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The Guardian
Muslims trapped by India's apartheid

Gujarat's Hindu nationalist chief minister, Narendar Modi, holds the media responsible for the cycle of communal bloodletting, but the blame lies largely at his doorstep, writes Luke Harding

Tuesday April 23, 2002

When will the violence in Gujarat stop? Judging by the horrific events of this weekend, not yet. Nearly two months after communal rioting first broke out in India's most infamous state, there were more deaths in Gujarat.

Some 17 people were killed and at least 100 injured in fresh Hindu-Muslim clashes. The state's main city Ahmedabad continues to burn. A group of Muslims dragged a police constable into a lane and stabbed him to death on Sunday.

The police responded by going on a killing spree, shooting dead at least six Muslims in the Gomtipur area of the city. They included an 18-year-old girl, Nazimabanu Mehmood Hussain, and her 42-year-old father. She and the other victims of what is euphemistically known as "police firing" were shot in the head at point blank range.

The depressing cycle of violence follows a now-familiar pattern in which Gujarat's partisan Hindu police force - instead of trying to stop the violence - trains its guns on India's minority community.

The response of Gujarat's unrepentant Hindu nationalist chief minister, Narendar Modi, has been to blame the media. In full-page adverts in Sunday's Indian newspapers Mr Modi accuses his critics of "malicious propaganda". They have tarnished Gujarat's reputation by spreading "untruths", he says.

Few people outside India's ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) - of which Mr Modi is a member - share this view. Last week a leaked report compiled by senior diplomats at the British high commission in New Delhi squarely pointed the finger of blame for the violence at Mr Modi and his administration.

The report also suggested that the official death toll - 800 - was a gross underestimate. A truer figure was 2,000, with the vast majority of dead Muslims, the report noted. Extremist Hindu organisations began preparing an attack against the state's Muslim community well before the Godhra tragedy, in which a Muslim mob burned to death 56 Hindus on a train, the report added.

In a declaration to be made public this week, the European Union compares events in Gujarat since February 27 with the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. "The carnage in Gujarat was a kind of apartheid ... and has parallels with Germany of the 1930s", the declaration says.

While secular Indians have been appalled by the epic scale of the retaliatory destruction in Gujarat, Mr Modi has become a hero among hardliners within the BJP and its Hindu revivalist allies. It is this, perhaps, which explains why India's BJP prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had refused to give in to persistent demands from the opposition to sack the defiant Mr Modi.

It seems that many in the BJP and its revanchist sister organisations feel that India's Muslims have finally got the beating they deserve. "The Muslims have to be taught a lesson, once and for all", Pravin Togadiya, the secretary general of the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), opined on Sunday.

Mr Vajpayee clearly finds the violence embarrassing. India's reputation internationally has suffered badly. New Delhi's previously plausible argument that the problem of extremism was one that only affected its archrival Pakistan now seems hollow. But with the BJP in deep electoral trouble, many within the ruling party believe that continuing Hindu-Muslim unrest is the best way to consolidate its Hindu vote bank and bounce back to victory in a general election scheduled for 2004.

India's ultra-nationalist home minister LK Advani - seen by many as a successor to Mr Vajpayee - has defended Mr Modi. The bodies have continued to pile up, but Mr Advani has maintained a sphinx-like silence, which appears to hint at approval. Several of the prime minister's secular coalition partners, meanwhile, have also demanded Mr Modi's dismissal.

But they have refrained from pulling the plug on the government, realising that loss of office, which an early general election would bring, means loss of influence, power, and money.

With more deaths every day Mr Modi's declaration in yesterday's Indian newspapers that "Peace is our collective responsibility" seems nothing more than a sick joke.

 

The Hindu, Opinion, Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Adivasis and the genocide

By Kalpana Kannabiran

The situation in Gujarat foregrounds the urgency of forging a broad-based alliance that brings together all marginalised groups.

THE VIOLENCE in the rural areas of Gujarat took on a very different form from that in the cities, especially Ahmedabad. In eastern Gujarat, the violence — looting and arson — was largely carried out by Adivasis against Muslims.

Chhotaudepur town is surrounded by 48 villages that have been directly affected by the violence, of which we visited two and met people from several other villages. There are 2,300 people in the relief camp, all of whom moved here over a month ago from villages where Adivasis constituted a numerical majority.

Panwad village has a population of about 11,000 of which Muslims number about 1000. There are Muslims, Adivasis, Baniyas, Lohars and Prajapatis in the village, Adivasis being in a majority. Muslims were engaged in vehicle businesses — renting trucks, tempos, jeeps etc. — brick business and a few families were engaged in agriculture. Around Panvad there were several villages with two or three Muslim families. As the trouble began on February 28, these families started coming to Panwad for shelter. At 2.30 p.m. on March 10, Adivasis from neighbouring villages began gathering in Panwad. Then the attacks began. Local leaders — all non-Adivasis — were issuing orders. The police offered no protection to the Muslim families. Two trucks and six jeeps were parked in the police station compound for safe custody while five vehicles were stationed in front of the police station even before the trouble began. All these vehicles were burnt even as the police watched. Panwad's Muslims were forced to leave the village that day. When we visited the village on April 3, the devastation was shocking. The houses were all burnt and reduced to rubble after being looted. In the soot on what remained of the walls were slogans declaring "Hindustan" to be the land of the Hindus in abusive language. We were told that there were instructions from Kiritbhai Shah that nobody should take photographs without his consent and that there should be a written permit to do so. All the Hindu houses in Panwad had a small picture frame of Radha and Krishna possibly to identify them as Hindu houses.

Fifty-five houses were destroyed in Kadwal. The village mosque was razed to the ground and the books in it were burnt. "Jai Siya Ram" was inscribed on the ground among the debris. We met the Mukhia of Kadwal and some women from the village at the relief camp in Chhotaudepur. One woman said: "After the Sabarmati Express was burnt, we didn't sleep one night. Adivasis had been given money to do this eight days earlier. What do they know of the difference between a mandir and a masjid."

Kawant village has a population of approximately 10,000, of which 1,200 are Muslims. Although there was no trouble there initially, every day the pressure on the Adivasis of the village mounted with one or two families being attacked. On March 11, the police told the Muslim families that they must move to a safe place if they wanted protection and sent 900 of them to Bodeli town, 40 km away, with escort. The 300 Muslims who remained in the village were shifted to Baroda, 115 km away, on March 12. The looting went on for four days. The village mukhia (headman) told us that the police in Bodeli put pressure on them to leave because they felt they were creating problems. So 900 of them took off in different directions.

An Adivasi schoolteacher in Joj said: "Adivasis are innocent. They were given liquor and money and forced to participate in the arson. We later spoke to the Adivasis who took part. They said they had been used. There were young boys and men. No women. The women stood and wept silently, watching the destruction. One woman from the blacksmith community asked the rioters to stop the violence. Her house was also burnt down." Some of the Muslim families asked to leave had lived in the village for 38 years. The village sarpanch is an Adivasi member of the BJP. While we did find that Adivasis had in fact been involved in the looting and arson in large numbers, the people affected by the riots did not hold the Adivasis responsible for the violence. They also recognised that the Adivasis did not really have the choice of refusing and were threatened and coerced into participating in the arson by VHP activists supported actively by the police. Where in the country is it possible for Adivasis to muster up gallons of petrol, set fire to vehicles in the presence of the police and get away?

In the village hierarchy in this entire region, the Adivasis were the most disadvantaged and were to a great extent economically dependent on the Muslims, largely money lenders and traders. The goodwill between the two groups was largely one between patron and client and had an economic base that went back several decades. This, together with the traditional positioning of the Adivasi communities, leads us to clear patterns in the violence in the tribal areas. With one exception, no Muslim was killed in the violence in the region. The involvement of Adivasis was limited to economic crimes — looting and arson. No rape or assault on women were reported from these areas. Muslims in the relief camps were emphatic in their assertion that the Adivasis did not touch them. In the case of a woman named Bilkis, an Adivasi family offered shelter and gave her clothes to wear, while Hindus of her village allegedly raped and killed all the women in her family. In Panwad, while the Adivasis were responsible for arson, the affected people in the relief camp in Chhotaudepur named three non-Adivasi Hindus who gave orders during the looting. This was further borne out during our visit to the village when we were told quite menacingly that Kiritbhai (one of the three) had said that no photographs should be taken of the village. The person who accompanied us to the village and showed us the aftermath of the violence was an Adivasi activist from the village.

