South Asia Citizens Wire - Dispatch | 2 April 2002
#1. India: - Gujarat: Who are the guilty? (Dipankar Gupta and Romila Thapar)
#2. India: Gujarat - What you can do. (Sabrang)
#3. India: Eyes and ears - Enquiry commisions on Riots(AG Noorani)
#4. India: What RSS tells Muslims & How its Misrepresents of views
#5. Despite riot after communal riot, India still hasn't put a law in
place to ensure uniform compensation for victims (Iqbal A. Ansari)
#6. Gujarat : Now they burn houses deserted by their frightened
victims (Joydeep Ray)
#7. India's communal carnage should have ended when troops went in.
Instead, the hate is spreading
#8. India: Hindutva As A Caste Weapon - Why Gujarat? (Praful Bidwai)
#9. ***** Call For Entries - The Karachi International Film Festival
Apr 02, 2002
Opinion - Leader Page Articles
Who are the guilty?
By Dipankar Gupta and Romila Thapar
The best way of fighting communalists is not by tiptoeing around them
in the hope of letting sleeping dogmas lie, but by taking them on
frontally every time they break the law.
NARENDRA MODI'S eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the Prime
Minister was really quite a mild affair. Mr. Vajpayee upbraided Mr.
Modi, but in the mildest manner possible. He was not even rapped on
the knuckles! Instead of pulling him out of his chair, the Prime
Minister suggested a variety of confidence-building measures to the
errant Chief Minister. He was asked to construct homes for those
affected, find them jobs, give them armed escorts, get businesses to
contribute to their relief and rehabilitation, and so on. Not once
was it mentioned that the Government of India would use all its
powers to punish the guilty - and that this also included Mr. Modi.
Unfortunately, the demand to punish the guilty is not on the agenda
of the Opposition either. All they want is the removal of the Chief
Minister. This is really political gamesmanship. Of course, Mr. Modi
ought to go, but if he sinks alone and is not weighted down by those
other criminals who killed, burnt, maimed and looted then he might
emerge as a political martyr. To bring credibility to Mr. Modi's
ouster, he needs to be punished along with all those who are actually
red in tooth and claw. This includes those who torched the railway
coaches in Godhra as well as those who stalked and killed Muslims in
Ahmedabad, and elsewhere in Gujarat, in recent weeks. It is indeed a
sad reflection on the politics of our times that the Opposition has
not come out with such a demand.
This is not the first time that a Government is directly implicated
in fomenting and leading communal riots in the country. The 1984
killings of Sikhs is a cruel predecessor of what happened recently in
Gujarat. The way the civil liberties groups mobilised in 1984 was,
however, quite remarkable. Instead of doing social science and
discovering caste and class antagonisms behind the killings, the
People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) and the People's Union
for Civil Liberties (PUCL) jointly conducted a first rate social
forensic study and brought out a report entitled "Who are the
Guilty?" The data in this little booklet were compiled on the spot by
PUDR activists in Delhi even as they went about trying to bring
relief to the besieged Sikhs. This booklet named those who were
directly involved in the murder and mayhem, it gave evidence of
responsible politicians leading mobs from the front, and it also
carried authentic eye-witness accounts. This booklet sent shock waves
all the way up. Though a thousand maneouvres were dreamt up by the
Government in power, the fact that the perpetrators of the killings
were named made it very difficult for even these people to emerge
again as legitimate political actors. "Who are the Guilty" should
indeed be a prototype of how citizens can respond to riots in this
country. It is obvious that citizens can no longer sit on the
sidelines when communal carnages occur in the belief that the state
machinery will do its job and punish the guilty. Most of those in
state administration see themselves as Government servants and not as
servants of the public. This is why they are not as mindful of
citizens' interests as they are of the wishes of the Government in
power. In such a situation the public must assert itself and demand
the names of individuals who led and participated in the communal
killings, regardless of which community they may belong to. It is
only by putting such people on trial that confidence can meaningfully
be restored in Gujarat. This will also send warning signals to all
would-be rioters in the future. As Justice Verma, Chairman of the
Human Rights Commission, recently commented, police inaction in
Gujarat is tantamount to police complicity. If the guilty are tried
and punished then this will also expose another lie on which
communalists thrive. The popular assumption is that these sectarians
are as willing to kill for a cause as they are to die for a cause.
This is a complete fallacy. None of the hotheads of the RSS, or
Bajrang Dal or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad will ever die for a cause.
In which case, why are they so willing to kill for a cause? The
answer to this is very simple. It is because they know that no harm
will come to them as they enjoy active or tacit protection from the
Government of the day. It is cover of this sort that makes sectarian
activists appear so frightening. Take away Government support and
they will all expose themselves as paper tigers.
