The Top 5 Myths and Facts
Shalini Gera and Girish Agrawal
the morning of February 27th, the Sabarmati Express, with
Hindu kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, was stopped
near Godhra and several compartments were torched leading
to the deaths of 58 passengers. While conflicting stories
exist about the exact sequence of events, it is clear that
there was a confrontation between the kar sevaks and the mainly
Muslim residents of Godhra which escalated, and at some point
the train was deliberately set on fire by a mob. The Coalition
Against Communalism unequivocally condemns this horrible violence.
VHP announced a nation-wide bandh on February 28th, which
was supported by the BJP (which forms the government in Gujarat
and is the leading member of the ruling coalition at the center).
On February 28th, organized mobs of 'Hindus' started butchering
and burning Muslims and Muslim-owned property in Gujarat.
The police and other law-enforcement agencies were prominent
only in their absence and inefficacy. The violence spread
to all the major cities in Gujarat including Ahmedabad, Rajkot,
Vadodara, Bharuch and even Gandhinagar. The cities now maintain
an uneasy calm in the presence of the army, but the violence
continues in rural areas. The official dead so far exceed
700, nearly all Muslims, and estimates of the number of Muslims
displaced from their homes and forced into relief camps range
from 50,000 to 100,000. The conditions in the relief camps
continue to be miserable, with the government providing little
or no support. The Coalition Against Communalism strongly
condemns the Gujarat Government for total failure of governance
during the riots, for encouraging violence against minorities
and for its continued failure to provide relief and aid to
the victims of the carnage.
The riots in Gujarat are a spontaneous expression of Hindu
of this myth: This sentiment has
been expressed widely by several people at the helm of affairs
in the state of Gujarat, as well as those leading some 'Hindu'
organizations. They claim that Hindus were enraged about the
incident in Godhra where over 50 kar sevaks had been burnt
alive, and the riots were 'merely' an expression of their
These 'riots' were a pre-planned, cold-blooded, calculated,
willfully executed massacre of the Muslim community. In
other contexts such occurrences have been referred to as 'genocide'
or 'ethnic cleansing.' They were carried out with the connivance
of civic, administrative and political bodies. Consider the
and homes of the Muslim community were targeted using voter
lists and other official documentation. Business establishments
and hotels of the minority community were identified and
destroyed using license and other relevant information generally
available only from the civic administration. (Misuse
of voters list in Gujarat riots alleged). This shows
a macabre level of planning, organization and attention
to detail, not a spontaneous outburst of anger. Outlook
magazine reports that in recent months there have been concerted
efforts by the VHP to get the names of Muslim businesses
from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, names and addresses
of Muslim students from universities and professional institutions,
and also to draw up a list of 'undesirables' working for
government agencies such as the Food Corporation of India
Hand, Great Anarch). Any guess on how these lists
were used on February 28th?
commercial districts where businesses and shops of Hindus
and Muslims co-exist, the mobs burnt only the Muslim-owned
shops. Shops that were Hindu-owned but rented by Muslims
were left intact while the material inside was dragged out
and burnt or looted. Rampaging, angry mobs who pay such
close attention to ownership records? This shows calculation
and planning, not mob 'frenzy'. As the NDTV journalist Barkha
Dutt notes, "What's so spontaneous about an attack
that is planned so meticulously that only the seventh shop
in a crowded lane gets razed to the ground but everything
around it is untouched and undamaged?" (Covert
Riots And Media)
'Hindu outrage' is enough to explain these riots, then why
did these riots occur overwhelmingly in Gujarat only?
The murder of the kar sevaks in Godhra had outraged
Hindus all over India--but nowhere else did Hindus go out
in rampaging mobs, burning Muslims and looting shops-not
even in Ayodhya where over 15000 outraged kar sevaks
had aggregated. This is because riots do not simply 'happen'
in India, they have to be created, and the Gujarat BJP government
actively contributed to the creation of these riots. (When
Guardians of Gujarat Gave 24-hour Licence for Punitive Action)
The government is doing its best to maintain peace and harmony
in Gujarat, provide relief to the riot victims and apprehend
those involved in rioting.
of this myth: The Gujarat Chief
Minister has stated that the police did a commendable job
of maintaining peace, and the Union Home Minister, L K Advani
praised the Gujarat government for 'exemplary' handling of
The state government is the instigator as well as the facilitator
of these riots.
