The Indian Express, Saturday, June 01, 2002
NHRC rubs it in Modi: complicity was tacit
Report says get CBI to probe
Express News Service
New Delhi, May 31: In its second and final report submitted on the Gujarat carnage, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) today held the State government squarely responsible and said the facts indicate a complicity that was tacit if not explicit. The report also recommends handing over cases for investigation to the CBI to ensure impartiality.
The NHRCs 53-page report concludes that There is no doubt in the opinion of this Commission that there was a comprehensive failure on the part of the State Government to control the persistent violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of the state.
Quoting the Central principle of administration of criminal justice, the report says, Those against whom allegations are made should not themselves be entrusted with the investigation of those allegations ... It would thus be a travesty of the principles of criminal justice if such cases were not transferred to the CBI.
The report urges the Centre to intervene under Article 355 of Constitution and go beyond a mere invocation of the existing rules on cases when the CBI should take up a case. ...politically connected persons, named by the victims of the crimes committed, remained at large, many defying arrest. These are grave matters that must not be allowed to be forgiven or forgotten.
Reiterating intelligence failure as the cause for the violence, the report states that the response of the state government (in its official report) has been unable to rebut this presumption. Till May 10, of 16,245 persons arrested for substantive offence, all but 2,100 have been granted bail. Of the 11,363 Hindus arrested for such offences, eight % remain in custody; while 20 % of the 4,882 Muslims arrested remained in custody, says the report.
It also says:
On security cover for two High Court judges: Indeed, the facts indicate that the response was often abysmal, or even non-existent, pointing to gross negligence in certain instances or, worse still, as was widely believed, to a complicity that was tacit if not explicit.
On KPS Gills appointment: The appointment implicitly confirms that a failure had occurred earlier to bring under control the persisting violation of the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of the people of the state.
On attacks on women and children: That report (of Gujarat Government submitted on April 12) also testifies to the assault on the dignity and worth of the human person, particularly of women and children, through acts of rape and other humiliating crimes of violence and cruelty.
Victims of atrocities, including rape, were having difficulty in having FIRs recorded, in naming those whom they had identified and in securing copies of their FIRs.
Many women were not coming forward for recording FIRS because of a lack of policewomen at relief camps, insensitive questioning and too few police desks, which worked only for a few days in the week and stayed open for just two hours every day, says the report.
On the Naroda Patiya massacre: Though 22 have been arrested, the government is silent on whether they had been released on bail or were in custody. There are also no details on the status of 46 persons arrested in the Sadarpura case of Mehsana district, where 28 persons were reportedly killed.
The Commission has, therefore, reached the definite conclusion that... there was a comprehensive failure of the state to protect the Constitutional rights of the people of Gujarat, starting with the tragedy in Godhra on February 27, 2002, and continuing with the violence that ensued in the weeks that followed.
The Indian Express, Monday, June 03, 2002
BJP man keeps job despite Naroda taint
Minorities board member named in FIR, arrested
Gandhinagar, June 2 The Ahmedabad police may have arrested local BJP leader Kishan Korani, a member of the board of directors of the Gujarat Minorities Finance and Development Corporation (GMFDC), in connection with the Naroda-Patiya massacre, but the Gujarat government has no intention of removing him from his post.
There is no question of removing Korani from the corporation or seeking his resignation till the charges against him are conclusively proved in the court of law, MoS for the Welfare of Socially and Economically Backward Classes Karsan Patel said. The GMFDC is mandated to work for the upliftment of minorities, and it falls under Patels ministry.
Korani was arrested by the Crime Branch from his residence in Naroda-Patiya and remanded to police custody for 10 days. He was named in FIR registered after the massacre in which 86 persons were killed during the VHP-sponsored Gujarat bandh on February 28.
Patel said he had discussed the issue with senior BJP leaders, including party chief Rajendrasinh Rana, and they too agree that Korani cannot be removed from the directorship of the GMFDC until he is convicted.
Forget the past: Gill to Muslims
AHMEDABAD: K P S Gill, security advisor to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, today urged the Muslim community to forget the past and strive to build an peaceful society. Gill said at a function organised by Chhipe Jamat Charitable Trust here, We need to build a new society without any communal bias. The people of Gujarat wanted peace which was being undermined by anti-social elements, he added. PTI
Nor will Korani be asked to resign on moral
grounds. Even Mayaben Kodnanis (BJP MLA) name
figures in an FIR. Does it mean she also should resign from
membership of the Assembly? Congress MLA from Dangs Madhu Bhoye
recently accused me of threatening him, and he had also
complained to the Governor. Should I also quit?,
While Rana was unavailable for comment, State BJP general secretary Nalin Bhatt said he was not aware of Koranis arrest or the fact that he was one of the directors of the GMFDC.
GMFDC chairman Gani Qureshi, who is also the convenor of the state BJPs minority cell, said since Korani was appointed on the party leaderships recommendation, only the party could decide whether he should be removed. However, Kirit Makwana, another director who is a practising advocate, said the party could always ask Korani to resign in view of the fact that he is an accused in a heinous crime. By doing so, the party would send positive signals, said Makwana.
Sources in the GMFDC said Korani was appointed three years ago as a representative of the Sindhi community. He was also made a member of the GMFDCs four-member implementation committee, which usually has only members of religious minorities. This committee takes key decisions such as the sanctioning of loans and purchases, the sources said.
An corporation official said Korani had not attended the last two quarterly meetings of the GMFDC, and if he failed to turn up at the next meeting, due some time next month, he would automatically stand disqualified as a director.
The Indian Express, Monday, June 03, 2002
Downpour of misery on Gujarat camps
Ahmedabad, June 2 For parched Amdavadis, the first spell of showers may have been manna from heaven, but for the relief camp inmates caught without even a roof over their heads, it was sheer misery.
Others may have enjoyed the downpour from the safety of their homes but for the riot-hit, its only the beginning of a nightmare that will last all monsoon. There was chaos at our camp. People starting running helter-skelter as soon as the dust storm started, says Umarbhai Saiyed, a volunteer at the Shah Alam Relief Camp.
Saiyed says he and other volunteers tried their best to explain to everyone that all the 10,000-odd refugees cant be accommodated in one hall with a capacity of only 100.
Nobody wanted to understand. Everyone was interested in getting their family members under some shelter. The volunteers tried to bring some order but the crowd was impossible to handle. Though one cant really blame them as the wind was blowing so violently that the shamiyana tore. Thank God, it didnt rain through the night, said Hassan Raja, a refugee at the camp.
The situation was no different in camps such as Gomtipur Chartoda Kabrastan and Bapunagar Aman Chowk. We had nowhere to go. All of us sat with our families, covering ourselves with old rugs and quilts, waiting for the showers to end. We were grateful the rain did not last long though even then the brief shower was enough to wet our belongings, says Shabnambanu Mohammadmiya, a refugee at Bapunagar.
Those lucky enough managed to huddle together under a shamiana. A few inmates took shelter in homes nearby but most of us were left out in the open. We let the children and elderly take shelter under the roof while the others got wet. What else were we to do? asked Aasif Saiyed, a refugee at the Gomtipur camp where there was not even a shamiana.
What worried refugees and organisers most were the newborns. There are over 30 babies at the Shah Alam Relief Camp, more than 20 at the Bapunagar camp and about 15 at Gomptipur camp all of them less than three months old.
Almost every camp has newborns, some only a week old. All camp organisers just have to make some arrangements for them, says Mujibbhai, an organiser of the Bapunagar camp.
The Shah Alam Relief Camp, along with other camps, had sent a memorandum to the government requesting it to make special arrangements for the monsoon.
We have ordered 1,000 tin-roofs and will erect shelters in a couple of days, informed Saiyed. Apart from this, repair work of houses located in areas such as Behrampura, Aabadnagar and Ashanagar has started. Some 1,104 inmates from these areas will be sent back after repairs.
