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The Wisdom Fund (http://www.twf.org), Released March 16, 2002
5,000 Killed, 50,000 Homeless in India 'Pogrom'

Former Indian Navy Chief Demands Ban on Extremists, Dismissal of Chief Minister

An independent reporters group claims 5,000 Muslims killed, 50,000 made homeless, hundreds of mosques, and dozens of hotels, shops, and villages destroyed during riots in the Indian province of Gujrat.

Former Chief of the Indian Navy, L. Ramdas, in an open letter to the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has condemned the anti-Muslim violence in India describing it as genocide and a "pogrom." Mr. Ramdas demanded that the Chief Minister of Gujrat be dismissed for his involvement in the anti-Muslim riots, and a ban on "extremist rightwing organizations like the VHP, Bajrang Dal, and the RSS."

"Clearly this appears to be the culmination of a planned series of attacks on our minority communities by the extremists within the Sangh Parivar," wrote Mr. Ramdas. "The entire list is too long to cite here, but to name only a few, the past decade has witnessed the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992, which led to the Mumbai bomb blasts and the subsequent massacre of innocent Muslims; the burning alive of Father Staines and his sons in Orissa; and the attacks on Christians and their places of worship in Gujrat and elsewhere."

Hindu extremeists, armed with swords and rifles, are reported to have "exploded houses and mosques" with LPG and oxygen cylinders, and are reported to have been supplied with trucks loaded with gasoline and gas cylinders. They are also reported to have been paid Rs 500 ($12.50) per day, and provided food, water, wine, and medical aid. If arrested, their legal expenses were to be covered by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and if they were killed, it is reported, their families would be given Rs 200,000 ($5,000).

Based on "actual field surveys and counts in the state of Gujrat," the independent reporters group estimates the toll of death and destruction as follows:

- More than 5000 dead, 40 to 50 thousand homeless in 25 relief camps, including 72 people burned inside their homes in Gulmarg society, 29 people killed in Mehsana village, 46 people killed and burned in a truck on Lunawada highway, 18 people burned in the "Best Bakery" in Baroda, 350 Muslim dead thrown in a well near Naroda Patiya, young girls and women molested and raped before burning.

- Mosques destroyed: 12 in Baroda, 10 in Ahmedabad, all in the villages affected by riots, and several converted into Hindu temples.

- Completely burned areas of Ahmedabad: Ansar Nagar, Chamanpura, Nutan Mill, Gulmarg Society, Maryambibi's Chawl, Barasancha's Chawl, Darji's Chawl, Anupam Cinema's area, Lent Wada, Pannalal's Chawl, Niranjan's Chawl, Jhalampura's Chawl, three societies of Vatwa, three societies of Narol, Guptangar (Juhapura), Naroda Patiya, Mai Fatehshah (Shahpur), Premdarwaja.

- All the property of small Muslim villages, approximately 200 hotels, two cloth markets (Nawa Bazar and Mangal Bazar with 163 shops) were destroyed.

"The entire nation is shocked at the callousness and inefficiency displayed by the law and order machinery of the Government of Gujarat," said Mr. Ramdas, "which not only failed to perform its duty to its citizens, but also stood by and in several cases actually incited what can best be described as a 'pogrom'. Compare this to the scene indelibly imprinted on my mind, when I saw Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, hop out of an official car and chase away looters and rioters, who were killing Muslims and looting their properties in Connaught Place in August 1947."

 

The Times of India, Leader Article, Thursday, March 21, 2002
Hindustan Hamara

HARSH MANDER

As you walk through the camps of riot survivors in Ahmedabad, in which an estimated 53,000 women, men and children are huddled in 29 temporary settlements, displays of overt grief are unusual.

People clutch small bundles of relief materials, all that they now own in the world. Some busy themselves with the tasks of everyday living.

But once you sit anywhere in these camps, people begin to speak. The horrors that they speak of are so macabre, that my pen falters in the writing.

The pitiless brutality against women and small children by organised bands of armed young men is more savage than anything witnessed in riots before.