It is time now to remember how Jawaharlal Nehru handled the RSS and
the Hindu Mahasabha when he was at his best. Partition had just
happened and Hindu sectarians were having a field day, even in the
city of Delhi. Nehru did not reason and plead with them. He locked
them up in jail whenever they broke the law. When Mahatma Gandhi was
assassinated, Nehru again acted swiftly and unambiguously. He banned
the RSS and other allied organisations and exposed their shallow
bravado. The leaders of the RSS made several overtures to Nehru (and
Patel) to lift the ban against them. Golwalkar even tried to curry
favour with the Government by promising to fight communism. In a
letter to Nehru he said the ban on the RSS should be lifted so that
the swayamsevaks could help the Government in ridding the country of
the red menace. No mention now of the Muslims, nor of any other
religious minority. When that did not work the RSS tried satyagraha,
which was again a flop. Eventually the RSS leadership had no option
but to agree to a written constitution as demanded by the Government.
This constitution had to clearly state that the organisation would
treat all faiths with equal respect and would refrain from entering
politics and resorting to violence.
Nehru was clearly not intimidated by the rhetoric of these sectarian
Hindu activists and simply called their bluff. It was Nehru's
uncompromising stand against communalists that allowed the Congress
to win election after election, from the perfervid post-Partition
days right up to 1967. The best way of fighting communalists is not
by tiptoeing around them in the hope of letting sleeping dogmas lie,
but by taking them on frontally every time they break the law.
Mr. Vajpayee would like Mr. Modi to find jobs for the devastated, get
industrialists to donate money, Bhuj style, hold hands with the
aggrieved families, even set up goodwill marches, and so forth. All
sweet talk and a few pieces of silver! What the Prime Minister has
cleverly sidestepped, and what the Opposition has not pressed upon
him, is that nowhere has he asked of Mr. Modi: "Who are the guilty?"
Without raising this issue, no amount of relief and goodwill missions
will help in restoring confidence in Gujarat. If the guilty are not
punished by the due process of law then this might engender cynicism,
and, what is worse, vigilante-style reprisals - both of which are
deleterious to the well being of the country as a democratic
republic. As citizens we have the right to demand that the guilty be
punished first! And Mr. Modi is not the only one we are thinking of.
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 16:07:42
We all are human beings & individuals who want to live our lives
with the premise of freedom. The freedom to follow our beliefs,
our own way of life, to earn money to support our life-style, to
invest & reap the profits of our investment in our children, in
our homes, in the society we live in & also the country we call
Live & let live is & should be our motive.
Why does it trouble us when another person prays differently?
Does it matter to our creator by which name we call him? What
makes one way of prayer superior to others? Is our creator so
petty that he will be be-littled if a person does not accord Him
the reverence which you think is right?
What answers can you give my friends?
In this vein the carnage of Gujarat & also other places around
the world, where the fight actually boils down to, my God & way
of prayer is superior to yours. It would be laughably insane if
the stakes were not so high. Lives, children, a way of living,
has been destroyed.
This is what the writer & columnist Anil Dharker has written in
the Bombay Times on 25th March 2002, an excerpt follows;
* "..The need of Gujarat's victims is extreme & urgent and cannot
wait: if anyone wants to do something for our fellow-countrymen
who have undergone the worst possible trauma, the time to act is
now. The first thing to do in an emergency is to send supplies &
** Sabrang, the agency which acted as a pressure group for the
implementation of the Srikrishna Report after the Bombay riots of
1992-1993, is setting up a cell to deal with the Gujarat tragedy.
Like it did in the Bombay riots, it plans to set up a Citizens
Enquiry Commission for Gujarat, on the lines of the People's
Commission comprising Justice Hosbet Suresh & Justice S.M Daud for
Bombay. It also plans to launch five Public Interest Litigations
immediately before the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court.
Fali Nariman has already agreed to argue the case before the
Other initiatives are also being planned but, obviously, they
cannot get anywhere without public help.
Contact Sabrang directly on(022)605 3927 or (022) 648 2288.Or
write to them at PO Box 28253,Juhu Post Office, Bombay-400
049. E-mail Sabrang@...
In addition to this, there is something else you can do. All this
will need is a couple of hours of your time. All of us at some
time or other, have received a chain letter ..The idea is to
replicate what is done in the most powerful democracy in the
world, the United States of America, where people constantly
write to politicians to redress matters.
Your letters should be addressed to the President of India,
Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, to the Prime Minister of India, 7,
Race Course Road, New Delhi,110 001 & the Chief Justice Of THE
Supreme Court, Supreme Court, New Delhi 110 001.
What you can say is along the following lines:
We are extremely disturbed by the recent happenings in Gujarat
when hundreds of innocent men, women and children have been
killed, maimed or injured and thousands have been made homeless
and their businesses destroyed. We are distressed that the
Government of Gujarat did not try to stop the violence, and now
gives no relief to the victims. From news reports, we also learn
that the government of Gujarat is making no effort to bring the
perpetrators of the violence to justice.
We appeal to you to intervene so that the relief is quickly
brought to the needy and justice is quickly brought to the
If you send these three letters directly, and ten of your friends
send them too, and then ten each of your ten friends. Delhi will
have to take notice.