Against this history, the reasons for the turnabout by the Adivasis could have two facets. One, the relationship of economic dependence is a class relation that has the clear potential of being exploitative. And here the community identity of the person with economic power is largely irrelevant — the baniya and the Muslim moneylender fulfil identical needs in the village economy in an identical manner. This potential conflict can then be channelled in any direction. A very important trend in the mobilisation strategies of the Sangh Parivar that is critical to understanding the violence in Gujarat is the mobilisation of Dalits and Adivasis against Muslims and their recruitment into one or other of the organisations of the Sangh Parivar at the lowest level, paid and mobilised to attack Muslims in village after village.

That we have even allowed this poison to penetrate this deep is a matter of serious reflection for all democratic forces in the country. The situation in Gujarat foregrounds the urgency of forging a broad-based alliance that brings together all marginalised groups and the progressive political formations that mobilise these groups into Gujarat, because we need now, more than ever before, to find strength in numbers.

But it would be impossible to close the camps down quickly.

There are an estimated 35,000 people, mostly Muslims, taking refuge - many with nowhere else to go.

And large areas of Ahmedabad are still under curfew at night, and some areas like Gomtipur are under indefinite curfew.

Even though large numbers of police and paramilitary army personnel are patrolling the streets the continuing violence has shown they cannot guarantee the safety of victimised minorities.

 

The News International, Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Four more killed as Gujarat riots continues

AHMEDABAD, India: Four people were burned to death on Tuesday in renewed communal fighting in the state of Gujarat, bringing to 30 the number of deaths in the past two days, police said.

The Hindu-Muslim clashes flared in various parts of Gujarat's largest city, Ahmedabad. Three of the dead were Muslims and the third was a Hindu, whose killing unleashed a wave of attacks on Muslim settlements and shops in the volatile old quarter of the city.

A man on a moped was attacked and burnt alive in the Vajanpur area of Ahmedabad. Seven people were injured before the army reached the area to contain the trouble and an indefinite curfew was imposed on the vicinity.

In a Muslim shanty town in eastern Ahmedabad one person died when some huts were set on fire. Hindu mobs burnt down homes of Muslims and a shrine in the Shahibagh area of Ahmedabad after a dozen shops belonging to Hindus were set on fire by a group of Muslims. In the Saraspur area, a mosque was damaged when rioters set fire to nearby huts.

Fourteen people were injured in mob violence, including one who suffered bullet wounds and six who were stabbed. The others had been pelted with stones. Rizwan Malik, a 21-year-old engineering student, said his rickshaw was attacked by a mob of 40 people and suffered head injuries. Sohaib Mehmoodbhai Gori, 19, said that before he could down the shutter of his shop he was knocked unconscious.

Hussainmiya Ahmedmiya, 50, a merchant, was stabbed in the back on his way home. "I had 5,000 rupees in my pocket. It's all gone." A mob of about 2,000 people encircled the office of Police Commissioner P C Pande shouting slogans against the police late Tuesday evening, but the crowd was dispersed, a police spokesman said.

"We have brought the situation under control but there is still tension," Ashok Narayan, the state's additional chief secretary, told Reuters. "It is an explosive situation. No one can predict what will happen where and when," a senior police official told Reuters after more areas of Ahmedabad were brought under curfew.

BJP president Jana Krishnamurthy, on a visit to Gujarat, said the party was committed to keeping order in the state. "If need be the strength of the police can also be augmented," he told AFP. "We also want the lawbreakers to be mercilessly handled and allow the law to take its course here," he said.

"For God's sake, please do something to stop these mindless killings," said 45-year-old housewife Mehrunnisa Khan. "We don't feel safe even under curfew. The sight of men in uniform (police) scares us. They have been firing selectively at Muslims."

Police deny firing at Muslims and say those who died from police bullets were caught in crossfire meant to stop rioting. The usually crowded streets of Ahmedabad's old quarter were deserted except for a few women venturing out to buy essentials or collect water. Shops were shuttered and traffic remained thin with an indefinite curfew in force in most parts of the old walled city.

Officials said the new violence had forced hundreds of more Muslims to seek shelter in crowded and filthy refugee camps, where some 110,000 people, mostly Muslims, have been living since March.

Abdul Hamid Mansoori, coordinator of a relief camp, said some 500 people had arrived at his camp in the last two days, taking the total number of refugees there to 3,000. Ahmed Ali, a refugee at the camp, said he would not take his family of six back home till the violence was over. "So far, we had only to fear attacks by Hindus. Now, even the police are targeting us (Muslims)," he said.

 

AP, Wed Apr 24, 8:48 AM ET
Police fire tear gas at Muslim protesters demanding end to violence

By RUPAK SANYAL, Associated Press Writer

AHMADABAD, India - Police fired tear gas at about 3,000 people, mostly Muslims, who demonstrated peacefully outside a police station in Gujarat state on Wednesday, demanding security forces protect them after a Hindu mob rampaged through their neighborhood.

The police have been accused of failing to do enough to protect Muslims from Hindu militants and sections of the force have even been accused of taking sides and supporting the Hindus.

Last Sunday, police officers shot nine Muslims in the head during a Hindu-Muslim clash. The state government has said it will investigate the killings and a human rights group denounced the shootings saying police deliberately targeted the Muslims.

Police said they fired tear gas on Wednesday because they feared the protesters might turn violent. No injuries were reported. More than 500 Hindu and Muslim women and children were sheltering inside the police station, in the Shahibaug area of Ahmadabad, at the time of the demonstration.

The demonstrators demanded police protection after a 5,000-strong, armed Hindu mob rampaged through Shahibaug, a mostly Muslim neighborhood, on Tuesday night blowing up cooking gas canisters to ignite fires and destroying 30 shops and a Muslim shrine.

Despite being fired at with tear gas, the demonstrators refused to leave the station until they were assured by senior officers that those responsible for Tuesday night's violence would be arrested.

Also Tuesday, hundreds of Hindu men and women stormed the local police commissioner's office. Some demanded the release of Hindus, arrested for allegedly taking part in the violence. Others demanded the closing of a relief camp housing 4,500 Muslims whose homes were razed by Hindus. The Hindu protesters said the presence of the Muslim refugees caused tension in the area.

The death toll from nearly two months of violence rose to 863 on Wednesday when a body with multiple stab wounds was found in the exclusive Law Garden area of Ahmadabad, the commercial capital, and a burned body was found near a temple in another part of the city, police said. The religions of the two dead were not known.

The sectarian fighting began on Feb. 27, when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu activists returning from a pilgrimage aimed at building a Hindu temple on the site of a mosque destroyed by a Hindu mob in 1992.

Since then, most of those killed have been Muslims, many burned alive and their businesses and homes destroyed by Hindu mobs.

The inability of the state government to stop the rioting, and allegations of police discrimination, have provoked widespread demands for the dismissal of the state's top official, Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The violence has provoked outrage from the opposition in Parliament against Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist party, which also controls Gujarat's state government.

A Parliament debate that could lead to censure of the federal government is to begin April 30.

 

The Guardian
Frantic search for British sons lost in Gujarat riots

Fears that 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, have died since unrest began

Luke Harding in New Delhi
Guardian

Wednesday April 24, 2002

The mothers of British Muslim cousins who disappeared when they were caught up in the communal riots in Gujarat nearly two months ago said last night that they had no intention of leaving India until they knew what had happened to them.

Shakheel and Sayed Dawood, who were on holiday in India, were dragged from their Jeep by a Hindu mob 45 miles from the state's main city, Ahmedabad.

Their nephew, Imran, escaped but a family friend and the driver were killed.

Ayesha and Rabia Dawood, from Batley, West Yorkshire, are camping out in their ancestral village, Lajpore.

They have distributed pamphlets and contacted relief camps where those left homeless by the riots are sheltering, but have found no trace of the two men.

Shakheel's father, Abdulhai, who has lived in England since 1959, told the Indian Express: "My son even showed the rioters his passport, telling them he wasn't an Indian national but they wouldn't listen. Their names on the passport damned them."

Their disappearance is a further embarrassment to the Indian government, already much criticised for letting the riots continue.

A report by the British high commission in New Delhi, leaked last week, blamed the continuing violence in the state on its chief minister, Narender Modi, and his government, and suggested that the official death toll of 855 was a gross underestimate. A truer figure was 2,000, mainly Muslims, it suggested.

The Dawood families are awaiting the result of DNA tests on human remains found at the scene. If the men are confirmed dead, the relatives may sue the Indian government in the British courts.

Gujarat continued to smoulder yesterday. Another 17 people were killed at the weekend, and 100 injured.

