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THE TIMES OF INDIA, TUESDAY, APRIL 09, 2002
Muslim IPS officers isolated: Ribeiro

ROBIN DAVID

AHMEDABAD: Observations made by the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and supercop Julio Ribeiro regarding the postings of IPS officers from the minority community in Gujarat have brought out in the open what was otherwise an ‘‘unspoken rule’’ — sideline the minority and muzzle its voice.

This was reflected in the initial days of rioting after the Godhra incident where the police have been accused of being mute spectators or taking one-sided action.

‘‘I am surprised to know that IPS officers from the minority are given only less important postings in Gujarat’’ says supercop Julio Ribeiro. Sidelining minority officers has been an unwritten rule since 1995 when the BJP government first came to power. It did promote some of these IPS officers but gave them peripheral postings.

Despite the state being a communal timebomb, always ready to blow up in the face of the administration, there has been no attempt at ensuring proportionate representation of the minorities in the police. A move that many believe would give law enforcers a more secular face if implemented.

The rot is so deep that not a single top officer from the minority community has field postings. They were all cooling their heels in insignificant postings when the riots were at their peak.

The National Police Commission had foreseen some of these problems way back in the 1960’s and made a number of suggestions. Among them were making the police autonomous and outside the range of dirty politics.

As one officer remarked, it was better sitting on the sidelines because he would not have known how to marshal his men, all Hindus, in such a situation. Not more than two per cent of the lower rank policemen are from the minority community.

‘‘Minorities constitute about 15 per cent of Gujarat’s population,’’ a senior official said. ‘‘If one out of 10 men is from a minority, there is a better chance of even-handed treatment during riots. You are lessening the possibility of bias.’’

The government already has an example in the form of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) where the rule of proportionate representation is respected. Their blue uniforms do inspire more fear among rioters than the khaki of the Gujarat police.

 

The Hindu, Opinion, Wednesday, Apr 10, 2002
Needed, a law on genocide

By V. S. Mani.

The legislation should be such that all perpetrators of genocide, be they individuals, groups or the constitutional rulers, can without exception be readily punished.

THE RECENT carnage in Gujarat appears to qualify as genocide under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 1948, (`the Genocide Convention'). Indeed, the genocidal tendencies of the fanatical groups will need to be urgently tackled at various levels — social, political, legal, and even religious. This highlights the need for enactment of a special law on genocide.

Four principal reasons were advanced in support of a special enactment on Prevention of Terrorism. One, India as a member of the United Nations has a legal obligation to put in place a specific law on terrorism, flowing as it does from the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council adopted since September 28, 2001, in response to the September 11 attack on New York's World Trade Center. Two, terrorism is a special category of crime that requires a special law to deal with. Three, only a special law can have a deterrent effect on terrorism. Four, such a law is necessary to protect the territorial integrity and moral fabric of the country. The same reasons now most urgently demand that a special law be put in place for the prevention and punishment of genocide.

The principle of prohibition of genocide has become an intrinsic aspect of modern civilised behaviour of international society. In 1946, the U.N. General Assembly unanimously affirmed that "genocide is a crime under international law which the civilised world condemns, and for the commission of which principals and accomplices — whether private individuals, public officials or statesmen, and whether the crime is committed on religious, racial, political or any other grounds — are punishable". (Resolution 96 (I), December 11, 1946). This resolution paved the way for the eventual adoption in 1948 of the Genocide Convention.

The International Court of Justice too has time and again emphasised the principle of prohibition of genocide as part of general international law. In one case, the Court said: "By their very nature, the outlawing of genocide, aggression, slavery and racial discrimination are the concerns of all states. In view of the importance of the rights involved, all states can be held to have a legal interest in their protection, they are obligations erga omnes (against whole world)" (Barcelona Traction case, 1970). As early as 1951, it had already ruled in the context of the Genocide Convention that "the principles underlying the Convention are principles which are recognised by civilised nations as binding on states, even without any conventional (i.e. treaty) obligation" (Reservations to the Genocide Convention case, 1951).

India, like every other country, is bound by the general international law obligations to prevent and punish acts of genocide. India's obligations are further strengthened by its participation in the 1948 Genocide Convention in the drafting of which it had made a worthwhile contribution. India became a party to the Convention on August 27, 1959.

The Convention defines genocide to mean "any of the following acts with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (and) (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group" (Article II). The Convention renders punishable not only acts of genocide, but also other related acts, namely, conspiracy to commit genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; attempt to commit genocide; and complicity in genocide (Article III).

The Convention also proclaims that "persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in Article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals" (Article IV). Evidently, no immunity from prosecution applies to "constitutionally responsible rulers" or "public officials".

The Genocide Convention imposes three principal sets of obligations on India. First, India has recognised genocide as an international crime which it has "undertaken to prevent and punish" (Article I). Second, it has undertaken to enact "the necessary legislation to give effect to the provisions" of the Convention, "and, in particular, to provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide or any of the other acts" related to genocide (Article V). Third, it has a duty to try persons charged with genocide or any of the related acts, through "a competent tribunal" (Article VI). This duty clearly casts a further obligation to put in place or designate tribunals competent to try such persons.

