The Milli Gazette, April 16-30, 2002
If you missed Bosnia, visit Gujarat
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman
Ahmedabad: Do you have any inkling as to what is really happening in Gujarat? The state that has been aflame since 27 February continues to burn. The state of affairs in the state after touring it for a week has left this writer speechless. Words fail to describe what has been done to Muslims there.
When this writer started out for the state he was almost sure that this tragic story of blood, death and fire, that continues till today and will probably continue for a long time to come, will be told by someone else, as travel for a lone Muslim, that too with a beard, could easily be his last journey. And that seemed to be a good bet, as now to narrate the events there one needs a lot more than just words.
Thousands of people have been killed during the last one and a half months. Though the government figures have just crossed 800 casualties, the way things are being covered up, people who are working for rehabilitation and relief say that at least 2500 people have been either burnt alive or killed. YA Charkha, an advocate who has been involved in setting up of the relief camp in Godhra, from where the fire started in the first place, says that even the figure of 2500 is not final as there are daily reports of killings coming from various areas, especially villages. He says that Muslims residing in 400 villages in Panchmahal district under which Godhra falls, have been totally destroyed. Women, young and old alike, have been raped and even then not spared by the rapists most of whom are VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS activists. Dont ask about their men. They were killed before capturing their women. Children as old as just two days were not spared.
The story of Bilqis Yaqub Patel, 20, from Randhigpur near Godhra is shattering. When her family started out for safety shortly after the Godhra incident, there were thirty people with her. From their village they went to Kudwazal village where they took shelter in the mosque. Here her sister Shamim delivered a baby boy. At this place her mother sent the men away. Now there were only eight women and eight children. Only her maternal uncle was around. From there they were chased away by a mob. In another village, tribals sheltered them and gave them their own clothes to conceal their identities. Tribals sent two people with them to accompany them to Chaparwad village. Here people recognized them and killed her uncle. When they were fleeing, a mob in a Tata Sumo vehicle chased them. These devils, who were 24 in all, killed all the children including her two-year old son as well as the boy her sister had just delivered two days back. Every woman, young and old was raped by three devils each and later everyone was killed. They thought Bilqis too had died. She was lying there for two whole days. Now she is in the relief camp at Godhra. She doesnt know who brought her there. When I asked her about her male relatives, she said she has no news about them.
It is not that she does not recognize the perpetrators. She knows them by name. She told me that all the twenty four people who killed her relatives and outraged the women were from her own village and they used to purchase milk from her fathers dairy.
Hers is not any exceptional story. There are hundreds of similar incidents. The case of Sharifunnisa or Fatima, who had come to celebrate Eid with her in-laws, was also no different. When rumors started spreading, along with her family members she took shelter in the fields outside the village. The sarpanch (village headman) assured them that nothing will happen and took them to his house. Here he brought a mob of 500 people. Eight people were killed there. She too was injured grievously when she tried to protect her husband.
People in other camps too recount similar tales. Take the story of Fatima Bibi Yusuf Patel, now in Shah Alam Camp in Ahmedabad, or that of Jawed Hasan who is just 12 years old. All his family members were burnt alive in front of him.
Everything belonging to Muslims has been destroyed with deathly precision. There are reports as to how a shop among hundreds of shops in a shopping complex was meticulously identified and burnt, but not much has been written as to how a shop, belonging to the majority community still stands while all the shops in the same complex have been destroyed. The lone shop in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad is still standing while all others surrounding it from three sides were razed to the ground. This shop was not a large departmental store with a large building, but a ramshackle tailoring shop. And to add to the mystery, this single shop amidst all the ruin is still functioning as if nothing has happened there. The destruction around this shop doesnt seem to have bothered its owner a bit. It is the story of every nook and corner of the state.
Whole housing complexes have been demolished. And curiously, not a single window pane in the adjacent Hindu housing complexes has been harmed. Gupta Nagar, Al-Ateeq, Dinoori Park, Soni Ki Chal, Narol Highway and numerous other places tell the same story. Houses have been totally destroyed with not a single household item escaping the fury of fire. Thousands of people have fled their houses and have either moved to safer areas or have been forced to take shelter in relief camps.
The fire was so intense that it even peeled the roof and wall plasters. There are several stories about the material being used to burn shops and houses. Some people told me that the material was imported from Israel to quickly dispose of dead bodies after the earth quake last year and the same is now being used to destroy Muslims. Batuk Vora, a former MLA and social activist in Ahmadabad, said that the material being used for setting things afire is called 'Latex' and was being brought from Hyderabad.
I asked a local activist in Vadodra as to how these people are able to so selectively destroy Muslim shops only without inflicting any damage to the adjacent Hindu shops? He said that they first drill that shop and then insert this material. The fire does not spill over; but destroys everything in that particular house or shop.
