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Monday, 5 March 2012

'We want Gandhi's Gujarat, not Modi's Gujarat'

From Rediff
George Joseph in New York
Hundreds of people on Sunday joined the rallies and candle light vigils held in several cities, including New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston, and Tamarac, Florida to mark the 10th anniversary of the Gujarat riots and to pay homage to the victims.
Demanding justice for victims of the riots and chanting against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, participants asked for equal rights and protection for the life and liberty of all people irrespective of their religious beliefs.

In New York, people of different faiths assembled under the banner of Coalition Against Genocide, in front of the Gandhi statue at the Union Square in Manhattan. The CAG is a broad-based alliance, which was instrumental in the revocation of a diplomatic visa for Chief Minister Modi in 2005.

'We want Gandhi's Gujarat, not Modi's Gujarat,' people chanted pointing to the statue of Gandhi.
Opening the event, Rev Mark Lukens, president of the Interfaith Alliance and pastor of the Bethany Congregational Church in East Rockaway, New York, noted that people gathered had there to remember the men, women and children who were so brutally slaughtered 10 years ago, simply because of their faith.
"We will not forget the brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and fathers and mothers who perished at the hands of the mob. We can still hear the echoes of their cries as their lives were torn from them and they were torn from us and that we, as Muslims, as Christians, as Hindus, as Jews, as Sikhs, as Buddhists and Bahai, as children of God and children of this great green earth stand in solidarity with them and their still grieving families.

"We will not stand idly by while the principalities and powers, whether they be a political party in India or the police department in New York or so called Christian politicians right here in the US, abuse the rights and personhood of our neighbours because of the way they chose to worship.
"When anyone persecutes my Muslim, or my Jewish, or my Hindu or my Christian or any of my sisters or brothers, they are persecuting all of us, because we are our brothers' keepers and because like those courageous Hindus 10 years ago who braved the fire to rescue their neighbours from the mobs, my neighbour is the one whose need calls upon me to remember that we are all one, branches of a single vine, children of a God, whose likeness we are made," he said.

Jewish rabbi (priest) Prof Hillel Levine, the founder of Center for International Conciliation prayed for the victims in Hebrew before ending his speech.
He said he knows what a pogrom is. Drawing on the history of Jewish suffering, he criticised the powerful American Jewish Committee's award to LK Advani, a few years ago. Noting that Advani represents the ideology of hate and violence, he asked the AJC to withdraw the award.

When pointed out the good relations between Israel and India and Jews and Hindus, he said the Jews are also friends with the Muslims.
"Just because there is a problem with the Muslims in Palestine, does not mean that Jews consider all Muslims are enemies," he said.

Joe Lombardo, the national co-chair of United National anti-war coalition, pledged to fight the infiltration of Hindutva ideologues in the US power centres. He said the one per cent who rules the earth needs division and fights to keep their power over the majority or the 99 per cent. They will divide the people on the basis of race, religion or any other thing.
"There is lot of oil under the feet of the Muslims," he pointed out the reason for the growing Islamophobia.


Al-Haj Imam Tali Abdur Rashid, an African American imam who heads the umbrella body of New York area Muslims, Islamic Leadership Council, said the movement that killed Gandhi and tens of thousands of Muslims and Christians will not be allowed to flourish in the US.
He drew parallels between the civil rights movement in the US and the movement by Indian minorities and Dalits and predicted that truth shall overcome.

Prof Biju Mathew, one of the founding coordinators of Coalition Against Genocide vowed to continue the struggle till fascism is completely defeated. He pointed out the right of every person to live with dignity.

Dr Shaik Ubaid, another founding coordinator of the CAG pointed out that it is expanding and more interfaith and civil rights groups are supporting it. This will help defeat the Hindutva ideology in the US and offer vital moral support to the pluralist forces in India, he said.

He asked people in the US to abandon their support for Modi and Hindutva and redeem themselves and the image of India. He noted that as long as Modi remains unwelcome in the US, his dream of becoming India's prime minister will remain unfulfilled.

Biju Mathew and Dr Shaik Ubaid were presented with the Lincoln-Gandhi-King Award for their role in launching the CAG
Bhairavi Desai, leader of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, recounted her joyful childhood days in Gujarat. Her father had kept a description of his childhood days and it was read at his funeral in 2008. It vividly portrayed the harmony and good relations existed among all people.
It is a shame that the same Gujarat witnessed senseless killings and other atrocities, she said.

Alex Vilanilam, commissioner of Martin Luther King Commission in New Jersey, said, the Hindutva agenda is to grab power and make India a religious state.
Sunita Vishwanath, founder of Sadhana, a new organisation for progressive Hindus, said the organisation will fight religious extremism. Hinduism is a search for god, without violence was the definition given by Gandhi and it is more relevant nowadays, she said. Her son Akash Mehta, who, as a 11-year-old organised a protest rally against Union Carbide three years ago, was also present.

India still remains as it was because of the wisdom of the founding fathers, Yousef Dadani regional vice president of the Indian American Muslim Council said.
He said the killings were not a natural reaction to the Godhra train massacre. The riots continued for five days. The killers and perpetrators roam freely in Gujarat now, while the victims and their families suffer, he said.

Saeed Patel of Non Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India, Juned Qazi of Indian National Overseas Congress, Shaheen Khateeb of Indian American Muslim Council, Monami Maulik of Desis Rising Up and Moving were among the speakers.
The rally was followed by a candle light vigil, the candles representing the lives of all the victims of Gujarat pogroms that were violently snuffed out.
At the rally in Washington, DC, Najid Hussain, the son-in-law of former MP Ahsan Jafri who was killed in the riots, and his son Tauseef Hussain were noted for their presence. Tauseef, Jafri's grandson, was 13 years old when the latter was killed.


