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The times of India, March 21, 2002
5 dead, Army jawan shot at in Ahmedabad

AHMEDABAD: Five persons were killed in renewed violence in Ahmedabad on Thursday in the biggest eruption of violence seen in the walled city area since the riots began three weeks back.

Two persons were killed in police firing in Kalupur, two others in private firing while one stabbed to death in sporadic incidents of violence in the Dariapur, Karanj and Shahpur areas.

At least 19 persons were injured and a different pattern of violence surfaced at Kalupur, which was placed under curfew once again, where an Army jawan was shot at in the leg from a private weapon during the rioting.

The injured have been admitted to VS Hospital and Shardaben Hospital. The brunt of the violence was at Relief Road and spread to new areas stretching up to Kalupur railway station.

Almost 50 shops in Revdi Bazaar, the main wholesale cloth market of the city, were burnt down by the mobs. Curfew was imposed in the Kalupur after incidents of stabbings and stone throwing on Relief Road.

Police fired at the clashing groups of people as fresh bouts of panic gripped the eastern parts of the city once again. Rioters damaged a shoe store in the Gheekanta area and burnt a cabin in the Bakal ni wadi area.

Two boys were attacked in the Patwa Sheri and Gheekanta area with pipes when riots broke out and they have been admitted to the hospital, sources said.

Stone-throwing incidents were also reported from the Panchkuva and Gheekanta area of Kalupur at the same time when the police lobbed teargas shells to disperse the rioting mob. Shops downed shutters in many of the walled city areas and around as people ran helter-skelter.

Rumour-mongers and rioters kept the police on their toes as the countdown to Moharram began. The police, however, confirmed that there would be no tazia processions on Monday in view of the communally charged atmosphere.

Distress sirens resounded throughout the Ahmedabad Fire Brigade (AFB) headquarters in Danapith as SOS calls poured in from the Panchkua and Gheekanta areas. At least 25 fire tenders were rushed to the Panchkua and Revdi Bazaar area.

Trouble also broke out in the Vejalpur area in the morning following rumours about a boy being kidnapped. According to sources, the rumours began when a young boy strayed into the sensitive areas with his handcart to trade scrap and was advised to return. Till late afternoon, tension continued in the Vejalpur and Juhapura areas.

At Himmatnagar town, one shop was set ablaze in the Motipura area when curfew was relaxed between noon and 6 pm for women and children.

Vatva continued to remain under the grip of tension after the arson at Nava Chunaravaas on Wednesday when two persons were killed in police firing.

 

The Hindustan Times, March 18, 2002
Mosques attacked in Bhiwani

HT Correspondent
(Loharu (Bhiwani), March 17)

Three Mosques were damaged and adjoining shops and houses set on fire on Sunday in reaction to reports of a cow having been slaughtered in Old Bazaar mosque in Loharu.

A group of people, angered by the news, set fire to a mosque and 20 shops and houses in its neighbourhood in the Old Bazaar area. Two other mosques in the area were attacked by the slogan-shouting mob. The mob also tried to obstruct the fire tenders trying to reach the buildings on fire.

The police, however, managed to save the house of the erstwhile Nawab of Loharu from being set on fire. When a lathi-charge proved futile, police fired in the air to bring the situation under control. Two people were injured in the lathi-charge.

Additional police personnel have been deployed in Bhiwani. The situation is reported to be tense but under control. Security in and around the mosques has been tightened.

Four people, accused of slaughtering a cow, have been taken into police custody.

Many Muslim families have reportedly left town following the incident. There were reports that some Hindu families came to the rescue of their Muslim neighbours during the attack.

 

Council Of Khalistan, Date: Wed Mar 13, 2002 7:29 pm
HON. EDOLPHUS TOWNS OF NEW YORK IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, March 12, 2002

Mr. TOWNS. Mr. Speaker, we were all disturbed to read about the attack on a train full of Hindus in the village of Godhra in India . It is always disturbing to see this kind of sectarian violence.

