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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 December, 2003, 16:00 GMT
Bilal's return to Gujarat
By Linda Pressly
BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents

Bilal Dawood
Bilal is determined to see justice

In February 2002, three British tourists were murdered in Gujarat in a wave of anti-Muslim violence.

Bilal Dawood is the brother of one of the men and the cousin of another. Crossing Continents joined him as he revisited the crime scene.

As we drove north out of Ahmedabad towards Prantij, Bilal Dawood scanned the baked rural landscape.

He was looking for landmarks like the farm house where the tourists fled to, pursued by a terrifying armed mob. Or the factory, where Bilal gathered human remains of fine white ash with his bare hands.

Gujarat can still be tense, and Bilal had been advised to spend as short a time as possible in this part of the state.

What is unprecedented about the carnage was the level of state sponsorship
Teesta Setalvad, Concerned Citizens Tribunal

Saeed and Shakil Dawood, their childhood friend, Mohammed Aswat, and their driver Yusuf Peragar were murdered because they were Muslims.

The Hindu men who stopped their jeep at a road block that February day in 2002, demanded to know their religion. Only Imran Dawood - then 18 - survived the attack that followed.

The Britons died the day after a train carriage carrying Hindu pilgrims was torched at the Gujarati town of Godhra.

Dr Dongre
Dr Nitin Dongre received threats because he helped Imran

Fifty-nine people were burnt alive. It is not known exactly how many were killed in the violence that followed. Estimates range from 1000 to over 2000 people. The vast majority were Muslims.

Teesta Setalvad, was the convenor of the 'Concerned Citizens Tribunal', who produced a report into the killings.

"What is unprecedented about the carnage was the level of state sponsorship," she told Crossing Continents.

Both national and international human rights groups have placed much responsibility for the killings at the door of Gujarat's BJP Hindu Nationalist Government.

Other organisations in the so-called 'Hindu family', like the radical VHP and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal have also been implicated. The charges are vigorously denied.

Threats

The spot the jeep was torched
Bilal collected his brothers remains from the scene

Back in Prantij, Bilal paced up and down the roadside until he found the exact spot where the tourists' jeep was torched.

Once he was ready to leave, we made our way to the clinic of Dr Nitin Dongre.

In the days after the attack in 2002, Dr Dongre looked after a terrified Imran in his house. "We cannot forget those days," he told Bilal. "After Imran was with me, I received two or three threatening calls, saying you had one Muslim chap there, we will see you..."

Bilal looked shocked.

The last 22 months have been a steep learning curve for Bilal. In the days immediately following the killings, his grief prevented him from seeing the bigger picture.

He was mostly unaware of tensions based on religious hatred in India. Now he is determined to get justice.

On our way back to Ahmedabad, we stopped for tea at a small roadside restaurant. Bilal took the opportunity to quiz Bhushan Oza, a lawyer who accompanied us.

Unanswered questions

Although six men were charged with the British tourists' murder, they have been released on bail.

Mr Oza told Bilal the criminal case was riddled with holes.

Very few people have been convicted of any of the killings of 2002. India's Supreme Court has begun to lose patience. In the Dawood case, the court has asked Gujarat's Government to respond to allegations that the police inquiry was flawed. Bilal believes the investigation was a debacle. After all, it was he who collected human remains from the crime scene.

It was dusk as we made a dash for Ahmedabad airport. Within minutes of being back on the road, Bilal was asleep. It was the first time a set, strained look had left his face all day.

In spite of the many obstacles, he still believes he will see justice for the killings of Saeed, Shakil, Mohammed and Yusuf.

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 1 January 2004 at 1100 GMT.

SEE ALSO:
Bilal's search for justice
31 Dec 03  |  Crossing Continents


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