Najid's wife Nishrin was in India in connection with the 10th anniversary.
Recounting her agony all these years, Najid said, "There is nothing that hurts a family more than to see the woman of the house suffer in silence. Nishrin's agony and pain has not reduced one bit in ten years since the killing of her father. Her nightmares are not suppressed one bit. Her tears have not stopped. And that is very painful to my family as a whole, and me in particular."

"There are more than hundred thousand Nishrins and Zakias produced by the Guajrat massacre, who need the balm of justice to begin healing their wounds. Justice is possible in our country only if it is not burdened by the political influences," he said.

"One of the reasons communal violence in India continues unabated is because we do not bring the perpetrators and masterminds of the violence to justice. We politicise the massacre, cite old precedents of violence with impunity, shift blame, and totally ignore the victims. That approach needs to change. The buck must stop here.

"Gujarat was called a model "Hindutva Laboratory". Let Gujarat also be the model to start the process where the architects of the violence -- however powerful, or progressive -- are held accountable and justice served."

Tauseef added: "Ten years after the tragedy, after ignorant carnage, and after blind injustice, it is heartening that so many still come together seeking answers and demanding reconciliation through justice. What we must continue to hold out for is not some emotional salve of vengeance, but a legitimate recognition of the loss of those wronged."
"It is an embarrassment on those representatives charged with protecting the people of Gujarat that a decade has passed without the swift legal retribution Indians should be granted by a functional democracy. As if not enough that contrition has proven so elusive, even simple empathy has been fleeting."

"Our family at least has the privilege of a strong voice and supportive audience, which is more than can be said for the multitude of survivors impacted in so many more ways than us. For those long suffering, and for the sanctity of what our India represents, we must turn catastrophe into a lesson."

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Relocated near garbage dump, survivors still picking up the pieces of their lives

Mandar Chitre , Gopal Kateshiya : Ahmedabad, Tue Feb 28 2012, 05:06 hrs
The dusty colony near Ahmedabad’s garbage dump at Pirana, called “Citizen Nagar” where 183 riot affected families from Naroda Patiya and Gulberg massacre were re-located, wore a deserted look on Monday, with most of its inhabitants away to Gulberg Society to attend a programme to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2002 riots.
In house No. 24, Javed Saiyed, whose mother Noorbano Saiyed is a witness in the Naroda Patiya case, was lying in his bed. Noorbano was among the 50-odd people from the colony who were away to Gulberg. “I also wanted to go but could not since I am down with fever,” 25-year-old Javed said.
Javed’s family of eight - three younger brothers, parents, wife and a two-year-old son - lives in the two-room-kitchen house provided by a Muslim organisation in 2004.
“Luckily, we all survived but that was the day (February 28, 2002) I would not like to remember. I have to take care of my family,” says Javed, who drives a dairy delivery van and an auto-rickshaw for a living.
Though scarred by that day, Javed says he frequently visits his Hindu friends in Kubernagar and Naroda. “Many confess they were instigated and misled by politicians. They regret they did wrong to some,” he says.
Javed’s younger brother Iqbal (18), however, says he still cannot shake off the memories of that fateful day. “I know we have to leave it behind, but how can I forget scenes of children being put to swords, women being molested and the dead bodies in Teesra Kuan! When I remember all this, it causes a lot of heartache,” says the teenager who drives a garbage-collection van for a private firm.
From Indian Express

India: A Decade on, Gujarat Justice Incomplete

New York) – Authorities in India’s Gujarat state are subverting justice, protecting perpetrators, and intimidating those promoting accountability 10 years after the anti-Muslim riots that killed nearly 2,000 people, Human Rights Watch said today. The state government has resisted Supreme Court orders to prosecute those responsible for the carnage and has failed to provide most survivors with compensation.
 The violence in Gujarat started on February 27, 2002, when a train carrying Hindu pilgrims was attacked by a Muslim mob and caught fire, killing 59 people. In a retaliatory spree by Hindu mobs, hundreds of Muslims were slaughtered, tens of thousands were displaced, and countless Muslim homes were destroyed.

“The 2002 violence against Muslims in Gujarat persists as a dark blot on India’s reputation for religious equality,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of prosecuting senior state and police officials implicated in the atrocities, the Gujarat authorities have engaged in denial and obstruction of justice.”

Efforts to investigate and prosecute cases inside Gujarat were stalled and activists and lawyers involved in the cases have been harassed and intimidated, Human Rights Watch found. It has taken repeated interventions by the Supreme Court following appeals by activists and victims’ families to order re-investigations, oversee independent inquiries in some cases, or shift trials out of Gujarat to ensure progress towards justice.

In the past decade, increasing evidence has emerged of the complicity of Gujarat state authorities in the anti-Muslim violence, Human Rights Watch said. In 2002, Human Rights Watch, in its report on the riots, quoted a police officer who said that there were no orders to save Muslims. Human Rights Watch also reported that the government’s political supporters had threatened and intimidated activists campaigning for justice.

While investigations in the Godhra train attack proceeded rapidly, investigations into cases related to the anti-Muslim riots that followed were deliberately slowed down or simply not pursued, Human Rights Watch said. Officials of the Gujarat state government, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is serving its third term running the state government in Gujarat, failed to conduct serious investigations and obstructed justice. State courts dismissed many cases for lack of evidence after prosecutors effectively acted as defense counsel or witnesses turned hostile after receiving threats.

