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Three Years After Genocide In Gujarat

By Asghar Ali Engineer

03 March, 2005
Secular Perspective

It was on 28 February 2002 three years before that genocide of Muslims started in Gujarat a day after train burning incident in Godhra on 27th February 2002, a day earlier. Every sensible person had condemned what happened at Godhra though it was far from clear as to who was responsible for train burning. Now the U.C.Banerjee report indicates that it was accidental fire which started from inside the compartment.

However, Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister, a hardcore RSS man, asserted that it was done by Muslims to massacre the Ramsevaks and justified the genocide in Gujarat on Newton's law of action-reaction. It is now well known that he had instructed top police officials in a meeting in Gandhinagar on 27th evening not to interfere with what rioters do on the streets next day. Harin Pandya, the assassinated minister of Narendra Modi Cabinet testified this before People's inquiry Commission and also told his father what Narendra Modi had instructed police officers on 27th February. Harin Pandya's father testified before the Nanavati Commission.

Thus complicity of the Gujarat Government in supporting the genocide is hardly in doubt. By any account it was the most horrible massacre of innocent citizens belonging to minority community in Gujarat in the post-independence period. The only other parallel is anti-Sikh riots of 1984. The BJP had often boasted that no communal riots take place when it is in power. And Gujarat saw one of the worst genocide of Muslims when it was in power with great majority in the Gujarat Assembly.

What was worse that even then Prime Minister Shri. A.B.Vajpayee justified the massacre saying that had Muslims condemned Godhra incident enough, such a massacre in Gujarat would not have taken place. Though Mr. Vajpayee had reminded Modi of his 'Rajdharma' also (though without taking any action against him), he is too well-known for his flip flops. Mr. L.K.Advani, the then Home Minister, even gave clean chit to Narendra Modi that he has 'maintained' law and order in Gujarat effectively after the Godhra incident.

Thus if the top functionaries of the Government of India were backing Narendra Modi why should he not have done what he did. So much for BJP's claim of maintaining communal peace when in power. What is worse, the victims of the worst massacre in Gujarat could not hope for any justice. Modi even tried to wind up all relief camps, something which had never happened before. His administration even threatened to cut off water and food grains supply if the relief camps were not wound up. He had no mercy for the victims of brutal violence. And all this in the land of Gandhi who lived and died for peace and communal harmony.

All the institutions of the state - legislative, executive, and judiciary have been communalised. Who then could come to the rescue of the poor victims? Both bureaucracy and police were deeply affected (with honourable exceptions). The Amnesty international impartial keepers of the rule of law has also recently compiled the report "India - Justice the Victim - Gujarat State fails to Protect Women from Violence." It has been compiled in 2005 and released just a month ago. Like other reports on Gujarat genocide it makes horrible reading. The genocide in Gujarat was not only failure of law and order. It would be understatement to say so. It was deliberate and planned genocide.

The Amnesty Report under the title "Police connivance in the violence" says, However, police not only withheld assistance" and then quotes Concerned Citizen's Tribunal, "Worse still [than the failure to prevent violence] is the evidence of their [the police force's] active connivance and brutality, their indulgence in vulgar and obscene conduct against women and children in full public view. It is as if, instead of impartial keepers of the rule of law, they were part of the Hindutva brigade targeting helpless Muslims."

Further the Amnesty report states, "Local inquiry reports list testimonies of police providing diesel from their official vehicles to burn down Muslim homes. Similarly witnesses told the Nanavati-Shah Commission that the Rapid Action Force had supplied petrol from their official vehicles to the mob to set ablaze houses belonging to the minority community. Another witness told the Commission in Ahmedabad that a police inspector encouraged the mob to attack the Muslims in her area. "The inspector directed that petrol be taken from his vehicle and it was used by the mob to set our society on fire.'"

*It should be noted that the Rapid Action Force had been specially set up by the Home Ministry at the Centre to control communal violence. It has been set up out of CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) which generally had good reputation in controlling communal violence. And earlier it had established good name in several other riots by handling them efficiently. In Gujarat under the surcharged communal atmosphere even RAF was communalised - a matter of great shame for it. Its fair name was tainted.

The police behaviour is not surprising if we keep in mind that many officers of Gujarat police force are reportedly members of Hindu right wing organisations and in their actions may have sought to further the objectives of those organisations rather than impartially carry on their professional duties, remarks Amnesty International report. This by itself is highly objectionable that members of police force be members of such rightwing organisations but in Gujarat such things are not only permissible but even desirable and hence one finds complicity of the police in such flagrant manner. In any other civilised society police officers will be dismissed if they join any such force. Independence of police from all such political outfits is an essential requirement.

The other horrifying aspect of the Gujarat carnage was violence against and rape of women. It was as if rape of all human values. Under the title "Violence Against Women" the Amnesty report says that in all violence communal, racist or ethnic violence against women is specific one. The report says, "In one of the earlier incidents of violence in Gujarat or other parts of the country had sexual violence against girls and women, committed in public, been such a key feature."

The report says that they (women) became victims of grave abuses because their identities as both women and Muslims intersected. For right wing Hindus attacking the Muslim minority, Muslim women became the hated symbols of the community, which they sought to threaten, humiliate, hurt and destroy. The women, even if not direct victims of assault and rape suffer most emotionally and psychologically, as they have to care and nurture families torn apart by violence and mayhem.

In Gujarat, women were subjected to large scale sexual abuse, apart from physical violence. The cases of Kausar Bano and Bilquis Begum are most talked about. Kausar Bano in Naroda Patia locality of Ahmedabad worst affected by communal frenzy, was eight month pregnant. Her abdomen was split open, the foetus extracted and killed. Such brutalities were unheard of in the history of communal violence in India. Bilqis Begum is another case in point from Randhikpur village of Dahod district.

She was six months pregnant and gang raped by the VHP hooligans and nine of her relatives were killed before her eyes. She was taken as dead by the mobsters but she fortunately survived to tell her story. The police officers and doctors also became part of this abominable crime. They added and abetted.

And these were not isolated cases. According to Amnesty report several hundred Muslim girls and women were reportedly stripped and dragged naked before their own families and thousands of violent Hindu attackers who taunted and insulted them with obscene words and threatened them with rape and murder. They were then raped, often gang- raped, beaten with sticks or trishuls and swords, had breast cut off and wombs slashed open by swords and rods violently pushed into their vaginas before a large number of them were cut into pieces or burned to death.

What was worse, due to state complicity in all this, the victims had no way to get justice within the state of Gujarat. The Supreme Court had to intervene and transfer the cases out of the state and these cases are now going on in the state of Maharashtra. More than 3000 cases closed by the state police for 'want of evidence' had to be reopened as per directive of the Supreme Court. The Bilqis Bano case was one of them. The CBI was asked to take over these cases. These helpless victims had otherwise totally despaired. The lower judiciary was totally communalised and higher judiciary in Gujarat is also partly contaminated with communal ideologies. What was more shocking was that the state appointed prosecutors were members of VHP. How on earth could these victims ever get any justice?

We must remember all this not for promoting any negative feeling but so that such things are not repeated in future in India. It would keep us reminding that when communal and fascist forces come to power what happens to our country. The fight against communal forces should go on through democratic methods. They must be isolated and weakened. Intolerance and hatred can never be part of democratic culture. Democracy thrives only when culture of peace and tolerance prevails. There is great need in democracy for a vibrant and healthy civil society. Such a society can be born only out of well informed and committed citizens.











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