It was a homecoming for them. Only, it ended up taking their lives.
British national, Shakeel Dawood and his cousin Saeed, were on their way to their hometown near Navsari on February 28, 2002. Driving down from Agra, they were thrilled about having seen the Taj Mahal and were looking forward to visiting their relatives in Gujarat, blissfully unaware of what was going on in the state.
But when Shakeel (36), Saeed (41), their nephew Imran and a family friend Mohammed Aswat were driving through Prantij in Sabarkantha district on National Highway 8, a mob stopped their vehicle and asked them their names. Once the mob found out they were Muslims, there was no stopping it.
The group tried running from the murderous. Imran Dawood, who was 18 years old then and now lives in Yorkshire with the rest of the family, witnessed the incident but prefereed to speak to HT through family spokesperson Suresh Grover.
"Imran remembers seeing his uncles beg for their lives. They pleaded that they were British nationals and even showed their passports," said Grover on the phone line from the United Kingdom. "Imran was hit on his head and he fell unconscious."
His uncles were burnt alive in a nearby farm. Imran, who was left to die, woke up the next day and found himself in a doctor's chambers. Aswat and the driver of the car the Dawoods were travelling in were also killed.
The family is yet to recover from the shock and trauma of what happened. "They were in their home state. They never expected any of this to happen," said Grover.
What followed was even more traumatic for the family, said Grover. The relatives of the deceased visited the spot with members of the British High Commission and searched for remains of the two men so that they may serve as forensic evidence. "The family did what was ideally the job of the police," said Grover. "The police did not even conduct a complete and thorough investigation."
Imran came to India and gave his statement to the SIT. It was his first visit to the country since the incident. The family believes a number of people witnessed the incident but are probably reluctant to come forward "in this environment'.
With the probe in the SIT's hands the family is hopeful that the efforts will bear fruit. They are waiting to see the SIT's report. "The family believes that the effectiveness or value (of the probe) will be judged on whether the accused are prosecuted, the lessons learnt from this and the action taken by the government to ensure such tragedies don't occur again," said Grover.
Anatomy of a massacre
When: February 28, 2002
British nationals Shakeel and Saeed Dawood were killed by a mob which intercepted their car when they were driving down from Agra to Navsari on February 28, 2002.
The duo was killed despite repeated please that they were residents of the United Kingdom and had no idea of what had happened in Gujarat.
Their nephew Imran who was with them was hit on the head and fell unconscious. He found himself in a doctor's chamber a day later. Six people were arrested then.
Dependents of two British nationals - who were killed in the post-Godhra rioting near Prantij in Sabarkantha district on March 1, 2002 - have filed three civil suits adding up to Rs 22.18 crore in the civil court of Himmatnagar on Friday. Shirin Dawood filed the first suit seeking compensation of Rs 9.56 crore, Shamim Dawood filed the second suit for Rs 8.62 crore while Imran Dawood filed the third suit amounting to Rs 4 crore.
Shakeel Dawood, 36, and his cousin Saeed Dawood, 41, were attacked while they were travelling in a Tata Sumo. They were returning from Rajasthan and going towards their ancestral village Lajpur near Navsari, when they were attacked near Wadwasa village on Prantij-Ahmedabad NH 8. While the driver Yousuf Pelagar was killed in the vehicle, the two cousins were dragged to a nearby factory and stabbed to death. A third relative Imran Dawood escaped with injuries. One Mohammed Aswat, who was also in the vehicle, is since missing.
The Dawood family is settled in Batley in north England since 1959 and the cousins had come to visit their relatives in the State.
Anatomy of a massacre
When: March 1, 2002