What can you say about a family of 19 being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity.

A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead.

A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three-month-old son, because a police constable directed her to safety and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.

I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat.

There are reports everywhere of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer.

In Ahmedabad, most people I met — social workers, journalists, survivors — agree that what Gujarat witnessed was not a riot, but a terrorist attack followed by a systematic, planned massacre, a pogrom.

An initial truck would arrive broadcasting inflammatory slogans, soon followed by more trucks which disgorged young men. They were armed with sophisticated explosive materials, country weapons, daggers and trishuls.

The leaders were seen communicating on mobile telephones from the riot venues, receiving instructions from and reporting back to a co-ordinating centre.

They had detailed precise knowledge about buildings and businesses held by the minority community.

The trucks carried quantities of gas cylinders. Rich Muslim homes and business establishments were first systematically looted, then cooking gas was released from cylinders into the buildings for several minutes.

A trained member of the group then lit the flame which efficiently engulfed the building. Mosques and dargahs were razed, and were replaced by statues of Hanuman and saffron flags.

The unconscionable failures and active connivance of the state police and administrative machinery is also now widely acknowledged.

As one who has served in the Indian Administrative Service for over two decades, I feel great shame at the abdication of duty of my peers in the civil and police administration.

The law instead required them to act independently, fearlessly, impartially, decisively, with courage and compassion.

If even one official had so acted in Ahmedabad, she or he could have deployed the police forces and called in the army to halt the violence.

I have heard senior officials blame also the communalism of the police constabulary for their connivance in the violence. This too is a thin and disgraceful alibi. The same forces have been known to act with impartiality and courage when led by officers of integrity.

Where also, amidst this savagery, injustice, and human suffering is the civil society, the Gandhians, the development workers, the NGOs, the fabled spontaneous Gujarati philanthropy which was so much in evidence in the earthquake in Kutch and Ahmedabad?

The newspapers reported that at the peak of the pogrom, the gates of Sabarmati Ashram were closed to protect its properties. The Muslim riot victims in Ahmedabad are being run almost exclusively by Muslim organisations.

It is as though the monumental pain, loss, betrayal and injustice suffered by the Muslim people is the concern only of other Muslim people.

The only passing moments of pride and hope that I experienced in Gujarat, were when I saw men like Mujid Ahmed and women like Roshan Bahen who served in these camps with tireless, dogged humanism amidst the ruins around them.

In the Aman Chowk camp, women blessed the young band of volunteers who worked from four in the morning until after midnight to ensure that none of their children went without food or milk, or that their wounds remained untended.

Their leader Mujid Ahmed is a graduate, his small chemical dyes factory has been burnt down, but he has had no time to worry about his own loss.

Each day he has to find 1,600 kg of foodgrain to feed some 5,000 people who have taken shelter in the camp. Roshan Bahen too has no time for the luxuries of grief or anger.

She barely sleeps, as her volunteers, mainly working class Muslim women and men from the humble tenements around the camp, provide temporary toilets, food and solace to the hundreds who have gathered in the grounds of a primary school.

As I walked through the camps, I wondered what Gandhiji would have done in these dark hours. I recall the story of the Calcutta riots, when Gandhi was fasting for peace.

A Hindu man came to him, to speak of his young boy who had been killed by Muslim mobs, and of the depth of his anger and longing for revenge. And Gandhi is said to have replied: If you really wish to overcome your pain, find a young boy, just as young as your son, a Muslim boy whose parents have been killed by Hindu mobs.

Bring up that boy like you would your own son, but bring him up with the Muslim faith to which he was born. Only then will you find that you can heal your pain, your anger, and your longing for retribution.

There are no voices like Gandhi’s that we hear today. We need to find these voices within our own hearts, we need to believe enough in justice, love, tolerance.

There is much that the murdering mobs in Gujarat have robbed from me. One of them is a song I often sang with pride and conviction.

The words of the song are: Sare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara. It is a song I will never be able to sing again.

