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SACW #2 | 01 Mar. 02 [Wave of 'Communal' Violence Strikes India]

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire - Dispatch #2 | 01 March 2002 {INDIA SPECIAL} [ Please Note: there will be no SACW posts from March 2 to March 3]
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2002
      South Asia Citizens Wire - Dispatch #2 | 01 March 2002 {INDIA SPECIAL}

      [ Please Note: there will be no SACW posts from March 2 to March 3]

      #1. Fire of Fanaticism (Ram Puniyani)
      #2. Press Note from Vadadora (Rohit Prajapati & Trupti Shah)
      #3. India Death Toll Rises in Religious Rioting
      #4. Fresh riots rock Gujarat
      #5. - US concerned over communal tension
      - Canada urges India to calm passions



      Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 13:09:19 +0530 (IST)
      From: Ram Puniyani
      Subject: Article on Godhra etc

      Fire of Fanaticism

      Ram Puniyani

      The incidents of Godra have shaken our conscience to no end. What can be
      more condemnable than the violence, violence against innocent Human
      beings, violence in the name of religion, violence perpetrated apparently
      in and around the issues related to temple and mosque? Promptly it got
      propagated that those who committed the crime were 'Muslims' and as a
      reflex action 'Muslims' have been brought on the firing line, their
      households on fire in Ahmadabad with the state machinery obliging the
      rioters by looking the other way around. While Ahmadbad is being burnt
      state apparatus is merrily declaring that 'situation is under control'!
      Yes it has been under control of those who have deeper motives in keeping
      the flames of communal hatred alive.

      The backdrop of the incident is very revealing. A party, BJP, which is
      part of the Sangh Parivar, (whose other members are VHP, Bajarang Dal etc,
      all whose controllers come from the same stock, volunteers, swaymsevaks,
      trained in the politics of Hindutva, with the goal of Hindu rashtra in
      mind,) looses its grip in many a states in the state assembly elections.
      As soon as the exit polls start showing the doom of the Party of Hindu
      Rashtra, its family members," 'saints' and co." raise the pitch of their
      histrionics for building temple for Lord Ram. The 'saints' of the VHP and
      the Parivar soon realized that the emotive appeal built around the temple
      is not yielding the dividends as it used to do in the yesteryear. Barring
      the hardcore supporters of Hindu Rashtra all other fringe supporters who
      were brought in by the emotional appeal of Ram Lalla soon realized that
      what they need more then the Temple at Ayodhya is bread and butter,
      shelter and clothing, education and employment, health facilities and
      drinking water, and so they realized their folly of falling in for the
      party of Hindu Rashtra and vote with their tummies to stage its route in
      the elections. On the top of it even the 'holy Saints' were not able to
      draw the expected crowds to the 'Holy Yagnas' and other campaigns. So
      finally the communal politics meets its death! If these issues don't bring
      the votes to the kitty of BJP, it has no future.

      One recalls that BJP's earlier edition; Jana Sangh had begun its politics
      on the slogan of Cow Protection. It asserted the Cow is 'equivalent' of
      our mother. But people at large, those who are unable to take care of
      their own mother who gives them life, did not fall in the trap and the
      support base of Jan Sangh did not take off. During eighties as if 'by a
      stroke of genius' Sangh Parivar discovered the need for Ram temple in
      Ayodhya and by now since an elite, upper caste/class urban middle class
      was in for opposing the social transformation, the campaign clicked. And
      the rising communal venom got focused through the Ram Temple agitation.
      Interestingly it got its real 'flesh and blood' after the Mandal
      commission implementation and in due course the Babri demolition and post
      demolition riots gave the party of Hindu Rashtra, what it needed
      desperately, power to eat into the very ethos of our harmonious culture,
      syncretic traditions and the values of Indian Constitution.

      Now BJP's electoral success was based on its 'hard core' prepared by RSS
      shakha training and by drawing the fringe, novice populace who
      intermittently submit to the appeal of "Lord Ram ' in the political area.
      So what are the 'lessons ' to be learnt by the Sangh Parivar from this set
      back? Number one that Lord Ram will no more be able to collect the votes
      for them. Number two they have to carry on with the spoils of power by
      taking the allies along. So with multispeak in actioe different languages
      are spoken, secularism by Vajpayee, threat of Terrorism by Advani, needed
      to keep the facade of NDA agenda by many of them.