The Gujarat Samachar reported that the train was carrying high-level activists of the militant, pro-Nazi Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a branch of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which is also the parent organization of the ruling BJP. They were taunting the villagers with slogans about building a Hindu temple on the site of the most revered mosque in India , which was destroyed by the BJP some years ago.

In another village, Daahod, they got tea and snacks and did not pay for them. They knocked over a vendor's stall, according to the article, and deliberately picked a fight with a man who was helping the vendor, beating him, pulling his beard and committing other acts to humiliate him. His 16-year-old daughter tried to stop them from harming her father. They grabbed her and took her on the train, according to the article. After a crowd gathered to try to rescue her from the VHP, they slammed the windows shut with the girl inside the train. Out of their frustration and anger over this action, some villagers began to burn the train.

No one condones the killing of these Hindus, even if they were militants, but I hope none of my colleagues justifies the killing of Muslims that has erupted in response while the police have stood by and let it happen. The militant Hindu nationalists want to make a Hindu society in India , and they can justify actions like these in the name of that cause, but there is no justification.

If this is how democracy and secularism are practiced in India , then it should not receive any American aid or trade. We should also acknowledge that the only way to end this kind of violence is to support independence for all the peoples and nations of South Asia. It is time for India to begin acting like a democracy and allow the peoples living under their rule to enjoy self-determination. It is time for a plebiscite on independence.

 

Gujarat Samachar, Mar. 3, 2002
TRUTH ABOUT THE TRAIN INCIDENT

By Anil Soni and Neelam Soni

The tragic incident of Sabarmati Express that occurred today at 7:30 am at about 1 km away from Godhra railway station has thrown a question mark to those people who claim to be secular or liberal. Many aspects & facts have been ignored & which I would like to bring to your notice.

Compartment (Bogey) no S-6 & two other compartment of the Sabarmati Express was carrying the kar sevaks of the V.H.P. (Vishwa Hindu Parishad). And it was due to these kar sevaks from bogey no S-6 that the incident occurred.

The actual story didn't start from Godhra as being told everywhere but it started from a place from Daahod, a place that comes 70-75 km before Godhra railway station. At about 5:30-6:00 a.m. the train reached Daahod railway station. These kar sevaks, after having tea & snacks at the railway stall, broke down the stall after having some argument with the stall owner and they processed back to the departing train. The stall owner then field on N C against kar sevaks at the local police station about the above incident.

Then about 7.00-7.15 am the train reached Godhra railway station. All the kar sevaks came out from their reserved compartments and started to have tea and snacks, at the small tea stall on the platform, which was being run by an old bearded man from the minority community. There was a servant helping this old man in the stall.

The kar sevaks on purpose argued with this old man and then bate him up & pulled his beard. This was all planned to humiliate the old man since he was from the minority community. These kar sevaks kept repeating the slogan, ``Mandir Ka Nirmaann Karo, Babuer Ki Aulad to Baahar Kar''. (Start building the Mandir and throw the sones of Babur i.e. the Muslims out of the country.)

Hearing the chaos, the daughter (16) of the old man who was also present at the station came forward & tried to save her father from kar sevaks. She kept pleading & begging to them to stop beating her father and leave him alone. But instead of listening to her woes, the kar sevaks lifted the young girl and took her inside their compartment (S-6) and closed the compartment door shut. Their intention behind this act is best known to them.

The train started to move out of the platform of Godhra railway station. The old man kept banging on the compartment doors and pleaded to leave his daughter. Just before the train could move out completely from the platform, two stall vendors jumped into the last bogey that comes from the guards cabin. And with the intention of saving the girl they pulled the chain and stopped the train. By the time the train halted completely, it was 1 km away from the railway station.

