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Asia Times, May 03, 2002
India's secularism and dirty politics

By Sultan Shahin

NEW DELHI - India's secular pretensions lie in tatters. More so because of the way the so-called secular parties are conducting themselves. The Hindu fundamentalist government in the western state of Gujarat has been orchestrating a genocide of Muslim minorities for the past two months. But it is doing so with the help of its so-called secular allies in the central government.

Just one of the 22 so-called secular parties supporting the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government voted this week for the mildest of censure motions that had been brought by a member of the Lower House of parliament, Ramji Lal Suman of the opposition Samajwadi Party, even though the censure would not have brought the government down if passed.

It would have only been an embarrassment and probably an additional pressure to stop the continuing series of massacres that have already cost Muslims heavily in Gujarat - at least 1,000 dead (government figures), 2,500 missing and presumed dead, 420 mosques and other Muslim shrines destroyed and scores of them converted into temples. At least 140,000 Muslims are now refugees, unable or too scared to return to their homes.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission has condemned the Gujarat atrocities and said that they were as bad as - if not worse than - what happened in Nazi Germany, where Hitler and his men killed millions of Jews in carrying out his "Final Solution". Two former prime ministers of India, Chandra Shekhar and H D Dev Gowda, made the same Nazi reference during the debate on the censure motion.

A sister organization of the BJP, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP- World Hindu Forum) has already called for "the final settlement" of the question of Muslim and Christian minorities. Media opinion is firming up that the BJP will continue the massacres until elections in Gujarat, which may be held in September, and if the experiment does bring electoral dividends, as it is widely expected to, it will be conducted on an even bigger scale at the national level. If Muslims start retaliating or, unable to do so in the absence of police support, start engaging in terrorist acts, this will make the task of Hindu militants even easier.

The leader of the opposition, Sonia Gandhi, in parliament reiterated calls for the immediate dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and launched a personal attack on Vajpayee and his party for their handling of the crisis. She highlighted the apparent discrepancy between Vajpayee's initial appeals for communal harmony in BJP-ruled Gujarat and later remarks that Muslims were incapable of living in peace with other communities. "One day he offers sympathy, the next day he condemns the whole community," she said."When the prime minister himself engages in such double-speak, what can the nation expect from his government?" Warning that the unabated violence in Gujarat had tarnished India's image "the world over", Gandhi appealed to Vajpayee's "nobler instincts" to rise above party considerations, bring the guilty to book and sack Modi for failing in his constitutional duties.

In a report published on Monday, the US-based Human Rights Watch said that BJP members were directly implicated in the killings of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat and accused the state government of engaging in a "massive cover-up". The embassies of Britain and other Western countries as well as the European Union, whose reports have been leaked to the press, have also made the same accusations, using terms such as "ethnic cleansing" and "genocide".

The atrocities are said to have begun as revenge for an attack on a train bring Hindu militants back from Ayodhya, a temple town in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), where they had demolished a mosque in 1992 and are now trying to build a temple on the site, in defiance of the orders of the country's highest court. The attack was allegedly made by Muslims, though official investigation is still going on and even after two months police say they do not know who was responsible. Fifty-eight passengers, innocent men, women and children were burned to death. Curiously, not one of the Hindu militants is said to have died in the arson.

In alleged retaliation, hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat were systematically butchered. According to independent reports based on eyewitness accounts prepared by judges and NGOs, there is evidence that the pogrom had been planned several months in advance. Hindu mobs were incited and the killings were orchestrated by the BJP government itself.

The more it is examined, the worse it looks, said the British weekly Economist this week. It added, "At the time, the rioting, arson, rape, looting and murder that erupted in Gujarat at the end of February appeared appalling enough. But even worse is the evidence that has mounted ever since that this was not, as the state government pretended, a spontaneous response by the majority Hindu population to an atrocity committed by a Muslim mob. Rather, as the issue is debated in parliament in Delhi, a more sinister interpretation has gained currency: that the attacks on Muslims were long-planned. They seem to have been conducted with what Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the opposition, called the 'deliberate connivance' of the state government."

Calling the ruling BJP "shameless", it said, "The BJP has for several years seemed to treat its Hindu nationalist ideology as a political liability. Now, when that ideology is showing its dangerous and shameful side, the party has suddenly chosen to reaffirm it."

Ironically, it was Defense Minister and convener of the coalition, George Fernandes, a life-long socialist and votary of secularism, who had brought down the Janata Party government in 1979 on the question of Hindu fundamentalist links of Vajpayee (then foreign minister) and Lal Krishan Advani (then information minister), who rose to defend the Vajpayee government's unabashed support for anti-minority pogroms in a state ruled by the BJP alone.

Fernandes said, "Opposition leaders are making it out as if an anti-Muslim pogrom is being conducted for the first time. They are giving such graphic details of pregnant women having their wombs pierced, fetuses taken out, mutilated and thrown into bonfires, young girls being gang-raped in front of their mothers on the roads till they die, their dead bodies chopped into pieces and then burnt and so on. But what is the big fuss? Has all this not been happening since independence? There have been 15,000 massacres in the last 55 years since independence. Big deal."

While the BJP and other secular parties in Vajpayee's coalition are pleased with his performance in defense of the indefensible, women's groups and social activists are up in arms. They accuse him of monumental insensitivity. Many found Fernandes' speech unbelievable. Noted film star, social activist and member of parliament Shabana Azmi told a TV audience she had to check her earphone several times to make sure her hearing was not impaired.

Brinda Karat of the Women's Federation was aghast. Along with many others she thinks that the need of the hour is to give a healing touch to the victims, see to it that at least FIRs (first information reports) are registered at the police stations - only three FIRs involving rape cases have been recorded so far and that, too, without the name of the rapists, even though the victim was able to identify them as they were senior functionaries of the governments, including BJP ministers, office bearers of the VHP and Bajrang Dal and police officials. The few FIRs that have been recorded only accuse a faceless Hindu tola (mob). Even Star television's celebrity anchor Burkha Dutt was not able to persuade a police officer to record a rape FIR giving specific names of three of the four rapists whom the victim could identify.

But Fernandes does have a point. Civil society is indeed making a big fuss. FIRs would only add to the workload on the hapless, overworked police. Have enough victims of rape or murder received justice in the past 54 years of independence to make one expect them to get justice now?

Secularism is not quite dead, however. Coal and Mines Minister and dalit (untouchable) leader from Bihar, Ram Vilas Paswan, quit the Vajpayee cabinet in protest against the handling of the situation in Gujarat and voted for the censure motion. Paswan's Lok Janshakti (People's Power) Party, which has four MPs, also severed its association with the ruling National Democratic Alliance . Cynics say that his unhappiness with a change in his portfolio and the BJP's alliance with another dalit party, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), was the real trigger. While he may have been unhappy with these developments, one would rather believe that he sacrificed his ministry on the altar of secularism.

Another offer of resignation came from the junior Minister for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah, son of Kashmir's chief minister Farooq Abdullah, on the plea that his party's national conference had decided to abstain from voting on the censure motion. But he was to leave in a month's time anyway. His father is fed up with militancy-infected Kashmir and wants him to take over the family business - Farooq himself is the son of the great Sheikh Abdullah - of running Kashmir's administration with the blessings of the center, no matter who is ruling there. Elections are due in a few months and a little secular posturing in a Muslim-majority state would do no harm, particularly if you are no longer sure if the center wants you to win there again. The party, however, could not go the whole hog and vote for the censure motion as Farooq Abdullah is lobbying for the nomination to the largely ceremonial post of India's vice president, if not president itself.

Worried about losing his Muslim vote bank, and yet not finding it easy to let a lucrative relationship with the government go, a terrified Telgu Desham Party (TDP) leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandra Babu Naidu nevertheless mustered the courage to ask his party to walk out of parliament. But it has already cost him dearly. The BJP no longer wants a TDP member as speaker of the Lower House, a slot that was with the party until its nominee died in an accident a couple of months ago. Secularism does have its price. According to the BJP spokesperson, this post should only go to some party that is fully with the BJP.

Like Fernandes, Vajpayee, too, was angry at the mention by opposition leaders of so many public rapes, calling the numbers an exaggeration.

Meanwhile, the anti-Muslim pogrom continues - in "small, sporadic incidents" as the state government describes it. Mobs continue their premeditated attacks on "minority areas". A senior police officer was quoted as having said, "The problem ceases to be purely that of law and order. We have spent practically every night in the past 60 days preventing such mobs from burning women and children to death. A solution must be evolved, and fast. This madness has to end." But the state government is not cracking down on the mobs.

A debate in the Upper House of parliament on Thursday is likely to see the BJP censored as the opposition has a majority there. But given the brazenness with which the BJP is functioning it need not feel any embarrassment. The opposition has accused Vajpayee's coalition, which has fewer than 100 members in the 245-member upper house, of destroying the secular foundations of mainly Hindu India by failing to protect Muslims.

Nevertheless, the parliamentary debate on Gujarat, whatever its caliber - some found it more like a sordid street-side brawl - has underlined the possibility of the BJP turning once again into the pariah that it was before 1998. It has definitely dented its credibility as an alliance which before Gujarat looked like standing on a sound footing.

For the moment, however, it has merely shown the strength of opportunism in Indian politics over commitment to any kind of principles. It has completely exposed the so-called secular allies of the BJP, making it perhaps even more difficult for them to move away from the alliance. Those like Mamta Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress and Chandrababu Naidu (TDP), who tried to eat their cakes and have them too, will probably suffer more in the coming days as their credibility lies in tatters.

 

The News International, Saturday, May 04, 2002
India's communal riots or pogroms?

Rasul Bakhsh Rais

The writer is Director, Area Study Centre, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad

It is unbelievable, but sadly it is true. The tragedy of Muslim men, women, children and their families in the Indian state of Gujarat is not because of communal riots, as the state and central governments in that country would like every one to believe, but a result of well-orchestrated campaign by the state functionaries, party workers and local political leaders. The riots, which are common phenomena in our part of the world, are different from organised, coordinated and centrally directed violence against a target group or a community. Who are the culprits and perpetrators of violence against Muslims? What is their aim? Why the state and central government have done nothing or very little to stop the carnage? These are some of the questions that have been bothering the sane citizens in India and of the world community.

Nothing can grieve and sadden the citizens of a country more than the sickening fact that their own government, which has the fundamental responsibility of protecting their lives and properties, has sanctioned attacks against them. This is not the political propaganda stuff that the Indian government can easily shrug off, but some hard facts that a number of human rights groups have brought to the attention of the world community. Not one or two, but several of the groups have almost similar findings about what has actually happened and is happening in Gujarat. The notable among them are Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights and British officers inquiry report. While narrating the painful story of suffering of mainly the Muslim community, they reach the same conclusion: the complicity of the local police officials, municipal administration, the party activists and supporters of the chief minister of the Gujarat state in organising and executing pogroms.

Contrary to the political lies of the government there, the communal carnage was not a spontaneous mob action, but a well-planned and carefully crafted scheme to target businesses, houses and families of Muslims and their neighbourhoods. And it was not just one act but series of violent acts that have continued unabated even after two months. The tragedy of Gujarat reminds one the communal frenzy of the partition days. Then, torn apart by hate, fear, and opportunity to grab others property or just exploit the vulnerability of the helpless families, the neighbours fell upon neighbours whom they had known for generations.