State police failed to investigate senior BJP leaders despite telephone records proving their presence at the scene of the riots in Naroda Patia and Naroda Gaam, and witness testimony that these senior leaders provided the mob with lethal weapons and instigated attacks on Muslims.

It was only in March 2009, after the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team took over the inquiry, that two leaders, Mayaben Surendrabhai Kodnani, a minister in the state cabinet, and Jaideep Patel, a leader of the Hindu militant group Vishwa Hindu Parishad, were arrested for aiding and abetting a mob that killed 105 people, injured several others, destroyed property, and sexually assaulted women. Both are still on trial.

Strong evidence links the Modi administration in Gujarat to the carefully orchestrated anti-Muslim attacks, Human Rights Watch said. Rioters had detailed lists of Muslim residents and businesses, and violence occurred within view of police stations. An independent media organization, Tehelka, used hidden cameras to capture some of the accused speaking openly of how the attacks had Modi’s blessings.

In August 2011 the Gujarat state government filed charges against a police officer, Rahul Sharma, for passing on Kodnani’s and Patel’s telephone records to the judicial commission inquiring into the violence.

In September, another senior police officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, was arrested after his former driver filed a complaint alleging that Bhatt had threatened him into signing a false affidavit that on February 27, 2002, after the Godhra attack, Chief Minister Modi had, in Bhatt’s presence, instructed the police to “allow the Hindus to vent their anger.” Bhatt alleges that this showed that Modi gave instructions to the police to allow the attacks on Muslims. In 2005, a police officer, R. B. Sreekumar, was denied a promotion because he criticized the Modi government for its failure to order prompt action that could have prevented the riots.

In 2005, the US government denied Modi a visa to visit the United States.

“Modi has acted against whistleblowers while making no effort to prosecute those responsible for the anti-Muslim violence,” said Ganguly. “Where justice has been delivered in Gujarat, it has been in spite of the state government, not because of it.”

The National Human Rights Commission and the Indian Supreme Court have ordered investigations in response to appeals from victims, lawyers, and human rights activists. In 2004, the Supreme Court called for a review of 2,000 cases that had been dismissed due to lack of evidence. After fresh inquiries, the police said they reexamined 1,600 cases, arrested 640 accused, and opened investigations against 40 police officers. However, only a small number of these cases have been brought to court and only a few of these resulted in convictions.

In March 2008, the Supreme Court strongly criticized the Gujarat administration’s attempted cover-up of its role in the massacres and ordered a Special Investigation Team to investigate nine crucial cases under its supervision. The Supreme Court had earlier stayed trials in some of these cases after victims and activists appealed, pointing out that the Gujarat police had failed to carry out proper investigations, and that the accused with connections to the political establishment were granted bail or simply dropped from inquiries.

Two of the Special Investigation Team cases have resulted in convictions: a special court in Gujarat in November 2011 sentenced 31 people to life in prison for the killing of 33 Muslims in the village of Sardarpura in Gujarat’s Mehsana district in March 2002. The case against those who attacked the train in Godhra resulted in 31 convictions and 62 acquittals.

In a landmark case, the Supreme Court intervened to ensure fair trials in what is known as the Best Bakery case. In this case, a mob attacked and burned down the Best Bakery in Vadodara, killing 14 people, including 12 Muslims. In a trial before a “fast-track” court, all 21 accused were acquitted in June 2003 after several witnesses turned hostile, later admitting that they had faced intimidation. Following intervention by the Supreme Court, a retrial in Maharashtra state resulted in convictions in 2006 of nine of the accused, each sentenced to life in prison.

Inone major trial, of those accused of attacking Bilkis Yakub Rasool Patel and her family, the Supreme Court found that intimidation of witnesses and the police bias in favor of the accused were so strong it transferred the case from Gujarat to Maharashtra. In 2008, a Mumbai lower court convicted 12 people in the gang-rape of Bikis Bano and the murder of 14 members of her family.

Another important case concerned the killing of 69 people, including a former Congress Party member of parliament, Ehsan Jafri, at the Gulmarg Society, a Muslim neighborhood. In a petition against Modi and 62 other officials, Jafri’s widow, Zakia Jafri, accused the Modi administration of “inaction” to contain the riots and “various acts of omission and commission.” She alleged that her husband had continuously called and appealed to top officials in the police and the government, including the chief minister, but no one came to the rescue of the people trapped inside the walled residential compound. A local court in February will start hearing a Special Investigation Team report to the Supreme Court after questioning several people, including Modi. The report has not been made public, but Modi’s statement denying any role in the violence has been leaked.

“The Supreme Court has been indispensable in compelling the government to do its job to hold the people responsible for the Gujarat violence accountable,” Ganguly said. “Successful prosecutions of cases moved outside Gujarat show that the government can provide adequate protection to victims and witnesses when it wants to.”

The Gujarat courts, in contrast, reacted slowly to the riots, Human Rights Watch said. However, in February 2012, the Gujarat High Court issued a contempt notice to the Modi government for failing to compensate 56 people whose shops were destroyed during the riots. The High Court also ordered the government to fund the repair of nearly 500 religious buildings that were targeted during the riots, which the court described as "negligence of the state."

New instances of harassment, threats, and intimidation against activists and lawyers involved in 2002 riot cases are being reported, Human Rights Watch said. In a January 27, 2012 affidavit to the Supreme Court, Teesta Setalvad of the Citizens for Justice and Peace alleged continuing legal harassment in which she was accused of manipulating evidence. She said that these attempts were “a sordid sub-text of the struggle for justice that the petitioner and her organization, who have stood by the struggle for ten long years, have had to suffer this indignity of vicious and mala fide allegations.”

