The Milli Gazette, April 01-15, 2002
Covert riots and media
What's so spontaneous about an attack that leaves only the seventh shop on a crowded street burnt down?, asks TV anchor Barkha Dutt who was recently in Gujarat
They came swooping down on us like vultures lunging at a carcass. There were at least 20 of them, faces remarkably indistinguishable. In fact, frenzied though these men may have seemed on your TV screens, they had an almost robotic, rehearsed air about them as they thrust their gleaming swords into our windshield and barked, "What's your religion?" There was only one answer to that. "Hindu," I said aware that an articulation of my agnostic beliefs would guarantee the unspeakable), privately cringing for my cameraperson Ajmal Jami. What would we do if he were asked to produce an identity card? For the rest of the journey, we mentally made up false names for him, and avoided addressing him in public. In the mob was a 10-year-old boy clutching a bottle of petrol as if it were life itself. "What are you going to do with this?" I asked later when our religious credentials had proved respectable enough for conversation. "It's for self-defence against them," he said.
But along the hundreds of kilometres of (completely unguarded) highway that we travelled there was no "them" anywhere. Instead, every bend in the road would unfold new horrors. We saw saffron flags dug deep into the domes of mosques; pages of beautifully calligraphed Urdu covered with the soot and ash of burnt plastic; and people who did not think it unusual to first set alight a family or a factory, and then walk away calmly with the remains of the day-a sack or two of onions, and if they were lucky, an undamaged Godrej refrigerator.
A milk-van ferrying eight Muslim villagers was set on fire in front of our own helpless eyes. There was only one survivor; a waif-like girl of 15 hunched up under a tree sobbing into her torn shalwar-kameez. Alone. When we asked how she had been spared, the villagers said, "She was already half-crazy (paagal thi woh), so there was no point in killing her."
We left much of this out of our TV reports, aware of the impact they could have in a volatile situation. But public commentary seems to argue that the media behaved irresponsibly in the very naming of the community that was being targeted. Press Council guidelines are being quoted to back this.
I disagree. Let's get one thing straight: Gujarat was not a communal riot. A riot by definition must mean incidents of mutual violence, of communities attacking each other in a retaliatory cycle. In those circumstances, yes, it makes sense to be circumspect about naming who is doing what to whom. But there was nothing ambivalent or amorphous about the violence in Gujarat. Several politicians have described the madness that swept the state for those three days as a "spontaneous reaction" to what happened at Godhra. But think about it. What's so spontaneous about an attack that is planned so meticulously that only the seventh shop in a crowded lane gets razed to the ground but everything around it is untouched and undamaged? Wouldn't a so-called spontaneous outburst of anger be somewhat more blind and directionless? Naming the community under siege in Gujarat was moot to the story. In fact it was the story, revealing as it did a prejudiced administrative and political system that was happy to just stand by and watch. Isn't it a journalist's job then to tell that story?
"Andar ki baat hai, police hamaare saath hai" [this is a secret: police is with us]. This was the rioters' war-cry to Muslim residents in Vadi, Vadodara, as they soaked shops with kerosene that once sold kites, bindis and bangles for the Hindu festivals of Makar Sankranti and Ganapati Puja. But the mob had missed the irony of what they were destroying, as had the two cops looking on languorously. Once again, the attitude-and in most cases, absence-of the police was inextricably linked to which community was at the receiving end.Was it covert patronage from the establishment or a communalised mindset? How could we in the media ask these questions without stating the obvious?
The other charge against the media is the use of a double standard: different rules for the reportage of the gruesome train attack at Godhra- screamed the critics-and different ones for the violence that followed. RSS man Tarun Vijay said it was the "secular-mullah mafia" at work. Has honest discourse on secularism been hijacked by political correctness? These are questions we can certainly debate but let's look at the specific accusation. Why were no names taken when Godhra happened? Actually they were. Every newspaper and television channel said kar sevaks were killed, once again because the identity of those under attack may have been central to what happened. Then people said it was preposterous to link Godhra to Ayodhya; they said it sounded like a justification for the murderous attack. Fair enough. So why did the same voices then begin drawing links between Godhra and the mobs which took over Gujarat for the next 72 hours? You can't have it both ways.