The story of people living in Muslim localities is no less tragic. With no work for the six weeks, thousands of people are starving. Farooq Shaikh, who is running Juhapura relief camp, says that people in relief camps may be a bit better off as they are at least getting food, but people without work with their businesses destroyed have nowhere to go. These people are also regularly tortured by police and paramilitary forces.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi says the riots have been controlled and that these were merely a reaction of the Godhra incident. People laugh at such claims. Reenuka Sharma, a PUCL activist in Vadodra, told me that everything was very finely planned. She said that riots against Muslims were planned much in advance before the Godhra incident. Details from municipality, telephone and electricity departments were being collected long before the Godhra incident in order to identify Muslim businesses.
She says that the whole plan to destroy Muslims was planned much in advance and was carried out in three phases. She adds that in the first phase they targeted Muslim shops and houses in areas where they were not numerically strong. During the second phase they attacked Muslims in mixed colonies. And now after clearing Muslims from mixed colonies they are trying to destroy Muslims in areas where they form a formidable majority. She added that in areas where there was no violence, the locals received bangles, metaphor for cowardice, together with provocative pamphlets. Several Muslim-dominated areas in Ahmadabad and elsewhere in the state are regularly being attacked by large mobs during night.
The mobs act under full police protection. Muhammad Nayeem of Juhapura said that when the rioters attacked Al-Ateeq housing colony in Ahmedabad, they were fully protected by the police. Whenever Muslims tried to defend themselves, the police fired at them. Even now the residential houses in Hindu colonies just across these destroyed housing complexes are well secured by the police who are stationed on roofs and on top floors to keep vigil. Police that did not take any action while Muslims were being set afire, now daily comb Muslim areas and torture Muslim youth. On 5 April, 75 Muslim youth were arrested by police from Teen Darwaza area in Ahmadabad after a stabbing incident and were tortured so badly that these people who have been suffering death and destruction said that they never witnessed such brutality in their life. It is becoming a normal routine for Muslims in the state.
Mahadev Vidrohi, who heads an Ahmedabad-based NGO told me that action reaction theory is being fished out by Modi to protect his skin. He says everything was planned and was organized by the VHP with full Modi support.
This was confirmed by Patel Shantilal Purshottamdas, a former deputy minister of commerce at the central government and four times Lok Sabha MP. He told me that on 27 February, after the Godhra incident, when Modi came to Godhra where he met VHP functionaries at the Circuit House. When they asked him what to do, he said that you should wear bangles. Patel who was present at the Circuit House adds that Modi told the VHP people that nothing would happen if you add one or two zeros in response.
Former Gujarat state chief minister and president of state Congress Party told me that everything is planned and executed by the VHP and the RSS with full government support. He said that nothing will change till Modi government is removed. Asked about the state government claims that the riots are planned by the ISI or other foreign powers, he laughed and said that they must themselves be ISI agents since everything is planned by these very people and no outside power or agency is involved in it. It has been learnt from reliable sources that full-time functionaries of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the like are on the payroll of leading business houses.
The Milli Gazette, April 16-30, 2002
Gujarat carnage not spontaneous outbreak of violence
Gujarat carnage was in no way a spontaneous outbreak of violence. How did the riots spread so swiftly explains MH Lakdawala
Mumbai: Tragic events like the ones we are witnessing all over Gujarat shatter lives, unsettle moral convictions and unmake the fragile establishment we normally call society. But the discourse that has slowly arisen over this violence, the terms that have gained wide currency to describe, explain, justify and excuse this violence threaten to once again render it invisible.
Just as this violence blurs the line between legality and illegality, between state and criminality, between truth and fiction, between faith and power, so it blurs the meaning of terms till we don't quite know what we are talking about. The most common description given for the Gujarat carnage is the "spontaneous" nature of the riots and the outburst of the Hindu sentiments.
The Sangh parivar wants this nation to believe that what is happening in Gujarat is nothing but the manifestation of the sentiments of the Hindus.It cannot be farther from the truth. According to social scientists, riots need, as a necessary condition, organisations that plot mass killings with governmental support. The prerequisite for any riots as social scientists have proven time and again, is that the rioters know very well, each and every one of them, that the government of the day was solidly behind them.
There is then three of this social forensics. The first, and the most obvious, one is that riots do not just happen, they are created. There are organisations that have a definite interest in fomenting riots but they need the active support of the government. When a riot takes place it is because the killers know that no harm is going to come to them. If they had the slightest fear that they might not come home, that they might be in jail, even killed, they would never have ventured out.
The killings of Sikhs in 1984 and the Bombay carnage of 1993,the Bhiwandi riots, the Meerut massacres, the killings of Christians, the Ayodhya bloodlettings all are well documented and proven beyond any doubts if proof indeed was necessary, that riots take place because social sentiments overflow normal bounds and move otherwise reasonable people to indulge in murder and mayhem. It's a myth and propaganda from the so called Hindutva representatives like RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP that Gujarat carnage was the manifestation of Hindu sentiments.
