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Assault of Muslim girl set off attack on train carrying Hindu extremists

Rajeel Sheikh

Last Wednesday’s attack on an Indian train in which extremists of the right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) and their families were burned to death was sparked off by their abduction of a Muslim girl.

The passengers were riding in three compartments (called bogeys) of the Sabarmati Express and heading for Ayodhya to join a gathering of fellow kar sevaks (volunteer workers) who have pledged to build a temple on the site of the demolished Babri Mosque (built by the first Moghul emperor Babar in the 16th century).

The story begins not in Godhra but in a town called Daahod, some 70-75 km away.

At around 5:30-6:00 a.m. the train reached Daahod railway station. Here, the kar sevaks initiated an argument with a Muslim stallholder who had served them tea and snacks before destroying his stand. The stallholder filed a complaint at the local police station but the kar sevaks proceeded on the train to the next stop, Godhra.

At about 7.00- 7.15am the train reached Godhra railway station. All the kar sevaks came out from their reserved compartments have refreshments at the small tea stall on the platform owned by an elderly Muslim and his employee.

The kar sevaks started a quarrel with this stallholder too. While beating him and pulling his beard they are reported to have repeatedly shouted the slogan: "Mandir Ka Nirmaann Karo, Babur Ki Aulad ko Baahar Karo" (Start the construction of the temple, throw out the sons of Babar).

Hearing the chaos, the stallholder’s 16 year-old daughter came to intervene. She pleaded with the kar sevaks to stop beating her father and leave him alone. The kar sevaks the carried off the young girl to the train and locked her inside one of the reserved compartments (S-6).

As the train started to move out of Godhra with the elderly man banging on the compartment doors, two stall vendors jumped onto the last bogey of the moving train and pulled the emergency stop chain to halt the train. The train came to a standstill about one kilometre away from the railway station.

The two Muslim stallholders pleaded unsuccessfully with the kar sevaks to release their captive. Hearing all the chaos, people in the vicinity ran towards the train. When they asked the kar sevaks to let the girl go they responded by closing the carriage windows. This infuriated the crowd who began to pelt the bogey with stones.

The compartments on either side of S-6 also contained kar sevaks of the V.H.P, many of whom descended from the train and used the bamboo sticks from their banners to attack the assembled crowd.

The crowd retaliated. Some young men ran off to bring diesel and petrol from trucks and rickshaws standing at the nearby garages in Signal Fadia (a place in Godhra) and torched the compartments.

After hearing about this incident, members of the V.H.P (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) living in the area went on the rampage burning down the garages in Signal Fadia and the Baddshah Masjid at Shehra Bhagaad., March 06, 2002

Jan Morcha, edited by Sheetla Prasad, is a Hindi daily published from Ayodhya. The paper carried the following story on the 25th of Feb. 2002. You may recall that the events described below took place 2 days before the gruesome burning of the train at Godhra in Gujarat. The contents are blood curdling and I thought that the report might be of some instructional value, especially in the context of Newtonian Physics as understood by the Gujarat CM & his Mentors.

I have tried to stay as close to the original as possible and some of the phrases may not sound as elegant as they would have, had the translation been done in Propah English.

The translation of the text:

Bajrang Dal Activists on Sabarmati Express beat up Muslims, forcing them to shout Jai Shree Ram Slogans

Bhelsar(Faizabad),24 February (our correspondent). Trishuldhari Bajrang Dal workers, travelling to Ayodhya on board the Sabarmati Express this morning, let loose a reign of terror upon dozens of helpless Muslim passengers, Burqa clad women and innocent children. They also targeted the people waiting at the platform, forcing them to shout slogans of Jai Shree Ram, A few even declared themselves to be Hindus in order to escape their wrath.

According to eyewitnesses, close to 2000 Trishul carrying Bajrang Dal workers, on board the Sabarmati express coming from the direction of Lucknow, began indulging in these activities from the Daryabad Station. Any one identified as a Muslim, on the train, was mercilessly attacked with Trishuls and beaten with iron rods. Even women and innocent children were not spared. Burqas were pulled off, women were beaten with iron rods and were dragged, people waiting at the platform were also similarly targeted.

This continued between the Daryabad and Rudauli Stations. According to an eyewitness, a youth who protested against this barbarism was thrown off the train between the Patranga and Rojagaon Stations. Several women, badly wounded and covered in blood, jumped off the train as it pulled into Rudauli around 8 a.m. The Bajrang Dal activists also got off the train and started attacking those that they identified as Muslims from among those present at the platform.

