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Independent.co.uk, 05 March, 2002
Muslim villagers fleeing firebomb attack are electrocuted by murderous Hindus

By Peter Popham in Ahmedabad

04 March 2002

The cement homes in the narrow cul-de-sac on the edge of the village stand open today, ready for their owners to return, to light a wood fire in the kitchen, turn on the small television on a shelf in the corner and bolt the door. But after what happened here early on Saturday morning, no one believes the Muslim labourers of Sadarpur will come back.

The assault began soon after 2am. I was told that 10,000 people (likely to be an exaggeration), from surrounding Hindu-majority villages descended on Sadarpur and in little more than one hour slickly eviscerated this little community of about 140 Muslims.

Tree branches and lengths of concrete sewer piping were dragged across access roads to stop army and police reaching the village. When the thugs arrived they flooded the dead-end lane with water, then electrified the water with cables hooked up to the mains. They clambered on to the low roofs of the houses, smashed holes in them and hurled in petrol bombs and Calor gas cylinders that exploded inside, driving the residents out into the lane. There, many were electrocuted. Their bodies were dragged back into the houses to burn.

Others fled out of back windows into fields. Some got away, others were hunted down and incinerated. Some were sheltered in homes of sympathetic Hindus in the village, but the marauders tracked them down and butchered them. At least 28 men, women and children died.

"Now it's not possible for Muslims to stay here," a Hindu living near by says flatly.

Fifty kilometres (30 miles) away, in the majority-Muslim village where the survivors have found shelter, one of them agrees. "We decided that we must leave that place," says MY Pathan, a teacher. "We left everything behind, we came with what we were wearing. And we don't want to go back, even to collect our belongings."

The Hindu-Muslim violence in the west Indian state of Gujarat has claimed almost 500 lives in the past five days, though senior police say privately the figure may exceed 1,000. The first 58 to die were Hindus, pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, incinerated in their train carriages. But in wave after wave of retribution that followed, almost all who died have been Muslims.

The violence spread yesterday to the country's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, where Hindus and Muslims clashed. While arsonists continued to attack Muslim homes and businesses in Ahmedabad, the state's commercial capital, yesterday, Gujarat was struggling to come to terms with the fact that these new waves of murder and destruction have been different from anything the state has seen before. Across Gujarat, Hindu militants are seizing the opportunity to kick-start a programme of brutal communal cleansing.

Like many of last week's victims, the Muslim labourers of Sadarpur were extremely vulnerable: their simple homes are notably smaller and more primitive than those of the Hindus who surround them on three sides. But until last week, such exposure meant nothing. As well as a temple, the village has a sizeable mosque, and a higher-caste Muslim community living close to it.

Hindu-Muslim riots have broken out almost every year in Gujarat – the fountainhead of Hindu nationalism – but they have been confined to the big cities. With the killing of the Hindu pilgrims last Wednesday, a new era arrived. A Hindu hotel clerk in Ahmedabad said: "Now each and every Muslim is a target."

There was rumour of trouble in Sadarpur on Friday evening. Mr Pathan says: "We were told some people will attack.So we called the police." An officer and five constables showed up, distributed bland assurances and went away again.

Far from being an outburst of communal frenzy, this was a surgical strike, carried out with military ruthlessness and discipline. All the bodies had been removed when The Independent visited the site, but evidence of the massacre was all around: the huge puddle in the lane, anomalous in this parched zone; a burnt-out jeep; bags hastily half-packed for flight; and in home after home, beds where victims had died, burnt out, nothing left but the charred frame and a stinking black spongy mess on the floor.

Yet there was no looting here. Televisions sit untouched. Shiny galvanised food dishes are still neatly aligned on sideboards. The murder of 28 people in Sadarpur – one survivor claims the true figure is 55 – followed precise instructions.

In Sawala, where 20 survivors from Sadarpur have taken refuge, I spoke to GM Bahelim, a teacher. about the Muslims' future. Hindus from surrounding villages have destroyed crops in Sawala, stolen buffalo and vandalised wells, but only two men have died. Mr Bahelim is bleak. "India is our country, our motherland. But the BJP [the Hindu nationalists who rule both in Gujarat and, in a coalition, at the centre] want the Muslims of India to go to Pakistan. They don't want to give us any protection. They are saying, 'If you want to live in India, become our serfs'."

 

The New York Times, March 5, 2002
Hindu Justifies Mass Killings of Muslims in Reprisal Riots

By CELIA W. DUGGER

AHMEDABAD, India, March 4 — Harish Bhai Bhatt is a jolly-looking man with a round belly and a bushy mustache that turns up like a smile, but his words would chill the soul of any Muslim in India.

According to Mr. Bhatt, a firebrand leader of the fundamentalist World Hindu Council, killing hundreds of innocent Muslims in the past five days of rioting was necessary. All Muslims had to be taught a lesson after a Muslim mob burned a train loaded with the council's members, immolating 58 people.

"Now, it is the end of toleration," he said, a revolver on his hip. "If the Muslims do not learn, it will be very harmful for them."

Mr. Bhatt's words cannot be dismissed as empty threats. The council's workers are widely thought to have helped instigate the riots that have killed more than 500 people, mostly Muslims, since Thursday — though council leaders deny it.

The council is part of the same Hindu nationalist family as the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules this state, Uttar Pradesh, and heads the national governing coalition. Despite calls from Muslim and secular political leaders to ban the council and arrest its leaders, senior party leaders have tried in the last few days to strike a behind-the-scenes bargain with the council — so far without success.

Today the council defied Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's wishes and vowed that on March 15 its workers will begin building a temple to Ram, the manly incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, on the site of a mosque demolished by Hindu zealots in the north Indian town of Ayodhya. The trainload of Hindus attacked by Muslims on Wednesday were returning from a ceremony that precedes the raising of the temple.

The council's temple crusade, the most incendiary issue in Hindu-Muslim relations, has the potential to cause more riots. It also presents the Bharatiya Janata Party with a moment of reckoning. Will it do as its secular allies require and stop the council from erecting hand-carved pillars at Ayodhya on March 15? Or will it waver when confronted with arresting council members, and even firing on them, as they defy court orders?

The party's second-most-powerful leader, Home Minister L. K. Advani, led the movement for a temple on the site of the Babri mosque culminating in its destruction in 1992 and the worst Hindu-Muslim rioting since the nation was created in 1947.

The temple crusade was pivotal in the party's rise to power. It polarized the Hindu-Muslim vote and helped consolidate support from Hindus, who are usually politically fractured on caste lines.

Twelve years ago, Mr. Advani defied Prime Minister V. P. Singh and refused to accept that the temple could be built only if the courts ordered it or the Muslims agreed to it.

The party withdrew from Mr. Singh's coalition on this issue, causing his government to fall. Mr. Singh savored the irony this weekend as he sat cross-legged in his home in New Delhi. He said he warned party leaders at the time, "Someday you'll sit in this chair and you'll have to say the same things."

Sure enough, on the very day the train burned last week, Mr. Advani told council leaders that the temple could only be built if the courts ordered it or the Muslims agreed to it.

