afraid of the organisers of the protest and procession and therefore were not in a position to obey their seniors.
In the meantime at Ukkadam several muslim youths came out to protest against the burning down of platform shops. Rumour was rife that Kempatty Colony hindu fundamentalist forces were planning to enter Kottaimedu to attack the muslims. In the CMC colony, w here the majority inhabitants are Arunthathiyars, the rumour was the other way round. Therefore, the CMC colony hindu fundamentalist forces, comprising several Arunthathiyars, rallied to protest against the rumoured muslim entry. The PUCL team has checked and found that there were no such entries.
However, according to some Arunthathiyar eyewitnesses in the CMC and another interior colony, the hindu fundamentalist forces first attacked the muslims with acid bottles and stones. The muslims retaliated and a tense situation prevailed. The Arunthathiya rs also told that Inspector Murali had asked them to loot and take whatever they wanted. A few days later Inspector Murali threatened them to return the loot failing which they would all be booked for looting. While Inspector Murali agreed to the latter s tatement he refuted the former. He said that there could have been a mistaken identity. According to him S.I. Chandrasekhar and he would look alike when in helmeted uniform. He however agreed that he was in Ukkadam locality from 29th night even though he was an inspector at Singanallur at that time. D.C. Lallawm Sangha was seen controlling the crowd effectively. Later he had to go off to the hospital area. Both sides had words of praise for D.C. Lallawm Sangha's efforts.
Ayub Khan, District urban Secretary of TMMK, came there around 11.00a.m. and saw the tense situation. He also saw Valliammai Bakery and Krishna Sweets burning. A few huts on the colony side were also seen burnt. It is claimed that Ayub Khan and his friend s saved a few hindu youths caught atop the Bakery. Then Ayub Khan went about controlling the muslim crowd and made them sit down.
Meanwhile one Noor Mohammed(23), who went to work in the morning to MMA Market, returned home by foot at about 11.30a.m. on 30/11/97. As he came to L.N. street he sensed some movement of a metal close to the back of his head. He quickly turned and saw a p oliceman swing an aruval (one kind of chopper) to chop his head off. He ducked and put out his left palm to prevent the Aruval and thus received a deep cut. He ran for life from there and escaped. He also saw a few members of hindu fundamentalist forces a long with the policemen. Having narrowly escaped death he reached Dr. Aslam's clinic and got a first aid and was later sent to the hospital for further treatment.
The PUCL team met Dr.Aslam and Dr. Fakir Mohammad, who did yeoman service in trying to save several lives. Some of these were later snuffed out inhumanely at the hospital grounds. According to Dr.Aslam who runs a small clinic on Vincent Road over 100 peop le came seriously injured that day itself. He made this estimate on the basis of the 70 ampules of injections that he had and were used up between 11.30 and 18.30 hours on 30/11/97. Several patients had to go without injections. Three were brought dead an d two died as he was treating them. Most of them had bullet (Gun Shot) injuries anywhere from above the hip and right onto the head. Several had deep cut injuries caused either by an aruval or bayonet again from hip to head. Hardly one or two cases had in juries on the leg. A few hindus with cut injuries were also treated by him.(It should be noted here that the Arunthathiyars told the PUCL team that, in contrast, when the hindu fundamentalist forces were fired at, during the looting spree, rubber bullets were used.)
The soft spoken Dr.Aslam was ably assisted by Dr.Fakir Mohammed, retired Joint Director of Forensic Department, in saving several lives and handling bloodied muslims by struggling for over 7 hours without even time to worry about what caused all this. The PUCL team was greatly impressed by the sheer dedication these two doctors had for their professional ethics. Dr. Aslam spoke not a word about religion or caste. He spoke only of medical requirements and necessities. On the other side of Kottaimedu, off N.H. Road and into CMC Colony, in Hafizpet a vicious attack on the houses of innocent middle class and poor muslim families was conducted by hindu fundamentalist forces clad in black and saffron, chanting `Jai Kali; Om Kali'. In terror several families had handed over their house keys to these forces and stood as mute spectators just to save the lives of their women and children. Some of the looters told the muslim women that they were left unscathed and unmolested, me rely because at that time they were Iyyappa swamis. (The terror left behind could be felt by the PUCL team even 25 days after the event. On the day PUCL visited this area it saw that rice, kerosene and a few vessels were being handed over to these familie s by the Rotary club.)
