Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page


State and Police Participation and Complicity
On the morning of February 27, 2002, the gruesome attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, Gujarat, left fifty-eight dead. The train cars set alight were carrying Hindu kar sevaks (religious volunteers) returning from Ayodhya. By evening, retaliatory attacks against Muslims had begun, including in Rajkot, Vadodara, and Bharuch.50 That same day the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a statewide bandh (shut-down) for February 28, a call that according to press reports, its cadre interpreted as a call to action.51 The state's endorsement of the bandh, announced through a press note issued at 8 p.m. on February 27, was taken by the VHP/Bajrang Dal as an endorsement of its stand.52

State support of the bandh also sent a message to the police. A reporter for the Hindu observed that, "In such a situation, the police would always be hesitant to act lest it hurt the interests of the political bosses. And the saffronised police also found a common cause with the criminals to `punish' the minorities."53 The same reporter wrote that, "insiders in the Bharatiya Janata Party admit that the police were under instructions from the Narendra Modi administration not to act firmly."54

By the afternoon of February 27, retaliatory attacks had already begun, including the stabbing of a Muslim man in Vadodara railway station as crowds gathered awaiting the arrival of the Sabarmati Express.55 Starting on the morning of February 28, Hindu mobs unleashed a coordinated attack against Muslims in many of Gujarat's towns and cities.56 Despite the state's claims that police were simply overwhelmed by the sheer size of the Hindu mobs-often numbering in the thousands-evidence collected by the media, Indian human rights groups, and Human Rights Watch all point to state sponsorship of the attacks. Eyewitness accounts cited throughout this report, as well as the history of police and political recruitment demonstrate the state's partisan role. In a matter of days, over 850 people are known to have been killed-although unofficial estimates are as high as 2,000. Violence continued as of this writing and has quickly spread to poorly protected rural areas. Accounts of politicians directing the violence are also commonplace. Furthermore, in many cases, police posts and police stations were in close proximity to affected sites.57

After allowing thirty-six hours to pass without any serious intervention, the first of several contingents of army troops were deployed into Ahmedabad, Rajkot, and Vadodara on March 1.58 Many had to be flown in from reserves' stations in south Indian as the bulk of Indian forces are stationed along the India-Pakistan border.59 Though the army arrived in Gujarat soon after the Godhra carnage,60 the state government refused to deploy the soldiers until twenty-fours hours after they arrived and only once the worst violence had ended.61 The army's inability to rapidly intervene was also hindered by the state government's failure to provide requested transportation support and information regarding areas where violence was occurring.62 Speaking on why the army took so long to quell the violence, an Indian army source stated, "We are ordered to be deployed only when such incidents happen. And once we are there it is up to that state administration how they use us."63

In Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital and the site of Human Rights Watch's investigations, many attacks took place within view of police posts and police stations. Human Rights Watch viewed several police posts less than fifty feet from the site of burnt Muslim-owned restaurants, places of businesses, and hotels in Ahmedabad. Without exception, the Hindu-owned establishments neighboring the destroyed structures were unscathed. The same pattern was observed by India's National Human Rights Commission during its fact-finding mission in March (see below).

Attacks in Ahmedabad on February 28 also began at precisely the same time, around 10:30 in the morning. Muslims living in "mixed communities," that is alongside Hindus, were hit the hardest while those concentrated in Muslim enclaves following a history of state communal riots fared only marginally better.

According to an article in The Week, a weekly Indian news magazine, 1,679 houses, 1,965 shops, and twenty-one godowns (warehouses) were burnt, 204 shops looted, and seventy-six shrines were destroyed in Ahmedabad. The great majority of them belonged to Muslims.64

Dozens of witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described almost identical operations. The attackers arrived by the thousands in trucks, clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist, or Hindutva, groups. Shouting slogans of incitement to kill, they were armed with swords, trishuls, 65 sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders. Guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties, information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation among other sources, they embarked on a murderous rampage. In many cases, the police led the charge, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the mobs' way (see below).