On February 21 the Supreme Court criticized the Gujarat government for initiating a probe against Setalvad for her alleged role in a case of illegal exhumation of the bodies of the 2002 riot victims. The court said it was a “100 percent spurious case to victimize" her and that bringing such a case “does no credit to the state of Gujarat in any way.”

“In addition to ensuring that the top officials in the Gujarat state government involved in the riots are brought to justice, Indian courts need to expedite remaining cases and protect activists,” Ganguly said. “Ten years on, India owes it to the victims of the Gujarat riots to end the culture of impunity and prosecute those responsible for this open wound on the country’s reputation.”
From Human Rights Watch

Police arrest ‘dacoits’, find ‘Hindu extremist bombers’

From The Indian Express
VARINDER BHATIA Posted:

Chandigarh Five men arrested last week in Patiala on charges of planning a dacoity have confessed to carrying out at least four bombings targeted at Muslims in Haryana in 2009 and 2010, police in Haryana and Punjab said today.
 The men allegedly belong to a Hindu extremist group called Azad Sangathan, headed by a Jind resident called Azad, also known as Sagar and Kala. Azad was arrested along with his comrades Praveen Sharma, Ram Niwas, Gurnam Singh and Rakesh Kumar at Shambhu barrier in Patiala. All are in Haryana Police custody.

“They have told interrogators that they wanted to spread terror among Muslims and chose Muslim targets for their attacks,” Inspector Rohtash Singh, station house officer of Jind city police station, who is investigating the attacks, said. “They chose a madrasa and a meat factory in Jind district, and a mosque in Mehlab village of Mewat district. They wanted to target Muslim buildings.”

Jind superintendent of police Ashok Kumar said, “So far they have confessed to carrying out blasts at four places. It is a sensitive matter. We are not in a position to divulge many details.”

The Jind-Mewat area was rocked by a series of apparently unexplained blasts in 2009-10. Apart from a madrasa and meat factory, bombs went off in Nuh in Mewat and Safidon in Jind. All were low intensity explosions in which no one was killed, police said. Haryana Police have been treating the madrasa blast, which took place in October 2009, as triggered by a leaking septic tank.

“All the accused are school dropouts and between ages of 22 and 28. Azad is the head who roped in the others. We have so far not found evidence that they were in touch with any other Hindu extremist group,” Inspector Singh said.

He said one of the accused, Rakesh, had come to know of potassium sulphate as an explosive while working as a tractor driver at a mine in Tosham in Haryana’s Bhiwani district.

“He (Rakesh) stole a bag of potash, and the explosive was used by the members of Azad Sangathan to carry out the blasts,” Singh said. The men will be produced in court tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A decade of Gujarat Carnage 2002

By Ram Puniyani

India has witnessed many an acts of communal violence. Starting from the Jabalpur riot of 1961 to the last major one of Kandhmal (August 2008). Many an innocent lives have been lost in the name of religion. Amongst these the Gujarat carnage is a sort of marker. It came in the backdrop of massive Anti Sikh pogrom of 1984, the anti Muslim violence of post Babri demolition and the horrific burning of Pastor Graham Steward Stains in Kandhmal. It was a quantitative and qualitative departure from the other major carnages which have rocked the country.

To begin with the burning of Sabarmati S 6 coach was cleverly projected to be an act done by neighboring Muslims and in turn the violence was directed against the Muslim population of Gujarat, on the ground that the Hindu sentiments are hurt. The section of Hindu community was deliberately incited by the decision of state to take the burnt bodies of victims in a procession, against the advice of the collector of the city. The Bandh call given by VHP created the ground for violence. Here the social engineering was at its display, and dalits and Adivasis were mobilized to unleash the violence against the hapless innocent Muslims, accompanied by the propaganda which demonized the Muslim community as a whole. While in earlier acts of violence, the state police have been an accomplice and the silent onlooker to the violence, here a sort of active collusion of state machinery and the communal forces was on display.

The BJP ruled state Government had unrestricted run in the state as the Central Government was being ruled by BJP led NDA and the other allies of BJP were too enamored by the spoils of power to spoil the broth by speaking out. Modi had already instructed the officials to sit back when the Hindu backlash will take place. The leading light of socialist movement, George Fernandez, went to the extent of taking the violence against minority women in the stride by saying that rape is nothing new and it happens in such situations. What more was needed for the rioters to run amuck and to central BJP leadership to let the things go on. The pattern of violence against women was particularly horrific, targeting at their reproductive organs and shaming them to no end.

While the architect of Gujarat pogrom Narnedra Modi kept saying that violence has bee controlled in three days, and central BJP leadership patted him for this, the matter of fact was that violence went on and on painfully for a long time, uncontrolled and unrestricted. The attitude of the BJP controlled state was pathetic and showed the religious bias in relief and rehabilitation work. The compensations given to minorities were abysmally low, state quickly retreated from the refugee camps on the ground that the refugee camps are ‘child production centers’, hitting the minorities where it hurts most. The biases against them were on full display. The atmosphere was created by communal forces in such a manner that the riot victims could not go back to their houses as the people in their areas demanded a written undertaking from them, that they will withdraw the cases filed in the context of violence and that they will not file any cases. Most of the police as machinery either refused to file the FIRs or if registered they kept enough loopholes for the criminals to get away. It was in this atmosphere that the process of getting justice became a close to impossible task. The communalized state apparatus, the attitude of police and judiciary led the Supreme court to direct the shifting of cases away from Gujarat.

