PUCL Bulletin, April 2002

Violence in Gujarat
Report by Citizens' Initiative on Violence
14th March, 2002 Ahmedabad


Almost a fortnight has passed after the incident of 27th and the normalcy of Gujarat which is being paraded to the external world is so hypocritical and hollow that it is ridiculous. One has only to move in the areas on the other side of the river-Lal Darwaja, Bapunagar, Vatva, Shah-e-Alam, Naroda, Gomtipur, Rakhial, etc. (the old city area) to see the hollowness of the claims. Yes, normalcy has been restored, but only in the other part of the city, the more "developed" part of the city, the more affluent part of the city, and of course, the predominantly "Hindu" part of the city.

The entire episode of Gujarat 2002 is nothing short of a pogrom, bringing to mind Nazi Germany, and Bosnia against the Muslim community. The facts and details being provided by the victims debunk the theory of a "reaction" which is being spouted by the Chief Minister and his entire administration. That the Union home minister L.K. Advani gave a "clean chit" to the state Chief Minister only strengthens the theory that the Central leadership was hand-in-glove with the state administration in carrying out the pogrom.

Further to our report "why do we call this a state-sponsored terrorism", we have to add that when we met the victims dotting the over 37 relief camps being run in the city of Ahmedabad alone (56 in the entire Gujarat) we encountered a pattern in the whole operation, and it was the same in every camp. What emerged is this: approximately a month or so before the incident of Godhra took place, there were groups of people, parading as census enumerators in some place or as health officials in other, going around the Muslim localities gathering information and filling forms about the families, no. of persons in the family, assets of the family etc. At one place they also reported that on the 26th February some persons came to their house and made a 'X' marking on it. Rush. Pick up your history textbooks. The Nazis did the same. The victims are scared of filling up the forms being circulated by the 'Citizens' Initiative' for fear that it may be a similar design to further stifle them.

The people in the relief camps, when visited by the two former Prime Ministers of India V. P. Singh and I. K. Gujaral, reportedly told them in no uncertain terms: "We have now become terrorists. Do not blame us henceforth."
There was a method even to the burning of the houses and the shops that was carried out. They short-circuited the shop/house and then threw LPG cylinders into the premises which exploded in it. People have reported that the flooring of the premises have come out of the foundation and the ceiling has given way as if made of some liquid. A "reacting" mob came in possession of LPG cylinders in such huge numbers, were armed with cutters and galvanised wires, and pouches of chemicals and acid, all in a span of 2-4 hours!!!! So neat has been the job that the adjacent premises of Hindus have not been touched at all.
The people in the relief camps have reported that the women were raped or made to run the length of the street naked and then doused with petrol and put on fire, thus destroying all evidence of the crime. They have also reported that when men were being torched to death and they (women) went to help them the men in the mob simply undressed in front of them thus preventing them from taking the next step.

Two ancient shrines and mosques of the Muslims were razed to the ground or damaged heavily by the mobs. Talk of Bamiyan Buddhas? We have a Taliban in our backyard.

All this has, quite naturally, affected the children. The children in the relief camps we visited are so traumatised and shocked that we doubt whether they will ever be able to believe and trust in words like "secular", "Constitution", "Hindu", "government", "police", and such like. It would be nothing but gibberish to them. The following incident may perhaps give an indication of the psyche of the children of the Hindu community: two young boys, aged about 10 years, were playing in their apartment compound. One boy turned to the other and asked him, "Are you a Hindu or a Muslim?" The stunned boy replied "A Hindu, why?" The first says, "That's fine, then. If you were a Muslim I would have killed you." Can we expect them to say anything else when they hear their parents speaking such language in their homes?

More on ethnic cleansing. As if the damage and destruction of life and property was not enough they even wish to finish them off educationally. At the moment the effort of the Citizens' Initiative, apart from distribution of the relief material, is to help the victims take legal action and file police complaints. This is because when the individuals file the complaints the police see to it that the names of the accused are deleted. This is a widespread practice and is being reported very frequently.

Following the massacre in Gujarat the Citizens' Initiative has come out with a radio programme of ½ hour on communal harmony - "Chhoti Si Aasha" - which is being aired by Vividh Bharati at 8.00 a.m. in the morning...

Memorandum to The National Commission for Minorities
The prima facie findings based on data collection through structured questionnaire and interviews of about 650 victims located in 33 relief camps:
Indoctrinated and organized groups led by VHP and Bajrang Dal moved from area to area in the city arousing communal hatred, gathering and mobilizing into a mob and then leading the mob to unleash attacks as per already identified plan. Such organized core groups led the attack in each reported incident.

