2002 Gujarat violence

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The skyline of Ahmedabad filled with smoke as buildings and shops are set on fire by rioting mobs

The 2002 Gujarat violence, also known as 2002 Gujarat riots and the Gujarat pogrom[1][2] was a three-day period of inter-communal violence in the western Indian state of Gujarat. Following the initial incident there were further outbreaks of violence in Ahmedabad for three weeks; statewide, there were further outbreaks of mass killings against the minority Muslim population for three months.[3][4] The burning of a train in Godhra on 27 February 2002, which caused the deaths of 58 people including Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya, is believed to have triggered the violence.[5][6] Some commentators, however, hold the view that the attacks had been pre-planned, were well orchestrated, and that the attack on the train was a "staged trigger" for what was actually premeditated violence.[7][8]

According to official figures, the riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; 2,500 people were injured non-fatally, and 223 more were reported missing.[9] Other sources estimate that up to 2,000 Muslims died.[10] There were instances of rape, children being burned alive, and widespread looting and destruction of property. Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of initiating and condoning the violence, as have police and government officials who allegedly directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim-owned properties to them.[11] In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the violence by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court of India. The Muslim community are reported to have reacted with "anger and disbelief" and activist Teesta Setalvad has said that the legal process was not yet complete as there existed a right to appeal.[12] In July 2013 allegations were made that the SIT had suppressed evidence.[13] That December, an Indian court upheld the earlier SIT report and rejected a petition seeking Modi's prosecution.[14] In April 2014, the Supreme Court expressed satisfaction over the SIT's investigations in nine cases related to the violence, and rejected as "baseless" a plea contesting the SIT report.[15]

While officially classified as a communalist riot, the events of 2002 have been described as a pogrom by many scholars.[16][17] Other independent observers have stated that these events had met the "legal definition of genocide",[18] and called it an instance of state terrorism.[19][20] Still others have said the incidents were tantamount to ethnic cleansing.[21] Instances of mass violence which occurred include the Naroda Patiya massacre that took place directly alongside a police training camp,[22] the Gulbarg Society massacre where Ehsan Jafri, a former parliamentarian, was among those killed, and several incidents in Vadodara city.[23] Martha Nussbaum has said, "There is by now a broad consensus that the Gujarat violence was a form of ethnic cleansing, that in many ways it was premeditated, and that it was carried out with the complicity of the state government and officers of the law."[24]

Godhra train burning

The Sabarmati Express afire

On the morning of 27 February 2002, the Sabarmati Express, returning from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad, was stopped near the Godhra railway station. Several of the passengers were Hindu kar sevaks,, or activists, returning from Ayodhya after a religious ceremony at the site of the demolished Babri Masjid.[25][26] Under controversial circumstances, four coaches of the train caught on fire, trapping many people inside. In the resulting conflagration, 59 people, including 25 women and 25 children, were burned to death.[27]

The government of Gujarat set up a commission to look into the incident, the sole member of which was retired Gujarat High Court judge K G Shah.[28] Following outrage over Shah's alleged closeness to Modi, retired Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati was appointed chairman of the two person commission.[29] After spending six years going over the details of the case, the commission submitted its preliminary report, concluding that the fire was arson committed by a mob of 1000-2000 local people.[29][30] Maulvi Husain Haji Ibrahim Umarji, a cleric in Godhra, and a dismissed Central Reserve Police Force officer named Nanumiyan were presented as the "masterminds" behind the operation.[31] As of March 2014, the commission had yet to submit its final report.[32] The findings of the commission were called into question by a video recording released by Tehelka magazine, in which Arvind Pandya, counsel for the Gujarat government, stated that the findings of the Shah-Nanavati commission would support the view presented by the BJP, as Shah was "their man" and Nanavati could be bribed.[33]

The union government also set up a committee to probe the incident, headed up by retired Supreme Court judge Umesh Chandra Banerjee. The committee concluded that the fire had begun inside the train and was most likely accidental.[34] However, the Gujarat High Court ruled in 2006 that the matter was outside the jurisdiction of the union government, and that the committee was therefore unconstitutional.[35]

In February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others based on the murder and conspiracy provisions of the Indian Penal Code, saying the incident was a "pre-planned conspiracy".[36] [37] mainly Muslims.[38] The death penalty was awarded to 11 convicts; twenty others were sentenced to life imprisonment.[39][40] Maulvi Umarji, presented by the Nanavati-Shah commission as the prime conspirator, was acquitted along with 62 other accused for lack of evidence.[41][42]