A Masjid in the locality was desecrated, Quran burnt to ashes, furnitures and fans distorted out of shape, and windows broken. In one of the houses a burning gas cylinder was thrown to blast the entrance. A middle school building catering to all the child ren of that locality was haevily damaged. The wall of the DMK office was pulled down leaving a gaping hole. The trail of destruction goes on and on.
Almost all the houses were permitted to be looted by the police (we had already mentioned the alleged role of Inspector Murali) and hindu fundamentalist forces. Poverty stricken Arunthathiyar women and small children went into every house and carried ever y item on which they could lay their hand. A rice godown (located in a muslim building but owned by a nadar) was ripped open and for many Arunthathiyars this was manna from heaven. After some initial hesitation they managed to carry sacks of rice. Buckets , fans and various consumer items were also carried away. Few days latter, as instructed by Inspector Murali (who was transferred on 3/12/97 from Singanallur to the B1 police station), most of these items were dumped in the Lakshmi Theatre compound.
In a striking contrast not even a scratch is made on a single hindu house or on the three temples in the Kottaimedu side, eventhough only less than 20of all the muslim organisations are located he re. Even Kottai Saravanan who has his shop in this locality agreed and confirmed the above observations.
The arrival of D.C. Masanamuthu on the scene at about 12.30p.m. on 30th November 1997 starts the series of senseless shooting of muslims that left over 17 dead and over 100 seriously injured. Beginning at Eswaran Koil Street Junction on Big Bazaar street and ending at L.N. Street junction near Ukkadam an orgy of violence was unleashed by the police. Police Officer Babu Rajendra Prasad, along with 20 policemen, was also sighted shooting without orders. A lower level officer confirmed this on conditions of anonymity. In one case an officer was seen pulling down the above officers hand when he was about to shoot down yet another innocent muslim. Yet another officer was seen pleading with him that such an illegal and brutal behaviour was unbecoming of an poli ce officer.
Muslim boys who came running to see their relatives' or friends' shops being ransacked/burnt were shot at without any reason. One Abu Backer Siddique aged a mere 13 years was killed on the spot by a bullet landing close to his heart. In order to cover up this hideous crime, the police dug a deep crater around this region, poured petrol into it and burnt the flesh. Later they attempted to get a post mortem report stating that he might have died in the "communal clash" due to stabbing or immolation. The PUC L team was told that when the false report was not accepted, the parents were refused access to the body. The parents got the half burnt bodily remains of their son with the correct report only three days later, thanks to the efforts taken by some muslim organisations which are part of the Coimbatore District Federation of All Muslim Organisation.
When D.C. Masanamuthu along with some policemen reached the L.N. street junction he saw Ayub Khan controlling the crowd and making them sit down. Ayub overheard Masanamuthu instructing the policemen to shoot down "the person with a blue shirt" and saw Mas anamuthu point his finger towards Ayub. Inspector Suresh was heard arguing with D.C. Masanamuthu that there was no need to open fire as the crowd was sitting quietly, away from the main road and that some muslims as well as Ayub were seen effectively cont rolling the crowd. Inspector Murali confirmed this. But the D.C. ignored Suresh and proceeded with his instruction to fire at Ayub. On seeing the pointed gun, Ayub ducked just as a bullet grazed by. The next thing he realised was a profuse bleeding from t he right side of his head. He also saw the next bullet felling Sahul Hamid who died a little later. The crowd ran for their lives into Kottaimedu even as bullets were flying past or through them. Ayub was taken to Dr. Aslam's clinic. Later he and the othe r injured were put in a matador van and sent to the G.H. On the NH road, Masanamuthu did not allow the matador van to go towards the hospital. The matador left for hospital when the A.C. Antony Selvaraj took strong exception to Masanamuthu's inhuman behav iour.