Since it acceded to the Convention in 1959, India has taken no steps to comply with the Convention obligations by effecting necessary changes in its internal law. Article 51 (c) of the Indian Constitution requires the state to endeavour to "foster respect for international law and treaty obligations". Keeping this in view, Article 253 mandates Parliament to make any law "for implementing any treaty, agreement or convention". Prudence would demand that India should enact the necessary enabling legislation before it becomes party to a treaty, so that there is no time lag between undertaking of international treaty obligations and their domestic implementation where called for.

The Genocide Convention is one of the glaring cases where this rule of prudence has been totally ignored. Indeed, this is not a rare instance of India failing to implement international treaty obligations by introducing the necessary changes in the domestic law — an issue that calls for a separate debate, involving the Law Commission, the Ministry of External Affairs and the various `nodal' Ministries responsible for matters covered by various treaties to which India is a party. Although the principles embodied in the Convention are part of general international law and therefore, part of the "common law of India", they are not self-executory in the sense that they can be readily made operational within the criminal justice system of the country. The penalties for genocide and acts associated with it need to be prescribed and the "competent tribunal" to try these offences need to be designated or established.

Since a good number of countries (including Bangladesh in 1973) have enacted domestic legislation either specifically on genocide or on international crimes in general, there is no dearth of legislative models and techniques for the Government of India to choose from. Care should, however, be taken to avoid the pitfalls of our own Geneva Conventions Act, 1960, which were in fact judicially noted at least once. The legislation should be such that all perpetrators of genocide, be they individuals, groups or the constitutional rulers, can without exception be readily punished.The legislation should be such that all perpetrators of genocide, be they individuals, groups or the constitutional rulers, can without exception be readily punished. The prosecution should not rest exclusively at the discretion of the Government or a Government official, as is currently the case with the Geneva Conventions Act, 1960.

(The writer teaches International Law at the School of International Studies, JNU.)

 

The News International, April 14, 2002
Vajpayee's outburst against Muslims

PANAJI, India: An outburst by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee against Muslims marks a throwback to the hard-line jargon of his Hindu-nationalist BJP party, belying the premier's image as a moderate among hard-liners.

After suffering setbacks in four key state elections earlier this year and a virtual rout in New Delhi civic elections, the BJP appears to be going back to its old formula: Hindu revivalism. In remarks to a party conclave here in the western beach state of Goa that shocked the media and much of the public, Vajpayee condemned what he suggested was a Muslim disposition toward intolerance. "Hindus stay in millions but never hurt others' religious feelings. But where ever Muslims are they do not want to stay peacefully," Vajpayee said late Friday. "It is happening in Indonesia, Malaysia, everywhere. They (Muslims) stay by threatening and frightening others."

While warning about Islamic militancy around the world, Vajpayee said his party was committed to India's secular traditions. "We have always been secular. We don't believe in religious violence or religious fundamentalism," Vajpayee said. The remarks mark a sharp departure in tone for Vajpayee, who earlier this month said he was ashamed as he met Muslims who have been made refugees from communal clashes in the western state of Gujarat.

Vajpayee again condemned the violence in Gujarat, but put new emphasis on the torching by a Muslim mob February 27 of a train carrying Hindu activists. Fifty-eight Hindus were killed in that attack, which sparked riots that left more than 750 people dead, most of them Muslims. "We should not forget how it all began," Vajpayee told his party. "Who started the fire?"

The BJP's executive committee meeting here in the state of Goa, where on Saturday de facto cabinet number-two Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said the party "will remain faithful to the coalition's common agenda".

The federal coalition, known as the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), comprises more than two dozen regional and national parties and is led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's BJP. Key BJP allies have been threatening to pull out of the alliance, particularly over the decade's worst sectarian riots in Gujarat, the largest state controlled by the BJP.

"We believe in the NDA agenda but I am not apologetic about the BJP's ideologies," Advani told reporters. "India has been perceived as a soft nation because of its pseudo-secularism ideologies adopted by the opposition in the past as their vote-bank strategies and we do not believe in that as we believe that development and security is important for the nation," he said.

Advani also said the BJP would not succumb to opposition demands to sack Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat state. "Every political party has its own strategy and deciding Gujarat's chief minister is our right and no one else's," Advani said.

In an angry first reaction to Vajpayee's comments, Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi launched a bitter attack on the prime minister and predicted his right-wing outburst could cost him the general election.

"We have always said there were contradictions within the BJP and also between the BJP and its allies. This will possibly bring down the government," she said at the end of a two-day Congress state chief ministers' conference in Guwahati.

"We are fully prepared for any eventuality. Our party is prepared to talk to secular parties when the time is ripe," she said. "It is for the government to decide when to have an election but as far as Congress is concerned we are ready."

 

BBC, Sunday, 14 April, 2002, 17:35 GMT 18:35 UK
Indian coalition struggles to stem revolt

India's governing National Democratic Alliance has made an appeal to a key ally - the regional Telugu Desam Party (TDP) - not to withdraw from the coalition.

The request was made after an emergency meeting of the alliance, chaired by the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in the capital Delhi.

The TDP, which controls 28 seats in the lower house of the parliament, is infuriated with the government for refusing to sack the chief minister of the western state of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, over his handling of recent communal riots.

Mr Modi is accused of turning a blind eye when Hindu mobs went on the rampage in Gujarat last month in violence that resulted in the deaths of more than 700 people, mostly Muslims.

Senior leaders of the TDP are now meeting in the southern city of Hyderabad to decide their future course of action.