(The author is a serving IAS officer on deputation to ActionAid India)

 

The Times of India, March 18 (?), 2002
CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY

Reflections on the Gujarat massacre

Harsh Mander

Numbed with disgust and horror, I return from Gujarat ten days after the terror and massacre that convulsed the state. My heart is sickened, my soul wearied, my shoulders aching with the burdens of guilt and shame.

As you walk through the camps of riot survivors in Ahmadabad, in which an estimated 53,000 women, men, and children are huddled in 29 temporary settlements, displays of overt grief are unusual.

People clutch small bundles of relief materials, all that they now own in the world, with dry and glassy eyes. Some talk in low voices, others busy themselves with the tasks of everyday living in these most basic of shelters, looking for food and milk for children, tending the wounds of the injured.

But once you sit anywhere in these camps, people begin to speak and their words are like masses of pus released by slitting large festering wounds. The horrors that they speak of are so macabre, that my pen falters in the writing. The pitiless brutality against women and small children by organised bands of armed young men is more savage than anything witnessed in the riots that have shamed this nation from time to time during the past century.

I force myself to write a small fraction of all that I heard and saw, because it is important that we all know. Or maybe also because need to share my own burdens.

What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared. Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity. What can you say?

A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead. A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety' and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.

I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports every where of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver. Women in the Aman Chowk shelter told appalling stories about how armed men disrobed themselves in front of a group of terrified women to cower them down further.

In Ahmedabad, most people I met - social workers, journalists, survivors - agree that what Gujarat witnessed was not a riot, but a terrorist attack followed by a systematic, planned massacre, a pogrom. Everyone spoke of the pillage and plunder, being organised like a military operation against an external armed enemy. An initial truck would arrive broadcasting inflammatory slogans, soon followed by more trucks which disgorged young men, mostly in khaki shorts and saffron sashes. They were armed with sophisticated explosive materials, country weapons, daggers and trishuls. They also carried water bottles, to sustain them in their exertions. The leaders were seen communicating on mobile telephones from the riot venues, receiving instructions from and reporting back to a co-ordinating centre. Some were seen with documents and computer sheets listing Muslim families and their properties. They had detailed precise knowledge about buildings and businesses held by members of the minority community, such as who were partners say in a
restaurant business, or which Muslim homes had Hindu spouses were married who should be spared in the violence. This was not a spontaneous upsurge of mass anger. It was a carefully planned pogrom.

The trucks carried quantities of gas cylinders. Rich Muslim homes and business establishments were first systematically looted, stripped down of all their valuables, then cooking gas was released from cylinders into the buildings for several minutes. A trained member of the group then lit the flame which efficiently engulfed the building. In some cases, acetylene gas which is used for welding steel, was employed to explode large concrete buildings. Mosques and dargahs were razed, and were replaced by statues of Hanuman and saffron flags. Some dargahs in Ahmedabad city crossings have overnight been demolished and their sites covered with road building material, and bulldozed so efficiently that these spots are indistinguishable from the rest of the road. Traffic now plies over these former dargahs, as though they never existed. The unconscionable failures and active connivance of the state police and administrative machinery is also now widely acknowledged. The police is known to have misguided people straight into the hands of rioting mobs. They provided protective shields to crowds bent on pillage, arson, rape and murder, and were deaf to the pleas of the desperate Muslim victims, many of them women and children. There have been many reports of police firing directly mostly at the minority community, which was the target of most of the mob violence. The large majority of arrests are also from the same community which was the main victim of the pogrom.

As one who has served in the Indian Administrative Service for over two decades, I feel great shame at the abdication of duty of my peers in the civil and police administration. The law did not require any of them to await orders from their political superivisors before they organised the decisive use of force to prevent the brutal escalation of violence, and to protect vulnerable women and children from the organised, murderous mobs. The law instead required them to act independently, fearlessly, impartially, decisively, with courage and compassion. If even one official had so acted in Ahmedabad, she or he could have deployed the police forces and called in the army to halt the violence and protect the people in a matter of hours. No riot can continue beyond a few hours without the active connivance of the local police and magistracy. The blood of hundreds of innocents are on the hands of the police and civil authorities of Gujarat, and by sharing in a conspiracy of silence, on the entire higher bureaucracy of the country.

