Zul Hijja / Muharram 1422 H
Volume 15-03 No:183
Six days after brutal violence rocked Gujarat state, especially Ahmedabad city, the sheer scale and dimension of the tragedy and it's lasting impact is being callously rejected by the ruling state government. The total loss of life has been put at 500, but our estimate is that the casualties may be closer to a staggering figure of 2,000.
While Rs. 2 lakh as compensation to the surviving relatives of the victims of the Godhra tragedy was immediately announced, the Gujarat government is revealing it's sectarian approach by simply not declaring payment of compensation to the victims of violence post-Godhra. We are demanding that an identical compensation amount be announced for families of the other victims and that areas that are today housing thousands of internally displaced persons be declared as relief camps.
Fifteen make-shift camps located in different parts of Ahmedabad, all within Muslim bastis, house at least 35,000 internally displaced persons. It is feared that this figure may touch 50,000 once a complete survey of the city is carried out. These figures do not reflect the figures of displaced persons from other towns and villages.
The condition at the relief camps is pathetic, every resident is suffering from mental trauma; the government and administration is treating them like prisoners in concentration camps: the survivors are not allowed to step out or move about freely, even for basic commodities. The immediate need is for milk, oil, grains, rice, tea and temporary building materials like mandaps etc since at the moment the survivors are housed in make shift accomodation in extremely unsanitary conditions.
Many of the survivors suffer from burns and other serious injuries; medicines and medical attention and health care is the need of the hour.
There is also the genuine fear of an epidemic breaking out. Individuals and groups who can arrange for such commodities to be sent to Gujarat are urged to do so. We can provide details of collection and distribution centres. However if you prefer to send cash from which material can be bought, we also enclose details of the agency to where this may be urgently despatched.
Individuals and citizens' forums in Ahmedabad have together formed a Citizen 's Initiative for the collection and distribution of humanitarian relief in a coordinated manner.
The People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR) along with many other organisations will be engaged in the task of documenting details on the extensive loss of life, missing persons and the attacks on people and their properties to assist the proposed People's Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the violence in Gujarat, to be led by Justices Krishna Iyer, Hosbet Suresh and S.M. Daud will be initiated soon.
Please demand from the President, the Central Government and
the Gujarat Government that:
Adequate Reparation for Loss of Life and Property for ALL victims of Gujarat violence.s
Declaration of Camps of Internally Displaced Persons as Relief Camps.
State takes complete responsibility for the Relief and Rehabilitation of Affected persons.
Transparent and Speedy Rehabilitation of Survivors.
Chartoda Kabrasthan (Gomtipur) 3,000 people Madhavbai Mill Compound (Gomtipur) 3,000 people Nagoripatel Ni Challi (Saraspur) 1,000 people Amanchowk 4,500 people Gayatri Society (Bapunagar) 2,500 people Shah Alam Dargah 5,000 people Bibi Talav 1,500 people Al-Medina 1,500 people Al-Kuba 1,500 people Alif Nagar (Around Shah Alam-Vatva Road) 1,500 people Shahibaug area 3,000 people Shahpur 3,000 people Odhav area 2,000 people
Meanwhile please send your contributions by cheque or draft
The Drafts can be made in name of
ISLAMI RELIEF COMMITTEE-GUJARAT
Bombay Mercentile Co-operative Bank
Relief Road Branch Ahmedabad Account No : 5039
Khanpur Ahmedabad Branch Account No: 9119
State Bank of India's
Vasna Branch Ahmedabad Account No : SBI-C&I-19
And send at the given following address
ISLAMI RELIEF COMMITTEE-GUJARAT (Regn.No.E-13485)
4th floor, B-Block, Karishma Complex, Sarni Society,
Juhapura, AHMEDABAD 380 055
Telephone: (079) 682 0828, Telefax (079) 682 0828,
Mobile: 98250 67315
Islam Relief Committee - Gujarat
Kambhar Gali, Kalupur Tower,
Ahmedabad - 380 001. Gujarat State (India)
Phone : (079) 2121679,2131507
Mobile No : 9825067315, 9825037718
All these numbers are approximate; however, there are several other camps in the city (all in Muslim Bastis) which have not been reached by the NGOs as yet. The actual numbers of Muslim refugees in the camps can safely be put at about 50,000.Top
ISLAMI RELIEF COMMITTEE-GUJARAT (Regn.No.E-13485) 4th floor, B-Block, Karishma Complex, Sarni Society, Juhapura, AHMEDABAD 380 055 Telephone: (079) 682 0828, Telefax (079) 682 0828, Mobile: 98250 67315 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chairman of Islami Relief Committee-Gujarat, Muhammad Shafi Madni, inform that after the ugly incident of 27th February at Godhra, large scale violence has erupted throughout the state of Gujarat.
The wholestate of Gujarat has been engulfed in worst communal riots as the "Sangh Parivar" hand in glove with the Chief Minister Narendra Modi, has deliberately used this against minority community.
This horrible riots which is running from February 28th, till date has taken huge toll of human lives. About plus 1000 people, most of them Muslims have been burn alive or killed brutally. And the entire localities of Muslims at various places have been burnt totally.
From common poor citizen to elite class very big cross-section of the society indulge in violating and looting, which did not spare the ex-MP, the judges and even ICP ranked Police Officer of minority community. In this grave situation, the roll of police, administration and government is highly suspicious, partial and objectionable.
The attitude of Modi Government with media, who tried to show the glimpse of truth, shows their resolve against minority. When he was briefing the news persons, how the situation is controlled effectively, by his Government; people were burnt alive brutally. This riots of Gujarat is horrible with all respect to all past incidents of 1969, 1985 and 1992-93, which has engulfed Ahmedabad, Sabarkantha, Panchmahal, Dahod, Banaskantha, Patan, Mehsana, Anand, Baroda, Bharuch, Surat, Bhavnagar and Rajkot districts; including Gandhinagar, the capital city of Gujarat. All major cities and towns of Gujarat except Kutch region are badly affected. The shops, Restaurants, Hotels, Industrial units, residences and properties worth crores of rupees of Muslims have been looted and burnt.
About 100 Masajids and other holy places of Muslims have been destructed and evenmake-shift temples have been established in Babri-Masjid demolishing pattern at various places.
The losses to Gujarat is estimated to the tune of Rs.2500 crores and above. Here, it is not out of place to mention that even after this massacres, neither the CM of Gujarat nor Home Minister Advani have shown any sympathy towards the victims of this riot. On the contrary they have tried to protect the police and administration all the times.
After this glory and ugly incident, the responsibility of re-establishing and entrusting confidence in the minority community in general and the affected people in particular, is the main task ahead for all concerned.
Islami Relief Committee-Gujarat, who is busy since last one year with there life and rehabilitation work of earth-quake, has started immediately the work for this "COMMUNAL-QUAKE" too, in the true spirit and with the blessings of ALLAH (Subhanahu v tala).
Various relief camps at Ahmedabad (4 camps), Modasa (3 camps), Baroda, Surat, Godhra, Vijapur, Himmatnagar, have been started, which comprise about 20,000 people. Food grain, essential commodities and medicines, etc. is arranged on urgent basis.
Moreover, the identification and burial of dead bodies is done at various places. The transportation and arrangement of temporary habilitation of affected people is also arranged. The legal Cell for Guidance and Legal Aid to help and guide the affected people is established at Ahmedabad.
Now lastly, we appeal to all concerned people, NGOs and government for early restoration of peace and normally in the state of Gujarat. The para-Military forces and Military forces be retained at least for three to four weeks, till all affected people are re-sheltered and 100% peace is restored. Compensation to all victims, without any discrimination be given, as announced for Godhra victims by Government of Gujarat, and losses of properties and aid to all injured persons be arranged by government immediately. All the true culprits of Godhra train incident and afterwards be booked and punished severely. However innocents should not be harassed by the authorities concerned.
