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BBC, Monday, 1 April, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Gujarat refugees 'scared to return home'

By Adam Mynott
BBC South Asia Correspondent

There are more than 100 makeshift refugee camps dotted around the state of Gujarat.

In some, many thousands of mainly Muslim refugees have been sheltering for the past few weeks.

In others, just a handful of people are living under hastily erected shelters, and in community halls and school buildings.

The hygiene and living conditions in most of the encampments are appalling.

New attacks feared

The Gujarat state government is supplying some food and water.

Rice and vegetables are delivered to the camps, and the inhabitants are given some protection by police from further attacks.

But new outbreaks of violence over the past few days have caused more refugees to seek shelter, and the wretched state of people driven from their homes by hatred and fear belies the description of "normalcy" given by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, before the weekend.

"The few people who leave the camps in Ahmedabad to return to their homes and shops are attacked," the convenor of a camp in the Dudheshwar region of Ahmedabad, Inamul Haq, said.

"It is difficult for them to return to their normal lives - they are scared to try to start again."

Continuing violence

The first meeting of the all-party state committee, headed by Gujarat Governor SS Bhandari to look into the provision of help in the makeshift camps has taken place, but no-one expects the plight of the refugees to improve quickly.

The meeting discussed providing people with compensation to help them rebuild their homes and businesses.

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, is due to be at the next meeting later this week, during a planned visit to the state.

Chief Minister Narendra Modi has now said the camps can remain in place as long as necessary, reversing an earlier statement that he wanted them wound up as soon as possible.


The News International, April 02, 2002
Exposing India's real face


With the riots (in various parts of Gujarat still going on), the mask of sophistication slipped to show the ugly face of India. The Bharatiya Janata Party's vision of the India is that of Hindu nuclear power with Muslims accepted on the majority's terms. Thus wrote Ramesh Thoker in International Herald Tribune. Ramesh is vice-rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo.

Rafiq Zakria, known for his pro-India leanings, writing in Hindustan Times has thus described continuing carnage in Gujarat: Never before has this country witnessed such an organised cleansing operation on such a colossal scale, both in physical and material terms, as is taking place even new in Gujarat. And this is the land that gave birth to Gandhi. Out of the pained anguish my heart bleeds and weeps, for all through my public life, I have struggled for Hindu-Muslim unity.

Zakria closes his column with a poem:

Burn, destroy, loot and kill

His people unashamedly shriek

They have created such communal barriers

That humanity itself is in shatters

Whom shall I then call out

When only murderers are out

The Chairman of India's leading housing finance firm, Deepak Parekh "is bitter and angry" (reported The Hindu on March 29) because of Gujarat and the way government -- both at the State and the Centre, handled the violence. "What is a government elected for?" asks Parekh and himself replies: "If they cannot protect innocent lives then they should go. What kind of government allows the killing of women and children? I think the Home Minister and the Prime Minister should take their share of the blame. It is a national failure. Every one knows Godhra is a volatile city. The state government should have investigated those involved instead of letting Vishwa Hindu Parishad go out of hand. I belong to Gujarat and it pains me to read in international and our papers that Gujaratis are barbaric and indulging in genocide". Perhaps most revealing account of the terrible killings and burning of Muslim men, women and children and the destruction of their business and properties has come from Balkrishnan Raj Gopal writing again in The Hindu on March 27. Raj Gopal is the Director of MIT programme on human rights and justice. Read on: 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 programmes 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. 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-Rawanda 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 inquiry. It is evident that the killers will literally get away with it. If the mass killers of the Balkans and Rwanda can be prosecuted internationally, why not those of Gujarat? Under international law a government's failure to ensure a right to remedy for human rights violations will result in legal liability. This is guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. 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 US under the Alien Tort Statute for civil damages. This law has been repeatedly used to pursue dictators such as Radovan Kardazic, Marcos and others.

Some of Kuldip Nayar's observations after his recent visit to Gujarat: I have never seen so many people so much bereft of hope. I just listened to their harrowing tales, of murder, rape, people burnt alive, looting and what not. After some time I said I could not take it any more. Nearly one lac men, women and children are living in inhuman conditions in what are called the refugee camps. Even after four weeks, no FIR has been registered. No official taken to task not even a policeman suspended. It was really pogrom, well-planned and executed scheme...there were unwritten instructions not to act against the rioters. (The so-called peace loving India's Prime Minister has not bothered even to visit the state so far). Kuldip concludes by posing a question: "How do we stop people who are trying to establish a Hindu Rashtra and demolish the secular ethos of a secular country?"