      Coming back to Godhra. This writer has a feeling of deja vu while hearing
      the blame that 'Muslims' have done the dastardly crime. In case of Mumbai
      riots blame on this community was based on a very simple logic. Since the
      victims are Hindus, (Mathadi Workers in Dockyard or Bane family in
      Jogeshwari) so the culprits must be Muslims. Fortunately today at least
      after the Shrikrishna Commission report the mist is clear and 'Muslims'
      exonerated from the crime, but not from the popular memory? The
      retaliation or whatever that is, duly supported by the BJP Govt, stalks
      the streets and the clear targets are Muslim. One believes that not
      controlling the riot when it can be controlled is connivance if not an
      outright support. Today one does not know who burnt the train for sure.
      What were the incidents, which led to the mob coming together, getting
      armed with petrol bombs etc? One has some reservations in believing
      outright that in the "laboratory of Hindu Rashtra", Gujarat, any "Muslim'
      group can plan it so well under the nose of the most efficient Swaymaewak
      Narendra Modi. Surely there is more to the 'Muslim involvement' in Godra
      train incident than meets the eye. But how does that matter. What is
      important is that in a society where the popular psyche is doctored
      against minorities, broad masses can jump to such quick conclusions and do
      the rest?

      The immediate aftermath of this will be an increased flow of Kar Sevaks to
      Ayodhya. There again another swayamsevak will ensure that whatever is
      needed to keep the flames of politics of Hatred aflame is done, even if
      one has to pay the price of that with human blood. Afteall unfair is fair
      in politics of power and more so if this politics is projected in the name
      of God or religion. One can see the minor repeat of the Post Babri
      demolition scenario. With the violence spreading and those in power
      calculating as to what is more beneficial to control this mayhem or to let
      it go on, as that may be more profitable for one's politics.

      Whosoever is the real culprit behind the incident, one thing is sure.
      Nothing would have served the Sangh Parivar politics better. With the
      waning of the appeal of the Temple the 'threat of terrorism' and in turn
      the threat of 'aggressive Muslim community' has to be brought up to keep
      the electoral base alive. As such this community, which has been
      ghettoized due to regular outburst of communal-violence can hardly be
      regarded as a threat to the highly muscular Sangh Parivar support. However
      one should note in passing that during last five decades the percentage of
      the victims of communal violence have their own tale to tell. The 12.4% of
      the Muslim minority has an 'enviable' 80% representations in the riot
      victims! Who so ever says that they are not well represented? In most of
      the inquiry commission reports (Teesta Setalvad, Communalism Combat,
      March 98), have indicated that though it is projected that it is Muslims
      who start the violence, generally the events are so manipulated that
      either they are cornered to throw the first stone or simply blamed for it
      out of the blue. One does not know whether the present event has similar
      interpretation or something else. Only a proper inquiry will tell the
      truth but meanwhile those who wanted to bake their political bread have
      already achieved their purpose.

      Where do we go from here? The popular psyche has been doctored by Sangh
      Parivar into believing that Muslims are the villains, terrorists and all
      that. It is that which sustains the violence in deeper sense. We have to
      ensure that this much and no more has to be our motto. All those committed
      to the Human rights have to come together and put and end to the violence,
      which is sustained by hatred for the 'other'. A chain of peace committees,
      cutting across different shades of political opinion but committed to
      plural culture, have to come together to put an end to violence on the
      streets and violence in the mind. The distractions form the real social
      agenda, the agenda for growth and development, the agenda of social
      transformation towards social, economic and political justice has to be
      brought back on the scene on urgent basis.

      (Writer works with EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity, Mumbai)



      Press Release
      Date: 1-3-2002

      Bandh in present circumstance means peace living people should remain at
      home and the communal and Mafia types of mobs are allowed to do whatever
      they want. That is exactly what happened yesterday and the Government
      response and the response of the police was very negative.

