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EVEN in a land not unfamiliar with communal violence, the carnage in Gujarat, still continuing, has shocked people of conscience everywhere. In stark contrast to official apathy and disinformation campaign (events were brought in control in under 72 hours; the situation in Gujarat is fast approaching normalcy), citizen’s groups and some official bodies rushed to the state to conduct their own investigations and report to the nation.

It is often claimed that such ‘enquiry’ reports are both sketchy and partisan, biased against the state administration. It may be noted that a wide range of organisations, official and NGO, from the state and outside, visited the affected areas at different periods. Their narratives, stylistic differences apart, reiterate similar findings and recommendations.

Presented below are brief summaries/extracts of a few reports, detailed texts of which are available. These, uniformally, present a picture both horrifying in the nature of violence perpetrated on victim groups and disturbing in the evidence of official neglect and complicity.

We are grateful to Sarbani Sarkar, Geetanjali Shree, Devika Singh and Avinash for help in preparing these summaries.

 

PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMISSION ON GUJARAT. National Human Rights Commission, India.

 

THE NHRC took suo motu action on the situation in Gujarat, following the recent communal riots, on 1 March 2002. It was worried about the media reports of ‘suggested inaction by the police and the highest functionaries of the state’ and wanted to confirm their veracity. It sought a response from the Gujarat government who, after dodging and much persuasion, produced a preliminary report on 8 March. The NHRC’s Gujarat cell contradicted the report provided by the state government. Subsequently, NHRC visited Gujarat, following which the Government of Gujarat was compelled to produce a comprehensive report on the situation on 28 March.

The NHRC team visited Gujarat from 19-22 March. The NHRC Chairperson, Justice (retd.) J.S. Verma, led the team, with Justice Sujata Manohar and Mr. Virendra Dayal. The team was accompanied by the Secretary General of the NHRC, P.C. Sen, Special Rapporteur Chaman Lal and Y.S. Murthy. The Commission has published its proceedings, containing some preliminary comments and urgent recommendations which need to be addressed by both the central and state governments. The proceedings have been sent to both the governments for their response and comments.

 

Preliminary Comments

The Commission begins by observing that it is the state’s responsibility, not only to protect the right to life, liberty and equality of its citizens, but also to prevent their violation through abetment, overt acts or negligence.

The Commission observes ‘a serious failure of intelligence and action by the state government’, leading to the Godhra incident and the subsequent riots in other parts of Gujarat. The state government claims it was unaware of the kar sevaks’ travel plans from Ayodhya. The Commission finds it to be a case of res ipsa loquitur (the affair speaking for itself), given the communal history in the state and the current ‘surcharged’ atmosphere surrounding Ayodhya. The burden of responsibility to explain this lapse lies with the state.

The Commission feels that adequate anticipatory and precautionary measures may not have been taken. The government report states that while some districts were brought under control, those which are usually less communal, were difficult to contain. Destruction and carnage took place in front of police stations. Organised groups, with cellular phones and address lists, singled out properties and homes for destruction. The Commission has asked the state government as to ‘who the players were in situations that went out of control.’

The state government has said that Godhra was premeditated, but cannot name the culprits. Despite the gruesome nature of the incident, the Western Railway police is investigating the matter. FIRs (First information Reports) are distorted and poorly recorded, while senior politicians are trying to ‘influence’ police stations. The Commission notes, ‘the widespread lack of faith in the integrity of the investigations’, and calls for greater transparency and integrity in their execution, while instilling confidence in the minds of people.

The Gujarat government has claimed that it contained the violence in 72 hours and the subsequent riots in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Panchmahals, Sabarkantha and Mehsana were due to the prevalent media coverage. The Commission believes it would be naIve to accept this explanation and states that violence continues unabated even during the writing of this report. There is pervasive insecurity among all sections of society, specially the victims. Citing the example of two High Court judges who were compelled to leave their homes, the Commission says, ‘There could be no clearer evidence of the failure to control the situation.’

While applauding the courageous role of the media, the Commission informs the press that it should keep in mind that the right to freedom of speech and expression is a restricted freedom and care should be taken that inflammatory remarks are not made public.

The payment of compensation between the Godhra victims and the other riot victims are discriminatory and should be brought at par. Relief and rehabilitation is inadequate and discriminatory. Facilities are insufficient, and prior to the visit of the NHRC Chairperson, officials had not even visited some relief camps like Shah-e-Alam.