The investigation against Narendra Modi by the state police was an impossible task and so the Special Investigation team was constituted. Unfortunately, that also did not help the matters. Accompanying all this violence and attitude of state government the minorities started feeling extremely insecure. They were boycotted in trade and other social spaces. The result is the sprawling slum of Juhapura as the symbol of polarization of communities along the religious lines. The total dislocation of the monitories created multiple problems at the level of education and sources of livelihood for the minorities.

The religious polarization and section of media has created a Halo around Narendra Modi, while strictures against him are coming by, about his failure to protect places of religious worship of minorities, the malafide intentions of state in filing cases against social activist Teesta Setalvad, many another cases are still pending, crying for justice for the victims of Gujarat. Having consolidated the section of majority community behind him, assured of their ongoing support, Modi started the high profile propaganda about development and has been trying to distract the attention from the havoc which he has wrought in the state. The big capitalists are finding the state of Gujarat as a happy hunting ground for massive state subsidies, so the media controlled by them is singing praises and modulating popular opinion in his favor, creating a larger than life size image, development man, in order to suppress his role in the violence against minorities.

In this dismal scenario, there have been many an examples of victims and social activists standing for the cause of justice and doing the practically impossible task of getting justice for violence victims despite all the efforts to turn them hostile and protect the guilty of the communal crimes. While the massive propaganda and state policies are trying to turn the minorities into second class citizens, there are efforts which have gone on simultaneously to retrieve the democratic values in the face of such adverse intimidating situation created by the communal forces. Lately, apart from Court judgments, the civil society response has been picking up and the civil society is trying to overcome the stifling situation and trying to make its voice louder. While we are nowhere close to what should ideally be there in a democratic set up, the responses of civil society and social action groups are noteworthy in the matters of getting justice for victims and in the matters of recreating the liberal space which has been undermined by the communal forces. Times alone will tell if democratic values will be successfully brought in this ‘Hindu Rashtra in one state’

Can the horrific violence Gujarat 2002 happen again ?

                                           Feb 28, 2002 Nightmare on an Ahmedabad street
From OutLook
gujarat riots
A Beast Asleep?
Ten years after Gujarat 2002, Outlook asks if we’re likely to witness such horror again
Saba Naqvi , Smruti Koppikar
India is a nation that was born in the bloodshed and displacement of the Partition riots. In its DNA, it inherited the schizoid gene of being a large Hindu nation with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. It was a historical faultline that was exploited for politics time and again. Ahimsa was the Gandhian ideal we paid lip service to but the reality far too often was mass violence. In urban ghettos, in the old cities across the land, small riots were part of the cycle of life. A religious procession would be taken out, a skirmish would take place, curfew would be clamped, a minor riot would have just taken place or been barely averted.

But the Gujarat riots of 2002 marked the apogee of communal hatred. Ten years after the Sabarmati Express coach was set afire in Godhra on February 27, and after the bloodbath that followed, we must pause and ask: can it happen again? Many would argue that it cannot because, in the long term, Narendra Modi has had to pay a price for presiding over a bloodbath after the advent of 24-hour television. In the immediate aftermath of the riots, however, he gained enormously. Modi ran a communally charged election campaign six months after the violence, when he would famously use “Mian Musharraf” as a rhetorical term for the entire Muslim community. Modi had been sent to Gujarat in October 2001, at a time when the BJP under Keshubhai Patel was doing badly and had lost a byelection. He began his first term as CM on Oct 7, 2001; five months later, the carnage happened; later in the year, in December 2002, he won the state election with a huge margin and began his second term. He has now been the longest-serving chief minister of Gujarat and will contest later this year for a fourth term.
Bombay 1992-93 Babri demolition sparks off first phase in Dec. A rampaging Sena fans flames through incendiary articles and inciting attacks on Muslim localities. (Photograph by Sherwin Crasto)

He most famously used communal polarisation as a political technique and it worked within the boundaries of Gujarat. Sociologist Ashis Nandy says that the problem also arose because for “months afterwards, Modi celebrated the riots. He appeared to be showing off”. Even the Shiv Sena, which had a decade before Gujarat orchestrated vicious riots in Mumbai, looked like relative amateurs at the riot technique compared to the systematic method that was applied and revelled in inside Gujarat. Nandy points out that the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 actually claimed the largest toll. But it’s a blot the Congress always tries to live down and not celebrate. “The whole psychology was different as Sikhs were a prosperous community that people admired and envied,” says Nandy. The Hindu-Muslim equation is another story.
As for Modi, he has become the development man, the business-friendly leader, but his image makeover as an acceptable national figure has not worked. Even BJP president Nitin Gadkari says, “What happened in Gujarat was an unfortunate incident. I don’t think it can or should happen again.”

“I don’t think it can happen again, not because of any growth in ethics but because the political costs of riots have been rising since 1984 and after 2002, Narendra Modi has blown any chance of ever being PM.” Ashis Nandy, Sociologist “Riots are regular occurrences at low levels of national income. With rising incomes, communal discontent does not fully disappear, but it begins to take the form of hi-tech terrorism as opposed to low-tech mass riots.” Ashutosh Varshney, Author and academic

“The possibility of a big riot happening cannot be ruled out. We cannot forget that there is no preventive law in place and those guilty of orchestrating riots are not punished. But we have faith in majority, civil society and the media.” Mahmood Madani, MP and cleric “Aggressive Gujarati middle class believes in hard Hindutva; elsewhere middle class at best believes in soft Hindutva. The only place I can see it being replicated is Karnataka but the middle class there is more diverse.” Achyut Yagnik, Author and historian