If the party decides to break ties, the Indian Government would be left with a dangerously small majority in the parliament.

'Intolerant Islam'

The prime minister has said that the revolt within the coalition will not bring down his government.

Secular allies of the government, as well as the opposition, have been further angered by a speech by Mr Vajpayee in which he reportedly suggested that Muslims were responsible for starting last month's violence in Gujarat.

He also portrayed Islam as an intolerant religion.

Mr Vajpayee on Sunday denied making these remarks and said his speech was reported out of context.

"Hindus stay in millions but never hurt others' religious feelings," Mr Vajpayee is reported to have said.

"But where ever Muslims are, they do not want to stay peacefully."

Thousands homeless

Last month's violence in Gujarat started after Muslims attacked a train carrying hardline Hindus from the disputed holy site of Ayodhya in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Nearly 60 Hindu activists died in that attack.

Shortly afterwards, a wave of Hindu-led rioting, burning and killing engulfed Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat.

Thousands of Muslims were driven from their homes.

Mr Modi's administration in Gujarat was heavily criticised by India's human rights commission for its handling of the riots, in which the police were seen to stand by as Hindu mobs killed Muslims.

Fresh violence between Hindus and Muslims erupted in Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad on Friday night, leaving two people dead and nearly 30 injured.

The army was called in and a curfew imposed.

 

The Hindu, Monday, April 15, 2002
Cong. assails BJP for bid to exploit atmosphere

New Delhi, April 15. (PTI): The Congress today assailed the BJP for its "cynical attempt" to exploit communally surcharged atmosphere in Gujarat by planning Assembly election there and said the move was reminiscent of the steps taken by Hitler after the "stagemanaged" fire in the Reichstag (German Parliament).

Party spokesman S Jaipal Reddy stated this while announcing the second phase of party's campaign for the ouster of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi which would begin all over the country tomorrow.

All party MPs and senior leaders will participate in a dharna at Mahatma Gandhi's Samadhi at Rajghat as part of the programme, he told reporters here.

Stating that Modi's continuance was an insult to democracy, Reddy said the national executive of BJP at Goa added injury to the insult by giving "Modi permission to go in for fresh election in this surcharged atmosphere."

 

The Hindu, April 15, 2002
India declines comment on British High Commission report

New Delhi, April 15. (PTI): India today declined to comment on a media report that the British High Commission here has reported to the Foreign Office in London that the post-Godhra violence was "pre-planned" and continuing violence in Gujarat is aimed at removing Muslim influence from parts of the State.

"We don't comment on such reports," an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson told reporters when asked about the report published in an English daily.

According to the daily, three British diplomats who had recently toured the affected areas placed the death toll at around 2,000 after getting information from the families of victims, civil rights groups and state police officials. This is more than double the official toll of 850.

To further questions, the spokesperson told the scribes that if they felt the need for clarification, they should ask the British High Commission.

When contacted, British High Commission spokesman Gerry McCrudden confirmed that a fact-finding mission had visited Gujarat last week and prepared a report but said "that report is not a public document. It is an internal report".

He said "I can neither confirm nor deny the contents of internal documents".

 

Hindustan Times, 15 April, 2002
Why Gujarat chief minister Modi must go

Namita Bhandare

The world I seek I cannot find A new earth, a new sky I cannot find (Kaifi Azmi)

What do you say about an administration that watched silently as over 800 people - the official figure - were killed systematically and brutally in what is commonly known as a communal riot but was, in fact, a massacre of Muslims?

What do you say about a police commissioner who personally goes in his official car to a residential locality and assures one of its citizens, a former Congress MP, that he and his neighbours are safe? Then he goes away leaving the former MP with another 75-odd Muslims to face a mob of hundreds that proceeds to hack the former MP to death, urinate on his body and toss his head about before setting what is left of his body ablaze. The only people who escaped the bloodbath were those who locked themselves up on the first floor, watching their husbands, wives, parents and children being slaughtered.

And what do you say about a chief minister who is so shameless that he claims things are hunky-dory and yet refuses to visit the 103 refugee camps spread throughout his state, except as a tour guide when his boss comes visiting? How many camps has the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, visited? What about his ministers and representatives? Where is Gujarat's amazingly invisible governor?

Even as Modi was offering his resignation to his bosses in Goa, the army had to be called out in Ahmedabad as 25 shops and houses at Danilimda were set on fire. Initial reports say 40 people have been injured. And this in a state where the chief minister says normalcy has been restored.

Police officers who have done an honest job and saved lives have been transferred.

In Sabarmati, the Joint Commissioner of Police Shivanand Jha fired at a mob that was demanding he hand over some Muslim boys who had been arrested. One person died in the shootings. Two days later, Jha was at Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram where another mob was demanding that Medha Patkar be evicted from a peace meeting. In the melee, some cameramen and journalists were injured when DCP A.P. Parghi led a police charge. The next day, Jha, who was actually saving correspondents from the charge, was transferred. Coincidence or Justice?

To understand the complete breakdown of the state in Gujarat one has to consider only three incidents.

In Gandhinagar, where the state government has its offices, the Muslim Waqf Board office was attacked. For the first time ever, a curfew was imposed in Gandhinagar.

In another incident, the mob burnt down trucks along with their Muslim drivers. This happened at the front gate of the high court - another symbol of the Indian State.