The Concerned Citizens Tribunal(CCT), headed by Teesta Setalvad also concluded that the fire had been an accident, stating that the attack by a mob was part of a government conspiracy to trigger riots across the state.[43][44] Several other independent commentators have also concluded that the fire itself was almost certainly an accident, saying that the initial cause of the conflagration will never be determined.[6][45][46] Historian Ainslie Thomas Embree stated that the official version of the attack on the train, that it was organized, carried out by people under orders from Pakistan, was entirely baseless.[47]

Post Godhra violence

2002 Gujarat violence is located in Gujarat
Vadodara
Vadodara
Naroda
Naroda
Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad
Godhra
Godhra
Ode
Ode
Gandhinagar
Gandhinagar
Mehsana
Mehsana
Bharuch
Bharuch
Surat
Surat
Rajkot
Rajkot
Halvad
Halvad
Modasa
Modasa
Himatnagar
Himatnagar
Location of major incidents.

Following the attack on the train the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) called for a statewide bandh (strike), even though these have been declared by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional and illegal. It is common knowledge in India that these strikes are usually followed by violence. No action was taken by the state to prevent the strike, or put a stop the initial violence.[48] Independent reports indicate that former VHP president Rana Rajendrasinh had endorsed the strike, and that Modi and Rana had used inflammatory language which could worsen the situation.[49]

Modi declared that the attack on the train had been carried out by "terrorists", these words were interpreted as a signal to take vengeance on the Muslim community.[50] Local newspapers and members of the state government used the Godhra incident to incite the violence. They claimed without proof[47] the attack on the train was carried out by Pakistan's intelligence agency and that local Muslims had conspired with them to attack Hindus in the state. False stories were also printed by local newspapers which claimed that Muslims kidnapped and then raped some Hindu women.[51]

The day following the fire coordinated attacks began. Men wearing saffron robes and khaki shorts arrived en masse in trucks. They had swords, explosives and gas cylinders which were used to destroy homes and places of business. Attacks were made in full view of police stations and police officers, however the police did not intervene.[11] The rioters used mobile phones to coordinate their attacks.[52] By days end on 28 February in 27 towns and cities a curfew was declared.[53] A minister who spoke with Rediff.com stated that though the circumstances were tense in Baroda and Ahmedabad, the situation was under control, and that the police who had been deployed were enough to prevent any violence. In Baroda the administration also imposed a curfew in seven areas. The deputy superintendent of police stated that the Rapid Action Force had been deployed to sensitive areas in Godhra. Gordhan Zadafia, the state home minister believed there would be no retaliation from the Hindu community.[54] Two days after (on 1 March) the violence had begun troops were airlifted into the state and began flag marches. Modi, stated that the violence was no longer as intense as it had been and that it would soon be brought under control, he also said that if the situation warranted it, then the police would have help by deploying the army. A shoot to kill order was also issued.[55] However the troop deployment was withheld by the state until the most severe aspects of the violence had ended, and it was not until 1 March that contingents of troops began to be deployed to help put down the violence.[56] After more than two months of violence a unanimous vote to gain federal intervention was passed in the upper house of parliament. Members of the opposition made accusations that the government had failed to give protection to Muslims in what was, after ten years the worst rioting in India.[57]

There was widespread targeted destruction of shrines and mosques. The tomb of Malik Asin was bulldozed, the Muhafiz Khan Mosque was also destroyed. The tomb of the eighteenth century saint Wali Gujrati was leveled and paved over the following day by the council. It is estimated that 230 masjids and dargahs were destroyed during the violence.[58] For the first time in the history of communal riots Hindu women took part, and looted Muslim shops.[53] It is estimated that up to 150,000 people were displaced during the violence.[59] It is estimated that 200 police officers died while trying to control the violence and human rights watch has reported on acts of exceptional heroism by Hindus, Dalits and tribals who tried to protect Muslims from the violence.[60][61]

Attacks on Muslims

Dionne Bunsha writing on the Gulbarg Society massacre and murder of Ehsan Jafri, has said that Jafri begged the crowd to spare the women, he was dragged into the street and forced to parade naked yet he refused to say "Jai Shri Ram". He was then beheaded and thrown onto a fire, following this the rioters returned and burned Jafri's family, including two small boys to death. After the massacre Gulbarg burned for a week.[58][62] According to Siddharth Varadarajan on 28 February in the districts of Morjari Chowk and Charodia Chowk, in Ahmedabad of forty people killed by police shooting, all were Muslim.[63] It is estimated that at least 250 girls and women had been gang raped and then burned to death.[64] Children were killed by being burnt alive and those digging mass graves described the bodies as "burned and butchered beyond recognition".[65] Children were force fed petrol and then set on fire, pregnant women were gutted and their unborn child's body then shown to the women. In the Naroda Patiya mass grave of 96 bodies 46 were women. The murderers also flooded homes and electrocuted entire families inside.[66] Violence against women also included their being stripped naked, objects being forced into their bodies and then their being killed. According to Kalpana Kannabiran the rapes were part of a well organized, deliberate and pre-planned strategy, and that this puts the violence in the area of a political pogrom and genocide.[67] Other acts of violence against women were acid attacks, beatings and the killing of women who were pregnant. Children were also killed in front of their parents.[68] George Fernandes in a discussion in parliament on the violence caused widespread furore in his defence of the state government, saying that this was not the first time that women had been violated and raped in India.[69]