Ata Mohammad from Takia Khairanpur waiting to catch a train to Allahabad was badly beaten, some others were forced to shout ‘Jai Shree Ram’ some escaped by declaring that they were Hindus. 50 year old Mohd. Absar lives near the station, he was grabbed as he stepped out of his house his long beard was rudely pulled before he was repeatedly stabbed with trishuls. Another man from the Rudauli Police Station area who happened to be at the station was badly beaten with Iron Rods. Local residents rang up the police.

By the time the Police Chowki-in-Charge, Bhelsar arrived at the station the train had left and the injured were being rushed to the hospitals. No report was registered at the Police station since the Officer-in Charge was unavailable. The injured have no idea why they were attacked.

Rumors are rife. The people are petrified; respected Hindus and Muslims of the area have condemned the shameful attack, Muslims religious leaders have appealed for peace and requested that there be no retaliation.


World Socialist Web Site, 5 March 2002
India’s ruling party abetted communal carnage in Gujarat

By Keith Jones

There is compelling evidence that leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the dominant force in India’s coalition government, abetted the anti-Muslim riots that convulsed the western state of Gujarat last week.

Not only do local activists from the BJP and the BJP-allied Vishwa Hindu Parishad (or World Hindu Council) figure prominently among those named by police as orchestrators of the communal violence. There have been numerous reports from journalists and Muslim victims that police stood by and watched as mobs mobilized by BJP and VHP activists attacked Muslim neighborhoods and villages. Ostensibly many of these mobs had formed to voice their support for a bandh or general strike called by the VHP and backed by the state BJP to protest an earlier atrocity in the Gujarat district town of Godhra allegedly perpetrated by Muslims.

India’s National Human Rights Commission has demanded that the BJP-controlled Gujarat government explain what it has done to suppress communal violence in the state, adding that reports “suggest inaction by the police force and the highest authorities in the State to deal with this situation.”

The major opposition parties, including the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), have issued a statement condemning the Gujarat government for its “abject” failure to protect human life and property. “We are of the view that without the criminal negligence, if not connivance of the State Government, such dastardly events could not have happened.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has all but publicly defended the anti-Muslim violence. First he noted that “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Then, in a second reference to the Godhra attack, Modi commended the state’s population for their “remarkable restraint under grave provocation.” Needless to say, Modi is rejecting all calls for an inquiry into the police and state government’s handling of the crisis.

A report in the London Daily Telegraph suggests that India’s central government, which is controlled by the BJP-dominated National Democratic Alliance, also played an important role in allowing the anti-Muslim violence to continue.

The Telegraph cited an unnamed senior military officer as saying that early last Thursday evening the military had 13 transport aircraft fuelled and ready to fly troops to Ahmedabad from Jodhpur in neighboring Rajasthan, “But for an inexplicable reason, even though it was apparent the state police were proving incapable, 1,000 troops were flown out only the next morning.”

Furthermore, when the troops did arrive, they were not provided with proper transport or intelligence. “When the army was eventually deployed on Friday evening, it was not taken to the trouble spots,” says a second officer, described by The Telegraph as an intelligence official . The army was “merely asked to display itself in areas from which the Muslims had already fled. It was a calculated decision by the state’s Hindu nationalist government.”

The violence in Gujarat is India’s worst communal bloodletting since the wave of rioting set off by the December 1992 razing of the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya. Although the BJP leadership, in deference to its coalition partners has backed off from its previous commitment to build a Hindu temple on the Ayodhya site, the party is inextricably connected to the Ayodhya issue, since it was the BJP’s main rallying cry in the early 1990s.

Gruesome violence

On Monday, the Gujarat police reported that the death toll in six days of gruesome violence had reached 572. The communal carnage was precipitated by the February 27 attack at Godhra on several railway cars carrying Hindu fundamentalist activists back to Gujarat from Ayodhya, where they had gone to support the scheme to erect a Hindu temple on the site of the razed mosque. Allegedly carried out by a mob of Muslims, the Godhra attack left 58 dead.

In the ensuing 48 hours, communal violence erupted in Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat, Baroda and Gujarat’s other major urban centers and in many Gujarat villages. In harrowing scenes, Muslim men, women and children were bludgeoned to death, set ablaze after being doused with gasoline or burned alive in their homes. Muslim-owned tea-stalls, shops and businesses were systematically looted and torched. Only after the mobilization of army personnel and repeated firings on riotous crowds—the police report 97 deaths due to police firing—did the violence abate.