These people have received compensation of Rs 1,000-1,500 which is not enough for repairs. Hence, volunteers are helping them financially so that they can go back before monsoons, says Saiyed. Refugees from Saraspur, Vatva and Maninagar will also be shifted. However, some 5,500 refugees of Naroda Patiya and Saijpur Patia area will have no choice but to spend their monsoon under tin roofs at the camp.
The Washington Post, Monday, June 03, 2002
Rapes Go Unpunished In Indian Mob Attacks
Muslim Women Say Claims Are Ignored
By Rama Lakshmi
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 3, 2002; Page A09
KALOL, India -- Sultana Feroz Sheikh sat motionless, staring at the mud floor in a dark, windowless room.
Three months ago, as religious riots engulfed the western Indian state of Gujarat, Sheikh saw her husband and several relatives burned alive. Then, she said, she was brutally raped by three men as her 4-year-old son wailed nearby.
Sheikh wants to see the criminals brought to justice. But Gujarat police are routinely refusing to file charges against individuals accused of rape during the violence in late February and early March, because they say mob violence cannot be broken down into specific crimes.
"It is difficult to determine who in the mob pelted stones, who raped and who killed," said police inspector Ramanbhai Patil. Though the riot on March 1 that claimed the lives of Sheikh's loved ones and resulted in her rape engulfed the entire village of Kalol, she said Patil has arrested only four men in connection with the day's events.
The violence then spread throughout Gujarat, where nearly 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed in Hindu-Muslim clashes since Feb. 27. That was the day Muslims launched a firebomb attack on a train carrying Hindu activists, killing 60. Countless cases of arson, looting, murder and rape have been jumbled together in what are known as first-information reports, or FIRs. Police have filed "general FIRs," simply blaming riots on Hindu tola, or mobs, and refusing to register individual complaints.
Arrests increased markedly after the Indian government appointed K.P.S. Gill -- known as the "super cop" of Punjab state for his work there in the 1990s -- to assist with law enforcement in Gujarat. Police have arrested about 3,200 suspects in more than 300 cases of attacks against Muslims in Gujarat. The suspects have been charged with murder, rioting and arson. But advocacy groups say arrests for rape are still rare.
"The police FIR said that a Hindu mob attacked a Muslim mob," said Sheikh, who is Muslim. "I am not a 'mob,' I am a woman who was gang-raped by three men. How can I hope for justice, when they don't even register my complaint properly?"
Farah Naqvi, an independent journalist who is part of Citizen's Initiative, a fact-finding team that recorded testimony of sexual violence in Gujarat, called it "a piracy of silence."
"Cases have been filed against the nameless and the faceless," Naqvi said. "When you register them as mobs, it gives you a basis and an excuse for inaction. A single, collective FIR cannot take care of all the individual losses, as the time, loss and place varies. And it is especially true for rape."
There are no reliable estimates of how many women -- Hindu or Muslim -- have been raped in the Gujarat violence. According to the Citizen's Initiative report, however, almost every relief shelter in the state houses people who are victims of or witnesses to rape, molestation or other types of sexual assault.
Part of the difficulty in gauging the problem, said Sejal Dand, an aid worker, is that "many women were raped and then killed or burned."
Dand said fear of the police, who have been widely accused of standing idle as violence peaked, discouraged women and witnesses from reporting crimes for days. When the victims and witnesses finally did file reports, police often asked them to omit the names of influential men, Dand said.
In addition, in India's conservative and inward-looking Muslim minority of 130 million, even talking about rape is a matter of deep shame and stigma.
In the village of Fatehpura, aid workers reported, a Hindu mob dragged 30 young women into full public view, sexually assaulted them and forced them to run naked. Yet the Muslims of Fatehpura refuse to go to the police or even reveal the names of the women, fearing no man would marry them, the aid workers said.
"There is a lot of denial on the issue of rape of Muslim women in Gujarat," Dand said. Even after citizens groups published reports with women's testimonies, many officials were dismissive. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in Parliament that reports of sexual violence were "exaggerated," and the country's law minister said only two FIRs have been filed for rape in Gujarat so far.
Sheikh hasn't filed one, because the police wouldn't let her, she said.
Her ordeal began on the morning of Feb. 28, a day after the attack on the train, she said, when she heard hundreds of angry Hindus marching toward the Muslim quarters of her home village of Delol, shouting, "We will burn you!" She and her husband grabbed their son and fled to some wheat fields, where they hid with a group of other panic-stricken Muslims. Their homes went up in flames.
The Muslims retreated in a milk van the next morning to the nearest town, Kalol. There, another Hindu mob surrounded them.
"One by one, they pulled out the men from the van and burned them. My husband was burned alive in front of my own eyes as I screamed and pleaded with them," Sheikh said, tears welling in her eyes.
Sheikh said she managed to jump out with her son, then ran toward a nearby river. Eight men wielding swords chased after her.
"One of them grabbed my hair from behind and pulled me; another snatched my son away," she said. They threw her down and hit her, and three raped her. "They were ruthless," she whispered.
Sheikh ran and hid for days before going to a relief shelter in Kalol. Ten days after the rape, she summoned the courage to go to the police to file a report.
"To my surprise, the police said I cannot file an FIR," Sheikh said. "They said an FIR already existed for that day's events."
Police officials investigating the Kalol violence said they could not register two reports for the same incident. Because a general FIR had already been filed, they said, the most they could do was attach a statement to it.
Patil said Sheikh's case was weak anyway, because she did not undergo a medical examination until more than 10 days after the alleged rape.
Citizen's Initiative recommends that special courts be set up to hear women's cases and that their testimony be treated as the basis for legal action if FIRs are not filed. And the requirement of medical evidence should be dropped, the group says, because so many women hid for days before going to the police.
Trauma counseling, according to the group's report, is the most urgent need.
For a number of emotionally scarred women now languishing in shelters, consisting of tents in the scorching heat, simply returning to their homes could provide the first healing touch. But homecoming is fraught with risks, too.
Bilkees Rasoolbhai Yaqub, 19, was one of many women gang-raped outside the village of Randikpura. She is the single witness to many killings and rapes in Randikpura and has named three men in her police report. Now Yaqub's Hindu neighbors say they will not allow the Muslims to return to the village until she withdraws the names of the accused in her police report.
The villagers say her statements are baseless; the police say Yaqub's story contains inconsistencies and her medical report was negative.
But, asked an anguished Yaqub, "Why would I lie about my rape? Which woman would invite social stigma upon herself?"
The Hindu, Monday, June 10, 2002
Violence in Ahmedabad
By Manas Dasgupta
AHMEDABAD June 9. Two persons were killed and an indefinite curfew was clamped in the Vejalpur police station areas in Ahmedabad following renewed violence today.
Police said 30 persons, including two police personnel, were injured in police firing and bomb blasts and a dozen persons injured in stone-throwing. The disturbances also led to communal tension in the locality leading to a couple of stabbing incidents in Juhapura and Guptanagar localities.
Islamic heritage under attack
As Hindu fundamentalism grows in India Muslim districts are being wiped out and their historic sites destroyed, writes Luke Harding
Monday June 10, 2002
The courtyard of the Dada Hari mosque was covered in ashes. Closer inspection revealed that the Hindu youths that broke into the building had made a bonfire of its Korans.
They had also lobbed a brick at the Persian inscription above the entrance, and smashed away some of the mosque's fine carved screens. Inside, the mob had shoved off the lids off several stone tombs (whose occupants had the advantage of being already dead).
The destruction in the Indian city of Ahmedabad was not an isolated incident. Over the past three months Hindu gangs have killed more than 2,000 Muslims in pogroms supported by Gujarat's Hindu nationalist politicians and its partisan police force.
Entire Muslim districts have been wiped out. The gangs have raped and incinerated their Muslim neighbours; chopped up a former Muslim MP; and burned down Muslim property. The carnage has been so epic, and so prolonged, that little attention has been paid to the extensive damage done to Gujarat's unique medieval heritage, and to its Muslim monuments and shrines.