The council's true believers feel a sense of betrayal at Mr. Advani's shift. Ashutosh Varshney, author of a book about Hindu-Muslim conflict in India ("Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life," Yale University Press, 2002), said the recent riots were rooted not just in the desire to teach Muslims a lesson, but in the Hindu right wing's desire "to throw a challenge to Vajpayee's moderate political stance towards Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim relations."

The Hindu nationalists, tainted by the 1992 riots, had prided themselves on the relative peace during their years in power. The riots here shattered that claim.

The failure of the police here to protect Muslims from rampaging Hindu mobs has prompted many to charge that the state's chief minister, Narendra Modi — a hard-core Hindu nationalist — cynically allowed the riots to happen.

Alluding to recent election losses by the party, Shabana Azmi, a Muslim member of Parliament, said, "Modi wants the rioting and arson to continue because he believes this will consolidate the Hindu vote bank."

The violence has physically scarred this city of 3.5 million, but the corrosive anger of the Muslims will be even harder to repair. About 3,000 Muslims who fled their homes are living on the cement floors of a school. These refugees in their own city seethe with rage and grief.

Mahboob Bee, who sat on the floor holding 6-month-old Afsana on her lap, said she was separated from her husband, a mutton seller, and their 2- year-old daughter in the chaos of the mob attack. She has no idea whether they are alive.

As word spread that Hindus were trying to destroy the local mosque, Salima Bano's 18-year-old son ran out of the house toward the action. Mrs. Bano arrived in time to see him lean to pick up a stone, only to be hit by a policeman's bullet.

The battle was so fierce that Mrs. Bano was afraid to take her son to the hospital. Instead, she took him home, where he bled to death.

As the surviving residents of Naroda-Patia gathered round to talk, the men were angriest. Their hands shook and their eyes teared as they spoke. They said they knew the man who led the mob that attacked them. His name was Bipin Panchal and he was a local rickshaw salesman and a World Hindu Council supporter.

"If there's anybody responsible for this incident is it the police and Bipin," said Abul Hasan Ansari, whose paintbrush franchise was wiped out in the fires.

In different parts of Ahmedabad, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh residents have said in interviews in recent days that the council and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, had fomented and in some cases led the riots.

Mr. Bhatt, vice president of the state branch of the World Hindu Council and all-India vice president of the Bajrang Dal, denied that the groups participated in the riots, even as he justified the killing.

He proudly described himself as "the first enemy of Muslims" and posed with a three-pointed trident — actually a vicious-looking knife — that each Bajrang Dal member is given.

 

Chicago Tribune, March 5, 2002
Mobs claim `victory' in India

As Hindu-Muslim riots ebb, radicals destroy symbols

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
The Washington Post

AHMADABAD, India -- Built of brick and covered with lime-colored paint, the Manchaji mosque attracted hundreds of Muslims for daily prayers for more than 80 years.

Monday, it drew hundreds of Hindu militants, many wielding sledgehammers, metal rods and shovels. They knocked down the minarets and smashed through walls. They hoisted saffron-colored Hindu nationalist flags atop the rubble. And on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, they erected an orange, foot-tall idol of the monkey god Hanuman, surrounded by coconuts and flower petals.

"Victory to Lord Hanuman," the Hindus shouted. "Victory to Hindus."

Late last week, in India's worst religious riots in a decade, Hindus slaughtered hundreds of Muslims and drove thousands more from their homes in this teeming city in western India. Monday, as deserted Muslim neighborhoods smoldered, Hindus went on a different sort of rampage, doing their best to obliterate any Muslim symbols they could find.

Gravestones were toppled and replaced with Hanuman statues. Anti-Muslim graffiti were painted on Muslim homes and businesses. Mosques were torn down to make way for new Hindu temples.

"Today, the Hindu has woken up," proclaimed Mohan Patel, an income tax officer who was helping to lead the demolition. "Today, the Hindu is aggressive."

Only a tiny fraction of India's Hindus, who account for about 80 percent of this country's 1 billion people, participated in the fighting. But the attacks point to a growing radical fringe in Hinduism that has become a far more assertive force in society and in the officially secular Indian government.

Egged on by firebrand politicians and fueled by poverty, Hindu radicals contend that the best way to solve their problems with Muslims is not through the principles of non-violence and tolerance taught by this city's most famous former resident, Mohandas Gandhi, but through force.

Justifying religious riots

On the grounds where the mosque had been, Hindu leaders justified their actions by insisting that the site had housed a temple to a goddess before it was torn down by Muslims about 80 years ago.

"Traditionally, the Hindus were known to be very tolerant," Patel said. "Over centuries, whenever such things happened to Hindu temples, we used to say, `Just let it be. Let it go.' But we don't feel that way anymore."

Patel and others said they had long desired to demolish the mosque but that those feelings intensified Wednesday after a mob of Muslims firebombed a train that was bringing Hindus home from a rally to build a temple at the site of a destroyed mosque in northern India. The attack on the train in the city of Godhra killed 58 passengers -- all Hindus -- and prompted Hindus in Ahmadabad and elsewhere in the state of Gujarat to seek revenge by turning on their Muslim neighbors.

"Godhra changed everything," said Ashwin Patel, a transportation worker who was loitering on the mosque grounds. "We want to take back what is ours. The Muslims should go to Pakistan."

Officials said Monday that 544 people have died in the religious clashes of the previous five days. Police reported several small incidents of Hindu mob violence Monday but said the intensity of the attacks has waned. Officials continued to impose a curfew on many parts of Gujarat, and soldiers increased patrols.

Those restrictions did not stop throngs of Hindus from taking to the streets, often in full view of police, to ransack buildings belonging to Muslims. At the Manchaji mosque, two cane-toting police officers in pressed khaki uniforms stood atop a half-demolished brick wall, observing the destruction with approving nods. On the street, other officers kept passersby away from the site but did not intervene when several young men threatened to pelt two journalists with bricks.

The leaders of the effort to knock down the mosque eventually decided to allow the journalists inside the compound on condition that it not be photographed.

The grounds bore little evidence of what stood there just a few days ago. Three sides of the building had been razed, and the dusty rubble was being loaded on wooden carts.

Not content to wait for the renovations to be finished, the Hindus carted in a small Hanuman idol on a small pedestal. A barefoot priest lit incense and rang a bell as he led prayers to the deity. The all-male crowd passed around a bowl of saffron powder, which they applied to their foreheads, and a tray of pea-size sweets, which they ate.

Mohan Patel compared the destruction of the mosque to a similar project in Ayodhya, the city from which the train passengers were returning last week. In 1992, Hindu extremists demolished a 16th Century mosque there, which led to nationwide riots that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

`A proud moment for us'

"This is our Ayodhya," he said. "This is a proud moment for us."

The World Hindu Council, a radical group that sponsored the train passengers' trip to Ayodhya, said Monday that it would stick to plans to begin building a temple on the mosque site in Ayodhya starting March 15. Some government officials had urged the group to back down out of fear that the commencement of construction could inflame Muslims and lead to another round of clashes.

As World Hindu Council leaders have done with Ayodhya, Patel attempted to rationalize the actions of the Hindu mob in Ahmadabad, saying Muslims rarely frequented the mosque.