In both cases, though, I believe the religious identity of the rioters should have been left unsaid, and for the most part it was. A crazed mob does not speak for an entire community, whether in Godhra or Ahmedabad. The government says there is real evidence to suggest a "terrorist link" to the burning of the train. If so, it only strengthens the argument that this was not "Muslims" attacking the Hindu community. Next, we'll begin describing militant attacks on minorities in Jammu and Kashmir in the same language. Similarly, the hate-filled mobs that trampled the soul of Gujarat were not representing the "Hindu community". We all know enough Hindus who braved threats and violence to shield their Muslim friends.An educated man stopped our crew on the streets of Vadodara, and excitedly leapt out of his car. "You're doing a good job, madam," he said almost kindly, "but why don't you ask the Muslims of Gujarat to apologise for Godhra?" By this time my patience had run thin. "I agree, sir", I said, trying to sound calm, "but will all the Hindus of Gujarat also say sorry for the 600 Muslims who have been killed?""It's not the same," he declared, before storming off. q
The writer is with NDTV. The above article appeared in The Outlook magazine, 25 March.
The Milli Gazette, April 01-15, 2002
Operation Coverup: Modis fact and fiction
The Government of Gujarat has requested the ISP association of Gujarat to circulate the statement written in BOLD to all ISP customers on e-mail under the heading "Effective Steps taken by GoG to deal with the Situation arising from the Godhra Incident & its aftermath". It is shocking that the ISP Association agreed to be part of this insidious charade. As there is nothing further away from the truth we have listed below a glimpse into reality. Fr Cedric Prakash anlayses this spin.
» As soon as the Government knew the seriousness of the Godhra incident, the Chief Minister himself rushed to the spot and directed the administration to deal with the situation effectively and firmly.
Curfew was clamped in Godhra without loss of time and the RAF was deployed in Godhra on the same day.
» The visit to Godhra must have had such a calming effect in surrounding area that it immediately led to carnage that is being compared to the worst genocide ever committed on earth.
» What was needed was a statement to the people of Gujarat through the most effective mass media - Radio, Television, Press - referring to the delicacy of the situation and the firmness with which the matter would be dealt with if "ANYBODY" took law into their own hands. Instead, the Chief Minister himself made inflammatory statements such as
» "Har kriya ki pratikriya hoti hai." ("Every action produces a reaction").
» "The five crore people of Gujarat have shown remarkable restraint under grave provocation."
» The media is guilty of secular aggression and it has unleashed non-violent secular violence in the country.
» "These elements (media) make a mountain out of a molehill to damage the state.
» Some things that the Government did NOT do
» 40 Policemen were taken away from police stations on sports duty and not recalled.
» No preventive arrests on the bandh eve.
» No attempts to gather intelligence about preparations for violence.
» No confidence building measures or peace initiatives like inviting representatives of the two communities.
» No newspaper advertisements in the local newspapers for people to maintain peace and harmony.
» The city had 18 companies of SRP on the day of the bandh, but not all forces were in position.
» Half of the 700 strong traffic police not deployed on February 28. The other half did not note down even one vehicle registration number of the looters who were making merry on the streets.
» Another alert message was issued the same day to all concerned officers to take adequate preventive action for maintaining law and order situation.
» It has been reported that a minister in the state cabinet (may be in response to the above "alert message", or otherwise) was seen provoking members of the majority community in areas like Paldi. He offered to send bangles to those "Hindus" who did not participate in the "ethnic cleansing" drive. It was a clear instruction to the arsonist, looters and all the people of Gujarat that 6 p.m. was the deadline time until when the Chief Minister could keep the Army away and "you were free to do whatever you wanted".
nIt has also been stated that some elements from a particular community were almost stuffed with alcohol right through the night before the bandh and were set loose on the streets the following morning, initiating and instigating violence against a specific minority community [Muslims].
» As reports of violence started coming in by 28th February afternoon, the State Government immediately decided to call Army and requested the Army authorities in this regard. The Chief Minister announced the same decision in the Press Conference held on 28th February itself.
» Instead of stating the truth the Chief Minister continued to state that the situation was under control and Army was on stand-by. It is clear that the strategy was to allow the paid mercenaries to spread mayhem and break the economic backbone of the minority community "BEFORE" the army came.
» Though 12 columns of the Army (approx 600 troops) had reached Ahmedabad and other sensitive areas on March 1, they were kept on standby. Military Intelligence puts the blame on the State Government. Reports submitted say the initial delay was due to the absence of clear instructions from the Gujarat Government. (TOI, Ahmedabad, 11th March, Pg 7)
» The Government of India immediately acceded to the demand of the State Government and issued orders for shifting of two full army brigades to Gujarat. The Chief Minister himself spoke to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to expedite the process.
