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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 11:27 GMT
Eyewitness: Escaping the mobs
Gujarat mob watched by a member of the security forces
Parts of Gujarat were under mob rule for days
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By Rehan Fazal
BBC correspondent in Gujarat
line
Escaping Hindu mobs in Gujarat by pretending not to be a Muslim

Following the savage train attack on Hindu activists in Godhra I make my way from Delhi to the city of Ahmedabad.


From the corner of my eyes, I see a man being dragged out from another car and stabbed.

Arriving in the city, I see some people staging a sit-in. For a moment I feel like stopping and talking to them.

But then the thought crosses my mind that I should head out of the city.

Suddenly, I see a 200-strong crowd, carrying flaming torches, stopping all vehicles.

The moment our car stops, it is surrounded by about 50 people.

Mob

My driver signals to me to keep quiet.

He tries to reason with the crowd that we are from the BBC, on our way to Godhra to report on the killings.

After a lot of effort, our car is allowed to move.

A similar hurdle at Dakor. Here we are stopped by the police. They refuse to let us proceed.


I take out my card and slam it up against his face, all the time hiding the name with my thumb

We reverse the car and take a detour to Godhra.

We hit Balasinor where we are forced to halt by another crowd. The moment the vehicle stops, one of them charges towards me. He shouts: "Show me your identification card."

Stabbing

From the corner of my eyes, I see a man being dragged out from another car and stabbed. He is lying on the road with his hands to his stomach.

Displaced woman with child on her lap at a camp
Many Muslims have become destitute

The man shouts again: "Show me your ID card."

I take out my card, which is printed in English, and slam it up against his face, all the time hiding the name with my thumb.

He tries to have a second look - maybe he could not read English. My life is saved.

Suddenly, an argument breaks out. One person forces his way into the car and orders me to record his interview.

The car doors are opened and slammed. This is repeated several times. Finally, the interviewee removes the burning tyre from the road and signals me to proceed.

By then I am drenched in sweat.

Silence

We come across one or two vehicles on the way to Godhra. There is an eerie silence all around. A few houses are on fire.


With a yellow band tied to his head, one man asks me if I was a Muslim. I shake my head in the negative.

I go to the spot where the train was attacked. There is no one around except for the police. Stones are strewn all over the place.

A policeman asks me to leave the place at once. I had planned to spend the night in the town but drop the idea after constant pleas of my driver.

Ten kilometres from Godhra, I see a mob setting fire to some houses.

I ask my driver to speed away but we discover we have a flat tyre!

The tyre is replaced by the driver with amazing speed and we are on our way.

We had hardly covered 10 kilometres, when another tyre gives way.

We are standing in the middle of the road. There is no mechanic in sight and a mob is heading straight towards us.

Wife's name

I quickly push my identity card, credit card and all my business cards under the car carpet.

Muslim children taking refuge in a mosque
The riots have left hundreds uprooted

My wife's credit card, also printed in English, is in my wallet. I keep it there.

With a yellow band tied to his head, one man asks me if I am a Muslim. I shake my head in the negative.

He seeks my ID card. I flash my wife's credit card. The card bears her name - Ritu Rajput.

He misreads it as Hrithik (a Hindu man's name) and shouts out: "His name is Hrithik! Let him pass!"

The driver starts the engine and we drive away.

See also:

04 Mar 02 | South Asia
Hindu hardliners firm on temple plan
03 Mar 02 | South Asia
India violence 'under control'
14 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
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