A new survey reveals that some 230 historic sites have been vandalised or destroyed. Many are now piles of rubble. Others have been demolished using bulldozers. The scale of the damage is so vast it rivals last year's better-publicised smashing spree by the Taliban (who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas), or the wrecking of Tibet's monasteries by Red Guards.
"This has been a systematic attempt to wipe out an entire culture," Teesta Setalvad, who put together an inventory of the damage, pointed out.
One of the tombs razed during the riots belonged to Vali Gujarati, Muslim India's answer to Geoffery Chaucer. Gujarati was the grandfather of Urdu poetry. His classical idiom inspired later poets and ghazal singers. The residents of Ahmedabad liked his work, with its hint of the mystical and sublime, and when he died there in 1707, they built him a tomb.
In recent years Vali's remains had ended up in the middle of a busy main road. On the night of March 1 Hindu gangs armed with pickaxes smashed up his slab-like monument. They replaced it with a tiny brick Hindu temple, and stuck an idol of the monkey god Hanuman inside.
"We have broken a mosque and made a temple," Mahesh Patel explained, when I asked him what had happened to the 300-year-old tomb. "We used hammers," he added. Muslims should not live in India. They should live in Pakistan." Vali's depressing fate did not end there.
Two days later state officials flattened the spot. "I drove over him recently when I went to the airport, " Ms Setalvad added wistfully. "The government people used machinery to tar over him in a few hours." Several of Vali's fans have pointed out his own verse almost anticipates this gloomy ending: "The city of whose songs I have always sung/Why can I not bear to live in that city now?" he asks in a famous lyric.
The recent destruction in Gujarat was part of a wider, more sinister, project to wipe out India's Islamic heritage a process that if taken to its logical conclusion would lead to the demolition of, among other things, the Taj Mahal. The past 15 years have seen the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. With it India's newest battlegrounds have become the fields of history and archaeology.
Revisionist rightwing Hindu scholars now argue that Muslims are not really Indians at all, but mere foreign invaders who galloped down from Central Asia in the 16th century. The villains of the piece, according to this school, are India's Mughal kings, who ruled the subcontinent for three centuries until the arrival of the British.
These early jihadis, a bit like Osama bin Laden's, not only conquered the indigenous Hindu population but also knocked down its places of worship, it is claimed. These arguments may seem crude. But they are powerful. In 1992, Hindu fanatics tore down a 16th century mosque in the previously unremarkable and sleepy northern town of Ayodhya. They justified their action by claiming the mosque had been built on the ruins of a Hindu temple.
India's secular credentials have yet to recover from the episode. The Hindu demolition gangs in Gujarat took their cue from what happened at Ayodhya, and set about smashing up their own Islamic monuments.
Such chauvinist views go all the way to the top. Sitting in the garden of his government bungalow, the speech-writer for India's Hindu nationalist prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, recently told me how important it was to build a large Hindu temple on the disputed Ayodhya site. "There are no real Muslim leaders," he said, when I asked how India's 150 million Muslims were likely to react to this provocative plan.
The tragedy is that Gujarat had until recently been a place where Hindus and Muslims had got on pretty well. They have a long history. Arab traders first arrived on the west coast of India in the late 7th century. By the early 10th century, travellers founded a 10,000-strong Muslim community, with its own mosques, in the ports of Gujarat. Portuguese missionaries and other adventurers came much later.
And like many of India's Muslim rulers, Ahmedabad's 15th century sultan and founder, Ahmad Shah I, married a Hindu or Rajput princess. (Dada Hari, whose mosque was damaged, was built by a female attendant at court.) His mosques and civic buildings incorporated both Islamic and Rajput elements; he employed Hindus in the highest offices of state.
The Muslim communities of Gujarat are therefore among the longest-established in India, and the majority of their members are descendants of converts, not "foreign invaders", whoever these might be. Several 16th century buildings constructed after Ahmad Shah's death have now been pulverised. They include two four-hundred-year-old mosques, one of which was bulldozed in the presence of two ministers from the ruling state government.
In recent months the first sight that greeted any visitor to Ahmedabad was a thick plume of black smoke emanating from the Muslim old city, and the sight of khaki-clad Hindu policemen running amok inside Muslim compounds.
Ahmed Shah's old royal citadel and exquisite mosque have survived the carnage. But Hindu mobs have destroyed many Islamic buildings outside Muslim-dominated areas attempting as one academic put it to "redeem the past".
"By destroying the symbols of a community you destroy the community itself," Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, of Delhi's Jarwaharlal Nehru University added. Not all of the mosques destroyed have architectural merit. Some were places where young boys would gather to get a basic education and a free meal.
One of the early casualties was the modern two-storey mosque in the district of Naroda Patiya, where a thousand-strong Hindu gangs armed with machetes and tridents laid siege to the Muslim community on the other side of the road during the early days of the riots.
They firebombed the mosque using gas cylinders, incinerating its prayer-mats and Korans. Upstairs, the mosque's kitchen had been burned out; only charred sacks of rice were left. The library had also been destroyed. "Gujarat's police force supported only Hindus. They were laughing at us," the mosque's teacher Malauna Mahboob Qasmi recalled. "We will leave this place now. There is nothing left."
BBC, Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 10:27 GMT
Doubts over Gujarat train attack
Forensic investigators in India have raised questions over an attack which killed almost 60 Hindus and led to widespread anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat.
Hindu pilgrims travelling by train were said to have been attacked by a Muslim mob in the town of Godhra which forced the train to stop and set fire to one of the carriages.
But a report by forensic scientists in Gujarat says it does not appear that the fire on the train was started from outside.
The incident, which took place last February, sparked some of the worst Hindu-Muslim riots in decades in which it is estimated about 2,000 people, most of them Muslims, died.
Fifty-nine people, mostly women and children, died in the attack, which sparked weeks of anti-Muslim violence across Gujarat.
Now, conclusions reached by official forensic investigators contradict earlier accounts of the incident.
They say the evidence suggests the fire was started inside a carriage, not by a mob outside.
Their findings will form part of police evidence and have not yet been made public.
The new theory does not answer the key question of who started the fire and why and seems at odds with eyewitness accounts given at the time.
Some independent reports into the anti-Muslim riots which followed the train fire have accused the state government of collusion in the violence.
An internal British report said the riots, far from being spontaneous, were pre-planned and carried out with the support of the chief minister.
India's central government has dismissed such allegations and refused to criticise or replace the chief minister, Narendra Modi, who is part of the same political party, the BJP.
Rally called off
On Tuesday, Mr Modi's government postponed a Hindu rally planned for Thursday amid fears it could reignite violence between Hindus and Muslims.
Billed as a celebration of Gujarat's achievements, the Gaurav Yatra chariot processions were being organised by the chief minister's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
India's National Human Rights Commission had voiced fears that the rally might revive religious violence in the state.
While Mr Modi postponed Thursday's event, he has not changed the timing of another Hindu mass celebration in Gujarat scheduled for 12 July.
Correspondents say that the authorities will wait to see how the 12 July event passes off before deciding on a new date for the Gaurav Yatra.
Times of India, WEDNESDAY, JULY 03, 2002
Godhra bogie was burnt from inside: Report
AHMEDABAD: The mystery over the burning of the S-6 compartment of Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27, which killed 59 passengers and set off an unprecedented spate of communal frenzy all over Gujarat, has turned deeper with the forensic report on the incident discounting the possibility of the mob throwing inflammable liquid from outside and then setting the bogie on fire.
Investigations made by the Ahmedabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) have now shown that almost 60 litres of inflammable material was poured from inside the compartment before it was set on fire.
A report by the FSL's Assistant Director Dr M S Dahiya, which is part of the charge-sheet filed in the Godhra case about a month back, is based on a study of the pattern of the burns in the compartment and a simulated exercise conducted on May 3 to recreate the incident. The report contradicts the view held so far that the mob which attacked the train threw inflammable liquid at the train using buckets and cans from a distance, even while the passengers had shut all the windows and doors of the compartment.
To recreate how the crime must have been committed, a train bogie was placed at the same spot. Using a variety of different containers, it was doused with liquid for experimental observation.