Significantly, outside of Gujarat, India’s only major state still governed by the BJP, there were only isolated instances of violence. And the VHP’s call for a nationwide general strike Friday, March 1 was completely ignored.

In a nationally-televised address Saturday, India’s Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called the communal violence in Gujarat a “black mark on the nation’s forehead,” adding that it had “lowered India’s prestige in the world.”

However, the leader of the BJP said nothing about the actions of the Gujarat state government, nor the hostility against Muslims which has been whipped up over the Ayodhya issue by Hindu activists aligned with his own party and is echoed in his own anti-Pakistan war-mongering.

Vajpayee’s immediate fear is that the events in Gujarat could cause the NDA coalition to collapse. Several coalition partners, including the National Conference of Jammu and Kashmir and the Telugu Desam Party government, draw considerable Muslim support. They have justified their alliance with the Hindu chauvinist BJP on the grounds that they can keep its communalism in check. The Gujarat events come in the aftermath of the BJP’s rout in last month’s state elections, a rout that has changed the national political equation and caused all of India’s political players to reassess their position.

While trying to keep the NDA coalition in tact, Vajpayee also faces the problem of conciliating his party’s increasingly restless Hindu nationalist base. Vajpayee cancelled his trip to last weekend’s Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Australia to deal with crisis in Gujarat. But he has spent much, if not most of his time, consulting with BJP officials, Hindu religious leaders and leaders of the Hindu supremacist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on how to persuade the VHP not to proceed with its plan to defy India’s Supreme Court and begin constructing a temple on the Ayodhya site on March 15.

A third concern for the BJP leadership is that the communal violence has shattered the government’s attempts to gain international backing in its conflict with Pakistan by contrasting a purportedly democratic and tolerant India with a military-ruled Pakistan that is allied with Islamic terrorism. The truth is both the Indian and Pakistani elites have tried to defect social discontent by fanning communalism and religious fundamentalism.

In a strong indication that the BJP intends to try to weather the current crisis by continuing, if not intensifying, its belligerence against Pakistan, senior BJP officials have claimed that the attack on the Hindu activists at Godhra was organized by Pakistani intelligence with the aim of provoking anti-Muslim riots and sullying India’s reputation. This claim has a double-purpose: to fan hostility to Pakistan and cover up the BJP’s responsibility for the communal carnage in Gujarat.


Washington Post, Wednesday, March 6, 2002; Page A10
Provocation Helped Set India Train Fire

Official Faults Hindu Actions, Muslim Reactions for Incident That Led to Carnage

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service

GODHRA, India, March 5 – For two days, as the Sabarmati Express snaked across northern India, some Hindu activists in cars S-5 and S-6 carried on like hooligans. They exposed themselves to other passengers. They pulled headscarves off Muslim women. They evicted a family of four in the middle of the night for refusing to join in chants glorifying the Hindu god Ram. They failed to pay for the tea and snacks they consumed at each stop.

When the train pulled into this hardscrabble town in western India on the morning of Feb. 27, the reputation of its rowdiest passengers preceded it. When they refused to pay for their food, Muslim boys among the vendors at Godhra station stormed the train.

When the confrontation was over, 58 Hindu passengers – mostly women and children – were dead, incinerated by a fire that consumed cars S-5 and S-6. In retaliation, mobs of enraged Hindus descended on Muslim communities across Gujarat state, igniting riots that killed more than 500 people, India's worst religious violence in a decade.

Indian officials have characterized the riots as Hindu rage for an attack on innocent activists. However, interviews with passengers on the train, witnesses to the incident and police and railway officials suggest that the train fire was not a premeditated ambush by young Muslims, but rather a spontaneous argument, provoked by the Hindu activists, that went out of control.

"Both sides were at fault," said a police official here, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The provocation was there and the reaction was strong. But no one had imagined all this would turn into such a big tragedy."

B.K. Nanavati, the deputy police superintendent in Godhra, said the investigation does not support the contention by Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, that the assault on the train was a "terrorist attack."

"It was not preplanned," Nanavati said. "It was a sudden, provocative incident."

The confrontation illustrates the volatile mixture of religion, history and extremist politics that plague India, a Hindu-dominated but officially secular nation of 1 billion people. In 1947, when India achieved independence and was partitioned to create the Muslim nation of Pakistan, thousands of Hindus fleeing Pakistan settled in Godhra. Enraged that Muslims in Pakistan had evicted them, they vented their anger at Godhra's Muslims, burning their homes and businesses with truckloads of gasoline.