The dead included 10 Muslims shot in the head at point-blank range by police officers, apparently killed in revenge for one of their colleagues who was dragged into an alley and stabbed to death.

Three more people died in Ahmedabad yesterday.

The Indian prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has so far refused to give in to persistent opposition demands to sack Mr Modi, who belongs to the same Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.

While secular Indians have been appalled by the destruction, Mr Modi has become a hero to hardliners in the BJP and its Hindu revivalist allies.

The Gujarat state government promised yesterday that the latest police shootings would be investigated. The home secretary, K Nityanandam, said the inquiry would begin once he had learned more.

"I need to take down full details from the officers of the concerned place," he said. "But preliminary reports definitely reveal that most of these victims were shot by the police on their heads." Few outside the BJP have much confidence in his findings.

Since the rioting broke out after 59 Hindus were burned to death when a Muslim mob set fire to a train, Mr Modi's government has been accused of deliberately failing to stop Hindu gangs burning, stabbing and raping their Muslim neighbours.

About 100,000 Muslims whose homes have been destroyed are living in relief camps and have received little or no help.

Mr Modi has accused his critics of spreading "malicious propaganda".

The row about the violence has paralysed the Indian parliament for more than a week. It has also dented India's reputation internationally.

While Britain has maintained a diplomatic silence on the affair, and expressed only concern, other countries have been more damning. The Indian foreign ministry has responded by telling them to mind their own business.

Since the September 11 attacks, New Delhi has argued that extremism is an Islamic problem which afflicts only its neighbour and rival, Pakistan: a claim that seems increasingly hollow given the rise of Hindu fundamentalism.

But with the BJP in deep electoral trouble, many of its members believe that continuing Hindu-Muslim unrest is the best way to win back wobbling Hindu voters before the next general election in 2004.

The leaked British report said that extremist Hindu groups were already planning to attack Gujarat's Muslim community well before the fatal assault on the train at Godhra on February 27.

 

The Indian Express, Thursday, April 25, 2002
Gujarat high-risk, stay away: US, UK, Canada

Rakesh Sinha

New Delhi, April 24: New Delhi may construe noises on Gujarat as ‘‘interference’’ in India’s affairs but that has not prevented governments in major world capitals from warning their nationals to either steer clear or exercise great caution in travelling to the state.

In no hurry to reword mandatory travel advisories, governments are still describing the situation in Gujarat as ‘‘volatile’’ and where ‘‘potential exists for renewed violence.’’

Some like New Zealand have included Gujarat, the new entry from India after Jammu and Kashmir, in a no-no list of troubled regions and countries, advising against all travel.

In short, travelling to Sasan-Gir, the last home of the Asiatic lion, is now as risky as roaming the Aceh countryside or the Chechen mountains because that’s the league post-Godhra Gujarat has joined.

The US State department, which put out a public announcement on India on March 13, issued another two weeks later — exactly a month after the Sabarmati Express incident and long after Chief Minister Narendra Modi had certified Gujarat as normal as normalcy can be — saying ‘‘the potential exists for renewed violence similar to the mob attack on a train...and the incidents that occurred in the days following that attack.’’

Announcing postponement of non-essential US government-sponsored travel to Gujarat, including Kutch, the State department asked American citizens to defer travel to Gujarat. The US public announcement will hold good until June 26.

The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in its country advice on travel to India, maintains ‘‘the situation in Gujarat remains volatile and there is a risk of tension elsewhere in India.’’ British nationals are being told to ‘‘exercise caution and to monitor developments through the media before confirming travel arrangements. We strongly advise against travelling on highways in rural areas in Gujarat at present.’’

Ottawa’s concern over the developments in Gujarat and Ayodhya is reflected in the latest Canadian travel report on India.

‘‘Religious violence and unrest has occurred in several cities in the western state of Gujarat resulting in over 800 deaths. Curfews have been imposed in some areas. Travel to Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh and surrounding areas should be avoided due to increased tension and the high risk of violence.

Canadians in Gujarat state should lim it their travel and be particularly vigilant at all times. Travel at night should be avoided,’’ warns the April 11 report of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

In faraway Canberra, travellers to India are being reminded that ‘‘there are still ongoing tensions in India following the outbreak of communal violence in the Indian states of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh. Some cities, especially in Gujarat, still have curfews in place and while the violence is not directed at foreigners, Australians in India should pay particular attention to their personal safety.’’

The governments are not alone in alerting their nationals about Destination Gujarat. Lonely Planet, the backpacker’s gospel, has been providing a more graphic account. ‘‘Religious violence in the state of Gujarat has claimed more than 700 lives since February...simmering tensions over a site both sides (Hindus and Muslims) claim as sacred exploded in February, when a train carrying Hindu activists was set on fire, killing more than 50 people.’’

‘‘Ensuing riots turned to deadly attacks on Muslim civilians, as mobs burned houses, stores and even people, including children.

Thousands are now homeless and terrified. Although troops are now stationed in many cities in the region, the Gujarat government has been criticised for not doing more to stop the violence. The area remains very dangerous,’’ warns Lonely Planet. In other words, Sasan-Gir, Palitana, Dwarka, Junagadh and Modhera can wait.

 

The Indian Express, Thursday, April 25, 2002
London adds Kashmir insult to New Delhi’s Modi injury

J&K polls should be held with external monitors, says Foreign Secy Jack Straw, in speech to his Parliament shortly after India objects to Gujarat report

Jyoti Malhotra

New Delhi, April 24: The diplomatic fallout of the Gujarat carnage has begun to reverberate in faraway London, with the British government speaking in the same breath of ‘‘communal violence’’ in Narendra Modi’s state and the possibility of the Kashmir issue returning once again to the international agenda.

Even as an infuriated government today lashed out at what it called deliberate ‘‘leaks’’ to the media and ‘‘political interference’’ by foreign missions here on the Gujarat situation, British Foreign secretary Jack Straw struck back last week in the House of Commons in London.

In response to questions on cross-border terrorist incursions into India, Straw brought in unrelated comments about the British government’s ‘‘deep concern about the deaths and injuries on both sides of the religious divide’’ in Gujarat.

Minutes later, while replying to a question on the forthcoming elections in Jammu & Kashmir, Straw was describing as ‘‘crucial—I believe that the Indian government understand this—that they are held in a climate of peace and security and with proper facilities for external monitors.’’

Moreover, for the first time in five years, Straw abandoned the British position of assisting India and Pakistan in solving the Kashmir dispute only if requested to do so by both sides.

Condemning cross-border terrorism and saying that Pakistan has to move on India’s list of 20, Straw said, ‘‘Looking into the future, there may well be a role for observers, under the auspices of the UN, better to enforce a proper peace’’ along the Line of Control.

The British minister’s statements, made on April 16, came barely a day after a report by the British High Commission here on the ‘‘pre-planned’’ carnage in Gujarat. External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh called up Straw to express displeasure about the British mission interfering in India’s internal matters.

Outgoing High Commissioner to Britain Nareshwar Dayal brought up the British statements during his farewell call with Straw a few days ago. Official sources here said that Dayal would also raise the matter with British permanent undersecretary Michael Jay when he sees him some days from now.

Perceiving the British comments on Kashmir as a means of getting back at New Delhi for its snub on Gujarat, highly placed sources here described London’s comments as the ‘‘thin end of the wedge to lecture India’’ on well-stated issues like Kashmir.

But MEA spokesperson Nirupama Rao had reserved her harshest lines for foreign missions here for ‘‘injecting themselves into the highly politically charged internal debate in the country and creating an impression of playing a partisan role.

‘‘We note with regret that some foreign missions in India continue to interfere in the already vigorous democratic debate going on in our country, at all levels of Indian society, on the situation in Gujarat by deliberately leaking their internal reports or making substantive political comments on the subject,’’ Rao said.

Such actions were ‘‘contradictory to well-established norms of diplomacy and injurious to the friendly relations that exist between India and the European Union as well as individual European countries’’ that had been identified in the press as sources of ‘‘leaks and political interference,’’ she added.

In London, meanwhile, the British Foreign minister’s statements had come in response to a debate listed under ‘‘India (Terrorist Incursions)’’, during which a series of questions were raised on the British assessment of cross-border terrorist incursions into India, what London was doing on that score as well as why London did not urge the UN to play a more active role on the LoC.

While Straw began his answer with London’s long-held position on how ‘‘only a political dialogue, not violence and terrorism, will bring a solution to Kashmir’’ and that military mobilisations on both sides of the LoC ‘‘unfortunately’’ remained high, he went on to make his entirely voluntary remarks on Gujarat. None of the questions asked by the British MPs had anything to do with the situation in Modi’s state.