The report said the height of the window of the bogie was found to be seven feet. In these circumstances, it was not possible to throw inflammable liquids into the bogie from the outside with the help of a bucket or a jerry-can because by this method most of the liquid fell outside the bogie.
At the spot of the incident, at about a distance of 14 feet, there was a mound of gravel-stones about 3 feet high. It was spread parallel to the bogie for a long distance. The FSL officials, standing on the mound, threw water on the windows of the bogie, of which only about 10 to 15 per cent entered the bogie. The rest fell on the outside. Since, a major portion of the inflammable liquid fell on the tracks and around it, it would have caused damage on the outside of the bogie and under it.
The report says, "after inspecting the bogie and the tracks, it was found that there is no effect of fire below the windows. Taking this fact into account and the burning pattern on the outside of the bogie, the conclusion is that no inflammable liquid was thrown into the bogie from the outside". It further says, "it also does not look possible that inflammable liquid was thrown in from the doors of the bogie".
As a next step, using a bucket, about 60 litres of water was thrown into the passage of the compartment from one side and then a large part of the bogie was covered. Water thrown like this went only in one direction, no part of it flowed outside from the open doors or in the direction of the latrine.
"On the basis of this experimental observation, the conclusion is that standing in the passage of the compartment near seat number 72, using a container with a wide opening, about 60 litres of inflammable liquid has been poured and then immediately a fire has been started in the bogie," the report says.
The FSL report further says that "it appears that three of the four doors of the compartment were open when it was burning while all the windows were shut. The pattern of burning (allegatoring pattern) shows that the intensity of the heat was four times more towards the eastern side (towards seat no. 72 of the bogies)".
The Hindu, Friday, July 05, 2002
Mosque demolished in Ahmedabad
By Manas Dasgupta
AHMEDABAD July 4. The Congress-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation is facing a crisis following the resignation by 19 party corporators from various committees in protest against the demolition of a mosque in the city at midnight on Wednesday.
The demolition of the 100-year-old Madni mosque in the Vasna locality was carried out by the municipal administration after serving a few hours' notice.
The Congress mayor, Himmatsinh Patel, claimed that the municipal commissioner was acting under instructions from Gandhinagar and had issued the demolition orders keeping the elected representatives in the dark. he alleged that the demolition was part of the BJP Chief Minister, Narendra Modi's "plan to keep the city simmering till the next elections.'' With the Jagannath rath yatra scheduled for July 12, the demolition could provoke communal disturbances. The State Government authorities, however, denied any knowledge of the demolition which, a senior Minister said, was carried out by the municipal corporation. He ridiculed the idea of the municipal commissioner taking orders from Gandhinagar and said the Congress was blaming the Government to save its own skin.
The mosque was in the eye of a storm for causing obstruction to traffic. With the growth of the city, the busy Ashram Road, one of the main city arteries, was expanding all along its stretch but stopped at the Madni mosque, a part of which jutted out on the road.
The mosque, along with nine shops adjoining its boundary wall, was damaged by hooligans during the recent riots. Repair work had just been taken up by the trust when the municipal bulldozers demolished it.
The agitated Congress members had planned to call on Mr. Modi in Gandhinagar but later decided to wait till the return of the municipal commissioner, P.M. Paneervel.
The city Congress president, Rajkumar Gupta, who is also the chairman of the corporation standing committee, said the deputy municipal commissioner had told him that the demolition orders were issued by Mr. Paneervel, who however, denied any knowledge of the incident. Mr. Gupta said the mosque was demolished in violation of an earlier civic resolution that no place of worship would be demolished on grounds of traffic obstruction, but that the existing ones would not be allowed to expand or new ones allowed to come up creating traffic obstructions.
The Hindu, Saturday, July 06, 2002
Muslims desert homes as Jagannath rath yatra nears
By Manas Dasgupta
AHMEDABAD July 5 . Wasim Khan, who is working with a non-government organisation in a riot relief camp here, has sent his family to some relatives' house in Karnataka. Nazir has already sent his children to Anand and now plans to shift his wife and other women there.
They are not alone, hundreds of panic-stricken Muslim families in Dariapur, Shahpur and other minority-dominated localities in Ahmedabad on the route of the Jagannath rath yatra on July 12 are moving out of Gujarat or to smaller towns or villages in the State.
The shifting is out of the apprehension that the rath yatra might spark another round of bloody riots in case the huge Hindu congregation is attacked at any point when the chariots pass through the communally-sensitive areas.
The fear has gripped even the Muslim-dominated localities in Juhapura from where some 200 families in six housing colonies including the Anjum, Al-Hamja, Aravalli, and Sahewas Park societies have moved out or are in the process of moving out till the yatra is over. Juhapura is far away from the yatra route but the people there are apprehensive because of an attack on them last month when even police allegedly sided with the hooligans to beat up the minorities, including women. A former Congress corporator, Farzan Khan, confirmed that a large number of Muslim families preferred to stay away from the city.
The organisers of the Muslim relief camps are worried that a large number of people might flock to the safety of camps as the yatra date approaches. Even after the State Government's efforts to forcibly close down all but three relief camps, at least 10 are still running on their own providing shelter to over 20,000 families because the inmates have refused to return to their houses till at least the rath yatra is over.
Mohsin Kadri, organiser of the Shah Alam Roza relief camp, by far the largest relief camp for the riot victims providing shelter to 7,000 people, admitted about the widespread apprehension among the minorities over the rath yatra. Even the local police are aware of the large-scale shifting of the Muslim families from the rath yatra route and from Juhapura. Those in the mixed localities and have no family friends and relatives outside the city, are, instead, flocking to Juhapura.
The Jagannath rath yatra will pass through several sensitive areas covering a distance of 14 km from the Jagannath temple in the minority-dominated Jamalpur locality and back. While a kilometre-long procession includes a large number of trucks, camel carts, elephants and thousands of people on foot, two lakh devotees will witness the event. The yatra provided the flash-point for violence several times in the past, particularly in 1985 and 1992.
Police intelligence has identified17 highly-sensitive points on the route from where it fears the yatra could be attacked. Hence, the police have requested the State Government to prevail upon the Jagannath temple trust to either cancel the rath yatra this year or change the route. The temple trust, which was also under pressure from trade and business organisations as well as many prominent citizens, was initially willing to consider a change of the route but later changed its stand on the ground that this year being the 125th rath yatra, a change could hurt the sentiments of the people.
The security adviser to the Chief Minister, K. P.S. Gill, has also reportedly advised against cancellation of the yatra or a change of the route apprehending "unrest" among the Hindus. The chairman of the temple trust, Mahendra Jha, when approached today, said there was no question of changing the route though the temple had decided to reduce the number of trucks and other carriages in the procession. The size would be cut by one-third to ensure that the yatra was completed before sunset. Normally, it is well past midnight that the chariots return to the temple.
The Hindu, July 21, 2002
By Our Special Correspondent
AHMEDABAD July 20. Two persons were killed and 14 injured in police firing and stone throwing following a communal clash at Viramgam in Ahmedabad district.
An indefinite curfew was clamped in Viramgam on Friday night and was extended today without any relaxation, as incidents of group clashes and stone throwing continued throughout the day.
Police, however, claimed that the situation in the town this evening was "peaceful" and curfew had been extended only as a recautionary measure.
Times of India, SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2002
List of Godhra victims still a secret
NEW DELHI: Five months after the S-6 compartment of Sabarmati Express was set afire at Godhra, the Railways is yet to make public the list of reserved passengers travelling in the ill-fated coach in which 58 persons died and scores were injured.
In the light of the controversy surrounding the Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory (GFSL) report which says that the inflammable liquid which destroyed S-6 was poured from inside the coach, the testimony of reserved passengers assumes vital significance.
Despite persistent efforts over the past month by The Times of India - which wants the reservation list in order to interview passengers about the fateful last moments before S-6 caught fire - Union Railway Minister Nitish Kumar is not willing to part with the names.