Muhammad Shafi Madni
Islami Relief Committee-Gujarat.
Prof . V.K.Tripathi
Gujarat violence has passed all limits of brutality. It has forced millions of people to feel aliens in their own motherland. Nothing can be more heart shattering. The place where a person is born and brought up is his motherland. He has right to live with freedom and dignity. It is a right given by nature, by God, and not at anybody's mercy. Unfortunately, this right has been suppressed for the masses. The suppression becomes horrifying when people are burnt alive enmass in religious or caste fanaticism.
On February 27, four compartments of Sabarmati express were put on fire near Godhara killing 58 people. It was said that these were Kar Sewaks, but 27 of the victims were women and 14 were children. Those who never harmed any Muslim were burnt alive. It was a horror against masses.
Next day, VHP observed Gujarat Bandh. Huge gangs of killers got engaged in burning alive and massacring Muslims in 37 cities and towns, including Ahmedabad. The police remained a silent spectator. Within three days, two thousand people were annihilated who had never hurt any Hindu. This was a pogrom against masses. It was not a reaction to Godhara violence because the victims in both cases were innocent masses and the attackers fanatic killers.
This barbarism was more henius than Jallianwalla massacre. Then atleast people had some solace that they were dying for country's freedom. What solace did the people killed in Godhara, Ahmedabad and elsewhere have. On the third day, when violence was at its peak the Gujarat Chief Minister, closing his eyes to ongoing violence, repeatedly highlighted only the train episode. That must have encouraged the rioters. The VHP was openly indulged in it. These people are not the friends of co-religionists or the nation. In normal times they exploit their own communities.
The Central Government's immediate task is to suppress violence with a heavy hand and to de-glorify these traitors by exposing their designs and character and bring them to justice. The Gujarat Government needs to be dismissed forth with and VHP be banned. The BJP leaders, including Central Law Minister, are accusing the secular minded people that they did not react to train attack, they only react when minorities suffer.
This is the same allegation Godse imposed on Gandhi. Every secular person was deeply pained at the train violence. All secular organizations, political parties and minority organizations condemned the attack fiercely, of course not the way VHP/BJP did by targetting the innocent. The Godhara incident came to light only after its occurrence while state wide carnage continued in our full knowledge for days with total laxity of state government. Of course, it is our deepest regret that we could not actively intervene in stopping this violence. However, there are reports that many people saved the lives of the people of other religion from attacks. These are all secular people and the soul of India. The current violence is not without roots. Gujarat has a large number of textiles mills and other large and small scale industries. Muslims comprise a significant percentage of workers, specially weavers.
The workers unity bothered the owners and they found communalism an useful ally. With their support the communalists gained ground over there. In 1969 Ahmedabad witnessed massive communal riots. Since then this city has seen very long spells of curfew and violence. The temple movement helped the communalists to enlarge their base and capture power. For the last few years they have been violently harassing and humiliating Christians, Muslims and Tribals. Muslim communalists also have a very significant presence over there though no match to their Hindu counterparts.
The recent elections in UP revived the temple campaign again. BJP and Gujarat government helped the karsewaks to go to Ayodhya, bringing in the scary memories of early nineties and horror riots of Surat, Baroda, Ahmedabad in 1992. Such movements are always a blatant expression of arrogance, hatred and muscle power and breed terrible bloodshed. The blood bath in Gujarat is an eye opener for all of us. In order to save the nation from its recurrence we shall have to stop such movements. We should search our hearts too and refrain glorifying the extremists and rewarding them politically.
Dr. Vipin Tripathi is Professor of Physicss
Indian Institute of Technology
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 6, 2002; Page A10
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.Top
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran AHMADABAD, India, March 4 -- Built of brick and
covered with lime-colored paint, the Manchaji mosque attracted hundreds of
Muslims for daily prayers for more than 80 years.
Today, it drew hundreds of Hindu militants, many wielding
sledgehammers, metal rods and shovels. They knocked down the minarets and
smashed through the walls. They hoisted saffron-colored, Hindu nationalist flags
atop the rubble. And on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, they
erected an orange, foot-tall idol of the monkey god Hanuman, surrounded by
coconuts and flower petals.
"Victory to Lord Hanuman," the Hindus shouted.
"Victory to Hindus."
Late last week, in the country's worst religious riots in a
decade, Hindus slaughtered hundreds of Muslims and drove thousands more from
their homes in this teeming city in western India. Today, as deserted Muslim
neighborhoods smoldered, Hindus went on a different sort of rampage, doing their
best to obliterate any Muslim symbols they could find.
Gravestones were toppled and replaced with Hanuman statues.
Anti-Muslim graffiti were painted on Muslim homes and businesses. And mosques
were torn down to make way for new Hindu temples.
"Today, the Hindu has woken up," proclaimed Mohan
Patel, an income tax officer who was helping to lead the demolition.
"Today, the Hindu is aggressive."
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 6, 2002; Page A10
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
AHMADABAD, India, March 4 -- Built of brick and covered with lime-colored paint, the Manchaji mosque attracted hundreds of Muslims for daily prayers for more than 80 years.
Today, it drew hundreds of Hindu militants, many wielding sledgehammers, metal rods and shovels. They knocked down the minarets and smashed through the walls. They hoisted saffron-colored, Hindu nationalist flags atop the rubble. And on a concrete slab in the center of the compound, they erected an orange, foot-tall idol of the monkey god Hanuman, surrounded by coconuts and flower petals.
"Victory to Lord Hanuman," the Hindus shouted. "Victory to Hindus."
Late last week, in the country's worst religious riots in a decade, Hindus slaughtered hundreds of Muslims and drove thousands more from their homes in this teeming city in western India. Today, as deserted Muslim neighborhoods smoldered, Hindus went on a different sort of rampage, doing their best to obliterate any Muslim symbols they could find.
Gravestones were toppled and replaced with Hanuman statues. Anti-Muslim graffiti were painted on Muslim homes and businesses. And mosques were torn down to make way for new Hindu temples.
"Today, the Hindu has woken up," proclaimed Mohan Patel, an income tax officer who was helping to lead the demolition. "Today, the Hindu is aggressive."
Only a tiny fraction of India's Hindus, who
account for about 80 percent of this country's 1 billion people, participated in
the fighting here. But the attacks point to a growing radical fringe in Hinduism
that has become a far more assertive force in society and in the officially
secular Indian government. Egged on by firebrand politicians and fueled by
poverty, Hindu radicals contend that the best way to solve their problems with
Muslims is not through the principles of nonviolence and tolerance taught by
this city's most famous former resident, Mohandas Gandhi, but through force.
On the grounds where the mosque had been, Hindu leaders
justified their actions by insisting that the site had housed a temple to a
goddess before it was torn down by Muslims about 80 years ago.
"Traditionally, the Hindus were known to be very
tolerant," Patel said. "Over centuries, whenever such things happened
to Hindu temples, we used to say, 'Just let it be. Let it go.' But we don't feel
that way anymore."
Patel and others said they had long desired to demolish the
mosque but that those feelings intensified on Wednesday, when a group of Muslims
firebombed a train in the city of Godhra that was bringing Hindus home from a
rally to build a temple at the site of a destroyed mosque in northern India. The
attack on the train killed 58 passengers -- all Hindus -- and prompted Hindus in
Ahmadabad and elsewhere in the state of Gujarat to seek revenge by turning on
their Muslim neighbors.
"Godhra changed everything," said Ashwin Patel, a
transportation worker who was loitering on the mosque grounds. "We want to
take back what is ours. The Muslims should go to Pakistan."