 

Recommendations

I. Law and Order

i) The following cases are to be entrusted to the CBI: Godhra, Chamanpura (Gulbarga Society), Naroda Patiya, Best Bakery (Vadodara), Sadarpura (Mehsana).

ii) Special Courts are to be appointed to hear the cases on a day-to-day basis, by judges handpicked by the Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court. Special Prosecutors may be appointed. Sensitive officers should be deputed, preferably women officers. Care should be taken that the victims are not traumatised further.

iii) For the non-CBI cases, special cells are to be constituted under the District Magistrate and monitored by the Additional Director General (Crime).

iv) Time frames are to be fixed for the expeditious resolution of the cases.

v) Police desks are to be set up at relief camps for lodging complaints and FIRs.

vi) Investigative reports by NGOs should be utilised.

vii) Provocative statements in the media should be examined.

viii) Officers who have failed in their duty to control the violence should be identified.

 

II. Camps

i) Senior politicians and officials should systematically visit the relief camps. The relief should be conducted in a transparent and accountable manner with the help of NGOs.

ii) The entrusting officers should be given specific responsibilities.

iii) Special provisions to be made for payment of insurance and compensation.

iv) The inmates should not be asked to leave the camps.

 

III. Rehabilitation

i) Places of worship destroyed during the riots are to be repaired expeditiously with state assistance.

ii) Adequate compensation should be given to the sufferers. Funds should be augmented from various national and international sources, including HUDCO, HDFC, etc.

iii) The private sector should be asked to assist.

iv) The NGOs should be involved.

v) Special care to be taken for destitute women and children and psychiatric help provided for rape and trauma victims.

vi) The media should be asked to cooperate in rehabilitation efforts.

 

IV. Police Reform

The pending police reforms recommended by the National Police Commission and the NHRC should be implemented immediately.

The NHRC’s opinion can be summed up best in it’s own words:

‘The Commission would like to observe that the tragic events that have occurred have serious implications for the country as a whole, affecting both its sense of self-esteem and the esteem in which it is held in the comity of nations. Grave questions arise of fidelity to the Constitution and to treaty obligations. There are obvious implications in respect of the protection of civil and political rights, as well as of economic, social and cultural rights in the state of Gujarat as also the country more widely; there are implications for trade, investment, tourism and employment... But most of all, the recent events have resulted in the violation of the fundamental rights to life, liberty, equality and the dignity of citizens of India as guaranteed in the Constitution.’

(For full text go to http://nhrc.nic.in)

 

ETHNIC CLEANSING IN AHMEDABAD: a preliminary report. SAHMAT, Delhi.

 

‘FOR a preliminary assessment of the Gujarat situation, and as an act of solidarity with the suffering victims,’ SAHMAT organised a two-day visit to Ahmedabad on 10-11th March 2002. The team consisting of Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Vishnu Nagar, Prasenjit Bose and Vijoo Krishnan visited several relief camps including two of the biggest in Bapunagar and Shah Alam, and a number of affected localities and prepared this report based on its experiences.

 

Findings

‘The events in Ahmedabad do not fit into any conceivable definition of a communal riot. It was a completely one-sided and targeted carnage of innocent Muslims... closer to a pogrom or an ethnic cleansing. The selective violence was done with remarkable precision suggesting meticulous planning and collation of information over a protracted period, rather than the mob frenzy characteristic of a communal riot.’ It indicates the collusion of the state machinery and the ruling political establishment. The Godhra massacre was a trigger, but it could have been anything else. The overwhelming majority of those killed are Muslims, including women and children. The official estimate of deaths is an understatement, the actual figures reaching about 2000, while the casualty in rural areas is completely unrecorded.

The pattern of violence in Ahmedabad was mainly in the form of pogroms led by local VHP and Bajrang Dal members, who organised themselves in huge mobs of 5,000-15,000. They looted, ransacked and destroyed lives and properties. The brutalities were excessive including sexual violence against women and children and burning alive of helpless people. The worst attack was at Naroda Patiya, where a settlement of 25,000 Muslims was completely wiped out. The police opened fire at the victims and refused shelter. Eyewitnesses at relief camps described gory incidents of children being burnt alive and women being raped. ‘One expectant woman’s belly was cut open, her foetus wrenched out and dashed to the ground.’ Trucks were used to carry LPG cylinders, looted goods and to batter down boundary walls. There was a concerted attempt to terrorise, uproot and drive away the Muslims from the ghettoised settlements.

Muslim commercial and residential establishments and individual houses were exclusively selected. The attackers had lists with the aid of which they specifically targeted Muslim properties. Those that were disguised under Hindu names were singled out, looted and burnt. Hindu establishments were left untouched. The entire purpose was to kill and brutalise an entire community. Thousands of shops and business establishments belonging to the Muslims were ransacked and destroyed. Eyewitness accounts claimed that the Revenue Minister in the Gujarat government Haren Pandya and another minister Ashok Bhatt were personally present during the looting and arson.

