More of the Gujarat Model: Thousands of Muslim Homes Demolished Under the Garb of Security

For representation purposes only.

Amit Cowper

GANDHINAGAR—The incident of Gujarat police publicly flogging eight to nine persons alleged to be stone pelters in Undhela village of Kheda isn’t the only such one where the administration becomes the Judge, prosecutor, and Jury, but it’s just another in many as can be seen during the recent demolition carried out by the Gujarat government in coastal areas of the state during October.

Similar to the Undhela village incident, the Gujarat Fisheries department, playing the role of the Judge, the prosecutor and the Jury, meted out a verdict against the Minority Community in Gosabara where without verifying the merits of some complaints, punished them with a denial to carry out their traditional profession of fishing.

From October 1, the Gujarat government launched multiple demolition drives in various parts of the Saurashtra region’s coastal areas, including Porbandar, Bet Dwarka, the island located off Okha coast in Devbhumi Dwarka, Jakhau etc. There are allegations from the minority community that the drives carried out under the garb of security and curbing anti-national activities have been targetting only the Muslim community. Thousands of structures have been demolished during October, and most of the people residing in these have been rendered homeless and are on the roads for days. Among the destroyed structures, besides scores of houses, there are several religious ones that the officers claim were built on government land. Almost all structures demolished belonged to members of the Muslim community.

“Among these, around 100 Muslim fishermen families in Gosabara, a place near Porbandar, whose houses have also been demolished, since past 5-6 years have been targeted specifically to wipe them out of business by the rival majority community fishermen, politically endorsed by right-wing outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal,” said Mujahid Nafis, of the Minority Community Coordination Committee.

“Just based on their religion, these Muslim fishermen, despite having fishing licences, were not granted fishing permissions for a long time on the complaints of the right-wing outfits and Hindu fishermen association, apprehending compromise in law and order situation and anti-national activities,” added Nafis.

“There is no solid base for which we were denied the permission to fish, but it was purely based on complaints of six to seven Hindu fishermen associations backed by right-wing outfits. The authorities did not even look into whether the complaints had any merits. When we approached the authorities, they told us they had orders from above,” said Allarakha Islamailbhai Thimmar, representing 100 Muslim fishermen families in Gosabara wetlands in Porbandar.

The Hindu fishermen had complained against the authorities that if the Gosabara fishermen were granted permission to fish in Navibandar harbour, there would be trouble. One of them also alleged that anti-national activities were reported in Gosabara in the past.

Barring one, all the other six complaints seem to have the same draft where they have demanded the denial of permissions for the Gosabara fishermen. 

“We have come to know about an application by the Gosabara fishermen asking for fishing permissions in Navibandar from the district collector and other departments through media. We, the people of Navibandar village, strongly oppose this application, as we have had trouble with them in the past. These people (Gosabara fishermen) are very aggressive and are habitual law offenders. There is apprehension that there might be social clashes between the two and public property destruction. And if that would happen, it would be the total responsibility of the administration and those who issued permission,” says the contents of these complaints.

Following these complaints, the Home Branch, Porbandar district magistrate office and Porbandar legislator from BJP, Babu Bokhiria, asked the Assistant Fisheries Superintendent, Porbandar, to look into the matter and act as per the rules.

Acting on this, the Assistant Fisheries Superintendent, Porbandar, denied the fishing permission to Gosabara fishermen on March 2 this year. He clarified this action was taken after the letter by the legislator and Leelabhai Parmar, the BJP secretary, Porbandar, and various complaints received by the collector and other departments and authorities. 

“They never looked into the merits of the complaints. On the contrary, they (the complainants) have been known to break the law now and then, while the Gosabara fishermen have always been upright and uphold the law,” said Thimmar.

After that, on behalf of the Gosabara Muslim Fishermen’s Society, Thimmar filed a plea in the Gujarat High court, seeking mass euthanasia for around 600 people from the community in Gosabara who had been affected owing to discrimination by authorities. “After years of struggling to get fishing permissions, we had no other choice. How could we survive without any profession?” asks Thimmar.

“It was only after they filed a petition in Gujarat high court seeking ‘euthanasia for 600 people’ around two months ago that the authorities granted the permission for the community to carry out fishing,” added Nafis.

But now, the Gosabara fishermen are being harassed in the name of coastal security. So far in Porbandar, eight locations including shops, houses, dargahs and Mazars, have been razed, according to a government official close to the development.

“No… Around thirty structures have been demolished by the authorities, including 7-8 religious structures in and around Gosabara. But we have heard that in Bet Dwarka and Jakhau, more demolitions have been carried out,” said Thimmar.



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