The past riots analysis and commissions findings have disproved the theory of saffron Brigade that after the Godhra episode social sentiments overflew normal bounds and led otherwise reasonable people to indulge in murder and mayhem. Why should the recent Gujarat carnage be any different from the past riots? The genesis of the 92-93Mumbai riots was the Radhabai chawl episode when few Hindus were burnt alive allegedly by the Muslim mob. Till date it is not proved whether the mob consisted of Muslims or the agents of vested interest. Even Supreme Court has acquitted all the Muslims accused in the Radhabai chawl case. The Radhabai chawl episode was exploited by the Shiv Sena to unleash the terror against the innocent Muslims of Mumbai as documented by Shrikrishna Commission.
When Shiv Sainiks went to make the Bhiwandi riots everybody knew what was going to happen. They boarded trucks in Mumbai, armed with rods and cycle chains, openly announcing their intentions. They all looked like a happy bunch out for a Sunday picnic. They knew very well, each and every one of them that the government of the day was solidly behind them.
Thus as Sangh parivar want us to believe, Gujarat carnage is in no way a spontaneous outbreak of violence. The involvement of political factors in Gujarat carnage has elements of premeditation and wilful intent to harm, kill or destroy both life as well as properties belonging to Muslims. The RSS and Jan Sangh have been censured by commissions of inquiry galore: Justice Madon on Bhiwandi; Vithavathil on Tellicherry (1971); Jitendra Narain on Jamshedpur (1979); Venugopal on Kanyakumari (1982); and Sinha and Shamsul Hasan on Bhagalpur (1989).
How do the riots spread so swiftly as they do? Prof. Paul R. Brass, a scholar of repute who has done field research in India for decades, explains in his mini-classic Theft of an Idol (1997): "Riot specialists are specialists in the conversion of incidents in the relations between the communities, in this case between Hindus and Muslims, into occasions for riots. When the time is right for the fomenting of a large-scale disturbance, then students, hooligans, low-caste persons from slums and outlying areas, criminals, and special squads of trained activists such as the members of the Bajrang Dal, will be brought in.
The Manual of rioting is back in circulation. Even as the Narendra Modi government and the Gujarat Police talk about the "spontaneous" nature of the riots that followed Godhra, the pattern of violence can be found in guidelines laid down in a pro-Hindu booklet. The booklet - Hinduno Bachao: Akraman ane Kayedo (Save Hindus: Attacks and Laws) - first surfaced in Gujarat two years ago after the withdrawal of an order that allowed government employees to participate in RSS programmes. The terror manual stated that an organised attack on minorities could be made to look like a 'spontaneous' reaction by the public. The primer illustrated how a crowd had beaten to death a boy and a girl in Halvad town many years ago in full view of court officials, but no one was prosecuted as thousands were involved.
The same pattern was followed in the post-Godhra violence in which rioters escaped under the cover of anonymity. Apart from guidelines on how to register complaints against minorities for their 'Vidharmi' (non-believer) acts, the 12-page booklet advised the Hindu 'samaj' to implicate senior missionaries in false cases. "They may not be convicted, but they should be made to go up and down the courts for months..." The mob's manual Pro-Hindu booklet says an attack on minorities can be made to look like a 'spontaneous' reaction Missionaries must be implicated in cooked up charges. Booklet illustrates how a large mob can get away with murder even if committed publicly "Now that we have our own government, we should take proper advantage of it and get our work done by it," it states.
The Milli Gazette, April 16-30, 2002
Godhra in retrospect
A news item published in the 25 February issue of Hindi daily Jan Morcha, published from Ayodhya, is as follows:
"Faizabad, 24 Feb: Trishul dharis (trishul holders) of Bajrang Dal travelling by Sabarmati Express to Ayodhya this morning let loose their terror on dozens of unarmed Muslim passengers, women in burqa and innocent children in all their fury and compelled them to raise the slogan of Jai Shri Ram. Some of them described themselves as Hindus and thus saved their lives.
According to eye-witnesses, about two thousand Bajrang Dal activists carrying trishuls and travelling by Sabarmati Express coming from Lucknow had in fact started their hooliganism from Daryabad railway station itself. Whoever among the train passengers was identified as Muslim was gored with trishuls and seriously injured by hitting with iron rods. They did not spare even women and innocent children. They tore the veils of women to shreds, hit them with iron rods and dragged them. Same rowdyism continued from Daryabad to Rudauli station. According to an eye-witness, a youngman who tried to resist was thrown out of the train between Patranga and Rauza Gaon stations. The train arrived at the Rudauli railway station around 8 in the morning. As soon as the train came to a halt, many injured ladies, drenched with blood jumped out of the train on the platform. Simultaneously, Bajrang Dal activists identified Muslims and started targetting them on the platform. One passenger Ata Mohammad, who was waiting on the platform for the train to Allahabad, was badly beaten. Some others were also compelled to raise the slogan of Jai Shri Ram. Some of them projected themselves as Hindus and saved their lives."