This is only a part of a greater economic war the VHP wishes to unleash on the Muslims. A leaflet circulated by the VHP, calls for a total economic boycott of the Muslims in order to ‘throttle’ them, ‘break their backbone’, so that ‘it will be difficult for them to live in any corner of the country’. Muslims, from slum dwellers to businessmen and white-collar professionals to senior government bureaucrats were targeted in this attack. Upper class Muslim houses in posh localities like Paldi and the Delite and Tarana Apartments were completely gutted and looted by a 5,000 strong mob.

A ‘tremendous communalization of society’ has taken place in Gujarat where ‘hatred towards the Muslim minority has been systematically inculcated in such a manner that violence of barbaric proportions against them is not only widely condoned but even enjoyed by certain sections of the Hindu communities.’ The local Gujarati media, especially the vernacular press like Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar, has directly contributed to incitement and provocation for violence. The collusion of the state, the police and the media was absolute. Had it not been so ‘neither would the rioters have such precise information about the residents and business establishments of the Muslims, nor would the RSS-VHP been able to mobilise the enormous machinery that was deployed to play havoc in Ahmedabad during this period.’

It is estimated that more than 70,000 Muslims have been rendered homeless and are staying in relief camps spread across the city. The government has shown total negligence and apathy towards the refugees in these camps, specially the Muslim ones, which have no official support and have not been visited by a single politician or official. They are run by NGOs, missionaries and other private sources and have inadequate food, clothes, blankets, medicines and toilet. ‘It seems that the government is deliberately pushing this enormous number of Muslim population to the margins of survival.’

There has been an extensive destruction of mosques, dargahs and historical monuments during the riots. In Ahmedabad alone, 20 mosques were decimated. After destroying them, the rioters placed Hindu idols in these mosques and madrasas, sometimes consuming liquor and burning holy books. A 500 year old masjid at Isanpur, which was an ASI monument, was turned to rubble with the aid of bulldozers and cranes and the famous Sufi saint Wali Gujarati’s dargah was razed to the ground, the plot metalled and merged with adjoining road.

‘Since the entire purpose of the attacks was to kill and brutalise a particular community, irrevocably damage its economic interests, and force it out of earlier settlements to existing Muslim ghettos, these attacks can only be described as ethnic cleansing. The partisan role of the state, the government, police, civil administration, the ruling party, the VHP, Bajrang Dal and the rest of the Sangh brigade, all point to this ethnic cleansing to be state sponsored. It will take generations for the victims to recover from such a pointed and vicious communal onslaught. It is of immediate importance to bring the perpetrators to book and prosecute them.’

 

Recommendations

1. A high level time bound enquiry by a sitting Supreme Court/High Court judge should be instituted.

2. A CBI enquiry into the role of the police.

3. The Press Council must examine the role of the Gujarati press.

4. Proper and adequate relief and rehabilitation should be given to all victims.

5. Compensation should be granted promptly.

6. Civil society organisations must be involved.

(For full text see http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/sahmatreport032002.html)

 

AN INTERIM REPORT TO THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION. People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat.

 

THE PUCL report is a detailed account of the ‘communal orgy, violence and widespread terrorism inspired, encouraged and supported by the ruling party and the state in the wake of the Godhra Sabarmati Express attack.’ The report, which was presented to the NHRC, makes a rapid appraisal of the situation in and around Vadodara in the 22 days following the Godhra incident. In his covering letter to the NHRC chairperson, Kirit Bhat, President, PUCL, Gujarat, writes:

‘The state of Gujarat has come under the most severe attack by communal hooligans resulting in an unprecedented damage and destruction to life and property... the nightmarish atmosphere of terror and violence, perpetrated by the ruling party and the government continues to threaten human rights, civil liberties, constitutional guarantee of individual freedom and democratic privileges... life has been hit so hard that we are afraid it will never come back to normal. The state’s chief minister has evaded all sense of responsibility and accountability.’

 

Findings

Poor and middle class Muslim minorities have been rendered shelterless, their houses looted, destroyed or burnt. Muslim families have been attacked en masse, looted, beaten, injured, maimed and killed. They have fled their homes to save their lives while some of their families are in relief camps. ‘Over 15 mosques, dargahs and Muslim monuments have been destroyed in Vadodara city alone. At least 100 Muslim shops and establishments have been attacked, destroyed, looted and burnt. Lari gallas, paan shops, restaurants, hotels, big shops, small to big industries, home producing units are destroyed and gutted. This list is far from complete and 22 days were not enough to assess destruction of life and property of this scale and magnitude.’

The events and patterns of violence in Vadodara are the worst to have hit Gujarat. During the day and night of 28 February 2002, Hindu extremists in organised mobs attacked Muslim localities, stoning, stabbing and wielding swords. Gas cylinders, kerosene and petrol bombs were used to destroy mosques, houses and shops. Acid was poured on goats belonging to Muslims. Armed with electoral lists, the groups selectively targeted Muslim lives and properties and installed Hindu idols in their place. After 15th March, the hitherto undamaged Muslim houses were destroyed. ‘Today there is practically no Muslim property in non-Muslim areas undamaged by the loot and arson.’