Remember that Gujarat now is no longer a matter of this religion
or that. It is a question of helping human beings in deep
distress. And it is a question of restoring respect for the rule
The Hindustan Times, Tuesday, April 2, 2002
Eyes and ears
Formally, the commission of inquiry into the Ahmedabad riots of 1969
was appointed by the state government. In truth, its appointment and
composition were settled by the Centre. It had made it plain that it
would itself appoint a commission of inquiry, as the Commissions of
Inquiry Act, 1952 empowered it to do unless the state acted first and
to the Centre's satisfaction.
Apart from the fact that several questions hang over the head of the
commission of inquiry set up by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the
institution of the commission itself is in none too good a shape.
It is, nonetheless, a vital necessity in our legal and political
system. However, a commission acts on the work of an investigating
agency which records statements. This means the state police.
As the Liberhan Commission merrily meanders its course towards the
discovery of the truth about the demolition of the Babri masjid, give
some thought to the report of the citizens' tribunal on Ayodhya
published in December 1993. It comprised two former judges of the
Supreme Court, Justices O. Chinnappa Reddy and D.A. Desai, and a
former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, Justice DS Tewatia.
The tribunal had appointed a commission of inquiry, headed by Kamala
Prasad, a former chief secretary to the government of Bihar, and
consisting of distinguished academics. This commission visited
Ayodhya from February 9 to 11, 1993, examined 84 witnesses, met a
number of people and consulted a lot of material. The tribunal
examined some more witnesses and received many submissions
thereafter. Cannot this precedent be emulated for a citizens' inquiry
into the Gujarat killings in 2002 with particular focus on Godhra and
The citizens' inquiry is in the good, authentic Indian tradition. It
was developed during the freedom movement and pursued for quite some
time after Independence.
Volume 17 of the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi contains the
"report of the commissioners appointed by the Punjab sub-committee of
the Indian National Congress on the Punjab Disorders" culminating in
the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Its author was Gandhiji. He gave his
colleagues, C.R. Das, Abbas S. Tayabji and M.R. Jayakar, a hard time
with his concern for accuracy and credibility, as Jayakar recorded in
his memoirs. History accords this report far greater respect than it
does to the official Hunter Report.
The difference between an official inquiry and a non-official one
lies mainly in the coercive machinery of the law which the former
enjoys, in the summoning of witnesses and production of records,
besides, of course, the advantage in resources. But the test in each
case is identical - regard for the truth displayed in thoroughness of
investigation and rigour in analysis; in short, integrity and ability.
Judged by this test, many an official inquiry received wide public
acceptance. Reports by both are aimed at public edification. A
commission of inquiry set up under the Act of 1952 is a fact-finding
body. It can censure. It cannot reprimand, let alone award a sentence
of punishment or order payment of compensation.
Persons who serve on a citizens' inquiry enjoy the same legitimacy as
does any citizen who goes about exercising his fundamental right to
freedom of speech and expression (Article 19(1)(a) of the
Constitution). This, the Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly, includes
the right to know. A journalist has additional protection because, as
the US Supreme Court ruled in the Richmond Newspaper Case (1980), the
media function as "surrogates for the public." So would a citizens'
There are precedents galore before and after Independence. The report
of the Kanpur Riots Inquiry Committee, submitted by its Chairman
Bhagwan Das to the Congress president on October 4, 1931, is a
classic which was recently published in book form. It was banned
during the Raj because it went into the latent causes of communal
conflict. There was the Peshawar Inquiry into the outrages in
Peshawar in 1930. It was headed by Vithalbhai Patel.
In 1968, two senior members of the bar, Purshottam Trikamdas and
Sarjoo Prasad, served on a non-official inquiry into the police
outrages at Indraprastha Bhavan in Delhi. That report set out in
detail the procedure they followed and can serve as a model for such
inquiries. Besides, there are many instances of inquiries into
communal riots conducted by academics and others on behalf of
institutions like the Gandhian Institute of Studies and the Centre
for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi.
Whether it is a statutory inquiry or any other, the tests in both
cases are the same - fairness in the procedure, thoroughness in the
inquiry and objectivity and honesty in the appreciation of evidence.
One misconception must be dispelled. In 1993 the Srikrishna
Commission issued, but later withdrew, notices, under Section 10 (A)
(2) of the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, to two former judges of
the Bombay High Court, Justices H. Suresh and S.M. Daud, for holding
a 'parallel commission of inquiry' on the riots. The latter had been
assigned the task of holding a citizens' inquiry by the Indian
People's Human Rights Commission, which filed a writ petition in the
Bombay High Court challenging the legality of the notices. The
petition was withdrawn following the withdrawal of the notices.
The provision is clearly aimed at scurrilous attacks which would
"bring the commission or any member thereof into disrepute". Section
10A is of doubtful constitutional validity. There was no "officious
meddling" as Justice Srikrishna imagined. He was assured that the
citizens' inquiry would, in fact, assist him by placing its material
There is, therefore, no legal impediment to the establishment of a
citizens' inquiry into the killings in Gujarat. Indeed, there is
every reason for its early establishment so that it begins its task
expeditiously - before the evidence disappears. Two precautions must
be kept in mind. It should not comprise retired judges who, having
creditably espoused public causes, revealed their commitments. Next,
the inquiry must be transparent and fair.
