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The Times of India, Sunday, March 03, 2002 1:05:07 am
Godhra violence was waiting to happen

RAJESH RAMACHANDRAN

NEW DELHI: The gruesome tragedy at Godhra railway station, was ‘‘waiting to happen.’’ Yet, this important station with a Railway Protection Force post of around 50 armed policemen could do little to stop the mob from torching the Sabarmati Express on February 27 — and thereby the entire state. The posse from the state government’s Government Railway Police (GRP) too failed to protect passengers.

For the past three weeks, the three Sabarmati expresses have been carrying karsevaks to and from Ayodhya, halting daily at Godhra.

According to a railway official, the area surrounding the Godhra railway station is predominantly Muslim and most of the vendors at the station are Muslim. ‘‘It was a regular feature to see Vishwa Hindu Parishad cadre getting down at Godhra station and shouting provocative slogans.’’

Despite the atmosphere getting vitiated and the possibility of daily provocation, the railways and the state government did not seem to have put its policemen on alert. The protection of railway property is the concern of the RPF, but it failed to guard the train that was torched at the outer signal of the station. Passenger safety comes under the jurisdiction of the state government’s GRP.

At the Railway Board here, officials allege that most of the RPF and GRP men on duty were not available when the mobs attacked the train. But Railway minister Nitish Kumar said that he checked out the facts and was sure that the RPF tried its best to tackle the situation.

‘‘Outside vital installations, the RPF is not empowered to open fire. We are seeking an amendment to the railway act and RPF act to get it empowered so that it would be responsible to tackle such situations. What can the people at the station do? Maintaining peace and law and order is the responsibility of the state government. How can railway personnel anticipate trouble?’’ asked Nitish Kumar, who has cancelled his scheduled Patna trip to monitor the situation.

Rail Bhawan has not officially commented on the sequence of events that led to the death of 58 people. So far, the ministry has not explained how many RPF and GRP men were on duty and why there was no intelligence input from the local administration and precautionary action against the worsening mood on the Godhra railway station.

Also officials have not explained how a 2000-strong mob — if that indeed was the figure — could collect on the railway track and how the armed RPF and the GRP failed to disperse them. The suspicion that Godhra incident was ‘‘premeditated’’ brings the railway and state police’s inaction into sharper focus.

Another cause for concern is the bulk booking of tickets by politicians for the karsevaks. Kumar pointed out that, ‘‘rules permit bulk booking of tickets and anybody can do it. But now we have stopped it for obvious reasons.’’

 

The Hindustan Times, March 02, 2002
Others, like Badal Singh

Amit Sengupta

The winter chill had arrived. November 1984. They were picking up Sikhs in the trains. Delhi was taken over by criminal politicians and killer mobs while Narasimha Rao played the flute. Exactly what is happening in Gujarat now, ruled by a RSS pracharak.

VHP goons have taken over the cities of Gujarat, a state still recovering from the trauma of the quake. They are trapping and burning people alive. Till late Friday afternoon, the army had not been called in. The smell of burning property and the dead is everywhere — in Godhra, Ahmedabad, Naroda. But what stinks most is the complicity of the ruling regime. As in 1984. As in February-March 2002.

In other words, they are doing a 1984 in Gujarat.

Badal Singh was an 80-year-old granthi that November, fragile and old, with a little beard. He had no idea how communal riots are engineered for political wish-fulfilment. He used to sing hymns in a gurdwara of Block 32 and 34 in Trilokpuri, East Delhi. He could not understand why they burnt the gurdwara down. Or why they were dragging people out and burning them alive with tyres and kerosene stolen from ration shops.

What went wrong? He was not a terrorist. And he had always voted for the Congress.

The ravaged Block 32 and 34 used to be a colony of hardworking weavers and taxi drivers. Their sparse houses were clean, some had refrigerators, in the glass shelves were the usual middle-class artifacts: three birds flying, a doll, crockery. But all that remained now was a half-burnt picture of a couple on the wall and broken bottles of country liquor — Masti, Tohfa, Pritam.

I found Badal Singh far away in a South Delhi camp. The government had done nothing but volunteers were pouring in. My job was to trace missing persons. “Are you Badal Singh?” “Yes”, he said, tears in his clear light eyes.

He was hiding in a gutter-pipe for three days, his old body in a semi-circle. He could not understand why this should be happening to him.

In every riot, there are thousands of Badal Singhs who can’t understand why this should be happening to them. The women and children (and kar sewaks) in the Sabarmati Express could be ordinary pilgrims to Ayodhya. How do human beings turn into savage mobs? The Godhra massacre proves yet again that barbarians have no religion and communal politics no humanity.

