In February 2002 Sakil and Saeed Dawood went to India with their childhood friend Mohammed Aswat and their 18-year-old nephew, Imran.
Whilst returning from an excursion trip to witness the majestic beauty of the Taj Mahal, their joyful adventure turned into a nightmare.
Within hours of crossing the Gujarat border, a roadblock, manned by a well-organised mob fuelled by religious hatred, stopped the British tourists. The mob circled the jeep and demanded to know from the occupants their religious identity, the tourists answered that they were British citizens and were indeed Muslims.
The hired driver was then dragged out of the jeep and attacked with sticks and killed on the spot. His body was then thrown back into the vehicle and set alight. In the meantime, the British tourists were chased to a nearby farm.
Mohammed Aswat and Imran were stabbed and left for dead. Imran miraculously survived and he recalls Saeed and Sakil pleading with the mob to spare all their lives.
Unfortunately the savagery experienced by these innocent tourists was not unique. Over that month state sponsored anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat, apparently triggered by the killing of 59 Hindu people in the ‘Godra’ incident, has claimed the lives of more than 2,000 innocent Indian Muslims. Over 100,000 Muslims, including hundreds of raped women and injured or orphaned children, are still living in relief camps.
The Dawood family has not only endured this terrible tragedy. The grief is compounded by the lack of any serious or thorough Indian police investigation. The family have had to visit the crime scene themselves, find vital clues and collate forensic evidence including the charred remains of bodies.
Finally, in April last year, six local people suspected of the murder were arrested, only to be released a few months later, suggesting that the arrests were baseless and were carried to relieve international pressure.
As a result of family concerns regarding the police investigation and allegations of state sponsored carnage in Gujarat, the family have demanded the involvement of an independent police force to oversee the investigation. In this regard both the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair and the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw shares the family’s concerns and have offered specialist assistance from the British Police Force.
The Indian government has so far remained unmoved.
The Dawood family now believe that only an international campaign can ensure justice.