Initiative for Justice & Peace
Father Prakash [email protected]
CARNAGE IN GUJARAT
The Honorable Chairman,
The National Human Rights Commission,
COMMUNAL CARNAGE IN GUJARAT
We, citizens of Ahmedabad representing among others several Human Rights Movements and Voluntary Organizations, take this opportunity to submit this memorandum as under:
11. We are citizens of Ahmedabad working in Gujarat for the last several years in the diverse fields of human rights, trade union activities, legal aid and advice, education, health, environment, women’s and children’s rights etc. Our contribution in these fields has been well recognized by both Government and non-governmental sectors in Gujarat and elsewhere in India.
2. We are democratic and secular organizations and deeply committed to the basic values of the Constitution, namely, democracy, secularism, rule of law, human rights to freedom, equality, social justice and dignity of human beings, transparent and accountable government, impartial, honest, responsive and responsible administration and free and independent judiciary. In all kinds of natural and man-made disasters and disturbances, we have endeavored to stand by the people and fight for the values we are committed to.
3. We are extremely pained to bring to the notice and cognizance of the National Human Rights Commission (hence forward referred to as the Commission or the NHRC) that the recent communal carnage in Gujarat which started on 27th February 2002 and engulfed in its fire the large urban and rural areas of the State: four Municipal Corporations, Fifty Municipalities and more than 1200 villages. We are convinced that what has happened and is happening in Gujarat is a shameless desecration of the Constitution, destruction of secularism, negation of democracy and rule of law and gross violation of its very right to life and survival of thousands of people, principally belonging to the religious minority, amounting to nothing less than genocide. We believe that this situation in Gujarat throws a major and unprecedented challenge before the Commission, as such a massive challenge to the human rights of the vast multitudes has never arisen in its nature, magnitude, dimensions and impact.
4. From what our members saw and heard during riots and from our talks with riot-affected people and others, we formulate our main points of submission, with the material at hand and we propose to supply further information as soon as we complete the process of investigation into various aspects of the riots.
5. We have come to a firm conclusion that the present riots in Gujarat are not comparable to any communal riots in the past. Gujarat and Ahmedabad have had in the past many riots. They were essentially conflicts between members of the two communities on communal lines, arising out of natural communal prejudices and mind-set and local incidents. Political elements did play some part and the police and administration have failed on many occasions, but they were not directly involved in the riots nor were they acting and failing to act under instruction from higher up in politics. But recent riots are not communal riots between two communities, but state-sponsored, state-supported and in many cases, state-directed violence against the minority community – well organized and well planned in advance – in furtherance of the definite political ideology. This can be directly established from the following incidents and events.
A. Pre-Godhra Events: After 1985 onwards, the most organized and concerted efforts have been made by the Hindutva forces – more openly by the VHP and BD with BJP and RSS in the background but with full support – to communalize the civil society, polity and administration and educational institutions. During this period, communal riots have at regular intervals broken out in different parts of the State. After 1985, the Sangh Parivar, after initial hesitation, decided to play openly and brazenfacedly the undiluted Hindu card in Gujarat politics and elections and won the major elections in Corporations, Municipalities and Legislature. Therefore the BJP Government and Corporations have smartly carried out their communal agenda. Innumerable examples can be given. To a substantial extent, they have succeeded in their design, but as the real socio-economic problems of the common people continue to challenge the Hindutva forces, the latter continue to propagate programs to keep the communal divide alive and active. The recent events are the latest example of their frantic efforts to exploit the communal divide, after their realization that they are losing ground and must be examined in this perspective.
B. After the installation of the present Chief Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, the RSS pracharak, the political situation has qualitatively changed, particularly in view of the fact that fresh elections to the State Legislative Assembly will have to be held before March 2003, and after the defeat of the BJP in the U.P. and defeat in two constituencies in Gujarat.
C. VHP and BD are very active in Gujarat and have, of late, been trying to create a popular frenzy over Ram Mandir issue in Ayodhya. Regular batches of Ram or Karsevaks have been going to Ayodhya much before the Godhra incident on 27th February. This was the normal route for them, via Godhra, Dahod and we have been hearing about the atmosphere of tension in villages and towns on route because of the provocative slogans and misbehavior of Karsevaks. These incidents can be verified by the local people of these places and are reported in many newspapers.
D. What happened in Godhra on 27th February was not a sudden event and out of nothing. Not to keep a watch over the over-all situation in these towns and not to be reasonably prepared for any eventuality are the major failures of the State administration and intelligence or was their connivance.