Nitish has been distancing his ministry from the Godhra carnage on the ground that what happened was not a rail accident but a law and order issue. But the very fact that the Railways made ex-gratia payments to the relatives of those killed and to those injured proves that the ministry indeed treated Godhra as any other accident.
After all rail accidents, the list of passengers and victims is usually published by the rail ministry. In fact, TOI managed to obtain an internal Western Railways (WR) list of the dead and injured. But the reserved passenger list for S-6 appears to have been treated as something of a state secret.
Though the Gujarat government released the names of 39 of those who died it is known that 19 victims have yet to be identified the WR list reveals a hitherto unknown fact: That one of the four passengers who suffered grievous injuries was a Muslim.
Ibrahim Bhai was treated at a hospital in Baroda and paid Rs 5,000 ex-gratia on March 5. It is not known whether he was a reserved or unreserved passenger and whether there were other Muslim passengers who also fell victim to the frenzied mob attack at Godhra.
The Hindu, Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Amnesty denied visa
By Anjali Mody
NEW DELHI July 22. An Amnesty International team has been denied visas to India because it wanted to go to Gujarat to investigate the massacres and other human rights violations and to monitor the progress made in bringing their perpetrators to justice.
In a statement issued today, Amnesty International said, "This refusal damages the image of both the Indian and Gujarat Governments before their citizens and the international community. A Government which fully accepts its responsibilities in protecting its citizens and upholds their constitutional rights to life and equality does not shy away from international scrutiny.''
Amnesty said that the Indian Government's refusal to grant it access to the State would "only reinforce the concern that the Government of Gujarat and the State police might have been accomplices in preparing the ground for the violence and in allowing it to occur and could be attempting now to cover up involvement of their officials.''
This is not the first time that the Union Government has prevented the international human rights organisation from coming to the country to study rights violations. Amnesty teams apply for research visas; these applications are processed not by the visa section in London but by the Home Ministry. The Ministry appears to have a growing list of States and subjects that it considers too "sensitive" for study by a human rights organisation like Amnesty. In the past, Amnesty has been refused visas because it wanted to study the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern States.
Yahoo! India News: Top Stories, Wednesday
July 24, 8:56 AM
No idea how train caught fire: Godhra rail officials
By Rajiv Pathak, Indo-Asian News Service
Ahmedabad, July 24 (IANS) Two railway officials who were present at Godhra railway station on February 27 when a mob allegedly burnt two carriages of a train killing 58 people have said they do not know who was to blame.
While the government claims that a mob firebombed the Sabarmati Express coaches, the two officials, who reached the spot within moments, say even train passengers did not know how the inferno began.
The two officials are station superintendent Jaisinh Katija and assistant stationmaster Rajendra Prasad Meena.
Katija arrived at the station around 7.50 a.m. as the train was pulling out. Meena was at 'Cabin A', half-a-km outside the station, near where the train stopped as someone pulled an emergency chain and where it was attacked and torched.
The two officials made their contentions last week in their depositions before former Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati and former Gujarat High Court judge K.G. Shah, who are probing the ghastly train burning incident.
The killings triggered a Hindu backlash against Muslims in Gujarat as activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), which lost several volunteers in the blaze, and allied groups blamed Muslims for the train fire.
The subsequent three-month violence claimed nearly 1,000 lives, most of them Muslims. Muslims and rights groups blamed VHP-BJP for the carnage. But Godhra's Muslims denied they firebombed the train's coaches.
Katija said an assistant told him at 8 a.m. that a 1,000-strong mob was stoning the train as it stopped near 'Cabin A'.
"I rang up Godhra District Police Superintendent (DSP) Bhargav and Godhra collector Jayanti Ravi and asked them to send the police force immediately.
"After a while, Meena, who was at 'Cabin A', informed that smoke is coming out of the train's fourth or the fifth bogie as somebody had set it on fire.
"I informed the fire brigade at 8.15 a.m. and started walking towards the train. As I reached there, I saw there was fire in a bogie. All its doors and windows were shut on one side. The passengers had come out from the other.
"One coach was completely gutted. The other too was damaged. When I reached the bogie, I did not see anybody alighting from the train, neither I heard any sound or cry from inside the bogey.
"By 8.30 am, Godhra collector and DSP arrived with additional force. Police used loudhailers to ask the mob to disperse but had to cane and teargas them.
"Passengers were angry. Collector Ravi, in my presence, asked the passengers how this happened. They said some passengers quarrelled with tea-vendors at the railway station. After leaving the station, the train stopped again.
"They also said that a mob heavily stoned the train there. But they did not know how the train caught fire. They did not know how the windowpanes were smashed.
"The fire brigade arrived at 9.15 a.m. and started dousing the flames. The fire was brought under control by 10 a.m."
Said assistant stationmaster Meena who was at 'Cabin A': "As the train halted, I got down from the cabin. I saw a mob coming towards the train that started stoning the coaches.
"I saw a few persons coming from the two ends of the train. They were pelting stones. Many carried sticks. Women and children were also in the mob.
"I ran back to the cabin and suggested to the passengers to shut the doors and windows. I immediately informed my superiors.
"The stone pelting continued until around 8.25 a.m. At this time, I saw smoke coming out from one bogie. There were many people in the mob but I could not see what they were doing due to the dense shrub that blocked my view.
"I did not see who set the bogie on fire or how the fire broke out. I saw smoke and after a few minutes I saw flames in a bogie. What I could see was that the passengers alighted from the train from the other side after the fire started.
"The train passengers asked me why they were attacked and who their attackers were. The VHP activists were standing at a distance. I did not talk to them."
The Sabarmati Express' guard Satyanarayan Verma too deposed before the commission.
He said: "The train halted about a kilometre outside Godhra station. It was stoned. I immediately informed the stationmaster over the walkie-talkie.
"When I came down to see what happened, railway police asked me to return to my bogie as there was a huge crowd ahead. I went back and remained inside until the mob had been dispersed after the police firing."
The Hindu, Opinion, Tuesday, July 30, 2002
An exercise in callousness
By Muchkund Dubey
It is a cruel joke to ask those still homeless and jobless after the Gujarat carnage to exercise their voting rights.
SYEDA HAMEED and I visited Gujarat in the last week of June to prepare a report on the latest situation in the State on behalf of the Delhi-based Forum for Fraternity and Reconciliation. The conditions in the six camps we visited were inhuman and dehumanising. Some 20,000 people living in these conditions cannot be expected to be in a position to exercise their voting rights. Most of them will forego their voting rights not voluntarily, but out of the compulsion of distress, desperateness and insecurity. It is the duty of the state to bring them on a par with other citizens before presenting before them the formal option of casting their votes. These 20,000 people have no homes, jobs or relatives to go back to.
Another problem is how to account for the voters among some 130,000 people who have left the camps. Not all have gone back to their original dwelling places. This is partly due to a sense of insecurity and partly because the compensation paid is utterly inadequate to repair or build a house or restart a profession. Some of them are living with their relatives and some have migrated to join the ghettos of the minorities in other parts of the country. One hears gory tales of the plight of those who tried to go back to their villages. Several groups were driven back by force as soon as they entered their villages. A couple spending the night in a temporary shelter and hoping to enter their house the next morning were killed overnight. Several others were allowed to return to their villages only after signing letters of apology in which they gave an undertaking that they would not file suits against those who murdered, raped and burnt their near and dear ones; that they would not call Maulvis from outside the village and would render specific services to be assigned to them by the majority community.
The vast majority of the displaced cannot be rehabilitated and resume normal lives until they are paid adequate compensation for the loss or damage of their houses, household goods and profession. The compensation paid to them is utterly inadequate. Against the ceiling of Rs. 50,000 prescribed by the Prime Minister as compensation for repairing or constructing houses, the average compensation paid is in the range of Rs. 5,000 - Rs. 10,000. Some have been paid as little as Rs. 500. The compensation paid for the loss or damage of household goods has in most cases been between Rs. 250 and Rs. 500. Some have been paid a paltry Rs. 75 which is not adequate to buy even a decent tumbler. It is a cruel joke to ask those still homeless and jobless after the Gujarat carnage to exercise their voting rights in an election to the State Assembly.
