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The state of Gujarat in India once renowned as the home of the peace activist, Mahatma Gandhi, is today home to over 100,000 victims of recent communal violence, most of them Muslims. Of these numbers, over 2000 were brutalized and killed in every way imaginable and in ways till now unimaginable--stoned; burned alive with kerosene; stabbed; butchered; raped and burned; and, raped and cut open with fetuses removed, displayed on a tip of a sword and then discarded in fires. The unfortunate survivors that witnessed entire families erased continue to suffer in over-crowded make-shift relief camps and now face a different specter of death in the form of disease, an unrelenting heat wave, the approaching monsoon, and starvation.

The violence in Gujarat began soon after an incident on February 27, 2002, when the Sabarmati Express was stopped near Godhra and several compartments were torched leading to the death of 58 Hindu passengers, including women and children. While conflicting reports exist about the exact sequence of events, it is clear that a confrontation between Hindutva activists returning from the controversial site of Ayodhya and the mainly Muslim residents of Godhra escalated to the point of the train being deliberately set on fire. What ensued in the wake of the heinous attack on the Sabarmati Express was a state-wide retaliatory carnage of unimaginable proportions the social, psychological and economical damages of which defy quantification. Immediately following the train incident at Godhra, frenzied Hindu mobs across the state of Gujarat unleashed their fury on the Muslim population by brutalizing and obliterating entire families and neighborhoods, looting their property, and destroying places of worship. To date, the numbers are as follows: over 2000 dead and buried in mass graves, over 100,000 in inadequate relief camps, and an estimated Rs. 10, 000 crore ($2 billion) in property damage. The unaccounted damage to the people of Gujarat as a whole, to the cause of communal harmony, and to India as a nation far exceeds these numbers.

As NGOs and activists for communal harmony seek ways to bring relief and justice to the victims of the Gujarat massacre, fact-finding reports point to the following critical findings:

  • State participation and complicity in communal violence in Gujarat:

While the Gujarat government has labeled the massacre a "spontaneous reaction" to the train incident in Godhra, research by several human rights and civil liberties organizations indicates that the attacks against Muslims were pre-meditated and planned well before the Godhra incident, and were supported by the police and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People's Party) state government in collusion with the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), and the Bajrang Dal. One of many examples of this diabolical collusion is that the Hindu attackers were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties--information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal cooperation. Equally outrageous is the cover-up of the state's role in the massacres: even though eyewitnesses filed numerous police First Information Reports (FIRs) that named local leaders as instigators or participants in the attacks, few if any of the leaders have been arrested. A Citizen's Initiative report states the following: "Video footage by the fact-finding team showed slogans like, Yeh andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath hai (The inside story is that the police is on our side)--written boldly on the walls of gutted Muslim homes." (p. 18, April 16, 2002). And as for the police officers who made an attempt to do their job and maintain peace in their areas, the state government promptly transferred them but took little action against officers who did nothing to control the rioters.

  • The Gujarat massacre and minority women:

While no victim's pain is more or less than another's in a holocaust such as this, it is true that Muslim women have been used as a battle-ground by Hindu attackers to "settle" religious differences. A six-member team of women undertook a fact-finding mission at the end of March to assess the impact of the continuing violence against minority women in Gujarat and found that the sexual crimes were grossly under-reported. They found the following types of compelling and disturbing evidence of sexual violence against Muslim women: "Among the women surviving in relief camps, are many who have suffered the most bestial forms of bestial violence--including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their bodies, molestations. A majority of rape victims have been burnt alive". (p. 6, Citizen's Initiative, April 16, 2002).

  • A deafening silence in the international community:

With the exception of a few activists and grassroots organizations in the United States and a vague public acknowledgement of the riots in response to a front-cover photograph of a Hindu militant brandishing a sword, the Gujarat incident has received very little attention in America. It is very important to note that prompt and appropriate response to the carnage--particularly relief efforts by the majority of non-resident Indians--has been severely lacking. This silence and the failure to act are in sharp contrast to the instrumental role of such groups in raising funds for the 2001 Gujarat earthquake. Whereas in 2001 millions of dollars in aid from the international community poured into the state for earthquake relief, the burden of providing food, medical support, and other supplies for the victims of the recent violence is being shouldered by local NGOs and Muslim voluntary groups. It is also worth mentioning that the lack of support from certain segments of the NRI community, though appalling, is not particularly surprising given that such groups have provided substantial support to the increasingly militant and powerful Hindu right in India. Finally, the stand of the Indian government that the recent occurrences in Gujarat are an "internal matter" and that condemnation by other countries would be construed as "interference" has also encouraged the silence of the international community.

EKTA stands in solidarity with the many concerned people throughout India and the world who are outraged and ashamed by what is happening in Gujarat. For what occurred in Gujarat in February and what continues to happen today, EKTA unequivocally condemns the actions and transgressions of the following key agencies amongst others:

  • · The Gujarat government for: inciting violent riots against Muslims; aiding and abetting the perpetrators of the communal violence; ignoring and discounting the magnitude of the carnage; and for its continued failure to provide relief and aid to the victims.
  • The Gujarat state and local media for: anti-minority propaganda; distorting facts and fabricating others as a means to instigating violence by Hindus against Muslims; and for the failure to report the extent of the atrocities in the days following Feb 27, particularly the sexually violent crimes against Muslim women.
  • All members of the Sangh Parivar (the ruling BJP, the RSS, the Shiv Sena (SS), VHP, and the Bajrang Dal) for: engaging in the politics of hate and violence for political and financial gain; demonizing and terrorizing entire communities of fellow citizens (Muslims, Christians, and Dalits); opposing the very fundamental principle of equality and liberty upon which the Indian state is based; and propagating a narrow and distorted version of Hinduism which is profoundly anti-Hindu at its core.

The question then is: What can each of us do? One thing is clear: no matter what our individual beliefs and persuasions, what is happening in Gujarat--whether measured by the erosion of humanity, the breakdown of law and order, business loss, or the decline in tourism and foreign investment--harms everyone equally. What we can do is the following:

  • Voice our outrage and denounce the Gujarat and Indian government
  • Petition the Gujarat and Indian government through local consulates
  • Write letters and articles to the press
  • Encourage all our family and friends to speak out
  • Educate the community through gatherings in homes and places of worship, and at community functions
  • Host interfaith gatherings, and
  • Raise funds for relief work

As part of its continuing involvement with raising funds for relief work in Gujarat, EKTA is organizing a large-scale performing arts event on July 13 in the Bay area that will serve as both a fundraiser and as an occasion for community outreach and education on the violence in Gujarat. The benefit will be a tribute to the life and work of the late Ahsan Jafri, a former Member of Parliament, poet, and activist for communal harmony. On February 28, 2002, Jafri along with 160 other people who were seeking refuge in his home, including women and children, were attacked and burnt alive by a mob despite countless phone calls to the police asking for protection.

Because the goal of bringing information to the public and of raising political and social consciousness is central to EKTA's mission, we would like to recognize the exemplary efforts of the following organizations and their fact-finding efforts that, in our estimation, constitute credible sources of information regarding the Gujarat incidents:

Coalition Against Communalism

Citizen's Initiative report:
How Has The Gujarat Massacre Affected Minority Women? The Survivors Speak

Human Rights Watch report:
"We Have No Orders To Save You" State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat

Communalism Combat:
Genocide, Gujarat 2002

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