Since then, government officials have deemed the city one of the country's most "communally sensitive" places. In the 1980s and again in 1992, it was wracked by riots, some started by Muslims and others by Hindus.

Today, the population of 150,000 is almost evenly split between Hindus and Muslims, who live in segregated communities separated in places by the train tracks. There is little interaction between the groups, which regard each other with suspicion.

Hindus, who question the depth of the Muslims' loyalty to India, refer to the other side of town as Pakistan. The Muslims contend they are mistreated by the local Hindu-dominated government.

Enter the World Hindu Council, whose cadres want to transform India into a Hindu nation with limited minority rights. The group, part of a coalition of Hindu-nationalist organizations that includes the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, favors a confrontational approach to push its agenda.

At council rallies, members brandish tridents and swords – symbols from Hindu mythology – and shout Hindu slogans. And in 1992, the group led a mob of Hindus who destroyed a 16th-century mosque in the eastern town of Ayodhya. Since then, the council's followers have made pilgrimages to Ayodhya, where they hope to build a temple to Ram on the site of the razed mosque.

Activists from Gujarat state, where the Hindu council has a strong base, often made the trip on the Sabarmati Express. Along the way, witnesses say, they frequently would scream out "Victory to Lord Ram" and "Victory to Hindus" as the train passed through Muslim neighborhoods.

"There was a history of provocation," said Syed Umarji, a wood trader who lives in a Muslim neighborhood near the tracks here. "They would say these things all the time."

On the train that left Ayodhya on Feb. 25, members of the Hindu council were particularly boisterous because of a government order that they vacate the Ayodhya grounds. Muslims who were on the same train say the activists walked through the cars shouting taunts such as "Wipe out every Muslim.

"The train was full of them," said Fateh Mohammad, a Muslim passenger who was traveling with his daughter and son-in-law. "They were shouting and dancing all the time. All the Muslims were very scared."

Savita Darbar, a member of the Hindu council who was on the train, insisted that her group was not confrontational. "We were just singing prayer songs to Lord Ram," she said. "We did not bother the Muslims."

As the train came to a stop in Godhra, however, all the elements were in place for a fight.

The train was five hours late, largely because the activists' behavior had forced the conductor to make several emergency stops. Instead of arriving quietly in the middle of the night, the Sabarmati arrived at 7:43 a.m., just as word of the group's behavior had trickled in from vendors at other stations.

The vendors in Godhra were resolved not to be victimized. The Hindu council members, too, were ready for action: Rocks collected from near the tracks were piled near the doors of their cars.

When the Hindus refused to pay for their tea and snacks, several young Muslims jumped on the train as it started to leave the station and pulled the emergency brake chain. With a piercing squeal, the Sabarmati ground to a halt a half-mile from the station, in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. An argument ensued, drawing hundreds of residents.

Police and railway officials said they do not know who began throwing stones first. But the officials said they believe that after about 10 minutes, one or more Muslims poured a flammable substance on a mattress and ignited it between the S-5 and S-6 cars.

A few minutes later, a fire broke out at the other end of the S-5. Within moments, the car was engulfed by flames.

Police officials said they are not sure how that second fire began. Nanavati said the Muslims could have set another fire, or the Hindus, trying to respond in kind, might have accidentally sparked a blaze in their own car, which was filled with kerosene and cooking gas.

"It could have been an accident," Nanavati said.

Thus far, the railway police have arrested only Muslims – 41 of them – in connection with the fire, a fact that galls Muslim leaders here.

"They should arrest the Hindus, too," said Shoail Sadamas, an accounting student who witnessed the incident. "They were not innocent victims."

Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi contributed to this report., March 08, 2002
Mobs used voters lists to target victims

Express News Service

Ahmedabad, March 7: Police investigating the systematic manner in which mobs identified minority targets, picking up houses, restaurants and business establishments, believes that voters lists were used to a deadly effect.

''The manner in which targets were selected indicates that the mobs had perfect information about who was living where and owned what,'' said officials of an investigating agency in Ahmedabad.

''Even if one or two families were living in a largely Hindu-dominated area, those who lead the mobs knew exactly where their houses were. This shows they had precise information about their targets,'' says City Mayor Himmatsinh Patel.