In a day-long meeting held in Ahmedabad on June 28, a group of NGOs, representative of those living in the camps, volunteers working there, technical experts, corporate volunteers and intellectuals prepared tentative estimates of the cost to be incurred for rehabilitating the displaced persons. We arrived at a figure of Rs. 90 crores in grants and Rs.120 crores in soft loans. If the Government is serious about closing the chapter on the Gujarat carnage, the minimum that must be done is to mobilise resources of this magnitude and put in place a rehabilitation initiative in cooperation with the representatives of the Muslim charitable organisations, which have borne the brunt of the burden for maintaining the displaced in camps, and the NGOs. This is the critical element in applying the healing touch and a primary task before the nation. This must take precedence over elections. In fact, holding the elections before this task is accomplished will have the effect of relegating the latter to the background, leaving behind a trail of bitterness, frustration and discontent which will corrode social peace and cohesion.
When this proposition was put before the Prime Minister and his team of officials during a meeting in New Delhi on July 2, it was dismissed out of hand on the specious ground that the Government was bound to rely on its own machinery for determining the amount of, and paying, compensation. The Government is supposed to have dealt with and disposed of almost all cases, including two rounds of representations, of compensation. And yet the problem of compensation, and hence of the insecurity of the minority community, stares the nation in the face.
In recent decades, Gujarat has come to be known for its communal polarisation and the ghettoisation of the minority communities. This has acquired a new momentum, and a logic and justification of its own after the February/March carnage. We witnessed an all-pervading sense of insecurity and fear among the minorities. The well-to-do are wondering whether they took the right decision in making India their homeland and spurning the chances they had of migrating to other lands. The very poor among them feel helpless and desperate. They are mortally afraid of being spurned by the Hindus who were their employers, consumers of their goods and services or business partners.
Many of those who have left the camps do not want to go back to their homes in the Hindu-dominated areas. They are demanding allotment of land and construction of houses in the Muslim localities. To spurn this demand will be inhuman, even though it will result in further ghettoisation. Some of the children who have gone back to their schools located in the Hindu localities have been chased out by the local people. Their guardians are now demanding additional educational facilities in the Muslim-dominated areas where they have taken shelter. It is difficult to oppose this demand because ghettoised schooling is better than no schooling at all.
Apart from other adverse fallouts, if boys and girls remain out of school for a prolonged period, it can have very disruptive social consequences.
These consequences will not remain confined to Gujarat. The situation in Gujarat and the increasing evidence of the State and Central Governments pursuing anti-Muslim policies have engendered a sense of insecurity and resentment among the minorities in the country. This is bound to undermine the nation's unity and integrity.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence of any systematic and effective move to rid the minority communities of their current all-pervading sense of insecurity.
The Governments in power, in the State or at the Centre, have displayed no sense of remorse or repentance. They have not taken any step to dispel the notion that they are essentially hostile to the minorities and their rights as equal citizens of India.
They construe the elections to the State Assembly as an exercise in riding back to power on the crest of hatred and neglect of the minorities and visualise their outcome as a triumph of the most ugly face of Hinduism.
Will the Election Commission be a party to this sinister design and to this massive diversion of attention from the real issue facing Gujarat and the nation, by agreeing to hold the elections at the present most inopportune moment?
Times of India, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2002
Key Godhra witness says he was away from town
GODHRA: Dilipbhai Ujamsinh Dasadiya was supposed to be a key witness in the Godhra train carnage case. He is mentioned in the police records and the charge-sheet as an active Vishwa Hindu Parishad worker who was present at the Godhra railway station to serve tea and refreshments to kar sevaks on the morning of February 27 when all hell broke loose.
On February 28, police sub-inspector Jhala took his statement, in which he gave graphic details of how he saw "a mob of 3,000 persons, armed with deadly weapons and shouting slogans, attack the train". He even heard them shouting "Allah-o-Akbar". He identified five persons in the mob - Ilyas Sikkal, Sahid Badam, Bhutio Bhupta, Muzaffar, Ismail Hayal and Razzaq Dungaria.
The police couldn't have asked for more from a witness. Except that Dasadiya now says he wasn't present in Godhra at all at the time of the attack on the train!
A teacher, he claims he was in school, 25 km away, and the school's attendance record bears this out. More importantly, he says the police never took his statement in the first place!
Quite obviously, the investigators in the Godhra massacre case haven't a clue as to what's hit them. Dasadiya's graphic account of the incident, where he describes how the mob sprinkled some liquid on the compartment and then set it on fire, has fallen flat on its face.
In his "eyewitness account", which is signed only by PSI Jhala and not by Dasadiya, he is quoted as saying that after the mob of around 1,000 persons set the compartment on fire and the police drove them away, the mob returned again - this time 3,000-strong - in an attempt to free some of those detained by the police. This time around, he heard them saying "maro, kapo" (kill them, cut them).
Dasadiya, who's a teacher in a trust-run school in Paruna village, has in fact given an affidavit before a magistrate saying he was never present at the scene of the crime and that the police never took his statement. On being contacted by TNN, he refused to divulge much and instead asked, "How did you come to know about this?" Without disclosing the contents, he, however, admitted that he had filed an affidavit.
He suggested this correspondent contact Kakul Pathak, a local BJP leader and convenor of the party's media cell, who was his "friend and adviser". Pathak, who's mentioned as an eyewitness to the attack on the train in police records, said he had no idea how the police had extracted an eyewitness account from a person who was not even present at the spot. He says, "I never saw Dasadiya at the railway station during the incident and I know that he was in school at that time."
If all this sounds intriguing, there's more. Even Pathak has filed an affidavit before a magistrate claiming the police had wrongly recorded his statement where he states "I saw Ismail Chunga in the mob". Pathak said he actually saw a person named Ismail Chungi.
No police officials involved in the Godhra investigations are willing to comment on the Dasadiya affair. There is also speculation among police officials that a top lawyer from Mumbai, who recently made a trip to Godhra, had obtained copies of these affidavits. But the big question that the police are still unable to answer is whether Dasadiya's statement was fabricated by the police or he's retracting it as an afterthought.
The News International, Thursday, August 29, 2002
Riot-hit Indian Muslims have little hope of getting justice
KHEDIAD, India: Arjuben Ayub Sindhi lay among a pile of hacked bodies, feigning death for nearly an hour before a police patrol team rescued her from a group of armed slogan-shouting Hindu zealots.
The 20-year-old woman, who now lives in a relief camp along with 250 Muslims who survived India's worst religious bloodshed in February and March, is still traumatised. A deep wound on her shoulder has not healed. Sindhi says the knowledge that those involved in the March 2 killing of 67 people from her village, including her relatives, hurts her more than the still bandaged aching wound. "It has been six months and no one has been arrested. Will we ever get justice?" she asks, covering her face with her sari.
Sindhi, who lost six relatives in the riots, is not alone. Hundreds of Muslims in the riot-hit western state of Gujarat are anguished over the delay in punishing people who went on a killing spree after a suspected Muslim mob set a train afire, burning alive 59 Hindus late in February.
A sense of hopelessness and denial of justice weighs heavily on Muslims in Gujarat, where hundreds still live in relief camps. Officials say around 1,000 people were killed and hundreds of homes and businesses owned by Muslims gutted during the riots. Non-government groups put the number of dead around 2,500. While some arrests have been made in some highly publicised cases of mass killing in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, and over the burning of the train, victims say no visible progress has been made in punishing the guilty in most cases.
An interior ministry official said police had filed more than 4,000 first information reports and arrested hundreds in cases where evidence was available. A first information report is the first step to laying formal charges. Salimbhai Sindhi, the head of Khediad, a village dotted with lush maize fields, filed several complaints and met officials to get 67 of his villagers certified dead.