Officials said today that 544 people have died in the
religious clashes of the past five days. Police reported several small incidents
of Hindu mob violence today but said the intensity of the attacks has waned.
Officials continued to impose a curfew on many parts of Gujarat, and soldiers
increased patrols of trouble spots.
On the grounds where the mosque had been, Hindu leaders justified their actions by insisting that the site had housed a temple to a goddess before it was torn down by Muslims about 80 years ago.
"Traditionally, the Hindus were known to be very tolerant," Patel said. "Over centuries, whenever such things happened to Hindu temples, we used to say, 'Just let it be. Let it go.' But we don't feel that way anymore."
Patel and others said they had long desired to demolish the mosque but that those feelings intensified on Wednesday, when a group of Muslims firebombed a train in the city of Godhra that was bringing Hindus home from a rally to build a temple at the site of a destroyed mosque in northern India. The attack on the train killed 58 passengers -- all Hindus -- and prompted Hindus in Ahmadabad and elsewhere in the state of Gujarat to seek revenge by turning on their Muslim neighbors.
"Godhra changed everything," said Ashwin Patel, a transportation worker who was loitering on the mosque grounds. "We want to take back what is ours. The Muslims should go to Pakistan."
Officials said today that 544 people have died in the religious clashes of the past five days. Police reported several small incidents of Hindu mob violence today but said the intensity of the attacks has waned. Officials continued to impose a curfew on many parts of Gujarat, and soldiers increased patrols of trouble spots.
Those restrictions did not stop throngs of
Hindus from taking to the streets, often in full view of policemen, to ransack
buildings belonging to Muslims. At the Manchaji mosque, two cane-toting police
officers in pressed khaki uniforms stood atop a half-demolished brick wall,
observing the destruction with approving nods. On the street, other officers
kept passersby away from the site but did not intervene when several young men
threatened to pelt two journalists with bricks as they tried to enter.
The leaders of the effort to knock down the mosque eventually
decided to allow the journalists inside the compound on condition that it not be
The grounds bore little evidence of what stood there just a
few days ago. Three sides of the building already had been razed, and the dusty
rubble was being loaded on wood carts. The fourth wall was being dismantled a
few bricks at a time by men using hammers and crowbars.
"We are working very quickly," one of the laborers
said. "By tomorrow it will be all gone."
Not content to wait for the renovations to be finished, the
Hindus carted in a small Hanuman idol that had been placed on a small pedestal.
A barefoot priest lit incense and rang a bell as he led prayers to the deity.
The all-male crowd passed around a bowl of saffron powder, which they applied to
their foreheads, and a tray of pea-size sweets, which they ate.
Mohan Patel compared the destruction of the mosque to a
similar project in Ayodhya, the city from which the train passengers were
returning last week. In 1992, Hindu extremists demolished a 16th-century mosque
there, which led to nationwide riots that claimed more than 2,000 lives.
"This is our Ayodhya," he said. "This is a
proud moment for us."
The World Hindu Council, a radical group that sponsored the
train passengers' trip to Ayodhya, said today that it would stick to plans to
begin building a temple on the mosque site in Ayodhya starting March 15. Some
government officials had urged the group to back down out of fear that the
commencement of construction could inflame Muslims and lead to another round of
As World Hindu Council leaders have done with Ayodhya, Patel
attempted to rationalize the actions of the Hindu mob here. He said Muslims
rarely frequented the mosque. Another man, Praveen Sharma, insisted the mosque
"was a cause of tension in the community" and a place where Muslims
plotted anti-Hindu activities.
"This is our property," Ashwin Patel said. "It
makes no difference to them if they lose just one mosque."
Down the street, in a Hindu neighborhood, residents said they
wholeheartedly supported the destruction of the mosque. They said Muslims had
desecrated a small Hindu shrine there last week, stealing the idol and throwing
calf meat inside.
But in an adjoining, riot-scarred Muslim neighborhood, which
was largely deserted, a few men loitering near a row of shuttered shops said the
mosque was a popular but peaceful place that attracted hundreds of people for
Friday prayers. The men disputed the Hindus' contention that the site used to
house a temple.
"These are just excuses," said Salim Sheikh, a
driver. "They have enough temples. How many mosques do they have to take
away from us?"
Sheikh said he was "numb with pain" at the
devastation that has visited his community. He said he would like to confront
the Hindus and reclaim the mosque, but he and his neighbors do not have the
strength to do so.
"The Hindus, they have the support of the police, of the
state government," he said. "We don't have a chance."
Special correspondent Rama
Lakshmi contributed to this report.
The leaders of the effort to knock down the mosque eventually decided to allow the journalists inside the compound on condition that it not be photographed.
The grounds bore little evidence of what stood there just a few days ago. Three sides of the building already had been razed, and the dusty rubble was being loaded on wood carts. The fourth wall was being dismantled a few bricks at a time by men using hammers and crowbars.
"We are working very quickly," one of the laborers said. "By tomorrow it will be all gone."
Not content to wait for the renovations to be finished, the Hindus carted in a small Hanuman idol that had been placed on a small pedestal. A barefoot priest lit incense and rang a bell as he led prayers to the deity. The all-male crowd passed around a bowl of saffron powder, which they applied to their foreheads, and a tray of pea-size sweets, which they ate.
Mohan Patel compared the destruction of the mosque to a similar project in Ayodhya, the city from which the train passengers were returning last week. In 1992, Hindu extremists demolished a 16th-century mosque there, which led to nationwide riots that claimed more than 2,000 lives.
"This is our Ayodhya," he said. "This is a proud moment for us."
The World Hindu Council, a radical group that sponsored the train passengers' trip to Ayodhya, said today that it would stick to plans to begin building a temple on the mosque site in Ayodhya starting March 15. Some government officials had urged the group to back down out of fear that the commencement of construction could inflame Muslims and lead to another round of clashes.
As World Hindu Council leaders have done with Ayodhya, Patel attempted to rationalize the actions of the Hindu mob here. He said Muslims rarely frequented the mosque. Another man, Praveen Sharma, insisted the mosque "was a cause of tension in the community" and a place where Muslims plotted anti-Hindu activities.
"This is our property," Ashwin Patel said. "It makes no difference to them if they lose just one mosque."
Down the street, in a Hindu neighborhood, residents said they wholeheartedly supported the destruction of the mosque. They said Muslims had desecrated a small Hindu shrine there last week, stealing the idol and throwing calf meat inside.
But in an adjoining, riot-scarred Muslim neighborhood, which was largely deserted, a few men loitering near a row of shuttered shops said the mosque was a popular but peaceful place that attracted hundreds of people for Friday prayers. The men disputed the Hindus' contention that the site used to house a temple.
"These are just excuses," said Salim Sheikh, a driver. "They have enough temples. How many mosques do they have to take away from us?"
Sheikh said he was "numb with pain" at the devastation that has visited his community. He said he would like to confront the Hindus and reclaim the mosque, but he and his neighbors do not have the strength to do so.
"The Hindus, they have the support of the police, of the state government," he said. "We don't have a chance."
Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi contributed to this report.Top
From L K Sharma
DH News Service
Washington, March 5
A million Ayodhyas now. An action picture of the destruction of the Manchaji mosque in Gujarat may not be available to the world media. While the act was in progress, journalists were threatened and kept away. They were eventually allowed to come close only on the condition that photography was prohibited. In his front-page report, The Washington Post correspondent had to rely on words to describe how an Indian mosque was destroyed in the wake of communal killngs. site on which Muslims prayed for more than 80 years suddenly attracted hundreds of Hindu militants wielding sledgehammers, metal rods and shovels.
They paved the way for the arrival of a foot-tall idol of the monkey god Hanuman, surrounded by coconuts and flower petals. “Victory to Lord Hanuman”, the Hindus shouted. A barefoot priest lit incense and rang a bell as he led prayers to the deity.