E. What was the provocation by the returning Karsevaks in Godhra on the 27th February and how such a big mob gathered in the early morning and what happened between them require close and detailed investigation by an independent central agency like CBI, and not by a State agency. Now informations is coming out to show that the attack by the Muslims was not a pre-meditated conspiracy. If that were so, the failure of the LIB and intelligence of the State to even smell of something in the nearby areas of the Railway Station mainly inhabited by the poor Minority groups and particularly in a communally sensitive town of Godhra is surprising and inexplicable. The incident must have continued for more that an hour and yet the police could not reach there and did not take any strict measures in equally shocking, particularly when many traveling Kar Sevaks had mobile phones with them and must have contacted higher up in Gandhinagar.
these raise serious doubts about the veracity of the official version
regarding the incident in Godhra where many women and children died of fire.
F. The incident in Godhra on 27th was so violent, abhorrent and serious, that it was bound to have serious and dangerous reactions and repercussions in the State and the State Government is not worth its name if it could not have anticipated such a strong reaction, particularly by its own followers. The PM Shri Vajpayee cancelled his visit to Australia, addressed the Nation on Ayodhya issue and Godhra carnage, showing the seriousness of the situation. What other explanation is rational and reasonable about Government’s behavior and attitude that its callousness or complicity?
This becomes more evident when the disturbance started on the same day i.e. 27th February evening, when the Sabarmati Express was passing through Vadodara and other stations to Ahmedabd.
Still worse, the call for Gujarat Bandh on 28th February was given by the VHP and BD and openly supported by the ruling party, BJP and it was natural and expected that the Bandh would not remain peaceful. Tension was being built up, News headlines and particularly Gujarat newspapers of 28th February morning already created the tense atmosphere.
The first serious question about the impartiality, honesty and commitment to rule of law and protection of the life and property of citizens arose when the ruling party gave open support to a call for Gujarat Bandh, knowing fully that the Supreme Court of India has declared such bandhs as not only illegal, but unconstitutional and violation of people’s fundamental rights. How can a ruling party separate itself from the Government? Can any one reasonably expect its Ministers to deal effectively the post-Bandh impact?
This is nothing but the State’s direct involvement in the unconstitutional act of its constituent.
The second serious question is the Government’s total failure to be prepared to deal with the situation, which will arise as 28th February as a result of VHP’s Gujarat Bandh. Was it simply failure or negligence or callousness and complicity?
G. On 28th February, the Government, the police and the administration fully knew about the tense situation, about the sensitive areas in major cities and towns, about the then existing police arrangement and its adequacy or inadequacy. And yet no such preventive and security measure were taken by the Government. The people feeling unsafe were left to themselves and to their fate.
Not only this, but the city was almost handed over to the marauding mobs, led by the organized and well armed bands of VHP-BD-BJP activists, for about two days, bent upon killing and burning the Muslims and looting and burning their houses and businesses.
is significant and implicating is:
1. The disturbances in the city and elsewhere were not simply sporadic and spontaneous reactions of the people, but turned out to be part of a well-organized and pre-planned program of teaching lessons to the Muslim minority.
2. In the early morning of 28th February huge mobs already gathered, not naturally, but by way of mobilization.
3. These mobs were led by VHP, BD and BJP activists, with mobile phones to contact others in other places. The mobs were armed and materials and equipment for burning people and destroying properties and business centers of minorities were well managed and kept ready.
4. The mobs had full details about Muslim houses, Muslim residents and shops to big hotels and made them targets, with utmost care not to touch or damage Hindu houses or properties or businesses. Such a thing could not be done without long planning.
5. First hand information is available from eye witnesses that some BJP Ministers and MLAs were present in the crowds, directing the people, protecting them from police action and restraining the police from acting tough with them.
6. The highest police officers either showed total helplessness or tried to rationanlize the police behavior in terms of social milieu. Many of them actively encouraged or helped the mobs. Atleast they provided and guaranteed security to the mobs. We have hundreds of witnesses who can testify to this. Moreover we have phoned the number of police officers or stations for sending help to some or other areas which were under direct attack, but most of our efforts failed and we could not save the lives of these people.
7. A sitting high court judge, Justice Kadri living near Law College had to leave his bungalow, as no one could assure safety and security to him or his family. Another retired judge of the Gujarat High court Justice A.N. Divecha had to leave his house and afterwards found his house burnt. Trucks were brunt just opposite the High Court building and in spite of information sent by the high court, nothing was done. A restaurant of the minority was looted and burnt just before the High Court Judge’s bungalow, creating panic like situation even among the sitting High Court Judges.
8. Police officials belonging to the minority community have been threatened and also attacked. Those police officials and personnel who tried to protect the people under attack are also being threatened. All officers in various departments of the Government belonging to the minority community were under threats and were living under fear. Neither the Government nor the police could help all those public functionaries. If this is not a breakdown of law and order and of Constitutional machinery, what else is it?
9. Not only large numbers of minority members including an ex-MP were burnt alive, inspite of frantic calls for help for many hours, the Chief Minister tries to justify and to rationalise the killing under one pretext or the other. Atleast this did not behove a person of the stature of the Chief Minister. What message would such a stand by the C.M. reach the police and the people?
