Godse’s Gujarat

Post–genocide, the choice before Muslims in the state where Narendra Modi rules is simple: servility, boycott or exodus.

Like the Dandi Yatra marked a turning point in the freedom struggle, the events in the state were a turning point in the fight against non-secular forces.
— Narendra Modi, Gujarat CM, addressing a meeting at the Rashtriya Shala, Rajkot,
The Times of India, April 22, 2002.

It is all a conspiracy to tarnish Gujarat… It all started with a misinformation campaign when Surat was hit by a mysterious disease, termed as plague. Then came the (campaign about) the killings of Christians in Dangs… Not a single Christian was killed, or injured, but the campaign continued. After this came the Bhuj earthquake, when Gujarat was again shown in poor light… Now it’s the communal violence. All these are part of a strategy to discredit the state. No chief minister had opened relief camps during communal riots in the past… My government has arrested 31,000 people. How many were arrested during the Congress regimes?
— Modi, The Statesman, April 23, 2002.


The Congress was involved in the Godhra massacre and subsequent violence for gaining political mileage. They are trying to foment communal hatred by making inflammatory statements and ‘rubbing salt on the wounds of people’.
— Modi’s official release while addressing public meetings at Tharad, Palanpur, Bhiloda and Shera towns during his one-day tour of North and Central Gujarat,
Deccan Herald, April 27, 2002.

The Gujarat riots were a sign of Hindu valour and it was a divine force which had given Hindus courage to stand up to the attackers. For the first time in 1,000 years Hindus had givent their attackers a befitting reply. The valour shown in Gujarat will not end here. The VHP will take this message to the remotest corners of the country through its Ram jap programmes.
Ashok Singhal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader inaugurating an R.S.S. programme, The Deccan Herald, May 6, 2002

There are extremist elements living in the relief camps, I have asked the home minister Gordhan Zadaphiya to shift the Daria Khan Ghumbhat camp since my Hindu voters feel insecure with so many Muslims together there.
— Bharat Barot, Gujarat Food and Civil supplies Minister in The Times of India and Frontline, May 11-24, 2002.


Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s provocative address earlier this week has encouraged disruptive elements to burst a series of bombs in Ahmedabad city buses yesterday (a dozen persons were injured).
— Modi, UNI, May 30, 2002

The chief minister, Narendra Modi outrightly rejected the demand that riot-affected victims from the worst–affected areas like Naroda Patia, Chamanpura, Sardarpura, BEST Bakery, Panvad and other carnages be provided with alternate resettlement sites. He also refused any government funds to rebuild the ransacked shrines. The CM’s tough talk came at a gathering organised by the Gujarat Minorities Finance Development Corporation, chairman Gani Qureshi.
— News report in The Times of India, June 8, 2002


If Muslims continue to take the country towards partition, they would have to stay in relief camps like in Gujarat.
— Ashok Singhal, international working president, VHP, June 22, 2002, PTI.


Five months after presiding over a state–directed, statewide genocide in his state, chief minister Narendra Modi continues to rule Gujarat in abject defiance of judicial directives and Constitutional principles. Refugees or internally displaced persons within Ahmedabad city and all over the state have been forcibly evicted out of camps where they had sought shelter, despite the assurance given by government to the Gujarat High Court on June 4, that camps will not be coerced into closing without adequate rehabilitation. The court was hearing a public interest petition (PIL) filed by the Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Communalism Combat.

As a result, nearly 25,000 of the over 66,000 (official figure) people who had sought refuge within Ahmedabad city and a majority of the 21,000–odd (official figure) refugees from the rest of the state of Gujarat have been coerced into leaving the camps, their dignity compromised and with no guarantee of security. (CC’s independent investigation in March had shown that there were over 1,20,000 people living in the camps in Gujarat). In over 70 per cent of the cases, basic rehabilitation costs have also been denied, with cheques of meagre amounts being disbursed.

In fact, it was only after six relief camps (with the encouragement of the CJP and CC) filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court in mid-March, that over a dozen camps in Ahmedabad city were registered and its occupants started receiving adequate water, grain and medical facilities from the state.

Senior counsel Aspi Chinoy from Mumbai had made a spirited daylong argument before justice Pradip Majmudar, urging that basic amenities consistent with human dignity were a responsibility of a Constitution-governed state committed to the basic rights and dignity of every citizen. A joint commission comprising of advocates for the petitioners and the collectorate had then been appointed by the HC following which advocate for the petitioners Suhel Tirmizi, and the government pleader had carried out a detailed survey of city camps.