Is it any different today? Not really. It is no different from the past episodes of targeted violence; neither in form nor in spirit, motivation or targeting. Then, at the time of partition, one could excuse the new governments that were still finding their feet on the ground and the gigantic task of dealing with sub-continental-wise madness, but India of today cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of communal violence. More distressful is the fact that those who form the dominant portion of the ruling coalition in the Centre, the BJP and its pillars of violent outfits have deeply been involved in abetting, inciting and actively participating in violence against the religious minorities. This primitive mindset, which is predatory and rooted in religious bigotry, has stunted the growth of Indian polity as a truly secular. India's image as a tolerant and multi-cultural society in the world has suffered a great deal, and would suffer further if the tide of Hindu extremism manifested in the rise of the BJP continues to dominate the Indian politics.

There are many complex reasons that have sustained communal politics in India. It is generally the failure of the mainstream political parties to stay on the course of secularism, live up to the expectations of the electorate or deliver on the promises of development. The tragedies in the house of Nehrus, the resultant fall of the Congress party and general disillusionment of the common man of mainstream politics are some of the factors that have created a big space for Hindu extremism and regional political parties. The expansion of the Indian middle class and its problems of identity have provide the Hindu nationalist a great opportunity to fill their identity void with Indianess, which they have increasingly interpreted in terms of going back to the roots of Hindu religion.

The question of identity and the ideology of Hindutva represents two strong strands in modern day Indian politics, but have failed to win the sympathy of the majority or present any solution to an old question, what is India and how it should look like. It is easier to slide back to the primordial instincts of religion than to seek synthetic solutions to the problems of our time through enlightenment, debate and consensus in the society. The BJP has gone further than any group in the world in reviving divisive issues, sowing fresh seeds of hatred and opening up controversies that should better rest in peace than become planks in electoral politics. India like any other country has the right to rediscover its soul, identity, and the self lost or distorted in the centuries of external domination and colonialism. But doing so does not justify destroying religious, cultural and civilisational heritage of other groups in the society.

Unfortunately, targeting the Muslim community in India has been a cheap political tactic that even the Congress party at certain times has chosen in order to attract Hindu voters to its fold. The BJP with Hindutva ideology, which is devoid of any philosophic heft, has for decades created a political psychology of violence against Muslims. Demolishing of the Babari masjid in 1992 led to indiscriminate killings of Muslims. Tragically, what has happened in Gujarat is intrinsically linked to the same event, now in the form of building Ram temple there.

Hopes that the BJP would grow in office and become more responsible have met with lot of disappointment. Even the compromise leader, Prime Minister Vajpayee whom the Indians and the world expected to negotiate a middle path between the hardliners and the moderates, has flung to the side of the hardliners in the present crisis. He has done very little to stop the killings or even accept the failure of his government and his party in the Gujarat state. To add salt to the injury of the Muslims, he made an unfortunate remark that "Muslims are incapable of living in peace with other communities". Some would say Vajpayee has revealed his true self that he kept hidden under the veneer of moderation.

Brutality witnessed in Ahmedabad is crime against humanity, and no country, including India can escape from its international obligation of protecting minorities. India in its own interest for salvaging its international image and maintaining internal stability and peace must address the issue of violence against the Muslim community in Gujarat. It must bring to justice all those who are found involved in the massacres. Its record of probing mass violence and punishing the culprits is very poor that gives little confidence that this time around it would be done.

 

The News International, Sunday, May 05, 2002
The Gujarat genocide 2002

Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema

The writer works for Islamabad Policy Research Institute

No explanation of planned killings of the Muslims in Gujarat could convince and satisfy the human rights watch organisations. As a matter of fact genocide anywhere cannot be condoned. Most Indians would like to use the word carnage when describing the current developments in Gujarat whereas most independent observers tend to describe it as genocide. While the word carnage connotes great slaughter of human beings especially in battles, the genocide implies systematic mass extermination of a particular race or religious group. Some of the reporters and anchor persons working for well known Western electronic media have been using the word sectarian killings to describe the developments in Gujarat. It seems that they either don't really know the exact difference between sectarianism and communalism or they are deliberately engaged in down playing the communal nature of the ongoing Gujarat killings.

What is happening in Gujarat is no different than what happened in Nazi Germany. The Hindu fascists both inside as well as outside the state government of Gujarat have been directly involved in gruesome killings of the Muslims of Gujarat. In some cases the victims have been burnt alive. The state police not merely stood by and watched but also pushed the fleeing Muslims towards the rioters. This fact has been clearly highlighted by various recently released reports of Human Rights Watch Organisations.

Contradicting the official Gujarat state government's claims that less than 1,000 people have been killed in Gujarat's ongoing riots, recently released report of the Paris based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) revealed that not only more than 2,000 people have died but also highlighted the direct involvement of the BJP's Gujarat government.

Similarly the New York based Human Rights Watch group has charged that the outbreak of Gujarat riots was not the result of spontaneous uprising but was the product of carefully planned thinking.

Equally damning report has been that of the British Officials whose report indicated that violence in Gujarat was not at all spontaneous but was planned months in advance and was carried out by a Hindu extremist organisation with the support of the state government. The Gujarat violence had all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing and that the reconciliation between the Hindus and the Muslims is impossible while the chief minister remains in power. It needs to stress here that the BJP has consistently praised and protected, even at the cost of alienating some of it coalition partners, Chief Minister of Gujarat Nirandra Modi for his handling of the crisis. Modi was more concerned with the health of Hindu murderers than with the Muslim victims.

Apart from repeated international uproar against the indescribable brutalities of the Hindu mob against the innocent Muslims, many organisations in India have also raised considerable objections to BJP's pursuits in Gujarat including some official organisations like the National Commission on Women, National Commission on Minorities, National Commission on Human Rights etc. Neither the international concerns that have been regularly expressed by almost all the Human Rights Watch organisations nor the critical Indian voices have been able to influence the BJP leadership. Instead one finds rude attempts by leading BJP leaders to shift the focus and put the spotlight on what started the violence. Had there been no Godhra, there would have been no riots in Gujarat is the defensive shield that has been employed by the main BJP leaders.

While some Indians have expressed rather bitterly their resentment over the continuous criticism of the international community and are engaged to dismiss such criticism and condemnation rather contemptuously, there no denying of the fact that such damning indictment has unmasked the real face of the BJP and other members of the Sangh Parivar. It has been reported in the India's leading newspaper by the fact finding team that the BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and other associated organisations have penetrated state institutions during the BJP rule in Gujarat. For example it was reported that not only thousands members of Sangh Parivar were recruited in the Home Guards but even the promotions, postings and transfer in all government institutions favoured Sangh activists. Conversely, the BJP punished those who favoured secularism or opted to remain neutral.

The BJP government in Gujarat seemed to have devised its own three categories of government officials. The most favoured category consists of those who are either the members or the sympathisers of the Sangh. Those who are deemed to be neutral and harmless form the second category and those who are considered undependable or hostile make up the last category. All the rewards or punishments are accordingly handed out. Another intriguing aspect of the Gujarat administration is that while the postings/transfers of police officials up to the rank of Deputy Superintendent are ordinarily done by the Director General of Police but in Gujarat these postings and transfers are done by the local Sangh leadership. Protecting such a system clearly reveals the real aims and direction of the ruling party and its allies.

Neither the damning indictments nor any streak of decency has been able to influence the main BJP leaderships' protective attitude towards Modi's nefarious acts of Muslim cleansing in Gujarat. However, the Gujarat brutalities have begun to register its marks on some of the allies of the BJP in the NDA. It is not too far fetched to assume that some members of NDA would be or may have already started entertaining second thoughts regarding their associations with the BJP. Already a cabinet minister Mr Ram Vilas Paswan has resigned. According to Paswan, many members of the NDA are worried at the way the BJP and RSS are functioning. To members of NDA, the BJP is trying to convey that the ugly developments in Gujarat are an internal party issue. However, it needs to be mentioned that Mr Paswan was not sure how the allies would behave inside the Lok Sabha. Indeed this was a very perceptive remark. Following the recent censure debate in the Lok Sabha, the voting behaviour of the BJP's allies reflected the accuracy of Paswan's augured cautionary note.

While the opposition was unable to secure the passage of censure motion, the debate itself highlighted many ugly aspects of ongoing genocide in Gujarat and surfaced the emerging differences among the allies of the NDA. Apart from condemning the attitude of the state authorities in Gujarat, repeated reference were made to India's badly tarnished image abroad especially by the opposition members. Admittedly, India once enjoyed the image of country that promoted the doctrine of non-violence and was admired for having opted for a pacific approach. With the passage of time both the doctrine of non-violence and the principle of pacifism have been thrown to wind. Indian society now seems to have become the most violent only to be rivalled by the Israelis. Even the apostle of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi was murdered by RSS, which now hold pivotal position within the ruling Sangh Parivar.

With 16 ongoing independence movements along with concerted regular attacks on all the minorities of India including the Christians, the Sikhs and the Muslims, one needs to probe the question what has gone wrong in India. The Indian society is becoming somewhat enigmatic. It cherishes and has been able to maintain its electoral democracy despite its deep-rooted caste system on one hand yet its minorities are made to feel aliens and insecure on the other. It seems that the resurgence of Hindutva has been able to cause a major division among the Indians and a vast majority would like to see India as a Hindu India even though they may not sympathise with the crude policies of the Sangh Parivar.

Another aspect of India that has been severely damaged causing accelerated erosion revolves around the often-drummed notion of secularism. Admittedly, there may be some who appeared to be hurt by the quick erosion of secularism but they also realise that the extremist Hindu parties run both the centre and the Gujarat governments. The recent vote over the censure motion also reflects the negligible concern for accelerated erosion of secularism along with their own electoral preferences of the BJP's allies. The fact that the BJP was able to withstand the concerted international, regional and local condemnations over Gujarat genocide and retained the majority of its coalition partners clearly reflects the inclination of the Indians towards securing a Hindu India rather than maintaining a secular India.

 

The Indian Express, May 06, 2002
You can come back to your homes only if you...

Drop rape charge, convert to Hinduism...villagers in Gujarat are setting terms for Muslims to return

Milind Ghatwai & Rohit Bhan

Vadodara, May 5 CONVERT to Hinduism, shave off your beard, drop your rape charges, don’t participate in our functions, let us use your vehicles for free. These are some of the terms being set by Hindu villagers for their Muslim neighbours who fled after the Godhra massacre and now want to return home.

- In Randhikpur village of Dahod district, Hindu villagers want rape charges against three persons dropped. A 22-year-old woman alleged she was raped in the nearby Panivella village where she hid after seven of her family were killed.

At a meeting on Thursday, Muslims were told that 65 of their families could return if the ‘‘rape charges were dropped and replaced with minor offences,’’ villager Majid Ali who attended the meeting told The Indian Express.

- In Pandarwala village in the Panchamahals, where 27 people were burnt alive, No 1 on the majority community’s list is the condition that a doctor who hails from Kutch and lives in the village be expelled. Says Faiz Mohammad, who attended a peace committe meeting organised by the district administration: ‘‘Since the doctor had a computer, the villagers felt that he keeps in touch with the ISI. Our return depends on him being expelled.’’