“This is our Ayodhya. This is a proud moment for us.” They justified their action by saying that originally there was a Devi temple on the site where the mosque was built. A Muslim driver said, “these are just excuses. They have enough temples. How many mosques do they have to take away from us?” He said there was no chance of reclaiming the mosque. “They have the support of the police, of the state government”.
“At the Manchaji mosque, two cane-toting police officers in pressed khaki uniforms stood atop a a half-demolished brick wall, observing the destruction with approving nods. On the street, other officers kept passers by away from the site but did not intervene when several young men threatened to pelt two journalists with bricks.”
“Gravestones were toppled and replaced with Hanuman statues. Anti-Muslim graffiti were painted on Muslim homes and businesses. An income tax officer, Mohan Patel, declared: “ Today, the Hindu has woken up”. A transportation worker Ashwin Patel said, “The Muslims should go to Pakistan”.
The media reports telling the readers that Gujarat is the home state of Mohandas Gandhi are still making the front-page here. The foreign correspondents reporting from Ahmedabad may be short of action pictures but they are not short of “quotes”.
A World Hindu Council leader, Harish Bhatt tells The New York Times that the media reports telling the readers that Gujarat is the home state of Mohandas Gandhi are still making the front-page here. “if Muslims do not learn, it will be very harmful for them”. With a revolver on his hip, he says: “Now, it is the end of toleration”. corrosive anger of the Muslims in the violence-scarred Ahmedabad will be hard to repair. About 3,000 Muslims who fled their homes are living on the cement floors of a school. These refugees in their city seethe with rage and grief, the report says. As word spread that Hindus were trying to destroy the local mosque, Salima Bano's 18-year-old son ran out of the house toward the action. Bano arrived in time to see him lean to pick up a stone, only to be hit by a policeman's bullet. The battle was so fierce that Bano was afraid to take her son to hospital. Instead, she took him home, where he bled to death.”
“As the surviving residents of Naroda-Patia gathered round to talk, the men were angriest. They said they knew the man who led the mob that attacked them. His name was Bipin Panchal and he was a local rickshaw salesman and a World Hindu Council supporter.
In different parts of Ahmedabad, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh residents have said in interviews in recent days that the council and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, had fomented and in some cases led the riots. “Mr Bhatt, vice president of the state branch of the World Hindu Council and all-India vice president of the Bajrang Dal, denied that the groups participated in the riots, even as he justified the killings.”
However, even as the dance of death was on, some Hindus and Muslims conducted themselves with extraordinary courage and humanity, validating the view that whatever one says about India, the opposite is also true.
The Boston Globe carries an AP report describing how a burly Hindu named Virsing Rathod and his two sons jumped into a truck, forced their way through frenzied rioters, and began pulling Muslims from the flames just before midnight on Thursday. Horrified by the screams of his Muslim neighbours being beaten and burnt alive, Virsing Rathod put aside fear and did what many other Hindus could not get up the courage to do. He helped save 25 Muslims that night and has since sheltered dozens in safe houses across this city.
“There is much affection between Hindus and Muslims here, an I could not just stand by and let them die.” What has happened is shameful, he said.
There was another report about a Muslim woman protecting some cameramen and giving shelter to them in her home.
Ahmedabad's slum colony called Ram-Rahim Nagar seems to stand out as an oasis. The teeming slum where Hindus and Muslims have lived and worked together for decades, residents say “humanity is their religion and poverty their common bond”. Even the name of their neighbourhood is used as a catchword for communal amity in Indian literature — Ram is a principal Hindu God and Rahim — or the compassionate, is another name of Allah. Ram-Rahim Nagar residents insisted yesterday that not one person was killed, nor one shop was burned down, in the community where 20,000 Hindus and Muslims have lived together in peace since 1964.
Scholars working on poverty and religious extremism may like to visit Ram-Rahim Nagar whose association member Natwar Lal Bhikabhai told the AP correspondent, “the Hindus and Muslims here are so poor, living hand-to-mouth, that we can't afford to attack one another”.
Contrast this with today's fresh picture of a Hindu activist in a branded T-shirt walking proudly with a lathi, past the burning shops of Ahmedabad.
Kar sevaks violate ban orders again in Ayodhya
From L K Sharma
DH News Service
Washington, March 5
Chanting hymns, kar sevaks today took out a march from one camp to another in the holy city, violating prohibitory orders for the second day running.
Carrying banners and raising slogans in praise of Lord Rama, nearly 300 kar sevaks, mostly women, took out the march from Kar Sevak Puram to Ram Sevak Puram covering a distance of one km. When police tried to persuade them not to take out the march, they moved in batches of four but regrouped after some distance.
About 100 kar sevaks took out a procession on Monday defying prohibitory orders.
A senior official, when asked to comment on the violation, told PTI "It was a peaceful procession, if we call it a procession at all." "Nobody has violated the law as there is absolute peace.
"Administration will not unnecessarily provoke
them," he said. Authorities had put up public notices outside Kar Sevak
Puram and Ram Sevak Puram on Saturday warning against organising rallies or
taking out processions.
By Siddharth Varadarajan
Prime Minister Vajpayee's attempt to blame the people of Gujarat – and their supposed lack of “harmony” – for the mass killings in their state is a disingenuous maneuver aimed at absolving himself, his party colleagues and the state machinery they control, of any responsibility for the crimes.
Instead of using national television to tell the people of Gujarat that the genocidal mobs would be put down with a firm hand – and that policemen failing to protect the life and liberty of all would be punished – Mr Vajpayee delivered a sermon on the need for religious tolerance. Considering that it took him two whole days and over 300 deaths to come up with such tepid fare, he might at least have used his poetic skills to compensate for the lack of political will. Who knows, if the poet Amrita Pritam could have delivered her 'Waris Shah' on television in 1947, she might have shamed a killer or two into dropping his weapon. Sadly, our Prime Minister could not even do that much. Though he has described the violence as a “blot on the nation”, there was little passion or feeling in what he said, no words of succor for the victims, no anger or opprobrium for the killers. If Vajpayee the statesman failed the nation, Vajpayee the poet fared no better.
Like Rajiv Gandhi in November 1984 and Narasimha Rao in January 1993, Mr Vajpayee will go down in history as a prime minister who preached the virtues of tolerance even as his cohorts turned a blind eye to the massacre of innocent citizens. Had he gone on television to denounce those using the Godhra incident to justify attacks on Muslims – including chief minister Narendra Modi, who said, “Har kriya ki pratikriya hoti hi hai (Every act produces a reaction)” – he would have alienated a handful of fanatics but earned the gratitude of the entire nation in return. One Arab and one Sikh were murdered in the US following the terrorist massacre of over 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and the public outcry forced president Bush to state that anyone attacking Muslims and other minorities would be severely dealt with. In India there was mush self-righteous anger when a Sikh in the US was 'mistakenly' killed for being an Arab. In Gujarat, however, more than 450 Muslims have been hunted down and murdered after Godhra – that too by elements inspired by his own partymen with complicity of the state government and police – yet Mr Vajpayee could not bring him-self to say, as the leader of India that he would not allow anyone to attack Muslim citizens, a s Bush did in the US context.
There have been communal massacres before but never has made to destroy not just a minority community but its economic foundations as well, Already, more than 450 Muslims have been killed. Tens of crores of rupees worth of property has been torched, and when the ashes settle, it may well be that no Gujarati Muslim business – from the smallest tea stall to large hotels and film studios – will have survived. Muslims from all walks of life have been targeted and even prominent members of the state and ruling apparatus – sitting high court judges, senior police officers and politicians – have not been spared. The fact that the BJP government in Gujarat devalued Muslims lives in Gujarat is well known, but one lakh rupees per riot victim as compared to two lakhs rupees for the Godhra victims, Narendra Modi has arithmetically quantified his bias.