I have heard senior officials blame also the communalism of the police constabulary for their connivance in the violence. This too is a thin and disgraceful alibi. The same forces have been known to act with impartiality and courage when led by officers of professionalism and integrity. The failure is clearly of the leadership of the police and civil services, not of the subordinate men and women in khaki who are trained to obey their orders.

Where also, amidst this savagery, injustice, and human suffering is the `civil society', the Gandhians, the development workers, the NGOs, the fabled spontaneous Gujarathi philanthropy which was so much in evidence in the earthquake in Kutch and Ahmedabad? The newspapers reported that at the peak of the pogrom, the gates of Sabarmati Asram were closed to protect its properties, it should instead have been the city's major sanctuary. Which Gandhian leaders, or NGO managers, staked their lives to halt the death-dealing throngs? It is one more shame that we as citizens of this country must carry on our already burdened backs, that the camps for the Muslim riot victims in Ahmedabad are being run almost exclusively by Muslim organisations. It is as though the monumental pain, loss, betrayal and injustice suffered by the Muslim people is the concern only of other Muslim people, and the rest of us have no share in the responsibility to assuage, to heal and rebuild. The state, which bears the primary responsibility to extend both protection and relief to its vulnerable citizens, was nowhere in evidence in any of the camps, to manage, organise the security, or even to provide the resources that are required to feed the tens of thousands of defenceless women, men and children huddled in these camps for safety.

The only passing moments of pride and hope that I experienced in Gujarat, were when I saw men like Mujid Ahmed and women like Roshan Bahen who served in these camps with tireless, dogged humanism amidst the ruins around them. In the Aman Chowk camp, women blessed the young band of volunteers who worked from four in the morning until after midnight to ensure that none of their children went without food or milk, or that their wounds remained untended. Their leader Mujid Ahmed is a graduate, his small chemical dyes factory has been burnt down, but he has had no time to worry about his own loss. Each day he has to find 1600 kilograms of foodgrain to feed some 5000 people who have taken shelter in the camp. The challenge is even greater for Roshan Bahen, almost 60, who wipes her eyes each time she hears the stories of horror by the residents in Juapara camp. But she too has no time for the luxuries of grief or anger. She barely sleeps, as her volunteers, mainly working class Muslim women and men from the humble tenements around the camp, provide temporary toilets, food and solace to the hundreds who have gathered in the grounds of a primary school to escape the ferocity of merciless mobs.

A I walked through the camps, I wondered what Gandhiji would have done in these dark hours. I recall the story of the Calcutta riots, when Gandhi was fasting for peace. A Hindu man came to him, to speak of his young boy who had been killed by Muslim mobs, and of the depth of his anger and longing for revenge. And Gandhi is said to have replied: If you really wish to overcome your pain, find a young boy, just as young as your son, a Muslim boy whose parents have been killed by Hindu mobs. Bring up that boy like you would your own son, but bring him up with the Muslim faith to which he was born. Only then will you find that you can heal your pain, your anger, and your longing for retribution.

There are no voices like Gandhi's that we hear today. Only discourses on Newtonian physics, to justify vengeance on innocents. We need to find these voices within our own hearts, we need to believe enough in justice, love, tolerance.

There is much that the murdering mobs in Gujarat have robbed from me. One of them is a song I often sang with pride and conviction. The words of the song are:

Sare jahan se achha
Hindustan hamara.

It is a song I will never be able to sing again.

(Harsh Mander, the writer, is a serving IAS Officer, who is working on deputation with a development organisation)

 

DAWN, March 06, 2002

Genocide of Muslims in India condemned

Bureau Report

HYDERABAD, March 5: Different organizations, including Hindu Panchayats, have expressed outrage at the inhuman atrocities unleashed against the Muslims by the Hindu extremists in India.