What has Pakistan done about these horrific happenings to the Muslims in India? Little except for a statement or two regretting the tragedy perpetrated in the Gujarat State.

If even 20% of what is happening in Gujarat had taken place in Pakistan one can only imagine how India would have launched an unrelenting anti-Pakistan campaign to rub such crimes against humanity into the international consciousness. As pointed out in some of my earlier columns, Pakistan is grossly deficient in its external publicity operations. Neither the Foreign Office nor the Ministry of Information have the requisite funds or a programme to project and promote Pakistan's points of view in various areas of close concern to our national interests. Of course ground reality matters but building of perceptions through the media and other means are equally important. Even USA has a large budget for pursuing what they call public diplomacy. India is miles ahead of Pakistan in harnessing the international media to influence governments and world opinion. Just one instance of their remarkable inroads is how they have turned BBC into practically the Bharat Broadcasting Corporation. It is time that a strategic and comprehensive programme is taken up to safeguard Pakistan's interests abroad and an effective and well-funded external publicity apparatus is instituted.

The misfortune of the fact that Pakistan has to contend with a difficult, duplicitous and a hostile big neighbour warrants the realisation that we have to remain not only vigilant and alert all the time to India's machinations but also use all possible means to expose its true face and real designs. The world for instance needs to be reminded that India pursued a double-faced approach in the matter of Kashmir, Junagarh and Hyderabad and has followed a ruthless policy in using force to suppress the legitimate demands for self-determination, violating all international codes of human rights.

The world is well aware of Israel's state terrorism but knows very little about the genocidal operation launched through state terrorism in occupied Kashmir. It is in fact India which has turned the tables around and has been trying to haul up Pakistan as a terrorist country. The Gujarat tragedy needs to be highlighted and projected vigorously with imagination and skill to establish that the world must take notice of the crimes against humanity being committed by India so that steps are taken to initiate proceedings against the deliberate ethnic cleansing going on in its various parts as eloquently documented and pointed out by Indians themselves and so graphically portrayed in the recent accounts quoted above. It may be said as a counter to my suggestion that Pakistan itself suffers from some of the evils being condemned in the case of India. Correct but what has happened here is not even a fraction of the brutal Indian state terrorism. It needs to be added that unlike India no fundamentalist party or group has ever come to hold the helms of power in Pakistan during the last fifty years or so.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist


The Hindu, April 02, 2002

Whither Gujarat?

Gujarat continues to be consumed by the cancer of communalism. But the carnage did not happen spontaneously because of Godhra. It was a slow deliberate campaign of ten years of hate filled religious rhetoric inciting people to defend Hinduism. Hired assassins, vicious, specially trained, armed mercenaries led the mobs which massacred Muslims in Gujarat. Journalists, writers, poets and decent people scream for help for the traumatised victims, the remains of the pogrom. For a premeditated, cold blooded pogrom it was.

Politics of hatred

The Centre has shown more anger and dismay over the storming of the Orissa Assembly than they did when the news about the orgy of murder and rape broke. They condemned and distanced themselves from the Bhubaneswar stampede. But the criticism of the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, was muted. Indeed he was congratulated for bringing in the Army after 72 hours. The Opposition has demanded the banning of the VHP and Bajrang Dal. But why has no one raised the question of the very validity of the BJP which has encouraged and built its base on the politics of hatred and communalism? Who else can own responsibility for the carnage? Having created the Frankenstein and nurtured it, how can the very government which depends on fundamentalist fanatics now control the monster of its own making? Is not the very essence of democracy in danger?

As writers we are asked to restrain ourselves. But I thank God for Star News and intrepid journalists who risked life and limb to bring the horror of Gujarat before the country and before the world. Only if our barbarity is totally exposed can we stop the pretence that everything is back to normal. Even as I write this, the camps are filled with Muslims in need. Over 50,000 victims sit traumatised and glassy eyed unable to understand why they deserved this. Hate filled mobs are still preventing Muslims from collecting their belongings from their abandoned houses. They are threatening relief workers and people they term pseudo secularists. Pamphlets are being circulated demanding a total boycott of Muslim shops, of selling to Muslims and of doing any business whatsoever with them. Even as I write this, there are reports from credible sources in Gujarat about the continuing campaign of hatred. The call for the Final Solution. Drive them out of the State, and then drive them out of this country. Do not buy from Muslim shops. Do not sell to them. The pamphlet concludes with a warning that the curse of Hanumanji will be on your head if you fail to implement it. The curse of Ramchandraji if you do not circulate it. Jai Sri Ram!