Ever since the hijacking of IC-814, the prime minister has become something of an expert in the fine art of capitulating to blackmail. Today, his government is indulging in 'negotiations' on the Ayodhya issue with a group that is responsible for the pogroms of Gujarat and openly flaunts its contempt for the law. Press reports are piling up by the day that the mobs were led and orchestrated by local leaders of the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Whether the ban on the Islamic group SIMI was justified or not, there was certainly no incriminating evidence against it of the kind that is publicly accumulating against the VHP. If suspicion and intent were grounds to ban SIMI, why is the Union government unwilling to move against a group that is a walking advertisement for mass violence?
Asked by a citizen's delegation last week why his government could not ban the VHP when General Musharraf had managed to ban several religious extremist groups in Pakistan, Mr Vajpayee is said to have replied, “(Musharraf) is a dictator and can ban anyone. We are a democracy”. This appeal to 'democracy' has an uncomfortable resonance with the controversial remark Mr Vajpayee made last month during the final phase of campaigning for the Uttar Pradesh elections. Speaking at a rally in Allahabad, he urged Muslims to vote for his party but added that BJP was going to win even without their votes. Though Mr Vajpayee subsequently went out of his way to stress that he did not mean to say the BJP wasn't interested in Muslims votes, the import of his message to Indian Muslims couldn't have been clearer. You are either with us or you are against us. It could have been interpreted as a velvet-gloved threat, which the Bajrang Dal and VHP in Gujarat have come good on.
Even at this late stage, Mr Vajpayee can work to retrieve the situation. First, he must use his party channels to dismiss Narendra Modi as chief minister and replace him with a man who will arrest those leaders, political activists and police official who through their action, inaction and incendiary speeches have led to so much carnage. Second, the law of the land must be made to apply to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and all other organisations, which are involved. Far from giving the VHP respectability, the Centre should state unequivocally that there is no question of giving in to blackmail over Ayodhya, now or in the future.
Finally, the prime minister must realise that what has happened in Gujarat is not abstract, amorphous Muslim citizens with tacit backing of the state administration. Godhra was a terrible crime but the government at least did not help the murderers; what happened afterwards, however, suggests official complicity. Unless the guilty are punished, the Central government will have relinquished its moral right to hold office.
( Courtesy Times of India dated 6th March, 2002)
NEW DELHI (AP)A leading Indian Christian group Wednesday called for a ban on Hindu extremist groups, saying they had targeted missionaries also during last week's Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat state that left more than 600 people dead, mostly Muslims.
The All India Christian Council said in a statement that the Hindu groups have "engaged in a constant hate campaign against the minorities" and are training hundreds of thousands of people in armed warfare.
Council secretary-general John Dayal said members of the VHP and other groups burned down a Catholic mission run by the Divine Word Society in Sanjeli village in Gujarat over the weekend.
We cannot permit the government to allow any puja on the 67 acres of acquired land. It is untouchable. No religious act can be performed there. If you allow puja, will you also allow namaz?
There is no question of our being happy or unhappy. We are committed to the nation and will abide by the court order. We will not alter the status quo, and are committed to the Supreme Court's verdict.
We will take it to the people. Ramchandra Paramhans will donate pillars and perform prayers at the undisputed site. Hindus have been denied the right to worship in independent India.
This is no time to rejoice. We will stay clam. Let the tensions be defused, and let the nation heave a sigh of relief. It is the government's job to ensure that the court orders are implemented.
We've strong objection to the attorney-general's statement. We should have been consulted. This is not a BJP government. We have been advocating that all parties should abide by the court verdict.
Nobody will be stopped from offering darshan at the makeshift temple, but not even one shila will be allowed into the acquired land. If need be, we'll arrest VHP leaders, but we don't provoke the situation.
News Courtesy: Times of India, Photo Courtesy: Deccan Herald, March 14, 2002
New Delhi, PTI, March 13: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court said that no puja would be allowed at the undisputed site in Ayodhya. Earlier, the Centre said it had no objection to a symbolic bhoomi-pooja. A three-judge Bench of the court said there should be no activity and no puja on the acquired land.
The order stated: "We direct that on 67.73 acres of land located on the plot number 159/160 in village Ramchandrapuram vested in central Government, no religious activities of any nature by anyone including Bhoomi Pujan, Shila Poojan and Shila Daan shall be allowed till further orders."
Earlier, Attorney General Soli Sorabjee submitted that the puja could be permitted for three hours at a site 300 metres away from the disputed spot in the acquired undisputed land. The puja, he said would be done by 60-70 sants and no Kar Sevaks will be allowed to enter the acquired land. Appropriate security arrangements would be made for the performance of the puja and nobody other than the sants would be allowed to enter, he said.
The law and order was strictly enforced and no outsider will be allowed to enter Ayodhya, Sorabjee further submitted. The Court asked how it can be allowed when it has already passed an order in 1994 in which it had said that status quo should be maintained.
* PM meeting NDA allies to discuss Ayodhya issue.
* West Bengal Chief Minister hails Supreme Court decision
* National Conference flays Govt stand at Supreme Court on Ayodhya
* Opposition stalls LS again; House adjourned till 4 pm
* Allies feel isolated: Trinamool Congress
* Govt's stand stirs hornet's nest; Allies unhappy
* TDP unhappy with Centre's stand on Ayodhya
* Muslim leaders hail SC order, flay Centre
* UP Governor says administration will abide by SC order
* VHP, sadhus to meet on Thursday
* Govt to uphold SC verdict
* Paramhans to go ahead with symbolic offering at Ayodhya
* VHP examining the verdict and is confident of holding a puja
The Supreme Court Order:
1. No religious activities of any nature by anyone including Bhoomi Pujan, Shila Poojan and Shila Daan shall be allowed till further orders.
2. No part of the acquired land shall be handed over to anyone by the Central Government. The same shall be retained by it and no part will be allowed to be used for any other purpose till further orders.
3. SC also issued notices to the Central Government, Uttar Pradesh Government, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and referred the petition filed by Mohd Aslam alias Bhure to a larger bench. It admitted the petition and listed it for hearing after ten weeks.
4. The Bench observed that the Centre is under the Constitutional obligation to adhere to status quo directive given by the Court.
* Symbolic Bhoomi-Pujan is fine with us: Govt to SC
* Section 144 imposed in five district of Faizabad division
* Officials from Ayodhya likely to meet PM after court's verdict
* VHP offers to hand over stones to district administration in Ayodhya
* Administration says no movement of carved stones will be allowed
* A special administrative team from UP arrives in New Delhi to hear SC's verdict
* 84 companies of security forces deployed in Ayodhya
Kochi, PTI, March 12 : Muslims all over the country have been asked to observe March 15 as a day of prayers, Indian National League president and executive member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), Ibrahim Sulaiman Sait said on Tuesday.
Special prayers should be conducted after Juma prayers for Suhda's (martyrs), the victims of the tragedy in Gujarat and Muslims should pray that March 15 should pass off peacefully so that peaceful co-existence could be guaranteed to all countrymen and "evil designs of the fascists be thwarted by the government and the people." Replying to a question, he said the board would abide by the supreme court verdict and there was no ambiguity in this regard.
Describing the board's stand as 'not rigid', Sait said the peace process initiated by the Kanchi seer had failed as "some details sought by the board were not provided." We pointed out that the Kanchi pontiff's proposals were not acceptable as they were "incomplete," he said. Further negotiations could have been held. But nothing came of them, he added.