A preliminary report with investigating agencies states that those who lead the mobs were armed with voters lists too. ''This has happened. The people who were at the forefront of the mobs were grassroot level workers of parties. They knew the wards and areas well and who lived where. There is no doubt about the fact that they sat with the lists on the night of February 27 and prepared for what to do the next morning,'' an official said.

''If they ever are identified, we are sure they must be the people who have sat at party tables outside the polling booths during elections. They would know the demography and population profiles of the areas,'' sources said on condition of anonymity.

Senior police officers said, the pattern of attacks last week clearly indicated those who lead the mobs knew where the targets were exactly. ''After that it was just a matter of inciting the mob, whether they knew who lived there or not, to attack them,'' officials said.

Police is also investigating reports that business rivals also passed on information to the mobs. ''This is especially the case with restaurants, hardware shops,'' said officers.

A senior city police officer said, ''Even they did a survey of Duffnala area in the posh Shahibaug area where most of the senior government officers stay in their official bungalows. It seems now that Godhra was only an issue, this master plan was prepared months back and they were just waiting for a chance.''

Requesting anonymity, he also said that even lists of restaurant owners in the city on the basis of their religion were with the mobs. That is why none of the assets owned by others were left untouched. ''It seems, as we go deeper into investigation, everything was pre-planned.''


BBC, Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 10:09 GMT
Hindu hardliners 'led Gujarat attacks'

VHP leaders are alleged to have led the mobs

Police in the Indian state of Gujarat say hardline Hindu leaders led some of the mobs involved in recent riots in which more than 600 people, most of them Muslims, were killed.

Preliminary police reports name local leaders of the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) in two attacks in the state's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, that left nearly 100 Muslims dead.

The VHP is leading a campaign to build a temple on the ruins of a demolished mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya, a dispute which is being seen by some of having triggered off the riots.

On Tuesday the VHP agreed to place their plan on hold after talks with one of India's top Hindu leaders, the Shankaracharya of Kanchi, Jayendra Saraswati.

'Leading the mobs'

First Information Reports (FIR) into the two attacks, which took place in the suburbs of Meghanignagar and Naroda, say local VHP leaders led mobs which set houses in the Muslim-dominated areas ablaze.

Filing an FIR is the first step in an Indian criminal investigation.

In Meghaninagar, 42 Muslims including a former MP of the Congress Party, were burnt to death when their housing complex, Gulbarg, was attacked.

Police Inspector Kirit Areda lodged a report in which he alleged that a local VHP leader, Deepak Patel, led the Hindu attackers.

"These persons, armed with weapons, led a mob of 20,000 to 22,000 which attacked Gulbarg Society and set it ablaze," Inspector Areda's report was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Another report filed at Naroda police station accused nine VHP leaders of leading an attack which killed 50 Muslim factory workers living in a shantytown.

But Gujarat state VHP joint secretary Jaideep Patel said the police had "falsely implicated" his colleagues.

Rejecting criticism

The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, angrily denied on Tuesday that his government had failed to do enough to stop the violence.

In an interview with the BBC Mr Modi, described his government's response as a success story.

He said that he was not happy about what had happened in Gujarat but he was happy about the response of the authorities and defended the police, saying they had done excellent work.

Temple issue

The violence broke out last Wednesday when 60 Hindu activists were killed in an attack on a train in Gujarat.

A cycle of retaliatory bloodshed followed soon after.

Since then, the Indian Government has been trying to persuade the VHP to stand down from their controversial temple campaign.

The VHP has now attached a set of conditions to its latest offer to postpone its plan to build the temple at Ayodhya.

It says it wants the government to handover a piece of land next to the disputed area so that it could go-ahead with its temple construction plans, the mediator says.


The Observer, Sunday March 3, 2002

Police took part in slaughter

India's lawmen offered little protection against Hindu gangs massacring Muslim neighbours

Luke Harding in Ahmedabad

In an alley next to her affluent bungalow, Mrs Rochomal's mobile phone was still ringing yesterday. Her son's jeans were drying on the washing line. The dishes of her last meal had been carefully stacked, ready to be washed.

Mrs Rochomal - an elderly Muslim lady - was not in a position to take her call. Her charred, mutilated corpse lay in the sunny courtyard, framed by the metal posts of an upturned bed. It was not just the kerosene that had killed her. The Hindu mob that poured into her home two days ago had slashed her twice across the face. They had also cut her throat.