10. The Govt. of the State has remained totally silent and a mute spectator of the Communal Carnage. The Chief Minister continued to explain it in terms of Newtons Law as Action and Reaction
11. Though the situation on 28th of February was so bad and alarming that the calling of the army was urgently required, the Govt. really wanted their people to finish the job before the army was called in. This can be verified by the victims themselves and by the events during the day. Only when everything was almost finished was the army called in.
12. The Chief Minister had the audacity to threaten the English TV media that they are trying to malign the Government by distorted media stories and that the five crore people of Gujarat will not tolerate them.
13. The communal carnage spread to other areas and the Government and Police could not do much to control or restrain the killing mobs.
14. In small towns and villages the entire families of the minority community have been burnt to death and practically no details have emerged from theses areas. Even today it is very difficult to reasonably estimate the number of deaths in these areas.
15. Thousands of affected people are in the relief camps which are over crowded, unequipped and inadequately aided. They have been totally neglected by the Government. Many of the refugees are not in a position to go back and infact they do not want to go back too. This shows the cavalier of the Government towards the minorities.
16. A visit to the affected areas in the city will clearly show how the work of the destruction and burning of even pucca houses has been carried out. They appear just like in an earthquake. In the process, big instruments even cranes, gas cylinders have been used to raze the structures to the ground. Such demolition operations would take a pretty long time and would not have been possible without the connivance and complicity of the police.
17. Large number of historical and contemporary religious places of the Muslims have been systematically destroyed and they are either converted into Hindu temples or roads have been built upon them. This also shows the definite programme of the VHP- BD- BJP-RSS combine.
18. Even today hundreds of people are missing and no Government efforts are made to find out what has happened to them.
19. Many Muslims have been specifically advised by the police personnel that they should take their own steps to protect themselves and that they should not rely upon the police or the Government.
20. Now the Government is making frantic effort to show that they have taken effective steps and are now taking some steps to maintain law and order. By imposing the Standards Xth the XIIth examinations upon the insecure young boys and girls at their risk, they want to establish anyhow that normalcy has returned to Gujarat. This shows their guilty feelings.
21. Systematic efforts are made to cover up their complicity and their inefficiency. Vague FIRs are filed pre-empting FIRs by others. Forced statements are extracted from victims to show that the police have really helped them. Indiscriminate complaints and arrests have been made of the members of the minority. Provisions of POTO are selectively and indiscriminately invoked to book the members of the minority community, while sparing others. Combing in selected areas is being carried out particularly in minority areas showing the weapons they possess, even though every house at present possesses some instrument for self-defence.
22. There is a direct link between the Ayodhya movement and Gujarat riots, as the Ayodhya issue came on the centre stage only after the Gujarat riots, which seem to have been used as blackmail.
23. The communal carnage systematically carried out is a part of the larger strategy namely to provide a model of a pure BJP Hindu Government determined to carry out the RSS ideology and warnings to the minorities.
24. The very task of pre-poning the elections in Gujarat so as to reap the benefits of the polarisation of Gujarat society into Hindus and Muslims, shows the grand strategy of the ruling party as part of its political programme.
25. First the Government wanted to appoint an enquiry commission for Godhra incident only but thereafter suddenly changed its mind and decided to have an enquiry for all the incidents. By rapid action, the Government pre-empted any other move of an independent enquiry and used the commission to buy time and shut off the criticism for its role in the riots.
therefore submit that:
a) The VHP-BD-BJP-RSS have successfully communalised the Government, the administration and the police and also the civil society.
b) The Government has actively participated in the communal carnage and has openly abdicated its constitutional responsibility and authority. It appears now not as an impartial constitutional Government but as an accused.
c) The police has totally failed to discharge their statutory duties for the protection of peoples lives and properties and for the maintenance of law and order.
d) The State Government is now clearly guilty of gross and open violation of Human Rights of the thousands of people particularly of the minority which almost amount to a genocide - a crime against humanity.
therefore request and pray that:
1. The Commission should investigate in-depth the pre-Godhra and post-Godhra incidents, including the role and responsibility of the State Government and the State Police.
2. The Commission should hold the State Government guilty of gross violation of human rights of the people and its constitutional obligations and should pay compensation to all who have suffered.
3. If necessary the Commission should move the Supreme Court with its report for appropriate remedies and orders against the Gujarat Government.
4. The Commission should give appropriate and effective directions to the State Government for providing security for the minority and for their complete rehabilitation.
5. The Commission should direct the State Government to take appropriate actions against all those persons in office, if involved in and found guilty of misbehaviour, illegalities or inaction.
6. The Commission should direct the State Government to restore all religious places (now destroyed) to their original position (status quo ante)
The Commission should direct the Government to appoint independent
investigation officers to investigate into the riot crimes committed.
This petition to the NHRC which was handed over to its Chairman Justice Verma, on 20th March 2002,
has been signed by several
eminent citizens of Ahmedabad among them are: