London, February 11 (KMS): During a debate on the ‘20th anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat riots’ in the UK Parliament on Wednesday, Labour Party MP Kim Leadbeater called for the repatriation of the mortal remains of three British victims of the riots.
She also sought a coroner’s inquest in the UK into the circumstances of their deaths.
MP Kim Leadbeater spoke on behalf of her constituents from Batley and Spen in the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England.
Foreign office minister Amanda Milling, speaking on behalf of the government, said the demand for the return of the bodies would be supported by the British government.
Reacting to these developments in the UK Parliament, the Indian High Commission in London said it “took note” of the discussion held in relation to the “tragic sequence of events that took place in India twenty years ago”. However, the families of the victims had not yet approached the Indian mission, it added.
Vishwesh Negi, Minister (Political, Press & Information) at the Indian High Commission, added, “High Commission of India would like to state that it has not so far been approached by the MP who sponsored the motion or any other participants in the discussion to engage on the subject – including on the specific request of the families of three British victims.”
During her speech, MP Leadbeater recounted the incidents leading up to the death of three British individuals and their Indian driver in 2002. Two of the three UK nationals were from the Dawood family that belongs to her constituency.
She narrated, “On February 28, 2002, four tourists were on their way back after visiting the Taj Mahal, which should have been the trip of a lifetime. Their names were Shakeel and Saeed Dawood, their 18-year-old nephew Imran and their childhood friend Mohammad Aswat. Not long after they crossed the state border into Gujarat, their jeep was stopped at a roadblock. A mob encircled the vehicle, demanding to know their religion. They replied that they were Muslim and that they were British citizens on holiday. In the violence that followed, Shakeel, Saeed, Mohammad and their driver were all killed. Miraculously, Imran Dawood survived, and he is with us today. It is only through his testimony that we know the circumstances of what happened. He remembers Saeed and Shakeel pleading for their lives to be spared.”
“Nothing that is said or done today can bring Shakeel, Saeed or Mohammad back. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to provide some comfort to the Dawood family. And after 20 years, [it can give them] possibly even some sense of being able to move forward with their lives. It causes them enormous hurt that the remains of their three young men have never been returned to them,” she continued.
Kim Leadbeater concluded, “So I’d asked the minister to check with the Indian authorities if repatriation of the remains is possible. And if so, that it should happen as soon as practicable. They have also asked about the possibility of an inquest being conducted in this country, a request that I have passed on to the coroner.”
In response to the representation by British MP Leadbeater, foreign office minister Amanda Milling said, “We have provided consular support to the families of the British victims since 2002 and we will continue to provide assistance as needed. I acknowledge the families must feel that the remains of their loved ones have not been returned to them. We have been advised by the families’ legal representative that an application has been made to the court in India for the remains to be returned and we stand ready to support this application once it has been made.”