The Hindu Sochi Panchayat and Hindu Scheduled Caste Panchayat staged a joint protest demonstration outside the press club here on Tuesday to condemn the massacre of Indian Muslims at the hands of the Hindu fundamentalists.

Speaking at the rally, minority councillor Kanhya Lal and Hindu Sochi Panchayat president Mohan Lal Rathore demanded that the chief minister of Gujrat should be dismissed as he had failed to protect the wanton killings of the innocent Muslims in the province.

They further demanded that murder cases should be registered against the interior minister of India, L.K. Advani, and added that the VHP and other extremist Hindu organizations should be banned.

A large number of activists of the Pasban also staged a protest demonstration outside the press club here to condemn the genocide of Indian Muslims at the hands of the extremist Hindu organizations. They carried banners inscribed with slogans against India.

Speaking at the rally, Pasban president Mohammad Hussain Khan said that the Muslims were being massacred in Gujrat during curfew and in presence of police and army. He said that the Indian prime minister, who had demanded ban on the religious organizations of Pakistan, was totally blind to the inhuman atrocities unleashed by his own party against the Muslims.

The women wing of the Pakistan Muslim League (N) also staged a protest demonstration outside the press club here against the genocide of Indian Muslims. Speaking on the occasion, Ms Asifa Riaz said that the so-called secularism of India had been exposed before the world.

She said that the world community which was united against international terrorism should also take notice of the state terrorism against Indian Muslims. She urged the Pakistan government to raise voice against the mass murders of the Muslims in India.

Meanwhile, the activists of the Hyderabad Khidmat Forum, led by Abdul Ghaffar Sagari and Dr Saeed Qureshi, staged a token hunger strike outside the press club here against the massacre of the Muslims at the hands of the Hindu terrorists. They said that the Indian claim of being a secular state had been fully exposed before the world.

They warned that if the massacre of the innocent Muslims was not stopped, India would be disintegrated. They called upon the UNO, America, European countries and the Amnesty International to take notice of the inhuman atrocities against the Indian Muslims and use their influence to stop the carnage.

 

The Hindu, News Update at 20.00 hrs (IST) on March 8, 2002

VHP's fascist agenda behind violence: Rushdie

Washington, March 8. (PTI): India-born British authour Salman Rushdie today attributed the communal violence in Gujarat to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's "fascist agenda" and to the baleful influence of religion on politics in general.

Writing in the Washington Post under the caption `Slaughter in the name of God', he also attacked V.S. Naipaul, saying that before the riots, the Nobel laureate had "denounced Muslims en-masse" and praised the "nationalist" movement.

"Naipaul makes himself a fellow traveller of fascism and disgraces the Nobel award," Rushdie said.

In the article, he emphasises that he is writing as "an Indian man, born and bred, who loves India deeply" and points out that "if I take pride in India's strengths, then India's sins must be mine as well."

He makes it clear that he has no apology for sounding "angry, disgusted, ashamed" over the riots and the murder of children by rioters.

 

Outlookindia.com, March 18, 2002
"People Wanted Revenge And Got It"

The central vice-president of the Bajrang Dal calls the gory killings part of a "Hindu revitalisation movement".

Haraeshbhai Bhatt is the central vice-president of the Bajrang Dal and one of those responsible for setting up the Bajrang Dal in Gujarat in the mid-’80s. In an interview to Outlook, Bhatt says Gujarat has been the birthplace of many political movements and the latest round of killings at Godhra marks the beginning of a Hindu revitalisation movement.

What are your views on the rioting and killing of members of the minority community?
There was no rioting. This was just an expression of the way the majority community has felt. For years, Hindus have been pushed around. There is no outcry when Amarnath pilgrims are murdered or Hindus are massacred in Kashmir. Every day our security forces are dying on the border. Temples are being demolished. How come no one speaks out? How is it that when innocent men, women and children are burnt alive in a train in Godhra there is no outrage but when Muslims die in riots there is such a hue and cry?