These two men then came to the bogey in which the girl was and started to band at the door and requested the kar sevaks to leave the girl alone. Hearing all these chaos, people vicinity near to the tracks started to gather towards the train. The boys and the mob (that also included women) that had now gathered near the compartment requested the kar sevaks to return the girl back. But instead of returning the girl, they started closing their windows. The infuriated the mob and they retaliated by pelting stones at the compartment.

The compartment-adjoining compartment S-6 on both sides contained kar sevaks of the V.H.P. These kar sevaks were carrying banners that had long bamboo stick attached to them. These kar sevaks got down and started attacking with bamboo sticks on the mob gathered to save the girl.

These was like adding insult to injury for the crowed gathered and their anger was now uncontrollable. The crowd started to bring diesel and petrol from trucks and rickshaws standing at the garages Signal Fadia (a place in Godhra) and burnt down the compartment. They didn't bring the fuel from any petrol pump as being reported everywhere nor was this act of burning pre-planned as being mentioned by many peopole but it happened all of a sudden out of sheer frustration and anger.

After hearing about this incident, members of V.H.P. (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) liviing in that area started burning down the garages in Signal Fadia, they also burnt down Baddshah Masjid, (Mosque), at Shehra Bhagaaad (small area in Godhra). Reliable resources have reported all these information and facts to their information and me cannot be doubted. I would also mention my sources namely Mr. Anil Soni and Neelam Soni (reporter of Gujarat Samachar, also members of P.T.I. & A.N.I.) have worked hard to dig the true facts and they duly deserve words of appraisal for their hard work. Mr. Soni's mobile number: 0-9825038152. Resident number 02672 (code) 43153, office number: 43152, fax number: 45999.

Due to no proper substantial and circumstantial evidence and the late arrival of the Police at the scene of crime frustrated the Police. Which resulted in harassment and arrests in innocent local people living in Godhra. Furthermore the police started blaming the Mayor of Godhra, Mr. Ahmed Hussain Kalota for incident. Mr. Kalota who is the member of the Indian National Congress is also a lawyer. This blaming on Congressmen was also dune to humiliate, defame and demoralize the Congress. The V.H.P's plan is to weaken the country by planning internal conflicts between communities and bring a backwardness of 100 years in the country. Sorry to say but they are carrying out their plans successfully without the tear of being stopped by anyone. No one but only the innocents will have to bear the consequences of their plans.

It is our humble request and prayers to all the members of Parliament along with the Prime Minister, and the entire media circle to try and stop the sparks of a fire to gulp down the whole county in flames to take some auction against the kar sevaks of the V.H.P (Vishwa Hindu Parished) before they get out of hand and stop harassing the innocents and catch the real miscreants and culprits.

We lay our request in front of you with folded hands and hearts filled with theirs for the death of innocents and anger for the wrongdoers. We hope our request and efforts will not deafeared or blind-eyed.

 

The Milli Gazette

Brief Report on Gujarat riots
March 2, 2002:

In Panchmahal district of Gujarat state at Godhra Railway station, on 27 February at about 8:00 am, burning to death of 60 passengers of Sabarmati Express occurred. This inhuman act is condemnable, and it should not have happened. This grave incident has certain psychological reasons. If these reasons are explored, they shall help solve the national crisis. At the same time the aftermath of Godhra train incident should also be condemned. While writing this report on the third day of the riots, 210 deaths have occurred officially. Unofficially more than 500 people are dead, and most of them are Muslims. Follow are some details of the riots and their consequences:

Ahmedabad City/Suburb: In Naroda locality behind S.T. Workshop, around 60 Muslims have been burnt alive, their property looted and set on fire. At Chamanpura, Gulmarg Society almost 60 Muslims have been burnt alive. Victims include Mr. Ahsan Jafri, former member of Parliament with his family members. His property too has been burnt.

Dahod District: At Panderwada and Khanpur villages, 100 Muslims have been burnt to death. Their properties looted and houses and shops set afire.

Vijapur Taluka: At village Sardarpur and Ladol, 32 Muslims have been burnt alive.