A few clues hinted at Mrs Rochomal's final terrifying hours: a small blue address book was abandoned next to her Nokia cellphone. She clearly knew what was coming and had been trying to summon help while hiding in her outside pantry.

The fact that Mrs Rochomal lived 80ft away from a police station reveals a bleak truth about the violence that has convulsed India over the past four days: it has been state-sponsored.

The authorities have done little to prevent the inferno that has swept the western state of Gujarat - not because of incompetence but because they share the prejudices of the Hindu gangs who have been busy pulping their Muslim neighbours.

Indian troops yesterday finally took control of the rubble-strewn streets of Ahmedabad, the state's main city. They took up positions on the edges of Hindu neighbourhoods. The mood was calmer. But the army's belated deployment seemed little more than a political calculation that the Muslims had now got the beating they deserved.

'Everything is finished,' rickshaw driver Narinder Bhai said, gesturing at the charred interior of his home and his ruined fridge. 'Many people have been killed here. My wife and children have disappeared. I don't know where they are.'

Narinder's home is almost next door to Mrs Rochomal's, in the Ahmedabad district of Naroda, which suffered the worst battering. Hindu mobs armed with iron bars and machetes burned down the entire colony on Thursday and Friday.

Yesterday, it was almost completely deserted: a ruin of smouldering rickshaws, charred family photographs and abandoned homes. 'The crowd was so big, the officers could not control it,' one policeman said. 'They have done their job very well.'

The reality is that the police made no effort to hold back the mob, and in certain places even joined in. 'Several policemen without uniforms started firing guns at us,' said one Muslim resident, Naseem Aktar, in the suburb of Bapunagar. 'They killed six or seven people.'

The violence - prompted by last week's gruesome attack on a train carrying right-wing Hindu activists back from the temple town of Ayodhya - is clearly an embarrassment for Hindus of moderate views.

In an address to the nation, India's elderly Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, yesterday appealed for peace in his country. But Vajpayee's own Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is part of the problem.

Gujarat is one of the few Indian states still controlled by the BJP. It has a reputation as a laboratory for Hindu revivalist thinking. Since sweeping to power in the mid-1990s, the BJP has pursued a communal pro-Hindu agenda. It has also supported the construction of a temple on the disputed site in Ayodhya, where Hindu zealots demolished a mosque in 1992. Several members of the present Cabinet, including India's hawkish Home Minister LK Advani, watched.

The Ayodhya issue now threatens to tear India apart. The extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council has called for construction on the temple to begin by 15 March. It has so far not been swayed by pleas from Vajpayee to abandon its plan.

The official death toll since last Wednesday is now 250 - but few dispute that the real total is vastly higher. The army has restored some order to Ahmedabad, and the first bulldozers embarked yesterday afternoon on the epic task of clearing up.

But in the vast countryside around Gujarat, where Hindu and Muslim villagers live side by side, local massacres were still going on. On the national highway leading to Bombay, Hindu gangs yesterday manned roadblocks and set fire to all trucks driven by Muslims.

Last night, meanwhile, Mrs Rochomal still lay face up in front of her veranda, her gruesome remains a warning to those who survived the flames. Her white flip-flops were where she had left them, next to the shoe rack and a brightly-painted swing-seat. Before being murdered, she had padlocked her front door. The ferocity that killed her left her home largely untouched. She was clearly a lady of fastidious habits and through the windows it was possible to make out black-and-white photographs of her family pinned to the wall.

The Foreign Office confirmed the death of Mohamed Aswat Nallabhai, 41, from Batley, West Yorkshire, who was attacked on Thursday along with three relatives while on a social visit to the region.

His group was travelling in a minibus when they were attacked near Himmatnagar, about 100 miles from Ahmedabad.

Two of the men, named in reports as Saeed Dawood and Shakil Dawood, are missing.

Ayodhya: India's religious flashpoint

Sectarian tension in Ayodhya dates back to 1528, when the Babri mosque was built on the site that Hindus claimed their god, Lord Rama, had been born.

There has been repeated tension over the site ever since. In 1859, the British administration annexed the mosque, creating within it separate Muslim and Hindu places of worship. In 1949, the gates were locked after Muslims claimed Hindu worshippers had placed deities of Lord Rama in their area.

In 1984, the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad party started a campaign to replace the mosque with a Hindu temple.

In 1992, an angry mob of Hindus stormed the Babri mosque and destroyed it. Hindus are now pressing to build the temple at the site.