The policemen who came on a procession, after the dharna, along with hindu fundamentalist forces assembled in the hospital grounds. The first signs of rowdyism and savagery were seen when, at about 8.30 a.m., C.T. Dhandapani, sitting MLA. was beaten up wh en he visited the hospital to express his condolence to Selvaraj. The uniformed policemen were indifferent spectators while policemen in mufty and hindu fundamentalist forces carried on the attack. The PUCL team spoke to the MLA. Eventhough he confirmed t he presence of the above people he said he would prefer talking about their identity to the Gokulakrishnan committee appointed by the Government. Inspector Murali told the PUCL that at that time D.C. Masanamuthu was in the hospital grounds. Even as early as 8.30a.m., several hospitals were threatened not to treat a single muslim if they come injured. It should be noted here that the first firing at Kottaimedu area took place four hours later.
Several eyewitness accounts by those in the hospital grounds, those on the Tiruchi Road and the in-patients during those days give a graphic detail of the gory incidents that took place on 30/11/97 starting with the arrival of the first injured muslim. They were stopped, prevented and driven out, beaten, kicked about, battered or tortured to death after identifying th at they were muslims. Several muslims tried to escape the clutches of death by using hindu names. Those who were identified were mercilessly attacked with bayonet, aruval, wooden rods and the boot. Even those muslims who accompanied the seriously injured ones were savagely attacked. Autos were capsized and occupants battered or knifed or torched.
Noor Mohammed, Ayub Khan, Habib Rehman and Mohamed Harris along with two other wounded persons reached the G.H. in a matador. The matador was stopped by the hindu fundamentalist forces along with some policemen in mufti. Ayub jumped out of the matador and ran into the hospital.
Habib and Harris (who had bullet injuries) were dragged out of the matador and savagely attacked by policemen in mufti along with hindu fundamentalist forces. Habib Rehmann's condition became serious and the police took out petrol from a nearby vehicle an d poured it on him. One of the hindu fundamentalist forces set fire to him. Dr. Chidambaram Jothi and his colleagues rushed to put out the fire with a blanket. But they were not only prevented but were also threatened by the police and hindu fundamentalis t forces of a similair consequence. Habib Rehmann was then torched to death. The injured Harris was then brutally attacked and killed by them.
The hindu fundamenatalist forces then went into the premises in search of Ayub Khan with battering rods, aruvals bayonets and other deadly weapons. Several patients, who were inmates at that time, confirmed seeing the crowd shouting and searching for "som eone". The terrorised Ayub, with death attempting to embrace him for the second time in quick succession, ran from ward to ward, from ward to canteen and finally into the trauma ward to save his life. According to Ayub some 'BJP cadres' saw him at the can teen and chased him calling him a naxalite and that he should be evicted out of the hospital. In the trauma ward a hindu doctor cleverly protected Ayub by holding his bleeding head on the doctor's table and attending to the wound. He told the 'BJP cadres' that there was no one by name Ayub and that he should be left alone to carry on with his work. When the cadres left, the doctor asked Ayub to escape through the backdoor. Realising that it was not safe, ward boy Prabhu suggested that Ayub be hidden insid e the medicine room and locked. Ayub gratefully recalled how the two of them took great risk in hiding him inside the room and providing him secretively with food. Later in the night, by arranging for a Maruti van, Ayub escaped the grasp of death.
Noor who saw the events from the window of the matador, hid himself under the seat. Later he jumped out of the van and rushed into the crowd. Some of the hindu forces spotted him and chased him. He ran hither and thither pleading for help. One police cons table cleverly hid him, and when no one was noticing, caught him by the collar and threw him over the compound wall asking him to run away from that area.Thus he escaped the carnage.
Arif and his friend Sarfudin came to G.H. on a scooter to see what happened to his brother Ayub who was shot at. They saw an auto being stopped before them. They then saw the hindu fundamentalist forces ripping apart the auto and attacking and stabbing wo unded persons inside. They stopped the scooter and rushed to save the lives of the auto passengers. Inside the grounds Sarfuddin and Arif got separated. The fundamentalist caught hold of Arif, while he was rushing towards the G.H., beat him up brutally an d burnt him alive. The injured Ayub who was inside the hospital premises saw this sordid savagery. But he did not realise at that time that it was his innocent brother, who actually came to see him, who was being torched to death.
There was yet another case when two muslims were announced dead and sent to the mortuary. The caretaker of the mortuary realised that they were alive much later and asked them to go out of the mortuary. These two muslims were so much terrorised by the hap penings that they beseeched the caretaker to permit them to stay inside the mortuary in the company of the eerie silence of death. Late in the night they were let out, thanks to the noble heart of the hindu caretaker of the mortuary.