 

Independent.co.uk, 05 March 2002 18:45 GMT
The myth of Ram's temple has become a licence to kill in India

'Muslim equals terrorist, Hindu nationalists tell each other; we have 140 million terrorists in our midst'

Peter Popham

05 March 2002
India is a big country, and it is usually big-hearted enough not to betray signs of being bothered by what we Delhi-based foreign correspondents write. So it was a rare event when, nearly a year ago, I was politely summoned to the office of Raminder Singh Jassal, then Chief Secretary for External Publicity in the Ministry of External Affairs, and given a sound ticking off.

The main complaint was that I had written at some length about Hindu-Muslim clashes that had broken out in several towns and cities across India following the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas.

The Indian officials didn't question the veracity of my report, but they made it plain that they regarded it as "unfriendly" of me to have written on the topic of communal disturbances at all. "Relations between majority and minority communities have been far better under this government than they were before," Mr Jassal told me. "So when there is some little incident, why focus on it?"

I expect no such call from the ministry this week. The deaths of at least 450, and probably more than 1,000, Gujaratis, nearly all Muslims, in four days of communal bestiality have exploded for ever the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) claim to have presided over an era of communal peace.

And now, riding the crest of that particular wave, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, or "World Hindu Council"), an extremist group within the same Hindu nationalist family as the BJP, is pressing ahead with its plans to begin construction of the long dreamed-of temple to the god Ram in Ayodhya, on the ruins of the mosque torn down by a mob of the same people in December 1992. These two events, the Gujarat bloodbath and the Ayodhya temple, are intimately connected. Taken together they throw into urgent focus the question: what sort of people are ruling the world's biggest democracy today? Where are they headed?

The first man on earth was an Indian, and a Hindu. Hinduism was the primeval religion, not just of India but of the world. There was no Aryan invasion of India, no enslavement of the southern Dravidians. Hindus were here from day one. Other people arrived on these shores, but eventually they bent the knee to Bharat Mata, Mother India, and were knitted into the Hindu fabric. Only the Muslims (and to a lesser extent the Christians) stood out. They smashed temples and erected mosques on the rubble, with sword and fire they tore millions of Hindus from the breast of Mother India and brought them forcibly over to Islam. It is the duty of patriotic Hindus to reverse that historic wrong.

That, reduced to its crude essentials, is the Hindu nationalist creed, and it helps to explain why the primary goal of the most powerful political party in this vast, impoverished country, with all its desperate problems, should be the construction of a temple in a squalid little town in Uttar Pradesh. Ayodhya, goes the mythology, is "Ramjanambhoomi", the birth place of Ram, an avatar of Vishnu. The Muslim invader Babur (and this, too, is myth) tore down the great temple that stood here and built the Babri Masjid mosque, demolished by the mob in 1992. "Hindu Rashtra", the true Hindu nation, cannot come into being until the temple is rebuilt.

The men who have been ruling India for nearly four years, including the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and his powerful second-in-command Lal Krishna Advani, the Home Minister, are true believers in this, India's exotic variety of neo-fascism. But the world at large has gradually lost sight of that fact. The nuclear tests conducted in May 1998, immediately after they came to power, gave due warning that they meant business. But the need to keep a squabbling and disparate coalition intact forced Ayodhya off the government's agenda. Mr Vajpayee's became the first Indian government to develop cordial relations with the US. Last September, India became a front-line ally in the war against terrorism.

But while India's stature grew abroad, at home Mr Vajpayee was often described by critics on the left as the "mask" of the BJP, the acceptable face of a neo-fascist movement that was only biding its time.

Mr Vajpayee, increasingly doddery at the age of 78, remains in place; but in the past week the party's mask has been ripped away. The war on terrorism and India's long military stand-off with Pakistan, which continues undiminished, have given a new licence to the Hindu nationalists. Muslim equals terrorist, they tell each other: we have it on American authority; we have 140 million terrorists in our midst. At the same time, recent BJP losses in state elections both in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh have given the hardliners a new urgency and and a new determination. Strike, they have been told, while the BJP still holds power. Strike to maintain and increase that power. Now is the moment for dramatic, decisive action.

Mr Vajpayee has fostered the illusion of being a truly national leader, but in Gujarat there is no such pretence: the BJP state government is starkly partisan. After the killing of 58 Hindus in a train last Wednesday, the event that ignited the violence, Gujarat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, quickly announced compensation of 200,000 rupees, about 3,000, to the bereaved families. Hundreds of Muslims have died since, but there is no word of compensation for them. Mr Modi endorsed the VHP's call for a strike last Friday, his official nod to the ensuing bloodbath. The police have stood idly by while the mob did its work; sometimes, victims allege, they actively led the violence.

The BJP rose to power, as fascists do, through violence and the threat of more: the Ayodhya demolition signalled its rapid rise from obscurity, the vision of a state where Hindus rule supreme continues to excite its ideologues. In this amazing but horrifyingly immature democracy, muscle power – and that includes the mass burning alive of women and children – can yield political power. The liberal, English-language papers here have tut-tutted in a worried way, but encouraging communal carnage has done Mr Modi's government no harm at all. With the parliamentary opposition still weak and divided, India has set off down a nightmare road.

 

msnbc.com, March 05, 2002
Hindus turn against symbols

After deadly clashes, Muslim icons ripped out of mosque

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
THE WASHINGTON POST

AHMADABAD, India, March 4 — Built of brick and covered with lime-colored paint, the Manchaji mosque attracted hundreds of Muslims for daily prayers for more than 80 years.

‘We want to take back what is ours. The Muslims should go to Pakistan.’ — ASHWIN PATEL, transportation worker

TODAY, IT DREW hundreds of Hindu militants, many wielding sledgehammers, metal rods and shovels. They knocked down the minarets and smashed through the walls. They hoisted saffron-colored, Hindu nationalist flags atop the rubble. And on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, they erected an orange, foot-tall idol of the monkey god Hanuman, surrounded by coconuts and flower petals.

“Victory to Lord Hanuman,” the Hindus shouted. “Victory to Hindus.”

Late last week, in the country’s worst religious riots in a decade, Hindus slaughtered hundreds of Muslims and drove thousands more from their homes in this teeming city in western India. Today, as deserted Muslim neighborhoods smoldered, Hindus went on a different sort of rampage, doing their best to obliterate any Muslim symbols they could find.

Gravestones were toppled and replaced with Hanuman statues. Anti-Muslim graffiti were painted on Muslim homes and businesses. And mosques were torn down to make way for new Hindu temples.
“Today, the Hindu has woken up,” proclaimed Mohan Patel, an income tax officer who was helping to lead the demolition. “Today, the Hindu is aggressive.”

VIOLENCE AS THE SOLUTION
Only a tiny fraction of India’s Hindus, who account for about 80 percent of this country’s 1 billion people, participated in the fighting here. But the attacks point to a growing radical fringe in Hinduism that has become a far more assertive force in society and in the officially secular Indian government.

Egged on by firebrand politicians and fueled by poverty, Hindu radicals contend that the best way to solve their problems with Muslims is not through the principles of nonviolence and tolerance taught by this city’s most famous former resident, Mohandas Gandhi, but through force.

On the grounds where the mosque had been, Hindu leaders justified their actions by insisting that the site had housed a temple to a goddess before it was torn down by Muslims about 80 years ago.
“Traditionally, the Hindus were known to be very tolerant,” Patel said. “Over centuries, whenever such things happened to Hindu temples, we used to say, ‘Just let it be. Let it go.’ But we don’t feel that way anymore.”