- In Kadwal village of Chhotaudepur taluka in Vadodara district, Muslims have been asked to agree that they ‘‘won’t engage in the same business as ours,’’ ‘‘you won’t take part in our functions’’ and ‘‘you won’t prevent us from using your assets, for instance, your vehicles.’’ A couple of Muslim families have returned after they agreed to these conditions.

- In Raichha village, about 15 km from Chhotaudepur, 28 families have been asked to convert to Hinduism if they want to return, says Mohammedjafar S Makrani, a former councillor. These families are among the 100 who fled Raichha and are now in a relief camp that he runs.

- Villages like Panwad in Vadodara have laid no conditions: they simply don’t want the Muslims to return. They have made this clear by attacking the refugees right under the nose of the police when they came this week to find out how badly damaged their houses were.

Says head constable Jaswantsinh Chavda attached to Panwad outpost: ‘‘Aa gamma koi condition nathi, emne Muslim joitaj nathi’’ (There is no condition here, they don’t want Muslims back). Two days ago a Muslim returned to collect his bank passbook and he was attacked. ‘‘Had I not reached there they would have killed him,’’ Chavda says, adding: ‘‘It’s good if they don’t come back. So far they haven’t lost any life, now they will.’’

- Even in Vadodara city, at least half a dozen houses of Muslims were torched in Bagwada because they didn’t agree to drop charges against Hindus involved in a case of stabbing.

Says Bhagyesh Jha, District Collector, Vadodara: ‘‘We are aware of these conditions. We have told the people, please don’t do this, sit down and talk it out. There is little that we can do, this has to be sorted out at the community level.’’ In some cases, like in Panwad, the message has been conveyed through writing on the wall, threatening the refugees that if they return, their wives and daughters will be raped.

 

The Hindu, May 07, 2002
Violence unabated in Ahmedabad

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD MAY 6. At least six persons were killed — two of them stoned to death — and several injured in Ahmedabad as violence that erupted on Sunday after four days of respite continued unabated for the second day today.

Elsewhere in riot-torn Gujarat, at least 15 persons were injured in a bomb explosion in a State transport bus in Lunawada in the tribal-dominated Panchamahals district. Incidents of stone-throwing and group clashes were also reported from some of the curfew-bound areas in Vadodara.

Two bicyclists — believed to be daily wagers going to work — were stopped and stoned to death near Dhor Bazar locality under the Kagdapith police station. The police, however, claimed that the two were killed when rival groups were hurling stones at each other.

In another incident, a middle-aged person was stabbed to death and his body set afire in the Kankaria locality. And three persons died of the injuries sustained in police firing in the Behrampura locality. While one person died in the hospital late last night, two died today taking the total deaths in the city in the last two days to 12. The conditions of at least five others were stated to be critical. The Rapid Action Force and other para-military forces have been deployed in Behrampura, Shah Alam and Kankaria areas.

Reports of exchange of fire were also received from Shahpur and Behrampura localities but police maintained that there was no casualty. A few shops and houses were also set ablaze in Shah Alam locality in Behrampura despite the curfew. Indefinite curfew remained in force in Dani Limda and Shahpur where it was imposed yesterday following large-scale violence in which six persons were killed.

As violence continued unabated, the State secondary and higher secondary education board announced yet another examination schedule to begin from June 3 as per the assurance given by the Gujarat Government to the Supreme Court. The students who could not appear in the second phase of examinations held from April 18, and those living in relief camps (even if they had appeared in the examinations) would be allowed to appear in the third phase. Over 1,000 10th and 12th standard students are staying in the relief camps of Ahmedabad and Vadodara alone.

The ruling BJP and the Congress indulged in allegations and counter-allegations over "instigating riots.'' While the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, said at a public function in Surat that the Congress was "instigating violence'' in the State for political gains, the Gujarat Congress president, Amarsinh Chaudhary, said the violence started yesterday was "clearly sponsored by the State Government.''

The Security Adviser to the Chief Minister, K. P. S. Gill, who left for Delhi yesterday, is yet to return. But the Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadaphiya, did not hide his displeasure over Mr. Gill's appointment.

 

The Hindu, Wednesday, May 08, 2002
10 killed, stabbing spree in Ahmedabad

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD May 7. A t least 10 persons were killed and scores injured in stabbing, police firing and stoning in Ahmedabad today while most other parts of the State remained incident-free. Kalupur, Vejalpur, Juhapura and Sarkhej areas in the city were placed under curfew today. Dani Limda, Behrampura and Shahpur have been under curfew since Sunday evening.

The city witnessed 15 incidents of stabbing today. While two persons were stoned to death, two killed in police firing and one succumbed to injuries sustained in a bomb blast. In most of the cases, the bodies of those stabbed to death were set afire.

A youth was stabbed right inside the V. S. Hospital, run by the Congress-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, in the presence of police. The youth was stabbed when he alighted from an ambulance carrying a patient stabbed in Juhapura locality when some Sangh Parivar volunteers were demonstrating against the alleged "partisan attitude'' of the hospital authorities against Hindu patients.

While three persons each were killed in Kalupur and Vejalpur localities, two were killed in Juhapura and one each in Jamalpur and Dani Limda areas. Perhaps for the first time the night remained by and large peaceful and most of the violent incidents took place in broad day-light.

The day began with a stabbing incident in Majoorgam under Kalupur police station and soon the violence spread to the outskirts of the city. A college instructor was stabbed to death and then his body set afire in Sarkhej locality.

The incident had its repercussions in the neighbouring Juhapura and Vejalpur localities where violent mobs came out on the streets and indulged in stone throwing and attacked passers-by. At least three trucks in Sarkhej and Juhapura localities were set ablaze after their drivers fled.

A camel cart owner was stabbed to death in Vejalpur where two others were killed when police opened fire to disperse the violent mobs. The Juhapura and Vejalpur incidents spread tension in the city with one person was stoned to death near Revdi Bazar in Kalupur. At least seven persons, including three policemen, were injured in a bomb blast near the Kalupur police station. One of the injured later died in the hospital. The charred body of a middle-aged person, believed to have been stabbed to death and later set afire, was recovered from Jamalpur.

Police admitted that bombs were being exploded like firecrackers and there was no count of the number of bombs exploded in the city.

The State ruling BJP president, Rajendrasinh Rana, expressed concern over the deteriorating law and order situation and admitted that the image of Gujarat and that of the BJP had taken a beating. Stressing the need for immediate steps to stop the violence, Mr. Rana said strict action must be taken against all those involved in violent activities. "They are criminals and criminals have no religion, caste or creed or any political affiliations. All of them must be dealt with firmly,'' Mr. Rana told media persons.

However, Mr. Rana said the BJP was going ahead with the preparations for the Assembly elections the timings for which would be decided by the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, if accepted by the Election Commission. He said he would convene a meeting of the State party executive towards the end of this month for election preparations.

 

The Muslim News, May 09, 2002
Genocide of Muslims continues in Gujarat

By P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News Staff

Arab News:

The massacre of Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat by Hindu fanatics has stunned the whole world. Human rights activists, relief workers and peacemakers who have visited the state in recent days have come out with appalling stories of mayhem, murder, gang rape and other forms of barbarism.

"It is nothing but genocide," says Syed Sadat Husaini, president of Students’ Islamic Organization of India (SIO), of the brutal killings of Muslims in the state at the hands of Hindu thugs. Husaini visited Gujarat recently as part of a 72-member peace mission comprising prominent personalities from all walks of life including politicians, religious leaders, NGOs and journalists.

The visit was arranged by the New Delhi-based Dharmic Jan Morcha, an organization set up by prominent religious leaders for communal amity at the initiative of Jamaat-e-Islami. The team first visited Godhra, which saw the torching of a train carrying Hindu activists on Feb. 27.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sister organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad claim that the pogrom of Muslims in Gujarat was a retaliatory action for the Godhra train attack that killed 58 people. According to unofficial reports, the ongoing anti-Muslim genocide has claimed the lives of 3,000 Muslims and destroyed properties worth 280 billion rupees.

Husaini expressed his astonishment at the silence of Muslim countries toward the carnage of their brethren in Gujarat. The 55-member Organization of Islamic Conference, which represents the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, did not issue even a statement of condemnation. As a result, the slaughter of Muslims and the destruction of their properties are continuing unabated. The BJP-led federal government has so far refused to take any action against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the man accused of pampering the rioters. (More information on Gujarat riots can be had from www.gujaratcarnage.com.)

The peace team, which visited Gujarat, has urged the state and central governments to carry out an independent CBI inquiry into the Godhra train attack and the subsequent premeditated genocide of Muslims. Police in Gujarat have already presented a report to the authorities saying that the Godhra attack was not preplanned.

In addition to a federal inquiry by a sitting Supreme Court judge, the team also called for the rehabilitation of the riot victims and payment of full compensation (as per a Supreme Court decision in 1994). It also urged enforcement of a full-fledged anti-genocide legislation and implementation of the National Police Commission’s proposals to curb communal riots and genocide in the country.

"There are plans to take legal action against political leaders, police officers and parties involved in the carnage to punish them and get financial compensation for deaths and destruction. There are strong evidences against them," said Husaini. "We’ll also put pressure on the government, the opposition and secular parties to take up the issue," he added.

The mayhem in Gujarat, carried out by Hindu zealots, gives an astounding picture of the horrific state of affairs in India. Hundreds of millions of people from minority communities in the country are now living in total fear and uncertainty without knowing where the Hindu chauvinists will take the country to.

"Extremist Hindu organizations have been successful in inculcating hatred against Muslims deep into the minds of the general public including government employees and college students. Muslims are now afraid of going to government offices and shops. Muslim students are hesitant to go to schools and colleges. We find hatred in every section of society," Husaini explained.

About 90 percent of the people arrested by police during the riots were Muslims, he said quoting a recent report. "In Muslim majority areas, Hindu rioters carried out attacks against Muslims with police support," he said. Police carried out combing operations and imposed curfews to harass Muslims. "Police opened fire at Muslims who reacted in self-defense against Hindu rioters," he said, adding that majority of those killed in police firings were Muslims.

The peace mission, which was led by Swami Agnivesh, general secretary of Arya Samaj, conducted meetings with the public, visited refugee camps, met with NGOs and collected information on the carnage.

Hindu zealots threatened the peace mission and asked it to leave the state immediately. Most Muslims, opposition parties and civil rights groups accused the Hindu fundamentalist state government of fanning violence by allowing Hindu mobs to have a free rein to kill, burn and loot.

The carnage in Gujarat has raised widespread protest throughout India and Indian newspapers commented editorially against the anti-Muslim pogrom and urged the federal government to take action against the state’s chief minister. Even some pro-BJP newspapers condemned the attacks. The Indian public also reacted forcefully by voting against the BJP in recent elections, dealing the ruling party with humiliating defeats.

The anti-Muslim genocide in the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi stresses the need for launching a nationwide campaign to promote communal amity. "Muslims must carry out a massive awareness campaign to bring about a total positive mind change," Husaini said. "Even Hindu schoolchildren whom we met in Gujarat believe that Muslims are troublemakers and cannot be good neighbors. This shows the enormity of hatred created against Muslims by Hindu extremist groups."