The terror spread to the rural areas of Vadodara district, which for the first time were exposed to large scale and inhuman violence by stoning, burning, smashing and killing of animals.

Elected representatives and persons from the ruling party played a key role in spreading the violence to hitherto peaceful and non-communal areas. The Gujarati electronic and print media aired and published provocative and inflammatory statements. The idea was to make all places unsafe for Muslims.

The distinguishing characteristic of these riots was the widespread appropriation and misuse of Hindu religious symbols and figures including shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ as a battle cry, forcing Muslims to utter the name of Ram, pulling their beards, projecting the Godhra victims as martyrs, organising frenzied chanting and Ram bhajans, mass singing of the Hanuman Chalisa etc.

‘The police did not respond to numerous and repeated phone calls by people who were seeking their protection and help.’ Incidents often took place near police stations and chowkies and despite complaints and prior information, the police desisted from taking any action. Rather, they stood and watched while shops were looted and burnt, sometimes in front of police stations and control rooms. In many instances, the police took active part in the looting, arson and the killings. They subjected women to verbal, physical and sexual abuse by assaulting and beating them. ‘Women were pulled out of their homes by dragging them by their breasts.’ The police refused to lodge FIRs and in cases where they did, they were distorted. The police have also been biased in making their arrests.

Most of these attacks were pre-planned. ‘Weeks before the attack people were moving around making a list of the all the Muslim residents and establishments in the area.’ The Muslims were systematically targeted for looting and arson. The Bajrang Dal and the RSS continuously held meetings in different localities spreading rumours and terror. Pamphlets were used to incite people by encouraging them to boycott Muslims in every possible way, instigating people to rape Muslim women and kill the newborn of the minority community. Psychological terrorism was used for example, when an old Muslim man was shown the head of his beheaded son on a tray before being slain himself or when a woman was made to witness the dismemberment of her son’s body after which she was killed.

 

Recommendation

1. A special court of enquiry, on the lines of a war crimes tribunal, by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court should be constituted. The court should also have the power to punish.

2. A specific committee to be instituted to investigate the negative and dysfunctional role of the police, the other arms of the executive and the media.

3. The NHRC should ask the Police Commissioner for the video clippings from the local television channels and for the details of the combing operations.

4. Prevent the misuse of POTA and selective use of other legal sections.

5. Immediately extend relief and implement rehabilitation measures to all affected.

(For full text go to http://www.pucl.org/reports/ Topics/Religion-Communalism/2002/Gujarat-nhrc-submission.htm)

 

MEMORANDUM TO THE PRIME MINISTER. Citizen’s Initiative, Gujarat.

 

THE Citizen’s Initiative, a Gujarat based collective of secular groups and individuals, met Prime Minister Vajpayee in Ahmedabad on 4 April and submitted a memorandum describing the situation obtaining in the state and recommendations for immediate action. It may be noted that the state government tried to stop representatives of the group from meeting the PM.

The memorandum is based on data collected by a team of lawyers and paralegal workers from 3083 respondents, from four regions of Ahmedabad and victims of the minority community from 17 camps in the city.

 

Findings

1. ‘Words and emotions are insufficient to describe the flagrant violation of citizen’s rights, mostly belonging to the minority community. All those who have suffered in the violence are by and large the poor and neglected sections of society.’

2. ‘The violation of rights involved by nature being social, political and economic, it would be unfair to view the entire situation from the viewpoint of only "communal riots". Instead, it appears there is a well-planned sinister design to divide the people of the state between Hindus and Muslims.’

3. More than a lakh of people have taken refuge in 102 relief camps across the state. They are living in the most inhuman conditions, afraid to go back home for fear of being attacked again. While most have no home to return to, in a few cases, survivors who returned to salvage the remains were killed.

4. In the initial days, members of the affected community and NGOs (not government) provided basic food items and items like blankets. When the government did start relief, our volunteers reported that the relief was of highly inferior quality. Victims have been so traumatized that they have found it difficult to claim bodies of dead relatives, far less file FIRs with the local police.

5. The role of the state police and administration has been highly partisan. Not only did the police stand by as mute witnesses, in some cases they went further by abetting the crime.

6. Despite talk of intelligence failure, not a single case of negligence has been initiated against any state official. Neither the chief minister nor the governor, in the first 42 hours, made any appeal for peace. When the chief minister did speak he said, ‘Five crore people of Gujarat observed restraint under grave provocation.’

7. The total number of dead has crossed the 800 mark, including 97 killed in police firing. 20l5 houses, 1934 shops, 963 larigullas, 12 buses, 912 other vehicles were gutted and destroyed. As per official information (7 March) 681 shops were ransacked, 119 persons received stab injuries and 753 had other injuries, Unofficial estimates are much higher.