Patel and others said they had long desired to demolish the mosque but that those feelings intensified on Wednesday, when a group of Muslims firebombed a train in the city of Godhra that was bringing Hindus home from a rally to build a temple at the site of a destroyed mosque in northern India. The attack on the train killed 58 passengers — all Hindus — and prompted Hindus in Ahmadabad and elsewhere in the state of Gujarat to seek revenge by turning on their Muslim neighbors.

“Godhra changed everything,” said Ashwin Patel, a transportation worker who was loitering on the mosque grounds. “We want to take back what is ours. The Muslims should go to Pakistan.”

Officials said today that 544 people have died in the religious clashes of the past five days. Police reported several small incidents of Hindu mob violence today but said the intensity of the attacks has waned. Officials continued to impose a curfew on many parts of Gujarat, and soldiers increased patrols of trouble spots.

Those restrictions did not stop throngs of Hindus from taking to the streets, often in full view of policemen, to ransack buildings belonging to Muslims. At the Manchaji mosque, two cane-toting police officers in pressed khaki uniforms stood atop a half-demolished brick wall, observing the destruction with approving nods. On the street, other officers kept passersby away from the site but did not intervene when several young men threatened to pelt two journalists with bricks as they tried to enter.

The leaders of the effort to knock down the mosque eventually decided to allow the journalists inside the compound on condition that it not be photographed.

The grounds bore little evidence of what stood there just a few days ago. Three sides of the building already had been razed, and the dusty rubble was being loaded on wood carts. The fourth wall was being dismantled a few bricks at a time by men using hammers and crowbars.

‘We are working very quickly. By tomorrow it will be all gone.’ — HINDU LABORER AT MOSQUE

“We are working very quickly,” one of the laborers said. “By tomorrow it will be all gone.”

Not content to wait for the renovations to be finished, the Hindus carted in a small Hanuman idol that had been placed on a small pedestal. A barefoot priest lit incense and rang a bell as he led prayers to the deity. The all-male crowd passed around a bowl of saffron powder, which they applied to their foreheads, and a tray of pea-size sweets, which they ate.

CUES TAKEN FROM HISTORY
Mohan Patel compared the destruction of the mosque to a similar project in Ayodhya, the city from which the train passengers were returning last week. In 1992, Hindu extremists demolished a 16th-century mosque there, which led to nationwide riots that claimed more than 2,000 lives.

“This is our Ayodhya,” he said. “This is a proud moment for us.”

The World Hindu Council, a radical group that sponsored the train passengers’ trip to Ayodhya, said today that it would stick to plans to begin building a temple on the mosque site in Ayodhya starting March 15. Some government officials had urged the group to back down out of fear that the commencement of construction could inflame Muslims and lead to another round of clashes.

As World Hindu Council leaders have done with Ayodhya, Patel attempted to rationalize the actions of the Hindu mob here. He said Muslims rarely frequented the mosque. Another man, Praveen Sharma, insisted the mosque “was a cause of tension in the community” and a place where Muslims plotted anti-Hindu activities.

“This is our property,” Ashwin Patel said. “It makes no difference to them if they lose just one mosque.”

Down the street, in a Hindu neighborhood, residents said they wholeheartedly supported the destruction of the mosque. They said Muslims had desecrated a small Hindu shrine there last week, stealing the idol and throwing calf meat inside.

But in an adjoining, riot-scarred Muslim neighborhood, which was largely deserted, a few men loitering near a row of shuttered shops said the mosque was a popular but peaceful place that attracted hundreds of people for Friday prayers. The men disputed the Hindus’ contention that the site used to house a temple.

“These are just excuses,” said Salim Sheikh, a driver. “They have enough temples. How many mosques do they have to take away from us?”

Sheikh said he was “numb with pain” at the devastation that has visited his community. He said he would like to confront the Hindus and reclaim the mosque, but he and his neighbors do not have the strength to do so.

“The Hindus, they have the support of the police, of the state government,” he said. “We don’t have a chance.”

 

Independent.co.uk, 05 March 2002 20:40 GMT
Bloodshed feared as Hindus march on Ayodhya site

By Peter Popham in Ahmedabad

05 March 2002
The Indian government is heading for a violent clash with an extremist group to which it is closely allied after the World Hindu Council (VHP) vowed last night to go ahead with its plan to build a temple on a disputed site as early as next week, despite intercommunal violence.

"The programme will never be called off," the VHP president Ashok Sighal said. The group announced defiantly that its karsevaks (militant activists) would begin moving to the northern town of Ayodhya in preparation for the building task today, two days earlier than planned.

In Bombay, a group of Muslim organisations warned the VHP against going ahead with its plans. "The completion of Ram temple on the site of the Babri Masjid [mosque] will by no means be the end of the Muslim struggle but in fact it will be the beginning of an era of violence, turmoil, anarchy," a spokesman, Maulana Musannah Miyan said.

India's Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has tried for weeks to reach a compromise on the issue, which excites violent emotion among both Hindus and Muslims. But yesterday in Delhi a gathering of militant Hindu priests and ascetics – all bearded and robed and with brows daubed with tilak or smeared with holy ash – turned him down.

Ten years ago, Mr Vajpayee's party rode to prominence as supporters of the campaign to build the temple. But the demolition by a Hindu mob of the mosque that stood on the contested site provoked communal clashes all over the country that cost more than 3,000 lives. Against the background of more than 500 deaths in communal violence in the western state of Gujarat over the past week, there are widespread fears that if the VHP is not halted more blood will be spilt. VHP activists have been prefabricating pillars for the temple in workshops at Ayodhya for years. The VHP intends to begin moving these pillars to the site on 15 March. But the site is still the subject of litigation between Hindus and Muslims before the Supreme Court. And it is elaborately guarded like no other spot in India, with access possible only through narrow winding passages between high steel fences topped with razor wire, with large numbers of soldiers to prevent mob activity. Any strenuous attempt to broach these defences would quickly turn bloody.

In Gujarat six more people died in fresh communal incidents overnight, but life was limping back to normal in the cities, with shops opening for the first time in five days and traffic back on the streets.

In the 17th century Shah Alam mosque, in the Muslim old city of Ahmedabad, some 3,000 Muslims made homeless by the violence of the past week sleep under the stars, with only sacks or thin sheets to insulate their bodies from the flagstones of the mosque's courtyard. Most lost everything when mobs set fire to their homes; many also lost their closest relatives.

In a sick bay within the mosque, a four-year-old boy called Saijpur Pati sits swathed in bandages that cover one arm, one leg and his midriff where he suffered burns running from his home. His father Abdul Azis is beside him, but his mother and two brothers died in the fire that consumed their home last Thursday night.

Mohammed Bukhari, a car dealer who is helping to care for the homeless here, says the government has done nothing to help. "Why did the police do nothing to stop the violence?" he asks. "After 58 Hindus were killed last Wednesday the state government announced compensation of 200,000 rupees (about 3,000) for all the families. No compensation was announced for the Muslim families."