While Gujarat continues to burn with hatred, the allies of the BJP look on. Theirs is not to do or die for obvious electoral reasons. They cannot withdraw support even if every decent Indian is appalled, ashamed and stricken by the holocaust that has been perpetrated in the name of religion. In a situation like this, it is imperative to introduce President's rule in Gujarat and ensure that the Army remains in charge of security. It is a lunatic fringe which supports the hate-filled politics of communalism. Yet all of us must bear the burden of the guilt and shame which has engulfed the country. And we deserve to be branded as criminals because we have voted in a criminal government that has shamed us. Nothing can take away the horror of Gujarat or wipe out the trauma of the victims it created.

But it's about time we stood up to be counted and voiced our protests. Are we a neutered nation that we refuse to act to punish the perpetrators of the holocaust? Or has it become a habit, this burning of brides, of Dalits, of Sikhs, of missionaries, the murdering of girl children? The VHP and Bajrang Dal must be declared terrorist organisations. But so must every individual who stands up and spews hate, inciting people to kill each other. And the BJP must be made accountable for its failure to protect the victims of Gujarat and the continuing hate-filled scenario.

`Final Solution'

Like Hitler's Germany, we cannot escape the guilt, the horror and the eternal shame that will haunt us and generations of our children when the history of this century is written. For it must be reiterated and established beyond doubt, that unlike all the other shameful outbreaks of religious bigotry, in the bloody annals of our history, this was a pogrom, designed in meticulous detail with pride, following Hitler's handbooks, seeking a Final Solution and working systematically towards that end. Who will conduct our Nuremberg trials? Or identify the Himmlers and SS men, our home-grown Milosevic? We need to punish the murderers and show the victims that we are on their side. That we consider them our people. We need to go to Gujarat.



The Hindu, Thursday, April 04, 2002
Violence erupts again on eve of PM's Gujarat visit

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD April 3. On the eve of the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to the riot-hit areas in Gujarat tomorrow, at least nine persons were killed today in violent incidents. Six of them were burnt alive in Abasana village in Ahmedabad district.

Some of the walled city areas in Ahmedabad were again brought under an indefinite curfew after the city witnessed pitched battles between the two groups in Gomtipur where two persons were killed and nine injured in police firing. One person was killed in the police firing in Umreth in central Gujarat. Besides the mob attack, the police went berserk, beating up people in Gomtipur and Vejalpur, severely injuring at least 80 persons.

The continued disturbances figured in the Assembly and the House was adjourned sine die after it completed the remaining business of the current budget session in the absence of the Opposition members who were suspended earlier for disrupting the proceedings.

With the gruesome incidents of burning people alive recurring on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit, six members of a minority family in Abasana village under the Detroj police station in Ahmedabad district were killed when some miscreants set their houses afire late on Tuesday night when the entire village was fast asleep. While five persons died on the spot, one died of injuries in hospital.

It was the first time after the three days of mayhem from February 28 in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage that an incident of burning people alive had occurred. The local sarpanch, however, claimed that the miscreants had ransacked houses belonging to the minorities and killed the people before setting fire to the houses. He said the assailants, numbering about 20, were outsiders and their identity was not known. They had come armed and equipped with inflammable materials. The Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, while condemning the Abasana attack said that some persons seemed bent on creating disturbances and issued a stern warning against disrupting peace.

In Umreth, one person was killed and two were injured when police fired 16 rounds to disperse unruly mobs setting fire to houses and shops for the third consecutive day defying the indefinite curfew.

An indefinite curfew was also clamped in Vadali town in Sabarkantha district following arson and group clashes. The Ankleshwar town in Broach district was again brought under an indefinite curfew following clashes.

The labour-dominated Gomtipur locality in Ahmedabad witnessed an unprecedented mob fury despite being under curfew. After the pitched battles on Tuesday, the mob regrouped and attacked slums this afternoon and ransacked houses. Policemen, who arrived on the scene, instead of helping the victims, beat them up. Even an 80-year-old woman, Chandbibi, was not spared while a local journalist present on the spot covering the event also received lathi blows. At least 60 persons were treated in hospital for injuries inflicted by police.

