THE TRUE DEATH TOLL: EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY OF MOHAMMED KARIM
I used to drive a truck to dispose of dirt and waste. It was a special truck – I also used to pick up unclaimed dead bodies from the mortuary, I was used to doing it. That night [3rd December 1984] I put in thousands of bodies that we dumped – in one grave we would put 5-6 bodies, and we burnt piles and piles with logs. Many bodies were burnt without being identified – Muslims were burnt and Hindus were buried.
They [the government] said ‘leave your wives and children in your houses and go on duty’. We used to be on duty till 12:00 at night and after that the military trucks used to come and dump the bodies in the Narmada river. This went on for three to four days. Even on the 16th [of December 1984] we had to come back again. They gave us 500 rupees for this but then they took it back from our wages.
We would fit 120 bodies in one truck and this we would fill and empty five times a day. There were eight trucks on duty so that is 4,800 bodies a day. It carried on for exactly the same intensity for three to four days, and each night at midnight the military took over. 50 to 60 drivers were all working.
Some people were picking up bodies and some animals. We took a bulldozer and dug pits to bury all the animals, but the bodies we picked up with our own hands. Every time we picked one up it gave out gas. The bodies had all turned blue, and had froth oozing from their mouths. In some houses everyone had died so there was no one to break the locks. In one a six month old girl had survived and everybody else (mother, father and siblings) was dead. I broke the locks. At least 15–20,000 people died in those first few days. What they said in the papers was absolutely wrong. What could I have done? I was a government servant. What the government said was absolutely wrong but what could I do?