Husaini advised Muslims to establish good relations with the police, government officials and human rights organizations. "We should also set up committees of all religious communities at village levels to foster communal harmony," he said. "No communal riots have taken place in Bhiwandi, which was once notorious for such riots, since the formation of such a committee in 1993," he pointed out. "We should also explain to Hindus what is Islam and its divine teachings to remove their misconceptions and hatred."

The SIO, the largest student Islamic organization in the country with 1,600 branches and 125,000 members and associates, he said, was planning to hold a nationwide campaign with the main theme: "Student solidarity for a better India."

The campaign aims at uniting students from all religions to fight communal hatred and riots as well as communalization of education. Husaini emphasized SIO’s efforts in promoting interfaith dialogue.

Every Indian, who believes in humanness and moral values, should be ashamed of what has happened and is still happening in Gujarat and make sure that it never happens again. The federal government should also take the initiative to end communal hatred, which has already opened the Pandora’s box, raining deaths and destruction in the country and tarnishing India’s image.

 

SifyNews, Thursday, May 09, 2002
Gujarat Muslims who return home face threats, beatings

Vadodara, May 9

More than 100,000 Muslims displaced by the Gujarat riots are facing a hostile and often brutal reception as they try to return to their homes.

Even as the blood continues to flow in Gujarat state, where nearly 1,000 have been killed in more than two months of communal unrest, some of those who fled for the security of relief camps are doing their best to go back.

But more often than not, the homecomings are being marked by severe beatings and threats to conform to a Hindu way of life or be banished from villages forever.

Mohammadbhai Isakbhai Soni, 48, ventured back last week with some friends to his home village of Panvad, some 80 kilometers from Vadodara.

"When we went to check our homes, we were beaten up by local tribals who had been hired by Hindus," Soni said.

"The village heads say we can only return back if we live in accordance to the conditions set by them," he added.

Those conditions include withdrawing rape cases filed against Hindus, shaving off their beards, allowing Hindus to travel in their vehicles, applying the "tilak" on their foreheads and vowing not to compete with Hindus businesses.

For Soni and his friends, the choice was simple: they went back to the relief camp where they have been living for the past eight weeks.

"We want our village to be a village of Krishna," said Jagdish Chandra Babbar, a tailor in Panvad. "These Muslims do not know how to live in brotherhood. Only if they agree to follow our Hindu way of life can they return back.

"Even if the military escorts the Muslims here, we will not let them stay," Babbar said.

More than 20 Muslim houses were burned down by mobs in Panvad in the first week of March when the backlash was at its height.

Babbar said the Hindus had always lived peacefully with their Muslim neighbours, but that had changed forever with the train attack in Godhra.

Those Hindus who promote a return to normality and communal harmony find themselves the targets of the extremists.

Kaderbhai Kadri, a shopkeeper in nearby Tejgarh village woke one morning to find his shop front daubed with warnings: "Do not buy or sell goods to Muslims. Those who are caught doing so will be beaten."

Devhart village was one of the few untouched by the initial communal unrest after it's head, Lalsinhbhai Rathod, refused to give in to the demands of some villagers to drive the Muslim residents out.

However, Muslim villagers said some of their Hindu neighbours then conspired to kill a cow and raised a hue and cry saying it was the work of Muslims.

"Our house was set on fire," said 40-year-old Dilawat Amirbhai Makrani. "Now, they are not letting us go back to our homes. Whenever we try, they chase us away."

 

The News International, Thursday, May 09, 2002
14 killed as riots rage in Gujarat

Hindus, Muslims battle furiously in Ahmedabad

AHMEDABAD: Soldiers and paramilitary forces patrolled flashpoints in India's western Gujarat state on Wednesday after at least 14 people were killed and nearly 50 injured in a fresh upsurge of Hindu-Muslim violence.

"It's sheer madness ruling the streets," said Sahiteesh Dave, 29, whose store was shut by a three-day-old curfew in Ahmedabad city's mainly Hindu western outskirts. "There's no security in our lives - nobody can predict what will happen where."

Army and paramilitary forces armed with AK-47s patrolled deserted streets as summer temperatures soared to 45 degrees Celsius. Two Hindus, including a college student, were stabbed in Ahmedabad on Wednesday and a senior police officer told Reuters the city's east and a pocket in the far west remained tense. "The slightest provocation could start a riot," he said.

In other clashes, people were stoned or stabbed to death. A state minister said the northern state of Punjab had agreed to send 1,000 extra men to try to quell India's worst religious violence in a decade.

"Punjab has agreed to our request but I don't know when they (the forces) will arrive," Urban Development Minister IK Jadeja told Reuters. The reinforcements will join thousands of soldiers, paramilitary forces and police already in the state.

Hindus and Muslims battled furiously through the night in the narrow lanes of the majority-Muslim old quarter of Ahmedabad, hurling crude explosives and tin cans containing glass and nails.

Many residents said they wanted order restored quickly. "The government must do whatever's needed to stop the violence - this can't be allowed to go on," rickshaw driver Shabir Hussain, 35, said in the old quarter of the city.

There are "high feelings of hatred among Hindus and Muslims and a lack of confidence in each other because of all the killings," one official, who did not wish to be named, said. More than 100,000 people, mainly Muslims, are crammed into relief camps throughout the state, petrified to return to their neighbourhoods for fear of fresh attacks, relief workers say. "Unless the government decides to get to the root of the disease and treat it, this low-grade communal fever that has gripped the city will continue," an intelligence official said.

 

The News International, Saturday, May 11, 2002
Five killed in Gujarat violence

AHMEDABAD, India: At least five people died on Friday as Hindus and Muslims fought pitched battles in some of the worst street fighting since religious violence erupted in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Another 30 were injured and 40 shacks burned to the ground as Hindus and Muslims, some armed with guns, hurled crude bombs and fired at each other in the streets of the old city of Gujarat's commercial capital Ahmedabad, a police official said.

He said a mosque in the city's old quarter was razed and its debris set on fire. "It was like a war, each group hurling bombs and stones at each other. They were also firing at each other," said resident Rahul Bhavsar. The religious violence is the worst in a decade and erupted late in February when a Muslim mob torched a train killing 59 Hindu devotees in the western town of Godhra.

The incident triggered a spree of revenge killings in which some 900, mostly Muslims, have died. But whereas after February 27 it mainly involved Hindu mobs massacring Muslims, the nature of the violence is changing as Muslims start to fight back. "I have never seen anything like this before," said one soldier, one of 4,000 deployed in Gujarat to help restore peace.

A tailor said that Muslims -- who make up around 12 percent of India's one billion population -- believed the majority Hindus were trying to force them to leave Ahmedabad. "This is aimed at driving us out. We will not go away just like that. We are fighting for our survival," said Amir Sayeed. A curfew was imposed to end the fighting.

The latest violence erupted as authorities transferred senior police officials out of key jobs in the state. Human rights groups and witnesses had alleged the police turned a blind eye -- and sometimes colluded -- in the religious violence. "We thought some changes in the police set-up would help improve the situation," Ashok Narayan, the most senior official in Gujarat's Home (interior) Department, told Reuters.

Ahmedabad's police commissioner, P C Pande, who had faced heavy criticism over his handling of the riots, was moved from his job with three other senior officials. Human rights groups say at least 2,000 people have died. More than 70,000 people in Ahmedabad alone are crammed into relief camps with little more than large cloth sheets to protect them from the scorching summer heat, where temperatures rise to 46 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) on some days. Though the camps have become breeding grounds for typhoid, diarrhoea and jaundice, the refugees are either afraid to return home or, their houses burned, no longer have anywhere to go.

 

Frontline, May 11-24, 2002
In the camps, sans relief

DIONNE BUNSHA

NOORBANU SHEIKH is in a dilemma: she does not know whether to encash or return to the government the cheque she received after waiting for two months. Her house was destroyed when a mob went on the rampage in Bismillah Nagar at Vatva in Ahmedabad. All that she got was Rs.500. "In a month, the rains will start. How will we stay in the relief camp then? We want to rebuild our house, but the government hasn't given us enough money even to buy a tin sheet," says Noorbanu. "We left with nothing but the clothes on our backs. No one will give us a loan."

After Noorbanu and others in the Jehangir Nagar relief camp at Vatva received paltry sums as compensation for housing, the occupants of the camp have refused the government's cheques. Of the 300-odd families in the camp, only 23 have received housing compensation so far.

The refugees' hopes of returning home grow dimmer as the violence continues and the government's half-hearted rehabilitation measures fail to provide any real support. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's efforts to reassure the riot-affected people during his visit to Gujarat on April 4 came rather late - 35 days after the violence began. His promises regarding relief and rehabilitation have not yet been implemented properly by the State government. The only time Chief Minister Narendra Modi visited a relief camp housing Muslims was when he trailed the Prime Minister.

During his visit, the Prime Minister promised the following rehabilitation measures to the more than 1.5 lakh refugees:

* The families of those killed would be paid Rs.1 lakh each from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, in addition to the Rs.50,000 being given to each of the affected families by the State government.

* Those who suffered permanent disability in the violence would be given Rs.50,000.

* Housing compensation in the rural areas would be Rs.15,000 for those whose homes have been partially damaged and Rs.50,000 for those whose homes have been completely destroyed. In the urban areas, the Central government would bear the cost of reconstruction on the basis of an estimate made after a comprehensive survey.

* The Centre would bear the entire cost of rehabilitation of orphans and widows.

* Children in relief camps would be provided textbooks and one set of school uniform each.

* Free ration of 35 kg for two months to below-poverty-line families in the violence-hit areas.

Most of the families of those killed have not received compensation because they are unable to produce proof of death, says Mohsin Kadri, organiser of the Shah Alam relief camp, the largest in Ahmedabad, which shelters 13,000 refugees. He points out that in the Shah Alam camp only seven of the 131 families which have lost their members have received cheques for Rs.40,000. They are supposed to get an additional Rs.70,000 in the form of government bonds. This still does not add up to the Rs.1,50,000 promised by the government. Yet, Ahmedabad Collector K. Srinivas insisted that his administration had paid compensation in 206 instances in the city and only 37 families remained to be paid.

In every camp in Ahmedabad, people complained about the under-valuation of property lost. "Most of the people have got cheques for Rs.2,000 to 3,000. No one here has received more than Rs.14,000 as compensation, which is only a fraction of the actual value of their houses and belongings," said a camp organiser at Vatva. In rural Gujarat, the situation is no better. At Bamanwad village in Panchmahal district, Ganibhai Khatri's house was razed to the ground. He received only Rs.23,075 as compensation, instead of the Rs.50,000 promised by the Prime Minister. In this village the houses of around 27 Muslim families were burned. Yet, only seven families have received compensation. The government has not even recognised the presence of the relief camp in the village. Hindu neighbours of those in the camp have been helping them with food for the past two months.

In the cities, the poor have been stranded within the ghettoes on account of the curfew. Mostly casual labourers, they have been without work for the past two months. The Prime Minister had promised 35 kg of free rations to below-poverty-line families. But the stocks have yet to arrive in the ration shops. Collector Srinivas said the government had increased the allotment to 70 kg and stocks would be distributed in May. However, many may still be excluded because of the criteria set for below-poverty-line classification.