The humaneness and the courage of the anonymous doctor and the ward boy Prabhu, Dr. Chidambaram Jothi and the caretaker of the mortuary (all hindus) were so gratefully recalled by the muslims. (The PUCL team could not meet any of these people despite the teams visit to the hospital.) In sharp contrast, a hindu doctor (who was not in the ward during the ghastly day) at the trauma care of G.H., who talked to PUCL on conditions of anonymity and who was very keen on knowing the religion of PUCL team members, spoke ill of muslims unabashedly, much later without even a shred of evidence or a personal experience with or through them. The teams attempt to meet the Dean also failed to fructify. Later when contacted over phone the Dean told that he could speak only on permission from the Collector. The Collector was busy and the PUCL team could not meet him either.
The PUCL team met one Mustafa, s/o. K.P.Aliyar, who was brutally attacked and shot by police on 1.12.97 at around 7.45p.m. He was an eye witness to the brutal killing of his friend Ubaidur Rahman by the police.
By 30th night RAF, CRPF forces had arrived at Coimbatore. On 1st, the TV and other media has proclaimed that normal life had been restored back in Coimbatore. Believing that normalcy was restored back, Mustafa along with his friend Ubaidur Rahman, owner of a typewriting Institute, started on a Yamaha bike to Majeed Colony to meet Rahman's sister. Ubaidur Rahman was riding the bike and when they reached Vincent Road junction at Ukkadam, they were stopped by police and checked. One of the police asked for their names and on knowing that they were muslims, he started brutally attacking them, shouting "These are Muslim dogs and should be beaten to death" (ithu thul ukka Naingada, adichi norrukkungada)
Mustafa got down from the bike, and he was beaten with the rifles on head, neck and chest. One of the policemen pleaded with the rest not to kill innocent people. While running to escape, Mustafa heard gun shots and saw Ubaidur gasping for life and die a shortwhile later. Police fired at Mustafa four times and one of the bullet came out piercing right through the left shoulder.
Despite the presence of CRPF and RAF, pre-meditated, calculated looting and burning down of many muslim shops and households all around Coimbatore went on not only unchecked but also abetted by the police. Many eyewitnesses told PUCL that the RAF and CRPF were deliberately taken through another road while arson, looting and rampage took place on adjacent roads. It was also alleged that hindu fundamentalist forces along with rowdy elements encouraged, guided and assisted by the police went on a rampage sta rting from 29th night to 1st of December destroying muslim shops and houses selectively. Some of the eye witnesses informed us that police personnel also participated in the looting. According to the muslim organisation TMMK, looting and burning of muslim shops and houses have resulted in the economic loss to the tune of over 500 crores.
There were several pointers that unmistakably indicate that the entire act of massacre plunder and loot unleashed on the muslims was a carefully planned and executed one. The purported motive seems to be to decimate the entire economic base and thereby we aken out the self reliance of the community.The killing of Selvaraj was used as a mere ruse to carry out this act. A senior Scientific Officer, resident of Sukravarpet, who happened to be there during the above mentioned period and was a witness to severa l of the looting in that area, was very categorical that even if Selvaraj had not been killed, some other reason would have been used to execute this violent attack. We give below some of the salient pointers:
A) The property destroyed range from small platform shops, through medium cycle and grocery shops, to the mega ones like Shoba. Several of these shops have been doing business for over three generations.
B) The execution was to a large extent clinically precise. While two muslim shops separated by a hindu shop were razed/ransacked/burnt the hindu shop remained unscathed.
C) Many Coimbatoreans realised that shops like Pazhamuthir Solai, Top Notch, Zodiac, Popular Automobiles etc. were owned by muslims only after these destructions. This clearly points to the fact that the Kovai episodes were not a mere expression of anguis h over the death of a constable. In fact it exposes the strategy of the perpetrators of these attacks and also reveals the connivance between the hindu fundamentalist forces, police and perhaps several administrative/revenue officials.
D) Moogambigai Mani narrated an incident in which he had to intervene to stop the burning down of a building, housing a muslim shop, as he did not want to get any protest or complaints from the hindu owner of the building. The looters then removed the con tents of the shop and set them on fire on the road.