In contrast in the Vejalpur locality, police raided some Hindu residential areas and beat up the people there. Some of them were paraded under the hot sun or made to walk on their knees. "You people are harassing us by creating disturbances,'' the policemen are reported to have told them.

The entire Opposition in the Assembly was suspended for the remaining period of the current budget session after the Congress members created an uproar demanding that they be allowed to move an adjournment motion to discuss the communal riots.


Dawn, Thursday, April 04, 2002
5 Muslims burnt alive in India

ABASNA (India), April 3: Eight people died, including five who were burnt to death, in renewed violence in Gujarat, two days before Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was due to visit the riot-torn western state.

The five who burnt to death, including two women, were all Muslims, a police spokesman said.

The attack took place on Tuesday, when a mob torched three houses in Abasna village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, which has witnessed sectarian clashes for the past month.

The charred bodies were found on Wednesday morning after firefighters put out the blaze. Six other Muslims, including two women, were admitted to hospital with serious burn injuries.

Local leader, Madar Singh, said the village of 1,500 people had no history of tensions between Hindus and Muslims, who make up 25 per cent of the population.

"We have lived in harmony for more than 100 years and we respect each others customs. It is outsiders who have done this. We were helpless as we had all gone off to sleep," he said.

Police said they believed the crime was carried out by people from a nearby village.

"A group of 15 to 20 people came to the village and burnt the houses. The villagers are also not in the position to identify them as it was late night," said a police official. No arrests have yet been made.

Jumasha Ramzaan Shah, 55, caretaker of the village mosque, said he and his family were petrified of further attacks and would move away. "Three generations of our family have been brought up in this village, but we no longer feel safe here. We will go to... try to start a new life."

Another three people died on Wednesday, two of whom were shot by police, as mobs rioted in the streets, police said.

Two people suffered stab wounds in clashes in Anand, the hub of Gujarat's milk cooperative movement, they said, adding that 10 others, including three policemen, were injured.

The fresh fighting comes on the eve of a day-long on Thursday by Vajpayee, who will get his first up-close look at the devastation in Gujarat, the largest state governed by his party.

Vajpayee is due to visit the site of the Feb 27 train massacre in Godhra and unveil a comprehensive package to help those who lost their homes or businesses through arson.

RELIEF CAMPS: The prime minister will also tour displaced resident relief camps, whose miserable conditions were denounced in a report released on Wednesday by Amnesty International.

The London-based human rights group said police had not adequately protected the camps, which have faced attacks including stone-throwing and petrol bombs.

At the Vatwa camps in Ahmedabad "audio cassettes containing the chants "Maro! Maro!" ("Kill! Kill!") have been repeatedly played at night on loudspeakers to further terrorize the camp dwellers", Amnesty said.

"Although the vast majority of the victims of the violence belong to the Muslim community, reports indicate that the few camps in Ahmedabad which are hosting victims from the majority (Hindu) community... are receiving more visits from government authorities and more regular rations," it said.

Amnesty called for an authority to protect the camps other than Gujarat's police, which "failed to intervene during the violence and sometimes even actively connived with the attackers".

Some 50,000 people live in relief camps in Ahmedabad, according to officials, but Amnesty said the figure could be as high as 75,000. Some 40,000 people live in similar camps elsewhere in the state.

Amnesty criticized the Gujarat government for not ensuring a safe environment for residents to return home.-AFP


Bloody carnage at Samras village


BASNA, Ahmedabad: The body of 22-year-old Noorjahan lay outside her house, just next to the village temple, in the scorching sun. The newlywed had been stabbed and then burnt by a mob.

"She was a like a daughter to all of us. We all were there arranging for her wedding on January 26," says Madersinh Solanki, the village sarpanch. But, surprisingly, none of the villagers "actually saw" the culprits behind the carnage which took place around Tuesday midnight, claiming five lives.

The bodies of Noorjahan's father, brother and a cousin lay alongside hers. Villagers said that about 15 'outsiders' descended upon the village, located 80 km from Ahmedabad. Armed with sharp weapons, they attacked members of Noorjahan's family and her relatives.