And finally, the shrine of Wali Gujarati, the 17th century Urdu poet, was vandalised and destroyed. This happened in front of the police commissioner's office.

Does the Indian State function in Gujarat - a state where sitting judges fear for their lives only because they are Muslim?

According to an opinion poll conducted in Gujarat recently, nearly 70 per cent people believe the riots were a spontaneous reaction to Godhra. Only 9.3 per cent believe it was backed by the State. And although 51 per cent conceded that the government machinery was communalised, 43 per cent said Modi should stay.

The truth is that Gujarat is deeply polarised. There is a huge groundswell of support for Narendra Modi. The average Gujarati Hindu feels no remorse at what has happened. Modi is merely reflecting majority sentiment when he spouts Newton's laws of action and reaction. In that respect, Modi's government is well within its 'democratic right' to remain in power.

Within the BJP, there is a large body of opinion that wants an election now, a year ahead of when it is actually due. The reason isn't hard to find. A poll might sweep the Modi government back into power.

But democracy is also about restoring confidence and maintaining the dignity of all citizens - regardless of the God they worship. Hitler's pogrom doesn't become justifiable because a majority of Germans supported the SS.

Those affected by the riots - and a vast majority of these people are Muslim citizens - are today looking for relief and rehabilitation. Relief work is on. NGOs are hard at work feeding over 100,000 people in camps all over the state. They are working under tremendous pressure. Many have received death threats.

Rehabilitation is another matter. And it cannot happen unless justice first prevails. Those who are guilty must be brought to book. If the Indian State has collapsed, those heading it must go. In Gujarat, the state and the mob go hand in hand. So how can justice prevail?

Those in power show no remorse, let alone an indication of firmness in dealing with people who break the law of the land. All the while the police are hard at work - rounding up weapons from Muslim localities, systematically disarming them to prevent a backlash.

How will history remember Narendra Modi? As the man who connived to kill minorities in Gujarat and did nothing while they were burnt alive? And how will history remember us? As people who watched quietly and failed to rage for the removal of the butcher of Gujarat?

Years of propaganda by the Sangh Parivar (Hindu extremists) cannot be wiped out with Modi's removal alone. It will take many more years to restore communal amity and faith and goodwill. But as long as Modi remains, Kaifi Azmi's new world will remain a delusion.

 

BBC, Tuesday, 16 April, 2002, 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK
Gujarat Muslim women 'rape victims'

By Jyotsna Singh
BBC correspondent in Delhi

Muslim women were subjected to "unimaginable inhuman and barbaric" sexual violence during recent communal riots in the west Indian state of Gujarat, according to a woman's panel that has visited the state.

Many women suffered the worst forms of sexual violence, including gang-rape, says their report, "How has the Gujarat massacre affected minority women. The survivors speak", released on Tuesday.

The violence began when 58 passengers were killed when a train carrying Hindu activists was torched on 27 February. It led to one of the worst bouts of Hindu-Muslim violence in the state.

The official death toll in last month's riots has now risen to 778, although welfare groups put the figure at about 2000.

'Complicity'

Most of the rape victims were burnt alive, Tuesday's report says.

The head of the team, Syeda Hameed, told a Delhi press conference that the impact of such violence on women has been physical, economic and psychological.

The team - one of the first to visit Gujarat in the aftermath of the riots - says it found evidence of police complicity in perpetrating crime against women.

They allege that the police refused to file complaints by the victims.

The team also demanded the announcement of a special compensation package.

The panel also demanded that a special tribunal be set up to ensure justice for victims.

The report also said there was no evidence of any support from the state authorities in Gujarat to help women who had suffered attack.

Special guards

In parliament on Tuesday, junior Home Minister ID Swamy said the Gujarat Government had taken a pro-active role in supporting relief camps run by non-government organisations and that essential commodities were being supplied.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat Government announced special security measures to ensure protection to nearly 200,000 students who will be taking exams from Thursday.

Gujarat's Education Minister Anandi Patel says special buses guarded by the police will be made available to help students travel in six riot-affected districts where exams have been postponed.

Sporadic violence in Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, has continued with another death in police firing during clashes between Hindus and Muslims late on Monday night.

At least 11 areas of Ahmedabad district are still under curfew.

 

The Times of India, THURSDAY, APRIL 18, 2002 10:55:12 PM
The mask is off: A tale of two Hindus

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

NEW DELHI: Two weeks ago, the resident editor of The Times of India in Ahmedabad sent our office in Delhi a photograph so shocking it made my stomach churn. Shocking not just for what it depicted but because, to paraphrase Barthes, "one was looking at it from inside our freedom." This was my India. This is my India.

On a hot and dusty patch of asphalt lies the naked body of a woman, Geetaben, her clothes stripped off and thrown carelessly near her. One piece of her underclothing lies a foot away from her body, the other is clutched desperately in her left hand. Her left arm is bloodied, as is her torso, which appears to have deep gashes. Her left thigh is covered in blood and she is wearing a small anklet. Her plastic chappals sit sadly alongside her lifeless body and in the middle of the photo frame is a gnarled, red, hate-filled remnant of a brick, perhaps the one her assailants used to deliver their final blow.