The Hindu, Sunday, March 03, 2002

Saffronised police show their colour

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD, MARCH 2. The communalisation of the Gujarat police under the BJP administration in the State is complete and the uniformed men have given ample demonstration of it when Ahmedabad and most other parts of the State were burning in the cauldron of communal carnage in the aftermath of the gruesome Godhra train attack.

In the score-sheet of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the police must have earned cent per cent marks for the way it acted as an extended arm of the communal elements indulging in looting and arson, selectively targeting the shops, houses and business establishments of the minority community. For 24 hours, the hooligans had a field day with the police looking the other way round and in some cases even actually aiding and abetting in their crime. And once the mob tasted blood, there was no stopping.

True that the police were far outnumbered by the hooligans and anti-social elements joined by the local urchins fishing in the troubled water to take advantage of the VHP bandh call, but that could not be an excuse for the way the police behaved during the riots.

In many places, shops were looted and set afire right under the nose of the policemen and they even collected a part of the booty. Even as the hooligans were breaking a small mausoleum in the middle of a road barely a few metres away from the police commissioner's office, the police vehicles passing by, not only did not bother to intervene, the police actually gestured to the hooligans to go ahead. There had been at least 15 incidents of damaging and destroying minority places of worship which were overnight converted into ``temples'' with the police remaining a mute spectator.

It was not the first time the State witnessed such large scale communal violence, nor the percentage of policemen, vis-a-vis, the increasing population of the city and the State anytime higher than at present, but except for the days of the police revolt during the 1985 riots, such total inaction of the police was ever witnessed.

The police may not have demonstrated such impotency without a tacit approval from above which they received from the ruling party extending support to the bandh call. In such a situation, the police would always be hesitant to act lest it hurt the interests of the political bosses. And the saffronised police also found a common cause with the criminals to ``punish'' the minorities.

Insiders in the BJP admit that the police were under instructions from the Narendra Modi administration not to act firmly; apparently he wanted to please his RSS and VHP brethren in return for the help he received from the saffron brigade to acquire the top post and win the Rajkot-II Assembly byelection despite heavy odds.

It may not be mere co-incidental that Bapunagar, home constituency of the Minister of State for Home, Gordhan Jhadaphiya, witnessed one of the worst communal scenes since the 1969 riots when the area was the hardest hit. Some of the senior BJP leaders and Ministers in the Modi Cabinet were also alleged to have participated in the destruction of the minority places of worship

Stirring `hindutva'

The sensible people in the State feel that the ruling party was deliberately allowing the situation to deteriorate to reignite the ``hindutva'' sentiments taking advantage of the Godhra train carnage. The Godhra incident may have provided a ready situation for Mr. Modi to try to recapture some of the lost grounds for the BJP to fight the Assembly elections due in February next year. As of now, shocked by the Godhra incident, a substantial section of the Hindus is finding a common cause with the VHP and in turn the BJP, but whether the advantage could be reaped a year later, only the time will tell.

It also explains why the Modi administration deliberately delayed a decision to seek the assistance of the Army to allow free time to the hooligans to ``teach'' a lesson to the minorities.

It is to cash in on this sentiment that Mr. Modi, even risking criticism, had tried to virtually ``justify'' the vandalism on the bandh day as the ``natural outpour of anguish of the people'' for the ``terrorist-type pre-planned attack'' on the ``Ram sevaks'' in the Sabarmati Express. He also maintained that the mass murder in Meghaninagar and Naroda areas in Ahmedabad, in which more than a hundred people were burnt alive, were actually ``provoked'' by the minorities. Despite promising that not one culprit guilty of burning of shops or human beings would be ``spared'' by the administration, no action had been taken against any VHP leader or volunteer on the ground that no ``specific complaint had been received against them.''

Mr. Modi may allow the situation to drift because he is under no political compulsions. Having taken over the reins of the State only recently, he is not threatened to be replaced by the party. It would also be inadvisable for the Opposition to demand dismissal of his Government and imposition of the President's rule, because earlier the next election, more beneficial would be to the BJP.

De-saffronisation of the State police would perhaps become a major task before the next Government in the State after the Assembly elections., Tuesday March 5 9:40 AM ET
Police Say Gov't Officials Led Mob

By RUPAK SANYAL, Associated Press Writer

AHMADABAD, India (AP) - Police say a local leader of India's governing party and officials from a Hindu nationalist group linked to it led mobs that burned to death 107 Muslims during religious riots.

Police reports obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday named several important figures in two attacks in the city of Ahmadabad, part of riots that have killed 512 people.