The Hindu, March 28, 2002
Don't become pawns, RSS tells Muslims
By Our Special Correspondent
NEW DELHI, MARCH 27. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
today justified its recently- adopted resolution ``let Muslims
understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority''
describing it as ``a statement of fact''.
The RSS spokesperson, M.G.Vaidya, said the statement had not
been understood in the proper perspective. ``There are certain
irritants, some incidents act as irritants ... 2 lakh Kashmiri Hindus
have become refugees, Amarnath pilgrims were attacked, attempts
are made to convert Hindus to other faiths, and finally, ... it does no
credit to the Muslim community to allow itself to be made pawns in
the hands of extremist Muslim leaders and Hindu-baiting political
elements,'' (read the last as non-BJP parties).
However, though Mr. Vaidya said that the controversial statement
in the resolution was quite innocuous, he did not agree that if one
were to substitute Muslims in that sentence with Sikhs to read ``let
Sikhs understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the
majority,'' that sentence would also be a ``statement of fact''.
Mr. Vaidya also did not agree with another formulation of that
sentence. ``Let the Scheduled Castes understand that their real
safety lies in the goodwill of caste Hindus.'' No, he said, the RSS
never believed in caste differences, ``what is being suggested is
totally different from what was said about the Muslims in the
statement,'' Mr. Vaidya insisted. ``You are stretching this too far,''
he told the correspondent asking the question. There was no
explanation why if that statement was a ``statement of fact'' in
relation to one community, and nothing more vicious, why did it
seem wrong when one minority community was replaced by
another in the very same formulation?
Mr. Vaidya claimed that ``similar statements, similar expressions''
had earlier been used by different persons without everyone
making it into a major controversy.
He claimed that during the debates in the Constituent Assembly a
similar view was expressed by the then Congress leader, Mahavir
Tyagi, and another Muslim leader, Aziz Rasul, had rejected the
idea of reservation for Muslims on the ground that would give no
chance to the minorities to earn the goodwill of the majority
On the Gujarat violence, Mr. Vaidya said that no Government could
have done better, the Modi Government had done what it could do.
He said the Godhra outrage had provided the spark: ``if there had
been no Godhra, there would have been no violence following it.''
o o o o
The Hindu April 1, 2002
Sir, We are shocked to find that an RSS spokesman, in
justification of the Sangh's recent resolution, has referred
mischievously to remarks by the late Mahavir Tyagi in the
Constituent Assembly (March 28). The remarks were made on
August 27, 1947, on an amendment moved by a member of the
Muslim League who sought to introduce separate electorates.
Tyagi opposed this and supported general electorates which
necessitate seeking and retaining the confidence of the majority.
The RSS spokesman has used the speech selectively and out of
The tenor of Tyagi's speech is opposed to the RSS ideology, both
in general and as recently manifested in the specific context of
Gujarat. For instance, in his speech Tyagi said: ``We cannot
recognise religions as far as the state is concerned"; ``we will
legislate in a manner that will be a guarantee against all injustice;"
``we belong to that part of the country which has guaranteed at the
very outset safety of life and property to everyone in this country";
and ``we do not believe in discarding minorities or finishing them or
killing them...'' Those who heard Tyagi had no misconceptions
about what he was saying or what he stood for throughout his life.
Uma Rani and Anil Nauriya,
Mahavir Tyagi Foundation,
Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Since pain is the same, let the compensation be the same too
Despite riot after communal riot, India still hasn't put a law in
place to ensure uniform compensation for victims, says Iqbal A.
Ansari, Secretary General of the Minorities Council
Iqbal A. Ansari
The public discourse on riots in India hasn't paid attention to the
absence of a law on the rights of their victims. The issue acquires
special importance given the riots in Gujarat, which are the result
of the failure of governance resulting in loss of life, limb,
shelter, property, places of worship, honour, and social and
professional dislocation of thousands.
Except for the victims of anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi in 1984, all
payment of compensation to riot victims has been ex-gratia. This
hasn't just led to a sweeping variation from Rs 20,000 to Rs two lakh
depending on political expediency, but the underlying arbitrariness
undermines the basic principle of the rule of law. Moreover, damages
other than life and limb undeservedly suffered by large number of
people - e.g. displacement, dislocation, causing permanent
vocational, social and educational losses, including schooling of
children - don't get due attention.
Rehabilitative measures are supposed to lie in the domain of
charitable social work. Officially, it is being looked in token
fashion after by a non-statutory National Foundation For Communal
Harmony, which is under the Union Home Ministry. This neglect has
happened despite the efforts of the National Commission For
Minorities (NCM) since 1980 when ''it strongly urged upon the
government to pass appropriate legislation and formulate schemes for
giving compensation to victims of communal riots'' on the ground that
''the State cannot be absolved from its responsibility of protecting
life and property of the citizens.''