The Milli Gazette, April 16-30, 2002
It is not communal riots but ethnic cleansing: SAHMAT
National and international organisations continue to condemn Gujarat violence and demand that the culprits must be brought to justice, ANDALIB AKHTER reports
777 Survivors of the attack, who are now spread over many relief camps in the city, recall how the local police totally sided with the riotous mobs. The Noorani mosque was first attacked and burnt with the help of LPG cylinders, tyres, petrol and kerosene. When some Muslims youths tried to resist the mobs, the police fired upon them and even killed some of them. Residents in the camps claimed that the SRP force present refused to provide them sanctuary and forced them towards the waiting riots. 777
NEW DELHI: In the latest reports relating to Gujarat carnage, the Amnesty International and the SAHMAT, the well known human rights organisations have also accused the Modi government in Gujarat of collaborating with the rioters and asked the Centre for a free and fair inquiry in the whole incident.
Questioning the legitimacy of the enquiry by a judicial commission appointed by the state government, the Amnesty said, inquiry must be carried out by an agency appointed by the centre since the Gujarat government and its agency are themselves suspected of culpability in violence.
The Amnesty says unless the culprits were brought to justice, others might feel free to repeat the acts. The expectation of immunity from prosecution may in fact have been a cause for the open systematic and brutal nature of the violence in Gujarat the report observed.
Amnesty also points out that little has been done to ensure the safety, well being and rehabilitation of the displaced victims.
The absence of the authorities, the inadequacy of food, shelter and medical help have been detailed, as has the lack of security to the survivors. The report also documents the systematic and discriminatory violence targeted against Muslims and discriminatory approach in providing relief subsequently.
Similarly the SAHMAT, in its report has also emphasised the immediate importance of bringing the perpetrators to book and prosecute them under the criminal laws of the country. The government of Gujarat and its chief executive are widely believed to be responsible for this carnage. Therefore, the C G Shah enquiry instituted by them has little credibility the report observes.
It exhorts the central government to constitute a high level and time bound judicial enquiry by a sitting supreme-court/ high court judge to look into the entire episode to bring the guilty to justice.
The union government must direct the Gujarat government to set up such an enquiry commission, and to provide it all necessary assistance expeditiously, so that it can arrive at its finding at the earliest, it says. The SAHMAT also questioned the role of local Gujarati press and asked the press council to examine their role. Where the laws of the land have been transgressed exemplary action must be taken, so that the communal fires are not fanned again.
In its report ethnic cleansing in Ahmedabad prepared by the Sahmat team comprising Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Vishnu Nagar, Prasenjit Bose and Vijoo Krishnan observed that the incident in Ahmedabad was not a communal riot but a pogrom. All evidence suggests that what happened there was a completely one sided and targeted carnage of innocent Muslims, something much closer to a pogrom or ethnic cleansing, says the report. The report says, The selective violence that was perpetrated was done with remarkable precision, suggesting meticulous planning and collation of information over a protracted period. It also clearly indicates collusion and not merely indulgence of the state machinery and the ruling political establishment. The ground for this communal genocide was cleared in Gujarat much before the Godhra massacre.
The report has contested the official reports of casualties calling it understatement and said that the number of people killed in Ahmedabad alone would be nearly 1, 000 as against the official figure of 700 which includes the Godhra victims. An overwhelming majority of those killed are Muslims, including women are children. While most fell victims to killer mobs led by VHP Bajrang Dal activists, there were several instances of deaths due to police firing on helpless Muslims. Some eyewitness accounts suggest large-scale massacres of Muslims still continuing in the countryside. In certain cases, entire families have been exterminated in village with nobody left to lodge complaints or claim the dead bodies says the finding. It says the most prominent forms of violence experienced were pogroms led by local level VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders in Muslims dominated areas which were ghettoised by the Muslims. Naroda Pattiya has been cited as the worst instances of such an attack where a Muslims settlement of about 25,000 inhabitants was completely destroyed by rioters. " Survivors of the attack, who are now spread over several relief camps in the city, recall how the local police totally sided with the riotous mobs. The Noorani mosque was first attacked and burnt with the help of LPG cylinders, tyres, petrol and kerosene. When some Muslim youths tried to resist the mobs, the police fired upon them and even killed some of them. Residents in the camps claimed that the SRP force present refused to provide them sanctuary and forced them towards the waiting riots. Once the resistance was broken with the help of the police, the rioters stormed inside the settlement burning and looting at will, the report records. It will take generation for the victim to recover from such a pointed and vicious communal onslaught, observed the SAHMAT report.
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