only did the government deliberately delay all attempts to
control the situation during the riots but is still failing
in its responsibility to provide relief to the victims or
ensure justice for them.
deployment of army was deliberately delayed by the state
and central governments. Even as mobs were rampaging
in Gujarat on the 28th of February, and the police commissioner
of Ahmedabad himself had urgently requested more troops
in the city, the governments neglected to put in a formal
request for army deployments. This despite the fact that
the Southern Command in Pune had already prepared its contingency
plan by early afternoon expecting to be called upon by the
government. Even when the army troopers eventually landed
in the riot-torn cities of Gujarat on March 1st, the administration
did not provide them with equipment or assistance in handling
the solution. This led to costly delays of several hours,
which could have saved more than a hundred lives. (Where
Had All the Soldiers Gone?)
media has extensively documented the inaction of the state
police when rioters were butchering people and looting shops
in their presence. As reported in Outlook,
the rioters in Vadi, Vadodara were actually shouting the
slogans, "Andar ki baat hai, police hamare saath
hai. (It is an inside deal, the police supports us)."
In several cases, the police themselves handed over Muslims
(who had come to the police for protection) to crowds thirsty
for their blood. In another case, a policeman extracted
diesel from his vehicle and offered it to the crazed mob
to set fire to a slum. For the most part, the police failed
to turn up to protect the minorities even when the victims
managed to get through to them and ask for help. And even
when the police did show up, they would often arrest the
victims for inciting violence. The Home Minister, Mr. LK
Advani assures us that "So far, more than 77 deaths
due to police firing have been reported in the state. So
one cannot say the police played a passive role," but
fails to mention that almost half of those killed by police
belong to the Muslim community-the victims of the riots,
not their perpetrators. ( Soldiers
'held back to allow Hindus revenge', Police
took part in slaughter,
Horrendous Killings in Hindutva Lab, Burned
in bed as Indian violence spirals)
relief camps set up to help the riot victims have received
minimal help from the state government. Although the
official body-count stands at just over 700, NGOs working
in Gujarat estimate that more than 1000 people were killed
in the riots, and around 100,000 have been displaced. Though
people started coming to the relief camps from March 1st
onwards, the government only started providing aid to these
camps from March 6th. Even now, the situation in these relief
camps is miserable, and the people there live in virtual
internment. The sanitation and hygiene conditions are terrible,
as illustrated by the Shah Alam relief camp in Ahmedabad
where 10 toilet facilities serve a population of 8000 refugees.
homeless in Gujarat,
Gujarat government evades relief, rehab responsibility)
government has show little inclination to investigate the
riots. When the government first announced a judicial
probe to investigate the violence in Gujarat, it only limited
the scope of the judicial commission to the massacre on
the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, and NOT the riots in the
rest of Gujarat. After this decision caused widespread outrage,
the government agreed to extend the scope of this inquiry
to cover the post-Godhra violence as well. However, the
judge appointed to head this commission, Justice KG Shah,
is a retired Gujarat High Court Judge with close ties to
the ruling government and a history of anti-minority judgements.
One of his judgements was overturned by the Supreme Court
of India with the comment that "the finding of the
judge... is not based on appreciation of evidence but on
probe panel faces credibility crisis) In such a
situation, where the State is directly implicated in contributing
to violence, it is necessary that a judge not beholden to
the Gujarat government be assigned to the commission to
ensure impartiality and judicial independence.
an ironic twist, police chiefs of cities in Gujarat who
were successful in maintaining peace are being transferred,
while those who were not are being allowed to go scot-free.
According to an analysis done by The Telegraph, India (Minority
Hole in Gujarat Police Force), there has been a
concerted effort in Gujarat since the advent of the BJP
government to move all police officers from the minority
community away from field positions to less effective 'support
positions.' Also, senior police officers such as Rahul Sharma
(Bhavnagar), Vivek Srivastava (Kutch), Anupam Singh Gehlot
(Mehsana), Himanshu Bhatt (Banaskantha)--all of who earned
praise for maintaining peace in their cities have been transferred
transfers: govt hits the panic button, Bhavnagar
SP: Advani praised, Modi disposed), while police
chiefs such as P.C. Pande (Ahmedabad) who not only failed
to contain the violence, but actually justified the police
Terror), and Upendra Singh (Rajkot) who went 'missing'
when the riots started (Police
chief vanishes as Rajkot burns) have had no action
taken against them. The Divisional Commissioner of Ayodhya
(Faizabad district), who did a commendable job in maintaining
peace in this volatile town at the center of the storm has
also earned the ire of the Hindu Nationalists, and is now
on an extended leave (VHP
mounts pressure on govt to transfer Faizabad officials).
The RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal-BJP (the Sangh Parivar) are pro-Hindus
The Sangh Parivar propagates a narrow, distorted version of
Hinduism, and at its core, is profoundly anti-Hindu. Nor do
these groups care for the country or its citizens.
Sabarmati Express massacre is terrorism while the post-Godhra
carnage in Gujarat is 'mere' communal riots.
of this Myth: Home Minister L.K. Advani and Chief Minister
of Gujarat Narendra Modi have leveled the as-yet-unproven
charge that the train incident was rooted in 'cross-border'
terrorism sponsored by the Pakistani intelligence group ISI.
The Gujarat government used this difference in categorization
to allocate a compensation of Rs 200,000 to the families of
the victims of the Sabarmati Express incident and only Rs
100,000 to those of the victims of the post-Godhra carnage.
The post-Godhra violence was highly organized with a distinct
aim of spreading terror amongst the minorities, and is most
definitely terrorism-worse yet, state-sponsored terrorism.
terrorist act, as per the Indian Government's definition,
is one with an ''intent to threaten the unity, integrity,
security or sovereignty of India or to strike terror in the
people or any section of the people...using inflammable substances
or fire-arms or other lethal weapons...in such a manner as
to cause, or likely to cause, death of, or injuries to any
person or persons or loss of, or damage to, or destruction
the Sabarmati Express massacre in Godhra an act of terrorism?
It is not quite clear whether the heinous massacre in Godhra
fits the government's own definition of terrorism. While
several newsstories have said that there is little evidence
of the massacre being pre-planned (Provocation
Helped Set India Train Fire, 'Just
Like Hindustan-Pakistan', The
Hate Train, Godhra
attack not planned ), a detailed analysis by Frontline
Questions) indicates that the sequence of events
leading to the incident seems too well-planned to be spontaneous.
Preplanned or not, there is as yet, no evidence that points
to an ISI involvement. By claiming a foreign hand, the Government
is deflecting attention from its own failure to provide
sufficient security to the kar sevaks, knowing that the
train would pass through communally sensitive areas. The
BJP led government seems to have as little regard for Hindu
lives as it has demonstrated for Muslim lives.
post-Godhra violence in Gujarat terrorism? Going by
the yardstick of preplanning and organization, it is clear
that the post-Godhra violence was most definitely terrorism.
The attacks on Mulsims were well-planned, they were incited
and carried out by identifiable groups (the VHP and Bajrang
Dal), and encouraged by the state machinery controlled by
the BJP - Violence as a product of deliberate strategy;
the attacks were carried out in a dramatic way to attract
publicity and create an atmosphere of alarm among Muslims
far beyond the actual victims - Violence as theater.
The very definitions of terrorism. The deliberate inaction
on the part of the state, and in some instances, active
connivance with the rioters, also makes it an instance of
provocative the Godhra massacre might have been, we must distinguish
between state-sponsored terrorism and extra-state actors.
If terrorists attack, you turn to the state, but if the state
turns terrorist, then where do you look for help?
Hindus and Muslims cannot live together in peace. Riots are
the natural outcome of simmering tensions.
Hindus and Muslims for the most part live together peacefully.
Communal tensions have been actively stoked by some groups
leading to riots.
which account for 2/3rd of Indian population have had less
than 4% communal riot related deaths. According to Prof
Ashutosh Varshney, 50% of riot deaths since 1960 have happened
in eight cities which hold only 6% of India's population.
Another 45% of riot -related deaths have occurred in other
urban centers. (Ethnic
Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India)
forces use terror and threats to actively divide the communities.
When Hindus tried to support their Muslim neighbours during
the killings in Gujarat, the VHP & Bajrang Dal goons
targeted them also. The case of Professor Bandookwala, a
well known academician from Vadodara is well-documented.
An organized mob attacked him in his house in a predominantly
Hindu locality, and his car was set on fire. He and his
daughter were sheltered by their Hindu neighbors, who in
turn were attacked on the second day for protecting him.
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The Top 5
Myths and Facts