Hardly any action has been taken on the Prime Minister's promises regarding the rehabilitation of orphans and widows. Children in the camps were not given the promised textbooks and uniforms. In fact, some children studying in private schools in Vadodara could not sit for their examinations because their parents did not have the money to pay their fees.

Every family in the relief camps was supposed to receive a cash dole of Rs.1,250 to compensate for the loss of immediate belongings, including clothes and shoes. The government suddenly woke up and started distributing the dole a day before Vajpayee was scheduled to arrive. At the Dariya Khan Ghummat camp at Shahibaug in Ahmedabad distribution of the dole was stopped when it became known that the Prime Minister would not be visiting the camp. Only half of the 1,000-odd families received their cheques. Even in the Shah Alam camp, distribution of the cheques started the evening before Vajpayee's arrival and stopped when he left. Only 1,400 of the camp's 2,200 families received the dole.

Besides failing to fulfil the Prime Minister's promises, the government has neglected to provide basic facilities such as tents, fans and toilets in adequate numbers. The Shah Alam camp has 38 toilets for 13,000 people. Even this many were installed a day before Vajpayee's visit. With the temperature reaching 450C, the illnesses are on the rise. "Government doctors are not regular and their medication is not effective. We have to call private doctors to the camp," said Kadri. In the Surendranagar camp in Ahmedabad, the government arbitrarily reduced the number of refugees from 4,000 to 2,200. Accordingly, supplies were also reduced. "The government officials stopped taking into account those who had received housing compensation. These people still cannot go back to their homes. Attacks continue every day,"said Farukhbhai Pathan, a camp organiser. "But the government refuses to provide for them anymore."

 

The News International, Tuesday, May 14, 2002
Hindus set terms for Muslims' return to villages

KADWAL, India: First they saw their family members being raped, hacked and burnt to death. Now they are being asked to change their religion. Muslims who fled their villages to escape India's worst religious violence in a decade say the majority Hindus are setting near-impossible conditions for them to return.

"They told us we can go back to the village only if we change our religion and become Hindus," said Noor Mohammed, a farmer from the village of Raichha in western Gujarat state. "We will give up our lives but we will never give up our religion." More than 900 people, mostly Muslims, have died since a Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindu devotees on February 27, killing 59. Another 100,000 Muslims are crammed in relief camps.

And with sporadic violence continuing, it looks increasingly hard for Hindus and Muslims to go back to living side-by-side -- and nowhere more so than in Gujarat's remote villages. In Randhikpur village, 160 km (100 miles) north of Gujarat's main city Ahmedabad, the fate of more than 500 Muslims depends on a 19-year-old rape victim withdrawing her police complaint.

"The three Hindu men who raped me are important people of our village. I named them in my police complaint," said the victim who did not wish to be named. Fourteen members of her family, including her three-year-old daughter, mother and two-day-old niece, were slaughtered in a forest by Hindus from her village, she said. The Hindus of Kadwal, a village 250 km north of Ahmedabad, have found their own way of keeping Muslims in check -- by asking them to sign up to a list of pre-conditions.

"We (Hindus) have collectively drawn up a list of conditions which the Muslims have to sign if they want to return here," said Bharat Singh, a village leader. "In other villages they are not even allowing the Muslims to return but we are not doing that," said Singh, showing a three-page document handwritten in Gujarati.

Signatures at the end of the document show 11 Muslim families have accepted the terms. "Do not kill cows (considered sacred by Hindus) or eat beef; do not tease Hindu women; do not participate in Hindu festivals if you cannot maintain their sanctity; do not get involved in quarrels among Hindus," the terms read. "Do not raise anti-India and anti-Hindu slogans. Do not allow new Muslims to settle in the village," it says. The Muslims, who formed six percent of Kadwal's population of 5,000, fled on March 3 when their houses were burned down. And even signing up to the terms does not end their problems.

"We have no shelter and sleep out in the open," said Mohammed Nikker who came back two weeks ago after 45 days in a camp. "We have nothing to eat and depend on relatives from other villages to bring us food," he says, sitting despondently with his family in the midday sun in front of the ruins of his house. Both the returning Muslims and Kadwal's Hindus are in constant fear of each other in a village where until recently, they lived as friends.

"The Hindus are scared the Muslims will take revenge," said Singh, while the Muslims said they were certain the Hindus would attack again once all the Muslims came back from refugee camps. For the 19-year-old rape victim, going home would mean dropping her complaint and facing daily the men who attacked her. "I was five months' pregnant. One of the men put his foot on my neck and another held my hands," she said, speaking by phone from a refugee camp 120 km from Ahmedabad. In between long pauses and shaky breaths she recounted how her sisters and aunts were first raped and then hacked to death.

She had fled Randhikpur with a group of relatives, when a mob burnt Muslim houses on February 28, but on the third day they were attacked in a forest by 30 men from their own village. "They stabbed me and then left me thinking I was dead," she said, adding she was unconscious for a whole night. Naked and bleeding from knife wounds, she staggered out of the forest to the nearest road in the morning where police picked her up and took her to the camp where she found her husband. Now she sits listlessly all day long, keeping to herself. Rasool Ibrahim, 55, was one of the 15 Muslims called for a meeting two weeks ago by some of Randhikpur's Hindus, including one of the accused named by the rape victim.

"The Hindus told us to bring her to work out a compromise. They told us they will allow us to return and help rebuild our burnt houses if the rape complaint is withdrawn," said Ibrahim. The Muslims decided unanimously not to do so. Muslims in Raichha village, who comprise three percent of the population of 3,000 and are holed up in a camp in the closest city, Chhota-Udepur, are also rejecting the pre-conditions for their return home. "Two weeks back the Hindus told us to convert, shave off our beards, wear dhotis (sarongs) instead of pants and eat meat of animal carcasses which is not permitted in Islam," said farmer Noor Mohammed.

Other villagers report being attacked on their return home. Hassan Suleiman showed stitches on the back of his head where he says he was struck by a stone 10 days ago when he went to his village, Panvad, to withdraw money from the bank. He said the Hindus of Panvad, north of Ahmedabad, had driven away every Muslim who dared to re-enter the village after they escaped rioters on March 10. "It is the decision of all the neighbouring villagers also. They don't want the Muslims back," said a Hindu trader of Panvad. The senior administrative official of Baroda district, where the villages are located, said he was holding joint meetings with Hindu and Muslim leaders to try to restore normalcy.

 

Paknews.com, Updated on 2002-05-16 15:21:52
India involved in HR abuses in IHK: British paper

LONDON, May 16 (PNS): India is seeking a military solution of Kashmir problem where its forces are involved in human rights abuses, said a leading British daily "The Observer".

An indigenous movement, motivated by political disaffection and economic misery, is underway in Indian occupied Kashmir, said the daily in a lengthy article on the region.

There is little sign of fresh thinking on Kashmir from the Indian establishment, which sees the solution to its difficulties as military rather than political", said the Observer in an article "War at the top of the world". "The revolt in Kashmir", said the paper "is the result of political disaffection and economic misery".

India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, last week rejected the suggestion made by British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, "that monitors should supervise Kashmir's election later this year. His comments suggest New Delhi will, as on previous occasions, rig the ballot to ensure victory for the National Conference, part of the ruling BJP coalition".

India had held many sham elections in the occupied Kashmir which had been rejected by the people of Jammu and Kashmir. "There are few signs, meanwhile, that the 12-year insurgency by Muslim Kashmiris against the Indian state is coming to an end.

The daily death toll in Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority province, is invariably higher than in the Palestinian intifida, but it rarely merits more than a brief mention in the foreign news pages.,"it said.

"About 50,000 people - soldiers, freedom fighters, civilians have died," said the British daily. Commenting on the communal violence butchering hundreds of Muslims in Indian western state of Gujarat , the Observer said "There is nothing new about communal unrest or insurrection in South Asia, but what differs about the most recent violence in Gujarat is that it has taken place in the heart of India with the unambiguous evidence of state involvement".

It said, "an increasingly aggressive Hindu nationalist government has done virtually nothing to stop the slaughter of Muslims by Hindu gangs".

"More than 2,000 Muslims have died over the past two-and-a-half months in riots in the prosperous western state of Gujarat".

"The Hindu nationalist BJP party in power in New Delhi has given every impression of tacitly supporting the anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat. India's Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, has refused to sack Gujarat's unrepentant Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, despite frequent allegations that he instructed his officials to allow Hindu mobs to rape, murder and burn their minority Muslim neighbours," said the Observer in its latest report on South Asia.

"The death toll in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's shiny commercial centre, rises every day. Early last week four Hindu youths spotted M. A. Kothawala, a 35-year-old Muslim lecturer, riding to work.

His beard gave him away. They dragged him off his motorbike, stabbed him and burnt him alive. So far none of the Hindus who attacked Muslims has been punished. Gujarat's Hindu police force has shot dead more than 100 Muslims," said the Brotish Newspaper.

"A team of British diplomats recently concluded that the massive anti-Muslim backlash was 'pre-planned"

India, as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi and its first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, was supposed to be a secular country, open to people of all faiths.

"But Hindu fundamentalists who pushed aside Nehru's fading Congress Party in the mid-1990s have replaced his vision with something darker, fascist even. They give the impression of wanting India's 120 million Muslims to disappear or decamp to Muslim Pakistan", said the newspaper.

As Sunny Grewal, one of many BJP supporters living in Britain, put it: 'Muslims of India should pack their bags and head off to Pakistan,' it said .

"I think the forebodings are very grim,' Ramachandra Guha, one of India's leading writers and environmentalists, added last night. 'Radical Hindus are trying to turn India, along theological lines.

 

Muslimedia.com, Editorial, May 16-31, 2002
Hindu fundamentalist threat to India’s Muslims

Muslimedia.com is the internet edition of Crescent International, newsmagazine of the Islamic Movement.

The routine use of the labels ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ to criminalise Muslims and legitimise any action against them has reached new levels in India, with cabinet minister Shanta Kumar claiming on April 28 that the Godhra train incident was an act of "international terrorism" whose objective was to "weaken" Indian defence positions on the border and make it more porous for infiltration by jihadis. Although the exact course of events on and since February 27, when a number of Hindu activists were killed in a burning train, remains unclear, Kumar’s interpretation is utterly ludicrous. It didn’t, however, prevent Condoleeza Rice, national security advisor to Bush, from saying four days later that "we believe that the Vajpayee government will do the right thing...[to investigate the violence in Gujrat] and we will encourage them to do the right thing." She was speaking during a tour of India intended to emphasise India’s part in the West’s war against those who oppose it.

This was also demonstrated by the beginning of two weeks of joint military exercises by the special forces of the two countries on May 11. The exercises, at the Indian army’s training facility at Agra, are the first involving the two countries since 1963. Little wonder, then, that India’s external affairs ministry is happy, saying that Indo-US bilateral relations are on the "right track".

Events in Gujrat since February 27 are far clearer than those of the day itself — far clearer, indeed, than is usually the case with any kind of unrest in India. It is agreed by virtually all observers that a pogrom has taken place. By the end of April thousands of Muslims had been killed, many more injured, and more than 140,000 driven from their lands and homes, forced to live in refugee camps; as things now stand they have little or no hope of ever being able to return to their homes and properties. It is also clear that the pogrom was highly organised, the rioters having obtained detailed lists of Muslim-owned houses, flats and shops beforehand. The BJP government, flanked by the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal combination in Gujrat — the institutional core of Hindu fascism — had prepared well. Both Narendra Modi and his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, had implanted, by means of insidious propaganda, the mindset to justify such a pogrom.