Geetaben was killed in Ahmedabad on March 25, in broad daylight, near a bus stop close to her home. She was a Hindu who in the eyes of the Hindu separatists currently ruling Gujarat had committed the cardinal sin of falling in love with a Muslim man. When the Sangh Parivar mobs came for him, she stood her ground long enough for him to flee. But the killers seemed more interested in her. She was dragged out, stripped naked and killed. No lethal dose of Zyklon-B delivered surreptitiously in a darkened, secluded chamber. Geetaben's murder was never meant to be a furtive, secret affair. The holocaust that Chief Minister Narendra Modi's administration presided over was engineered in the knowledge that the Indian state never punishes murderers with political connections. Delhi 1984, Bombay 1993, Gujarat 2002. Neither Congress, Third Front or BJP believes in Nurembergs.

In these troubled times, when heroes are scarce and villains abound, Geetaben deserves to be worshipped. She is Gujarat's Jhansi ki Rani, its La Passionaria. I salute you, Geetaben, from the bottom of my heart for your one brief moment of defiance. For, even in death, with your helpless, innocent body bloodied and your clothes ripped apart, you showed more courage, humanity and dignity and more fidelity to the Hindu religion than Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has done in the past month. When the day of reckoning comes, no one will dare ask you where you were when Gujarat was burning. But when Yama waves a dossier at Mr Vajpayee and asks him how many lives he saved, what will he answer, I wonder. Will he hang his head in shame as he did at Shah-e-Alam camp in Ahmedabad? Or will he lecture the Hindu God of Death about Godhra and jehadi Muslims, and claim, as he did Wednesday, that if only Parliament had condemned the Sabarmati Express carnage, the genocide which followed would never have happened.

When I heard what Mr Vajpayee said at the BJP rally in Goa last week, I experienced the same contaminating, stomach-churning sensation of being present at a crime scene that I felt when I saw the photograph of Geetaben. Though the PM now insists he was misquoted, whichever way his words are parsed, what he told his party faithful at Goa was bone-chilling. "Wherever Muslims are," he said, painting a broad brush to describe not just the followers of Islam around the world but the one-fifth of India's citizens who happen to be Muslim, "they do not want to live with others peacefully."

At the best of times, such a statement would be unforgivable. But when you consider that he was talking about the killing of as many as 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat — and to an audience which believed this genocide was justified — one can only react in horror. Already, the Sangh is enforcing an economic boycott of Muslims. There is not a single Muslim business left in Gujarat. Photocopying stalls near Gujarati courts turn Muslim lawyers away. Men with beards are not served in restaurants and shops in the state. Muslim mothers pray their children won't call them ammi on the street. Instead of speaking out against this, Mr Vajpayee actually had the gall to say Muslims do not wish to live in peace.

For tens of millions of Indians, including those who might have flirted with the BJP, Mr Vajpayee's remarks have served as a wake-up call. At the Shah-e-Alam camp, he said the riots had shamed India. But what he said at Goa has shamed India even more.

For all his fulminations against jehad, Mr Vajpayee's ideology is equally jehadi. His party does not believe in people living in peace, in ensuring that the citizens of India — whether Hindu, Muslim or other — have the wherewithal to live as human beings. The BJP does not respect the rights of citizens or of the nation as a whole. Instead, a bogus, hollow ideology of 'Hindutva' has been erected to cover up their utter contempt for the rights of the people of India.

If historians use the phrase 'Muslim separatism' to define the struggle to carve out a Muslim nation from India in the last century, the project of the RSS-BJP could well be called 'Hindu' separatism. Separatism or secessionism is not just about the desire to create physical distance; it is as much about striving to distance oneself from the political, cultural and philosophical mores of the country. The BJP's separatist project poses as 'Hindu,' but it aims to secede from the philosophical and cultural foundations of India, including Hinduism, and from the political principles that Indians have evolved over the past 200 years of struggle for their rights.

The aim of this project is to establish a state where all Indians, including Hindus, will be devoid of rights except those which will be bestowed upon them as a privilege. Today, Mr Vajpayee tells Muslim, Christian and Sikh Indians at Goa that "we (i.e., the BJP) have allowed you freedom of worship." Tomorrow, Hindu Indians will be told what they are "allowed" to do. Those that transgress — like Geetaben, or Medha Patkar, journalists and others — will be dealt with. Gujarat has thrown a challenge to the country. The writing is on the wall. Either we stand up to defend the rights of all citizens; or we will all go down eventually.

 

Reuters, Thu Apr 18, 9:52 AM ET
Muslim women brutalised in Gujarat - report

By Sugita Katyal

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The day after 59 people were burnt alive in a train in Gujarat last month, a screaming mob chased Sultani Sheikh and her family with sticks, swords and cans of kerosene in their hands.

"My clothes were stripped and I was left stark naked. One by one the men raped me," Sultani, a Muslim woman from Delol village told a panel examining the impact on Muslim women of the country's worst religious bloodshed in a decade.

"I lost count after three," a report by the panel quotes her as saying. "All the while I could hear my son crying."

According to the report by a coalition of women's groups, many Muslim females suffered the most "bestial forms of sexual violence" including rape, insertion of objects into their bodies and burning in the violence.

More than 750 people, most of them belonging to India's minority Muslim population, have died in a wave of reprisal killings and communal clashes in Gujarat since a Muslim mob torched the train carrying Hindu activists in Godhra.

The six-member team of women's activists spoke to hundreds of witnesses and survivors of the religious mayhem to prepare the report, entitled "How has the Gujarat Massacre Affected Minority Women: The Survivors Speak."