Even her uncle Ismael, who lived a few houses away, wasn't spared. His son Ibrahim, a retired Army jawan, stood stunned near the body. Employed with ONGC in Kalol, he said, "They were staying with me because of the riots but had come back a few days back."

"We were sleeping... suddenly these people barged inside and started butchering with scythes. They killed my husband... I do not know what happened to my daughter-in-law," says 60-year-old Labhiben Ismail, who has sustained severe injuries and has been admitted to Civil Hospital.

Six members of the family have been admitted to the Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad. The five bodies were dumped inside their house after it was set ablaze. The partially charred bodies were recovered by the fire brigade which arrived nearly three hours after the incident.

While most claim ignorance of the incident, stating they were all fast asleep, their immediate neighbour Shankar Patel admitted to being too scared to react. According to him, around 12:45 am, his sleep was disturbed by the voice of Ismael, alerting his elder brother Dawood.

After a few minutes Patel, realising something was wrong, got up and walked across his courtyard and peeped across the common wall separating his and Dawood's house. "There were about eight men with faces covered with mufflers shouting at the occupants of the house." Patel, 65, decided to stay put inside his house as the killings took place next door.

With a population of 1,500, the Samras village had about 40 members of the minority community.

Ahmedabad police superintendent Vikas Sahay said, "We are trying to get people to speak about the incident so that we can make some arrests." But since the target was just one family, the police iare also trying to investigate the angle of enmity, Sahay told TNN.


The News International, April 04, 2002

Gujrat riots: AI says police connived with attackers

NEW DELHI: Tens of thousands of Indians made homeless by Hindu-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat endure harassment and lack adequate food, sanitation and medical care at relief camps, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

In a report on India's deadliest Hindu-Muslim communal strife in a decade, the London-based human rights organization called for an authority to protect the camps other than Gujarat's police, which "failed to intervene during the violence and sometimes even actively connived with the attackers."

More than 800 people--most of them Muslims--have died since riots broke out following a February 27 attack by a Muslim-led crowd on a train carrying Hindu activists. Amnesty, in research concluded in March, said at least 2,500 people were also missing. Some 50,000 people live in relief camps in Gujarat's capital Ahmedabad, according to officials, but Amnesty said the figure could be as high as 75,000.

Some 40,000 people live in similar camps elsewhere in the state. The rights group said police have not adequately protected the camps, which have faced attacks including stone-throwing and petrol bombs.

At the Vatwa camps in Ahmedabad "audio cassettes containing the chants "Maro! Maro!" ("Kill! Kill!") have been repeatedly played at night on loudspeakers to further terrorize the camp dwellers," Amnesty said.

"Although the vast majority of the victims of the violence belong to the Muslim community, reports indicate that the few camps in Ahmedabad which are hosting victims from the majority (Hindu) community ... are receiving more visits from government authorities and more regular rations," it said.

Amnesty said food at the camps was inadequate for the number of people and that sanitation was so poor that in some cases only one toilet was available for every 500 people. "Many of the survivors suffer not only from burns and other serious injuries, but also suffer mental trauma. Psychological help and expertise is reportedly unavailable." Ammesty criticized the Gujarat government, run by India's ruling Hindu-nationalist BJP party, for not ensuring a safe environment for residents to return home., April 06, 2002, 18:43:00
Hindu extremists target Muslim schoolchildren in Gujarat

Vinay Menon for Hindustan Times
6 April 2002

The pogrom in Gujarat may be far from over. Intelligence collated by the Gujarat Police reveals that "Hindu activists" are conducting a sinister survey to identify students from rich, educated Muslim families in some prominent schools here.

The objective, sources say, is to sustain the fear psychosis that has overcome the minority community, resulting in a sharp drop in the number of Muslim students attending school.

"By conducting the survey, these religious maniacs are trying to force Muslim families to get their wards to leave these schools for good. A kind of cleansing of the education system, without spilling any blood," said a senior police officer.

The three schools targeted are Xavier's Loyola Hall, Diwan Ballu Bhai and Ankur.

This is the second time since the riots began that a "survey" like this has been conducted. On February 27 (a day before the riots began) meetings were reportedly held in several pockets of Ahmedabad city to identify Muslim properties and houses. This information was then passed on to mobs that attacked the targets.

Several VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders have accusations registered against them for leading these mobs - a charge both organisations deny.

Intelligence inputs have not identified specific organisations that are responsible for the latest 'survey', but the finger of suspicion points in a familiar direction.