Saijpur Pati and the thousands around him, sitting in the hot sun, nibbling breadcrumbs or waiting for the volunteers' rice cauldrons to boil, are indirect victims of Ayodhya. The 58 Hindus massacred inside the train at Godhra last Wednesday were activists returning from Ayodhya.

The campaign to build a temple on what true believers claim to be the spot where King Ram or Rama was born has been a clarion call for Hindu nationalists for many years. A mosque called Babri Masjid stood on the site, seen by the Hindu right as a standing insult to the national religion and an intolerable symbol of India's long subjection to foreign rule.

In 1992 a huge ceremonial procession demanding the building of the temple, led by the present home minister, Lal Krishna Advani, brought tens of thousands of nationalists to Ayodhya, and on 6 December 1992 a mob swarmed over the 17th century mosque and demolished it brick by brick. The demolition prompted communal battles all over the country, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths. It also brought the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party that had championed the temple issue, sudden prominence, and within a few years helped establish it in power.

Once established in government, the BJP had to shelve the temple issue to cement relations with other parties in a ruling coalition. Four years on, the patience of their extremist friends is finally exhausted. Now crunch time approaches.

 

BBC, Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 12:47 GMT
Traumatised victims wait for help

By the BBC's Anu Anand reporting from Ahmedabad

Father Jimmy Dhabi, a local Jesuit priest, has been on the front lines of Gujarat's communal violence. Over the years, he has witnessed the most brutal acts of vengeance.

"I've seen men thrown onto burning fires and pregnant women killed along with their unborn babies," he says as he takes us to a Muslim-dominated neighbourhood on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital.

"I don't understand what it is that turns human beings into something worse than animals."

Nearly 300 Muslim families live just off the main highway, which is littered with the charred remains of buildings and auto-rickshaws.

The men in this community are mostly labourers who fled their homes in 1992 to escape communal rioting after the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was pulled down by Hindu fundamentalists.

Fear haunts victims

Now, once again, they have become the victims of religious hate.

Women and children crouch under a canopy waiting to be fed by Father Dhabi and his volunteers. Their houses have been burnt, their belongings looted.

One child tells us the mob came while they were eating breakfast and his entire family ran for safety. "I'm afraid to go back," he says.

Inside one of the white-washed homes, a man in his early 20s sits up stiffly on a cot, while his neighbours take turns fanning him.

"I am in agony, you just cannot imagine how much it hurts," he says. "They tried to burn me alive, but I ran for my life and my neighbours poured water over me."

The mob that attacked him severed his ear with a sickle before burning his hands and arms down to the bone in some places. Next door, another man lies silently on his side. The skin on his face has been burned off and the rest of his body is pink and red.

Father Dhabi tries to convince both men to come with him to a hospital, where they will receive proper medical care.

"They're refusing," he says. "They're just too scared to leave."

Huge task

Despite assurances from the state government that the situation is now under control, there are still thousands of people - mostly Muslims - who are in urgent need of food, temporary shelter and medical care.

Seven local volunteer agencies are trying to help them, but the task is enormous.

"The state won't lend us a single truck to take food to these people," Father Dhabi said.

"They won't give us police protection. The other day, Hindu fundamentalists stopped us as were coming out of a Muslim neighbourhood and held a spear to our throats. We're trying to help, but we don't have the proper resources."

BJP under pressure

Hindus and Muslims alike have accused the BJP state and central government of exploiting the violence for political gain.

"They're desperate for support," said Anjali Mody, a senior journalist with the Hindu newspaper.

"The BJP has lost elections in four states. They are under pressure from their hard-line supporters to allow the temple to be built in Ayodhya. Whenever there are communal riots, the BJP benefits electorally."

Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi denies the accusation. But the fact remains that an estimated 30,000 people have been left homeless and badly injured by the violence in Ahmedabad alone.

"I'm worried about these people," said Father Dhabi. "Everytime there are communal riots here, the poorest Hindus and Muslims suffer. We don't know how long we will be able to help them."

 

The News International, March 07, 2002
Mass burials in Gujarat as death toll rises to 600

AHMEDABAD: The death toll in the western Indian state of Gujarat from the worst Hindu-Muslim bloodshed in a decade climbed above 600 after more bodies were discovered, police said on Wednesday.

But they said the state was mostly peaceful apart from a few isolated incidents. Authorities scouring the burnt out wrecks of homes and shops recovered 29 bodies overnight, taking the official toll to 602.

Police officials say the final death toll could cross the 1,000 mark as bodies are still being recovered from remote Muslim villages that were attacked and burned by Hindu mobs. "These are all bodies which are being recovered from earlier incidents, some from urban areas and some from rural areas," senior state government official Ashok Narayan told Reuters. "The state is in fact quite peaceful except for some tension in select pockets."

Meanwhile, mass burials were held in India's Gujarat state on Wednesday to dispose of the victims -- some still unidentified -- of the worst sectarian violence in nearly a decade. Te authorities said they had little choice but to opt for common grave burials. Most of the victims were Muslims, killed in the backlash that followed the February 27 massacre of 58 Hindus on a train. Inamuel Haq, a Muslim volunteer helping to organise the burials, said 98 bodies were interred in a single grave on Tuesday near the police commissioner's office in Gujarat's commercial capital, Ahmedabad. "We are expecting around 100 more bodies today. We have requested the hospital authorities to bring them here," Haq said.

Divyan Mehta, an independent film maker who witnessed Tuesday's burial, said some of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition and not formally indentified. "Twenty badly burned bodies were piled on one another and covered with mud. Then the second layer and a third layer of 20 bodies and so on," Mehta said.

Muslim clerics performing rites at the burial had their faces covered with pieces of cloth to block the stench. "The volunteers rubbed perfume under their nostrils," Haq said, adding that most of the buried victims were women and children. In some cases, entire families were buried together.

Apart from isolated incidents, there have been no reports of any major incidents in Gujarat since the weekend.

Nevertheless, the army was still out in force in Ahmedabad and other cities, after being deployed Friday when it became clear that the state police were unable, or in some cases unwilling, to curb the Hindu backlash that followed the train massacre.Daily labourers moved rice, wheat, onions and potatoes in hand drawn carts from wholesale shops to the retailers in the city as movie halls, banks and commercial complexes opened.

 

BBC, Thursday, 7 March, 2002, 13:13 GMT
Bookies 'laid odds on Gujarat riots'

More than 70 bookmakers have been arrested in India on charges of fuelling rumours to encourage bets on the chances of the riots in Gujarat spreading to other areas.

Police in the state of Rajasthan say the bookmakers offered odds of between 4-1 and 6-1 on the chances of the unrest spilling across the borders of Gujarat.

The Hindustan Times reported that they used mobile phones to spread wild rumours of clashes breaking out but were caught when police traced one of their calls.

"They deliberately spread the rumours to keep the possibility of riots alive, without which they would not have been in business," police superintendent Anand Srivastava, said in Rajastan's capital, Jaipur

The police recovered a large number of betting slips and mobile phones from them.

The Times said that police in Rajasthan are taking extra care to crackdown on betting around communal violence.