» It is not clear whether the Chief Minister and his colleagues actually wanted the violence to be stopped. If they did want the violence to be stopped and the minority community saved, the Chief Minister himself could have come on to the streets like Mr George Fernandes and confronted the arsonists.
» Even Mr George Fernandes was reportedly "unhappy with the way the situation was handled by the Narendra Modi ministry and felt that the state government was not cooperating with the Army"! He felt that the army should have been called out earlier.
» The process of airlifting the army continued throughout the night and the army had landed in Ahmedabad the very next day morning. The army was pressed into service within 16 hours. It is pertinent to note that the army formation in Ahmedabad was not available, as they were deployed on the international borders.
» It is so strange that the Government of Gujarat wants us living in Ahmedabad and in India who have access to media such as Star News and the voices of brave journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, who repeatedly demonstrated live the "ABSENCE" of army on the streets and the continued attacks in different parts of the cities and the villages by trained murderers. All reporters were saying that the Government was at least 24 hours late in deploying the army and even after that the Govt procrastinated in giving the Army the control.
» Major disturbances in Ahmedabad and in the State were brought under complete control within 72 hours.
» One way in which this statement can be read is,
"Maximum Damage was done within 72 hours and trying to push it further would have been suicidal for the VHP, Bajrang Dal and it allies as the Army was there and it could not be mollycoddled into silence like the Local Police".
The extent of planning for this heinous deed is slowly coming to light with indications that the activists from the "Sangh Parivar" disguised as Census Numerators" were identifying the families, assets and shops of Muslim communities all across the state as early as January 2002. The attacks were scheduled to erupt close to the elections that were a complete disaster for the BJP. So that the BJP could gain lost ground by appealing to the most basic instinct of Hindus, that of survival against a seemingly ruthless enemy - the Muslim. Articles describing "the Hindu victimization" were being planted in national news portals and these had their impact with
average Middle Class Hindus feeling that maybe this attack went too far, BUT it had to be done!!!
» The State Transport buses are back on the road and the educational institutions have started functioning regularly.
» A picture in today's newspaper (March 18, 2002) says it all. Only three passengers are utilizing the prompt resumption of services stated above on one of the busiest routes.
nThe timing of the attack could not have been more disastrous for the lives of hundreds of children of the minority community who were scheduled to appear for the 10th and the 12th standard exams in March. With no clothes, no food, no water, no sanitation, and, more importantly, no security of their life, the last thing on their mind would be studies. Yes, some of the schools are functioning normally, but without ANY Muslim child. If that is NORMAL, it gives an indication of what normalcy is being strived for by this government.
» Shops and Establishments have returned to normalcy.
» Almost all Muslim owned economic activities have been razed or burnt to the ground, be it a hotel, a laundry shop, a pangallah, or even a larri gallah. Each of the establishments had been identified well in advance, targeted and brought down with the help of LPG cylinders and petrol and kerosene contributions extorted at sword point from the majority community by the local hooligans.
The logistics of arranging mobs, firepower, leadership and motivation to conduct this "Operation Blackdeath" can be a case-study in itself. What VHP leaders are commonly stating is that the people who were involved were common Hindus and it was their anger that found its way on the streets. Even for a moment if we try to believe this yarn spun by the Sangh Parivar, it indicates that we are living in prehistoric times where to kill or be killed is more important than other seemingly unimportant things such as Education, Health, Standard of living, Security and aspirations for a better lifestyle. Maybe the Sangh Parivar is right, we Hindus will rather have a temple in Ayodhya than have better education for our children, better medical facilities for our ailing parents, better economic opportunities for all of us. So who was in front of the mobs goading them and pulling Hindu bystanders to stain their souls? Politicians who stood to gain from this? Hooligans who stood to gain from the arson? Religious fanatics whose economic needs had been taken care of? Well, the answer is there if we care to see it
» Even today police officers are mute witness to the attacks on convoys of Muslims wanting to get back to a semblance of normalcy.
» Loss to Hotel Industry - Rs 200 crore (700 Hotels looted and set ablaze) Source: Ahmedabad Hotel Owners Association
nMore than 900 Dawoodi Bohra shops and houses "looted at leisure" in an organized manner. Source: Ahd. Newsline March 12, Page1
» Diamond Sector suffered a production loss of Rs 200 crore due to the riots.
» Textile and Garment Industry - Rs 300 crore across 18 textile mills and 200 process houses and power loom units.