8. The incidents of burning are alarmingly high. In many cases, people were first murdered and then burnt to destroy evidence.

9. Tensions still prevails and systematic efforts are afoot to terrorize the minority community even in far-flung and scattered rural areas. Private channels have been showing video cassettes in disturbed areas that can incite violence and no effort have been made to stop them. Certain caste communities have reportedly been paid money to attack the minorities. Pamphlets have been distributed calling on all ‘nationalist’ Hindus to declare economic and social boycott of all Muslims.

10. On the role of the police, 19.33% of respondents say that the police have committed serious actions against them; 24.16% say that the police, though present, did nothing to protect them; 4.48% claim that the police fired on the victims; and only 3.18% say that the police helped them.

 

Recommendations

1. The KG Shah Commission of Enquiry set up by the Gujarat government should be strengthened by appointing at least two Supreme Court judges. The terms of reference should be defined more sharply, focusing particularly on the role of the state administration and ruling party.

2. Special courts, also deemed human rights courts, should be set up under S.30 and public prosecutors appointed under S.31 of the Human Rights Act, 1993. The trial in these courts should be held on a day to day basis

3. Cases of sexual assault and atrocities on women should be investigated by a special cell assisted by representatives of women’s organisations. The compensation for rape victims should be equal to that given to those killed in the riots.

4. Action should be initiated against public servants neglecting the discharge of their duties or supporting perpetrators of violence. The issue of transfer of police officers who had reportedly done good work in preventing violence should be immediately investigated into.

5. People who have been forced out of villages should be provided police protection and reinstated in their original villages. Panchayats should be made responsible for preservation of law and order, and if unwilling, be liquidated.

6. Relief camps should be supported with adequate supplies, and assigned a revenue official to ensure the above and submit a weekly report on progress. Special facilities should be set up for processing insurance and compensation claims.

7. For long term rehabilitation, the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority, assisted by outside experts, should be asked to prepare a comprehensive plan for those who have lost commercial/industrial property, homes, those displaced in rural areas and those completely destitute.

8. Finally, all desecrated or damaged places of worship should be restored; the government should encourage, support, facilitate and announce formation of peace committees; and leaders of the majority community, senior officials and police officers should enter into dialogue with different community leaders to help promote mutual trust.

(For further information: nagrikpahel@hotmail.com)

 

STATE-SPONSORED CARNAGE IN GUJARAT. Report of a CPI(M)-AIDWA Delegation. Delhi, March 2002.

 

A CENTRAL delegation of CPI(M)along with representatives of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, visited Gujarat from 10-13 March, to express solidarity with the victims of communal violence and get a first hand report of events on and from 27 February 2002. The delegation spoke to over 1000 people – citizens from both communities, victims of communal attacks, administrative officials in Ahmedabad, members of relief committees, citizens initiatives, NGOs and intellectuals.

The delegation visited camps in Shah Alam, Bapunagar, Aman Chowk, Sundaram Nagar, Juhapura, Kankaria Municipal School 7 and 8 and Dariyakhan Ghummar in Ahmedabad and the railway station, Iqbal Relief Camp and the Civil Hospital in Godhra. One member also visited Mehsana district.

 

Findings

1. That the events were state sponsored and not a communal riot. In Godhra, the administration moved swiftly but elsewhere the 24-hour bandh was used to mobilise supporters.

2. Even mohallas inhabited entirely by Muslims were devastated; the police sealed off the areas and accompanied VHP mobs.

3. There is prima facie evidence to show complicity of top ruling party leaders, including ministers.

4. There is evidence of careful planning: (a) in the guise of collecting census data, house checks had been carried out recently, (b) cranes, shovels, trucks were used to attack and bring down buildings owned by Muslims and their shrines, mosques etc., (c) state complicity can be seen in the immediate tarring over of the desecrated shrine of Wali Gujarati. Symbols of religious identity – masjids, graves – were attacked with the help of trucks and perhaps, bulldozers. Madrasas that were attacked were left with offensive slogans written on the walls.

5. In contrast to the 1984 Sikh riots, the Gujarat carnage is the result of ‘systematic spread of communal poison’ by the Sangh Parivar against minorities (Christian and Muslim) in the name of Hindu Rashtra.

‘The above can be inferred from the following: In 1999 a inter-communal marriage was opposed and a vicious campaign launched against the Muslims which forced 300 families to leave. This was followed by an attack on Christians by 5000 VHP followers (also in 1999). Inflammatory pamphlets have been circulated by the Sangh Parivar over the years which should have been banned by any secular state.Such pamphlets have been used by the kar sevaks to mobilise people – one such pamphlet dated August 2001 was found in the burned carriage in Godhra. The above indicates that the Gujarat carnage is an ongoing project of the Hindutva forces.’