 

The News International, Saturday, March 09, 2002
India's communal troubles

Rasul Bakhsh Rais

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

What has happened during a week of communal frenzy in the Indian state of Gujarat has shocked many around the world, and that includes liberal and secular elements in India as well. The tragic events, the burning alive of victims in the ill-fated train or in the houses in the back lanes of Ahmedabad, and mob attacks on the businesses or the property of the members of the rival community reflect the familiar pattern of communal violence in India over the decades. But such a tragic loss of life and property of mainly innocent people on both the side cannot be dismissed as something that has always happened.

Communalism cannot be explained as one of the many problems that India's developmental crises, social transformation and communal diversity present. Some have tended to argue that it is the residual problem of India's partition on the basis of religion. The solution, many thought, would emerge out of Indiaps progress as a modern, secular and democratic nation state. There are others who think, communal violence has local and specific causes, and we have to look at them in that context in order understand them. These lines are too familiar to both Indian and other observers outside the country, and I am afraid, no longer are they convincing or appealing.

Why communal violence has been a regular feature of Indian social and political life, and why it is happening today deserves deeper look into the growth of certain extremist groups and their politics. And it also deserves a better answer to this question: why have they targeted the Muslims more than other religious communities, and with more frequency? One of the officially certified Indian social scientist with a degree in the field of engineering has evolved a theory about communal violence, which he thinks has both explanatory and predictive value. He wishes to make his Indian and other readers believe that he has found the Muslims responsible for triggering communal violence, and they will be in any situation when the proportion of their population in any place is more than twenty percent.

Does the solution lies then in constantly shifting the Muslim population in India from place to place so that their numbers donpt increase above the critical mass of twenty percent? There cannot be a more vulgar and pervert explanation of a social event, violent or non-violent than this one. It is so, because it tries to trivialise a fundamental issue of human existence and dignity and subjects it to worst form of reductionism. One may see in this explanation intellectual politics that serves particular interests, and blurs the issues more than throws lights on them.

No matter who is involved at what scale and at what stage in communal violence, its victims, their families and the human community as a whole must get at least some decent answers to their tragedy. All social events have some specific causes and some very general ones. Ignoring one set of them would only give us a partial and flawed picture and the facts may be lost in the fiction of blame game. Although the communal violence in Gujarat, the worst in India after 1992, has some specific causes that triggered revenge killings, one cannot see it in separation from the growth of Hindu extremist groups, their social and cultural politics, and the issues of power and identity.

The growth of modernity, social and economic mobility and institutionalisation of democratic politics, that have in fact taken deeper roots in Indian society than many others, have not prevented the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. The reverse is true. Mobility of groups and individuals in all forms and even fundamental transformation of economic life make them more conscious of who are they, where they are heading and what is their common destiny. It is not just the disintegration of the Congress party or collapse of the Nehruvian consensus on political and social issues in India, but the new social and economic forces that are shaping new conservative Hindu ideology that in its political manifestation is fascistic.

One can see a phenomenal growth of Hindu extremism that the rise of Bharatiya Janata Party, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other groups of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh represent. They were only on the margins of Indian social and political life for almost forty years, and nobody took them as a serious contender for political power. Many observers regarded their earlier incarnations as aggressive pressure groups interested in redefining the politics of identity. This is exactly the way they started out. In the 1890s, Bal Gangadhar Tilak launched a vigorous movement for the rediscovery of India's self, which he thought had been lost under the Muslim rule and British colonialism. There was nothing wrong in reviving Hindu symbols, honouring fallen heroes, and salvaging the cultural and civilisational heritage. But the movement laid the foundation for more extremist forms of political and religious conduct. Impressed by the rise of fascism and its tactics in Germany, powerful persons like Swami Shradhanan, and Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, the founder of the RSS preached similar path to the Hindu glory.

Many of the Indian reformers in this category have tried to impose an extended definition of what is Hindu and have wanted to purify the faith and beliefs of others, who they think left their fold to convert to other religion. They launched the Shuddhi and Sangathan movements that had militant and fascistic overtones. Although their religious and political wish lists were alarming, nobody anticipated the social respect and political acceptance that these groups have gained in India. Many myths they have cultivated about the Hindu India, the Muslims have found receptivity even among urban and modern Indians. What happened in the demolition of Babri mosque in December 1992, the communal riots that followed and the recent burning and killing in Gujarat is the product of religious and cultural politics of the groups that now dominate Indian politics in the form of BJP. Their myths about the self and the other, in this case the Muslims, are too familiar. The ideology of Hindutva is a modern variety of the earlier strands of single identity agenda of BJP's predecessors. It has deeply polarised the Indian polity more than uniting it. The politics of religious mobilisation, which invariably takes communal colour, has subjected the Muslims and other minorities to more violence and intolerance. It has further diminished the neutrality of administrative and other institutions of the Indian state.

The rise of Hindu extremism and its negative effects on communal harmony posed a larger question; is it an aberration or new direction of India's political development? Some would argue that defeat of the BJP in four states in recent elections suggests the party is on the decline. May be. But there have been social and religious forces that have determined its outlook and communal politics of some of the factions in its fold. In this respect, India is once again in a transitional phase, which may be more destabilising than others. And what at risk are India's image, its secular and democratic trajectory and social peace.

 

The News International, March 11, 2002
How should we react?

Anwar Ahmad

By revealing the human misery and malevolence behind the lifeless words like carnage, savagery, massacre, investigative reporting by the international media is painting a picture far more horrifying than one's worst imagination. What befell the Muslims in Gujarat, India, was much worse than mob revenge for the Godhra train tragedy. It was a deliberate and diabolically planned humiliation -- economic, political, social and psychological -- of a community through state-sponsored plunder, murder and rapine.

Strip-rape-burn orgies were enacted in public -- in front of the brothers, fathers, husbands and children -- to settle a score that was as much historical as political. The same had happened in 1992-1993 when, in the "wanton nationwide riots", triggered by the Babri mosque demolition, "Muslims were surrounded, terrorised and massacred; rape was thrown in for evil measure in cities like Surat in polarised Gujarat, where it was also videotaped as proof of rapine conquest," wrote the Indian author/journalist, M.J. Akbar, in Time magazine. This was/is a collective sickness.

A question that torments the Pakistanis is: how should they have reacted to the trauma of Indian Muslims? Indian Home Minister LK Advani says Pakistanis are the only ones happy at the Gujarat infamy. He obviously looks at Pakistan through the prism of his own malevolence. What many Indians cannot comprehend is that there is no ingrained hatred against them in Pakistan. Yes, there is not much respect either -- thanks to the Nehruvian disdain for the Muslim fear of Hindu majoritarianism that led to partition, the duplicity over Kashmir and its brutal occupation and, of course, Indian role in Pakistan's vivisection.

There is, thus, a litany of grievances, some right and some not quite so. But no hatred. There was no question, therefore, of happiness even if the pogrom of Muslims had not followed the Godhra tragedy. As it is, the ensuing barbarity aroused anger and anguish in Pakistan, but certainly no joy. It diminished India, definitely, even in the eyes of those who had admired its democracy and secularism.

In contrast, even the worst "Islamic fundamentalists" -- the Taliban, for instance -- were never accused of rape and child-killing. Could it be because the Hindu zealots, unlike their Muslim counterparts, have no higher cause than to revisit, rewrite and avenge history? And, by keeping the Muslim bogey on the boil, forestall their worst politico-economic nightmare -- a lower-caste unity, among themselves and with Muslims, to topple the higher-caste power-monopoly? If this comes about, as it did in the recent UP polls, the BJP is lost.