It is a great irony that not a single deplorable statement mentioning the above massacres of more than 200 Muslims, has come out. Apart from these 200 persons, 250 more Muslims have been killed or burnt alive in almost all major towns/cities/talukas and villages of the state of Gujarat.

In the views of leading political personalities, which include the Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, the above massacres of Muslims are a result of a reaction of the Godhra train incident. Not a single news item is seen mentioning the misdeeds, misbehaviour and uncivilized attitude of karsevaks. No one mentioned the reasons behind this great problem of confrontation which has tormented the fabric of united India.

It is very painful and worrisome that for an unwarranted incident which has taken place at Godhra, the complete Gujarat state is facing riots, burning alive, murdering, looting property and set it on fired. As per media reports, in almost all these incidents several thousands (10 to 20 thousand) hooligans are attacking their victims with weapons in an organized way. In more than 15 districts and 80 villages, violence has resulted in looting and burning several thousand houses, shops, showrooms, restaurants, a 3-star hotel and godowns. The major affected areas are: Panchmahal, Baroda, Ahmedabad, Bharuch, Surat, Kheda, Anand, Nadiad, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Mehsana, Patan, and several other places. Around 80 to 100 villages in the above places are affected.

The current riots, which have engulfed almost all the state of Gujarat, reminds of the riots of 1969. It seems that the loss of human life and properties is multiplied this time due to defunct state machinery. There are several incidents of demolishing/setting afire of holy places, Masjids, and putting idols in certain Masjids. At Balol, Anand district a Masjid have been completely demolished, its Imam and his wife were burnt alive. It is shameful for the state government that its capital is not spared. The offices of the Waqf Board, Minority Board and Hajj Office, which are housed in a high security zone within the Government Secretariat are damaged and burnt. Here also several houses/shops have been looted and burnt.

There is little hope that the series of riots, private firing, burning alive, looting and burning properties will come to an end soon. All these incidents are taking place under the cover of police in the name of protection. Due to this the minority community has lost complete faith in the state machinery, viz. Police and State Reserve Police (SRP). There are several incidents where fleeing Muslims entrusted the properties with the Police/SRP for protection but on return they found their properties looted and burnt.

From 28 February morning, when local police and SRP were found not only inadequate but protecting the hooligans, all sane people requested for immediate deployment of the army. However, army was actually deployed in the late evening of 1 March, after very high pressure from all quarters. The present army strength is also inadequate in view of the magnitude and dimension of the on-going riots. For God's sake, we request the strength of army/BSF to be increased immediately or otherwise riots may engulf the neighbouring state of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and may be even the rest of country. For God's sake please take necessary steps at once.

Muhammad Shafi Madni
Chairman, Islami Relief Committee - Gujarat

Islami Relief Committee - Gujarat
4th Floor, Karishma Complex, Sarni Society, Behind APMC Market,
132 Ft Ring Road, Ahmedabad 380 055, Gujarat, India
Phone: (+91-79) 681 9086; Fax: (+91-79) 682 0828,
Fax (temporary): (+91-79) 682 1724

 

ArabNews.com, 29 March 2002
Dance of death in India

By Siraj Wahab, Arab News Staff

It was early this year. Our information technology expert was in India to cover a prestigious information technology exhibition in Hyderabad. It was her first visit to India. Even so, she was a journalist on assignment, not a tourist on a stroll. I make this distinction with deliberate intent. For a tourist, by the nature of things, everything looks rosy and romantic. A journalist, by the nature of his job, finds everything newsy and report worthy.

Our journalist had a horrible time listening to a litany of complaints that local Hindus voiced against India’s Muslims. Of course, all this complaining and whining was during private conversations at dinners and cultural displays. Still she was surprised. Our journalist had not expected this tirade against India’s largest minority on the sidelines of an international computer show. She thought they would prefer to discuss with an outsider how they were marching ahead in the world of technology and how Indians were earning important places in the world’s best technology firms.