6. Eye witnesses report that middle class and educated people were involved in the looting and displayed the looted goods as trophies. The Hindutva platform appears to encourage criminal acts against the ‘other’.

7. The economic assets of the minority community were targeted. An estimated 700 shops/hotels owned by members of the minority community were burnt. It was reported that the arsonists carried a list of these hotels with them, which explains how they were identified.

8. Tribals were used to attack Muslims and there seems to have been cynical manipulation of their feelings against Muslim moneylenders to excite them. Earlier the vanvasi movement amongst Hindu tribals was used to rouse them against Christians.

9. The delegation also commented on the extreme savagery of the attacks, the large number of women and children who were killed. Rods, swords, etc were used to inflict injury. One victim had a rod pushed down his throat and women had cuts on their breasts.

10. People came well prepared. In the Bapunagar attack in Ahmedabad, mobs moved about freely and police were seen directing them. The conditions in camps were horrible; there was paucity of medical help, presence only of voluntary doctors, no lady doctors, very limited food supplies, appalling provision of water and sanitation contributing to the trauma and insecurity of the victims.

11. State figures on the numbers killed are a gross underestimate. The issue of compensation is critical but no effort is being made to register FIRs. Camp inmates fear that the empty spaces of destroyed property will be taken over.

12. The delegation recorded heartening instances where neighbours saved Muslims and Hindus fled and Muslims protected their property. Many people expressed horror at what had happened.

 

Recommendations

1. That the state and Central government should act swiftly to identify and arrest the guilty. Also to investigate the Godhra incident quickly as evidence has already been allowed to be destroyed. The individual appointed to head the inquiry is not suitable as his pro-Hindutva sentiments are known and his judgement has been commented on by the Supreme Court saying that he ‘relies more on imagination than fact.’

2. The army must continue its presence in Gujarat till end of the month and increase its presence in rural areas.

3. A fundamentally different political situation is required in Gujarat before Muslims can be rehabilitated and feel secure enough to return to their homes. The Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, must be removed.

(For full text go to http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/CPMAIDWA2002gujaratreport.html)

 

GUJARAT CARNAGE 2002: A Report to the Nation. Independent Fact Finding Mission.

 

THIS report is prepared by an independent fact-finding team comprising Kamal Mitra Chenoy, (JNU), S.P. Shukla (Former Finance Secretary and former Member, Planning Commission), K.S. Subramanian (former Director General, Police, Tripura) and Achin Vanaik (Jamia Millia Islamia). The team visited Godhra and Ahmedabad from March 22-26 and interviewed victims, eyewitnesses, officials, judges, lawyers, journalists, NGOs, activists and relief camp managers. The objective was to establish the truth about Godhra and the subsequent riots and to verify the allegations of state complicity. The findings of the mission are to be presented to the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal set up in Gujarat.

 

Findings

‘The events in Gujarat do not constitute a communal riot.’ Barring Godhra, the carnage that followed was a ‘state-backed and one-sided violence against Muslims tantamount to a deliberate pogrom.’ Communal violence in Gujarat has assumed a ‘comprehensive state-wide dimension’, including large rural areas, ‘marked by attacks by tribal people on the Muslim minority.’ The casualties are very high, with unofficial estimate of deaths at around 2,000 or even higher. Deaths in rural areas have not been adequately reported as entire settlements have been wiped out with none left to report the deaths. As the administration was bent upon understating the violence, the official record of death is 800, with the police reluctant to lodge FIRs.

The Godhra incident is the result of extreme provocation of the Muslims by the karsevaks. In the days preceding the incident of the burning of the Sabarmati Express, karsevaks travelling back from Ayodhya repeatedly provoked and harassed Muslim passengers, hitting them with iron rods, forcing them to shout ‘Jai Shri Ram’, pulling their beards and pushing them off the train if they did not comply to their demands and even abducting Muslim women. This occurred in Ahmedabad and Godhra too, despite the communal history of Gujarat and the prevalence of a charged atmosphere. This escalated to a fracas with Muslim vendors at Godhra station followed by an exchange of stone pelting, finally leading to the burning of coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express. The 2,000 odd Muslims who participated belonged to the Ghanchi community living in the nearby basti of Singal Falia, an area prone to communal violence. It was easy to quickly gather so many people and it was a spontaneous and heinous reaction to the provocation.

The government accused the Muslims of Singal Falia of acting as ISI agents and publicised the transportation of the charred bodies to Ahmedabad for a public funeral, fomenting communal tension and hysteria, which fuelled the attacks that followed. A blind eye was turned to the provocative propaganda by the Gujarati media like Sandesh, Sangh Parivar affiliates like the VHP and state functionaries. ‘The suborning of large sections of the administration and the police to permit... and to facilitate the Hindutva agenda, was critical for the spread, intensity and persistence of the communal violence.’ The state government sanctioned and supported the bandh that followed and signalled to the bureaucracy and the police to minimise their intervention. ‘Since then the government has systematically tried to cover-up, minimise and even justify the extent of violence, while protecting the guilty and those guilty of dereliction of duty. This is why the events of February-March 2002 can only be called a state-sponsored pogrom.’