Mumbai, (IANS) March 13: Police have restricted public prayers in this communally volatile city on Friday to prevent any flare-up on the day a Hindu rightwing group has threatened a religious ceremony near a demolished mosque in Ayodhya. Fearing a standoff between Hindu and Muslim fundamentalists, Maharashtra has barred the assembly of four of more people in public. All processions except those for weddings and funerals have been banned.
Police have refused permission for public prayer sessions that rightwing groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal had threatened Friday. While devotees would be allowed to collect inside temples, the congregation would not be permitted to spill over outside.
The police are also persuading the Muslim community to refrain from holding Friday prayers in public. Muslims assemble in large numbers within and outside mosques every Friday. Due to shortage of space in mosques, the congregation invariably spills onto the streets. Maharashtra has deployed personnel of the reserve police and the Rapid Action Force across the state to prevent trouble. Paramilitary forces are on standby. City police chief Mahesh Narain Singh asked top officers to stay in touch with community leaders and detain potential troublemakers. Police said a number of preventive arrests have already been made, but refused to reveal the exact number.
Intelligence agencies had warned of the possibility of communal trouble on March 15, when the VHP wanted to hold a religious ceremony in the Uttar Pradesh town of Ayodhya as a prelude to the construction of a temple on the site of the 16th century Babri mosque, which Hindu zealots tore down in 1992.
The Supreme Court Wednesday refused permission for the VHP ceremony near the mosque site. But the authorities in Maharashtra are taking no chances, especially since nearly 700 people have died in communal violence in neighbouring Gujarat since February 27. Police said the killing of Muslims in Gujarat as a backlash over the torching of train passengers, mostly Hindu rightwing activists, in Godhra town had triggered fears of retaliation from the fundamentalist elements in the Muslim community in Maharashtra.
"There are already rumours floating that bomb blasts would be carried out in different parts of the country," a senior officer told IANS. Mumbai was the site of worst rioting in the aftermath of the Babri mosque demolition and a series of bomb explosions rocked the city on March 12, 1993, soon after the clashes abated. The blasts were the alleged handiwork of suspected underworld leader Dawood Ibrahim, who is accused of having links with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Last week, anonymous calls had warned of bombs being placed on two trains plying between Mumbai and Gujarat. However, this turned out to be a hoax and the trains left after several hours' delay. Police fear communal elements could easily shatter the fragile peace in Mumbai for the past nine years. Patrolling has been intensified and vigil heightened at all the city's entry points to prevent trouble.
Two days before kar sevaks were attacked in the Sabarmati Express near Godhra, Jan Morcha, a little known daily from Uttar Pardesh, reported how Muslims were harassed by Bajrang Dal activists on the same train but heading in the opposite direction towards Faizabad. This incident allegedly took place on February 24 and duly appered in Jan Morcha on the following day.
According to this report, Muslims in this train were beaten with iron rods, many Muslim women had the veils of their burqas ripped off and even children were not spared. Apparently, the harassment and their height between Dariawad the train was entering the environs of Ayodhya. Narendra Modi's statement explaining away the carnage in Gujarat following the godhra incident in terms of action and reaction gets a credible ring as the earlier incident around Faizabad was largely ignored in the national press. This is not to argue that two wrongs, or three (as in this case), make a right, but that neither Newton's law, nor social science can really explain a riot.
By talking about action and reaction Mr Modi adroitly dodged the issue of political responsibility. But recourse to schoolboy science, including social science, more often than not, misses the main point of a riot completely. The killings of Sikhs in 1984 and the Bombay carnage of 1993 have proved, if proof indeed was necessary, that riots do not happen because social sentiments overflow normal bounds and move otherwise reasonable people to indulge in murder and mayhem. Instead of a social science analysis we rather need an autopsy of a riot. If such an autopsy were to be conducted it would become abundantly clear that riots are created by interested organizations that have the tacit, or active, support of the government in power.
A social science analysis of a riot can go off on a tangent. It might suggest that there are certain classes that are situationally more predisposed towards violence. It might also make the claim that there is an inherent and that there is an inherent and irreconcilable animosity between cow worshippers and beefeaters. To be anti-Muslim or anti-Sikh, or anti-Hindu is one thing, but to actually seek the hate other with blunt and sharp objects or with petrol bombs is quite another. There is a qualitative difference between the two. Riots do not occur because of structural imperatives, or social compulsions. Nor do they happen because mass sentiments just cannot take humiliations any more. Riots need, as a necessary condition, organizations that plot mass killings with governmental support. The job of social forensic is to uncover such conspiracies and to expose the accused.
Only a determined and dogged social forensic investigation can tell us about the most interesting and pertinent facts of a riot. The analysis of class structure, or occupational profile, or even historical memory, can hardly enlighten us as to who were the actual perpetrators of a riot. We have no option but to rely on social forensics if we want to know who paid money to whom for doing what, and which government officials and representatives protected the rioters, who actually pulled back the police, and who delayed calling in the army? Instance after instance can be cited in this regard to demonstrate the relevance of social forensics. Apart from the Sikh killings and the Bombay blasts one can think of the Bhiwandi riots, the Meerut massacres, the killings of Christians, the Ayodhya bloodlettings, and the list can go on. Why should the recent Gujarat carnage be any different?
When Shiv Sainiks went to make the Bhiwandi riots everybody knew what was going to happen. They boarded trucks in Mumbai, armed with rods and cycle chains, openly announcing their intentions. They all looked like a happy bunch out for a Sunday picnic. They knew very well, each and every one of them, that the government of the day was solidly behind them. This is the all important fact behind a riot and it is only social forensics that can help us to grasp it. To bring in concepts of social science at a time like this can act as a smokescreen and provide an escape route for those who are guilty. We might even be tempted to believe that the fault is not that of the rioters and the conspirators, but of society itself.
There are then three theses of social forensics. The first, and the most obvious, one is that riots do not just happen, they are created. There are organizations that have a definite interest in fomenting riots but they need the active support of the government. Without this support a riot would never graduate beyond a skirmish. The second thesis of social forensics is that sectarians on one side desperately need sectarians on the other side. A sectarian can do without a friend but is helpless and inarticulate without a good enemy.
Bal Thackeray began his political career by targeting South Indians in Mumbai. Unfortunately, South Indians in this metropolis did not oblige the Sainiks by being good enemies. They learnt Marathi, identified with local festivals, and had no hesitation in putting up Shivaji's portrait and lacing it with incense fumes. This is what pressured the Shiv Sena to cast the communists and Muslims as prime targets. The communists lived up to their billing for roughly two and a half decades. But with trade unions in a shambles and Russia a distant memory they lost their good enemy status. Only the Muslims were left, and after 1984 the Shiv Sena has concentrated almost exclusively on them.
The third thesis of social forensics is that there is a great difference between those who die for a cause and those who kill for a cause. Social sciences are useful to understand factors that lead people to sacrifice their lives for a larger common good. This is why we have some excellent sociological treatises on mobilizations spurred by the ideals of nationalism, communism and cultural identity. But when people are ready to kill for a cause, as in a riot, it is plain skullduggery at the highest quarters which is responsible. The interests in this case are very narrow, as any autopsy of a riot will show. When a riot happens it is because the killers know that no harm is going to come to them. If they had the slightest fear that they might not come home, that they might be in jail, even killed, they would never have ventured out. This is why only social forensics is relevant for conducting the autopsy of a riot.