Justice H.R. Khanna, whose opinion on the matter was sought by the
NCM, noted ''the rising trend in some countries to pay compensation
to victims of violent crimes eg. New Zealand (1963), Britain (1964)
and subsequently in Canada, Northern Ireland and USA and Australia.''
(NCM report, 1980)
In its Sixth Report (1981) the National Police Commission (NPC)
observed that ''it is the duty of the administration to compensate
these unfortunate sufferers (of communal riots) for the loss and
suffering undergone by them and to assist them in their
The 1985 UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of
Crime and Abuse of Power also requires governments to establish and
strengthen judicial and administrative mechanisms to enable victims
to obtain redress - expeditious, fair, inexpensive and accessible.
Clause 11 provides that ''victims should receive restitution from the
State whose officials or agents were responsible for the harm
In India, it's the judgement of Justice Anil Dev Singh of the Delhi
High Court on the Civil Writ Petition No 1429 (Smt Bhajan Kaur vs
Delhi Administration) which proved pathbreaking in holding the State
liable to pay adequate compensation for having failed to protect the
life of citizens guaranteed under Article 21.
In the event of the State's failure to prevent the loss of innocent
lives, ''it cannot escape the liability to pay adequate compensation
to the family of persons killed during riots''. The judgement's
argument is based on the view that ''it is not open to the State to
say that the violations are being committed by private persons for
which it cannot be held accountable. Riots more often than not take
place due to weakness, laxity and indifference of the administration
in enforcing law and order...''
Though the Delhi government paid the anti-Sikh riot victims
compensation of Rs 3.50 lakh, the court's advice to the Union and
state governments is to enact laws ''to locate the responsibility for
the riots whenever and wherever they occur and the persons held
responsible for the same should be made to pay compensation and the
law should provide for confiscation of their properties so as to
secure payment of compensation out of the assets so confiscated.'' In
fact, the ruling even recommended that ''if a government official or
officials didn't act in time or were indifferent to mob violence,
they should also be required to make reparations to the victims and
face disciplinary proceedings''.
In August 1997, the Minorities Council was represented to the NCM in
August 1997 and subsequently to the NHRC for direction to the Union
and state governments for application of the judgment to victims of
other riots in the country and for enactment of a law on
compensation. This resulted in the NCM making a statutory resolution
for treating the Delhi High Court judgment as the general law for
awarding proper compensation to victims of all communal riots. Though
the NHRC indirectly endorsed the NCM resolution, it evaded
responsibility under the cover that the matter was with the Supreme
Court. But the case that was pending before the Supreme Court related
only to the limited issue of enhancement of the amount paid to Sikh
victims from Rs 2 lakh with interest to Rs 7.5 lakh and payment of
compensation to other Sikh victims in Kanpur, Jabalpur, Bokaro, etc.
In December 1997, the NCM appointed a committee on communal riots
headed by Justice V.M. Tarkunde for which this writer, as the
committee's convener, submitted a comprehensive report. It was
adopted by the NCM and sent to the government in March 1999.
There is an urgent need to enact a law on the rights of victims of
riots, to provide for a tribunal or a commission of inquiry for
fixing responsibility and determining losses and compensation. The
Central government should neither have the power to appoint the
commission nor to reject its findings. The panel should be appointed
by an independent panel and have the power to initiate legal
proceedings against erring officials and police personnel.
It is this fear of accountability and liability to pay compensation
which will have a ripple effect in starting a process of reforms of
the system. The chances of punishment - and just a transfer - and of
substantial monetary losses will instill fear of law in the
bureaucracy and the police, keep their passions and prejudices in
leash and make them perform their duty in accordance with the law
rather await for ''orders from above''.
It will be the duty of law makers to simultaneously provide
protection to officials, so that legitimate rights and interests of
their career do not get adversely affected for being independent and
Tuesday, April 02, 2002
Now they burn houses deserted by their frightened victims
In one week, mobs set fire to over 50 Ahmedabad houses whose
residents wait in relief camps, police say fire spreads too fast,
they are short of staff
Ahmedabad, April 1 Inmates should not be asked to leave the
camps until appropriate relief and rehabilitation measures are in
place for them and they feel assured, on security grounds, that they
can indeed leave the camps. - NHRC report on Gujarat
The Gujarat government needn't worry about people in relief camps
wanting to return home. Arsonists in Ahmedabad have, over the past
week, made sure that many of those in the camps don't have homes to
return to: they have burnt down deserted houses in various parts of
the city even as Chief Minister Narendra Modi talks of normalcy.
And those whose homes are still safe fear that they, too, will be
attacked if they return.
Ramol in Amraiwadi, Vatva, Madhavpura, Gomtipur and Danilimda... the
story is the same everywhere.
- Fifty houses were set on fire on Sunday evening at Behrampura in
the Danilimda area; they'd been vacated by fleeing residents on
February 28. About 500 yards away are the Behrampura police outpost
and an additional police picket but that didn't help much when the
mob got to work.