"Our report shows that school staff, bus drivers, and auto-rickshaw drivers who ferry the children to school have been asked to assist in leaking information about Muslim students," said the police officer. "The idea this time being not necessarily to attack the targets, but to scare the children to the extent that it becomes difficult for them to attend schools without fear of being attacked."

Collecting such information, sources say, is not a difficult task for these 'surveyors' since they have popular support. "It is not strange to see a schoolbus driver, who is also an activist or relative of an activist of one of the many Hindu organisations, assisting these goons in their job," the officer said.

Information, it is reported, is also being collated by the same group of Hindu activists on what remains of Muslim business establishments across Gujarat.

Such behind-the-scenes legwork continues even as eight areas with some minority presence in Ahmedabad city alone remain tense and under curfew. "The Prime Minister's speech was an effort in confidence building. But today, after more than 36 days of rioting, we still cannot walk on the streets of the city like free men, without fear of communal violence," said Anwar, a resident of Daryapur.

The violence continued in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat into Friday. One person was stabbed to death and six others were injured in the state.

Police opened fire to disperse mobs in Ahmedabad.

In Lunavada town, an accident between a rickshaw and a tractor sparked off communal clashes. Night curfew continued to be in force at many places in south, central and north Gujarat where the situation was under control but tense.


DAWN, Sunday, April 07, 2002
'Modi tried to exploit riots'

By Jawed Naqvi

NEW DELHI, April 6: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, widely suspected of conniving with Hindu mobs to massacre Muslim civilians in a five-week-old and as yet unabated frenzied violence against the minority community , had considered holding snap polls to benefit from the communal polarization, the NDTV channel said in an exclusive report on Saturday.

The channel's senior correspondent, Rajdeep Sardesai, said he had clinching evidence that Modi probed the possibility of elections way ahead of the polls ordinarily due only in February next year.

"NDTV now has clinching evidence that the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat had serious plans for a snap poll right after the recent riots in the state," Sardesai reported even as news trickled in of five more deaths since the night in the communal upsurge.

"In fact", the reporter said, "the BJP had done a survey to find out whether they would gain votes in the current situation. Till now Modi had been dismissing such reports as canards spread by his opponents."

The document dated March 17 shows that the state BJP had gone through an elaborate exercise to gauge the public mood and plan for early elections with Modi personally supervising it.

Three senior BJP leaders were sent to each district with a four-page questionnaire to assess whether the party workers felt the situation was ripe for an election. The questions were: Will early elections benefit the BJP? In which constituencies will they benefit? Will be able to translate the current mood into votes in an election? After the Godhra tragedy, what is the mood among our workers? What impact are the riot-related arrests having on our workers, and how will it affect elections?

"Top BJP sources in Gujarat said that the feedback was positive, and at a meeting in Gandhinagar on March 18, Modi had stated that he was in favour of a snap poll," Sardesai said. When Modi was asked about snap poll, he initially denied his role in this election exercise, and then threw the ball in Prime Minister Vajpayee's court.

"The prime minister's word is final on this. I did not ask him about the snap poll, I'm only focusing on relief operations in the state. I have no role in this, the prime minister's word is final," Modi said.

Indeed, it appears that only after a meeting with the prime minister in Delhi two weeks ago, that Modi was made to abandon his election plan, with Vajpayee making it clear that rebuilding Gujarat should be the chief minister's top priority. Meanwhile, three people were killed when police fired to disperse clashing groups of Hindus and Muslims and two people were stabbed to death in Ahmedabad. Authorities imposed an indefinite curfew in Watva and Sabarmati areas of Ahmedabad city. Curfew has been clamped in 30 areas in the state.

Sporadic violence has continued even after the prime minister made an anguished plea during visit to the state on Thursday to end the bloodletting and "stop the poison of religious violence."

Official estimates put the death toll at 825, but non-governmental groups say it could be more than 2,000.

It seems while Modi planned to hold elections, reports from Gujarat spoke of the threat of starvation that looms large in violence-hit Ahmedabad where people are forced to live a life of virtual imprisonment inside their respective colonies.

"I am still scared to go out of the colony," complained Safi Bhai of Shah-e-Alam area, which the prime minister visited two days ago. The forced isolation of the people has resulted in acute food shortage in many areas.