The Muslim family in the Sumo which was burnt yesterday in Naroda, are they responsible for the Godhra killings? Or even the Muslims of Godhra, why should they prove that they are ‘not guilty’? The family of Ehsan Jaffrey in Ahmedabad, burnt alive on Thursday by VHP goons, despite repeated calls to the police for help, what was their crime except that they were Muslims? Or ordinary Hindus, Christians and Muslims, now victims of amazing bestiality, how are they responsible for Godhra or Ayodhya?

Come to think of it, who masterminded the Sabarmati Express massacre? Where was the local or railway police when a huge mob had gathered in a crowded public place in broad daylight with swords and petrol bombs in a town with a history of communal riots? How did they get away without being arrested or shot on the spot?

There are too many questions which the dead can’t answer. Only those who do hate politics (majority or minority) can tell us why they kill and burn — in Delhi, Jamshedpur, Bhiwandi, Surat, Bombay, Maliana, the Dangs, and now in Gujarat. Others, like Badal Singh, can only silently cry.

 

Rediff.com, Saturday, March 02, 2002
Ex-MP Jaffrey's widow relives a day of terror

Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad

How many people have died in Ahmedabad? How many in other parts of Gujarat? Where are the bodies? Who is leading the mobs that are setting entire families on fire? How many of the dead have been cremated/buried with respect? Has any action been initiated against the rioters?

As of now, there is no system in place in Gujarat, India's second most industrialised state, to know what exactly is happening. Even senior leaders like Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani are hard-pressed to know the situation.

On Friday, Advani condemned the previous day's attack on Gulmarg Colony in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad and said, "The killing of [former Congress member of Parliament Ehsan] Jaffrey and his family members has shaken me."

Advani was only partially right. Jaffrey is dead, but his wife Razia survived.

Recalling the horrors of February 28, Razia Jafri said they had been warned that morning of the possibility of disturbances in their locality. "Our colony had 19 houses," she said. "Only one belonged to a Hindu; the rest belonged to Muslims. Hindu families surrounded us, but we never had any tensions."

The Jaffreys had been living in Chamanpura since 1969 and the septuagenarian did not expect any trouble. "But by 8.30am we could sense the tension mounting," Razia Jaffrey said. "My husband started calling people for help while other residents of the colony gathered in our house, which was quite big."

Outside the main gate, a mob had started collecting. "Jaffreysaab got worried. He called the police commissioner, his party president Amarsinh Chaudhary and scores of leaders." For almost three hours he continued to make frantic phone calls, pleading for help. "At one point he even cried on the phone to save so many lives. But no one, not a single leader, not one policeman, came to our rescue."

"Ehsanbhai called me more than four times," admitted former chief minister Chaudhary, "but I was helpless. I could not get Police Commissioner [P C] Pande on the line. I could not save them. I got more than 200 calls from Muslims on the first day on three phone lines. People from all over Gujarat were calling and asking for police help, asking for protection, asking for a rescue team."

Chaudhary said many Hindu Congressmen were also calling him because they had sheltered panic-stricken Muslims in their houses and, as a result, had started feeling unsafe themselves. "Mad crowds were abusing them," Chaudhary said.

At 10.30am Jaffrey told his wife to go to upper floor of the house. "That was the last time I saw him," she said. "By 11am stone-pelting began. Our boys tried to resist initially, but the crowd multiplied in no time."

The people hiding inside Jaffrey's house were terrified. "By then we had realised that all of us were going to die," said Jaffrey. Her husband continued to think the police would come and disperse the attackers, "but it never happened".

Jaffrey had a licensed pistol, "but he knew that one pistol can't save you from 8,000 people. He fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but it proved ineffective."

By now the mob was throwing Molotov cocktails and burning tyres at the house. "The womenfolk doused those tyres with blankets. The women and children did everything they could.

"But at 1.30pm the crowd entered from the back. We had locked our home from inside and the crowd was waiting outside to kill us."

The mob was brandishing tridents, staves and swords and shouting filthy abuse. "I can't even describe what they were saying about the women," she said. "It is the most filthy language I have ever heard."

Two youths who went to lock the main gate were caught and killed with swords, then set afire. "We had no idea what to do! Whom to turn to?"

Razia Jaffrey still believes that if the police had appeared on the scene on time, they would have all been saved. "By 3pm the ground floor was on fire, engulfed in smoke," she continued. "Imagine burning 18 bungalows full of wood furniture. But we could not run out for fear of being lynched."

More horrors were in store. The mob brought out gas cylinders from the other houses, piled them up outside the Jaffreys' and set them alight. "They burst the cylinders in front of our home where more than 150 people were crying for life," she said. "We were scared and praying to Allah!"