      The incidence of Godhara is shocking and it requires very tough and
      immediate action against the involved persons. The life of Kare Sevak and
      other people can not be compensated by killing of more innocent peoples. No
      human being can justify the killing of other innocent people in the name of
      retaliation to Godhara brutal killings. Yesterday It is shamelessly
      observed that before the High Court of Gujarat one truck with driver put to
      fire. And just very next to Government of Gujarat office of Waqf Board put
      to fire. Many more such incidence taken away the innocent lives. The chain
      reaction will kill more innocent peoples. The Chief Minster is making vague
      and mischievous statement. His casual statement regarding what happened
      yesterday indicates his disgusting mind. Any bandh called in such a
      situation and that is even by the known communal organisation should not be
      supported by the Government. It is unfortunate that the present Gujarat
      Government supported the bandh which lead to more killings and such
      incidences created more divide between communities. Bandh in present
      circumstance means peace living people should remain at home and the
      communal and Mafia types of mobs are allowed to do whatever they want. That
      is exactly what happened yesterday and the Government response and the
      response of the police was very negative. It is high time for both -
      Central and State Government to take tough action on the communal forces of
      both the communities. People are looking for action not the casual and
      formal statements. As if this was not enough the bandh is extended in other
      part of India. This mean that the communal organisation want to repeat the
      Gujarat in other part of India also. We are shocked and surprised why the
      Government is not very serious about it and taking tough action against
      such groups ?

      Rohit Prajapati
      Trupti Shah
      TANDLJA ROAD, Vadodara - 390 020
      PHONE NO: 0265 - 334461



      The New York Times
      March 1, 2002

      India Death Toll Rises in Religious Rioting

      The New York Times
      PHOTO: Hindus pillaged and burned houses on Thursday in Ahmedabad.

      Filed at 2:42 a.m. ET

      AHMADABAD, India (AP) -- Hindus set fire to homes in a shantytown in
      western India early Friday, killing at least 27 Muslims as they
      slept, police said. A state official confirmed that the latest
      violence raises the death toll in two days of religious attacks to

      Home Secretary K. Nityanandam said 158 people had died throughout
      Gujarat state since Hindus began looting, burning and killing on
      Thursday, in retaliation for a deadly Muslim attack on a train. The
      fiery train assault in the small town of Godhra on Wednesday killed
      58 people, mostly Hindu nationalists.

      Of those slain in reprisal attacks since, 111 had been killed
      Gujarat's capital, Ahmadabad, Nityanandam said. The death toll could
      go higher as the victims of the shantytown fire were pulled from the
      ashes of their huts, he added,

      At least 1,200 people have been arrested in rioting since Thursday,
      Nityanandam said.

      Police said 63 people, including two municipal councilors in Godhra,
      have been arrested on murder charges in the train attack. Hindu
      nationalists said the action was not sufficient.

      Nityanandam said 900 soldiers were marching in the streets of
      Ahamadabad, where arson, gunfire and stabbings continued through the
      night. Hundreds of people crowded into hospitals for safety.

      In the latest attack, about 300 Hindus set fire to a Muslim-dominated
      shantytown in an industrial area at about 2 a.m. Friday, Deputy
      Police Commissioner P.B. Gondya told The Associated Press.

      ``We have recovered 27 charred bodies. The people were asleep when
      the incident happened,'' Gondya said. At least seven women and eight
      children were among the dead, he said. Another 42 people were
      hospitalized, some with burns over 80 percent of their bodies.

      ``Many people had already left the slum on Thursday afternoon due to
      fear that they could be targets,'' Gondya said.

      Hundreds of shops and homes owned by Muslims were burned overnight.

      Defense Minister George Fernandes flew to Ahmadabad on Friday and a
      total 1,300 soldiers were deployed, officials said. In addition to
      the 900 patrolling Ahmadabad, State Information Secretary Anil Mukim
      said 200 would be sent to two other towns.

      There were fears the violence could spread as Hindu nationalists
      called for a countrywide strike, but most Indians went to work
      Friday, including in the capital, New Delhi.

      There was some stone-throwing in Bombay, the nation's commercial
      capital, located in a state adjacent to Gujarat. A train carrying
      thousands of passengers was derailed in a northeastern Bombay suburb
      when about 100 Hindu activists placed concrete blocks across the
      tracks. No injuries were reported.