» Chemexcil - Rs 50 crore per day across Pharma, Chemicals and Cosmetics Units in Ahmedabad alone (Source: Times of India, March 10 Page 7)
» To curb the violence police has fired over 5,000 rounds to dispel the crowds and protected the life and property of the people.
» The statement made above has no meaning, unless the Government of Gujarat had a target of killing ALL the Muslims living in the state. Yes, lives were saved but not because of the intervention of the State machinery. It was due to the efforts of some of the "HUMAN BEINGS" who felt that their brothers and sisters belonging to another religion should be saved from the fiendish state-sponsored mobs.
» It is also not clear who have been the targets of these 5,000 rounds. If first hand accounts of bleeding survivors in the form of women and children is to be believed, it was the local constabulary that dipped their hands in the flowing blood and soaked themselves in anti-Muslim hate waves being transmitted from the top. It would be a worthwhile exercise to find out how many people who were in the mobs died of bullet wounds?
» 57% (23 out of 40) of the people killed in police firing in Ahmedabad were from the minority community.
» 41 Hindus killed in about 5,500 rounds of firing. 1% accuracy is a very discouraging statistic if this happened with a REAL enemy challenging the police forces.
» In a massive preventive action, police has arrested over 5,000 people.
» Why are police officers being transferred from police stations where these arrests have taken place? Why are police officers with records of "Criminal Negligence" handed over charge - to ensure that no more "correct" arrests are made? It is so easy to hide behind statistics but the truth still patrols the streets, scaring the common Muslims, forcing them back behind the Lakshman rekha of the relief camp. Pray, what is being done about that?
» Another fact that is slowly emerging is the arrest of Muslim youth from the age group of 18 to 30 sometimes right from the hospital bed, under POTO. Has there been any attempt to disclose to the public the "precautionary arrests" being made?
» The Government has made repeated appeals for peace and communal harmony through print and electronic media.
» It is important to ask "WHEN" these appeals were made. After the destruction was complete, as much as could have been done in 72 hours?
» Full page ads in local Gujarati dailies condemning the carnage and banning the Bandh called by a private organization like VHP, could have helped save the situation. Instead, what was seen on the streets were pamphlets circulated by VHP calling for an economic ban of the shops and products of the Muslim community. Was there any statement made by the Government condemning such inflammatory publications?
» The government has announced compensation for those bereaved in the Godhra incident. Financial assistance is being given to the affected persons for death and injury.
» There has been a nation-wide outburst against the discrimination in compensation so it will not be repeated here. But the intentions of the Gujarat Government are suspect here - this compensation and financial assistance charade may just be another opportunity for an "Assessment --- Compensation" nexus. One wonders whether a physically battered Muslim will want to challenge a ridiculously low assessment of the state machinery and would want to engage with the people who he saw attacking him a fortnight ago?
» The relief camps have been opened and all necessary facilities have been extended to them by the local administration.
» One look at the food material being supplied to the relief camps and it makes clear the intentions of the suppliers. Dal infested with insects and wheat flour that is inedible clearly indicates the alacrity of the Government machinery to feed the refugees with food that is unsuitable for human consumption.
» If all necessary facilities include sanitation facilities one wonders why there are repeated outbreaks of gastro-enteritis and why there is only 1 toilet per 500 persons!
This response does not even attempt to touch at the heinousness of the attacks and the attempt by the VHP to make statements such as, "It had to be done" and their attempt to state that the planning for the attacks was done on the morning of the bandh (Feb 28th) and not months before as other reports suggest.
The people in the camps are getting frustrated and want also to resume their lives as best as might be possible in the circumstances. But they are in the dark as to whether it is safe to go back to the areas where only ash remains as a mute testimony of the death of innocents. Unfortunately, they are being chased away like cattle if and when they are mustering the courage to venture close to their erstwhile homes.
The answer to this does not lie with the Government. It lies with you and me. It is up to us to understand and realize the extent to which Power can corrupt and come face to face with the truth that today the law makers broke the law to "PUNISH" a community for crimes committed 600 years ago. But tomorrow it might "PUNISH" you if you are caught asking them why the money trusted to them is not being spent on burning issues such as Education, Health, Sanitation, Water, Livelihood, Safety, Environment. Because at the basic level the people in power "DO NOT CARE" for the common man. Today the segmentation variable is religion but tomorrow it can be just about anything.
PS: Part of the fascist Ideology is: "Tell a lie a hundred times and it becomes the truth." (Joseph Goebbels, 1939 - The Mastermind of the Third Reich). Sadly, every sentence written by the Government reeks of falsehood and untruth.