"Many of the women who were raped were then burnt to death," Malini Ghose, a member of the team, told Reuters on Thursday.

But survivors and witnesses had horrific tales to tell the panel.

FOETUS THROWN ONTO BONFIRE

Saira Banu, living in a refugee camp in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city which bore the brunt of the violence, says a group of men cut open her nine-month pregnant relative's stomach, took out her foetus with a sword and threw it into a blazing fire.

Medina Mustafa Sheikh, another refugee in an Ahmedabad camp, says she heard her young daughter screaming for help as a group of men raped her in a maize field where her family had hidden to escape a bloodthirsty mob of 500 people.

"My daughter was screaming in pain asking the men to leave her alone. My mind was seething with fear and fury. I could do nothing to help my daughter from being assaulted sexually and tortured to death," Medina told the women's panel.

"My daughter was like a flower, still to see life...the monsters tore my beloved daughter to pieces," she said.

Activists working at a relief camp in Ahmedabad said many women arrived naked at the camp.

One woman was brought to the camp unconscious, bleeding profusely, her body covered with bites and marks and relief workers dressing her wounds said they had to removed pieces of wood that had been pushed up her vagina.

Police say survivors of the religious violence have been filing more than 100 complaints a day, but activists say the issue of sexual violence has been "grossly under-reported".

"This time round in Gujarat, far more than in previous episodes of communal violence, women have been fair game," the report said.

"Forced out of burning homes, running for their lives on violent streets, they have been targeted not only by rampaging mobs hellbent on hurting every Muslim woman, man and child in sight but far worse, by police whose job it was to protect them."

Many Muslims, opposition parties and civil rights groups have accused the Hindu nationalist state government of failing to help Muslim survivors of the riots.

They even allege the Bharatiya Janata Party state government turned a blind eye to the violence, allowing Hindu mobs free rein to kill, burn and loot -- accusations it has denied.

Ashok Narayan, a senior official with the government, said the state had asked police to investigate the complaints made in the report.

"We have taken note of the report and have instructed the police to investigate all the complaints about sexual abuse," he said.

"If anything that has been mentioned in the report has taken place, we will take strict action. Nobody will be allowed to go scot free," Narayan said.

 

Asia Times, April 19, 2002
Muslim women bore the brunt of Hindus' Gujarat rampage

By Ranjit Devraj

NEW DELHI - Sheba George broke down and had to be comforted by other members of a Women's Panel when it presented its report on Wednesday on the sexual brutalization of women, the highlight of a pogrom unleashed on Muslims in western Gujarat state to avenge the February firebombing of a train carrying Hindu devotees.

"We do want to live in Gujarat and be integrated with society in the state but after what happened I don't know," said Sheba, a Muslim married to a Christian. Both religious-minority groups have been systematically persecuted by fanatical Hindu organizations ever since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the state four years ago. "After what we heard and saw in Gujarat we won't be able to lead the same lives anymore," said Syeda Hameed, a former member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) and currently with the Muslim Women's Forum.

The report that she and other members of the Women's Panel presented consists, for the most part, of powerful testimonies by survivors of what is seen as the systematic rape of Muslim women as they fled from their burning homes in the days after the February 27 firebombing.

"Most of the rape victims were simply set on fire to destroy the evidence," said Farah Naqvi, who added that Gujarat events closely resembled the ethnic cleansing carried out against Muslims in Bosnia in terms of the murder of men and the rape of their women. "The mob started chasing us with burning tires after we were forced to leave Gangotri society [a housing colony]. We saw them strip 16-year-old Mehrunissa. They were stripping themselves and beckoning to the girls. Then they raped them right there on the road. We saw a girl's vagina being slit open. Then they [the bodies] were burned," Kulsum Bibi told the panel.

Bibi is one of nearly 10,000 refugees in the Shah-e-Alam camp in the textile city of Ahmedabad, which was visited by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee more than a month after the pogrom. Across Gujarat today, there are more than 100,000 refugees living in camps, many of them former businessmen and professionals and their families who survived the killings and rape and now have nowhere to return to because their homes have been pillaged and burned down. "Even if their homes are restored, they can no longer live beside neighbors who had turned on them and done unspeakable things to their girls and women," said Hameed.

Women testified to feeling betrayal at the hands of neighbors, friends and people they had lived, worked with and even celebrated festivals with for years - but who thought nothing of joining fanatical mobs that roamed about looking for Muslims and their homes. Sheba George, who works with the voluntary organization Sahrwaru, said many women arrived at the Shah-e-Alam camp stark naked and badly injured from gang rape and sexual abuse. Some, including one girl who had to have wooden splinters removed from her genitals, were still too traumatized to speak.

But many recognized and named their tormentors. Bilkees, who was left for dead, named those who killed members of her family and those who raped her in a first information report (FIR), which was recorded at a police station only on the insistence of the female district magistrate of Dahod, Jayanti Ravi. But in the vast majority of cases, a blatantly partisan police refused to record complaints of rape on the grounds of lack of evidence and whenever they did, ascribed blame to nameless groups of people or mobs, said the members of the panel.

Said Syeda Hameed of the Muslim Women's Forum: "At the best of times, victims of sexual violence do not have the confidence to approach the police, let alone walk the long path to evidence gathering and getting justice."