Many survivors have complained that the police refused to come to their aid, and of the partiality of the police during the pogrom and their subsequent arrests and prosecutions. Most notably, it came to light in late March that 60 Muslims allegedly involved in the initial Godhra violence had been arrested under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), yet POTO has not been applied against any of the 800 Hindus who were eventually arrested for ‘participating’ in the subsequent ‘ethnic cleansing’. And yet the Indian government continues to blame the Muslims for their own murder. "If there was no Godhra, there would have been no Gujrat," Vajpayee has said.

The recent events in Gujrat are not unprecedented; they are still dwarfed by the bloodletting that followed the partition of British India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947: Indian Hindus have a record of anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence in which some at least take considerable pride. Nearly a thousand died in violence in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Banaras and other towns after the destruction of the Babri Mosque on 6 December 1992. Hundreds more were killed in Bombay in March 1993 after a series of bomb explosions there; an estimated 50,000 Muslims were made homeless. Lower-level violence is routine, mainly against Muslims, but also against Indian Christians and other communities.

The continuing violence well demonstrates the nature of Brahmin-inspired Hindu brutality. The aim is to break the Muslims’ financial and moral backbone. What happened in Gujrat was not a ‘communal riot’, but a Brahminist pogrom, conducted by organised death squads with the entire state apparatus at their disposal. The atrocities were initiated with two main objectives in mind: to ensure that the Muslim population of Gujrat remains confined to its ghettos, and to ensure that the Brahminists’ authority remains stamped on Gujrat’s political landscape. The scale and intensity of the violence may not be the worst India has ever seen, but its significance is undeniable: if the Brahminist forces ever wield their power entirely unchecked over all of the country, Gujrat today is what all of India will look like.

 

Muslimedia.com, May 16-31, 2002
No improvement yet in Muslims’ situation in Gujrat despite western governments’ noise

By Zawahir Siddique

Muslimedia.com is the internet edition of Crescent International, newsmagazine of the Islamic Movement.

The whole world is anxious to find out about the ‘post pogrom’ situation in Gujrat. They will have to be patient; the pogrom is not yet over. The state apparatus and RSS/VHP/BD forces are still engaged in the ‘holy’ duty of ethnic cleansing. The genocide, now in its third month, is as brutal in its operation as it was in the beginning.

The recent escalation of violence in Ahmedabad ignited a new phase on April 21, when policemen killed more than a dozen Muslims in unprovoked firing in the Gomtipur area of Ahmedabad. Of those killed, six, including two women, were shot in the forehead point blank. On May 10 eight were killed, one of them burnt alive; 35 were injured as violence erupted once more in Ahmedabad on May 10, even as K. R. Kaushik took over as the new Police Commissioner in place of PC Pandey. Indefinite curfew was immediately imposed in four areas. In other incidents reported on May 10, three people were killed and over 30 injured when police opened fire to ‘disperse’ violent ‘mobs’ indulging in arson, stabbing and other activities in the Raikhad and Jamalpur areas.

Yet, despite the continuing incidents, the state apparatus and the law-and-order machinery continue to play their partisan roles. The central government has appointed KPS Gill as special security advisor to stem the tidal wave of ‘hatred’. Over 120 personnel from the Central Reserve Police Force arrived from New Delhi on the morning of May 10, and more were expected to arrive in the afternoon. That the government and the police have not deployed the 6,200-strong army and central paramilitary forces so far should be a warning Gill, who plans to bring in more force.

It is interesting to note the changes that the Gujrat government has been trying to bring in the administration. In the first ‘major shuffle’ in the police since the pogrom began, the Ahmedabad police commissioner, PC Pandey, has been removed and a ‘Muslim official’ appointed security advisor to Narendra Modi, the chief minister. Pandey, supposedly moved in the ‘public interest’, has been appointed additional director general of the armed police unit in Gandhinagar, instead of being dismissed from office altogether for his atrocious abuse of power.

Innumerable cases of attacks on fire-brigade personnel in different parts of Gujrat have been reported. The Ahmedabad fire brigade went on strike on the night of May 9, protesting attacks on firemen and their families in many areas, and the burning of ambulances that carried injured firemen to hospitals. However, the firemen ended the agitation on May 1 after assurances by the municipal commissioner that police protection would be provided while they answer fire-calls.

On April 1 the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) released its findings on the Gujrat situation, with preliminary comments and recommendations. Its report, prepared after the NHRC team visited Gujrat from March 19 to 22, is being kept "confidential" for the time being.

The National Commission for Minorities (NCM), on the other hand, made it "clear" that the state government’s description of violence as "communal riots" was a trivialization of the issues, indicating that the violence ought to be considered a pogrom. In spite of the growing ‘concerns’ of these non-governmental institutions, the state apparatus and its various arms seem to be unconcerned. On May 10 the Supreme Court declined to issue any direction for the extension of relief camps in Gujrat beyond May 31; the highest judicial authority of India made this declaration on its last working day, and will reopen only after two months of summer vacations. Whether or not the relief camps continue to function beyond May 31 makes little difference to the demoralized victims. The discrimination displayed by the state apparatus is utterly humiliating.

It is impossible to narrate every instance of the horrible atmosphere that prevails in much of Gujrat. The inhuman decision of the state government deliberately to deny opportunities to Muslim students in Gujrat is just a minor instance of the persistent abuse of human rights. The Muslim students, expected to appear for their crucial grade 10 and grade 12 examinations, have been compelled to boycott their examinations. This desperate decision followed the refusal of the state government to guarantee their safety to return from their examination-centres to their refugee-camps. The state government also denied Muslim students examination centres in ‘Muslim-friendly’ areas, although Hindu students have been provided with examination-centres in their own strongholds. Other incidents, such as selective attacks on Muslim students during primary-level examinations, are also reported in plenty. The over-emphasis on education should not mislead readers about the wide variety of bestialities committed against the Muslims of Gujrat. More than one instance is known of pregnant women being cut open and their unborn babies being burnt or otherwise murdered.

The remarkable events in Gujrat have for the first time in the history of India provoked significant international attention. India is little worried about its tarnished image, although it is definitely concerned about the probable decline in foreign investments. Swiss foreign minister Joseph Deiss has not only expressed his ‘concern’ to Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh in separate meetings, but also cancelled his visit to Swiss-aided projects in Gujrat. British foreign secretary Jack Straw was the first to express "deep concerns about the deaths and injuries on both sides of the religious divide" in Gujrat. Christina Rocca, US assistant secretary of state, called the riots "horrible"; Finnish foreign minister Erkki Twomioja made sharp remarks in an interview.

In between came ‘leaks’ to selected Indian and foreign media. The British high commissioner’s internal report to the British foreign office was ‘leaked’: it called the post-Godhra violence "pre-planned and aimed at removing Muslim influence from parts of the state". The dossier, compiled by British diplomats in New Delhi, also estimated that the number of deaths in Gujrat was approaching 2,000 while the Vajpayee government’s own estimate was still to reach three digits.

The German embassy’s report spoke of "surgical strikes" against Muslims and Muslim-owned establishments, and commented that India’s democratic and secular credentials had been damaged. The Dutch report blamed Narendra Modi for his failure to protect "minorities". The EU’s internal report was the most damning of all, even mentioning "the clear evidence of complicity by the state ministry".

India’s external affairs ministry at first responded arrogantly. Nirupama Rao, their spokesman, said, "India does not appreciate interference in our internal matters and we have faced difficult diplomatic situations in the past over Kashmir and Pokhran nuclear tests." One EU source responded sharply: "when over 900 people have died and over 140,000 people are in refugee camps, Gujrat can no longer be called an internal matter, and we cannot turn a blind eye to events like Gujrat riots." Veteran ex-diplomat G. Parthasarathy was even more emphatic: "India should consider itself very lucky that the Israeli offensive against Palestine took place simultaneously with the Gujrat riots and we should thank Ariel Sharon for diverting the world’s attention from Gujrat."

It is the British immigrants from India who could end up giving Vajpayee his biggest international headache. The relatives of those killed in the Gujrat pogrom are determined to bring Narendra Modi to book, and cases against him will shortly be filed in Britain and Belgium (Belgian law allows Belgian courts to hear cases of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity regardless of the crimes were committed). In another move by the British relatives, Vajpayee, Advani and Modi have been indicted before the European Court of Human Rights. Habibullah Akudi, the British lawyer who represents the families of the victims, hopes to have Modi, Vajpayee and Advani charged in the European court with presiding over an "organized pogrom" against Gujrat’s Muslim community; he will also file a charge of murder against the chief minister of Gujrat in the British high court.

Narendra Modi, the Gujrat chief minister, claimed initially that he brought the state "under control" within 72 hours. Little or no control seems to have been achieved even after 72 days. Even those who were in the forefront of the hate campaign in the first 72 hours seem to have no control now over the mobs that pounce when and as they please, even as the official deathtoll approaches four figures and the non-governmental estimates approach four times that.

When earthquake struck Gujrat last year, victims were provided ‘humanitarian relief’ tainted with religious discrimination: Muslims were often beaten and given assistance only if they sang Hindu songs. If this could happen after a natural calamity that struck everyone in Gujrat, Hindu and Muslim alike, just a year ago, then there can be absolutely no surprise that the state treats Muslims with such vicious contempt during a campaign aimed at setting ‘ethnic cleansing’ records.

 

Reuters, Friday, May 17, 2002 11:10 ET
Riots create partition fears in India's Gujarat

By Maria Abraham

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - Salim Jamumiya Sindhi was a prosperous landowner and village head in India's western state of Gujarat -- until the savage religious riots that destroyed his life more than two months ago.

Sindhi, 42, whose wife and teenage son were hacked to death by a marauding Hindu mob, now lives in a relief camp in Modasa, a Muslim-majority town, and has no plans to return to the huge 100-acre farm he left behind.

"The Hindu villagers -- who ate with me, who I lent money to and helped in every emergency -- have deceived me," said the distraught village chief, adding that he and Muslims from about 37 villages had decided to re-build their lives in Modasa.

Almost 55 years after the bloody partition of the subcontinent into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-dominated India, hatred is creating deep rifts between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat where some 950 people have been killed since the country's worst religious violence in a decade erupted in late February.

"This is another partition. The Hindus want to drive us out of their areas," said Ayub Qureshi, clutching a few wrapped photographs, all he has left of a five-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter who were burnt before his eyes.

"There's no question of ever living in a Hindu area again," said Qureshi, who lives in a relief camp in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city which bore the brunt of the violence sparked by the torching of 59 Hindu activists in a train attack.

Fear and animosity are driving Muslims, who once lived in mixed neighborhoods, to exclusively Muslim neighborhoods. Tens of thousands are still living in crammed relief camps.

Many Muslims, who fled mobs in several villages, complain of Hindus setting impossible terms for their return -- conversion to Hinduism, shaving of beards, dropping of rape complaints, not building mosques or broadcasting prayers from mosques.

ANOTHER PAKISTAN

Hindus displaced from their homes during the riots are equally vehement.