She came back a thoroughly disappointed person but chose to ignore the backbiting and file her report on the official activities of the exhibition during which she had seen no anti-Muslim bias. She pointed out that the event had been organized in large part by a company from a GCC country and she felt that she should support such international efforts whenever possible.

What our IT specialist experienced in India three months ago was just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I was in India recently and I witnessed the orgy of anti-Muslim violence and the dance of death in which Hindus of all castes participated in Gujarat. Without fear of contradiction, I can state that across the length and breadth of the country, Muslims are living under a shadow of fear, not knowing which Hindu neighbor will betray them and when. They have been made to realize that they are a disposable commodity to be torched at the first opportunity and on the smallest of pretexts. Worse still, they have nobody to turn to in this hour of tragedy. They have absolutely no faith in the police, the respective state governments or the fascist Bharatiya Janata Party-led federal government. Muslim judges, police officers, teachers, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, poets and politicians seem unable to do anything except wring their hands in despair.

Until recently these people were stressing the need for Muslims to educate themselves. For what? Brute strength, not intellectual might, is the only thing capable of quelling Hindu mobs screaming for Muslim blood. It is a question of survival now. This is not what they thought would become of India.

“Slowly but surely Muslims have been made to realize what life can be like in a ‘Hindu rashtra’ as defined by a mass murderer called Narendra Modi, a Muslim basher called L.K. Advani and a Hindu terrorist called Vinay Katiyar,” wrote Teesta Setalvad, a prominent journalist and activist, in her newspaper “Communalism Combat.” Secular Hindus have been relegated to writing opinion pieces in the country’s leading English dailies. Their effort is ineffectual and more for the consumption and comfort of international observers. Any voice of reason is now overwhelmed by the militant Hindus who think they are doing a national service by burning Muslim men, women and children alive.

Here is a classic case of how helpless the tiny minority of secular Hindus has become in India today. A Muslim judge of the Gujarat High Court, Justice M.H. Quadri, was told in not so many words by his secular Hindu colleagues to vacate his official residence. They felt they would be unable to save his life from rampaging Hindu mobs. He had to move, along with his ailing 80-year-old mother, to an area with a predominantly Muslim population. This is exactly what is happening all over India. Muslims in large numbers are moving bag and baggage into areas of Muslim majorities. The ghettoization, which Muslim academics have long feared, is now complete and irreversible.

When I covered the 1992-93 Bombay riots for Mid-Day, a prominent Bombay evening paper, we feared that the biggest casualty of communal riots would be the ghettoization of communities. That, we thought, would be the final nail in the country’s coffin. That is what happened in Bombay and what is now happening all over India. Militant Hindus will now find “mini-Pakistan,” as that fascist Bal Thackeray loves to call all Muslim localities, in every state and every city. Ghettoization indeed is the last sign of the death of secularism.

That mini-Pakistan reference reminds me of one more thing: Indian Muslims in the past took exception to being labeled Pakistanis. Now they have become indifferent to such taunts since they know only too well that it means nothing and so they prefer to keep quiet.

But when a whole community keeps quiet, even while seething with anger, the result is a volcanic eruption. Who will blame hundreds and thousands of Muslim youth who saw their mothers and sisters raped and torched by rampaging Hindus in the streets of Gujarat? Even Narendra Modi will have no complaints because he has learned Newton’s third law of motion too well: To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. India is now sitting on a powder keg, lit by people who, ironically, refer to themselves as Hindu nationalists.

From my first-hand experience and from encounters with state officials and Jamaat-e-Islami volunteers in Ahmedabad, the number of Muslim casualties is not less than 5,000. Dozens of mosques have been razed and converted into makeshift temples. The mass murderers roam free, threatening those who dare to collect whatever remains of their homes. The police continue to brutalize the already terrorized Muslims. As the B.N. Srikrishna Commission on the Bombay riots of 1992-93 wrote, “The response of the police to appeals from desperate victims, particularly Muslims, was cynical and utterly indifferent. On occasion the attitude was that one Muslim killed was one Muslim less.”

