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'I saw them hack my family to death'

Yusuf Khan Murad Khan Pathan conducts a guided tour of what was once his house. He said pointing out to a spot behind his house is from where he watched as they hacked his family to death", report Stavan Desai and Sweta Ramanujan-Dixit.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2009 21:52 IST

Yusuf Khan Murad Khan Pathan conducts a guided tour of what was once his house. "This is was my kitchen, this was the bathroom...this is where my mother was sitting that day. And this," he said pointing out to a spot behind his house, "is from where I watched as they hacked my family to death."

Pathan saw 11 members of his family, including his mother, wife and two sons aged eight and ten in the riots that took place in his locality in Visnagar's Deepda Darwaja area on February 28, 2002. Visnagar is a municipality in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. The town is inhabited mostly by cotton farmers and small businessmen and levels of literacy here are above average.

The mob surrounded the settlement of 25 lower middle class Muslim houses and started pelting stones. They killed people and torched their homes. Pathan, who was hiding behing an iron grill, witnessed the entire incident. "Some of them are people I still see every day," said 52-year-old Pathan, who now runs a pan shop. "Had I known they would do this to us I would have shifted my family to a Muslim area."

He does not remember how he got out that night. But he does remember having told the police who the culprits are. "But it made no difference. Now I am hoping the SIT will bring us justice," said Pathan. "If they conduct investigations thoroughly, even politicians will go in."

Retired police officer M K Patel, who was an inspector then was arrested by the SIT for dereliction of duty in the Deepda Darwaja case on February 17.

Pathan has since moved to a new house built by the Islamic Relief Committee in a locality two kilometres away. But what haunts him is that he never found his family's remains. "After they had cut them to pieces they tried burning them," he said, dry-eyed. "But when they did not succeed they took the remains to a lake nearby, tried burning them and then dumped them into the lake."

Pathan returned to his pan shop two years after the incident. He married again and says he is living to take care of his daughters and niece who survived. Honeybees fiercely guard what is left of the home where Pathan spent most of his life. Members of the Pathan community still live down the lane. Gone are the days when neighbours would inquire about his well being. Now the windows and doors to their houses are shut tight.

"There was Hindu Muslim unity here. Business was good," he said. "But then they stabbed us in the back."

Anatomy of a massacre

When: February 28, 2002

Toll: 14

What happened:

On February 28, 2002, a mob surrounded the mohalla inhabited by lower middle class Muslims and began pelting stones. They set 25 houses on fire and attacked men, women and children with swords and choppers. Fourteen persons were killed. Families of the victims claim that their remains were dumped in a lake two kilometres from the spot.

79 people were arrested then.

3 arrested by the SIT

all 82 are out on bail