"Muslims want to create another Pakistan here. Now, we think if any Muslim enters a Hindu area we'll cut him to pieces," said Sanjay Vasphoda, 21, living in a Hindu relief camp in Ahmedabad.

The yawning divide brings back memories of the traumatic partition in 1947 that unleashed a bloodbath in which up to one million people were killed, and the flight of at least 10 million refugees in the greatest migration in human history.

Relations between Hindus and Muslims have always been tense in Gujarat, but residents say the animosity has reached levels never seen before. The fear and loathing is most evident in Ahmedabad's teeming relief camps.

A group of Hindus who tried to return to their homes about 10 days ago was attacked and their houses burnt down.

"A shower of bombs rained down on us that day. The fear of Muslims has settled deep in our stomach. It can't be dissolved easily," said Shantaben Vasphoda, who had a narrow escape when a crude bomb exploded just outside her door.

The residents vow vengeance and their decision is unanimous: Live only in Hindu areas.

The Muslim residents of Naroda-Pattia -- where nearly 100 people, including children, were brutally raped, hacked and burnt to death within a few hours by Hindu mobs -- say there isn't a shred of doubt in their minds either.

"The next time we may not be able to escape. It is safer to live with our own community. Even if army commandos are posted in the area, I will never return to Naroda," said Qureshi, who had a flourishing mutton business in a Hindu area.

Muslims, opposition and civil rights groups have accused the state's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government of turning a blind eye to the violence -- charges it has denied. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said police took firm action and brought the riots under control in three days.

TALE OF TWO CITIES

Either way, the tension is still palpable.

Ahmedabad is a tale of two cities -- bustling Hindu-dominated areas with restaurants and discotheques packed with smartly dressed youngsters and Muslim quarters that wear a haunted look with shuttered shops and burnt shells of houses.

"Partition has already taken place in every respect. The only secure place for Muslims is a ghetto," said Cedric Prakash, director of the Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.

"The Gujarat government is following a fascist ideology. It is their policy to divide Hindus and Muslims down the line."

A group of Muslim businessmen from Ahmedabad has bought a five-acre plot of land in a Muslim quarter and plans next week to start construction of houses for displaced Muslims.

"The government is not doing anything to rehabilitate people living in such pitiable conditions in camps. They want to live only in Muslim areas," said B. Adil, a builder.

A senior minister in the state government told Reuters the two communities had been polarized in an unprecedented manner.

"Yes, there is partition in the state. The division between Hindus and Muslims has become more deep-rooted. This kind of polarisation has never happened before," said the minister.

 

The Indian Express, Thursday, May 23, 2002
The face behind Gujarat’s foetus headline

Father of Kausar Bano says they should have taken me and let her first child be born

Mukta Chakravorty

Ahmedabad, May 22: To put a face to the brutal story of Kausar Bano is to give a voice to her 70-year-old father. Mercifully, Khaliq Noor Mohammad Sheikh didn’t see the mobs slitting Kausar’s womb with a sword, dragging out the unborn child that nestled within her and burning both in Naroda Patiya on February 28. He had fainted — when he woke up, he couldn’t even find the charred remains of Kausar Bano and her unborn child.

‘‘I found out how my daughter and her baby had been killed after I went to the Shah Alam relief camp. They could have killed me and spared my pregnant daughter,’’ sobs Sheikh. ‘‘My daughter got married only last year. This would have been her first child. And they did not even allow it to come into this world.’’

Sheikh was a paint contractor who earned around Rs 4,000 a month. Until February 28, he had two houses in Naroda Patiya. He had two children: Kausar, in her early thirties, and a younger married son.

Kausar’s was a love marriage. She and her unemployed husband, Shahid Sheikh, stayed with her father. Shahid is said to be alive, but nobody at Shah Alam knows his whereabouts.

Sheikh’s neighbours, who are also at the relief camp, remember Kausar as a quiet person, who ‘‘would speak only when spoken to’’. ‘‘She wasn’t educated, but she had learnt diamond-cutting and polishing. She didn’t work, though,’’ says her father. His son Sharmuddin, his wife and two children lived with Sheikh. ‘‘We were a 12-member joint family. My wife’s sister and her family of four also stayed with us,’’ he says. Only three of the 12 — Sheikh, his son-in-law and his wife’s sister’s son — survived.

A day before the massacre, Sheikh says he took Kausar to a hospital in Kalupur for a medical check-up. ‘‘She was complaining of pain. The doctor said she was likely to deliver in a day or two.’’

On February 28, Sheikh was leaving for work when he heard loud shouts outside. ‘‘We all tried to flee. The mob hit me with sticks and tried to douse me with petrol. I managed to escape and reach a nearby dhaba, where I lost consciousness. When I regained consciousness after 28 hours, I went back to see only ruins. Some policemen escorted me to a nearby chawl, from where I was brought to the relief camp.’’ Reshmabano Nadibbhai Sayed, one of Sheikh’s neighbours, says, ‘‘Ever since chacha heard about the gory killing, he has turned insane with grief.’’ Reshmabano says she witnessed Kausar’s killing. ‘‘As Kausar was being dragged out of her home, she kept screaming, pleading with the mob to take away her money, her valuables, but spare her and her unborn child. But they pulled out the baby and threw it into the fire along with Kausar’s body. When her mother tried to intervene, she was burnt as well. When an old man hears all this, won’t he be affected?’’

Sheikh says he will never return to Naroda Patiya.‘‘I will go back to Bangalore, where my mother-in-law lives. My life is over, but I want to see the murderers of my daughter brought to book before I die,’’ he says.

 

The Indian Express, Friday, May 24, 2002
The Gujarat crime Modi referred to CBI: ‘malicious, misleading’ e-mail

Dalip Singh

New Delhi, May 23: Chief Minister Narendra Modi did not think it necessary to let CBI probe the darkest moments in Gujarat’s orgy of death. But the contents of an unauthenticated internet report, attributed to two Godhra scribes, left Modi so upset that he promptly approached the Centre with a request for a CBI investigation under new cyber laws. It is another matter though that the CBI saw no merit in the case.

It all began when someone posted on the internet an e-mail report — its supposed authors have denied putting out any such story — under the headline ‘What triggered the Orgy of Death in Gujarat!! A hard fact.’ The provocative story was attributed to two freelancers based in Godhra, Anil Soni and Neelam Soni.

Outraged by its contents, Modi filed a written complaint with Home Minister L K Advani when he came visiting New Delhi in March. A senior Home Ministry official said that Modi, in a signed letter to Advani, stated that ‘‘there is a deliberate attempt to malign the image of the state government’’ by circulating such a report.

Calling it a a cyber crime, Modi asked Advani for ‘‘appropriate action to avoid recurrence of such misleading and objectionable messages through the internet media.’’

It fell on Joint Secretary (Centre-State) R K Singh to forward Modi’s complaint to the CBI on March 28. But two months later, the MHA has been told there is no case.

‘‘The CBI has informed us that they cannot probe this episode because the complaint is devoid of specifics. The name of the person to whom it was forwarded is missing as are the internet protocol address and the header which helps identify the source of the mail,’’ an MHA official said.

Anil Soni, who had been named as one of the authors of the report, told The Indian Express he had never scripted any such report.

‘‘I’m tired of the same reply. I’m in no way connected with the story. I have received so many calls, all inquiring whether the story was true. Someone known to me has done it. Otherwise, how could anyone put out my mobile and land phone numbers. It has to be someone from Godhra,’’ he said.

He has already lodged a complaint with the Superintendent of Police and District Magistrate, seeking a thorough probe. Soni said he was not aware of Modi’s complaint to Advani in the matter.

The CBI, he said, never contacted him.

 

The Indian Express, Saturday, May 25, 2002
Bones found in Bakery oven human: Experts

Syed Khalique Ahmed

Vadodara, May 24: An expert panel from the Baroda Medical College has confirmed that the bones recovered from an oven at Best Bakery are those of humans. The scientific confirmation brings to light the gory death that two residents of Best Bakery met with on March 1.

The two residents had gone missing when most of the city was burning. The bones taken from the oven were sent to the medical college for examination.

A total of 14 persons were reportedly killed at Best Bakery on March 1. While 12 bodies were identified, two others reported to have been killed could not be found anywhere.

Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) Inspector P.P. Kanani said the missing persons were Kausar Shah Mohammed Shaikh and Arshad alias Lullo Haroon Shaikh. Both were key witness Zahirah’s relatives.

Kanani added that DNA tests will confirm whose bones these were. He said he had already asked the missing persons’ relatives for blood samples for the confirmatory DNA test.

According to Kanani, the mob had injured Zahirah, her mother Sehrunnisa, her sister and two brothers and were about to set them ablaze as well, but police arrived on time to rescue them. Investigations have revealed that one Santosh Thakkar — mentioned by Zahirah as an accused — had made a call from his mobile phone to Congress councillor Chandrakant Srivastava who, in turn, asked the Panigate police inspector to help save the victims in the bakery.

Details of the calls made from the two mobile phones show that these were made around 10.30 am on March 1, about the same time Zahirah and her family were rescued by the police.

 

Reuters, May 25, 2002
Two die in fresh religious violence in Indian state

AHMEDABAD, India, May 25 (Reuters) - At least two people were killed in police firing after fresh Hindu-Muslim clashes in India's riot-torn western Gujarat state late on Friday, police said.

Seven people were injured in the clashes, police said. The latest flare-up of religious violence shattered nearly a fortnight of calm.

An indefinite curfew was imposed and paramilitary forces deployed to prevent further violence in the town, where Hindus and Muslims pelted stones at each other, superintendent of police Raju Bhargava told Reuters.

A senior police official said the violence broke out in Godhra town, some 150 km north-west of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, after a crudely made bomb was exploded by some people.

More than 900 people, mostly Muslims, have died in reprisal killings by Hindus after a Muslim mob firebombed a train in Godhra, burning alive 59 Hindus in late February.

"One of the dead is Muslim, while the second victim is yet to be identified. Both died in police firing. The situation there is under control now," Bhargava said, adding that 43 people were arrested for their role in the violence.

Another senior police official said: "The incident has shattered the myth that the state has returned to normal. It only shows clashes could start between the two communities without too much of a provocation."

More than 100,000 people, mostly Muslims, who are still living in crowded and ramshackle relief camps, have either no home or are too petrified to return to their homes fearing fresh attacks by Muslims.

Authorities have ordered the army, which was stationed in Gujarat from early March, to return to their operational base in view of the rising tension between arch rival neighbouring Pakistan.

 

Reuters, May 28, 2002
Amnesty criticises India over Gujarat bloodshed

By Sugita Katyal

NEW DELHI, May 28 (Reuters) - Indian authorities failed to protect people from communal violence during the country's worst religious bloodshed in a decade in western Gujarat state, global human rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

More than 900 people, mostly Muslims, died in reprisal killings and clashes after a Muslim mob firebombed a train in Godhra, burning alive 59 Hindus in late February, official figures say.

Human rights groups and Western diplomats say at least 2,000 people have died.

"The Indian authorities failed to protect people from communal violence which led to the deaths of hundreds of people and displacement of thousands," Amnesty said in an addendum to its annual 2001 report.

