The Dabgarwad massacre was an incident involving the burning down of a single mother Maniben’s home in Ahmedabad, India, on June 9, 1985. The incident resulted in the deaths of 8 Hindus (3 women and 5 children), and has come to symbolize chaos, security mismanagement, and poor investigation during the 1985 Ahmedabad violence.
On February 1985, a mass movement against Gujarat Government's new policy of caste based reservations was launched in Ahmedabad. Congress(I) government came down on movement participants with an iron fist. Gujarat Samachar, a leading regional newspaper, was at forefront exposing police brutality and human rights violation. On April 22, 1985, a police led mob attacked and set fire to the newspaper headquarters which also housed its printing press. Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, in its Civil Liberties In India - Year Book - 1985, wrote 'Police is an Organised Gangster'. What started as agitation in February 1985 against government policy of reservation, in the State of Ahmedabad, turned into communal riots between Hindus and Muslims in March, 1985 which went on, continuously, for long spell resulting in enormous loss of life and property of both the communities. Riots lasted till October 1986, in the city of Ahmedabad. The violence caused an estimated death toll of 275, thousands of injuries and tens of thousands displaced.
The riot resulted in mass exodus of Dabgars, a Hindu community, who earned their livelihood by manufacturing musical instruments such as drums and also umbrellas and kites. When calm was partially restored, due to the military being stationed, some of them returned and some used to visit their houses in day time to look after their property or business. Maniben, a dabgar, whose one of the daughters had married a Muslim but was having strained relations with him, continued to live in her house. Despite military stationing, incidents went on whenever or wherever least opportunity was available with the result that curfew was enforced in the area from June 7, 1985.
On 9 June 1985, at about 1.30 p.m., the military stationed at Dabgarwad left. A Muslim mob converged from two sides and when they intermingled in the corner somewhere near the house of Maniben or electric power sub-station, attacked Maniben's house, which is located about 250 feet from police outpost, setting fire to it, and chaining it from outside resulting in death of Maniben, her two daughters, four grandchildren and a neighbor's son. The next house set alight was that of Navin Chandra, Kantilal, Kalidas and others. A mob, which included women, attempted to prevent fire brigade from extinguishing the fire.
Charge was framed against sixty three accused. All accused were acquitted for lack of evidence. Trial court acquitted fifty-seven and Supreme court acquitted six. Supreme Court of India while acquitting the accused heavily criticised the investigators and the state government. It stated: What a tragedy? Eight human lives roasted alive. Five in waiting for gallows. Neighbours residing peacefully for generations sharing common happiness and sorrow even playing cricket together suddenly went mad. Blood thirsty for each other. Burning, looting and killing became order of the day. Even ladies attempted to prevent fire brigade from extinguishing fire. How pathetic and sad. Still sadder was the manner in which the machinery of law moved.
- CIVIL LIBERTIES IN INDIA-Year Book—1985, March 16, 2012.
- Economic and Political Weekly, March 16, 2012.
- "Dilaver Hussain S/o Mohammadbhai Laliwala, etc., vs. State of Gujarat and Anr. - (1991) 1 SCC 253". Supreme Court of India. 5 October 1990. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
- Spodek, Howard (2008). "From Gandhi to Violence: Ahmedabad's 1985 Riots in Historical Perspective". Modern Asian Studies. 23 (4): 765–795. doi:10.1017/S0026749X00010209.
- "History of Communal Violence in Gujarat". Outlook Magazine. 22 November 2002. Retrieved 25 October 2014.