Is the revitalisation of Hindus confined to Gujarat?
The Hindu ‘samaj’ is reacting here. Most of the shops and establishments burned down do not belong to Hindus. People wanted their revenge for Godhra and they got it.

Did you hire expert arsonists for the purpose?
We have our ways. But it all revolves around Hindu anger.

How have you built your organisation?
We have worked hard. Between July 1 and August 31 last year alone, we recruited over three lakh people. Out of these, 65,000 have been distributed trishuls at impressive ceremonies throughout the state. Through all these years, we have built our organisation brick by brick. We now have one Bajrang Dal activist in every 2,000 of the population. We also have offices at village, tehsil and district levels.

But isn’t distributing trishuls illegal?
No. Under law, any weapon less than six inches is permissible. When Muslims stockpile arms, there is no problem. But a mere trishul gives intellectuals secular fever.

If the Dal cadre is as committed as you say, do you propose to send them to Kashmir?
We would have, but remember, we are not an organisation that attacks. We only hit back when attacked. If needed, we’ll go to Kashmir too.

 

Outlookindia.com, March 18, 2002

"This Was A BJP Lab Experiment"

The trustee of Gujarat Today the only Muslim newspaper in the state with a wide readership on the recent riots.

Gujarat Today is the only Muslim newspaper in the state with a wide readership. Shiraj Tirmizi, trustee of the paper, is a low-profile man who shuns publicity. He spoke to Outlook on the recent riots that has hit the Muslims the worst. Excerpts:

How do you explain this outbreak of violence?
Gujaratis are an industrious people and over the years they have been so busy making money that the smaller and temporal affairs have been left to outsiders. Gujaratis have specialised in hiring contractors to do jobs that they should have done themselves. We’re now seeing the result of this indifference. Religion here is in the hands of outsiders (mainly from UP and Bihar). A lot of this violence is their handiwork.

What about the role of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the state BJP government?
It’s well known that Gujarat is a BJP laboratory where it has experimented well. This latest round of carnage is another such experiment. If the results are good, then who knows how far they will go.

How would you define this lab?
The VHP has built a vast network throughout the state. They have offices in small villages and talukas in remote parts and their members there can spring into action at a short notice. It’s difficult to explain how marauding mobs managed to identify Muslim targets in the heat of the moment? About seven or eight years ago, Shiv Sainiks travelling in a train were attacked at the Palej station between Baroda and Bharuch. There was violence but it was localised. Since Shiv Sena is not Gujarat-based and has no structure here, the violence didn’t spread. The VHP in Gujarat is a different cup of tea.

Where is all this going?
The state has been set back by a few years. Factories have closed down, industries are in disarray and workers, particularly Muslims, are fleeing to either neighbouring states or ghettos inside the state where they will feel safer.

 

Outlookindia.com, March 18, 2002

Thy Hand, Great Anarch

The overriding theme of the riots: surprisingly systematic targeting, little state intervention

RANJIT BHUSHAN

Driven by mortal fear, most Muslims in Ahmedabad moved into ghettos or relief camps last week. After three days of anarchy and bloodletting, the community had lost all faith in the government and the police. It is now clear that February 28 could not have happened without the connivance—if not the active participation—of the state machinery and the ruling party, the BJP. As mobs led by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists ravaged Muslim homes, shops and establishments in the worst riots that Gujarat has seen, all independent accounts indicated that a well-planned pogrom designed to teach the minority community a lesson had been executed.

Eyewitnesses told this reporter that policemen were openly pointing to minority homes and shops for the mobs to close in and ‘complete the work’.

And the man who presided over the state government, chief minister Narendra Modi, has much to answer for. He was widely quoted as saying that an action like Godhra would lead to a ‘reaction’. Though he has subsequently toned down his rhetoric, Modi is not seen to be impartial. For those killed in Godhra, the ex-gratia payment is Rs 2 lakh; for those killed in riots, the compensation is half that. In strife-torn Gujarat, this is far from providing the healing touch, so essential after such a gruesome orgy of violence.

