A statement by Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD on the attack by the Sangh Parivar on July 6, 2007 at St Xavier’s Social Service Society in Ahmedabad, Gujarat (slightly abridged).


ANHAD is organizing the National Student’s Festival for Peace, Communal Harmony and Justice (July 6-8, 2007) in Ahmedabad. The festival is showcasing the selected entries from across India – 60 paintings by school children, 80 design entries by media students and 45 student documentary films.


Anhad invited Prof. Shivji Panikkar to inaugurate the Exhibition and Nafisa Ali to inaugurate the Student Video Documentary Film Festival. The inauguration of the exhibition was at 10.30. The exhibition of the Student Film Festival was at 11.30 pm.  Around 10.40, I called Panikkar and he said he is about to reach. Nafisa Ali had already arrived.  I walked towards the gate to receive Panikkar. As I reached the gate of the Xavier’s campus I was shocked to see Panikkar’s car surrounded by a Mob. They were shouting slogans Panikkar go back. Bharat mata ki jai.  I pushed myself inside the crowd and reached Panikkar’s car, the mob was throwing stones, one of them threw a large rusted iron drum on the bonnet of the car, the same drum was thrown again on the car; the drum cracked the front car glass. Sahir who had by now reached and was just behind me, managed to take away the drum from a goon’s hand, in the process injuring himself. Two of the attackers threw two bricks, which broke the front glass; one of the bricks hit the driver on the forehead.  All this happened at a very fast speed and it took me sometime to come to senses. I stood near the door so that mob could not drag out Panikkar, which they were trying to do. Then I started shouting at the top of my voice at the mob. For a few moments everything stopped and they moved backwards. I told Panikkar and the driver to take away the car at full speed as I was unable to guarantee any security. I told them to rush to the nearest Police station. By now the mob realized that they were trying to leave and they tried to block the car from leaving and continued to throw stones. Fortunately the driver speeded up and was able to move away.


Mob had already broken all our festival hoardings, which were outside the gate. Now they forced their entry into the compound raising slogans Modi amar rahe (Long live Modi!), Desh ke gaddaron wapas jao (Traitors go back!) and Bharat Mata ki jai (Glory to mother India!) in Gujarati and started breaking and vandalizing the display in the compound. Outside the exhibition hall, the mob threatened Sarup Ben, Zakia Jowher, Bina ben (from Aman Samudaya) and me. They used highly abusive, sexist and filthy language. Their body language and gestures were highly aggressive and vulgar. The attack on Bina, Zakia and Sarup ben was of being ‘gaddars’ (traitors). The attack on me was of insulting Gujarati asmita being an outsider and entering Gujarat. This continued for about 20 minutes. Then suddenly a signal from one of them (which later I realized was a policeman from local intelligence – who was part of the mob) that police was coming, made all of them leave suddenly.


We went to the police station around 1 pm by now Panikkar’s FIR was being lodged. I spoke to Desai the PI (Police Inspector) and said I need to lodge an FIR too, which he refused. We decided to return later with the lawyer. After all the formalities of Panikkar’s FIR were over, we took Panikkar to the exhibition under police protection and inaugurated the exhibition around 2.30pm.


Then we called the lawyer, prepared the complaint and meanwhile developed the photographs, which were taken of the mob. We went to the police station around 5pm with the lawyer and we were there almost till 9 pm. The police refused to file an FIR. I spoke to the Police Commissioner on the phone. I was told both by the PI and the commissioner that we should have taken permission from the police to holds the programme as we were using loud speakers! We informed both of them that the programme was inside the premises of an institution, inside halls and not in a public place. The PI said you cannot show films. These are student video documentaries, and for film lovers and students by invitation. It is very clear that by lodging the FIR from me on Anhad’s behalf, Police will have to arrest the members of the mob as we have provided their photographs and also they will also have to take some action against the local intelligence man (whose involvement the Police Commissioner has already refuted). I have given all details at the back of the photographs to the police of the people who attacked the car, the man who threw the brick, the man who threw the rusted drum, the goons who mobbed us. Their faces are circled in the photographs that are being circulated with this note. When the attack took place on Panikkar there were at least three video cameras and a number of photographers. The footage seems to have vanished.

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