Horrifying violence in Gujarat condemned

1 Msrch 2002

The People's Union for Civil Liberties (Tamil Nadu & Pondicherry) is
deeply concerned at the horrifying violence that has occurred in
Gujarat over the past two days. We condemn in the strongest possible
terms both the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra and the
assault on minority communities in Ahmedabad, Baroda and other cities
of Gujarat.

The horrendous killings in Godhra and the targeting of minority
communities in other places have occurred against the backdrop of the
communal frenzy whipped up in the last few weeks by persons
supporting construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site in
Ayodhya. The events of the last few weeks in North and West India
have similarities to the early nineties, when an orchestrated
campaign created the momentum for generating communal hatred and
hostility across the country. More than the acts of violence, the
language of hate and the rhetoric of enmity have left terrible scars
on the secular psyche of India and our history of tolerance and
respect for diversity.

The generation of hate and orchestration of communal forces had
reached such a crescendo in the last few weeks that the outbreak of
violence was inevitable. At this time of crisis, we should not allow
our wounded sensibilities to be anaesthetized to the reality of ugly
communal politics mobilized at the grassroots to gather one million
'Ram sevaks' to construct the Ram temple. While firm and determined
action should be taken against all perpetrators of violence,
regardless of the community to which they belong, the prevailing
climate of communal hate should be acknowledged and directly
addressed. Further, action does not require the use of POTO or other
draconian laws; stern and decisive moves, as required and authorized
by ordinary law, would be sufficient.

For the last one year, it has been a matter of public knowledge that
the VHP was determined to whip up sentiments regarding construction
of the temple. Neither the Central Government's nor the Uttar Pradesh
government did anything at the ground level to prevent the escalation
of the rhetoric and the gathering of the sevaks. This criminal
inaction on their part is directly responsible for the current
incendiary situation.

PUCL demands that the least that the government can do now is to act
immediately and decisively by rushing in security forces to maintain
law and order in Gujarat and other communally sensitive states. The
VHP and their allies have announced bandhs throughout the country.
They should not be permitted to indulge in any form of violent action
or in any way to flout the rule of law.

The gathering of the 1 million-plus 'sevaks' in Ayodhya is already
taking place. The recent violence is bound to result in more number
of frenzied supporters gathering at Ayodhya. It is a matter of utmost
constitutional importance and urgency that the Central government and
the State government act firmly to ensure dispersal of all these
people from Ayodhya until peace and calm return to the country.

In the specific context of Tamil Nadu, there is a possibility of
violence erupting in communally sensitive areas that have a past of
violence in the last decade. It is of utmost importance that the
State Government takes quick action to prevent the rhetoric of hatred
and encouragement of violence from occurring.

We stress the extraordinary urgency of the situation and the need
for all sections of society, be they the press, the government,
political parties, or other organisations, to reaffirm the principles
of secularism, democracy and the rule of law. In the last two days,
two hundred people have paid with their lives for years of
callousness and inaction. Yet more will die if there is no immediate

(Dr. V. Suresh)
Secretary, PUCL-TN & Pondicherry

32, Kachaleeswarar Agraharam Street, Off. Armenian
Street, Chennai - 600 001. Tel.: 5233639 Tele-fax: 5245412
e-mail: counsels@vsnl.net
Sudha Ramalingam, Member-National Council
President: Mr. Ravikumar General Secretary: Dr.V.Suresh

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