Despite these checks, in what is being seeing as a crude move by the Modi government to impose snap Assembly polls on a state that has far from recovered from three months of violence, the civil administration has been deployed to arm–twist the managers of camps run by minority institutions, to shut them down ‘voluntarily’.

Officially, there are now only 13, 482 refugees in the state (all of them in Ahmedabad city) to whom food grains are grudgingly being provided by the district collector, with only three–four days ration being dished out at a time. An additional 6,500 persons continue to live in other camps in Ahmedabad even today but they have ceased to exist in official records after being coerced into closing down between June 10–18. (CJP-CC survey for the PIL.) This, despite the pendency of the writ petition and the government assurance that there would be no closure of camps.

Over two dozen affidavits filed by the petitioners, 24 camp managers and refuge seekers for the hearing of the writ that came up before Justices Sinha and Panchal of the Gujarat High Court on June 26, show that blatantly aggressive methods (including threatening camp managers with detention under POTA) were used by the district collectors to shut down the camps in mid–June. (See box). With the petitions still pending before the court, the government continues to pretend the camps were closed down voluntarily.

In short, around 20,000 persons today remain in camps within Ahmedabad city (only 13,500 as per government figures) and another 2,000–odd persons are in camps located elsewhere in the state but which have ceased to exist for the government. These camps — Nandasan (419 persons), Dasaj (400 persons), Lunva (100 persons), Shivali (400), Gunja (near Visnagar-50 persons), Unjha (250 persons) and Lunavada (460 persons) — were summarily closed down between mid–May and early July and the government assumes no responsibility for the relief or rehabilitation needs of these people.

Gujarat’s principal secretary, revenue, CK Koshy told CC that there are 11 official camps with 13,482 inmates in Ahmedabad. Stating that he was open to examining the independent figures gathered by us about camps and its inmates from all over the state, he added that rehabilitation packages had already been disbursed in their entirety by the government.

The demonisation of Muslim survivors huddled in relief camps is an ugly reality of post–genocide Gujarat. Be it the CM or his senior ministers, vicious and highly publicised statements ("anti–national elements are suspected to be seeking shelter in relief camps") have only rubbed salt in the wounds of the traumatised victims of violence.

Modi had made repeated noises, wanting to wind up the camps even before Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Ahmedabad on April 4. The BJP state food and civil supplies minister, Bharat Barot had also made widely publicised statements about the ‘anti–national elements residing within camps’, urging the state minister for home, Gordhan Zadaphiya that they should be wound up.

After the violence occurred and was allowed to spread, the party in power and it’s spokespersons made their disregard for state responsibility within constitutional boundaries apparent. The existence of some democratic institutional safeguards availed of by the citizenry helped alleviate, the designs of the BJP–ruled government to some extent.

That legal interventions concerning relief camps were imperative is evident from what happened in Ahmedabad city on April 3. Soon after the Ahmedabad collector, Pandaya completed his visit to the Suleimani Roza Relief Camp located in curfew–bound Gomtipur in the presence of Mr Parmar of the Ahmedabad collectorate, the police targeted camp residents. Led by PI SD Sharma, the police set upon the 750 refugees of the Suleiman Roza Relief Camp (behind Nutan Mills), Saraspur and actually shot at two persons, Pirujbhai Mohammad Sheikh (30) and Khatoonbi Sharfuddin Saiyed (45).

The camp, which had been home to 750 displaced persons for over a month, was thus wound up in brutal fashion. The residents fled and many were forced to sleep under the open sky in fear and terror. The 35 Al Iqwan Chaali camp also received continuous threats and faced attacks from local mobs. Two other camps — the Char Toda relief camp at Gomtipur and the Al Iqwan Committee at Saraspur were threatened by the police in early April, asking them to shut down.

The PIL still pending before the Gujarat High Court argues that the basic rights to a life with security and dignity, and free from dire need are a responsibility of the State. And, that, apart from the ex–gratia payment offered to those killed during the communal riots, no comprehensive rehabilitation plan was offered by the Gujarat government; nor were steps taken in this direction made public. Fair and non–discriminatory relief and rehabilitation are a must to restore people’s faith in the government and the administration, the petitioners have argued.

The same state that was quick to declare a sizable rehabilitation package for the survivors of the January 2001 earthquake has been silent following the genocide. The earthquake package had included an ex–gratia amount to the next–of–kin of those killed, compensation for loss of housing and property, dole money to meet the routine expenses of the earthquake affected and rehabilitation. This time it is different.