- The previous night, the target was Rajpur in the Gomtipur area. The
damage: six houses belonging to Muslims burnt down
- Last Monday, a row of houses in the Ramal area
- The same day, houses and shops left unprotected burnt at Saiyedwadi
in the Vatva area and a house burnt in Madhavpura.
Mehboob Ali, a resident of Kasai ni Chali - the scene of yesterday's
arson - has been staying at the Shah Alam camp for the past month.
''I was told my house had been burnt last night. I wonder how people
came and burnt so many houses without the police being aware, even
though there's a checkpost a few yards from our colony,'' said Ali.
Ali and his neighbours in the same camp say they can't muster the
courage to visit their burnt houses. ''What's the guarantee that,
like our houses for this camp, the police assured us that our
property would be protected. Now everything's been reduced to
ashes,'' Salim Habib Shaikh, another resident, said.
Asked how the mob managed to get to the houses, Joint Commissioner of
Police M K Tandon said, ''Our men were on guard on the main road but
a group of people came from the rear and set the houses on fire. Only
when our men saw the smoke did they realise that the houses had been
set ablaze. We are still trying our best to ensure that property is
safe, even though we have a manpower constraint.''
It's not an explanation bought by those affected. ''We aren't
convinced by the logic given by the police. So many houses were burnt
and the police opened fire only after our houses were gutted. It's
quite difficult to believe," said Naseer Ali Shaikh, a resident of
Bukhari ni Chali who has now shifted to a relative's house in
The anger is simmering in Gomtipur too. ''It's not so easy to burn
houses and it can't be done in a few minutes. The mob came ready with
fuel and took their time burning our houses'', said Mohammed
Sirajuddin, resident of Nagpur Vora ni Chali. Again, the police have
a defence. ''Only a few people came and threw petrol bombs and acid
bombs on houses. The fire spreads very fast to adjoining houses. Our
men keep patrolling but it's not possible to set up pickets
everywhere. It's unfortunate but such incidents do take place,'' ACP
Chandrakant Vora said.
DCP (Zone-VI) B S Jebaliya, in whose area there have been three
incidents of arson in the last 10 days, said "We've also noticed that
some people are targeting vacant houses. But we have made arrests in
all cases to send a message to miscreants that stern action will be
AHMEDABAD: On Monday, CM Modi said large-scale violence had been
brought under control, small incidents were being played up.
Meanwhile, during the day:
- The Army was called out in the Khanpur area of Ahmedabad on Monday
after a mob tried to attack some houses
- A mob set on fire at least eight houses at Adundara village near
Kadi in Mehsana district; curfew continued in Kadi town.
- Two people injured in violence three days ago died on Monday
- Indefinite curfew continued in Gomtipur
APRIL 8, 2002 / VOL. 159 NO. 13
The Fire This Time
India's communal carnage should have ended when troops went in.
Instead, the hate is spreading
BY MEENAKSHI GANGULY NEW DELHI
Unforgiven: Violence in Gujarat in mid-March
Muslims are intolerant ... They only look out for one another ...
Even America has discovered that. This is murderous talk, heard these
days with astonishing frequency throughout India, in teahouses, in
crowded commuter trains, in the classroom, at the dinner table. They
need to be taught a lesson ... The time has come ...
In late February, India experienced a paroxysm of violence between
Hindus and Muslims. A group of Muslims in the western state of
Gujarat burned 58 Hindus alive on a train. In response, Hindus went
on a three-day rape, pillage and murder rampage that claimed the
lives of 427 people. It was the worst violence between the two
communities since riots in Bombay in 1993 claimed 800 lives.
But after the clashes in 1993, the hate swiftly receded. Today, the
opposite is happening. The chaos in Gujarat was supposed to be
quelled when the army was belatedly sent in. In fact, looting and
murder continue with both sides engaging in vengeful attacks. Nearly
300 people, mostly Muslims, have died since the first wave of
violence, almost all in Gujarat. In some places, police allow rioters
to continue un-molested. One special target of Hindu fury: those who
resist the hate. Last week, a mob stripped and then beat a Hindu
woman to death for protecting her Muslim friend; another mob fatally
stabbed a Muslim man for having married a Hindu. "These people always
take our women as one of their wives to beget Muslim children," says
one activist for the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the extreme Hindu
movement linked with India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The truly frightening thing is that it's not just fanatics taking
part in the anti-Muslim pogrom. Murder has gone middle class:
businessmen are killing businessmen, farmers are fighting farmers,
mothers are urging mobs to attack neighbors' children. Across the
country, in the cities and out in the villages, Hindu "self-defense"
groups are ransacking Muslims' shops and burning their homes.
Vigilante patrols from each side keep watch over their respective
communities. Among Hindus, talk of finishing the job left undone from
the genocide of partition, in which up to a million people died in
the bloody split of the subcontinent, is open and common. In the past
month, more than 100,000 Muslims have fled their homes; business
losses are estimated at $600 million.
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has described the pogrom merely
as "unfortunate." Pravin Togadiya, general secretary of the VHP,
warns that he can see Hindu sentiment getting even more out of hand.