E) Systematic rumours were spread that muslims are coming in large numbers to attack the hindu establishments or household. The anxious and unsuspecting hindus then formed a protection ring around that area. The fundamentalist forces along with kalasis or rowdy elements or hired goons then joined these protection rings and executed their planned strategy of loot, plunder, and arson. The senior Scientific Officer of Sukravarpet was a direct witness to this method. Several eyewitness accounts at the Poo Mar ket also confirmed that such methods were used in that area too.
F) Several, otherwise well meaning, Hindus of Coimbatore and elsewhere seem to feel that the muslim community deserved such an attack. But a sustained dialogue with them reveals that they have no direct data or experience to substantiate their feelings. M any of them were shocked when they saw the photographic evidence of the gory violence that was unleashed. This clearly exposes the calculated myth building exercise that has been carried out over the years. "The damage to the common man's psyche was the w orst part of the whole episode",said the Scientific Officer. The said mindset not only enabled the looting but also inhibited the normal human concern, about a neighbour's distress, to find an organised expression that could have saved several lives and p revented the decimation of several innocent and poor muslims', livelihood. However, the PUCL team did find, spontaneous but discreet, help given by hindus,neighbour to the agonised muslims.
G) The striking similarity of the methods used in Coimbatore with those used elsewhere in India (say Mumbai, Meerut etc) makes it obvious that such attacks form a part of the grand design to systematically decimate the muslims economically, politically, a nd psychologically.
There were several elements of tragicomedy in the locality where Arunthathiyars lived.
a) Bulk of Arunthathiars are cobblers and scavengers by profession. But for the handful of participants in hindu fundamentalist forces, most of them are innocent and bewildered by the sudden stroke of momentary luck.
b) After bringing looted items home, many of them were struck by guilt conscience and threw the items out.
c) Some threw away items because they did not know how to use them.
d) Some dumped the items after struggling to use them. There is one case where a person took a fan to his house that was not electrified. After tying the fan to the roof he waited for it to rotate, then he rotated it with a stick. Finding that nothing mor e could be done, he threw the fan out.
e) One woman carried a huge cauldron that would not enter her house. Then she dumped it.
f) Almost all of them, as instructed, dumped the items inside the compound of Lakshmi theatre when Inspector Murali threatened them two days later.
g) The muslims when narrating these incidents remember hindu fundamentalist forces breaking open their houses, shops and godowns and the "harijans" taking away their items.
Based on its field study the PUCL team has come to the following conclusions: Constable Selvaraj had become an innocent victim of
a) religious fanaticism that is being whipped up by the Sangh Parivar and the frenzied reaction by a few muslim organizations.
b) palpable anti-muslim mind set of a section of the police force and the unjustifiable one sidedness in their normal discourse, exercise of authority and action. (The PUCL team saw photos of ONLY hindu gods in the B1 police station. Even the inspector's room carried such photos.)
c) a loss of credibility and respect for the authority of the police by the people in general and the muslims in particular.
d) an incomplete and partial coverage of events involving hindus and muslims in media.
e) a total bankruptcy of political parties in tackling and countering the hostile and calculated propaganda mostly not based on hard data by the pro-hindu intelligentia and the uncritical and intellectually lazy attitude of the general people operating as the secondary source in rumour mongering and
f) a total breakdown of the intelligence wing to foresee trouble. Neither unwarranted provocation by Selvaraj nor pre-meditation on the part of the offenders in the murder of Selvaraj could be traced by this team. To claim that the events that followed were solely due to the death of a fellow constable is false. Factors such as mamool collection, indiscipline in the police, presence of several communalised police officers, insensitive exploitation by the hindu fund amentalist forces, trade rivalries, funding even by "some North Indian businessmen" have converted what ought to have passed off as a peaceful expression of condolence into a determined, cold-blooded and inhuman massacre of innocent muslims and premeditat ed destruction of the economic self-reliance and enterprises of the muslims. The events also expose the nexus between some of the local police and the hindu fundamentalist force.
That the Sangh Parivar cadres/symphathizers are also fast becoming lumpenised and barbaric is clearly evident from the ghastly events that took place in the hospital grounds and premises. The torching to death of innocent muslims who brought critically in jured muslims to the hospital, ways adopted to identify and then stab/batter/torch them to death, chanting 'Jaikali; Om kali' shows the savagery to say the least.