The petitioners have also demanded a comprehensive survey by an independent and autonomous committee to assess the extent of damage caused to life and property to enable the drawing of a reasonable rehabilitation plan. The absence of a proper plan for the rehabilitation and re–location of refugees within Gujarat, the proclaimed ‘laboratory for Hindutva’, has only compounded the pain and insecurity of tens of thousands of refugees who, reeling under the trauma of brutal massacres and violence, had to stay huddled together for three–four months in camps run by their community leaders all over the state.

In most cases where Muslims have returned to their villages, they are faced with economic and social boycott for having had the audacity to name the perpetrators of violence in their complaints to the police. In other villages of Gujarat, a land once associated with Mahatma Gandhi, the village leaders address Muslims wanting to return in derogatory terms and tell them bluntly: "Baandyaon nathi joyita" ("We do not want any Muslims here").

A statewide survey undertaken by Communalism Combat on the status of refugees, reveals a dismal picture (see accompanying story). The options before Gujarat’s Muslims are clear and harsh: servility, boycott or exodus.

While in many cases, in the villages and towns of Gujarat, the collector and mamlatdar (civil servants) have attempted the return of refugees with dignity of their own accord, the hate campaign of the RSS/BJP/VHP and BD has undermined their constitutional writ and allowed the denial of basic rights to continue. Though attempts were made in many cases for dignified rehabilitation, threats and warning to withdraw criminal complaints and FIRs have won the day.

Three months ago, as per the government’s own admission, there were over 66,000 refugees in camps in Ahmedabad and another 21,000 elsewhere in the state. Hence, in a matter of two–and–a–half months, as per official figures, 52,500 persons from Ahmedabad city and another 21,000 from elsewhere (73,500 in all) have left the relief camps without any systematic survey on their rehabilitation. At least half the number from within Ahmedabad and a significant majority of those from the rest of the state have been coerced into leaving with no state guarantee or responsibility for their security or future.

Even the measly amount of Rs 2,500 (increased from the Rs 1500 announced earlier) for ghar vakhari — purchase of utensils for restarting a home — has not been paid in 70 per cent of the cases. The compensation amount of Rs 40,000 for destroyed houses announced by the Prime Minister at the Shah–e–Alam camp on April 4 has reached only a small percentage of those eligible.

In what is nothing short of a cruel mockery of the idea of the State’s obligation towards rehabilitation, the victims of Naroda Patiya — where one of the worst massacres took place — have received cheques ranging from Rs 500–1,500. The same is true in most other cases.

Modi has doggedly refused to commit himself to any demand for the purchase of land and re-building of homes. The CC’s statewide survey shows that the vast majority of homes have been rebuilt by NGOs. Some 90 per cent of these have been at the initiative of Muslim organisations – Jamiat–e–Ulema–e–Hind, Jamaat–e–Islami, United Economic Forum and Afmi Charitable Trust, Baroda. The Asha Kiran Trust, Jansangharsh Manch and SPRAT, are among the non–Muslim organisations to have contributed the rest.

Given the abject failure and refusal of the state and central governments to resettle the survivors through reasonable and speedy rehabilitation, the onus has fallen, almost entirely, on the Muslim community to look after their co–religionists. A sad commentary on the social and political reality in India today.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat police was consistent in its indiscriminate targeting of Muslims even through April and May. Violence broke out once more in Ahmedabad and it’s outskirts on April 3, with the police, RAF and SRP forces numbering around 150, shooting 29 innocent victims and killing one. Advocate Nizam was shot dead by the police inside his home. The same day, on the eve of the PM’s visit, Dr Ishaq Sheikh, vice–president of the Al Ameen Garib Niwas Hospital, Ahmedabad — an institution that had been at the forefront in helping the injured and brutalised over the past month or so — was pulled out of his ambulance by the Ahmedabad police, SRP and RAF personnel and brutally beaten up.

Police inspectors Modi and Parmar who were present while this happened did nothing to stop the assault. The second person shot dead in police firing, Mohammad Yunus Akbarbhai, hailed from Sakhar Ghanchi ki Chawl. The policemen named by eyewitnesses are NA Modi (PSI D Staff), NR Jadhav, senior police inspector and Mr. Sawani, DCP.

On April 21, after a constable was killed at Dani Limda, the police went on the rampage and shot dead six persons in brazen ‘reprisal killings.’ Hanifabibi Bashir Ahmed Shaikh (42), living at Modi Chawl, Kalubhai Shaikh (20), living at Jhoolta Minara, Naziabibi and Mehmood Hussein Shaikh (daughter and father) aged 13 and 42 respectively, residents of Patel Chowk, Kamdar Maidan, Abrar Ahmed Hanif Qureshi (22) also living at Patel Chowki and Mehmoobbhai Sultanbhai Shaikh(22) living at Maniarwada, Gomtipur, fell victim to police violence and bullets.