Said one rioter in Ahmadabad, capital of Gujarat, as he watched his
comrades pillage a cluster of Muslim homes: "We want to make sure the
Muslims never come back." If there is one immutable law of nature, it
is that violence begets violence, and hatred spawns more hate (think
of the Middle East). India's long national nightmare may just be
The Praful Bidwai Column for the week beginning April 1
Hindutva As A Caste Weapon
By Praful Bidwai
Each day Mr Narendra Milosevic Modi stays in power, he inflicts grave
wounds upon the people of Gujarat, the 95,000 victims of communal
violence in refugee camps, the integrity of the administration--and
on India's secular-democratic Constitution and laws. Like a hardened
criminal who will commit more and more offences to cover his tracks,
Mr Modi is trying to evade culpability for the worst pogrom in
India's history by blaming, victimising, and maligning others: his
own relatively honest Indian Police Service officers27 of whom he has
summarily transferred, non-governmental organisations, and even
Opposition MPs. He has abused non-BJP MPs as "hypocrites" who
"systematically exaggerate" the gravity of the Gujarat situation by
Mr Modis remark that the current disturbances in Gujarat will stop
the moment Parliament ends its session is a grievous affront to that
institution and a ludicrous distortion of the truth. As the chairman
of the Central government-sponsored National Human Rights Commission,
Mr Justice J.S. Verma, has himself said after a three-day visit to
Gujarat, the situation there is far from normal; citizens are in the
grip of insecurity and a "fear psychosis". Mr Vermas remarks on the
state government's many failures confirm what civil society groups
such as the 28-member conglomerate of NGOs, Citizens Initiative from
Ahmedabad, have been saying for the past three weeks.
Indeed, new evidence is emerging of the shocking role played by two
of Mr Modi's own cabinet colleagues on the crucial first day of the
post-Godhra violence. Health minister Ashok Bhatt and urban
development minister I.K. Jadeja personally occupied police control
rooms on February 28 to direct the "revenge" attacks. It is during
their presence there that former MP Ehsan Jaffreys desperate, six
hour-long appeals for rescue were ignored--before he was charred to
death. That was also the beginning of the Naroda-Patiya butchery of
90 Muslims. The activities of the first day set the stage for the
massacre that followed.
Indias Milosevic is now instructing his police to fudge First
Information Reports by diluting charges against communal killers from
"murder" to "murder in dacoity". Worse, the Gujarat police are
omitting individual names of marauders and murderers. Mr Modi is also
ill-treating people in refugee camps, where conditions are altogether
ghastly. In one camp, with 9,000 people, there are only four toilets.
In another typical case, the daily food rations are a pathetic 60
grammes--that too of wheat full of worms and dirt. Such is the
abiding ferocity of the communal hatred in Gujarat that the other day
a Hindutva mob killed a Hindu woman because she gave shelter to a
Muslim. The quality of violence is comparable to what was witnessed
during Partition in Punjab.
What explains the frightful intensity of this communalisation? Why is
Mahatma Gandhis Gujarat in an even tighter grip of hatred, revenge
and bestiality than, say, Uttar Pradesh? How come educated bhadralok
people, respectable doctors and lawyers, participated in the killing,
burning and looting? Why do Gujarat's Hindutva supporters hate
Muslims so much?
To start with, it bears recalling that modern India's first communal
riot was recorded in Gujarat, in 1713. Gujarat is India's only state
in which the BJP rules on its own. It has a clear majority of votesin
contrast, it has always stayed below 40 percent in UP. The VHP too
has an active presence in each Gujarat village with a population
exceeding 500. The BJPs student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi
Parishad, claims to have a branch in every town and village. It is
not for nothing that Gujarat has been called Hindutva's crucible or
"laboratory". The victims recently placed in the crucible have been
Christians, Adivasis (who are nature- or ancestor-worshippers, not
Hindus), Dalits, and of course, Muslims.
It is impossible to understand Hindutva's overwhelming strength in
Gujarat without noting the general influence of Right-wing thinking
in the culture of this business-oriented state and society which
places a premium on commercialising all human relationships. At the
political level, the Right's influence goes back to Gandhi's
withdrawal in the late 1920s from active involvement in Gujarat in
favour of national politics, and the importance of Sardar Vallabhbhai
It is on this fertile soil that three major factors have shaped
Gujarati society and politics. The most important is the early
consolidation of a powerful alliance between the patidar land-owning
farmers in the villages, and Brahmins and Banias in the cities. This
divided the state between "Bhadra Gujarat" and "Aam Gujarat", say
Gujarat-based social scientists Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra Sheth.