‘‘On the communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat,’’ Straw said, ‘‘we are deeply concerned about the deaths and injuries on both sides of the religious divide. We have been in regular contact with the Government of India about that, and indeed about Kashmir. They have strongly condemned the violence in Gujarat, and have given assurances, which I welcome, that they will take action to bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack.’’

MEA SLAMS MISSIONS
External Affairs ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao had some very harsh words for foreign missions which have been ‘‘deliberately leaking’’ their internal reports on the Gujarat situation:
• Some foreign countries and missions in Delhi are injecting themselves into the highly politically charged internal debate in the country and are creating an impression of playing a partisan role
• We note with regret that some foreign missions in India continue to interfere in the already vigorous democratic debate in our country
• This is an entirely internal affair. There is absolutely no need or any case for external interference

 

The News International, Thursday, April 25, 2002
Police involved in killing of Gujarat Muslims: HR groups

Police shot dead victims at point blank range; 33 Muslims die in three days

AHMEDABAD, India: Human rights activists charged on Wednesday that police in the riot-torn Indian state of Gujarat targeted and killed Muslims in an orgy of violence over the weekend.

People's Union of Civil Liberty, a rights organisation based in the state's commercial capital Ahmedabad, said it has filed a suit to India's supreme court asking it to condemn the police, whom it accuses of shooting a number of Muslims at point-blank range.

Thirty people were killed in Hindu-Muslim violence between Sunday and Tuesday, in the deadliest clashes in Gujarat since the army was deployed to keep order in early March. "The people deliberately targeted the Muslims in (the Ahmedabad neighbourhood of) Gomtipur," said Father Cedric Prakash of Prashant, another local human rights group. "Muslims in the area said they were nowhere near the mob when the police fired at them. On Tuesday, some of the policemen were teaching women in Gomtipur area to throw missiles at the Muslims' residences," he charged. Deepak Bhatia, a resident medical officer of VS Hospital, confirmed the rights groups' claims that Muslims had been shot in the head and the abdomen. But the government said police had been following proper procedure. "The guidelines for the police state that they should first resort to long- and short-range tear-gases and lathi (baton) charge, and when that fails then effective firing can be done by them," Gujarat's Home Minister Gordhan Zhadapiya told AFP.

He said it was not always possible for police to gauge their shooting range during riots. "You cannot blame the police as only they know how effective they can be at time of crisis. Only the policemen who are in the field know what to do, not people sitting in the air-conditioned rooms," Zhadapiya said.

Additional Police Commissioner Pramod Kumar said there was no rule against the police firing above the knee. "We are instructed to use effective force which in many instances can also mean fire to kill," he said.

But Girish Patel, a senior attorney at Gujarat's high court, said that by law police are required to use minimum force to prevent and control riots. "They cannot punish the rioters. But when a policeman fires indiscriminately it amounts to punishment of participants in the riots," he said.

Father Cedric added: "If the police are not equipped with riot gear, it does not give them the license to kill." Some police officers said the firing on Muslims could have been in retaliation for the death on Sunday of a police constable, who was allegedly hacked to death by members of the minority community.

Gujarat's government, which is ruled by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Hindu nationalist BJP party, has been under fire for its handling of the riots, with opposition parties accusing it of turning a blind eye to attacks on Muslims.

 

BBC, Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
UK report censures Gujarat rulers

The report is a damning indictment of the government

By Jill McGivering
BBC correspondent in Delhi

British officials in India say the recent widespread violence in the Indian state of Gujarat was pre-planned and carried out with the support of the state government.

In a damning internal report obtained by the BBC, British officials say the violence had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister remains in power.

News of the British document comes as Indian politics is in disarray with opposition parties calling for an independent inquiry into the violence.

The ruling party, the BJP, has consistently praised Gujarat's chief minister for his handling of the crisis.

Damning indictment

This leaked report is the result of an investigation into the Gujarat violence by British officials in India.

It is a damning indictment of the state government.

It says the violence, far from being spontaneous, was planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government.

The aim, it says, was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas, and it says at least 2,000 people died.

Reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims will be impossible, it concludes, while Gujarat's chief minister remains in power.

Political chaos

Britain's verdict comes as Indian politics is in turmoil in the aftermath of the Gujarat crisis.

Leaders of the right-wing BJP, which leads the coalition government, have staunchly defended the chief minister, a member of the same party.

But many in the opposition are demanding his resignation and an independent inquiry.

Britain's views may be received coldly.

As the world's largest democracy, India bitterly resents what it calls the interference of foreign powers in its affairs - all the more so when the criticisms come from a former colonial power.

 

BBC, Thursday, 25 April, 2002, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Report damns Gujarat Government

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

A leading non-governmental organisation in India - Communalism Combat - says it has evidence of government complicity in the recent communal riots in the western state of Gujarat.

The group says it has compiled the evidence in a 150-page report - Genocide 2002 - which was released in the capital Delhi on Thursday.

It said the document is based on eye-witness accounts.

The Home Minister of Gujarat, Govardhan Jhapadia, told the BBC that the report was totally baseless.

Nearly 800 people, mostly Muslims, have died in the riots which erupted in late February when a Muslim mob attacked a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 58 people.

'Partisan role'

A member of the group, Teesta Setalwad, told the BBC that right-wing Hindus had infiltrated the police as well as other state departments in Gujarat.

She said police officers did not take enough steps to control the violence.

"The state played a partisan role in these riots", Ms Setalwad said.

She said the police made only two preventive arrests after the train incident when they had enough evidence of provocative pamphlets being circulated in the name of different Hindu groups asking Hindus to rape, destroy and kill Muslims.

The report cited a case where it claims that 36 of 40 people killed in a single incident in Ahmedabad city were Muslims.

It said Hindus freely targeted the Muslims before the police took action.

Police 'guilty'

The report says the police did not carry out the mandatory drill in the riot-affected areas.

No effort was made to contact religious and community leaders for appeals of peace, the report said.

"The general message sent out to the police was that minimum response and action to panic calls should be allowed, that armed crowds of 5-15,000 should be left to do their business and complaints should not be registered or should be doctored", the report said.

The group has alleged that the police were guilty of intimidating survivors into filing complaints without identifying the accused.

The report is the latest in a series of criticisms of the Gujarat Government which has been under attack by the opposition as well as welfare groups for failing to prevent the spread of violence in the state.

 

The News International, Thursday, April 25, 2002
Infectious diseases break out in Gujarat camps

AHMEDABAD, India: Infectious diseases such as measles and jaundice have been spreading in relief camps set up for victims of the sectarian violence in Gujarat that has left thousands homeless, state officials said on Wednesday.

At least 100 people have been affected, including 19 children who have come down with measles, Mohammad Bhai K Ajmeri, coordinator of the relief camps, told AFP. He said doctors and health officials were regularly visiting the victims and giving them medicine. Some 100,000 people have poured into relief camps set up across Gujarat since Hindu-Muslim riots erupted in late February.

Entire families are living in the narrow and confined spaces of the temporary camps with makeshift cooking facilities and scant water supply. State officials said they were fumigating the camps daily to stop the diseases spreading.

Amnesty International has deplored the conditions in the camps, saying they provide inadequate food and medical care and that some of the traumatised refugees are subject to psychological abuse.

 

BBC, Friday, 26 April, 2002, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Gujarat's tales of tragedy

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi

For 12-year-old Arif Khan, the horror began when a Hindu mob surrounded his family home in the Mehasana district of India's western Gujarat state.

The crowd began by throwing stones, but it was soon to get much worse.

"This group stabbed my parents and then burnt them before my eyes," said Arif, who managed to escape the onslaught.

Arif and thousands like him fled their homes in Gujarat in late February as gangs of mostly Hindu youths went on the rampage across the state.

Victims say the police and state officials did little to protect them. Many still fear for their lives.

Anger

Nearly 800 people, mostly Muslims, died in the violence which erupted after a Muslim mob attacked a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 58 people.

Speaking to the BBC in Delhi, where they have been brought by a non-governmental organisation, several of those who fled expressed their anger and grief.

A relative of Arif, Yusuf Khan, lost his wife and two sons in the carnage. He has been living in a relief camp ever since.

"But those who killed my family and burnt down my house go scot-free and no efforts are being made by the authorities to arrest them," he said.

Their testimonies coincide with the release of a report by a leading NGO, Communalism Combat, which says it has evidence of government complicity in the rioting.

Much of the violence centred on Ahmedabad, the state's largest city.

One Ahmedabad resident, Syed Qasim Ali, 62, alleged that some policemen covered their faces and beat up Muslim women and children.