Of course, Muslims, especially some of their self-styled leaders, have also played a major part in worsening the country’s communal situation. But that needs a separate article. The atmosphere has become so poisonous that an average Hindu with absolutely no party affiliation has now turned against the Muslim community. He feels that economically backward Muslims have become a drain on the country’s meager resources. He believes that all of them are terrorists and criminals. He fears that all madrassas are breeding grounds for hate and therefore they need to be obliterated. He has been led to believe that Hindus have been too lenient toward Muslims. The time has come, not only to teach them a lesson but to tell them that this is a Hindu nation with absolutely no room for any other community, especially Muslims.

“Have we not given them Pakistan?” is the oft-repeated question. This Hindu blames Muslims for the attack on Parliament. He blames Muslims for the Kashmir problem. He blames Muslims for not allowing the temple to be built in Ayodhya. He blames Muslims for the killing of “kar sevaks” in Godhra... In fact, he blames Muslims for all the country’s ills. He is firm in his belief that once the country’s Muslims are eliminated, India will emerge as a superpower. The votaries of Hindutva have sadly succeeded in making India what it is: one large crematorium.

I can still smell the stench of the burned bodies in the streets of Gujarat. I can still see in my mind’s eye smoke billowing from what were once sprawling Muslim mohallas. I can still recall how a 60-year-old Muslim, drafting a letter in tears to the UN secretary-general, kept pleading with me for Kofi Annan’s address. I can still hear the cries of those Muslim women in the makeshift relief camp in Ahmedabad. “Why do they hate us so much? What have we done to them? I know those people very well. Yes, those who chopped my husband to pieces and made a bonfire of his torso, hands and legs and then threw my 12-year-old son into it. And then raped me in full public view? Why? And then why did they leave me alive?”

Then I remembered another horrible account of another tragedy. “We were betrayed by the very people whom we used to call our uncles. I saw my neighbors raping my niece and setting my mother on fire. Our residential quarters were surrounded by different communities, but we always had faith in our neighbors. In fact, upon learning that a mob of outsiders had come to hunt down Muslims, all of us sought shelter in the neighboring area. About 150 of us sat there for over five hours, hidden, without making any noise. Then our neighbors told us that it was safe to go out. But when we came out, we saw that all the escape routes were sealed. Our neighbors threw kerosene on us and set us on fire. In the mad rush I hid under a tin sheet from a phone booth and managed to escape the frenzy.”

This is the state of India today. A country that has shamelessly prided itself on being a secular nation, all the while crushing its minority population. A country whose prime minister admits to the whole world that the riots were a blot on the country’s image and then does nothing to bring the murderers to justice. A country whose home minister, with a straight face, defends what is clearly state terrorism.

Riots are nothing new to India. They have been happening since 1947. Ask my mother what happened to her and her family in the former Hyderabad state. “In the name of so-called Police Action on Hyderabad, the invading Indian Army and the Hindus in their wake perpetrated untold atrocities on the Muslims. Many women jumped into wells to save their honor from lustful Hindus. Others were raped and some were forced to live in Hindu homes. They are still living with Hindus as they could not be reclaimed by the Muslims.”

Muslims of my generation never thought such things could ever again happen in modern India. We kept mouthing delusional platitudes about Hindu and Muslim coexistence. Even in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, when communal riots raged across the country, Muslims were optimistic that the majority community would see sense and that things would eventually turn out for the better.

The Gujarat pogrom has extinguished even that flicker of hope. There is now such despair that you can safely conclude that India as a nation will never prosper. It will continue to find itself mired in the quagmire of communal conflagration for another 50 years. It will not be able to douse the fires that have been stoked by the parochial leaders. For decades we have been told that the greatest enemy to India’s future security is Pakistan. That is a lie. India needs no Pakistan to do what it is doing swiftly and effortlessly: destroying itself.