Part of the reason the panel recorded the testimonies of rape survivors in Gujarat was so that justice can be secured for them and because many women in the camps are still willing to testify given the assurance that justice would be done, she said. But justice is a long way off in a state whose Chief Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly said the violence was a natural reaction to the February 27 firebombing of a train at Godhra station, which resulted in the deaths of 59 people returning from the temple town of Ayodhya in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Modi and the BJP are now keen on calling quick mid-term polls in Gujarat, confident of having roused majority Hindu sentiment over the Godhra incident. They are also confident of having defied reports by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), a statutory body, laying blame on the administration for "lack of intelligence, literal and figurative" in allowing a situation to develop.

The charred bodies of the victims were deliberately put on public display at the Ahmedabad railway station by the state administration. Fundamentalist publications such as Sandesh (Advice) were allowed to print fictitious stories of Hindu women being abducted and carried away into mosques to be raped. Witnesses told the women's panel and other fact-finding teams that the mobs that brutalized the Muslim women carried not only swords, but also copies of the Sandesh edition with the story of Hindu women having been raped and with the inflammatory banner headline Khoon ka Badla Khoon (Blood for Blood).

"In many ways women have been the central characters in the Gujarat carnage and their bodies the battleground - the provocative lies published by the Sandesh newspaper used images of brutalized women's bodies as a weapon in ways deliberately designed to provoke real violence against women from the Muslim community," said Farah Naqvi.

The report of the Women's Panel corroborated the NHRC report, an independent Citizens' Report, a report by the Minorities Commission, and another by the All-India Democratic Women's Association, an affiliate of the Communist part of India (Marxist). All spoke of the targeting of Muslim women in the Gujarat violence.

The Supreme Court has ordered a separate investigation.

One immediate consequence of the violence in Gujarat is the creation of a large number of female-headed households because of the killing of male members, and of destitute single women, including widows. (Inter Press Service)

 

Times of India, SUNDAY, APRIL 21, 2002 11:57:09 PM
13 die in Gujarat as violence escalates

CURFEW IN MAHEMDABAD, GOMTIPUR TOWNS
LIVE FROM AHMEDABAD / LEENA MISRA

AHMEDABAD: A fresh spate of violence gripped Gujarat on Sunday, leaving as many as 13 dead even as Union Defence Minister George Fernandes was on a ‘healing mission’ to the state.

The toll is expected to rise as many lie in hospitals in critical condition. The dead include both Hindus and Muslims.

A policeman was among the 12 killed in Ahmedabad on Sunday, that marked Ram Navami, as violence spread in the sensitive areas of the city, besides neighbouring Kheda, Vadodara and Mehsana districts.

Curfew had to be clamped on three police station areas in Ahmedabad, which form part of the assembly constituency of Gujarat home minister Gordhan Zadaphia, and three towns of the state.

One person had died in police firing on Saturday night in Kapadvanj area of Kheda district. Violence rocked Gomtipur area of Ahmedabad on Sunday as a constable died of sword injuries and a person was killed in an explosion.

Eight others, including a woman, fell to police bullets, as tension refused to subside in the city. The rioting mobs also set on fire a police point at Hardasnagar in the Bapunagar area. At least six persons received serious stab wounds and were admitted to the LG hospital.

Late on Sunday night, violence spread to Jamalpur and Behrampura, where heavy stone-throwing and arson were reported. The Walled City also came in the grip of violence with mobs at Nagoriwad resorting to stone-throwing. One person was killed in Behrampura as police opened fire at both these police station areas of Kagdapith and Shahpur to disperse the mobs.

Several shops and residential units were set on fire by rioting mobs in Gomtipur, Behrampura, Dani Limda, Ram Rahim no tekro and Nagoriwad areas late in the night.

All the public hospitals, Civil, VS, LG and Shardaben were bursting at the seams with over 100 persons injured in Sunday’s clashes. These include those with bullet wounds, crude bombs, stone-throwing and stabbing.

Sources said it was a rumour about some students having been kidnapped to prevent them from taking the examinations that sparked the violence in Gomtipur.

And, they say, this escalation of violence may cast a shadow on the government’s tall claims of con-ducting examinations peacefully.

Violence hit Mahemdabad area of district Kheda too, leaving one dead on Sunday as police fired 33 rounds to disperse a mob.

Mehsana district also witnessed trouble with curfew being im-posed on Kadi town after mobs clashed on Sunday afternoon. Police sources said a Ram dhun programme was disrupted by a group of people who allegedly pelted stones at devotees, which provoked the reaction.

Police fired at least 60 rounds in which seven people were injured. The BSF and the RAF had also been called in. Over 15 huts were set on fire at Kadi earlier in the day. The police have arrested 74 persons in connection with the disturbance.

Indefinite curfew was imposed on Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Rakhial areas of Ahmedabad on Sunday afternoon as mobs refused to disperse following bouts of stone-throwing, arson, private firing and crude explosions that had begun on Saturday night. Reviving the chilling memories of February 28, mobs set on fire the Nagpur Vohra ni Chaali and then stopped the fire-fighters from reaching the place on Saturday night.

Police opened fire on the rioters, many among whom were al-ready injured after petrol bombs were hurled at them. Arson and violence continued to spread to other adjoining areas as the Army was called in to take control of the situation on Sunday.

A constable, Amar Suresh Rao Patil, who was on law and order duty in the area was killed after being attacked by a sharp weapon. Joint Commissioner of Police (sector II) MK Tandon said the ac-cused had been arrested from the spot.