"These policemen abused us and forcibly took many of our belongings away. Are we Muslims not citizens of this country? Are we not patriotic enough?" he said.

Rape

Accounts are now also emerging of widespread rape of Muslim women during the height of the rioting.

Forty-year-old Jannat, a resident of Jawahar Nagar district in Ahmedabad, said police offered no help when the mob turned on a group including several girls.

"As we were trying to flee from the area, some members of a Hindu right-wing group who were present there asked others to take off the clothes of the women and rape them," said Jannat.

She said they raped eight girls, and then set them on fire, burning them to death.

Jannat said the situation has not changed much and Muslims are still living in fear in the state.

Another Ahmedabad resident, Rasul Mian Malik, alleged that some Hindu activists were seen inside local police stations during the rioting, proving the complicity of the authorities.

Mr Malik watched helplessly as three family members were burned to death.

"They were asking for help even as they were being burnt but I could not do anything," he said, the tears streaming down his face.

 

The Hindustan Times, Saturday, April 27, 2002
Gujarat toll is 2,000, and it was genocide: Report

IANS
New Delhi, April 26

The brutal violence unleashed in Gujarat following the burning of 58 Hindu train passengers claimed nearly 2,000 lives, a fact-finding report says.

In what is probably the most exhaustive investigation into the Gujarat carnage, Communalism Combat says the economic loss suffered by Muslims all over the state totals a staggering Rs 35 billion.

Also, mobs linked to the Gujarat government and the ruling BJP destroyed or damaged nearly 270 mosques and Islamic religious and cultural monuments since the start of sectarian violence February 27.

The death toll put out by Communalism Combat, a Mumbai-based publication edited by Javed Anand and Teesta Setalvad, is much higher than the official statistic of around 900 dead and is at par with what was reportedly put out by a British high commission document leaked by a newspaper here and whose contents have not been denied.

The 150-page report says the orgy of violence that enveloped Gujarat was nothing short of genocide.

"Even during the unspeakable horrors that communities inflicted on each other in 1946 and 1947, all organs of the state had not been directly involved in stoking the fires," it said. "Not so in Gujarat, 2002."

It said the pogrom launched by Hindu rightwing groups in response to the train killings at Godhra February 27 "sits well with what the UN defines as genocide against the innocent Muslims of Gujarat."

The report has tried to document the links between the killer mobs and groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal - groups that are collectively known as "Sangh Parivar".

"Dead bodies no longer resembled human beings: they were reduced - whenever they had not been burned to ashes - to a grotesque and pathetic sight that were a haunting reminder of the depth of hatred and the intense dehumanisation that the politics of inherent superiority and exclusiveness generates.

"Rape was used as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community. A chilling technique was the deliberate destruction of evidence - barring a few cases, women who were gang raped were thereafter hacked and burned."

The report says when the 58 train passengers, including VHP activists, died by burning, Godhra district collector Jayanthi Ravi said repeatedly over Doordarshan and All India Radio that "the incident was not pre-planned, it was an accident.

"It was only after 7-7.30 p.m., when Chief Minister Narendra Modi spoke and called it a 'pre-planned, violent act of terrorism' that the official version changed."

This theory provided the legal charge to the Hindu rightwing backlash.

It says the days preceding the Godhra carnage there was a nationwide security alert because of the Hindu rightwing campaign to build a temple at a mosque site in Ayodhya. In Mumbai, 8,000 preventive arrests were made.

"In contrast, even after Godhra happened, the Gujarat police arrested only two persons in Ahmedabad. And both were Muslims."

The report - packed with eyewitness accounts of some of the most horrendous incidents of violence and rape -- says both in 1965 and 1980 sectarian trouble in Godhra was quickly brought under control by the authorities.

"If a similar, no-nonsense and non-partisan approach had followed the Godhra incident, by promptly apprehending the suspected criminals, tension would have been contained. That this did not happen suggests a lack of intent on the part of those in government."

The report names police officers close to RSS, BJP and VHP leaders and Hindu rightwing leaders who took an active part in the fury. It says a section of the Gujarat police were brazenly anti-Muslim, pushing back Muslims who were fleeing the violence back into the hands of killers gangs.

"The government allowed the violence to spread, did not take adequate preventive measures, did not keep the army on stand-by, and once carnage had been unleashed, revealed its non-representative character farther.

"There has not been one word of apology or regret from Modi or his government."

 

The Hindustan Times, Saturday, April 27, 2002
Gujarat violence survivors recount gruesome tales of rape, killings

IANS
New Delhi, April 26

Survivors of the sectarian strife that has gripped Gujarat state for nearly two months gathered here on Friday to recount gruesome tales of killings, rape, arson and looting.

At a meeting organised by rights groups Communalism Combat and Sahmat, those who survived the violence that has claimed about 900 lives broke down as they spoke about their family members being killed and their homes being destroyed by mobs.

The common thread running through their accounts was the failure of the Gujarat police to control organised violence by mobs that they said were often aided or abetted by politicians belonging to the BJP.

Among the survivors was Raja Bundubhai, 11, who appeared to be in a daze as he spoke about his mother Jerina and sister Nasreen being stabbed and burnt alive while they tried to escape a mob at Naroda Patiya, an Ahmedabad slum that was among areas worst affected by the violence.

Speaking before a battery of television cameras, he said: "I saw it all happening. While I stood on a wall, I saw my mother and sister being stabbed. Then they sprinkled kerosene on both and burnt them alive."

Had an elderly man in the mob not intervened, Bundubhai too would have suffered the same fate as his mother and sister did. "He said, 'Don't kill the child.' Though others argued, he told me to run away. I still remember the old man's face."

The meeting's organisers referred to it as a public hearing of the survivors of the "Gujarat genocide."

Details about the meeting were announced hours before it began at 3 pm Some 40 people currently living in relief camps in Gujarat arrived here early Friday morning to narrate their harrowing experiences.

As survivor after survivor criticised Chief Minister Narendra Modi for failing to control the violence, Ibrahimbhai Ganchi, a former soldier with 17 years of service, went a step further.

Fighting back his tears, Ganchi - who lost five relatives, including his father and brother - said: "There is a fire running through my veins. If I could, I would finish off Modi. I would do to his family what he did to mine.

"I served the Indian Army for 17 years with honour and dignity. Now I just want the government to take some steps to resettle my homeless family."

Faridabibi was among those who just wanted an end to the violence. "Are humanitarian values dead in India? We have no clothes, security or homes. We don't even know if this country is ours any more.

"When will these atrocities end? What has the government being doing all these days to end the killing and bloodshed?"

The Centre has been strongly criticised by rights groups for failing to control the sectarian strife while several European nations have expressed their concern at the violence, which has been directed mostly against the Muslims.

 

Paknews.com, Updated on 2002-04-27 11:42:06
Ethnic Cleansing of muslims supported by Indian Govt : British Report

Gujrat violence pre-planned, aimed at ethnic cleansing, says report

NEW DELHI, April 27 (PNS): British officials in India say the recent widespread violence in the Indian state of Gujarat and killings of muslims was pre-planned and carried out with the support of the state government.

In a damning internal report obtained by the BBC, British officials say the violence had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the chief minister remains in power.

News of the British document comes as Indian politics is in disarray with opposition parties calling for an independent inquiry into the violence. The ruling party, the BJP, has consistently praised Gujarat's chief minister for his handling of the crisis.

This leaked report is the result of an investigation into the Gujarat violence by British officials in India. It is a damning indictment of the state government. It says the violence, far from being spontaneous, was planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government.

The aim, it says, was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas, and it says at least 2,000 people died. Reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims will be impossible, it concludes, while Gujarat's chief minister remains in power.

Britain's verdict comes as Indian politics is in turmoil in the aftermath of the Gujarat crisis. Leaders of the right-wing BJP, which leads the coalition government, have staunchly defended the chief minister, a member of the same party. But many in the opposition are demanding his resignation and an independent inquiry.

Britain's views may be received coldly. As the world's largest democracy, India bitterly resents what it calls the interference of foreign powers in its affairs - all the more so when the criticisms come from a former colonial power.

 

The News international, Editorial, Saturday, April 27, 2002
Damning report

The recrudescence of anti-Muslim riots in India occurs against the background of a damning report on communal trouble in Gujarat state by an international human rights group. The group estimates that as many as 2,000 people were killed with 100,000 displaced, mostly Muslims. The figures released by the Paris based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) completely contradict the official claims of 900 dead since the riots started after the Godhra train firing incident in February.