 

UmmahNews.com, 2002-03-27 18:58:24
Gujarat rioters did it by the book

Rathin Das for Hindustan Times
27 March 2002

The manual of rioting is back in circulation. Even as the Narendra Modi government and the Gujarat Police talk about the "spontaneous" nature of the riots that followed Godhra, the pattern of violence can be found in guidelines laid down in a pro-Hindu booklet.

The booklet - Hinduno Bachao: Akraman ane Kayedo (Save Hindus: Attacks and Laws) - first surfaced in Gujarat two years ago after the withdrawal of an order that allowed government employees to participate in RSS programmes.

The terror manual stated that an organised attack on minorities could be made to look like a 'spontaneous' reaction by the public.

The primer illustrated how a crowd had beaten to death a boy and a girl in Halvad town many years ago in full view of court officials, but no one was prosecuted as thousands were involved.

The same pattern was followed in the post-Godhra violence in which rioters escaped under the cover of anonymity.

Apart from guidelines on how to register complaints against minorities for their 'Vidharmi' (non-believer) acts, the 12-page booklet advised the Hindu 'samaj' to implicate senior missionaries in false cases.

"They may not be convicted, but they should be made to go up and down the courts for months..."

A Gujarat Police official said the recent mob attacks had some similarities to the guidelines. "Prosecution can be made difficult by increasing the number of the accused," he said. "Evidence is weakened in such cases."

However, the joint general secretary of the state VHP, Kaushik Patel, denied the booklet was issued by them. But he said the guidelines were issued to the "Hindu samaj" at large and the VHP wasn't bothered by it.

The booklet illustrates how a large mob can get away with murder even if committed publicly "Now that we have our own government, we should take proper advantage of it and get our work done by it," it states.

 

UmmahNews.com, 2002-03-27 18:58:24
India: a plea and a proposal

Balakrishnan Rajagopal for The Hindu
27 March 2002

The tragedy of Gujarat has deeply scarred us. Burning Hindu women and children on the train, mobs looting and pillaging Muslims' property, gang rapes of countless Muslim women, systematic and planned pogroms that slaughter hundreds of innocent Muslims, a criminally complicit state administration that stood by, watched and, by some accounts, even participated, a complete failure to support the traumatised Muslims by the state as well as civil society, and a shocking partisanship by the state in awarding compensation that shows that it values Hindu lives more than Muslim ones.

It is almost too hard to do worse. There is a complete breakdown, not just of order or Government but of humanity. Yet, there is no outrage around the world. India is a mini-Rwanda where the natives are simply expected to slaughter each other in their primeval fury. The western media is openly anti-Muslim. It plays up the brutality of the Islamists while ignoring the savagery of the Sangh Parivar, even when they attack the Orissa legislature. For its part, the national Government refuses to address a blatant breakdown of constitutional order and takes refuge behind the time-tested device of judicial enquiry. It is evident that the killers will literally get away with it.

Of course, none of this is new. In 1984, the anti-Sikh pogroms were instigated and supported by the Government and the killers walked away free. The Mumbai `riots' in 1993 were found by a judicial enquiry to be the result of official connivance and complicity with organised thugs and yet no one has paid for it.

It seems as though the Indian state and society are systematically unwilling or unable to ensure accountability for massive atrocities involving minorities. It is quite touching to see faith in the Indian state on the part of intellectuals but evidence tells us that it is not going to punish and deter those who commit atrocities against minorities.

Domestic legal sanctions do exist in Indian law to punish and deter these horrific crimes but time and again, they have not been used. The frustrated citizens of India and those who support Indian democracy and pluralism, both in India and abroad, are increasingly asking how they can do something to prevent India from sliding into more mayhem, and even civil war or Talibanisation.

