Newsletter May - Aug 2002

In addition to all the media coverage on the issue, several independent bodies and fact finding missions have reported on different aspects of the genocide in Gujarat: the widespread scale of the violence, its impact on women, it’s human rights implications, what it reveals about the functioning of our so called secular state, impact on the freedom of the press, etc. We are presenting here, a brief summary of some of these reports just as an indication of the kind of material available on the events in Gujarat over the last few months. This list is by no means exhaustive, and new facts continue to emerge with every passing day.

The report of All India Democratic Women’s Association, brought out on 16 March 2002, clearly states that the events in Gujarat following 27 February are ‘state-sponsored carnage of Muslims’, and not a ‘riot’. It also says that the reports of looting in the posh areas of Ahmedabad indicated that it was not the poor, but the middle class, including women, who participated. Also, the increased participation of tribal people in the pogrom was a clear indicator of how active the RSS has been promoting communal divisions.

Amnesty International submitted a memorandum to the Gujarat government on 28 March with regard to its duties in the aftermath of the violence. It outlined two areas of concern that need to be addressed urgently: the need to deliver justice to the victims, and protection of the rights of the people displaced by the violence throughout the state.

The preliminary report of the National Human Rights Commission was released on 1 April, strongly indicting the state government. The report observes that a serious failure of intelligence and inaction by the state government marked the events leading to the Godhra tragedy, and the subsequent deaths and destruction. A major part of the report responds to the preliminary report of the Gujarat government to the NHRC. It demands that certain critical cases should be entrusted to the CBI, and special courts be set up to try cases on a daily basis. It also recommends serious action against those who failed to act appropriately to control the violence.

An independent fact finding mission (of Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU; S.P. Shukla, Former Finance Secretary; K.S. Subramanian, Former Director General of Police; and Achin Vanaik, Visiting Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia) brought out its report, ‘Gujarat Carnage 2002: A Report to the Nation’, in April 2002. Their report clearly states that while what happened in Godhra on 27 February was a communal riot, but what followed was a state-sponsored one-sided pogrom against Muslims. It points out that the steady penetration of the BJP, RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal into state institutions and organisations during the BJP rule in Gujarat requires painstaking investigation, because the primary responsibility for the communal violence rests with the Sangh Parivar, whose ideological, political and administrative leadership is responsible for the tragic events. The report adds that the BJP-led government in the Centre has also chosen to minimise the seriousness of the situation.

On 16 April, a Women’s Panel (sponsored by Citizen’s Initiative, Ahmedabad) consisting of representatives of the Muslim Women’s Forum, National Alliance of Women, Nirantar, Sahrwaru, Accord, and an independent journalist, which visited Gujarat brought out a report called ‘The Survivors Speak: How has the Gujarat Massacre Affected Minority Women?’ The objective of this fact finding mission was to determine the nature and extent of crime against women and investigate the role played by the police and other state institutions in protecting women. The report clearly states that the media, especially the Gujarati vernacular press, played a dangerous and criminal role in inciting violence, especially sexual violence against women. The state also abdicated its responsibility to protect its citizens, and was instead involved in maiming, raping and butchering hundreds of women. Women activists also faced threats to their lives from right wing organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal while carrying out relief work. The report lays emphasis on recording testimonies of rape victims, providing immediate counselling and creating a comprehensive rehabilitation policy for them.

‘Genocide: Gujarat 2002’, a fact finding report brought out by Communalism Combat as their March-April issue, reveal how Narendra Modi and his predecessor Keshubhai Patel, both systematically used hate propaganda, to create the mindset to justify the pogrom. The report emphasises on how rape has been used as an instrument to subjugate and humiliate the Muslim community, after which the women were hacked and burnt to deliberately destroy the evidence. It says that Gujarat has thrown an unprecedented challenge before all those working for human rights to fight the fascist onslaught on the Indian constitution.

‘Gujarat “Genocide” 2002: A Humanitarian Crisis: Waiting for Peace, Justice and Relief”’ was released by a multidisciplinary team on 28 April 2002 in Bangalore, facilitated by Oxfam India and Bangalore Initiative for Peace. It emphasises the need for establishing peace and ending all violence and hostilities. Discussing the health status in the overcrowded and medically unattended relief camps, the report believes that the government has a responsibility to respond to humanitarian needs. It insists that the situation is more complicated with the absence of support from international humanitarian agencies.

Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties-Shanti Abhiyan (Baroda) brought out their report in April 2002. The post-Godhra campaign has affected most women living in Vadodara. Women of all communities live in perpetual fear of being attacked by the ‘other’ community. The unnatural and abnormal situation has brought out leadership qualities in many women, and has also resulted in politicising them ... The report of Saheli’s first visit to Vadodara is contained in the chapter entitled Women’s Perspectives.

‘ “We Have No Orders to Save You”: State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat’ by the Human Rights Watch on 30 April directly implicates the police in nearly all attacks against Muslims and, at the same time, condemns the retaliatory attacks against the Hindus. It urges the international community to levy pressure on the Indian government to comply with international human rights and the Indian constitution, and end impunity for orchestrated violence against Indian minorities.

The National Commission for Minorities’ report (date…) demands adequate compensation to the next of kin of those killed in the Gujarat riots and the Godhra train incident. The report also urges the Indian government to provide employment to the dependents of the deceased, and initiate confidence-building measures for restoring belief in the administrative machinery.

‘Carnage in Gujarat: A Public Health Disaster’ by Medico Friend Circle, (released on 13 May 2002), highlights how health conditions in the relief camps are in a general state of crisis, and that the state public health services have not provided necessary comprehensive treatment to victims of the carnage. Women’s health needs have not been acknowledged at all. The report also investigates the dangerous role played by some medical professionals in propagating hatred and perpetrating injury to Muslims in Gujarat. It recommends the constitution of an independent health commission to inquire into these crucial issues.

'Maaro! Kaapo! Baalo! : State, Society, and Communalism in Gujarat', the report of People's Union for Democratic Rights is based on the visit of their fact-finding teams to various areas of both urban and rural Gujarat in early April. The report clearly states that the violence in Gujarat was a systematic effort to terrorise Muslims and reduce them to the status of second class citizens by taking away their lives, livelihoods and shelter. It is genocide because the violence has been unprecedented in its spread and intensity, the degree of organisation and attention to detail, and the extent to which representatives of the state participated in the attacks. The report illustrates how peoples’ basic rights have been violated and highlights not just the role of communal organisations, but the fundamentally discriminatory nature of state action.