The expanding and modernising middle class of Gujarat has been
looking for a new identity to validate its present and protect its
future." Hindutva has furnished this identity. When faced with a
challenge "from below", from Dalits and OBCs wanting to share power,
the upper-caste elite reacted violently, especially after the
impressive 1980 electoral performance of the KHAM
(Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim), coalition put together by
The savarna (upper caste) reaction took the form of a violent
agitation in 1981-82 against Dalits and the reservation system. "The
myth of Gandhi's Gujarat--peaceful, tolerant and
non-violent--exploded", say Yagnik and Sheth. This was repeated even
more militantly against the OBCs in 1985-86. Remarkably, the leader
of this Right-wing campaign against any dilution of bhadralok power
was none other than Mr Narendra Modi. Its predominant ideology was
Hindutva, the binding cement of savarna unity baptised in blood. This
was originally targeted at the Hindu low castes, but soon turned
"While the ideology of Hindutva was gaining ground", say Yagnik and
Sheth, "moderate voices were getting weaker and more inaudible. By
the early 1990s, community leaders
no longer wielded any authority
over their youth and the traditional structures of community control
had crumbled. These youngsters, in their late teens and early
twenties have grown up on a diet of anti-minority invective and the
voices of moderation, of liberal thought and tolerance have been
missing from their environment."
A second factor has been the growing influence of conservative and
religious ideas through the NRI community. Gujarat has the highest
population of any Indian state of non-resident Indians in the
professional classes living in North America. Their "long-distance"
nationalism is especially reactionary, and feeds Hindutva. This
segment of the NRI community is more orthodox, traditional and
backward-looking than its resident Indian counterparts. It provides
the role-model for young Gujaratis whose anti-minority orientation is
only matched by their disdain or hatred for Gandhi, whom they regard
as effete and "effeminate".
There is a third factor too. This is Gujarats weak liberal culture.
Gujarat has certainly had a tradition of tolerance, and peaceful
co-existence of ethnic groups and religions: e.g. Hindus, Muslims and
Parsis. But tolerance is not the same thing as modernist liberal
respect for pluralism. One reason for a lack of this, apart from the
strength of the Right, is the weakness of Gujarat's labour movement.
Once militant, this was compromised by the imposition of the
pro-employer Mazoor Mahajan union based on the romantic notion of
"trusteeship": industrialists as the "trustees" of labour, not its
exploiters, which they are.
The disarming of the labour movement an early stage meant that
Gujarats elite was under little pressure to make human rights,
labour rights and other concessions, or to respect liberal values. As
the great historian E.P. Thompson often said, a liberal culture
doesnt come out of thin air; it arises from the peoples struggles,
when workers and peasants fight at the barricades. This didnt happen
Since the early 1990s, the bhadralok's growing assertiveness or
aggressiveness has increasingly taken the form of xenophobia and
crude Hindu-chauvinism. It is in Gujarat that textbooks were first
severely rewritten to distort history by glorifying everything Hindu
and maligning everything non-Hindu. The effects have been aggravated
by changes in the social geography of cities like Ahmedabad, and
creation of Hindu and Muslim ghettos, resulting in declining social
interaction between communities.
Thus, Gujarats Muslims, 100 percent Gujarati-speaking and probably
the most culturally integrated in India, have been turned into the
bhadraloks villains and targets. Ironically, this happened in a
state where the penetration of Islam was remarkably peaceful,
according to scholars. Traditionally, Gujarats Muslims were
themselves divided into 130 different communities vastly disparate in
descent, occupation, lifestyle, and religious customs. For instance,
the Bohras and Khojas were severely persecuted by Sunni Muslims, not
Hindus. Hindutva has been as blind to differences among Muslims as it
has been to divisions among the Hindus.
Hindutva's overwhelming of Gujarat has delivered a devastating blow
to the states society and economy. Gujarat, Indias most
industrialised state, has for years, topped the foreign investment
charts and attracted more than twice the amount of such investment
per capita than Maharashtra. After the carnage, economic growth is
certain to slow down. Rising unemployment will fuel greater
frustration, social strife and violence. Gujarats future looks
bleak. But unless the Hindutva juggernaut is stopped and communal
forces are sent packing, much of India could soon begin to resemble
Gujarat. That would spell Indias descent into barbarism.--end--
2nd KaraFilm Festival
!!! CALL FOR ENTRIES !!!
The Karachi International Film Festival 2002
September 2-8, 2002 - Karachi, Pakistan.
Organized by filmmakers, the KaraFilm Festival is a celebration of
the moving image and of storytelling. Our goal is to promote an
appreciation of the art and craft of filmmaking among a wide
population as well as to encourage creativity and high standards
among filmmakers. The 1st KaraFilm Festival, held last year, drew
participation from India, Sri Lanka, the United States and Canada in
addition to Pakistan and featured 35 film screenings over three days.
It is back this year, bigger and better.
Filmmakers are invited to submit films in any of the following categories:
1. Short Shorts (Fictional Work Up To 15 minutes in Length)
2. Medium-Length Shorts (Fictional Work Between 15 and 60 minutes in Length)
3. Feature Films (Fictional Work Over 60 minutes in Length)
4. Documentaries (Non-Fictional Work of Any Length)
Work may originate on Film OR Video.
The Deadline for Submissions is June 15, 2002.
For details on how, where and what to submit, please go to our website:
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