An important way to go forward is to take individual accountability seriously as a legal principle. The ideal response to the Gujarat atrocity is domestic legal and political sanction. But the state and central administrations are both controlled by the BJP and it is unlikely that effective measures will be taken against the perpetrators of the Gujarat atrocities. So far, the indications are not hopeful. Even if some political or legal sanction is taken against the Modi regime - which looks unlikely - it still won't touch those who actually killed, raped, pillaged, planned and instigated the violence.

This is bizarre in an age when the international trend is to attach legal responsibility to individuals when they commit atrocities. If the mass killers of the Balkans and Rwanda can be prosecuted internationally, why not those of Gujarat? The crimes committed in Gujarat certainly qualify as crimes against humanity in their scale and savagery compared to massacres elsewhere during the recent past.

Sceptics of this approach may object: that what happened is a riot and not a deliberate mass attack, that the Gujarat government did not commit it and is therefore not culpable, that domestic remedies exist and that internationalising this issue will mean a violation of India's sovereignty.

For important reasons, the sceptics would be wrong. First, it would be a mistake to characterise the violence in Gujarat as a mere riot. What happened was a state-sponsored, supported and even state-directed orgy of ethnic cleansing. The killers seem to have been very well organised and seem to have had no interference from the police at all. As such, the Gujarat violence is as much ethnic cleansing as in former Yugoslavia.

Second, while it may be true that the Gujarat government did not personally commit the violence (though there are reports of State officials' involvement), failing to prevent the violence makes it complicit. The question is: at what point does the government's complicity give rise to legal responsibility?

There is a great deal of jurisprudence, both old and new on this issue that indicates that complicity in human rights atrocities may result in individual civil and criminal liability and may also result in collective liability of an organisation.

It is now well established under international law that a Government's failure to ensure a `right to remedy' for human rights violations will result in legal liability. This right to remedy, guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a party, is especially important in the case of massive atrocities and will lead to individual liability. After World War II, leading German businesses such as the Krupp corporation were prosecuted in Allied tribunals for complicity in the Holocaust. More recently, companies have been sued for complicity in human rights abuses in Myanmar (Unocol) and Nigeria (Royal Dutch Shell). It is clear that complicity in human rights abuses can give rise to legal liability.

Third, the existing domestic remedies have a track record of failure when it comes to crimes against minorities. While some have been arrested for the Godhra train incident, there is nothing to indicate that the perpetrators of the communal orgy will be pursued.

Indeed, it may be useful to think about how best to pursue Narendra Modi and other Government and VHP officials through legal processes in other countries. Belgium has adopted a law based on universal jurisdiction for pursuing mass killers anywhere. Under that law, four Rwandan nuns were recently convicted of genocide. An arrest warrant issued by a Belgian judge against Mr. Modi or senior VHP officials can be served in any other country. The Indian Government itself may decline to accede to such a request, but other countries such as the U.K. may do so. In addition, the VHP as an organisation as well as Mr. Modi and other senior officials in their individual capacity can be sued in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Statute for civil damages. This law has been repeatedly used to pursue dictators such as Radovan Karadzic, Marcos and others.

Finally, it is a mistake to suppose that thinking of an international law remedy for the Gujarat atrocities will result in a violation of India's sovereignty. India has voluntarily become a party to numerous human rights treaties that limit its sovereignty. Also, it is a rather absurd understanding of sovereignty to object to an attempt to support India's constitutional order by pursuing those who pose a threat to it. Whose sovereignty are we protecting?

It is increasingly obvious that violence against minorities in India won't end unless its perpetrators are compelled to pay wherever they may find themselves around the world. The principle of accountability in international human rights law demands as much. More importantly, the heart-wrenching tragedy in Gujarat demands that the citizens of India do more than simply criticise the Government. The victims and Indian democracy deserve better.

(The writer is Director, MIT programme on Human Rights and Justice.)

 

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