This pogrom required systematic planning well in advance of the Godhra incident. ‘The lists the rioters possessed and used must have been compiled over time. The targeting of Muslim homes, institutions, establishments and shrines was very precise and accurate. Even when there was only one Muslim shop or home in a congested Hindu-dominated area, it was attacked, ransacked and burnt. Businesses that had Hindu and non-Muslim names were identified and targeted along with others in which Muslims were a minority or sleeping partners. The mobs were huge, at times several thousand strong brought in buses and trucks.’ Vehicles were used to ferry thousands of gas cylinders and transport looted goods. In the weeks before the outbreak, Ahmedabad was experiencing a widely reported shortage of cylinders. ‘There must have been official connivance to release such large quantities of LPG gas cylinders.’

‘The breakdown of law and order in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and elsewhere was a consequence of the politicisation of the administration and the police.’ ‘The BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and associated organisations had allegedly penetrated state institutions during the BJP rule in Gujarat.’ The RSS and the VHP also control key functionaries of the state. There was a virtual breakdown of large areas of police functioning or the above-mentioned preparations should not have gone unnoticed. This mass movement of men, materials and vehicles could easily have been curbed by decisive police action. No preventive arrests were made, and those made were largely that of Muslims. In Kutch, Surat and Amreli where decisive action was taken by the police and the administration, the situation was kept under control. The Gujarat government functioned not as a constitutionally bound, non-partisan and independent body, but one controlled by and answerable to the Sangh Parivar.

The Central government chose to minimise the seriousness of what has happened. ‘Without their sustained and consistent support, the Modi government could not have been emboldened to continue with its bloody, anti-Constitutional and anti-national activities. Since the defence of the Constitutional order is its primary duty, the Union government has failed to uphold its oath of office.’

The primary responsibility for the communal conflagration rests with the Sangh Parivar. It provided the ideological, political and administrative leadership and backbone for the tragic events. What has happened in Gujarat is a gruesome tragedy that will have ‘severe consequences for the continuation of India as a secular, multicultural democracy. If minorities, along with those who disagree with the Hindutva fanatics can be attacked in this manner, then a secular India cannot survive.’

 

Recommendations

1. In view of the Constitutional breakdown in Gujarat, under the obligations enjoined on it under Article 355, the Union Government should impose President’s Rule under Article 356.

2. Stringent and extensive measures must be undertaken to depoliticise and decommunalise the bureaucracy and the police.

3. The K.G. Shah Commission of Inquiry should be replaced by a Commission of Inquiry headed by a sitting Supreme Court judge and including one or more sitting High Court judge with more extensive terms of reference.

4. Special courts should be set up to try the guilty, including leading politicians. CBI inquiries be instituted against senior police officers and bureaucrats.

5. Recommendations of the National Police Commission should be accepted and implemented immediately.

6. Immediate measures for relief and rehabilitation should be taken. Peace committees should be set up in each locality to facilitate the smooth rehabilitation of the victims.

7. Free medical and psychiatric help should be given to traumatised victims, especially women and children, including a large number of women and girl children who have been raped.

8. The Press Council should investigate the role of the media specially the Gujarati language press.

(For full text go to http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/GujCarnage.html)

 

HOW HAS THE GUJARAT MASSACRE AFFECTED MINORITY WOMEN? The survivors speak. A Women’s Panel, sponsored by Citizen’s Initiative.

 

A SIX-MEMBER women’s panel from Delhi, Bangalore, Tamil Nadu and Ahmedabad conducted a 5-day fact finding mission from 27-31 March 2002, ‘to assess the impact of continuing violence on minority women in Gujarat.’ The panel members were Syeda Hameed, Muslim’s Women’s Forum, Delhi, Ruth Manorama, National Alliance of Women, Bangalore, Malini Ghose, Nirantar, Delhi, Sheba George, Sahrwaru, Ahmedabad, Farah Naqvi, independent journalist, Delhi and Mari Thekaekara, Accord, Tamil Nadu.

‘Given the particular targeting of women in this carnage, there was an urgent need for a sectoral investigation into how women in particular have been affected (and) to determine the nature and extent of crimes against women, find evidence of the role played by the police and other state institutions in protecting women, to determine new elements in the current spate of violence (and) to determine the role of organisations like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.’ The team visited seven relief camps in Ahmedabad, Kheda, Vadodara, Sabarkantha and Panchmahals districts and spoke to a large number of women survivors as well as intellectuals, activists, the media, officials and politicians.