Thus, despite the subsequent aggravation, there has been no defence in Pakistan of the Godhra tragedy. Instead, there is unanimity that, no matter how intolerable the provocations by the VHP hoodlums on the train, setting it on fire is inexcusable. There is sadness at the loss of life, and exasperation that Indian Muslims should have handed the Hindu zealots a "cause celebre" just when the political tide was turning against them.

The greatest anger is directed at the complacency of the BJP government in New Delhi when a post-Godhra bloodbath was writ large, and the complicity of the BJP government in Gujarat in spearheading it. The police commander absolved his men by saying that they were Hindus first and policemen after whose feelings were hurt and they could not be expected to remain neutral. Gujarat's Milosevic, chief minister Narendra Modi, brushed aside the massacre of Muslims as the inevitable result of the Godhra provocation.

To rub salt in the wound, his government announced Rs 2 lac per head compensation for the train victims and Rs 1 lac for those killed in the ensuing bloodbath. Even India's best friends in Pakistan cannot justify such hateful and heartless discrimination.

Even so, barring protest marches in various cities, there has been no physical backlash in Pakistan. This is a contrast to the violent reaction to the Babri mosque destruction and the ensuing massacre of Muslims. Hindu temples and property were then vandalised. Mercifully, there was no loss of life and the Pakistan government compensated for the property losses.

This time, two violent acts have been reported. Some persons tried to set fire to the house of a Hindu family in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab, but ran away when the Muslim neighbours rushed to the rescue. In the other incident, not necessarily linked to the Indian carnage, Seth Daboo Mal was shot dead in Jaffarabad, Balochistan. In protest, the city closed down. These are signs of maturity, something we can claim credit for. Even as our secular-democratic neighbour was advancing the frontiers of savagery, sanity prevailed in the Muslim-dictatorial Pakistan.

The alternate view, however, sees this non-reaction as a betrayal. Mr Khushnood Lashari wrote in his e-mail, "One thing which has been obvious in the recent riots [is] the utter helplessness of the Muslims of India. In 1992, there was a strong reaction in Pakistan...and this did give a moral and psychological support to the Muslims across the border. But this time around there have been only banal expressions of concern by [the government].

"If you recall, it were the Muslims of the minority provinces who had campaigned and suffered for the creation of Pakistan. The Muslims of areas now in Pakistan were either supping with the Chotu Rams & Co. in the Punjab, or were sleeping with the Congress in NWFP. When we are playing cricket in India, it's these very people who raise their voices to the sky in our team's support. They see over the border for some sympathy. But this time around we seem to have failed them. I am sure if any Hindu had been burnt in Pakistan, India would have found it enough cause to take up their case. We were celebrating Basant, but find it too uncomfortable to even protest the atrocities on fellow Muslims. Has the scare of the US taken the better of us? As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: 'O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I.'"

This anguish reflects the dilemma inherent in the creation of Pakistan. What was to become of the Muslims who chose to stay behind in India? Until 1971, the presumption on both sides was that a strong Pakistan, and a large Hindu minority in it, should deter any persecution of the Muslim minority in India. This potential deterrence still holds as, contrary to the Indian aspirations, Bangladesh is not as beholden to it as India had expected it to be.

In fact, Hindu-Muslim tensions are higher in Bangladesh than in Pakistan and, ironically, the anti-India protests there were also more strident than in Pakistan. Still, the Pakistani media tried to expose BJP's hypocrisy. But the civil society could certainly have been more vocal. Particularly questionable was the silence of the liberals like the PPP, ANP and even the MQM.

Even so, the Indian Muslims are essentially on their own and it is, perhaps, in their best interest as well. We might do them more harm than good. And, we cannot, and must not, hold our Hindu minority hostage to Hindu zealotry -- just as we cannot hold our Christian minority accountable for the sickness that has seized the US. Our official protests also merit no more than a summary dismissal as meddling in India's affairs. Besides, we have too many devils within to slay -- the spurt of Shia-killings being one.

It is for the Indians to decide how their minorities will be treated. The civilisational level of a society is, ultimately, judged by how it treats its minorities and how effectively it deters its fascists who desire nothing less than absolute conformity. India's first test will be at Ayodhya on March 15, the next during the state elections in Gujarat in March 2003 and the final will be its verdict on the BJP in the next general elections. If India fails these tests, the turmoil could be horrendous.

Immediately after the post-Babri mosque riots, which had killed over 500 Muslims in Bombay alone, reminds Time magazine, "came a nasty but surprisingly effective twist: on March 12, 1993, 10 bombs simultaneously exploded in Bombay, some of them near Hindu targets. At about 300, the body count was alarming and the message was clear: the Muslim community was telling the Hindus to cool it or real war would break out. The Hindus relented, but voted increasingly for the BJP." The Hindu-Muslim truce that followed has now been shattered. Only time will tell if it is replaced by permanent peace, or a communal war within India -- which could inflame the subcontinent.

 

Associated Press, Monday, March 11, 2002
Indian Children's Bodies Go Unclaimed

RUPAK SANYAL
Associated Press Writer

AHMADABAD, India (AP) - In large, stinking halls at hospital morgues in Gujarat, the bodies of dozens of children, burned beyond recognition during recent religious strife, go unclaimed.

In relief camps across this western state - torn apart by Hindu-Muslim violence that killed more than 700 people - parents cling to hope and desperately search for their missing children, some refusing to believe they are dead.

"My wife left me last year. She died after a brief illness. Since then, my children are my only hope," said Hasan Mansoori, a Muslim tailor who went into shock after the riots and now is at a relief camp in Ahmadabad, the largest city in Gujarat and scene of most of the deaths.

Mansoori's two young sons are missing. Police confirm they are dead.

"Whoever tells me about their death is a liar," Mansoori said.

At least 706 people, mostly Muslims, were burned, stabbed and shot to death in the riots. The six-day violence began Feb. 27 when a Muslim mob massacred 62 Hindus by setting fire to their train car at Godhra.

The Hindus were returning from Ayodha, the site of a 16th-century mosque razed by Hindus in 1992, sparking religious riots then. Hindu nationalists want to build a temple to the god Rama at or near the site 310 miles east of New Delhi.

India Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee told Parliament on Monday there would be no activity at the site unless the Supreme Court allows it. The court will hear the case Wednesday.

In the recent violence, children from both religions were killed on the train, in the cities and in remote villages.

Days after the rioting ended, Mansoori's sons were in the morgue at the V.S. Hospital, their bodies charred and impossible to identify.

"It is difficult to recognize, though we know that these were his children as we recovered (them) from inside his house," said Mayor Himmatsinh Patel, who has based himself at the hospital.

Doctors advised police not to take Mansoori to the morgue.

"He is in such a condition that I did not dare tell him the truth," police Inspector K.K. Mysorewalla said.

The officer has, so far, only hinted to Mansoori about the fates of his sons.

In another part of the city, Fatima Bibi has searched for her three children since a Hindu mob burned her Narodagaon neighborhood outside the city on Feb. 28. Her husband, Naseer Hussain Khan, was burned to death.

Bibi escaped the burning house and suffered burn injuries. She now lives in a relief camp, spending her days pleading with policemen, community leaders and relief workers to help find her children.