Children and infants were speared and held aloft before being thrown into fires.[70] Describing the sexual violence perpetrated against Muslim women and girls, Renu Khanna writes that the survivors reported "that sexual violence consisted of forced nudity, mass rapes, gang-rapes, mutilation, insertion of objects into bodies, cutting of breasts, slitting the stomach and reproductive organs, and carving of Hindu religious symbols on women's body parts."[71] The Concerned Citizens' Tribunal, characterised the use of rape "as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community".[71] Testimony heard by the committee stated that:

A chilling technique, absent in pogroms unleashed hitherto but very much in evidence this time in a large number of cases, was the deliberate destruction of evidence. Barring a few, in most instances of sexual violence, the women victims were stripped and paraded naked, then gang-raped, and thereafter quartered and burnt beyond recognition ... The leaders of the mobs even raped young girls, some as young as 11 years old ... before burning them alive ... Even a 20-day-old infant, or a fetus in the womb of its mother, was not spared.[71]

According to Vandana Shiva "Young boys have been taught to burn, rape and kill in the name of Hindutva".[72]

Attacks on Hindus

Human rights watch has reported that 10000 Hindus had been displaced during the violence,[citation needed] many Hindu residents were in fear of reprisal attacks or being mistaken for Muslim. Hindu home and business owners had placed saffron flags or pictures of Hindu deities on their properties to identify themselves as Hindu. On 17 March there was an attack by Muslims on Dalits. In Himatnagar, a man was found dead, his eyes had been gouged out. The Sindhi Market and Bhanderi Pole areas of Ahmedabad, were also attacked.[73]

There was a retaliatory attack in Jamalpur which resulted in 25 Hindus injured and five house being razed. The police quickly responded, and the colony was visited by Modi after a short period of time.[73][74] According to Varadarajan the majority of Hindu deaths were from shootings by the police, some were killed by Hindutva rioters after they had been mistaken for Muslims, with some deliberately killed for having worked with, or having befriended Muslims. A report from Frontline on the violence in Ahmedabad of 249 bodies recovered by 5 march, 30 were Hindus. Of these 13 had died as a result of police action and several others had died while attacking Muslim owned properties. 24 Muslims had died in police shootings even though there had been very few attacks by Muslims on Hindu neighborhoods.[75]

Media coverage

The events in Gujarat were the first instance of communal violence in India in the age of 24-hour news coverage, and were televised worldwide, this coverage played a central role in the politics of the situation. Media coverage was generally critical of the Hindu right; however the BJP portrayed the coverage as an assault on the honour of Gujaratis and turned the hostility into an emotive part of their electoral campaign.[76][77]

With the violence receding in April a peace meeting was arranged at Sabarmati Ashram, a former home of Gandhi. Hindutva supporters and Police officers attacked almost a dozen Journalists. The state government banned television news channels critical of the government's response, and local stations were blocked. Two reporters working for STAR News were assaulted several times while covering the violence, on a return trip from having interviewed Modi when their car was surrounded by a crowd, one of the crowd claimed that they would be killed should they be a member of a minority community. Prasun Sonwalkar believes the media can play an important role in highlighting acts of action, or inaction and abuses of power.[78]

The Editors Guild of India, in its report on media ethics and coverage on the incidents stated that the news coverage was exemplary, with only a few minor lapses. The local newspapers Sandesh Gujarati and Gujarat Samachar however were heavily criticised.[79] The report states that Sandesh had headlines which would "provoke, communalize and terrorise people. The newspaper also used a quote from a VHP leader as a headline, "Avenge with blood". The report also stated that Samachar had played a role in increasing the tensions, but did not give all of its coverage over to "hawkish and inflammatory reportage in the first few weeks" The paper also carried reports to highlight communal harmony. Gujarat Today was given praise for showing restraint and for the balanced reportage of the violence.[80]

Critical reporting on the Gujarat government's handling of the situation helped bring about the Indian government's intervention in controlling the violence. The Editorial Guild of India rejected the charge that graphic news coverage aggravated the situation, saying that the coverage exposed the "horrors" of the riots as well as the "supine if not complicit" attitude of the state, helping propel remedial action.[81]