 

Findings

Like the other aforementioned investigations, this report too finds that the pattern of violence was pre-planned, organised and precise in targeting. The current carnage was preceded by an escalation of tension and build-up by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal and there is an alarming trend towards ghettoisation of the Muslim community in rural areas for the first time. The Gujarati vernacular press played a dangerous and criminal role in promoting violence, particularly in provoking sexual violence against women. Rural women have been affected by communal violence on this scale for the first time.

‘There is compelling evidence of sexual violence against women.’ These crimes have been grossly underreported and they demand further investigation. The surviving women have suffered the ‘most bestial forms of sexual violence-including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their body and molestation. A majority of rape victims have been burnt alive. There is evidence of state and police complicity in perpetuating crimes against women and no effort was made to protect (them).’

Maya Kodnani, a BJP MLA from Naroda Patiya told the panel on being questioned about sexual violence, accha, kya yeh sach hai? Ek policewale ne mujhe bataya ki aise hua hai par usne dekha nai (Is this true? One policeman mentioned this to me but he had not seen anything). ‘No Mahila Police was deployed. The impact on women has been physical, economic and psychological. On all three fronts there is no evidence of state efforts to help them. (In the) relief camps, mothers struggle to keep their children alive in the most appalling physical conditions...’

The following are some extracts from the women’s testimony documented in the report:

‘The mob started chasing us with burning tyres... it was then that they raped many girls. We saw about 8-10 rapes. We saw them strip 16-year-old Mehrunissa. They were stripping themselves and beckoning to the girls. Then they raped them right there on the road. We saw a girl’s vagina being split open. Then they were burnt and now there is no evidence.’ (Kulsum Bibi)

‘The mob which came from Chara Nagar and Kuber Nagar, started burning people at around 6 in the evening. The mob stripped all the girls of the locality, including my 22-year-old daughter, and raped them... Seven members of my family were burnt including my wife (40), my sons (18, 14 and 7) and my daughters (2, 4, 22). My eldest daughter, who later died in the civil hospital, told me that those who raped her were wearing shorts. They hit her on the head and then burnt her.’ (Abdul Usman)

‘The mob caught my husband and hit him on his head twice with the sword. Then they threw petrol in his eyes and burned him. My sister-in-law was stripped and raped. They threw petrol on her and her three month old baby was taken from her lap and thrown in the fire. My brother-in-law was also struck on the head with the sword and thrown in the fire... They took away all the money and jewellery and then burnt the children with petrol. My mother-in-law was raped too. I witnessed all this. Unmarried girls from my street were stripped, raped and burnt.’ (Jannat Sheikh)

Sahrwaru activists working in the Shah Alam relief camp testified that women arrived in the camp stark naked. Some could barely walk because of torn genitals. ‘We were told about Najma Bano who was brought to the camp unconscious, her body covered with bites and nail marks. She was bleeding profusely. Pieces of wood, which had been shoved up her vagina were extricated by the women who dressed her wounds.’

The report states, ‘We have been shaken and numbed by the scale and brutality of the violence that is still continuing in Gujarat... we were unprepared for what we saw and heard; for fear in the eyes and anguish in the words of ordinary women whose basic right to live a life of dignity has been snatched away from them.’

 

Recommendations

The report makes an exhaustive set of recommendations, some of which call for CBI investigations, setting up of special courts and examination of the role of the state and police. Following are some key recommendations pertaining to women:

1. Testimonies of sexual violence from all the affected areas need to be recorded on an urgent basis to understand the nature and extent of crimes committed against women.

2. A special task force comprised of people from outside Gujarat, to be set up immediately for taking cognisance of the context in which sexual violence has taken place and commence the task of filing FIRs. The task force should consist of people with legal expertise, women police personnel, women’s rights activists, women leaders from the Muslim community and headed by a senior woman IAS officer.

3. For cases of rape, medical examinations should not be treated as the basic evidence.

4. The ‘normal’ technical requirements of the legal process should be made contingent to the special circumstances. The testimonies alone of women should be treated as the basis for further legal action.

5. Counselling to be provided immediately.

6. Women’s rights activists to be allowed work freely with police protection.

7. Sanitation should be improved and the health needs of pregnant women and trauma patients should be attended.

8. A comprehensive rehabilitation policy for rape victims needs to be announced urgently.

9. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women should be called for investigation and assessment, as the National Commission for Women has failed to make itself available. [The NCW has since sent a team to Gujarat].

10. Rehabilitation not to be confused with relief and should be provided immediately on the advice of a panel composed of experts from different disciplines.

(For full text of the report contact Syeda Hameed in Delhi at sayeda@mantraonline.com) or Sheba George in Ahmedabad at sahrwaruad1@sancharnet.in)

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