Dhargas have been traditionally the symbol of hindu - muslim unity in Tamil Nadu. They are part of the Sufi tradition. Dharghas are visited more by hindus than muslims. The brutal, lumpenised hindu fundamentalist forces have mindlessly attacked two Dhargh as one on Big Bazaar street and the other on Trichy Road.
The police when it becomes trigger happy and brutal seems to indulge in a senseless killing that would shame even the hardened criminals. They repeatedly adopt the illegal method of attacking and destroying the family, relatives and even the people of the locality instead of apprehending the criminal (Eg. Vachaati, Kalpakkam, Kottaimedu). This time they have reached the peak of arbitrarily shooting down people for the only reason that they belonged to a particular community.
A new method of using the poor and vulnerable (Dalits) as perpetrators of loot, carnage and attack on the muslims has been enacted this time by the police and the Sangh Parivar. This is an insidious attempt not only to use Dalits as a shield or as soldier s in their `holy war and purge' against muslims but also to dub the dalits as criminals when the need arises. If left unchecked, this can lead to the brutalisation of the psyche of the Dalits and criminalisation of one section of the society.
On talking to the women folk the team concludes that in the fight between police, hindu fanatics and muslim fanatics it is the education of the young girls that gets immediately and directly affected. When it is not safe to go out, parents stop the education of the girls first.
1) A comprehensive legislation viz., Minorities Protection Act (a la SC/ST Prevention of atrocities act,1989) should be passed to protect rights of the minorities (Religious and Linguistic) and also to ensure their right to live and lead a life in peace a nd harmony and with dignity.
2) Power to issue a firing order should not be in the hands of a single person, be it Collector, Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner. A Monitoring Committee involving the Collector, Police Commissioner/SP, the MP of the constituency considered sensitive, the runner up of the MP, the MLAs of the constituency, the MLAs of the surrounding constituencies and the runners up in the election should jointly decide the need for firing. Police indulging in firing without the clearance of this committee should forth with be treated as criminals.
3) Persons who indulge in speeches and propaganda that could result in inter religious group clashes should be prohibited from any public activity for at least three years and the above mentioned Monitoring Committee shall decide as to whether the speech or propaganda could result in such clashes and shall also have the authority to prohibit such propaganda as above.
4) In all areas prone to hindu-muslim conflict, like Coimbatore, muslims should have equal representation at all levels in the police force.
5) Reservations should be extended for the muslims in education and jobs in proportion to their population.
6) State should initiate workshops and training programmes for police personnel in order to debunk the existing myths about muslims prevailing in our society. Human right activists and social scientists should be involved in the above programmes.
7) Biased, prejudiced and vengeful police officers like Masanamuthu and a chunk of police constables should be tried for criminal intention and should be severely punished.
8) All hospitals including private hospitals, should be directed to treat every injured persons without fail.
9) State should use all media to expose all organisations spreading communal hatred.
10) State should recognise the rightful need for good housing facililties, pay vehicle allowances and ensure reasonable working hours to police personnel and provide the same at the earliest so as to prevent them from demeaning themselves by involving in mamool collections and to enable them discharge their duty with pride, dignity and equanimity.
11) All those who abetted, were responsible and involved in the violence and looting incidents in Coimbatore should be arrested and severely punished.
12) Looted property should be recovered back and loss of wealth should be adequately compensated.
13) Periodic interactions between the youths of different communities belonging to sensitive and vulnerable areas should be arranged at regular intervals to clear the misgivings and to build up harmony among different communities.
14) The terms of reference of the Gokulakrishnan Commission should be extended to include the investigation of the nexus between a section of the police and the communal forces. The reasons behind the failure on the part of the intelligence agencies to pr edict and forewarn regarding the incidents in Coimbatore should also be thoroughly investigated and made public.
15) Government should provide life-long pension or jobs for the widows of the massacred victims. Sons and daughters of the victims should be given preference in education and jobs.
16) Government should take immediate steps to correct and remove the prejudicial and biased representation of muslim contribution to national development and freedom struggle from school text books onwards and should present the correct historical perspec tive of the role of muslim in Indian history.

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Last updated: January 17, 2001 .