      The vast majority of Thursday's violence was in Ahmadabad, where
      furious Hindus wielding iron rods and cans of kerosene roamed
      blockaded streets, attacking Muslims in their homes, shops and
      vehicles. Others made bonfires with looted goods, and 20 men tore
      down a small mosque.

      J.S. Bandukwala, a Muslim and human rights activist in Ahmadabad,
      said his house was attacked by Hindus who ``lobbed burning rags and
      pelted stones,'' before his Hindu neighbors took him to safety.

      In Thursday's worst violence, about 2,000 Hindus set fire to six
      homes in an affluent Muslim neighborhood in Ahmadabad. At least 38
      people were burned to death, including 12 children.

      Some trapped residents made frantic telephone calls to police and
      firefighters. But police said they arrived two hours later and
      firefighters were delayed by more than six hours because of blockades
      by rioters.

      A former lawmaker, Ehsan Jefri, fired at the rioters when they tried
      to enter his house, but he was dragged out and burned alive.

      A curfew was raised in 32 towns across the state and police assumed
      emergency powers to detain people if they were suspected of plotting
      violence, officials said Friday.

      ``Police can't protect each lane and bylane,'' said Police
      Commissioner P.C. Pandey, responding to criticism that police
      silently watched the reprisal attacks on Muslims without intervening.

      The attack on the train came as tensions have been building between
      Muslims and Hindu nationalists who traveled by rail between Gujarat
      state and Ayodhya, in northern India. The World Hindu Council plans
      to start building a temple in Ayodhya next month on the ruins of a
      16th-century mosque.

      The 1992 destruction of the mosque by Hindus sparked nationwide riots
      that killed 2,000 people.

      This week's violence is believed to be the worst Hindu-Muslim
      fighting since 1993 riots in Bombay -- also related to the
      destruction of the mosque in Ayodhya -- killed at least 800 people.

      The government has called for calm, fearing bloodshed could spread
      quickly in this nation of more than 1 billion, where Hindu-Muslim
      fighting killed nearly a million people after independence in 1947.

      Rajendra Singh, the police superintendent in northern Uttar Pradesh,
      said 10,000 paramilitary troops had surrounded Ayodhya to prevent
      violence. Some 20,000 Hindu activists have gathered to pray for the
      temple construction.

      Indian officials often blame longtime rival Pakistan for internal
      strife. Some police and state officials, speaking on condition of
      anonymity, suggested that Pakistan's spy agency, or the Islamic
      militant groups with which it is linked, may have incited Muslims to
      attack the train.

      They provided no evidence, and no official has drawn any link between
      the violence in India and the al-Qaida terror network of Osama bin



      Friday, 1 March, 2002, 06:26 GMT
      Fresh riots rock Gujarat




      US concerned over communal tension

      Friday, March 1, 2002 (Washington ):
      The United States has expressed concern over the recent outbreak of
      communal violence in India, which has claimed several lives and
      caused large scale damage to property.
      "The US condemns the attacks on innocent civilians and the senseless
      violence that resulted in the deaths of so many innocent people,"
      State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said yesterday. He offered the
      condolences of the United States to the people and the Government of
      He also condemned sectarian violence in Pakistan and urged both
      Governments of India and Pakistan to avoid being provoked into
      responding with violence against innocents.
      Replying to a question whether setbacks to the BJP in the recent
      elections would have any impact on the Indo-Pakistan stand-off on the
      border, Reeker said: "We would not comment on internal Indian
      developments. Certainly our views on the India-Pakistan situation are
      well known."

      o o o

      Canada urges India to calm passions
      Canada has urged the people of India to end sectarian violence and
      reiterated calls for the Indian government to try to calm passions in
      the land, after more than 98 deaths over the past two days.

      "All we can do is really inform everybody that this is not going to
      solve the problem in the end and ask everybody to stop the violence,"
      Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham told reporters
      yesterday in Ottawa.

      "We've always urged the Indian government to try (to) make sure the
      passions are calmed," he said. "I don't think (the outbreak of
      violence) is beyond the ability of the Indian government to control


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