Even in the worst of times—and Gujarat has had its fair share—never have such scenes been witnessed as on February 28. As the day wore on, reports of organised violence came in from across the state. Houses, shops, showrooms and hotels belonging to the minority community were systematically targeted and destroyed. Singled out were those Muslims who had opted to stay in mixed housing areas, instead of in ghettos. In one sweep and a matter of a few hours, Panchmahal, Baroda, Bharuch, Surat, Kheda, Anand, Nadiad, Sabarkantha, Banskantha, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Pattan, Mehsana and other areas were engulfed in a violence that didn’t fit in any known pattern of communal violence.

Though the state government tried initially to play down the number of deaths and the scale of violence, even the official figures soon began to tell a different story:

In and around Ahmedabad, which witnessed the biggest orgy of violence, over 200 Muslims were burnt to death and property looted. This includes the Gulbarg Society in Chamanpura where former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffrey and 60 others were set ablaze.

At Panderwada and Khanpur villages in Dahod district, over 100 Muslims were burnt alive, their property looted and shops set afire.

In Vijapur taluk, 32 Muslims are burnt alive in two villages, Sardarpur and Ladol.

27 charred bodies were recovered from Mehsana.

Over 30 killings took place in Baroda.

15 bodies were recovered from Mehmemada taluk, Khera district.
Unlike the old paradigms—throwing dead cows in temples and pigs in mosques—it was as if the communal bar had been raised. But actually it was not. In Ahmedabad, for instance, one official recalled how for the last few months, there had been concerted attempts to get lists of Muslim business establishments from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation. The official says he didn’t then realise why these queries were being made. He knows now.

VHP volunteers have also been making the rounds of professional institutions and universities, seeking the names and addresses of Muslim students. Some government sources say VHP members have drawn up lists of government departments (for example, the Food Corporation of India) and their allied agencies, and identified ‘undesirables’ and their addresses. How many of these lists came in handy on February 27 and 28 and even later is a matter of conjecture but observers say it’s difficult to explain how in clusters of 50 to 100 shops, only those of the minority community were targeted.

 

The News International, March 22, 2002
India's riot-hit Muslims face economic boycott

AHMEDABAD, India: Muslims in the western state of Gujarat, still reeling from India's worst religious violence in almost a decade, must now grapple with the threat of economic boycott by majority Hindus.

Though no hardline Hindu group has made a formal call yet, a silent campaign through pamphlets urging Hindus to boycott goods from Muslim-owned shops has gathered steam since a Muslim mob burnt alive 58 Hindu devotees in a train on February 27.

The circulars also urge Hindus not to patronise Muslim restaurants, work in Muslim offices, hire Muslims or see films starring Muslim actors. One pamphlet says the boycott will "break the backbone" of Muslims. "A strict boycott will throttle these elements. It will break their backbone. Then it will be difficult for them to live in any corner of this country," it says. But many people in the state, including business groups and state officials, believe the campaign would not gain support and they hope that peace could be quickly restored.

Hardline Hindus say they have suffered for too long due to the minority appeasement policies of past governments including subsidies for the annual pilgrimage to Makkah and the only way to reassert their rights is to weaken Muslims financially.

"This is the result of a national Hindu awakening and no organisation is behind it," Haresh Bhatt, vice-president of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad's (VHP) Gujarat unit, said. "It's Hindu society which is pushing it. I'm in complete agreement with whatever is propagated through them," he told Reuters.

"They (Muslims) have to respect the wishes of the majority. Hindus can no longer be taken for granted." But Muslims say the campaign is led by the VHP aimed at deepening mistrust between the two communities, at its lowest ebb since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 sparked massive riots that left about one million dead.

"It's the handiwork of the VHP and a clever strategy to deepen the religious divide," said Mufti Shabbir Ahmed Siddiqui, chief cleric at the biggest mosque in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city. Muslims say they have yet to feel the pinch of the boycott call as most Muslim businesses are still closed after the riots.

 

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