Police officers wrote and filed the reports on Sunday in the neighborhood of Naroda, where 65 Muslims were burned to death as they slept by Hindus who set the slum on fire Friday morning; and in Meghaninagar, where thousands of Hindus burned to death 42 Muslims in their homes Thursday night.

None of the men accused in the reports could be contacted for comment. They have been avoiding police attempts to question them, said Deputy Police Commissioner P.B. Gondya.

Called ``first information reports,'' or FIRs, the documents are the first step in an Indian criminal investigation.

One report said nine people including local Bharatiya Janata Party leader Deepak Patel headed Hindus who burned to death 42 people, including former Parliament member Ahsan Jaffrey, in the Muslim residential area known as Gulbarg Society in Meghaninagar.

``These persons, armed with weapons, led a mob of 20,000 to 22,000, which attacked Gulbarg Society and set it ablaze,'' said the report by Kirit Erda, senior inspector-in-charge of the Meghaninagar police station.

``They first burned to death 18 residents and later burned 24 more persons in the same place,'' said Erda's report, written in the Gujarati language.

A separate report dealing with the Naroda killings blamed members of the World Hindu Council, closely linked to the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads the Indian and Gujarat state governments.

``The carnage at Naroda Patia was the handiwork of a mob of 6,000, which was led by Babu Bajrangji, Kishan Kosani, T.J. Rajput, Harish Rohit and Raju Goyal,'' said the report written by N.T. Bala, an assistant police sub-inspector.

``These people, possessing deadly weapons, led the mob of about 6,000, all belonging to the Hindu community,'' said Bala's report. It details how the mob set fire to 24 homes, killing the 65 Muslims inside.

Jaideep Patel, the Gujarat state joint secretary of the World Hindu Council, confirmed all five men were local leaders of the organization.

``Police have falsely implicated my men in this case,'' Patel said. ``Without doing any investigation, the FIR was lodged by the assistant sub-inspector in link with some anti-Hindu forces.''

The World Hindu Council is leading a campaign to build a Hindu temple on the site of a Muslim mosque destroyed by Hindus in 1992. The group has gathered thousands of activists around the northern Indian city of Ayodhya to pray for the temple's construction.

The Gujarat violence began Feb. 27 when a Muslim crowd torched a train car carrying some of those activists home, killing 58.

That was followed by five days of retaliatory looting, burning and killing.

The Naroda report said the mob assaulted two policemen. The Meghaninagar report said the mob there threw homemade bombs at the police.

``I know these names are mentioned in the reports,'' said Joint Police Commissioner M.K. Tandon in Ahmadabad, the state's largest city. ``But right now we are not concentrating much on further investigation as our first priority is restoring peace in the city.''

The suspects have been avoiding investigators who want to question them, said Gondya, the deputy police commissioner.

``All of them have been absconding since the FIR was lodged. We have been carrying out combing operations to track them down,'' he said.

On Tuesday, government workers dug graves along a highway for 120 unclaimed bodies of Muslims killed in rioting. Police said there were some incidents of looting and arson in Gujarat state Tuesday, but no deaths.


DAWN, Wednesday, 06 March, 2002

'BJP leaders abetted anti-Muslim riots'

By Our Staff Correspondent

WASHINGTON, March 5: There is compelling evidence that leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party had abetted the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat, according to Western press.

Reports also say police stood by and watched as mobs brought down the Manchaji Mosque in Ahmedabad with sledge-hammers, metal rods and shovels in a grim repeat of the Babri Masjid episode.

A report in London's Daily Telegraph suggests that the Indian government also allowed the anti-Muslim violence to continue. The paper cites an unnamed senior military officer as saying that early last Thursday evening the military had 13 transport aircraft fuelled and ready to fly troops to Ahmedabad from Jodhpur, but for some inexplicable reason the dispatch of the planes was delayed.

India's National Human Rights Commission has demanded that the BJP-controlled Gujarat government explained what it had done to suppress communal violence in the state, adding reports suggest "inaction by the police force and the highest authorities in the state to deal with this situation".

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has publicly defended the anti-Muslim violence, reports say. First, referring to the train attack, he noted that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction", then commended the state's population for their "remarkable restraint" under grave provocation. The chief minister has rejected all calls for inquiry into the police and the government's handling of the riots, in which hundreds of Muslims have been slaughtered.


The Gujarat Riots - Who Started It All? Page #: 1 - 2

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