Allegations of state complicity

Dipankar Gupta believes that the state and police were complicit in the violence is an undoubted fact. Gupta has also said that some officers were outstanding in the performance of their duties such as Himanshu Bhatt and Rahul Sharma. Sharma was reported to have said "I don't think any other job would have allowed me to save so many lives".[82] These attacks have been described by Gyanendra Pandey as pogroms and a new form of state terrorism, and that these incidents are not riots but "organized political massacres".[19] According to Paul Brass the only conclusion from the evidence which is available points to a methodical Anti-Muslim pogrom which was carried out with exceptional brutality and was highly coordinated.[83]

The media has also described the attacks as state terrorism rather than "communal riots" due to the lack of state intervention.[20] Selective targeting of properties was shown by the destruction of the offices of the Muslim Wakf board which was located within the confines of the high security zone and just 500 meters from the office of the chief minister.[48] Cited as further evidence of state complicity was that the rioters had printouts of voter registration lists, allowing them to target Muslim properties.[52][59]

According to Scott W. Hibbard the violence had been planned far in advance, and that similar to other instances of communal violence the Bajrang Dal, the VHP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh all took part in the attacks.[51] An investigation by the British high commission concluded that the violence had been pre-planned and the state government had supported the rioters and that the violence had the mark of ethnic cleansing. This report also said that while Modi remained in power then reconciliation between the Hindu and Muslim communities would not be possible.[84] The US Commission on International Religious Freedom Report in 2003 and 2004 called India a "country of particular concern", and cited as one reason for this was the violence in 2002. They also wrote the even though India has a tradition of democracy, minorities are subjected to mass killings and intense violence periodically. It also made note that those who carry out these acts of violence are rarely held accountable for their actions.[85]

An international fact finding committee formed of all women international experts from US, UK, France, Germany and Sri Lanka reported, "sexual violence was being used as a strategy for terrorising women belonging to minority community in the state."[86]

The CCT report includes testimony of the then Gujarat BJP minister Haren Pandya (since murdered), who testified about an evening meeting convened by Narendra Modi the evening of the Godhra train burning. At this meeting, officials were instructed not to obstruct the Hindu rage following the incident.[87] The report also highlighted a second meeting, held in Lunawada village of Panchmahal district, attended by state ministers Ashok Bhatt, and Prabhatsinh Chauhan, and other BJP and RSS leaders, where "detailed plans were made on the use of kerosene and petrol for arson and other methods of killing."[88] The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind claimed in 2002 that some regional Congress workers collaborated with the perpetrators of the violence.[89]

Organizations such as Human Rights Watch criticised the Indian government for failure to address the resulting humanitarian condition of the people, the "overwhelming majority of them Muslim," who fled their homes for relief camps in the aftermath of the events, as well as the Gujarat state administration for engaging in a cover-up of the state's role in the massacres.[90]

In response to allegations of state involvement, Gujarat government spokesman, Bharat Pandya, told the BBC that the rioting was a spontaneous Hindu backlash fuelled by widespread anger against Muslims. He said "Hindus are frustrated over the role of Muslims in the on-going violence in Indian-administered Kashmir and other parts of India".[91]

The US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, John Hanford, expressing concern over religious intolerance in Indian politics, said that while the rioters may have been aided by state and local officials, he did not believe that the BJP-led central government was involved in inciting the riots.[92]

Criminal prosecutions

Prosecution of those accused for criminal actions during the violence faced problems with witnesses being either bribed or intimidated, local judges were also biased.[93] As of April 2013 249 convictions had been secured, 184 Hindus and 65 Muslims. 31 of the Muslim convictions were for the Train incident in Godhra.[94]

The Indian Supreme Court has been strongly critical of the state government's investigation and prosecution of those accused of violence during the riots, directing police to review about 2,000 of the 4,000 riot-related cases that had been closed citing lack of evidence or leads.[38] Following this direction, police identified nearly 1,600 cases for re-investigation, arrested 640 accused and launched investigations against 40 police officers for their failures.[95][96]

Human Rights Watch alleged[97] that state and law enforcement officials were harassing and intimidating[98] key witnesses, NGOs, social activists and lawyers who were fighting to seek justice for riot victims. In its 2003 annual report, Amnesty International stated, "the same police force that was accused of colluding with the attackers was put in charge of the investigations into the massacres, undermining the process of delivery of justice to the victims."[99]

The Best Bakery murder trial received wide attention after witnesses retracted testimony in court and all of the accused were acquitted. The Indian Supreme Court, acting on a petition by social activist Teesta Setalvad, ordered a retrial outside Gujarat in which nine accused were found guilty in 2006.[100] A key witness, Zaheera Sheikh, who repeatedly changed her testimony during the trials and the petition was found guilty of perjury.[101]