“A Gujarat-type riot can happen only if there’s complicity between the Centre and state government. Which is what happened in ’02. The Sangh has not given up on that kind of mobilisation; they are trying it in Karnataka.” B.K. Hari Prasad, Congress leader “1992-93 won’t happen in the same way in the near future because the potential of that particular anti-minority track has been temporarily exhausted. Majority and minority communities have become more self- reflexive.” Kamala Ganesh, Sociologist

“There was a context to riots and places where riots were habitual. Today there are different concerns, the human rights industry has emerged, media is more intrusive; consequently administrations have to be more responsive.” Swapan Dasgupta,
Right-wing ideologue
“Mumbai is even today a tinderbox and vested interests can still play with
people’s emotions. The scale of violence may be difficult but not impossible because people who order such riots sit safe somewhere and stand to gain.” Julio F. Ribeiro, Ex-police chief, Mumbai

“There were always political motives to the riots in Hyderabad. Sometimes Bajrang Dal, sometimes MIM, sometimes the Andhra lobby. Now things have changed because of the media and Hyderabad’s expansion.” Amir Ali Khan, Siasat, Hyderabad “No riot can happen without tension being built up by parties and outfits. Average citizens and party workers react out of insecurity, not animosity. That insecurity not only still exists in Mumbai, at times it’s even sharper.” Asghar Ali Engineer, Islamic scholar

“Riots can happen again in Mumbai.
The rhetoric against north Indians is similar and we have also seen sporadic violent attacks against bhaiyyas although Mumbai moves on our finance and enterprise.” Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP
“The poorer people of Mumbai have moved northwards which means fewer paradoxes exist. The spoils of power and office are now distributed among the parties, which means all shades of politicians are busy getting wealthy.” Aroon Tikekar, Historian

Modi is stuck with the taint because Gujarat was the first mega riot in the age of 24-hour TV. There were victims in Mumbai, Surat, Bhagalpur, Jamshedpur, Hyderabad, Moradabad, Bhiwandi, earlier riots in Ahmedabad, a city that actually recorded one of the first big post-Partition riots in 1969. But they were just numbers, death tolls, the faceless victims of communal carnage.
Flash points The Dec 6, 1992, Babri Masjid demolition; Sabarmati’s burning coach

But in Gujarat 2002, the stories were documented in heart-wrenching detail and etched in our collective memories. How Bilqis Bano’s daughter was snatched from her hands, flung against a rock, killed, and the pregnant woman raped repeatedly; how Zahira Sheikh survived the grisly burning of the Best Bakery in which her family was roasted alive; how limbs of children were hacked and little boys flung to their death in Naroda Patiya; how Ehsaan Jafri begged for the life of those who had sought his protection in Gulberg Society; how his widow Zakia Jafri still fights for justice and says her husband called the CM’s residence for help. The photograph of Qutubuddin Ansari begging for his life epitomises the plight of an entire community in Gujarat; thankfully, Ansari survived.
The 2002 Gujarat riots also marked the coming of age of anti-communal activism. Several citizens, activists and lawyers who live within Gujarat have consistently fought against a state administration determined to block any probe. On the national stage, individuals like Teesta Setalvad have never relented, losing one legal battle to come back with another. Although Modi has been able to stay one step ahead of the legal snare, he is certainly bogged down by it. Outside Gujarat, he may have appeal for the BJP cadre, but regional parties want to keep a distance from him. If the big players of any regional front in the future are to be Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar, the CMs of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar would not like to share a platform with Modi even if realpolitik were to force any sort of arrangement with the BJP. Indeed, one can argue that the political price of riots is now too high. Modi is quite stuck.
The perpetrators of riots are long-term players in the political landscape. The Thackerays have again bounced back in the local polls in Maharashtra. But the city of Mumbai has changed under their watch. The ferocity and cruelty of the violence that ripped right through Bombay (which became Mumbai later) in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, in two phases in December 1992 and January 1993, came to symbolise the worst face of a seemingly inclusive city. Till then the city would be described as a cosmopolitan megacity where caste, class and religion were not the dominant markers of public life. Bombay was the city of dreams, its streets offered anonymity, its pavements could turn into homes, its constant whirring machine of enterprise and entrepreneurship played the great equaliser. Surely, such a place could not be derailed by communal violence? This belief turned into a shattered myth in those two spans of ’92-93 when nearly 850 people were killed, 575 of them Muslims; over 2,000 injured and nearly 1,00,000 displaced.
After that, Bombay became Mumbai and no one really calls it a cosmopolitan place any longer. Resilient, yes, but not cosmopolitan. Bombay had its Hindu- and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods but they were not community-insulated as has happened in the post-riots era. The ghettoising effect of 1993, which continues even today, has made the divisions sharper. In fact, it’s easier now to target this or that community and in many areas the “other” is not welcome at all, says Farooq Mapkar, who was witness to five namazis being shot in Hari Masjid by policemen, was wrongly accused of rioting and acquitted after 16 long years. A bank employee now, he says, “There is now a Muslim Mumbai and a Hindu Mumbai.”