Violence continued to spread to the Sakra Ghanchi ni Chaali, Usha Talkies road and Gomtipur gam in Ahmedabad and Chhota Udepur in Vadodara district, where tribals armed with bows and ar-rows reportedly went on the offensive, but were checked by the police.

The Nagpur Vohra chawl near the famous Shaking Minarets of Gomtipur continued to burn till Sunday evening with firemen claiming that this was a call they could not attend. Tension spread to Bapunagar and Rakhial areas, where violence was first witnessed af-ter the Godhra carnage. Arson continued unabated in these areas through the afternoon.

Widespread arson was reported from the mixed localities of Mahemdabad and Kapadvanj in Kheda district over Saturday night. At least 15 shops were set on fire in Kapadvanj and some 35 huts torched in Mahemdabad. Superintendent of Police of the district Manoj Agrawal told TNN that 60 people had been arrested in connection with the riots.

Sources said the violence started at Kapadvanj when members of a community blocked a road connecting their area to other localities by building a wall across it.

 

BBC, Monday, 22 April, 2002, 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK
Violence flares in Gujarat

At least 17 people were killed in renewed communal violence in the Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday and about 100 others were injured.

The Indian army has taken control of parts of the city of Ahmedabad and a curfew has been imposed in the worst-affected areas.

The Indian parliament was adjourned on Monday after opposition protests over the latest deaths.

More than 700 people have been killed in clashes between Muslims and Hindus in Gujarat since March, most of them Muslims.

The Indian parliament has been deadlocked for a week over the issue, with the opposition pushing for a debate and vote on the Gujarat situation.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said on Sunday there would be no discrimination on the basis of religion or politics in finding and prosecuting those involved in the violence.

Several injured

The latest deaths came as Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes visited Ahmedabad to assess how long the army needs to stay deployed there.

Some of the worst violence occurred in Gompitur district.

The authorities say a mob stabbed to death a policeman on his way to work.

Four more people were killed in clashes there shortly afterwards which left several people seriously injured.

Witnesses said the police were too scared to try to stop the trouble, the AFP news agency reports.

The army has now been deployed there and in two other areas of the city where there was rioting on Sunday.

The defence minister's visit coincided with a political row over the Gujarat State Government's handling of the violence.

Parties both within the federal governing coalition and in the opposition have demanded the sacking of the state's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi.

He has been accused of turning a blind eye to the violence against Muslims.

But the main governing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is standing by him.

A meeting to resolve the impasse in the federal parliament failed on Friday as the government refused to agree to an opposition demand to a debate on Gujarat followed by a vote.

Last week the Indian Army Chief, General S Padmanabhan, said he favoured the pull-out of troops as the situation was "normal".

At the end of his visit, Mr Fernandes said he would return to the state next week to take part in a march for peace.

 

The News International, Tuesday, April 23, 2002
Eight killed in fresh Gujarat riots

AHMEDABAD: Eight people died on Monday after fresh communal violence in India's western state of Gujarat, bringing to 23 the number of people killed since the worst fighting here in weeks broke out on Sunday. Four people were killed in renewed rioting in Ahmedabad city, police said. Two of them were stabbed to death, one killed in a stone-throwing incident and another in police firing. Two other deaths were reported though the circumstances were not immediately known, police said. Two more people died from wounds received during clashes Sunday.

In violence on Monday in the Shahpur area, a mob burnt down some houses and shops and rioters threw stones, prompting police to impose an indefinite curfew. Similar incidents took place in the Dhanilimda area, police said. The army staged a flag march in some of the disturbed areas of Ahmedabad in an attempt to restore law and order in the city. Hospital sources estimated more than 100 people were injured in the fighting.

The violence came despite a visit to Gujarat by India's Defence Minister George Fernandes, who told reporters Sunday that "some people were trying to keep communal riots alive in the state". "We still do not know who these people are but we are trying to find who they could be," Fernandes said. More than 850 people, most of them Muslims, have been killed in Gujarat since February 27.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, whose Hindu nationalist BJP party controls Gujarat state, pledged on Sunday that everyone guilty of fomenting communal violence would be prosecuted regardless of religion or political background. The ruling BJP faces intense pressure from both the opposition and allies within its coalition government over its failure to control the bloodshed. Opposition deputies have crippled the national parliament by shouting down any attempt to debate legislation. They blocked parliamentary proceedings for a sixth day on Monday. Meanwhile, India on Monday tried to stem growing international criticism of communal violence in riot-torn Gujarat state, saying it did not appreciate "interference" in its affairs.

"We would like to make clear that India does not appreciate interference in our internal affairs including the utilisation of the Indian media by foreign leaders as well as by visiting dignitaries to make public statements in order to pander to their domestic lobbies," foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao told reporters. Rao was reacting specifically to an interview visiting Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomiojaa gave to The Indian Express newspaper on Friday, in which he called the Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat "a matter of great concern". India has lodged a protest with Finland through diplomatic channels, Rao said.

A European Union fact-finding team has travelled to Gujarat and is expected to raise concern about the situation, according to Western diplomats in New Delhi. Rao said that India would wait for the EU findings before giving a reaction. She said that the international community needed to recognise how much India was doing to handle the situation in Gujarat. "We have the wherewithal to deal with the situation," she said.

 

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