PUCL Bulletin, April 2002

CPI (M) and AIDWA on Violence in Gujarat

A central delegation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and leaders of the All India Democratic Women's Association have been in Gujarat for the last three days from March 10 to 12 to express solidarity with the victims and to get first hand reports of the situation.

The delegation included Member of Parliament and Central Committee member Subodh Roy, Central Committee member Brinda Karat, Subhashini Ali, Kiran Moghe, Mariam Dhawale accompanied by Arun Mehta State Committee Secretary and other members from the State. The delegation was in Ahmedabad and Godhra. One member had earlier visited Sardarpur, Mehsana. We met and spoke to over a thousand people from the affected areas, senior officials of the Government, relief workers, heads of different institutions, NGOs, intellectuals. The delegation has recorded the statements of numerous people who it met. The delegation also met the Governor Shri S.S. Bhandari this morning and gave him a memorandum, a copy of which is enclosed. A few specific cases of atrocities recorded by the delegation have also been enclosed.

"The delegation strongly condemns the inhuman and savage attack on the Sabarmati Express on February 27 in which fifty eight people were killed, the majority being women and children. It was a black day for India. The delegation visited the site. It was absolutely horrified to see the terrible way that flames had engulfed the bogey. Inside the bogey even today there is important evidence. The delegation saw bags of food grains. kerosene stoves, jerry cans, indicating the possibility of the presence of material which could have been inflammable. However it is shocking that the bogey has not yet been cordoned off by the investigating agencies including the central investigating anti-terrorist squad. This could lead to tampering with evidence or placing new material in the carriage. The urgency with which the investigation into the terrible atrocity should be conducted seems to be absent in the State Government's approach. The so-called commission of enquiry has not even started its work. It appears that the Government is more interested in public posturing than in proper investigation. The delegation found widespread disquiet among citizens about the nature of the enquiry as also the credentials of the individual heading it. This should be reconsidered

The delegation strongly condemns the Chief Minister's justification of the violence in the name of "reaction" to the February 27 atrocity. lf this was true the first place to have been affected would have been Godhra where the atrocity actually occurred. But in the town the situation was well under control. The sequence of events in Godhra in comparison with what happened elsewhere makes it clear that swift and firm administrative action makes the crucial difference. The reality is that there was a wave of outrage throughout the country, legitimate anger and horror against those criminals who had perpetrated this inhuman crime. However, this anger was deliberately diverted to a communal carnage in which the Muslim community was the target, by an organized force in Gujarat. It was an example of State sponsored communal carnage which was organized by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and leaders of the ruling party with many directly named by the victims including a brother of the State Home Minister who was apparently leading a mob in the Bapunagar area. In almost all areas there was police connivance. It is totally unacceptable that the fact that the killing, looting and burning went on unstopped for full 72 hours should now be claimed as a an indication of the efficiency of the administration. In any case, contrary to the claims of the Chief Minister the delegation met numerous delegations who were victimized on the 3rd, 4th and even the 5th of March.

One of the worst rural attacks took place in Pandarvada village in Panchmahal district and surrounding areas from the March 2 to 5. As has been reported even yesterday there were attacks in Chota Udaipur.

The delegation learned with concern of reports to withdraw the army from where it has been posted to show that the situation has become "normal. This is far from the truth. There is an acute sense of insecurity among the minority community not least because of the continuing incidents of attack as also the total lack of action against those guilty. With the coincidence of important religious observances of both communities at the end of the month, it is absolutely essential that the army be deployed and regularly in not only the cities but all affected rural areas. On no account should the army be withdrawn.

The delegation is also shocked that even though the UP Government has placed restrictions on movements in Ayodhya the Gujarat Government has placed no such restrictions on the movements of so-called karsevaks on trains running from Gujarat. This is an indication of the commitment of the Gujarat Government to its own dangerously communal agenda. The delegation therefore believes that it is absolutely essential that the present Chief Minister be removed forthwith. This is a minimum step to ensure that the rule of the constitution returns to Gujarat

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