Aligarh, 1990 125-150 people died in riots set off by killing of Muslims near a mosque by PAC. Misreporting, rumours, partisan PAC kept flames alive for nine days. (Photograph by HT (From Outlook, March 05, 2011)

The Shiv Sena in 1993 called itself the “defender of Hindus”. The Srikrishna Commission report famously indicted Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and said that “like a veteran general, he commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims, especially in January 1993”. The Mumbai police registered four offences against him for a communally provocative editorial exhorting such violence, but the go-ahead to prosecute was not given by the state government; then CM Sudhakarrao Naik famously said if certain leaders were arrested, Bombay would burn; it escaped his notice that the city had already burnt.
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Riot After Riot
  • Fifty-eight major communal riots in 47 places since 1967
  • Ten in South India, 12 in East, 16 in West, 20 in North India
  • Ahmedabad has seen five major riots; Hyderabad, four; Calcutta, none since ’64*
  • The 1990s saw the most riots in the last five decades: 23
  • The 1970s saw seven riots, the ’80s, 14; the 2000s have seen 13
  • Total toll: 12,828 (South 597, West 3,426, East 3,581, North 5,224).
* In ’64, a wave of rioting in Calcutta, Jamshedpur and Rourkela killed 2,500.
Note: Only riots with a toll of five or more included; deaths due to bomb blasts not included
Data: Alka Gupta

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YearPlaceToll

Aug ’67 Hatia, Ranchi 183
Mar ’68 Karimganj, Assam 82
Sep ’69 Ahmedabad 512
May ’70 Bhiwandi, Mah. 76
May ’70 Jalgaon, Mah. 100
Oct ’77 Varanasi 5
Mar ’78 Sambhal, UP 25
Sep ’78 Hyderabad 20
Oct ’78 Aligarh 30
April ’79 Jamshedpur 120
Aug ’80 Moradabad 1,500
Apr ’81 Biharsharif 80
Sep ’82 Meerut 12
Dec ’82 Baroda 17
Feb ’83 Nellie, Assam 1,819
Sep ’83 Hyderabad 45
May ’84 Bhiwandi, Mah 146
Oct ’84 Delhi 2,733
Apr ’85 Ahmedabad 300
Jul ’86 Ahmedabad 59
Apr/May’87 Meerut 70
Mar ’89 Bhadrak, Orissa 17
Oct ’89 Indore 27
Oct ’89 Bhagalpur 1,161
Oct ’90 Ahmedabad 41
Oct ’90 Jaipur 52
Oct ’90 Jodhpur 20
Oct ’90 Lucknow 33
Oct ’90 Chandni Chowk, Delhi 100
Oct ’90 Hailakandi, Assam 37
Oct ’90 Patna 18
Oct ’90 Hyderabad 165
Nov ’90 Agra 31
Dec ’90 Hassan, Mandya, Mysore 60
Dec ’90 Hyderabad 200
Dec ’90 Aligarh 150
May ’91 Baroda 28
May ’91 Meerut 40
Oct ’92 Sitamarhi, Bihar 44
Dec ’92 Surat 152
Dec ’92 Malpura, Andhra 24
Dec ’92 Kanpur 254
Dec ’92 Bhopal 143
Dec ’92/Jan ’93 Bombay 872
Nov/Dec ’97 Coimbatore 20
Feb ’98 Coimbatore 60
Dec ’98 Surathkal, Karnataka 12
Mar 2001 Nalanda, Bihar 8
Mar ’01 Kanpur 14
Oct ’01 Malegaon 13
Feb-May ’02 Gujarat 1,267
May ’02 Marad, Kerala 9
Apr ’06 Aligarh 6
May ’06 Baroda 6
Dec ’07 Kandhamal 12
Oct ’08 Bhainsa, Andhra 6
Sep ’09 Miraj, Karnataka5
Sep ’11 Bharatpur 10
Till ’92-93, the city police was seen as a proud force in khaki, worthy of being compared to Scotland Yard; their brutality and vehemence during the ’92-93 carnage turned them in the public eye into a force that did not hesitate to display the saffron beneath the khaki. As police officers and constables told the Indian People’s Tribunal in the immediate months, they “were Shiv Sainiks at heart and policemen of a supposedly secular state by accident”. As many as 32 policemen, including then joint commissioner R.D. Tyagi, were severely indicted by the Srikrishna Commission (SKC) for acts of omission and commission during the riots. None was punished; in fact, Tyagi was promoted to the post of city commissioner during the Sena-BJP regime in Maharashtra soon after.
Senior Sena leaders refuse to discuss the riots but point to the “thousands of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and Pakistani sympathisers” who live in the myriad lanes of the metropolis and “sometimes need to be put in their place”. If at that time the Muslims were the target, today the “other” is the bhaiyya or migrant from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Though political organisations may have found it increasingly difficult to stoke such large-scale, mind-numbing violence in recent years, Mumbai is still a tinderbox and vested interests can still play with people. Besides, the question of justice can’t be forgotten when we talk of riots. It rankles the victims that justice has still not been done; not only is justice a prerequisite for reconciliation, it’s also a necessary signal to those who believe they stand to gain by engineering such violence, victims say. The bomb blasts that followed in March 1993, killing 257 and injuring 800, have resulted in convictions, but no one has been punished for the ’92-93 riots except former Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar who was convicted in July 2008 and let off on a Rs 5,000 bail. When the Shiv Sena-BJP came to power in Maharashtra in 1994, barely a year after Bombay burned, the administration withdrew as many as 3,000 cases registered against their workers. The subsequent Congress governments did not drop cases against Muslims that even the SKC concluded were false.
This one-sided justice has exacted its price. The Muslims in the ghettos are angry and often justifiably so. Every bomb blast and terror attack since has meant comb-and-search-and-arrest operations in their mohallas. Now after every major and minor terror attack on Mumbai, mohalla committees mobilise their peace soldiers in bastis, community elders come out requesting calm and peace, Muslims display their patriotism through solidarity marches in case they’re perceived as anti-nationals. The peace is kept but the tensions simmer.
Still, the cycle has been broken in other cities. Hyderabad, for instance, has moved on. The old city is still a hothouse, but communal violence no longer pays. Amir Ali of the influential Urdu daily, Siasat, recounts this brief history of his city’s riots. Before 1994, he says, violence took place every year over processions of Ganesh Chaturthi, Moharram or Bonalu (an Andhra festival). The violence stopped in 1994, when the TDP came to power, though one could not pinpoint an exact reason. Then, in 1998, a poster appeared in the old city of Hyderabad depicting Ganesh with Kaaba under one foot and Medina under the other. Police investigations revealed that the poster was the handiwork of a Hindu politician and former mayor of Hyderabad. He was in fact a member of the Majlise-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen run by the Owaisi family that still has a grip on sections in the city! The linkages are circuitous, to say the least.
What this story illustrates is that an attempt to trigger a riot is a political tactic. Paul R. Brass, author and political scientist from the University of Washington, who’s studied India’s communal tension and violence, calls it the institutionalised riot system or IRS. This IRS, he says, was created largely in northern and western India and it can be activated by politicians during political mobilisation or elections, and “the production of a riot involves calculated and deliberate actions by key individuals, like recruitment of participants, provocative activities and conveying of messages, spreading of rumours”. There are frequent rehearsals until the time is ripe and the context is felicitous and there are no serious obstructions in carrying out the performance. Does such an IRS still prevail in Mumbai, or Bhiwandi, Malegaon, Aurangabad, Nashik, Moradabad, Ahmedabad?
Recently, activists of the Hindu right were arrested in Karnataka trying to raise a Pakistan flag in a Muslim area. They presumably hoped they would trigger a riot and blame it on Muslims. One must conclude that small riots can and in all likelihood may continue to happen (there was recently a Gujjar-Muslim clash in Mewat not far from Delhi), but it would take a certain conjunction of politics, intent and regime to trigger anything on the scale of the Gujarat riots.
Meanwhile, the political saga of Modi continues, with his national ambitions all too obvious. As things stand now, he can be a national player only if the BJP gets a majority on its own. As that currently seems unlikely, Modi can perhaps examine his predicament from a philosophical, moral or literary viewpoint. He could ruminate over that quote of Lady Macbeth’s who kept washing her hands. “Out, damn’d spot! out, I say”!