But the most damaging aspect of the report is the blame it places on the state government and the police for the worst violence in recent times. "...the responsibility of the Gujarat state government is inescapable. The complete failure of the Gujarat police to provide adequate protection to victims of brutality is the most glaring illustration of this irresponsibility," the FIDH observed. It even spoke of the "selective targeting of Muslim houses and shops, the storage and availability of weapons....the pattern of specific police combing of the Muslim areas...are some of the elements pointing towards an organised elaboration of the crimes."

This, however, is not the first time that an international human rights organisation has come out with such condemnatory comments on the frequent communal riots in India and the utter failure of the official apparatus to contain the trouble. In spite of the claim of secularism and democracy, most reports saw the hand of official functionaries, specially those belonging to extremist Hindu organisations in the violence. The killings in Gujarat followed an all too familiar pattern with the excuse of an alleged anti-Hindu act by Muslims being used to initiate systematic attacks on Muslims and their properties. Even after the army was deployed to control the violence, stray incidents kept on erupting without any effort by the police or local officials to protect the Muslims. An example of this trend can be seen from the fact that as many as 31 people have died since Sunday in a fresh outbreak of trouble.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, far from expressing grief over the bloody happenings has attacked international criticism of the Gujarat riots charging that "India is being advised on pluralism and secularism. We need not learn about secularism from anybody." These words seem strangely out of place at a time when India is going through a nightmare and the reality is of butchery of defenceless Muslims by Hindu mobs.

There is hardly any country in the world which can claim total internal harmony in an age when a plethora of reasons for conflict and a proliferation of weapons has brought killing to the backyards of what were once peaceful places. India with its own blood-soaked past cannot be an exception even if its leaders think otherwise. An excessive claim of non-violence and unwillingness to accept reality contribute most towards the inability of the Indian government to take effective action, not its lack of resources to do so.

 

The Hindu, Saturday, April 27, 2002
Riot victims leaving Gujarat?

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD APRIL 26. Sporadic incidents of violence continued in several parts of the Ahmedabad today in which at least one person was killed in police firing and seven persons, including two policemen, were injured in stabbing and stone throwing.

An indefinite curfew has been clamped in the entire Vejalpur police station area since this morning, extending it from three chowkies where curfew was imposed earlier. Several localities of Jamalpur and Raikhad under the Gaekwad Haveli police station were also brought under curfew following a night-long battle between two communities. According to Ataullah Khan, one of the organisers of the camp, which is behind the city Police Commissioner's office, about a 1,000 inmates of the camp had approached him for help to leave Gujarat.

About 30 per cent of the 5,000 camp inmates have already left, some back to their houses, but most of them have left the State. "Only yesterday, 15 families left for Indore to stay with their relatives there,'' he said.

The rush for leaving the camp has increased in the last couple of days and the immediate provocation was the violence outside the camp on Wednesday in which one of the camp organisers, Inamul Iraki, had been named in an FIR for "leading a violent mob" of about 60 people from the camp to Navadhpura, some distancefrom the camp. Two other inmates were also named in the FIR, but the 17 arrested so far are not from the camp. The arrest of the inmates has surprised many because the shops that had been allegedly set on fire by the mob, led by Iraki, were owned by Muslims. Iraki, who has since gone underground, said on the mobile phone that if rioting had been his intention, he would have set on fire shops owned by the Hindus just opposite the camp. Besides, at the time of the attack, when the FIR claimed he was present at the site of the incident, he was at the railway yard clearing a consignment of relief materials sent from Karnataka.

Even top police officials doubt if the FIR was based on facts. One of them said no evidence was there to establish the Sangh Parivar's allegation that the Muslims from the relief camps attacked the properties owned by Hindus in the vicinity.

 

HindustanTimes.com, April 28, 2002
Nine killed, 25 injured in Gujarat violence

AFP
Ahmedabad, April 28

Nine people were killed and about 25 injured in Gujarat overnight in renewed sectarian violence that has claimed at least 900 lives in two months, police said Sunday.

Three people were killed in Chadula Talav in Gujarat's commercial capital Ahmedabad late Saturday, when some huts were burnt by rioters, a police spokesman said.

Rioting mobs burnt more than 20 shops, houses and wayside stalls in Surendranagar district, 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Ahmedabad, after an accident in which a Hindu priest was run over by a Muslim driver, the spokesman said.

In Baroda district, 150 kilometres from (93 miles) from Ahmedabad, one man was stabbed to death and another was killed in police firing.

In new incidents of rioting in Baroda early Sunday, the police fired live rounds and lobbed more than 30 teargas shells in Paniket to disperse the mobs.

About 25 people were injured in the violence in Baroda.

Incidents of arson and stone pelting were reported from Bharuch district, some 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Ahmedabad, the police spokesman added.

Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat erupted after an alleged Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 58 people on February 27.

Police said Friday the death toll had reached about 900.

Western diplomats and international human rights groups have said the toll is in fact much higher, putting it at between 2,000 and 3,000.

Meanwhile Sunday, Defence Minister George Fernandes, accompanied by Law Minister Arun Jaitley and Gujarat's chief minister Narendra Modi, began a peace march through Ahmedabad.

About 500 people including leaders of the main opposition Congress party joined the march, covering a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) route through the city, a government spokesman said.

 

The Times of India, Sunday, April 28, 2002
UK Gujaratis for UN fact-finding team

RASHMEE Z AHMED

LONDON: Leading members of the British Gujarati community have asked the government to support their demand for a UN fact-finding team to travel to their violence-scarred home state in the same way as United Nations experts are being sent to Jenin in the Palestinian territories.

The demand was publicly raised by Lord Adam Patel, a Gujarati peer from Bharuch, who is one of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s oldest and closest friends, at a 400-strong meeting attended by leading Gujarati Hindus and Muslims in Straw’s Lancashire constituency of Blackburn.

Lord Patel, who declined to reveal Straw’s response to his demand when he originally raised it some time ago, told The Sunday Times of India, "the British foreign secretary’s relations with the Gujarati community are good and Straw’s relations with India are good. All we are asking that a crime against humanity be investigated, something the Indian government itself should have done".

The Labour peer’s demand comes at a time of increasingly frenetic liasion activity between British MPs and their angry Gujarati Hindu and Muslim constituents, as all sides join together to condemn the continuing violence.

According to those present, Straw had originally not been listed to speak at the Friday night Blackburn meeting, but was forced to explain the British government’s position to the wrathful assembled Gujaratis.

They blamed Tony Blair’s government’s for its "inaction and duplicity in being concerned about Zimbabwe’s whites but not Britain’s Gujaratis".

Straw reportedly calmly replied: "These are allegations, please remember we have to deal with a (Indian) government, there are some proper channels, but I did personally institute and order an inquiry".

Commentators said Straw’s reported claim that he personally ordered the controversial and leaked report compiled by the British High Commission’s fact-finding team, which has been described as "damning by the BBC", is likely to further infuriate the Indian government, which has already warned foreign governments to desist from playing domestic politics with Gujarat.

An estimated 65 per cent of Straw’s Blackburn constituency is composed of Gujarati Muslims.

Habibullah Akudi, a close friend and neighbour of the dead British Gujarati, Mohammed Aswat, met Straw privately after the public question-and-answer session. Akudi claimed Straw responded reassuringly when asked if he would "help British Gujaratis complete the work he (Straw) had started".

Akudi further claimed that Straw said "I and my government will help in every possible way to achieve this" when asked if a watertight legal case against Narendra Modi would receive due consideration for filing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ)at The Hague.

An ICJ case can only be filed by a state.

Lord Patel, who stressed he spoke only as a Labour peer, said the British government was doing all it could, but he did not believe it would sully relations with India. "Why should they for one or two cases?"

Sources pointed out, however, that British support for Lord Patel’s demand for a UN team might be seen as less controversial.

By all accounts, the Friday night meeting showcased Gujarati unity, with prominent Hindu poet Praful Amin crying real tears before the Foreign Secretary as he read out a specially-composed couplet asking for the "outrage" to be halted.

Lord Patel said, "Straw condemned the continuing violence as a crime against humanity and added that the toll was not 2000 Muslims and 50 Hindus killed, but 2050 human beings killed".

 

Times of India, Monday, April 29, 2002
‘Muslims are building walls’

OLKATA: The Gujarat carnage has taken a lot out of Sayeeda Hamid. You can see the pain in the eyes of Hamid, who was part of the six-member enquiry delegation which visited Gujarat in end-March.

Hamid, who has worked tirelessly for the rights of minority women, is the founder of the Muslim Women’s Forum and a former member of the National Women’s Commission. The delegation visited seven relief camps set up for the Gujarat victims.

