A United Kingdom MP on Wednesday sought the repatriation of the bodies of three British Muslims who were killed by Hindu mobs during the 2002 Gujarat Muslim genocide to that country.
“On the 28th of February 2002, four tourists were on their way back from visiting the Taj Mahal, which should have been the trip of a lifetime. Their names were Shakeel and Saeed Dawood and their 18-year-old nephew Imran, and their childhood friend, Mohammad Aswat. Not long after they crossed the state border into Gujarat, their Jeep was stopped at a roadblock. A mob encircled the vehicle demanding to know their religion. They replied that they were Muslim and that they were British citizens on holiday. In the violence that followed Shakeel, Saeed, Mohammad, and their driver were all killed. Miraculously, although Imran Dawood was left for dead, he survived, and he is with us today. It is only through his testimony that we know the circumstances of what happened. He remembers Saeed and Shakeel pleading for their lives to be spared,” said Labour MP Kim Leadbeater.
She was speaking during a discussion on the Gujarat genocide by a small group of British MPs in a Westminster committee room. This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Gujarat genocide.
“Many, many people lost their lives in the rioting… Every family’s story will be different. But I want to talk about one family in particular, as they are constituents of mine in Batley and Spen, and are indeed with us here today in the public gallery, along with relatives and supporters,” she said.
The family members of the three Muslims are now living in the MP’s constituency. The MP also demanded that a coroner from the United Kingdom should be allowed to carry out an inquest into the circumstances of their deaths.
She went on to say: “Nothing that is said or done today can bring Shakeel, Saeed or Mohammad back. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to provide some comfort to the Dawood family. And after 20 years, possibly even some sense of being able to move forward with their lives. It causes them enormous hurt that the remains of their three young men have never been returned to them. So I’d asked the minister to investigate with the Indian authorities, whether the repatriation of the remains is possible. And if so that it should happen as soon as practicable. They have also asked about the possibility of an inquest being conducted in this country, a request that I have passed on to the coroner.”
“All we can say with certainty is that at the very least 1,000 people lost their lives and that the majority of them were Muslims,” she said.
The MP also informed the meeting that Dawood’s family told her that recent reports of renewed anti-Muslim violence only make it harder for them to move on with confidence that the terrible events of 2002 could never happen again.
20 years of genocide
On 28 February 2002, Hindu mobs who were part of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), unleashed massive violence against Muslims in Gujarat that went on for weeks killing thousands of Muslims.
About 3000 Muslims are killed. Some 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship are destroyed, and roughly 150,000 people are displaced.
The massacre was unleashed after the burning of 59 Karsevaks on board the Sabarmati Express in Godhra which was probed and declared an accident.
Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, was accused of initiating and condoning the violence, instructing police to stand by and let Hindu mobs do acts of violence against Muslims.
Strong evidence links the Narendra Modi administration in Gujarat to the carefully orchestrated anti-Muslim attacks. Hindu mobs had detailed lists of Muslim residents and businesses, and violence occurred within view of police stations. An independent media, Tehelka, used hidden cameras to capture some of the accused speaking openly of how the attacks had Modi’s blessings.