Courtesy: Times of India, March 14, 2002
In the last week of February, I was on a tour to Assam. I stayed at ‘WILD GRASS’ a beautiful eco-friendly resort in Kaziranga. Situated amidst acres of wild elephant grass, I was told ‘Wild Grass’ is a technology-free resort. I did not realize what the expression meant until I checked into my room. There was no calling bell or television or telephone in the room. To get a hot cup of tea? Walk down to the dining room. To make a telephone call? Walk a little more to the STD/ISD booth in the campus. Wild Grass is meant for people who want to forget the world and not for newshounds like me. I realised this when on the morning of February 28, I took out my transistor radio and tuned into BBC. I heard the shocking news of 57 'Ram Sewaks' travelling on Sabarmati Express having been torched to death by a crowd of "Muslims" at Godhra in Gujarat. Having covered a few riots in Bihar, notably Bhagalpur (1989) and Hazaribagh (1987), I knew it was enough of a provocation for the mad caps among Hindus to start a pogrom against the minority community. The news of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad calling for a day's bandh in protest against the Godhra killing had a chilling effect on us. We wondered whether we would be able to reach Guwahati in time to catch our flight to New Delhi. As we set out for the Assamese capital in our Tata Sumo, our host advised us to put a "Press" sticker on the windscreen to ward off any obstructionists on the way. After all, we were to pass through one of the most volatile regions in the state. Will there be a bandh in Assam? That the BJP had been humbled in the last elections was no consolation. Any political party which has indoctrinated cadres can easily organize a bandh.
Successive elections in Kerala have proved that the BJP is not a major political force in the state, but it nevertheless has the resources to organize an effective bandh in the state at short notice. That morning, BBC had also carried the news of All India Radio's FM station (106.4 Mhz) going digital. But the speed at which the driver drove, it was impossible to tune into any station on my tiny transistor to get an update on Godhra. I was impatient to reach Guwahati to get hold of a newspaper to know what really had happened in Godhra the previous day. I was engrossed in such thoughts when my colleague drew my attention to a notorious area we were just passing by. It was Nellie, where in one single day "1,753" people were killed. I often wonder how man can turn against man in this manner. In Nellie, they were killed for two reasons. One, they were Muslims and two, they were perceived as "illegal migrants".
Fortunately, we did not face any problem on the way. At the Guwahati airport, which has now become "international", my thoughts were still on Godhra. The airport has an apology of a newsstand where no newspapers were available. I had to wait till I boarded the aircraft to lay my hands on a Delhi newspaper. What I read about Godhra was beyond belief. Fiftyseven people, many of them women and children, were killed in one of the worst-ever attacks of its kind. I was reminded of a report in The Hindustan Times, New Delhi, "Pilgrim train attacked near Meerut: 50 butchered, over 100 injured" (November 10, 1946) quoted in Remembering Partition by Gyanendra Pandey (Cambridge University Press, PP 218, Rs 595). It was the first report of the killings that began at Garhmukhteshwar fair, near Meerut in which, according to Hindu right-wingers, six Muslims were killed and according to Sir Francis Tuker (While Memory Serves, London, 1950) it was "certain that one thousand Muslims died, perhaps two thousand."
After I read the reports of Godhra in that day's newspapers, I was certain that Gujarat was in for a bloodbath. If the killing of some Hindus in Kashmir last year was enough of a provocation for the Sangh Parivar activists to attack Muslim establishments in some areas in the state and destroy a few mosques, one could only imagine what they would do after Godhra. I prayed that my fears were proved untrue. But that was not to be as events in the state proved. If Kargil was the first televised war, the Gujarat riot was the first televised riot. It also has the distinction of being the first riot of the 21st century.
Gyanendra Pandey narrates instance after instance when before, during and after the Partition lakhs of people on both sides of the Indo-Pak border were killed for no other reason than that they belonged to a religion other than their own. Through an investigation of the violence that marked the Partition, this book analyses questions of history and memory, the nationalisation of populations and their pasts, and the ways in which violent events are remembered (or forgotten) in order to ensure the unity of the collective subject – community or nation. Stressing the continuous entanglement of ‘event’ and ‘interpretation’, Pandey emphasises both the enormity of the violence of 1947 and its shifting meanings and contours.The book provides a sustained critique of the procedures of history-writing and nationalist myth-making on the questions of violence and examines how local forms of sociality are constituted, and reconstituted, by the experience and representation of violent events. It ends with a comment on the different kinds of politics of continuity that may still be imagined even in the wake of Partition and events like it. The earliest riot that finds a mention in the book happened in Benaras in 1809. He quotes James Mill of History of British India fame to say “that the disturbance was characteristically illustrative … of the discordant elements of Indian society, which are alone restrained (sic) from frequent and destructive conflict by the vigilance, vigour and impartiality of the ruling power.” You and I may find the colonial tone in Mill’s description unacceptable but the point that it was the toughness of the state that brought the riot under control cannot be missed.
That’s what was missing in Gujarat. Far from that, there were indications that the Narendra Modi government did nothing to prevent gangs of murderers from roaming the streets of Ahmedabad and other towns baying for the blood of innocent Muslims. Modi and his home minister seemed to be encouraging them with words to the effect that the Gujaratis showed considerable restraint despite Godhra. His reference to the Newton’s third law of motion (every action has an equal and opposite reaction) was a carte blanche for his party cadres to go on the offensive. While it is possible that some of the karsevaks who were killed in the train might have provoked Muslims on the way (See the report, Bajrang Dal activists on Sabarmati Express beat up Muslims forcing them to shout Jai Shri Ram slogans, that appeared two days before the Godhra incident in Jan Morcha, a Hindi daily, edited by Sheetla Prasad and published from Ayodhya), what harm did hundreds of innocent Muslim men, women and children cause to invite such retribution?
The Gujarat carnage is shocking in many respects. In the past also police are known to have sided with Hindus in communal incidents. But the Gujarat police took the cake for partisanship when they openly sided with the arsonists. There were instances when police turned out to be greater tormentors than the rioters. The case of the former Congress MP who was roasted alive despite the entreaties he made to the high and mighty epitomised the pitiable condition of a community driven to a corner. What’s worse, for the first time in independent India, the government announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for every Hindu killed in Godhra and Rs 1 lakh for every Muslim killed subsequently. The fears of the minorities becoming second class citizens in the country appeared coming true at least in Gujarat. Far from condemning the government for such announcements which will sow seeds of disenchantment among the minority communities, Central leaders like L.K. Advani and George Fernandes seemed to be in a hurry to give a clean chit to Modi and company. In the search for an alibi, people like the Samata Party leader and George Fernandes’ friend, Jaya Jaitly, argued that the secularists who refused to condemn Godhra in adequate measure were to blame for the killing spree in Gujarat (Indian Express, (March 7). Nobody in his senses approve of Godhra but when someone asks how much tears were actually shed for Godhra as compared to the killings that followed it, it is a question that can flummox anyone. A certain gentleman sent me a letter asking me to pray for the Godhra victims. He also wanted me to pray that Mahavishnu take an avatar (tenth or eleventh?) to finish the entire tribe of people who enacted Godhra. All I could reply to him was that I prayed as much for the Godhra victims as for the subsequent ones. The gentleman did not send a reply to that. Accepting for argument’s sake that it was the secularists’ silence on Godhra that provoked the Hindu fanatics to kill over 600 Muslims, was it their failure to praise in adequate measure the destruction of the Babri Masjid in 1992 that resulted in the pogrom against Muslims in Mumbai in 1992-93?
As mentioned at the outset, this riot will go down in history as the first televised riot. Newspapers flouted with wanton disregard the Press Council directive against naming communities in their reports. When 24-hour television news channels show mass murders actually taking place, you can’t hide the faces of either the victims or the killers. Now we know how many Hindus and how many Muslims were killed in the riot. That’s why leaders like Narendra Modi and the Union Law Minister, Mr Arun Jetlie, have begun blaming the media for its coverage. They would have been happy if the media had covered up, rather than covered the pogrom. Readers would recall that the journalists who were actually feted by the Karsevaks in Ayodhya began facing their wrath the moment they turned their cameras towards the actual demolition of the Babri Masjid. The purpose was to destory the evidence.