The team submitted a report on its findings, based primarily on the testimony of women victims, on April 16.

The report opens with these poignant lines by Vali Gujarati, the seventeenth century poet whose tomb was razed to the ground on February 28:

My heart is thorn-filled with longing for Gujarat

Restless, frantic, flame-wrapped in the spring

On earth there exists no balm for its wounds

My heart split asunder by the dagger of separation.

Hamid spoke to Ronojoy Sen.

What is the condition in the relief camps?

Nothing had prepared us for what we saw. Ahmedabad is now split into two cites. One where life goes on as usual with all the glitter, the shopping and cinema halls. The other is the Muslim areas which is deserted and where a curfew-like situation prevails. The conditions in the camps are appalling. We went first to the Shah Alam camp where there are 8-10,000 refugees and only 22 toilets. The stench is unbearable and the camps are unlivable.

What were the main findings and recommendations of your report?

Some of our primary findings are: the pattern of violence does not indicate spontaneous violence; compelling evidence of sexual violence against women with the majority of rape victims being burnt; evidence of state and police complicity; alarming trend towards ghettoization; and the role of the vernacular press in provoking sexual violence. We have recommended among other things relief and rehabilitation, establishment of special courts, invocation of international instruments, registration of FIRs and collection of evidence. There is also an urgent need of counselling.

Was the involvement of the state government in the violence clear?

The violence in Gujarat was not the result of riots. It was genocide, a progrom by the state. The protector became the predators. In all the testimony that we collected the police was seen as actively aiding and abetting the violence. Several politicians, including MLA Maya Kodnani and ministers like Pandya and Zaphadia, have been named in FIRs. That the violence was not unstoppable was proved by some good officers like Godhra district magistrate Jayanti Ravi, who ensured there was no violence in her area in the aftermath of the torching of the train.

Were there any warning signals for the violence?

Most NGOs have been involved with developmental issues while the cancer of communalism was spreading. Things like an economic boycott of Muslims, government servants in Gujarat being allowed to join the RSS and the flow of NRI funds were pointers to the violence.

Is the cancer spreading elsewhere?

The myth of Godhra, that Muslim men raped Hindu women, has taken root. Everywhere Muslims are beginning to build walls around themselves.

How has the Gujarat violence affected your sense of identity?

Today I feel more Muslim than ever. I have always been a believing Muslim, but I have never agreed with fundamentalists and the mullah lobby. Today I am glad that I live in a Muslim area.

 

HindustanTimes.com, April 29, 2002
Peace still elusive, but Gujarat is winding up refugee camps

Ashraf Sayed (IANS)
Gandhinagar, April 29

Virtually ignoring calls to help victims rebuild their lives, the Gujarat government has instead begun winding up camps for those displaced in two months of sectarian bloodletting.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi's government on Saturday ordered the closing down of four relief camps in eastern Gujarat's Dohad district, which adjoins Godhra town of Panchamahals district where a train torching February 27 sparked the orgy of violence that has claimed nearly 925 lives.

The Dohad camps ordered shut have 2,170 victims living in them. The government is also reportedly pressing organisers of other camps across the state -- which house about 100,000 victims -- to send the refugees back home.

The opposition Congress Party and several NGOs said the Modi government was trying to create a false impression of a return to normalcy by winding up refuge camps. They pointed out that the violence had not yet ended and many of the refugees had nowhere to go as their homes had been destroyed.

Former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela of the Congress said the government decision on Dohad was taken with an eye on the Parliament discussion on the carnage Tuesday when the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- which rules Gujarat and leads the federal coalition -- would be flayed for its handling of the situation as well as Modi's failure to check the bloodshed and protect Muslims.

Modi, who has been accused of abetting mobs that targetted Muslims after several volunteers of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were torched in Godhra, has in turn charged the opposition with "adding fuel to the communal fire" in Gujarat.

And his Urban Development Minister I.K. Jadeja has accused some camp inmates of indulging in "anti-social activities" and keeping the communal passions smouldering.

NGO activists have described the camp closure order as "vindictive," saying there was no guarantee that the inmates would be safe when they returned to their homes.

Several NGOs and inmates of relief camps have also alleged that the police are refusing to register complaints of murder, rape, arson and damage to property. They have accused the state machinery of colluding with the marauding mobs -- mostly led by Hindu zealots -- that played out a macabre dance of death in several parts of Gujarat.

 

The News Internaional, Monday, April 29, 2002
Trial of Gujarat rioters by international court demanded

BANGALORE: A joint investigation by British and Indian organisations into the Hindu-Muslim riots in the state of Gujarat demanded on Sunday the trial of those responsible for violence by an international court. The Indian chapter of Britain's Oxfam and the domestic Bangalore Initiative for Peace and Relief called the riots, which have left some 900 people dead, most of them Muslims, an "assault on humanity."

"It is a permanent black spot on modern India," the joint report, unveiled in this southern Indian city, said. "While any punishment for the perpetuators will never help to bring back the lives that have been lost and the damaged social fabric, it will help as a deterrent force," the report added.

"This becomes more important in an emotionally sensitive and communally charged context," it said. The report said the deadly sectarian violence in Gujarat had tenors of genocide. "It is important to look at the global experience of responding to those who have committed crimes against humanity."

 

The News International, Tuesday, April 30, 2002
'India not helping to find missing Britons'

LONDON: A relative of two Britons who disappeared during sectarian violence in the Indian state of Gujarat accused Indian authorities Monday of not doing enough to find the men. Shakil and Saeed Dawood from northern England have not been seen since the minibus in which they were traveling was attacked by a mob and set alight in February Another family member Imran Dawood was injured and Briton Mohammed Aswat Nallabhai, 42, was killed.

Yusuf Dawood, who traveled to Gujarat earlier this month to trace his missing relatives, said Monday Indian authorities were doing little to help British officials find the men. "Concerted efforts don't seem to be being mounted regarding my brother and cousin, although it was promised to us by the Indian authorities,'' he told the British Broadcasting Corp.

"The (British) consular services, particularly in Bombay, have been working very hard, but their backs are against the wall because they are heavily reliant on the Indian authorities and I think very little has been provided to them,'' he added.

The four men were on a social visit to India and were traveling by minibus from New Delhi to the village of Lajpur in Gujarat state when they were attacked near Himmatnagar, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Ahmadabad.

 

The News International, Tuesday, April 30, 2002
Four die in Gujarat in wake of peace march

AHMEDABAD, India: Four people were killed and several injured in communal violence overnight in India's western state of Gujarat, hours after senior leaders led a march calling for an end to two months of Hindu-Muslim bloodshed, police said on Monday. Two people who were injured on Sunday night by a bomb planted in Gujarat's commercial capital Ahmedabad succumbed to their injuries on Monday, police said.

Another two people were killed overnight when police opened fire to control a mob that went on the rampage in Ahmedabad, they said. The violence occurred in Ahmedabad's Kalupur district, where India's Defence Minister George Fernandes and Gujarat's controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi led a peace march on Sunday.

Fernandes, who was sent to Gujarat to represent the Hindu nationalist-led federal government, called on people to rid themselves of "all sorts of misunderstandings and feelings of anger and revenge." India's parliament is due to vote on Tuesday on an opposition-sponsored resolution that would condemn the attacks on religious minorities as a failure of the government.

Modi, a member of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's BJP party, has been accused of turning a blind or even sympathetic eye to the assault on Muslims. But the BJP has refused to accept his resignation, calling on him instead to seek a fresh mandate in early elections. Police also reported stone-pelting and arson overnight in Ahmedabad's Vadodara area.

 

The News International, Tuesday, April 30, 2002
'Shameless'

A Personal View by Inayatullah

I am ashamed" said Mr Vajpayee weeks after the start of the horrific happenings in the Gujarat state. His conduct as Prime Minister of a much-trumpeted secular and democratic state does not stand up to the regret and remorse implied in his quoted remark. Hence the caption of this column (borrowed from the Economist).

It took more than a month for Mr Vajpayee to visit the BJP-ruled, pogrom-stricken state, just for a day. He could however find time, for days, to trudge around foreign countries far away in the east. He has let the frenzied mobs and a complicit government carry out systematically the killing of Muslims and destroying their properties and businesses. At Goa in the BJP executive council meeting he just would not criticise, leave aside condemn Narendra Modi, the perpetrator of the unspeakable carnage in Ahmedabad and other places. All the protests and appeals by the press, some of the coalition partners and the opposition to remove Mr Modi have fallen on deaf ears. The Prime Minister on the other hand has all along been speaking in the strain of L K Advani's remarkable pronouncement that "violence in Gujarat was brought under control in 72 hours". At one point he went to the length of airing his belief that there was something intrinsically wrong with the Muslims and by implications with Islam itself.