"They (authorities) have declared only 11 of them dead, when a total of 67 were killed," he told Reuters. Authorities have refused to certify the deaths of the other 56 for lack of witnesses or evidence. "We cannot declare someone dead under the law without some kind of physical evidence or a direct eyewitness account," the interior ministry official said.
The villagers, mostly farmers, were waylaid by a Hindu mob of around 2,000 and burnt alive in their vehicle as they tried to flee another mob that burnt their houses. "How could we come up with physical evidence when the bodies of the victims were burnt for three days continuously? Nothing was left, not even the bones," the village head said. "We were on the run to save our lives. Forget about going back to collect evidence," added Shamsuddin Jamu Miya, one of 17 Muslims who escaped.
Survivors of the ambush have named some people but said the accused are still free. Police officials say every attempt was made to register the complaints of victims and arrest the accused.
"It's not correct to say the accused are roaming free. We have charged 800 people in Panchmahals alone with rioting and murder," Superintendent of Police Narasimha Komar said. Relief officials and legal experts say lack of witnesses and apprehension among Muslims that fundamentalist Hindu groups could take revenge if they spoke out against the attackers were likely to lead to a majority of the accused being acquitted. They said Hindus charged with murder, arson and looting had been acquitted in four cases for want of witnesses and evidence. "In many cases, the eyewitnesses are going back on their testimony. So the trend of acquittal will continue," said Manoj Agarwal, the district collector of Panchmahals. Non-government groups, providing legal aid to victims, say conviction rates in riot cases would be low as most first information reports name groups as attackers and not individuals.
The Indian Express, Wednesday,
Sept 04, 2002
Well repeat our Gujarat experiment
Express News Service
Amritsar, September 3: Vsihwa Hindu Parishad international working president Ashok Singhal today termed Gujarat as a successful experimentand warned that it would be repeated all over India.
Singhal, in Amritsar to inaugurate a physiotherapy centre at the Shivala Bhaian temple, said, Godhra happened on February 27 and the next day, 50 lakh Hindus were on the streets. We were successful in our experiment of raising Hindu consciousness, which will be repeated all over the country now.
Singhal also spoke glowingly of how whole villages had been emptied of Islam, and how whole communities of Muslims had been dispatched to refugee camps. This was a victory for Hindu society, he added, a first for the religion. People say I praise Gujarat. Yes I do, he told an appreciative, but modest, audience.
Singhal also took potshots at the NDA Government, saying it hadnt helped the Hindu cause. The Ram temple would be built at the same place in Ayodhya, he stated. We have been able to raise consciousness within the Hindu community, though its unfortunate that the temple hasnt been built till now.
The Hindu, Opinion, Wednesday,
September 25, 2002
IN MAINTAINING THAT he was only talking generally, not referring to any particular community, when he spoke of the proliferation of numbers, the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, is trying to be too clever by half. After the groundswell of public protests that his outrageous and blatantly provocative remarks made earlier at Becharaji during the first leg of his `Gaurav Yatra' particularly his "we five, ours 25" chant against the minority community had evoked, Mr. Modi would seem to have decided to make a retreat of sorts by placing on `record' that his population-related observations were not community-specific. In the wake of the National Minorities Commission's intervention post-Becharaji and its interest in securing the audio-tape of Mr. Modi's speech for scrutiny and the subsequent tape-linked controversy that put the State Government and the BJP leadership in an awkward position, Mr. Modi apparently found it expedient to make such a formal delinking in his subsequent phases of the `yatra'. At Surat, building upon the Becharaji enunciation of `5-25', he gave the mathematical progression, `5-25-625', to explain the exponential growth of population over two generations. Mr. Modi appears determined to use `demography' as a tool for Muslim-bashing. During the `Gaurav Yatra', just as he cited the Newtonian theory (every action has a reaction) for justifying the minority-targeted pogrom after the Godhra carnage, he built on the demographic and politically insensitive metaphor.
No amount of white-washing, as is being attempted rather crudely and deceitfully, will conceal the sort of communal hatred which Mr. Modi has set out to spread against minorities in the name of upholding Gujarat's `gaurav'. Not only did he make incendiary insinuations against Muslims by evoking the distasteful stereotype of a community that breeds fast, but he spoke of teaching them a "lesson". Witness also Mr. Modi's intemperate remarks against the Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh (in the wake of the Election Commission's decision against `early' Assembly polls), with a not-so-subtle reference to his being a Christian and a dark hint of a `bias' in Mr. Lyngdoh towards the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress. Even his criticism of Ms. Gandhi on the contentious `foreign origin' issue carried unmistakably communal overtones. In fact, from the beginning, it was clear that the `Gaurav Yatra' was conceived precisely to whip up and harness anti-minority sentiments. If anything, the way Mr. Modi has been spewing venom as he crisscrossed the State only serves to reinforce that perception. The spectacle of a Chief Minister embarking upon a vicious communal campaign and making incendiary speeches of the kind that prima facie attract the penal provisions of the law is not just reprehensible but makes a mockery of the rule of law.
What is even more worrying is the endorsement and support Mr. Modi has received from the BJP leadership for his cynical game plan to consolidate the so-called Hindu majority vote and capitalise on it in the coming Assembly poll. The responses particularly of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, have been marked by calculated equivocation, and they varied between dissent and approval, if not active support, depending on the exigencies at the given point of time. In fact, there is open talk by the Sangh Parivar, including from the BJP's Hindutva core elements, that what is being tried out in Gujarat (in the context of the Assembly elections) is a new ideological experiment (with Mr. Modi as the mascot) which will to be replicated elsewhere. Again, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad chief, Ashok Singhal, recently cited the `Gujarat experiment' in which "entire villages were emptied" of Muslims with implicit approval, noting that it would be repeated nation-wide. Unless the likes of Mr. Modi and Mr. Singhal are reined in, a proposition which of course is largely predicated upon the BJP itself reversing its `Goa line', there is no way the Vajpayee regime can retain credibility in the eyes of the world or carry much conviction about its preferred secular credentials, at home.
The News International,
Friday, September 27, 2002
Two stabbed in Gujarat as Muslims flee homes
AHMEDABAD, India: Fears of a backlash against the Muslims in the volatile state of Gujarat during a nation-wide protest strike called by Hindu hard-liners subsided on Thursday.
The only incident in Gujarat appeared to be in the town of Surat, where two Muslim men were wounded by attackers in separate incidents of stabbing. No other violence was reported by nightfall.
Thousands of troops had flooded the streets of Gujarat's main cities and army columns and military trucks rolled down the streets of Ahmedabad and Vadodara. Officials said 8,000 policemen had been deployed in Ahmedabad alone.
Many Muslim families in Ahmedabad fled their homes fearing violence during the strike called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad to protest an attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar that left 31 people dead. Several families sought safety in mosques and community halls across the commercial city. Other people went to the sites of what had been relief camps set up after the riots in March when more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed.
"We have not had reports of any law and order distortion till now," Gujarat home secretary K S Nityanandan told AFP.But Muslims said they were frightened of what could happen despite a heavy police and army presence. They claimed security in sensitive areas of the city was inadequate and said a chunk of the police force had been diverted to Gandhinagar.
In the Muslim-dominated areas, people put up banners in the Gujarati language saying, "People of this area condemn the attack on Akshardham Temple where innocent people died". The Bharatiya Janata Party national leadership said late on Wednesday it had decided against supporting a strike call. Only a few shops closed in Delhi and some other cities, while in Mumbai, the strike hit public transport making it impossible for many people to get to work. Protesters from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stopped trains at several stations to enforce the strike.
The Milli Gazette, Vol 3, No
19, Oct 1-15, 2002
Murderers roam free as riot victims cower in fear
Last fortnight, the largest of these, the Shah Alam relief camp, was officially closed and 3,000-odd refugees were rendered homeless. Many did not know what to do or where to go.
The camp, which had played host to more than 12,000 refugees, continued to housing the homeless even after camps around the city started closing down one by one. There are still 11 camps operating in the city, some official, others unofficial, homing about 5,000 refugees. Of these, 4,610 live in official relief camps and about 390 in unofficial ones that were "closed" months ago.