In Baroda on May 1, policemen brutally beat a nine–month pregnant woman. A week later, when the Concerned Citizens Tribunal recorded the testimony, her mother said that she had delivered her baby post-trauma but she could only breast feed her baby from one breast as from the other, oozed blood, not milk.

Selective and large–scale arrests of members of the minority community have continued in Ahmedabad, Baroda, Godhra and elsewhere. In Godhra and other places, despite the passage of three months, young men have not been released. In the Gulberg society Chamanpura massacre, 21 arrests have been made while three accused roam scot-free.

In the Sardarpur massacre at Mehsana in which 34 persons were brutally killed, the additional sessions judge, Mehsana, DR Shah, released all the 46 accused when even the primary investigations were not complete. Interestingly, the public prosecutor in the case is Dilip Trivedi, general secretary of the VHP, Mehsana district, who was responsible for publishing an extremely provocative statement in the widely circulated Gujarati daily, Sandesh, on February 28. (See legal initiatives section.) Many other legal initiatives being undertaken in the state face stumbling blocks because public prosecutors, displaying a blatantly partisan attitude, simply do not do justice to the cases in hand.

In some cases, after the initial paralysis and complicity, policemen have attempted speedier and fair investigations (See legal initiatives.) However, sections of the prosecutors who are partisan appointments by the government and a conveniently non-interfering judiciary have allowed injustice to continue.

That, fortunately, some institutions still work, even in Hindutva-driven Gujarat, is apparent from the forensic investigation into the Godhra tragedy, which resulted in the first chargesheet being filed by the police. This investigation by the Ahmedabad–based Forensic Science Laboratory, contradicts the view held so far that the attackers had thrown the inflammable liquid at the train from a distance. Specifically, it explodes the carefully–touted theory by CM Modi and even hinted at in early March by then Union home minister, Lal Krishna Advani, that the Godhra tragedy was the result of Machiavellian pre–planning.

In the cities and villages of Gujarat convulsed by the violence that spread across 16 of the state’s 24 districts, the aftermath for the minority community is laden with tension and the cold realisation of a new phase and stage of existence. Forced to go back to their villages or to re–locate where the former option is simply unavailable, Muslims in Gujarat face a bitter reality.

In mid–April, they were convinced or compelled to cancel the Muharram tazia procession. But when it came to the Lord Jagannath rathyatra, despite police advice to the contrary, Modi insisted it must follow the traditional route that winds its way through Muslim areas and mixed localities. On July 12, it was the Muslims who were asked by the Ahmedabad police to maintain ‘junta curfew’ (self-imposed curfew). On the eve of the procession, it was the homes of Muslims en route in Jamalpur that were searched and re–searched. And it was Muslims who fled their homes for a few days to return only after the rathyatra was over.

In Ahmedabad and in Baroda, a silent yet effective boycott of Muslims, socially and economically, continues. A few icons from the Gujarati business community have tried to counter the hate politics led or encouraged by the Gujarat government. (See Good News section). But schools in Ahmedabad and Baroda have now, more so than before (See CC, ‘Face to Face with Fascism’, April 2000), bid good–bye to Muslim students.

For the state, Gujaratis and the rest of India, post–genocide Gujarat presents a grimmer challenge than before. Constitutional breakdown has been evident there since 1998 when the BJP assumed power in the state. The period between end–February and May provided grim evidence of what the ideology of supremacy and hatred can achieve when it comes unto its own; post–May, Gujarat has settled into a state that lives outside the Indian Constitution; normalcy for ‘us’, trauma for ‘them’.

In his book, We, Or Our Nationhood Defined, which many consider to be the ‘Bible of Hindutva’, the revered ideologue and sarsanghchalak of RSS, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (‘Guru Golwalkar’) wrote in the mid–30s:

"The foreign races in Hindusthan (Muslims and Christians – ed) must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, ie, of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment — not even citizen’s rights. There is, at least, should be, no other course for them to adopt. We are an old nation; let us deal, as old nations ought to and do deal, with the foreign races, who have chosen to live in our country."

Were he to be alive, Guruji would proudly proclaim today’s Gujarat as the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ of his dreams.

Yet, the institutions of Indian democracy and those who man them seem oblivious to or complacent about the ominous implications of Gujarat for the rest of India. What more will it take to shake them out of their complacency?

(With field reports from Rais Khan.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 2002 Year 8  No. 79, Cover Story 1



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