Those hiding on the upper floor were saved, but those on the ground floor were engulfed in the fire. At 3.30pm the police finally arrived on the scene and opened fire to disperse the mob. "When I came down," Jaffrey said, "it was all over. I could not believe my eyes. I could not find my husband's body. My neighbours were unrecognisable too."

She had been waiting 24 hours to get custody of her husband's body when rediff.com contacted her. "The police are not helping us, nor am I allowed to go home to look for his body. I think I'll go mad," she cried.

She is now living with a relative. The hurt and anger are evident in their eyes, though they are careful not to reveal any of it in words.

 

Rediff.com, Sunday, March 03, 2002
British national visiting Gujarat killed, two missing

A British national visiting Gujarat has been killed and two others were missing in communal clashes in Gujarat, a British High Commission spokesperson in Mumbai said on Saturday.

Mohammad Aswat Nallabhai (41), a resident of Batley in northern England, died when he was assaulted by unidentified miscreants.

He was on his way from New Delhi to Lajpur village in Gujarat for a social visit, along with three of his relative, when he was assaulted in Himmatnagar, 160 km from Ahmedabad.

His three relatives were also assaulted, two of whom have gone missing.

The High Commission spokesperson identified the two as Saeed Dawood and Shakil Dawood The third, Imran Dawood, was admitted to a hospital and later discharged, he added.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said that the police have been instructed to track down the two British nationals of Indian origin.

Addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad, Modi said that he received a communication from the British High Commission in Delhi on the fate of its three nationals and accordingly the police was directed to do the needful at the earliest.

"We will be informing the High Commission as soon as we come to know anything about them," Modi said.

To a question, he skirted a detailed reply on what would be his government's response to the letter served by the National Human Rights Commission on alleged inaction during the violence in the state.

 

The Muslim News, March 05, 2002
British Muslims condemn the Government’s indifference to the killing of Muslims in India

London: The Muslim News

British Muslims have condemned the Blair Government’s indifference to the massacre of Muslims in India. More than 500 Muslims, one of them a British citizen, who was on holiday in India, have been killed in the western state of Gujarat, in a five-day frenzy of violence.

The Foreign Office has refused to condemn the killings of Muslims in India and instead a spokesman told The Muslim News: “We offer our support to the Government of India in this difficult time.” General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain Yousuf Bhailok said: “We are outraged at the position of the Foreign Office. We have been devastated. The Government is showing double standards”.

Muslim leaders are meeting Home Secretary Jack Straw at 4.45pm this afternoon to express their concern and displeasure at the Government’s unacceptable stand.

A Foreign Office spokesman justified the Government’s indifference by arguing that “this was India’s internal problem”, and therefore the British Government could not comment. When asked why the Government could condemn the deaths of Israeli civilians but not those of Indian Muslims the spokesman did not respond. Prime Minister Tony Blair has so far ignored the raging violence against Muslims in India, and a Downing Street spokesman refused to comment on Blair’s silence saying that the Foreign Office’s comments were sufficient.

Thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have been left homeless in a carnage which began after the torching of a train carriage transporting Hindu karsevaks (militant activists) returning from their demonstrations in the northern town of Ayodhya, about 1,200 miles from Gujarat. While the burning of the train carriage was used by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a sister organisation of India’s ruling party the BJP, as an excuse to carry out religious killings, no evidence has so far been produced to prove that the train was burnt by Muslims. Indian newspaper have reported that the train carriage may have been burnt because of a fight between karsevaks, who were said to be stealing goods from the stalls at Godhra station, and the stall owners.

Within hours of the train burning, thousands of Hindu youths took to the streets murdering Muslims, burning their shops and looting and burning their homes. For three days the Gujarat Government watched as the state burned, without taking recourse to deploying the police or the army. Mustaq Momin, an artist who lives in Ahmedabad told The Muslim News over the telephone, “We are coped up in our house as hoardes of Hindu youths are going from area to area torching Muslim properties and hoping they will not spot our house. We have made repeated calls to the police for protection but there is no response, all we can do is pray”.

The Gujarat police force is notorious for being partisan and anti-Muslim. Their partisan performance has been recorded during previous sectarian riots that have hit the state in the last 15 years. The Foreign Office, on the other hand, dismissed as “speculation” charges of the involvement of local police in the atrocities and their refusal to protect Muslims.

Causalities in the latest round of communal cleansing by the VHP include 42 year-old Mohammed Aswat, a British Muslim from Batley, West Yorkshire. He along with three other British Muslims were returning to Surat, Gujarat, after visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra on Wednesday, when their minibus was set upon at Himmatnagar, 100 miles from Ahmedabad.