After a local court dismissed the case against her assailants, Bilkis Bano approached the National Human Rights Commission and petitioned the Supreme Court seeking a retrial. The Supreme Court granted the motion, directing the Central Bureau of Investigation to take over the investigation. CBI appointed a team of experts from CFSL Delhi and AIIMS under the guidance and leadership of Professor T. D. Dogra of AIIMS to exhume the mass graves to established the identity and cause of death of victims. The team successfully located and exhumed the remains of victims.[102] The trial of the case was transferred out of Gujarat and directing the central government to appoint the public prosecutor.[103][104] Charges were filed in a Mumbai court against nineteen people as well as six police officials and a government doctor over their role in the initial investigations.[105] In January 2008, eleven men were sentenced to life imprisonment for the rape and murders and a policeman was convicted of falsifying evidence.[106]

In 2005, the Vadodara fast-track court acquitted 108 people accused of murdering two youths, during a mob attack on a group of displaced Muslims returning under police escort to their homes in Avdhootnagar. The court passed strictures against the police for failing to protect the people under their escort[107] and failing to identify the attackers they had witnessed.[108]

Nine people were convicted of killing a Hindu man and injuring another during group clashes in Danilimda, Ahmedabad on 12 April, while 25 others were acquitted.[109]

Eight people, including a VHP leader and a member of the BJP, were convicted for the murder of seven members of a family and the rape of two minor girls in the village of Eral in Panchmahal district.[110][111]

52 people from Pavagadh and Dhikva villages in Panchmahal district were acquitted of rioting charges for lack of evidence.[112]

A stringent anti-terror law, the POTA, was used by the Gujarat government to charge 131 people in connection to the Godhra train fire, but not invoked in prosecuting any of the accused in the post-Godhra riots.[113][114] In 2005 the POTA Review Committee set up by the central government to review the application of the law opined that the Godhra accused should not be tried under the provisions of POTA.[115]

In February 2011 a special fast track court convicted 31 Muslims for the Godhra train burning incident and the conspiracy for the crime[39]

On 9 November 2011, a court in Ahmedabad sentenced 31 Hindus to life imprisonment for murdering dozens of Muslims, by burning a building in which they took shelter.[116] 41 other Hindus were acquitted of murder charges due to lack of evidence.[116] 22 additional people were convicted for attempted murder on 30 July 2012, while 61 others were acquitted.[117]

On 29 July 2012, an Indian court gave the verdict in the Naroda Patiya massacre case and convicted 32 people, including former state minister Maya Kodnani and Hindu leader Babu Bajrangi of involvement in the attacks. The court case began in 2009, and over 300 people (including victims, witnesses, doctors, and journalists) had testified before the court. For the first time, the verdict acknowledged the role of a politician in inciting Hindu mobs. Activists say that the verdict will embolden the opponent of Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, in the crucial run-up to state elections later this year, when Modi will seek a third term. Modi refused to apologise and denied that the government had a role in the riots. Twenty-nine people were acquitted during the verdict. Teesta Setalvad, a human rights campaigner, said, "For the first time, this judgment actually goes beyond neighborhood perpetrators and goes up to the political conspiracy. The fact that convictions have gone that high means the conspiracy charge has been accepted and the political influencing of the mobs has been accepted by the judge. This is a huge victory for justice."[118]

In April 2009, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) setup by the Supreme Court of India to investigate and expedite the Gujarat riot cases submitted before the Court that Teesta Setalvad had cooked up cases of violence to spice up the incidents. The SIT which is headed by former CBI director, R. K. Raghavan has said that false witnesses were tutored to give evidence about imaginary incidents by Setalvad and other NGOs.[119] The SIT charged her of "cooking up macabre tales of killings".[120][121]

The court was told that 22 witnesses, who had submitted identical affidavits before various courts relating to riot incidents, were questioned by SIT and it was found that the witnesses had not actually witnessed the incidents and they were tutored and the affidavits were handed over to them by Setalvad.[120]

The report which was brought to the notice of the bench, consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat, P Sathasivam and Aftab Alam, noted that the much publicised case of a pregnant Muslim woman Kausar Banu being gangraped by a mob and foetus being removed from sharp weapons, was also cooked up and false.[119][122]

Many of the investigations and prosecutions of those accused of violence during the riots have been opened for re-investigation and prosecution.[38][95]