The callousness of the BJP's Gujarat administration is taking its toll on the prime minister's credibility with his own coalition partners, who privately admit that the violence in Gujarat has irretrievably damaged the national image, alienated many of them from their Muslim constituency and resulted in a sharp drop in foreign investment in the country.

"Earlier this week, when the Andhra Pradesh cabinet met in Hyderabad, several ministers told Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu it was time the Telugu Desam Party consider severing its links with the BJP," one report said.


The Washington Post, Monday, April 8, 2002; Page A12
Sectarian Violence Haunts Indian City

Hindu Militants Bar Muslims From Work

By Rama Lakshmi

AHMADABAD, India -- A month ago, Razak Usmanbhai watched mobs of Hindu militants set fire to his Muslim neighborhood in religious rioting that killed more than 700 people in western India. Weeks later, he felt brave enough to go back to his workplace, the only Muslim-owned car repair garage in a predominantly Hindu area.

As he made his way toward the garage, which he owned with a friend, a group of Hindu youths wielding rocks and metal chains descended on him. As they beat him up, he recalled recently, they said: "Don't you know? Muslims are not allowed here anymore."

"I can't return home, as it is a graveyard," said Usmanbhai, 25, who now lives in a makeshift camp with 10,000 others who fled their ravaged neighborhoods. "Now they will not allow me to reopen my garage either.

"I will go mad if I stay without work in this relief camp," he said. "The biggest question now is: How do I begin my life again?"

Since an attack by Muslims on a train in the town of Godhra on Feb. 27 that killed 59 Hindus, triggering days of arson and killing by rampaging Hindu mobs throughout the western state of Gujarat, about 60,000 homeless Muslims in refugee camps across this city have struggled to resume their lives. But many say they are discovering that life here will never be the way it once was.

Two Muslims were killed here two weeks ago; one of them, the husband of a Hindu woman, was stabbed to death and his body set on fire.

"This madness has to stop," said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday, when he made his first visit to Gujarat since the violence erupted. "Fire cannot be put out by fire."

Though scattered attacks continue, carried out by Hindus and by Muslims, the violence scarcely approaches the level of a few weeks ago. But beneath the relative calm, the city remains fearful and suspicious.

Relief workers and the Gujarat state government are forming joint Hindu-Muslim "peace cadres" in every neighborhood to hasten the process of returning Muslims to their homes. But many of those in the camps have requested new land away from the charred remains of their old homes.

Even Muslims whose houses are still habitable guard their neighborhood with stones, sticks and gasoline bombs, saying that each day brings new rumors and threats and each night carries the fear of fresh attacks. Anonymous leaflets carrying inflammatory threats against Muslims are slipped under doors.

One such flier calls on Hindus not to do business with Muslims or hire them as workers. Relief workers said that while such fliers have been distributed after every Hindu-Muslim riot in Gujarat, this time the pressure by Hindu radical groups on employers has made it more difficult for them to welcome Muslim workers back.

"When I called my Hindu boss, he said he had hired Hindu workers in my place," said Mohammad Shafi, 18, who was one of three Muslim tailors in a Hindu-run garment factory. "He said some groups were threatening him not to take us back."

Bajrang Dal, a Hindu nationalist group whose members are accused of attacking Muslims in Ahmadabad, denies having a hand in the circulation of the fliers. But Haresh Bhatt, vice president of the group, said the threat of economic boycott only shows "general anger of the Hindus."

"The Muslims use the country's resources, so we expect them to behave and not provoke Hindus," he said, pointing to the Feb. 27 train attack. "This is only an economic boycott. It could get worse if they don't change their ways."

Fearing more violence and discrimination, many Muslims are slowly and quietly erasing any signs of their religious identity that might make them vulnerable. Nameplates bearing Muslim names have been removed from the doors of homes. Some women have stopped wearing the black burqa, a full-length veil, when they go out to buy vegetables. A few Muslims have even hung boards outside their homes saying "Hindus Live Here." Some drivers of auto-rickshaws have wiped from their vehicles images of minarets and the Islamic crescent moon.

On a recent morning in the crowded Rakhyal neighborhood, which houses 2,000 Muslim families, Salimbhai Sheikh took a used razor blade and began the arduous task of scratching out the Arabic couplets painted on the back of his auto-rickshaw.

"If we start work again, we will be instantly identified as Muslims because of these verses," Sheikh explained. "What do we do? We have to survive."


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