During the attacks the BJP, VHP and BD cadre moved in trucks, four wheelers, with mobile phones, weapons, firearms and explosive material like LPG, Oxygen cylinders in various parts of the city as per their identified plan. The attacks revealed a certain pattern and conspiratorial planning.
Cadres of BJP, VHP and BD had already gathered intelligence by conducting survey in the guise of health department officials, corporation officials in the minority areas and identified the minority houses, shops etc., in the last one month. Based on such intelligence the plan was attacked prepared before hand.

The pattern also revealed that first there was looting and then of the property and then setting fire to Lorries, shops, industrial units and assets of the minority.

In various areas, such as Naroda Patia, Bapunagar, Chamanpura etc., the above-mentioned organized groups of the Sangh Parivar engaged in large scale and brutal violence in which they battered, stabbed, and burnt alive by dousing people with petrol, kerosene and diesel.

In all these events the modus operandi was to surround the minority settlements, close all routes of escape, comer the people into one location and then looted the property of the vacated area and then burnt the same systematically. The people cornered were killed with sharp weapons and the houses they had taken shelter or cornered into were set on fire resulting in many burnt alive.

A large number of women were sexually assaulted and gang raped in the presence of their own relatives with the police looking on passively. Many of the women who were thus raped were also slashed with sharp weapons and subsequently burnt to death. Most of the women who survived are in a state of shock and trauma and unable to report these brutalities even to their own relatives, leave alone the police. But women and men who have witnessed the events have reported this.

Barring a few exemplary police officers who helped people to escape or protect from the attacks. The rest of the police generally had been passive. But in many cases police was colluding with organized attacking groups in killing, burning property, human beings. There are reports of police closing the escape routes when the minorities attempted to escape the attacks, some even fired on the people who try to escape the attack.

Assistant Commissioner of Police P.N. Barot has been appointed to investigate some of the most serious cases such as Gulbarga (where Eshan Jaffrey and many others were burnt alive) and Naroda Patia (where many women and children were raped and killed). Our analysis of his track record of investigations throws serious suspicion on the motives and competencies of this officer. According to most of the complainants he has not named any of the accused in the FIRs in spite of the victims' insistence. A number of citizens from the minority community have expressed serious reservations about this officer being appointed as the investigating officer for these cases.
More than 23 mosques and Dargahs have been desecrated and demolished during the last fortnight of violence, only in Ahmedabad. From our investigation and interviews with a large number of victims it becomes amply clear that there is a prima facie case that the government functionaries and political leaders were involved in the atrocities described above.

The abysmal failure of the Government to protect the life and property of its citizens has been established beyond doubt. In the face of this strong prima facie evidence of the culpability of Government of Gujarat, it would be against the principles of natural justice to entrust the investigation to the police and the commission of inquiry controlled by the same Government. The appointment of retired Justice K.G . Shah as the commission of Inquiry has shocked all secular citizens. The judgment of Justice K. G. Shah (while in service) on the Dabgarwad case of Ahmedabad had made unnecessary inferences against minority which were struck down by the Hon. Supreme Court Of India. A large number of students appearing for the SSC and HSC examinations scheduled to begin from the 18~ of March are at present living in relief camps. It is grossly unfair to conduct the exams in these conditions. The Government has been insensitive to the traumatic and violent situation that the students of all communities has gone through over the past fortnight, and has not made any provision for the security of these students in the examination centers. In such a scenario it would be a blatant violation of the human rights of the students if the government goes ahead with the examinations as scheduled. It has been also reported that the police has now started framing up many victims of the attacks under criminal charges and are threatened with arrests. This is suspected to be a ploy to put pressure on the victims not to file complaints or statements. There is an urgent need to restrain the government from such repressive measures.

We request the National Commission for Minorities to immediately recommend the following:

  • Entrust the investigation to the CBI or a specially constituted impartial investigating team.

  • Appointment of a multimember commission of inquiry comprising judges from outside Gujarat preferably sitting judge/s from the Supreme Court

  • The Army should continue to be deployed and/or to be on stand-by till normalcy returns to economic and social life and a sense of security is felt by the minorities.

  • All the victims of this communal attack who have suffered losses should be entitled to complete reparations.

  • Restoration of status quo ante as on 27th February, 2002 with regard to all religious and cultural monuments and places destroyed.

  • Special provisions for Board examinations for all students who are physically and psychologically unable to appear for the Board examinations. Alternatively, the examinations for the entire state are postponed for three weeks so as to enable the Government to make provisions for the security of the students giving the exams.

For Citizens' Initiative. -- Binoy Acharya, Ashim Roy, Victor Moses (Fr.), Lalji Desai, Prasad Chacko, Bhavana Ramrakhiani (Ms.), Vinay Mahajan, Rafi Malek "

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