Inquiries

There were more than 60 investigations by national and international bodies many of which having investigated the incident, concluded there was support from state officials in the violence.[123] The report from the National Human Rights Commission of India(NHRC) concluded that the attacks had been premeditated, that state government officials were complicit and that there was evidence of police not acting during the assaults on Muslims. The report also made mention of the BJP and Modi in "Promoting the attitudes of racial supremacy, racial hatred and the legacy of Nazism through his governments support of school textbooks in which Nazism is glorified". The US state department also found "that Modi revised high school textbooks to describe Hitler's 'charismatic personality' and the 'achievements of Nazism'.[124][Note 1] The NHRC also stated that Res ipsa loquitur applied as the state had comprehensively failed to protect and had not upheld the rights of the people as set out in the Constitution of India.[125]

The CCT report which was headed up by Krishna Iyer, a retired justice of the Supreme Court released its findings in 2003 and stated that contrary to the government allegation of a conspiracy in Godhra, this incident had not been pre-planned and there were no evidence to indicate otherwise. On the statewide riots the CCT reported that several days before the Godhra incident, the excuse used for the attacks, homes belonging to Hindus which were in Muslim areas and been marked with pictures of Hindu deities or saffron flags, this had been done to prevent any accidental assaults on Hindu homes or businesses. The CCT investigation also discovered evidence that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had training camps in which people were thought to view Muslims as an enemy. These camps were backed and supported by the BJP and RSS. They also reported that "The complicity of the state government is obvious. And, the support of the central government to the state government in all that it did is also by now a matter of common knowledge."[126]

The state government commissioned J G. Shah to conduct, what became, a controversial one man inquiry into the Godhra incident, its credibility was questioned and the NHRC and the National minorities commission requested that a sitting judge from the supreme court be appointed. The supreme court overturned the findings by Shah stating, "this judgement is not based on the understanding on any evidence, but on imagination".[127]

Early in 2003 the state government of Gujarat set up the Shah-Nanavati commission to investigate the entire incident, from the initial one at Godhra to the ensuing violence. The commission has been caught up in controversy from the beginning, activists and members of the opposition insisted on a judicial commission be set up and headed by a sitting judge rather than a retired one from the high court, the state refused. Within a few months Nanavati, before hearing any testimony declared there was no evidence of lapses by either the police or government in their handling of the violence.[128] In 2008 Shah died and was replaced by Justice Akshay Mehta, a retired high court judge.[129] Metha's appointment was controversial as he was the judge who allowed Babu Bajrangi to be bailed, Bajrangi is a leader of Bajrang Dal and is a prime suspect in the massacre at Naroda Patiya.[130][131] In July 2013 the commission was given its 20th extension, and Mukul Sinha of the civil rights group Jan Sangahrsh Manch said of the delays "I think commission has lost its significance and it now seems to be awaiting the outcome of the 2014 Lok Sabha election,"[132] In 2007 Tehelka in an undercover operation had said that the Shah-Nanavati commission had relied on "manufactured evidence" Tehelka editor Tarun Tajpal has claimed that they had taped witnesses who stated they had given false testimony after they had been bribed by the Gujarati police force. Tehelka also recorded Ranjitsinh Patel where he stated that he and Prabhatsinh Patel had been paid 50,000 rupees apiece to amend earlier statements and to identify as conspirators some Muslims.[133] According to B G Verghese the Tehelka expose was far too detailed to have been a fake as some had claimed.[134]

A fact finding mission by the Sahmat organisation and headed up by Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy concluded that from the evidence the violence was more akin to ethnic cleansing or a pogrom rather than an instance of communal violence as they would be usually defined. The report said that the violence surpassed other periods of communal violence such as in 1969, 1985, 1989, and 1992 not only in the amount of lives lost, but in the savagery of the attacks.[91][135]

Aftermath

There was widespread destruction of property. 527 places of worship such as, masjids, Temples, cemeteries, dargahs and schools had been either destroyed or damaged.[136] It is estimated that Muslim property losses were, "100,000 houses, 1,100 hotels, 15,000 businesses, 3,000 handcarts and 5,000 vehicles destroyed."[137] In total 27,780 persons were arrested, either for rioting or as a preventative measure. For criminal behaviour 11,167 of which 3,269 were Muslim and 7,896 Hindu. Preventative arrests were 16,615 of which 2,811 were Muslim and 13,804 being Hindu. It was reported by the Concerned Citizens Tribunal that 90 percent of those arrested were almost immediately granted bail, even if they had been arrested on suspicion of murder or arson. There were also media reports that political leaders gave those being released public welcomes as they were given bail. This contradicts what the state government had been saying during the violence, that "Bail applications of all accused persons are being strongly defended and rejected".[138]

According to R.B.Sreekumar police officers who had followed the rule of law and helped prevent the riots from spreading were punished by the Modi government. They were subjected to disciplinary proceedings and transfers with some having to leave the state.[139] Sreekumar also claims that intimidation of whistleblowers and the subversion of the justice system are common practice.[140] Sreekumar also alleged that the state government issued "unconstitutional directives", with officials asking him to kill Muslims involved in rioting or disrupting a Hindu religious event. The Gujarat government denied the allegations, calling them "baseless" and instigated out of malice because Mr. Sreekumar was not promoted.[141]