The Milli Gazette, April 01-15, 2002
Gujarat continues to burn, mobs still rule streets
'Newton' Modi, who boasted to have controlled the riots in 'record 72 hours' is yet to calm Gujarat. Ahmedabad, Vadodra and other areas are again under curfew. People are still being stabbed and killed, businesses are still being looted and torched. Even refugees are being attacked by the saffron criminals while their political bosses are demanding refugees eviction from their shelters because, to thier sick minds these hapless people pose 'security threat'..
Even after a month since the eruption of the planned violence following the still to be probed Godhra train incident on 27 February, the act of ethnic cleansing continues unabated. Well-secured under government patronage the marauders are doing their bit to do a Bosnia in our own backyard under Milosevic Modis leadership. The events clearly point out that a secret army has been reared by the saffron bosses to be used to teach lessons, economically cripple and uproot Muslims.
Thousands of people have been burnt alive (official figures have crossed 700) and at least a hundred thousand people have been rendered homeless. The number of people taking shelter in camps run by riot-hit Muslims themselves exceeds fifty thousands in Ahmadabad alone.
As we go to press on 25 March, there is no semblance of law in Gujarat, no police to enforce order, and the army too is selectively and thinly deployed and subject to the orders of those who ran the street show since 28 February. The killer mobs are roaming streets to ensure that not a single Muslim man or woman is left alive.
A delegation that visited the riot hit areas in mid-March places the casualty at more than two thousand Muslims. The delegation, whcih included the co-editor of Communalism Combat Teesta Setalwad, visited some of the worst-hit areas in the state. It said that the way Muslims were killed and their businesses destroyed in Ahmadabad, Surat and Baroda shows that everything was very well- planned. It is commonly said that what has come out in the open is just a fraction of the human and material losses in the state. The toll in rural areas stays unknown. Sangh hooligans have not allowed free movement till now. The true picture may never come out. Many localities, mosques and dargahs have been obliterated from the face of the earth in quick, precision operations which are beyond the pale of ordinary hoodlums.
How the criminals writ runs in Gujarat was evident when they threatened the National Human Rights Commissions chairman Justice JS Verma and his people in Ahmadabad after they met with the representatives of various non-government organizations on 20 March. Justice Verma has rejected the report sent by Modi government and has threatened to prepare NHRCs own report if Gujarat government fails to send a satisfactory report within five days.
These pogroms for the first time employed new tactics to terrorise people and rape and burning alive was used everywhere as a weapon to instill fear as happened in Bosnia. Reports of gang rape preceding murder and roasting alive of Muslim women are coming out from every area. Survivors in Shah Alam and other camps in Ahmadabad have narrated as to how their sisters and daughters were taken as loot by the saffron killers. Narrative of Muslim man whose mother, wife and daughter were all outraged by the saffron crusaders before being torched, has been flashed all over the world.
To top it all now a minister of Modi cabinet does not want to leave the happless refugees in peace and has launched a campaign to evict them from their ramshackle camps. Gujarat Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Barot demanded on 20 March that Muslims in four relief camps in his constituency, Dariapur-Kazimpur in Ahmadabad, be shifted away immediately!. In a letter to the state home minister, who himself is a pointman of the VHP, Barot has demanded that these camps be disbanded: Hindus no longer feel secure in their presence in the locality. It is necessary to remove these camps as some of the outsiders living in these camps have indulged in rioting. This minister has been threatening the camp manager, Inamul Haque Iraqi, to shift the camp or face consequences.
While all this is taking place in the world's largest democracy no one is coming forward to assist the riot victims. No relief, local or international, is coming forward. No national newspaper has launched a campaign to collect donations for relief work and the prime minister has forgotten that he sits on a huge fund exactly for such contingencies. This overall apathy is in sharp contrast with what was witnessed after the earthquake in the same area a year ago. Human rights organizations at home and abroad are mum. No embassy has uttered a word. Muslim countries too are no exception. Barring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iran, no other Muslim country seems to have uttered a single word on this genocide. No relief has come from oil-rich Arab countries for their fellow Muslims in this hour of utter need.
Indian Muslims, who have been in the forefront of supporting pan-Islamic causes for a century, will have to take stock of their situation. They need to rethink their priorities and devise ways to save them while leading their lives as principled and law-abiding citizens. Gujarat should be a watershed for the community and the country. Enough should be enough.
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