Musa Kazi, a relative of the dead Briton described the horrific incident to The Muslim News after his telephonic conversation with those accompanying Mohammed Aswat. “Imran Dawood, who is a 24-year-old student and was injured in the attack told me that their mini bus was stopped by a mob of about 40 to 50 people. They set the vehicle alight. When he got out of the minibus, they started beating him until he became unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he found Mohammed Aswat, lying dead near him. He had been stabbed to death,” related Kazi. Shakil Dawood and Saeed Dawood, both 40 who were also in the minibus, are still missing. The driver of the minibus, who was from Gujarat, was also killed.

Two hundred British Muslims are still trapped in Gujarat where the situation continues to be tense. About one hundred are from London, 30 from Dewsbury/ Batley, 50 from Bolton/Preston, and 20 from Leceister. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office dealing with the Counsellor section, said they were in touch with British Muslims trapped in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. “We have told them to stay indoors and we are in constant touch with the police in the area.” When The Muslim News informed her that the police had either refused or had taken part in the killings, so why had the British Counsel in India not consulted the Central Government for assistance, she replied: “I do not know what representations have been made.”

Mike Wood, the MP for Batley said he supported the position taken by the Foreign Office as it was sensible and any condemnation by Britain may endanger the lives of British nationals stuck in Gujarat.

The Chair of the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley, told The Muslim News: “We are appalled by the Government’s comments. I’m surprised Mr Blair is not pursuing the same line as the Zimbabwe affair.” He added that there is “significant evidence that the Indian Government is pursuing an ethnic cleansing policy in Gujarat. There is little or no confidence in the police and our Government should demand the India should protect its minorities”.

Yusuf Dawood, brother of Shakil and Saeed who are missing in Gujarat, told The Muslim News that the British Government “needs to explore fully what has been happening. They need to explore the human rights abuses that have occurred. They need to be vary of misinformation from all channels especially the state apparatus as was the case with Zimbabwe and Germany.”

The Muslim News has learnt that another British Muslim may have been killed. The relatives are awaiting confirmation.

Last night 48 more Muslim shops were burnt in Surat according to reports reaching The Muslim News.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325.

 

The Nation, Sunday, March 03, 2002

Muslims carnage must end: Musharraf

From Rana Qaisar

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Saturday asked India to ensure protection of Muslim minority being targeted by Hindu extremists and strengthen the measures against this wave of terrorism.

“We have followed with dismay and sorrow the recent incidents of large-scale communal violence in India,” President General Pervez Musharraf said while expressing his deep concern over the killing of Muslims.

The President said the attack on the railway train on Wednesday last, resulting in loss of over fifty lives, was deplorable. “But it could not provide license for the reprehensible brutalities against Muslims.”

He said this has caused hundreds of deaths, destruction of property and desecration of Muslim religious places. “This has caused deep distress and concern among the people of Pakistan.”

The General said the carnage must be brought to an end and all those responsible for the violence need to be arrested and punished.

“The measures taken by the government of India for the protection of Muslim minority, which is the target of Hindu extremism and terrorism needs to be strengthened,” he said.

Pervez Musharraf said the violence and mayhem in India once again highlights the dangers posed by politics of communalism and the forces of extremism and terrorism. “The International community cannot afford to be complacent or take a biased view in responding and combating this evil in whichever form it manifests and wherever it exists.”

As the death toll in India reportedly crossed 400 and Hindu-Muslim clashes spread to rural areas of Gujarat state, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee termed the eruption of a disgrace to the whole nation.

“This is a disgrace to the whole nation and has hurt India’s prestige in the world,” Vajpayee said in a broadcast on state-run television after the worst sectarian clashes hit India for nearly a decade.

The clashes had erupted three days after India’s ruling BJP party was routed in four crucial provincial elections including in its traditional base Uttar Pradesh.

 

BBC, Friday, 1 March, 2002, 13:17 GMT
Karachi guards Hindus

Religious violence has been a key concern for Pakistan Pakistani authorities have stepped up security measures to protect Pakistan's small Hindu community.

Most Pakistani Hindus live in the southern Sindh province, and many of them are in the provincial capital, Karachi.

Provincial authorities have deployed police and other security units around Hindu temples and residential areas in Karachi to prevent any attacks on them.

Authorities fear that in a possible backlash following the communal rioting in the neighbouring Indian state of Gujarat, Muslim extremists could launch revenge attacks on Pakistan's Hindu community.

The Deputy Inspector General of Police in Karachi, Tariq Jamil, told Reuters news agency that extra policemen had been stationed outside Hindu temples and residences "to deter any retaliation".

Mr Jamil also said the police had asked Hindu community leaders "to coordinate with the security agencies in case they received any threats."

 

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