Following the violence Bal Thackeray then leader of the nationalist group Shiv Sena said "Muslims are a cancer to this country ... Cancer is an incurable disease. Its only cure is operation. O Hindus take weapons in your hands and remove this cancer from your roots".[142] Pravin Togadia general secretary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad(VHP) said "All Hindutva opponents will get the death sentence" and Ashok Singhal then president of the VHP has said that the violence in Gujarat was a "successful experiment" which would be repeated nationwide.[142]

The militant group Indian Mujahideen have carried out attacks in revenge and to also act as a deterrent against further instances of mass violence against Muslims.[143] They also claimed to have carried out the 2008 Delhi bombings in revenge for mistreatment of Muslims, they referenced the destruction of the Babri Mosque and the violence in Gujarat 2002.[144] In September 2002 there was an attack on the Hindu temple of Akshardham, the gunmen carried letters on their persons which suggested that it was a revenge attack for the violence that the Muslims had gone through.[145] In August 2002 Shahid Ahmad Bakshi, an operative for the militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba in an act of revenge over the violence planned to assassinate Modi, Pravin Togadia of the VHP and other members of the right wing nationalist movement.[146]

In 2005 Modi was invited to the US to speak before the Asian-Americans hotel owners association. A petition was set up and signed by academics requesting that Modi be refused a diplomatic visa, Hindu groups in the US also protested and planned to demonstrate in cities in Florida. A resolution was submitted by John Conyers and Joseph R. Pitts in the House of Representatives which condemned Modi for inciting religious persecution. Pitts also wrote to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice requesting Modi be refused a visa. On 19 March Modi was denied a diplomatic visa and his tourist visa was revoked[24]

Human rights watch has accused the state of orchestrating a cover up over their role in the violence. Human rights activists and Indian solicitors have urged that legislation be passed so that "communal violence is treated as genocide".[147] Following the violence thousands of Muslims were fired from their places of work, and those who tried to return home had to endure an economic and social boycott.[148]

On 3 May, former Punjab police chief K P S Gill was appointed as security adviser to the Chief Minister.[149] Defending the Modi administration in the Rajya Sabha against charges of genocide, BJP spokesman V K Malhotra said that the official toll of 254 Hindus, killed mostly by police fire, indicates how the state authorities took effective steps to curb the violence.[150]

Opposition parties as well as three coalition partners of the BJP-led central government demanded the dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for failing to contain the violence, with some calling for the removal of Union Home Minister L. K. Advani as well.[151]

On 18 July, Chief Minister Narendra Modi asked the Governor of Gujarat to dissolve the state assembly and call fresh elections.[152] The Indian Election Commission ruled out early elections, citing the prevailing law and order situation, a decision the union government unsuccessfully[153] appealed against in the Supreme Court.[154]

Elections were held in December, and Modi was returned to power in a landslide victory.[155]

In 2004, the weekly newspaper Tehelka published a hidden camera exposé alleging that BJP legislator Madhu Srivastava bribed Zaheera Sheikh, a witness in the Best Bakery killings trial.[156] Srivatsava denied the allegation,[157] and an inquiry committee appointed by the Indian Supreme Court drew an "adverse inference" from the video footage, though it failed to uncover evidence that money was actually paid.[158] In a 2007 expose, the newspaper released hidden camera footage of several members of the BJP, VHP and the Bajrang Dal admitting their role in the riots.[159][160] Among those featured in the tapes was the special counsel representing the Gujarat government before the Nanavati-Shah Commission, Arvind Pandya, who resigned from his post after they were made public.[161] While the report was criticised by some as being politically motivated,[162][163][164][165] some newspapers said the revelations simply reinforced what was common knowledge.[160][166][167][168] However there were several inaccuracies in the statements that diluted the impact of the sting operation. Babu Bajrani and Suresh Richard in the statements said that Narendra Modi visited Naroda Patiya one day after the massacre to thank them. However official record shows that Naredra Modi didn't visit Naroda Patiya. VHP activist, Ramesh Dave told Tehelka reporter that S.K.Gadhvi, one of the divisional superintendents of Police killed five Muslims in Dariapur area as promised to him. But the official records show that Gadhvi was only posted in Dariapur one month after the riots. During his tenure no such incident took place in Dariapur.[169] The Gujarat government blocked telecast of cable news channels broadcasting the expose, a move strongly condemned by the Editors Guild of India.[170]