No one wants to tell her that the children were burned with their father and now lie among the 22 unclaimed bodies at the Civil Hospital Morgue. Fourteen of those bodies are children.

 

Rediff.com, Tuesday, March 12, 2002
It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots

Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad

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.

Shastri was replying to an allegation that shops in Ahmedabad were looted on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in advance and that the violence was not a spontaneous outburst against the carnage in Godhra.

A scholar of the Mahabharat and a highly respected literary figure of Gujarat, Shastri said in a tape-recorded interview, "In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in advance."

Asked why they did it, he responded, "Karvun j pade, karvun j pade (it had to be done, it had to be done). We don't like it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind." He said the rioters were "kelvayela Hindu chokra" (well-bred Hindu boys).

He said there were two reasons for the inactivity of the Ahmedabad police during the rioting. "They feared death," he said simply. "And some of them were Hindus who thought, let the mob do whatever it wants."

He agreed that the atmosphere in the city now is so charged that if he were to go to the Muslim-dominated Kalupur area of Ahmedabad, he would not come back alive.

He admitted that people had been burnt, mosques razed, and shops looted, but argued that all that had been done in a "frenzy".

Shastri agreed that violence was not the answer to violence, but remarked, "These things [non-violence] look good in the shastras. Our boys were charged because in Godhra women and children were burnt alive. The crowd was spontaneous. All of them were not VHP people. The Waghri community (a scheduled caste) didn't even know the victims of Godhra, but they have done an amazing job! They are not our members. In villages all these people who were angry are not our people. They are angry because Hindutva was attacked. This is an outburst, a tremendous outburst that will be difficult to roll back."

He said the situation could get aggravated and bigger riots were possible. "There will be a war," he said. "So much poison has spread that it's difficult o contain it now."

Asked how he, a scholar and a litterateur, could condone innocents being burnt alive, he remarked, "The youngsters have done even those things which we don't like. We don't support it. But we can't condemn it because they are our boys. If my daughter does something, will I condemn it?

"We don't believe that the boys have done something wrong, because this was the result of an outburst. But we do feel that they should not have gone so far. But that's an afterthought. We needed to do something. It's said that snakes that are not poisonous should keep the enemy away by hissing once in a while."

He agreed that in Hindu philosophy, such actions are sinful, "but it's done! Now we should work for peace. Because India can't afford such disturbances."

The Ahmedabad police have so far arrested 977 persons on charges of rioting, looting, burning and killing people in response to first information reports filed by the victims and relatives of the dead.

According to the police, the search for looted goods has been quite successful. In many colonies and slums, looted stuff has been found abandoned on the roads by rioters fearful of being caught.

According to a police source, a legislator in Ahmedabad has sought police protection because the relatives of those arrested have been nagging him day and night to get them out.

A senior police officer told rediff.com that the arrested boys are now blaming local leaders and saffron activists. "Our boys did it because the mobs and leaders supported it. Now how can you arrest them?" say the relatives of the rioters.

According to Shastri , "The VHP has formed a panel of 50 lawyers to help release the arrested people accused of rioting and looting. None of the lawyers will charge any fees because they believe in the RSS ideology."

 

DAWN, Opinion, March 12, 2002
A carnival of hatred

By Omar Kureishi

My book Once Upon A time was about growing up in British India but running through it, as an unavoidable sub-text, was the communal divide. In one chapter of the book, I raised the question whether there was such a thing as a Hindu mindset or a Muslim mindset?

I chose not to answer the question myself but quoted the distinguished writer and scholar Nirad Chaudri who wrote in his book The Continent of Circe, a book whose main feature was the interpretation of the Hindu personality.

He wrote: "there is something unnatural in the continued presence of Muslims in India and of the Hindus in Pakistan, as if both went against a natural cultural ecology. Whether a person is Hindu or Muslim makes a substantial difference."

I added, off my own steam that "such 'substantial difference' was not highlighted between a Hindu and a Christian. At any rate, it was not the cause of automatic hostility, it was, as if, the Hindus and Muslims were created to be sworn enemies. Indian nationalism had tried to sweep this inherent hostility under the carpet but when the chips were down, what was bred in the bones came out in the flesh."

I write this so that we can better understand why, otherwise, normal human beings, should have turned into savages in Gujarat. I wouldn't call them animals because animals do not kill mindlessly nor do they burn and rape and loot as we have seen in Gujarat. What we have seen in Gujarat is a carnival of blood-letting with rampaging lynch-mobs in a celebratory mood.

I watched an interview of Mr Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, given to the BBC Television which can be very revealing. Mr Modi told his interviewer that he was satisfied with the performance of the police who had brought calm to the province within 72 hours.

When his interviewer told him that far from doing a good job, the police had stood idly by and in some instances, actually provided the gasoline to the lynch-mobs, parrot-like, he maintained that the police had done a good job. He was asked that he (Mr. Modi) had quickly announced compensation of 200,000 rupees to the bereaved Hindus families, why was there no word of compensation to Muslims? He came up with an extraordinary answer. He said in Gujarat, they did not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims.

He seemed to be all but smirking, no worry lines on his forehead. The authorities in India may have banned PTV but the BBC and CNN are carrying graphic details of this shameful hour of the world's largest democracy. The printed word is even less cheerful.

Writing in The Independent of London, Peter Popham minces no words. He writes: "These two events, the Gujarat bloodbath and the Ayodhya temple are intimately connected. Taken together they throw into urgent focus the question of what sort of people are ruling the world's biggest democracy today? Where are they headed? The men who have been ruling India for nearly four years, including the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee and his powerful second-in-command Lal Krishna Advani, the Home Minister, are true believers of this, India's exotic variety of neo-fascism.

But the world at large has gradually lost sight of this fact. The nuclear tests conducted in May 1988 immediately after they came into power gave due warning that they meant business." Further down his article, Peter Popham writes: "The BJP rose to power, as fascists do through violence and the threat of more: the Ayodhya demolition signalled its rapid rise from obscurity, the vision of a state where Hindu rule continues to excite its ideologues.

In this amazing but horrifying immature democracy, muscle power and that includes the mass burning alive of women and children - can yield political power. The liberal, English language papers here have tuttutted in a worried way but encouraging communal carnage has done Mr Modi's government no harm at all. With the parliamentary opposition still weak and divided, India has set off down a nightmare road."

There is no one that I know here who has taken any comfort from India's troubles, and they are deep troubles. On the other hand, we have drawn our own lessons of what can happen when fanaticism is allowed a free rein. Every religion teaches a respect for human life.

Gujarat is still tense though we are told that some semblance of peace has returned. But it is a fragile peace and can be shattered easily, if not in Gujarat, then in Uttar Pradesh and if not Uttar Pradesh, then Mumbai. Will this madness ever end? India may be massing its troops on Pakistan's borders. But the real enemy is the one who is fanning the flames of communal hatred and who has been issued with a licence to kill or roast men, women and children.

I went to Ahmadabad in 1987 with the Pakistan cricket team. There had been communal riots in that city, freshly. The Muslims decided to stay away from watching that test match. And a few came to my hotel to tell me that that is why we wouldn't see them at the test match. Even then peace was fragile.

 

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