Gujarat, a crime against humanity

What we have witnessed in Gujarat-where hundreds of men, women and children were burnt alive by organized communal gangs-is one of the worst violations of human rights in recent years. It is worse than what happened in Bombay during the riots in 1992-93. There, there were certain incidents of dehumanized killings, such as the stoning of victims and burning alive of people with the crowd clapping and dancing around the body. There were also instances of victims being cut into pieces and thrown into nullahs [water channels]. But in Gujarat almost all the attacks have been systematically inhuman. People have been locked up in houses and roasted alive. In many cases the victims have been cut into pieces, or pierced with trishuls [tridents] and set on fire. The nature of the killings, and the way the savagery spread and continued for eight days, overshadowed even the WTC incident of September 11. While George W Bush reacted strongly and called for a concerted attack on terrorism, our Prime Minister-who was too eager to cooperate and be a partner of the “international coalition” against “terrorism”-did not offer a word against this carnage let loose on the minority community.

It was not a communal riot. There was no clash of two communities. It was a well-planned attack on Muslims. Even the High Court judges, top police officers-including an Inspector General of Police-the rich and the poor shop owners, hoteliers and industrialists were attacked. There was no resistance so as to cause even a semblance of a riot. In fact quite a number of Muslims were not even allowed to escape.

The government displayed a totally partisan attitude. It could have controlled the entire situation within a short time. Instead it deliberately delayed taking steps to prevent the carnage. In all probability, the Government did not want to prevent this concerted attack on the minority. It acted on the dictum of the Chief Minister, that “every action has a reaction”, indicating his approval for what happened in Godhra. In this, the State Government had the implicit backing from the Central Government. The state Chief Minister declared that what happened in Godhra was a terrorist act carried out by a terrorist group. This was a deliberate lie, an excuse for attacking innocent Muslims elsewhere. Evidence is now coming forth relating to the incident at Godhra, showing that there was provocation by the so-called karsevaks, which prompted the violence.* Nothing, however, should have provoked the mindless burning of the 60 karsevaks. And that was no justification either for the attack on innocent Muslims in Gujarat.

The official death toll is about 700 people. Unofficially, those who have gone round in Gujarat say that the figure could be anywhere between 3000 to 4000 people. It is estimated that property belonging to the minority community worth about Rs.3000 crores was lost. It is doubtful that the government will do anything in terms of compensation and rehabilitation. The government is a BJP [Bharatiya Janatha Party] government; nurtured by elements like the Bajrang Dal and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad], who are all patently anti-minority. The administration is also corrupted by RSS [Rashtriya Sayawam-Sevak Sangh]-oriented men occupying key positions.

It is important that justice be done towards the minority community members, ensuring security of life and property for them. It is unlikely the Central government will do anything on this front. It is a misnomer to call the Central Government an NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government. It is not. It is a BJP government. It has systematically carried out every agenda they have.

At present, there is no political process in Gujarat that can guarantee the right to life and liberty of the Muslims. There is hardly any judicial process that can come to their rescue. The police have done little to act against the perpetrators of this crime against humanity. Cases have not been registered, the First Information Reports have not been filed, and the real criminals have not been arrested. The whole criminal justice system in Gujarat has failed.

The worst culprits are those who are in power in Gujarat: the people who are responsible for the situation in Gujarat are in Delhi. They have betrayed the Constitution. They have acted with no sense of responsibility. Those who have taken oath on the Constitution should realize that there can be no compromise between secularism and communalism. Any such compromise would only perpetuate communalism and damage the secular fabric of this country.

This is edited text of an article originally published in Combat Law: Human Rights Magazine, vol. 1, no. 1, April-May 2002.

End Note

Karsevaks are ‘servants of karma‘, where karma is ‘work’. The term is used to denote volunteers who dedicate themselves for temple construction at the disputed temple site at Ayodhya.