There are quite a few people who have absolutely no place to go, says Shabana Shaikh, a resident of Naroda Patia. "They just asked us to leave without any prior intimation. A few have been given homes by some private trusts. But what about us? What are we going to do?," asked a homeless person.
"How can we ever go back to houses where our family members were killed?", asks Hinabanu Ghanchi, of Saijpur who lost two of her family members. Javed Husain another resident of Naroda Patia says, "All our hopes were pinned on this camp. We thought that until we do not find a new place for ourselves in a safer locality, we will continue to stay here. Now we have no option but to leave."
On another front, Gujarat police continues its policy of open discrimination by arresting very few culprits in riots cases. Even as organised mobs ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 attacked Muslim localities during the communal carnage, the Gujarat police has made just a handful of arrests, citing difficulties in identification of the culprits involved as the main reason.
Although police boasts of 40,000 arrests during riots, investigations reveal that a majority of these arrests were preventive in nature. In serious cases of communal violence like in Naroda Patia, Gulbarg Society or Best Bakery, the number of arrests is less than 100 people while the number of names for involvement in violence in these cases crosses over 20,000.
Giving reasons for the few arrests, joint commissioner of police crime branch, PP Pandey said, "In a mob situation, victims are not acquainted with the culprits, and thus cannot identify them. This happened during Delhi riots in 1984 and even during the Babri Masjid demolition."
¯ ABDUL HAFIZ LAKHANI, AHMEDABAD
PTI, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16,
2002 05:06:37 PM
AHMEDABAD: A senior official of the Forensic Science Laboratory on Wednesday told the two-member judicial commission probing the Godhra carnage, that it was "not possible" to pour combustible liquid into the ill-fated coach of Sabarmati Express from outside.
Appearing before Justice G T Nanawati and Justice K G Shah here, Assistant Director of the Laboratory M S Dahia said, by "re-enacting the scene of February 27 we found that it was not possible to pour the liquid from outside as the compartment was seven feet above the ground level".
The submissions were made amid repeated grilling of Dahia by Justice Nanavati and counsels for VHP and Central Relief Committee for Minorities.
Submitting written copies of the reports and photographs, Dahia said the liquid was possibly poured into the compartment by someone standing near seat number 72.
Responding to questions from Justice Nanavati, he said no evidence of any acid was found and a minimum 60 litres of combustible liquid was used before torching S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express.
Dahia said that his team had only probed the physical probability of the incident, which had left 58 people dead. The chemical probe was being conducted by a separate team.
Western Railway DSP, Ashok Kumar Moniya also appeared before the commission on Wednesday.
The News International,
Friday, October 25, 2002
Gujarat CM should be tried for genocide: Munir
UNITED NATIONS: Ambassador Munir Akram, permanent representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, on Wednesday told the world body that there has been no accountability for the act of genocide against the Muslims of Gujarat. Instead there was a cover-up by New Delhi, he added.
In a statement on Agenda Item 107: Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination, Munir said the Indian prime minister sought to blame Muslims for being troublemakers "wherever they live in the world".
The Pakistani envoy said since the national government was unwilling to prosecute the Bharatiya Janata Party officials, the Gujarat chief minister and others complicit in the Muslim slaughter should be charged and tried by an international tribunal for the crime of genocide, under Genocide Convention, and for gross violations of other human rights instruments.
"Unless such resolute action is taken by the international community", he said India's Hindu fanatics would continue to wage their war of hate, violence, discrimination and elimination against the Muslims and other minorities.
"A week ago, Bal Thackeray, head of Shiv Sina, urged Hindus to form suicide squads to kill Muslims. The world can no longer remain a silent spectator to the danger of approaching genocide against the Muslims of India," he stated.
Munir said encouraged by the impunity it appeared to enjoy from international criticism, Hindu fundamentalism "of which the caste system is but one manifestation - has been gaining strength, with alarming manifestations and implications for our region and for the world".
The philosophy and practice of the Hindu extremist parties ruling in New Delhi "the BJP and its fascist allies, the VHP, the RSS, the Shiv Sena" call for institutionalised discrimination and suppression of non-Hindus Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and others. "Since 1947, there have been 150,000 communal riots in India - 3,000 riots each year. And, the graph of Hindu violence is rising."Munir Akram said instead of demonstrating any remorse, three days ago, addressing a crowed of 2,000 Hindu fanatics, he said "Hindu militancy ... will wipe Pakistan off the world map".
The News International,
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Gujarat Muslims flee homes as BJP set to win polls
AHMEDABAD: Several hundred Muslims fled their homes on Friday in Indian Gujarat state, scene of the country's worst religious bloodshed in a decade, fearing renewed violence as Hindu nationalists looked set to win a state poll.
Exit polls after Thursday's voting showed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) retaining power, although the official result was not due until Sunday and the main opposition Congress party dismissed the exit polls saying it had won the election. "We do not want this BJP government," 50-year-old labourer Mahmood Ali said. "If they come back there'll be more riots.
Ahmedabad police commissioner KR Kaushik sought to calm such fears. "We won't allow anything to go wrong on Sunday," he told Reuters. "We are giving full security to all sensitive areas."
Up to 400 Muslims from an area that saw some of the worst violence this year shifted to safer Muslim-dominated areas ahead of Sunday's expected announcement, Muslim residents said, adding they would return after a few days if there was no violence.
The BJP says it is confident of being returned. "The internal assessment of the party is we will get a majority," federal Oil Minister Ram Naik told reporters. But Congress, too, was confident.
The News International,
Monday, December 16, 2002
Violence erupts after BJP romps to victory in Gujarat polls
AHMEDABAD: India's Hindu nationalist BJP was jubilant on Sunday after winning a resounding victory in state assembly elections in the riot-torn state of Gujarat, where around 2,000 people died in communal violence early this year.
Despite opinion and exit polls, which had predicted a photo finish between the BJP and the Congress party, the BJP won a two-thirds majority with 127 seats in the 182-member assembly, with the opposition Congress trailing on 50.
In Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital, as well as in the capital New Delhi, huge crowds gathered at the BJP offices, cheering and dancing in the streets at what many saw as an unexpectedly good result for the BJP and its controversial Chief Minister Narendra Modi. "The people of Gujarat have given a verdict in our favour -- I thank them for this," Modi said. "This is a defeat for pseudo-secularists," he said.
He told a victory rally of 40,000 people that the election was a slap in the face of critics of the state's administration. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was one of the firsts to congratulate Modi. Vajpayee, who telephoned Modi from New Delhi, also congratulated him on his personal victory in the Maninagar constituency, where he defeated his rival by 75,000 votes. "With this victory, we feel a winning trend has started in our favour. We want to take inspiration from this and prepare for upcoming elections in other states," Vajpayee told reporters.
Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani said on Sunday the BJP and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra
Modi earned an "excellent mandate" in state assembly polls. "The election results are very good. The BJP and its leader Narenda Modi have been given an excellent mandate," he told reporters in New Delhi. "I am sure that the new government will strive to fulfill its mandate in a manner that will meet aspirations of the people of the state," Advani said.
But violence broke out in parts of the state. The body of a BJP worker was found by police soon after a Muslim mob attacked the party's victory procession in Rajkot town. "Later, the body of a BJP worker was found in a nearby riverbed. Whether he was killed in the mob attack is not yet confirmed," Gujarat's Home Secretary K Nityanandan said.
Curfews were also imposed in two areas of the town of Baroda, 120 kilometres from Ahmedabad. Police said one person was taken to hospital after celebrating BJP activists and Muslims clashed in Baroda, while there were incidents of stone throwing in Ahmedabad as the victorious BJP candidate held a victory procession.
Modi and the state government have been accused of turning a blind eye to communal violence earlier this year that killed as many as 2,000 people. The BJP lawmakers-elect will meet on Monday (today) to formally elect Modi as the new chief minister.
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