PUCL Bulletin, November 2002

Keep Peace in Gujarat, says Human Rights Watch

(New York, September 26, 2002) - Human Rights Watch today condemned the brutal attack at the Swaminarayan Hindu temple in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in which at least 30 people, including children, were killed. Human Rights Watch commended the Indian government for responding swiftly to maintain law and order in Gujarat state.

The Indian government has deployed approximately 3,000 army personnel in Gujarat while the prime minister and other Indian officials have called on citizens of the state to end the cycle of violence and refrain from taking the law into their own hands.

Since February 27, 2002, when a Muslim mob in the town of Godhra attacked a train carrying Hindu activists and left 58 people dead, close to 1,000 people, mostly Muslim, have been killed in Gujarat. Human Rights Watch's investigations, and those of other human rights groups, revealed that Gujarat state officials actively participated in the violence against Muslims.

"The government of Gujarat must prove that it can maintain peace and security in the state and not become complicit again in the killing of civilians," said Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch. "Those responsible for the massacre in Gandhinagar must be brought to justice while all citizens, whatever their religion, must be protected from future attacks."

Human Rights Watch noted that potential for further outbreaks of violence in Gujarat and elsewhere in India remains high as a result of the call for a nationwide strike on Thursday by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). A similar strike preceded the retaliatory attacks against Muslims in February. Human Rights Watch also called on the government to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for orchestrated attacks against Muslims.

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