Mr Vajpayee has thus himself, destroyed his image of a modest and moderate and even a liberal politician with the potential to rise to the heights of a statesman. His articulated musings on the first days of the new millennium years in which he expressed his longing for peace and departure from the beaten path had projected him as a leader with a difference. Alas, it now transpires, all of it was a fa┴ade behind which stood a dyed in the wool RSS Swayamsevak. It was not for nothing that addressing a gathering of Vishwa Hindu Parishad soul mates at Staten Island (New York) in September 2000 he confessed his lifelong loyalty to the cult, as a karsevak. There he also lamented that his government has been denied a 2/3rd majority otherwise "we would have built the India of our dreams". He could not do so on his own but his lieutenant Mr Modi certainly is busy doing just that with the blessing of the high command.

The world has finally woken up to the horrors of the "colossal tragedy" as Sonia Ghandi has put it. There is indeed a need to know and understand what has been happening in the Gujarat State -- almost non-stop. Just read the graphic account recorded by K N Panniker in The Hindu of 23rd March, 2002: "What made the carnage unprecedented was that it was not a communal riot, the fury of which Ahmedabadis had experienced, in ample measure in the past. It was a state-sponsored, supported and if the eyewitnesses are to be believed, even state-directed attempt at ethnic cleansing. From the RSS Pracharak Chief Minister to the police constable in the street everyone appears to have "admirably" performed his role. While the RSS and VHP goons went around the city armed with lethal weapons, gas and oxygen cylinders and petrol, the state machinery stood aloof, permitting full play to the mayhem. The names of at least two Ministers are mentioned by many victims as instigating and directing the crowd. Both the Chief Minister and the Home Minister are accused of either involvement or abdication of duties, which ensured that the police did not take adequate steps to contain the violence. In the Naroda fruit market, 17 Muslim-owned shops have been gutted. Hardly a single Muslim business establishment has been spared. The Hindutva message to the majorities, as Prof Shamshi says, is clear: there is no place for them in the nation, except by sufferance. The Muslim colonies were raided by thousands of well-armed VHP-RSS activists, in some areas led by local leaders. One of the worst hit areas in Naroda was an entire colony of more than 5,000 inhabitants which was repeatedly attacked, subjecting women to unprintable atrocities. Ram Sajeevan Saroj who was a witness to the attack said about 15,000 people roamed the area from 9 am till late in the night. The police was conspicuously absent leaving the locality completely under the control of the armed mob. About 700 people were reportedly killed, some of them pushed into a well. Several women were gang raped and the number of young girls missing is not certain. About 30 mosques and Darghas have been razed to the ground." Mr Pannikar adds that the attempt to justify the mass murder of the members of a community by the Chief Minister, the Police Commissioner and other BJP leaders on the grounds of being a spontaneous reaction is appalling. Narendara Modi's Gujarat, he says, is the blue print of a future if the Indian state comes fully under the control of Sangh Parivar.

All this took place according to Mr Pannikar in just five days. And this madness continues unchecked with hundreds of thousands of Muslims having taken refuge in ill-kept, ill-provided and insecure camps.

The recent reports released by human rights groups in France and other European countries are, to say the least, shocking. Perhaps the most credible account has come from the British official sources. This is what The Hinudstan Times wrote on 27th April, "In a damning internal report, British officials in India have said the recent widespread violence in Gujarat was 'pre-planned' and 'carried out' with the support of the state government. According to BBC, which has obtained a copy of the report, British officials claimed the violence had all the 'hallmarks of ethnic cleansing' and 'reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims is impossible while the Chief Minister Narendra Modi remains in power.' The report said 'far from being spontaneous, it was planned, possibly months in advance, carried out by an extremist Hindu organisation with the support of the state government.' It said, 'The aim was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas and at least 2,000 people have died in the violence.'"

It is the myopic and puerile reactions of the holders of the highest offices in India to the concerns of the international community (USA mostly and intriguingly remaining mum) that should worry the Muslims and the smaller countries in South Asia. Jaswint Singh's remark that some foreign countries and missions in Delhi had been indulging in "foreign interference in India's internal affairs" has been severely criticised editorially by the Indian Press. As if the world should take no notice of ethnic cleansing going on in Gujarat as against the happenings in Bosnia, Kosovo and other places. As The Hindu put it: If new Delhi cannot tolerate an international plain-speak on human rights and on the basic principles of democracy and tolerance, how can India claim a participatory role in the multi-lateral efforts to shape the global order of unfolding post-Cold War period? Shekhar Gupta too has taken Jaswant and Vajpayee to task on this account, makes the telling observation that post-9/11 diplomacy is not run by acquiring the image of "being anti-Muslim, of running a government that cannot prevent the slaughtering of minorities, rape of their women and burning of their babies". Ridiculing Vajpayee's Don't Sermonise Us posturing, Gupta writes: When we tell the Europeans, the Chinese and the Americans to shut up and mind their own business, "it only brings us contempt and derision."

Even these strong words have fallen flat on BJP leadership, represent as they do a fundamentalist religious party which is bent upon carrying out a radical communal Hindu agenda which includes, inter alia, the re-writing of history, the cleansing of minorities and brow-beating the neighbours. The world and Pakistan in particular must take notice of these developments (along with ongoing brutal state terrorism in Kashmir) and strive to counter India's unwholesome and unacceptable designs. Mr Vajpayee has finally pulled off the mask for every one to see the true face of a dedicated Vishwa Hindu Parishad karsevak.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist

 

The Hindu, Opinion, Tuesday, April 30, 2002
BJP on the defensive, not apologetic

By Kuldip Nayar

Tainted reputations and battered images cannot be repaired by mere slogans and rhetoric. ``India does not have to learn secularism from others'', says the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Brave words! But secularism is not about completing the full term or coalescing a majority in the Lok Sabha. Secularism means certain basic values, which do not brook communal bias or parochial attitude. You cannot talk about Hindutva and secularism in the same breath because mixing religion with politics is the antithesis of what secularism is all about.

The RSS-BJP apex meetings at the Prime Minister's residence is a pointer. A political body is discussing with a religion-oriented organisation to have a common approach on the happenings like the carnage in Gujarat. There is not even an adverse remark, much less action, against the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who has come to epitomise all the evil in the State. Nor is there any criticism of terrorist groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which Mr. Modi used to try to exterminate the minority community in the State. Once again, what has come out of the meetings is the Sangh Parivar's obsession on how to advance its agenda - uniting Hindus through Hindutva.

However, one thing which the meetings have done is to obliterate the impression that the RSS and the BJP had different philosophies. Mr. Vajpayee exposed himself earlier at Goa. Now the BJP has again been found to be at the beck and call of the RSS, a Hindu fundamental organisation by any standard.

The Prime Minister should realise that since he has assumed power, the fabric of India has got asunder. Whether through an attempt to rewrite history or enacting the POTO to silence dissenters, the country has been exposed to communalism and authoritarianism. The minorities live in an atmosphere of insecurity and feel helpless.

In the last decade, from the time L.K. Advani led the rath yatra to the Gujarat happenings, there have been more killings in communal riots than in the 150 years of foreign rule. India will survive the Sangh Parivar. But what kind of country will it leave behind is too horrible even to imagine. The nation would have liked to hear from the Prime Minister on the progress made in the relief and rehabilitation work, something which he declared would be monitored by his office. From all accounts, it is apparent that the Modi Government is concentrating more on finding ``terrorists'' in the refugee camps than on helping the inmates to restart their lives. The stories told by the children who saw the horror with their own eyes are too horrifying to be even retold. The BJP is on the defensive, not apologetic.

The state machinery is so contaminated and its personnel so afraid of being impartial that there is very little effort to bring back normality. Gujarat bleeds even after two months. A peace march, headed by Mr. Modi, does not evoke confidence because he arouses anger. The Prime Minister has said again and again that Gujarat is a shame. What has he done to atone for the guilt? Mr. Modi is very much there and so is the VHP, his instrument. Mr. Vajpayee has repeatedly admonished the foreigners. They are not interfering but feeling appalled over the country which they have found more liberal and accommodative than many in the democratic Europe.

The BJP's faith in secularism will be judged from the confidence it instils in the minds of the minorities. Pluralism is not a matter of policy, it is a creed. This is what the Hindutva forces do not seem to appreciate!

 

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