Taking a stand decried by the media and other rights groups, Nafisa Hussain, a member of the National Commission for Women accused organisations and the media of needlessly exaggerating the plight of women victims of the riots.[171][172][173] which was strongly disputed as Gujarat did not have a State Commission for Women to act on the ground.[171] The newspaper Tribune reported that "The National Commission for Women has reluctantly agreed to the complicity of Gujarat Government in the communal violence in the state." The tone of their most recent report was reported by the Tribune as "lenient".[174]

In April 2012, a Special Investigation Team found absolved Modi of any involvement in the Gulberg massacre, arguably the worst episode of the riots.[175]

In his report, Raju Ramachandran, the amicus curiae for the case, strongly disagreed with a key conclusion of the R. K. Raghavan-led SIT: that IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt was not present at a late-night meeting of top Gujarat cops held at the Chief Minister's residence in the wake of 27 February 2002 Godhra carnage. It has been Bhatt's claim — made in an affidavit before the apex court and in statements to the SIT and the amicus — that he was present at the meeting where Modi allegedly said Hindus must be allowed to carry out retaliatory violence against Muslims. Ramachandran was of the opinion that Modi could be prosecuted for alleged statements he had made. He said there was no clinching material available in the pre-trial stage to disbelieve Bhatt, whose claim could be tested only in court. "Hence, it cannot be said, at this stage, that Shri Bhatt should be disbelieved and no further proceedings should be taken against Shri Modi."[176][177]

Further, R. K. Shah the public prosecutor in the Gulbarg Society massacre resigned as the public prosecutor because he found it impossible to work with the SIT and further stated that "Here I am collecting witnesses who know something about a gruesome case in which so many people, mostly women and children huddled in Jafri's house, were killed and I get no cooperation. The SIT officers are unsympathetic towards witnesses, they try to browbeat them and don't share evidence with the prosecution as they are supposed to do."[178]

Relief efforts

Amnesty International's annual report on India in 2003 claimed the "Gujarat government did not actively fulfill its duty to provide appropriate relief and rehabilitation to the survivors".[99]

The state government initially offered compensation payments of 200,000 rupees to the families of those who died in the Godhra train fire and 100,000 rupees to the families of those who died in the subsequent riots, which local Muslims described as discriminatory.[179]

By 27 March, nearly 100,000 displaced people moved into 101 relief camps. This swelled to over 150,000 in 104 camps the next two weeks.[180] The camps were run by community groups and NGOs, with the government committing to provide amenities and supplementary services. Drinking water, medical help, clothing and blankets were in short supply at the camps.[181] At least another 100 camps were denied government support, according to a camp organiser.[182] and relief supplies were prevented from reaching the camps over fears that they may be carrying arms.[183] On 9 September 2002, Narendra Modi during his speech mentioned that he was against running relief camps.This speech was initially withheld by the Gujarat government from the SIT. In January 2010, the Supreme Court ordered the government to hand over the speech and other documents to the SIT.

"What brother, should we run relief camps? Should I start children-producing centres there? We want to achieve progress by pursuing the policy of family planning with determination. Ame paanch, Amara pachhees! (we are five and we have twenty-five) … Can't Gujarat implement family planning? Whose inhibitions are coming in our way? Which religious sect is coming in the way? ..."[184]

Relief camp organisers alleged that the state government was coercing refugees to leave relief camps, with 25,000 people made to leave eighteen camps that were shut down. Following government assurances that camps would not be shut down, the Gujarat High Court bench ordered that camp organizers be given a supervisory role to ensure that the assurances were met.[185]

On 23 May 2008, the Union Government announced a 3.20 billion rupee (US$80 million) relief package for the victims of the riots.[186]

Popular culture

  • Firaaq was a 2008 political thriller film set one month after the violence and looks at the aftermath in its effects on the lives of everyday people.

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ The 2003 International Report by the US State Department can be found here.[1] It states "The Gujarat State Higher Secondary Board, to which nearly 98 percent of schools in Gujarat belong, requires the use of certain textbooks in which Nazism is condoned. In the Standard 10 social studies textbook, the "charismatic personality" of "Hitler the Supremo" and the "achievements of Nazism" are described at length. The textbook does not acknowledge Nazi extermination policies or concentration camps except for a passing reference to "a policy of opposition towards the Jewish people and [advocacy for] the supremacy of the German race." The Standard 9 social studies textbook implies that Muslims, Christians, Parsees, and Jews are "foreigners." In 2002 the Gujarat State Higher Secondary Board administered an exam, while the riots were ongoing, in which students of English were asked to form one sentence out of the following: "There are two solutions. One of them is the Nazi solution. If you don't like people, kill them, segregate them. Then strut up and down. Proclaim that you are the salt of the earth."
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