Riot Triggers
  • Social: The feeling of being left out of the discourse. Especially prevalent among minorities who are excluded, deliberately or otherwise, from mainstream events and activities, leading to ghettoisation.
  • Economic: The feeling of being left behind. Poor education, unemployment lead to marginalisation of the have-nots. Heightened by sense of deprivation and sight of conspicuous consumption.
  • Political: Parties and politicians play on the emotions of votebanks, often to expand it, by mobilising mobs and whipping up passions and fears over illegal immigration and demographic change
  • Administrative: The feeling of being targeted and/or ignored by the immediate touchpoints of government—the police and civic administration. Denial of rights and harassment spawn sense of injustice.
  • Religious: Perceived slights to sentiments. Can be sparked by a procession in a ‘sensitive’ area; a loud prayer, a road blocked for prayers, or an animal’s carcass thrown into a place of worship
  • Commercial: Rivalries sparked off by encroachment of traditional areas of business and economic activity
  • Verbal: Provocative speeches that stereotype and instigate the intended target on the basis of language, religion and sexual habits. Rabble-rousing about ‘appeasement’. Sporting events as a test of patriotism and nationalism.
  • Global: Rumours and whispers that travel across the wired world about defacement or denigration of holy scriptures and holy figures in books, movies, newspaper articles, posters, cartoons.
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By Saba Naqvi in New Delhi and Smruti Koppikar in Mumbai

Friday, 17 February 2012

Saffron brigade halts Muslim realty deals in Gujarat

            (The saffron brigade is using Ram dhuns and Ram Darbars to thwart all deals in towns where    Muslims are buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas.)


BHAVNAGAR: Six months ago, a doctor was all set to make a killing by selling his posh bungalow 'Chaitanya' near Crescent Circle to a Muslim family. As soon as the news spread, a group representing the saffron brigade reached his house and tried persuading him to call off the deal. When the doctor did not agree, the group held a sit-in outside his house and started chanting Ram Dhun. The agitators refused to budge till he assured them that he would scrap the deal. Finally, the bungalow was sold to a Hindu.

Saffron brigade is using Ram dhuns and Ram Darbars to thwart all deals in town where Muslims are buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas.

The brigade's modus operandi is simple: on getting information about a Hindu planning to sell his property to a Muslim, they squat in front of his house and chant or conduct Ram Darbars. They don't move from the place till the seller caves in.

The group has managed to get 10 such property deals cancelled over the past six years.

A six-year-old group 'Setubandh Mitra Mandal' - consisting of VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and Shiv Sena members - is wary of Muslims buying properties in Hindudominated areas. The group members said that earlier, Jogivad ni Tanki and Sandhiyavad were traditional Muslim ghettos but now the community is buying properties, both residential and commercial, in posh Hindu-dominated area like Shishu Vihar, Ghoga Circle, Crescent Circle, Vadva and Kalanala.

 Bhavnagar was the only place in Saurashtra which saw communal riots in 2002. "Over the past five years, Hindus have started migrating from the localities where they have been living for generations after selling the property to Muslims,'' said Kirit Mistry, a VHP leader.

"We have written about it to the state government to demand the implementation of the Disturbed Areas Act in order to stop this activity."

However, Arif Kalva, a community leader, said, "Muslims in the city have progressed and become prosperous. They too aspire to live in areas where they can become part of mainstream society."