The rights watchdog released its annual report earlier on Tuesday in which it said human rights abuses continued unabated across the globe last year, typified by illegal executions, disappearances, torture and imprisonment without trial.

"Amnesty International sent a memorandum to the government of Gujarat urging immediate protection for those at risk and an impartial investigation to bring those responsible to justice," the human rights watchdog said.

Nearly three months after the Godhra incident, more than 100,000 people, mostly Muslims, are still living in crowded and ramshackle relief camps, with either no home or too petrified to return to their homes fearing fresh attacks from Hindus.

'TURNING A BLIND EYE'

Muslims, opposition parties and civil rights groups have accused the state's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government of turning a blind eye to the violence in Gujarat -- charges it has denied.

Survivors say local police not only stood by as Hindu mobs torched and razed Muslim homes and butchered men, women and children, but also fired on Muslims, herded some into the arms of mobs and prevented others fleeing.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said police took firm action and brought the riots under control in three days.

Amnesty's India coordinator Vijay Nagaraj said it was difficult to determine the exact number of deaths in Gujarat because of lack of access to the riot-torn state. Amnesty cannot send out its teams in India without government permission.

"Amnesty has put in an application to visit Gujarat but hasn't received a response yet," Nagaraj told Reuters.

"We do not have direct and uninhibited access to survivors which slows down the process. Our report is based on information from non-governmental organisations and activists in Gujarat."

The Amnesty report also said the Muslim community in India "had become increasingly vulnerable to victimisation by both the state and some Hindu political groups" after the September 11 attacks.

It said tensions between police and Muslim groups had erupted into rioting in different parts of the country and religious antagonism had also "escalated" when Hindu activists intensified plans to build a temple on the site of a razed Muslim mosque.

The 59 Hindu train passengers who were burnt alive had been returning from the site in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

 

Paknews.com, Updated on 2002-05-29 10:28:01
Killer Confessions - Indian Sectarian Riots

How Indian Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi justified the genocide of Muslims

MEDIA EXCERPTS COLLECTED BY Pakistan American Democratic Forum (PADF) (www.padfonline.com)

How Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi justified the genocide of Muslims in India

“Terming the (Godhra) attack as ‘pre-planned, violent act of terrorism’, Mr Modi said that State Government was viewing this attack seriously”. -- The Times of India 28 Feb 2002.

“With the entire population of Gujarat very angry at what happened in Godhra much worse was expected”. -- Narendra Modi at a Press Conference in Gujarat, Feb 28.

“Modi said he was ‘absolutely satisfied’ with the way in which the police and State Government handled the backlash from Godhra incident and ‘happy’ that violence was largely contained… ‘We should be happy that curfew has been imposed only at 26 places while there is anger and people are burning with revenge. Thanks to security arrangements we brought things under control”.

When asked that not a policeman was visible in most areas where shops were looted and set on fire, he said he hadn’t received any complaint. -- The Indian Express March 1 2002.

“Investigations have revealed that the firing by the Congressman played a pivotal role in inciting the mob.” -- CM Narendra Modi on Chamanpura incident where former MP Ahsan Jaffri was burned alive with 19 of his relatives. On being asked what could have lead to the Ex-MP opening fire it was ‘probably in his nature’ to do so. -- The Hindustan Times, March 2 2002.

“Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday termed ‘barbaric’ the murder of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri along with 19 of his family members, but said there was firing from inside the house’”. -- The Indian Express, March 2 2002

“With regard to the incident at Narod, Modi said the incident had been sparked off when two drivers – Muslims - intentionally drove their Tata tempos in to two”.-- The Hindustan Times March 2, 2002

“Asked about the violence, Modi quoted Newton's third law – ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’ - to virtually justify what is happening. -- The Times of India, March 3, 2002.

“Chief Minister Narendra Modi on March 4: ‘The situation is totally under control. There is no threat to any life. Everything is functioning normally. That is all I can say. I will meet people and give them confidence’’’. -- The Indian Express March 05 2002.

“’It is unfortunate that along with the communal violence that is dangerous for any country, a non-violent secular violence also gets unleashed in the country at the same time by the media.” -- CM Narendra Modi, at a press conference in Gandhi Nagar on March 5.

“Mr Modi said the Godhra incident was not a communal riot. Godhra was a ‘mass murder, a terrorist act aimed at long-term damage’” -- CM Narendra Modi addressing the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Gujarat. -- The Times of India, 7 March 2002.

“For the first time in years, we have had an upsurge of popular sentiment that brought together Dalits, tribals and middle-class Hindus on the same platform,” he said. -- The Telegraph, March 6, 2002, from a Delhi dateline report filed by the daily’s Special Correspondent, quoting a BJP minister in the Central Government, without identifying the person quoted.


How Ahmedabad police chief, P.C. Pande, justified the killing of innocents

“(Nothing illustrates police role better than police commissioner P.C. Pande’s statement that, ‘Police were not insulated from the general social milieu… (When) there’s a change in the perception of society, the police are part of it and there’s bound to be some contagion effect”’. -– The Telegraph, March 2, 2002

It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots In a startling revelation, Professor Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, 96-year-old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, told rediff.com that the list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself. http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/mar/12train.htm

I do not know what face I will show them (the world) now after the shameful events in Gujarat. -- Atal Behari Vajpayee, during his visit to Ahmedabad on April 4, 2002; in The Hindustan Times.

My one message to the chief minister is that he should follow raj dharma. A ruler should not make any discrimination between his subjects on the basis of caste, creed and religion. -- Atal Behari Vajpayee, during his visit to Ahmedabad on April 4, 2002; in The Hindustan Times.

“Let Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority”. -- RSS resolution at its Bangalore meet, March 18, 2002

“After the post-Godhra spontaneous Hindu upsurge the party will have to consider the people’s strong feelings on Hindutva and nationalism”. -- Bharat Pandya, BJP MLA, quoted in India Today, March 18, 2002. The report added that at a closed-door meeting with party president Jana Krishnamurthy in Ahmedabad, MLA after MLA of the BJP talked of reverting to the Hindutva track).

“Now, it is the end of tolerance. If the Muslims do not learn, it will be very harmful for them.” -- Harish Bhai Bhatt, VHP leader, quoted in Mid-Day from a New York Times report, March 6, 2002

“He (Narendra Modi) has salvaged the party’s credibility and honour in a way no one has done after we came to power in the Centre.” -- A Union minister from the BJP, not identified by name, quoted in The Telegraph, March 6, 2002.

“Modi was the only one who had the guts to defend what happened in his state without batting an eyelid or being red-faced. He did not say one thing one day and another the next day.” -- ‘BJP sources’, not identified by name, quoted in The Telegraph, March 6, 2002.

“(T)he presence of the army has definitely helped as no major violence has been reported today,” he said even as parts of the walled city were burning after arsonists and mobs went on a rampage during curfew relaxation”. -- Ashok Narayan, Gujarat’s Additional Home Secretary, in The Indian Express, March 4, 2002.

“From Godhra to Ahmedabad, in so many places, there are so many incidents of people being burnt alive, including helpless women and children. This is a blot on nation’s forehead and has grievously harmed India’s image in the eyes of the world”. -- Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, statement on March 3, 2002.

“Let Muslims look upon Ram as their hero and the communal problems will all be over”.-- RSS mouthpiece, Organisor, June 20, 1971.

 

Reuters, May 30, 2002
Indian police accused of killing Muslims

By Terry Friel

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - "It was like fire raining from above," Bivi Bano Sheikh says as she tells how her Hindu neighbors, backed by police, doused scores of Muslims with kerosene and set them on fire.

Her 7-year-old son, Shafiq Ahmad Sheikh, stands silently with her, his arms horribly burned in the attack that killed between 60 and 120, his father and sister among them.

Evidence is mounting that some police not only stood by during some of India's worst Hindu-Muslim bloodshed but also fired on Muslims, herded them into the arms of waiting mobs or prevented them from fleeing.

"In certain cases the police involvement was total," says Father Cedric Prakash, who heads the Prashant human rights group.

Authorities say almost 1,000 people died in a rampage of violence across one of India's richest states, Gujarat, which erupted when a Muslim mob torched a train carrying Hindus, killing 59 mainly women and children, Feb. 27.

Human rights investigators say the death toll is at least 2,500, most of them Muslims killed in a carefully orchestrated and state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom.

"This time, it was not communal violence as such, it was more of a pogrom or a genocide," says Hanif Lakdawala, a Muslim doctor who leads a secular aid agency working in urban slums in Gujarat's commercial hub, Ahmedabad.

In its latest report, New York-based Human Rights Watch was heavily critical of police.

"At best, they were passive observers, and at worse they acted in concert with murderous mobs and participated directly in the burning and looting of Muslim shops and homes and the killing and mutilation of Muslims," the rights watchdog said.

"In many cases, under the guise of offering assistance, the police led the victims directly into the hands of their killers."

The report echoed comments made to Reuters by survivors.

In a refugee camp at a local mosque where the temperature under the makeshift canopy is near 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Bivi, 28, tells of the day the mob came and police came with them.

As she was doing household chores early Feb. 28, the day after the train attack, a Hindu mob swept through her neighborhood in Naroda Patia on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, blowing up the mosque and looting and torching Muslim homes.

"The police were firing at Muslims who were running away, using tear gas as well as firing from guns," she said, adding that she saw people shot.

REFUSED PROTECTION

Police at a nearby base refused to protect the Muslims.

"The police said, 'You have no escape from death. You are to die today. Today, all Muslims are to die,"' Bivi said.

Up to 150 people were herded into a narrow compound near a water tower separating the Muslim and Hindu quarters, penned in by buildings on two sides and the mob and police on the others.

The mob doused the Muslims, using buckets and plastic bags filled with kerosene, and set them alight.

"There was screaming and chaos, people were falling on each other -- it was like fire raining from above," Bivi said. "The police were standing with the mob that (was) pouring kerosene. I saw it with my own eyes, they did nothing to prevent the mob."

Her husband, Mehboob Sheikh, and their 16-year-old daughter, Shabana, died in a hospital a few agonizing days later.

Almost three months later, white lime has been plastered over the compound wall and two small new brick walls put up.

But scattered pieces of evidence remain -- human hair and charred bangles on the ground, bloodstained clothing.

Other survivors in different camps told Reuters they were shot at by police or saw police fire on unarmed Muslims.

"The police were shielding the Hindu mobs and they fired at us," said Liyaqat Hussein, a 23-year-old laborer living at the Dariyakhan Gummat refugee camp. "First they used tear gas shells and then they fired (live rounds) at us."

A neighbor, blinded by tear gas, was shot in the stomach. "He fell and then and there he died," Hussein said.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi denies any state or police involvement and says he restored control within 72 hours.

He has refused growing calls to quit, including from within his own Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

"The chief minister is not the issue, it's peace and progress," he told Reuters. "I am the person who has been saying repeatedly that what happened after that (train attack) was not becoming of any civil society."

Despite formal complaints by survivors and investigations by Gujarati and international human rights groups, no policeman has been arrested.

But India's "super cop," K.P.S. Gill, brought in as a special adviser to help end the violence and reform the police, said wrongdoers would be prosecuted.

"These complaints cannot be ignored," said Gill, who won his nickname stamping out a separatist revolt in the Sikh-majority state of Punjab in the 1990s.

 

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