Imagine how the killers would have behaved if the media was not present to beam their activities into the bedrooms and drawing rooms of millions of people around the world. What will they think about our country? Will they not ask, “Is this the country of Mahatma Gandhi?” Do the murderous Modi and company have an answer?
The writer's e-mail address: email@example.com
By Harsh Mander
Numbed with disgust and horror, I return from Gujarat ten days after the terror and massacre that convulsed the state. My heart is sickened, my soul wearied, my shoulders aching with the burdens of guilt and shame. As you walk through the camps of riot survivors in Ahmadabad, in which an estimated 53,000 women, men, and children are huddled in 29 temporary settlements, displays of overt grief are unusual. People clutch small bundles of relief materials, all that they now own in the world, with dry and glassy eyes. Some talk inlow voices, others busy themselves with the tasks of everyday living in these most basic of shelters, looking for food and milk for children, tending the wounds of the injured. But once you sit anywhere in these camps, people begin to speak and their words are like masses of pus released by slitting large festering wounds. The horrors that they speak of are so macabre, that my pen falters in the writing. The pitiless brutality against women and small children by organised bands of armed young men is more savage than anything witnessed in the riots that have shamed this nation from time to time during the past century. I force myself to write a small fraction of all that I heard and saw, because it is important that we all know. Or maybe also because I need to share my own burdens.
What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared. Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity.
What can you say? A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead. A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety' and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire. I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports every where of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver. Women in the Aman Chowk shelter told appalling stories about how armed men disrobed themselves in front of a group of terrified women to cower them down further. In Ahmedabad, most people I met - social workers, journalists, survivors - agree that what Gujarat witnessed was not a riot, but a terrorist attack followed by a systematic, planned massacre, a pogrom. Everyone spoke of the pillage and plunder, being organised like a military operation against an external armed enemy. An initial truck would arrive broadcasting inflammatory slogans, soon followed by more trucks which disgorged young men, mostly in khaki shorts and saffron sashes. They were armed with sophisticated explosive materials, country weapons, daggers and trishuls. They also carried water bottles, to sustain them in their exertions. The leaders were seen communicating on mobile telephones from the riot venues, receiving instructions from and reporting back to a co- ordinating centre. Some were seen with documents and computer sheets listing Muslim families and their properties. They had detailed precise knowledge about buildings and businesses held by members of the minority community, such as who were partners say in a restaurant business, or which Muslim homes had Hindu spouses were married who should be spared in the violence. This was not a spontaneous upsurge of mass anger. It was a carefully planned pogrom.
The trucks carried quantities of gas cylinders. Rich Muslim homes and business establishments were first systematically looted, stripped down of all their valuables, then cooking gas was released from cylinders into the buildings for several minutes. A trained member of the group then lit the flame which efficiently engulfed the building. In some cases, acetylene gas which is used for welding steel, was employed to explode large concrete buildings. Mosques and dargahs were razed, and were replaced by statues of Hanuman and saffron flags. Some dargahs in Ahmedabad city crossings have overnight been demolished and their sites covered with road building material, and bulldozed so efficiently that these spots are indistinguishable from the rest of the road. Traffic now plies over these former dargahs, as though they never existed.
The unconscionable failures and active connivance of the state police and administrative machinery is also now widely acknowledged. The police is known to have misguided people straight into the hands of rioting mobs. They provided protective shields to crowds bent on pillage, arson, rape and murder, and were deaf to the pleas of the desperate Muslim victims, many of them women and children. There have been many reports of police firing directly mostly at the minority community, which was the target of most of the mob violence. The large majority of arrests are also from the same community which was the main victim of the pogrom.
As one who has served in the Indian Administrative Service for over two decades, I feel great shame at the abdication of duty of my peers in the civil and police administration. The law did not require any of them to await orders from their political superivisors before they organised the decisive use of force to prevent the brutal escalation of violence, and to protect vulnerable women and children from the organised, murderous mobs. The law instead required them to act independently, fearlessly, impartially, decisively, with courage and compassion. If even one official had so acted in Ahmedabad, she or he could have deployed the police forces and called in the army to halt the violence and protect the people in a matter of hours. No riot can continue beyond a few hours without the active connivance of the local police and magistracy. The blood of hundreds of innocents are on the hands of the police and civil authorities of Gujarat, and by sharing in a conspiracy of silence, on the entire higher bureaucracy of the country. I have heard senior officials blame also the communalism of the police constabulary for their connivance in the violence. This too is a thin and disgraceful alibi. The same forces have been known to act with impartiality and courage when led by officers of professionalism and integrity. The failure is clearly of the leadership of the police and civil services, not of the subordinate men and women in khaki who are trained to obey their orders.
Where also, amidst this savagery, injustice, and human suffering is the `civil society', the Gandhians, the development workers, the NGOs, the fabled spontaneous Gujarathi philanthropy which was so much in evidence in the earthquake in Kutch and Ahmedabad? The newspapers reported that at the peak of the pogrom, the gates of Sabarmati Asram were closed to protect its properties, it should instead have been the city's major sanctuary. Which Gandhian leaders, or NGO managers, staked their lives to halt the death-dealing throngs? It is one more shame that we as citizens of this country must carry on our already burdened backs, that the camps for the Muslim riot victims in Ahmedabad are being run almost exclusively by Muslim organisations. It is as though the monumental pain, loss, betrayal and injustice suffered by the Muslim people is the concern only of other Muslim people, and the rest of us have no share in the responsibility to assuage, to heal and rebuild. The state, which bears the primary responsibility to extend both protection and relief to its vulnerable citizens, was nowhere in evidence in any of the camps, to manage, organise the security, or even to provide the resources that are required to feed the tens of thousands of defenceless women, men and children huddled in these camps for safety.
The only passing moments of pride and hope that I experienced in Gujarat, were when I saw men like Mujid Ahmed and women like Roshan Bahen who served in these camps with tireless, dogged humanism amidst the ruins around them. In the Aman Chowk camp, women blessed the young band of volunteers who worked from four in the morning until after midnight to ensure that none of their children went without food or milk, or that their wounds remained untended. Their leader Mujid Ahmed is a graduate, his small chemical dyes factory has been burnt down, but he has had no time to worry about his own loss. Each day he has to find 1600 kilograms of foodgrain to feed some 5000 people who have taken shelter in the camp. The challenge is even greater for Roshan Bahen, almost 60, who wipes her eyes each time she hears the stories of horror by the residents in Juapara camp. But she too has no time for the luxuries of grief or anger. She barely sleeps, as her volunteers, mainly working class Muslim women and men from the humble tenements around the camp, provide temporary toilets, food and solace to the hundreds who have gathered in the grounds of a primary school to escape the ferocity of merciless mobs.
As I walked through the camps, I wondered what Gandhiji would have done in these dark hours. I recall the story of the Calcutta riots, when Gandhi was fasting for peace. A Hindu man came to him, to speak of his young boy who had been killed by Muslim mobs, and of the depth of his anger and longing for revenge. And Gandhi is said to have replied: If you really wish to overcome your pain, find a young boy, just as young as your son, a Muslim boy whose parents have been killed by Hindu mobs. Bring up that boy like you would your own son, but bring him up with the Muslim faith to which he was born. Only then will you find that you can heal your pain, your anger, and your longing for retribution.
There are no voices like Gandhi's that we hear today. Only discourses on Newtonian physics, to justify vengeance on innocents. We need to find these voices within our own hearts, we need to believe enough in justice, love, tolerance.
There is much that the murdering mobs in Gujarat have robbed from me. One of them is a song I often sang with pride and conviction. The words of the song are:
Sare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara. It is a song I will never be able to sing again. (Harsh Mander, the writer, is a serving IAS Officer, who is working on deputation with a development organisation)