Gujarat Massacre Cases Sabotaged
01 July, 2003
The ringleaders of massacres
committed in 2002 are still roaming free in Gujarat, Human Rights Watch
charged in a new report released today.
The 70-page report, Compounding
Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat,
examines the record of state authorities in holding perpetrators accountable
and providing humanitarian relief to victims of state-supported massacres
of Muslims in February and March 2002.
Human Rights Watch urged
the federal government to take over cases of large-scale massacres where
the state government has sabotaged investigations. On June 27, a Gujarat
state court acquitted twenty-one people accused of burning alive twelve
Muslims in a bakery in Vadodara. Thirty-five of the seventy-three witnesses
reportedly retracted in court the statements they had given to the police
identifying the attackers.
"The government's record
on the massacres is appalling," said Smita Narula, senior researcher
for Human Rights Watch and author of the report. "Sixteen months
after the beginning of the violence, not a single person has been convicted."
More than one hundred Muslims
have been charged under India's
much-criticized Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) for their alleged
involvement in the train massacre in Godhra. No Hindus have been charged
under POTA in connection with the violence against Muslims, which the
government continues to dismiss as spontaneous and unorganized.
Although the Indian government
initially boasted of thousands of arrests following the attacks, most
of those arrested have since been acquitted, released on bail with no
further action taken, or simply let go. Police regularly downgrade serious
charges to lesser crimes - from murder or rape to rioting, for example
- and alter victims' statements to delete the names of the accused.
Even when cases reach trial,
Muslim victims face biased prosecutors and judges. Hindu and Muslim
lawyers representing Muslim victims, and doctors providing medical relief
to them, have also faced harassment and threats.
Hundreds of women and girls
were brutally raped, mutilated, and burnt to death in Gujarat. The police
have refused to pursue these cases.
In numerous instances, and
in an effort to cover up their own
participation in the violence, the police have instituted false cases
against men and women injured in police shootings.
Living conditions for more
than 100,000 people displaced by the violence continue to be grossly
inadequate. For months they resided in makeshift relief camps with little
support from the state. By the end of October 2002, the government had
closed most of the camps, forcing some families back into neighborhoods
where their attackers still live and where their security is continuously
threatened. Most people interviewed by Human Rights Watch received negligible
amounts to compensate for the destruction of their homes, ranging from
a few hundred to a few thousand rupees, or less than one hundred dollars.
Hindus in Gujarat have suffered
as well, Human Rights Watch said. Thousands of small businesses owned
by Hindus closed down during the violence. The relatives of the Hindus
killed in Godhra have been denied redress and some face economic destitution.
The Human Rights Watch report also documents and strongly condemns the
September 2002 massacre of Hindus at Akshardham in Gandhinagar, Gujarat's
Hindu nationalist groups
continue to arm civilians in Gujarat and many other Indian states. Instead
of cracking down on these groups, the Gujarat state Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) government has included the distribution of arms as part
of its election manifesto.
In December 2002, the BJP
won by a landslide in Gujarat state elections. Using posters and videotapes
of the Godhra massacre, and rhetoric that depicted Muslims as terrorists
intent on destroying the Hindu community, the party gained the most
seats in areas affected by the communal violence.
In states that go to the
polls later this year, such as Rajasthan and
Madhya Pradesh, potentially explosive campaigns are already in full
swing. Members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP)
are distributing weapons similar to those used in Gujarat, as well as
literature depicting Muslims as sexual deviants and terrorists. Members
of both communities live in fear that a simple altercation could become
the pretext for large-scale violence.
The Human Rights Watch report
also examines the recruitment of Dalits (so-called untouchables) and
tribals (indigenous peoples) in the violence against Muslims in Gujarat,
and the subsequent scapegoating of these communities in police arrests.
Since the events of last year, Christians in the state have also come
under renewed administrative, legislative, and physical attack.
The Human Rights Watch report
includes forty detailed recommendations to Indian authorities and the
international community. Human Rights Watch called on the Indian government
to act immediately to prevent further attacks, end impunity, and deliver
meaningful assistance to those displaced and dispossessed by the violence.
For Human Rights Watch's
original report on the 2002 massacres of Muslims and Hindus in Gujarat,
"We Have No Orders to Save You," please see http://hrw.org/reports/2002/india/.
Testimony from the report
Compounding Injustice: The Government's Failure to Redress Massacres
Khalid Noor Mohammed Sheikh
lost nine family members in the February 2002 massacre in Naroda Patia,
Ahmedabad, including his pregnant thirty-year-old daughter Kauser Bano.
Her belly was cut open and the fetus was pulled out and hacked to pieces
before she was killed:
I took [my daughter] Kauser
to the hospital for delivery the day before the attack. She was ready
to deliver. But the doctor said there was time and to come back in the
morning. But there was no morning after. By then it was all over. And
the tragedy is that the people who ripped my daughter's child out of
her body and killed her are walking about freely. Why does it have to
be this way?. Please make every effort that the criminals get punished.
Even if they don't get punished a lot, they should at least get punished
a little.. They keep going on about Muslim terrorists, but who are the
terrorists? Those who torture Muslims so much should be punished a bit.
In a family of nine, I am the only survivor. Whom should I live for
R. Bibi's thirty-six-year-old
son was killed by the police in Naroda
A lot happened that day.
The crowds came. Everything was destroyed. We didn't know what was going
on, that something was going to happen. We were just doing our work.
Suddenly there was an attack. They were raping women. Then they were
killing them, burning them and cutting them up into pieces. The police
killed my son. They shot him.. The government tells us to bring proof
when we go to ask for [compensation].. My life
was taken away when they shot my son. Everything has been taken away
and now they want evidence, where will I get the body from? I wasn't
even able to see his body.. They stole everything, they burnt everything,
they killed people, and [Rs. 1,250 (U.S.$27)] is all we got. Now my
daughters go and do housework in other people's homes. They wash dishes,
they sweep and clean.. We find some way to fill our stomachs. Somehow
have to survive.. It's too much. Even now we have no relief.
Nishith Acharya is a volunteer
at the Akshardham cultural complex in Gandhinagar and was an eyewitness
to the September 2002 massacre of Hindus there:
They threw something inside,
a grenade, into the bookstore. By God's grace it did not explode in
the bookstore. One middle-aged lady tried to come out. They fired on
her, and she was immediately killed. They started moving ahead and went
to the podium. I had no weapons and no one in the campus had weapons
[so as] to preserve the sanctity of the place.. They threw a grenade
inside [an exhibition hall]. It exploded and they started firing on
the public. Many people were injured. There
were many casualties.. People were killed there also. One volunteer
opened all the doors to let the people out. So they threw a grenade
at the entrance part and did firing also. Maximum casualties were there..
The room was full of blood.
During the embargo period,
the new report is available at:
using the username "gujarat2k3" and access code "injustice2k3."
After the embargo period, please see: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003//india0703/.
For more information, please contact:
In New York, Smita Narula: (English, Hindi/Urdu, French):
+ 1 917 209 6902 (c), +1 212 216 1253 (w)
In New York, Joe Saunders: +1 212 216 1216
In London, Urmi Shah: +44 207 713 2788