According to the preliminary report of SAHMAT, a Delhi-based nongovernmental organization, its fact-finding team found graffiti left behind on the charred walls of a burnt madrassa in Sundaramnagar, Ahmedabad boasted of police support:66

      Yeh andar ki bat hai
      Police hamarey saath hai
      (This is inside information, the police are with us).

      Jaan se mar dengey
      Bajrang Dal zindabad
      Narendra Modi zindabad
      (We will kill. Long live the Bajrang Dal. Long live Narendra Modi).67

Andar ki bat hai... was also the war-cry used to terrorize Muslim residents in Vadi in the city of Vadodara as they burnt Muslim-owned shops that ironically sold kites, bindis, and bangles for Hindu festivals.68

Human Rights Watch interviews with eyewitnesses to the attacks revealed that that the attackers were carrying voter lists as well as listings of Muslim businesses, along with cell phones and water bottles "so as to be fully prepared for a long day's work."69 According to a report in Outlook magazine, attempts to pinpoint the exact location of Muslim businesses began months before the attacks:

In Ahmedabad... one official recalled how for the last few months, there had been concerted attempts to get lists of Muslim business establishments from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation.... VHP volunteers have also been making the rounds of professional institutions and universities, seeking the names and addresses of Muslim students. Some government sources say VHP members have drawn up lists of government departments (for example, the Food Corporation of India) and their allied agencies, and identified "undesirables" and their addresses.70

Professor Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, ninety-six-year-old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the VHP denied the charge that the VHP prepared lists in advance of Muslim shops to loot. To the contrary, he said "the list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself."71

Voter lists were also reportedly used to identify and target Muslim community members.72 A senior police officer told, a leading Internet news site on India, on conditions of anonymity that, "[The attackers] hardly failed to lay hands on their targets, thanks to documents like the voters' list.... The mission was accomplished with clinical precision."73

In many cases the leaders of the attack, who communicated with one another on cell phones, receiving instructions in seemingly well-coordinated and planned operations, have been identified by name in police reports as members of the BJP and the VHP. Few, if any, of the leaders have been arrested (see below).

As the state offers one excuse after another-that the police were outnumbered, overwhelmed, did not receive orders to respond, or that their own feelings could not be "insulated from the general social milieu" -no excuse proves sufficient to explain the direct participation of police in the attacks.74

Press reports and eyewitness testimonies, including those collected by Human Rights Watch, abound with stories of police participation and complicity in the attacks. Their crimes range from inaction to direct participation in the looting and burning of Muslim shops, restaurants, hotels, homes, and the killing of Muslim residents. Worse still, officers who tried to keep the peace or act against murderous mobs have been transferred or have faced the wrath of their superiors.75

A key state minister is reported to have taken over a police control room in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing directions not to rescue Muslims in danger of being killed:

If VHP-BJP leaders led mobs from the front along with the police, they also took control of the institutional apparatus. Health Minister Ashok Bhatt sat in the Police Control Room in Ahmedabad through the first two days of violence. Given his portfolio, it was an odd place to be but not given his past. Bhatt, along with Union Minister of State for Defence Harin Pathak, faces charges of having incited a mob that murdered a police constable in the course of communal violence on April 25, 1985. According to several eyewitnesses, another State Minister, Harin Pandya, moved through the Paldi area, speaking to leaders of mobs that were burning Muslim homes and shops. [State Home Minister Gordhan] Jhadaphia, who ought to have been in the control room after the violence broke out on February 28, was busy telling reporters that he "did not expect Hindus to retaliate."76

Many people testified that the police led the mobs directly to their homes and places of business. In many instances, the police also fired upon Muslim youth, crushing any organized self-defense against the mobs. (See below).

A human rights activist who has been visiting relief camps in Ahmedabad on an almost daily basis since the attacks and documenting in detail the nature and methodology of the violence provided valuable insight into the patterns that emerged:

Most incidents happened at the same time. It was definitely pre-planned. Many were around 10:30 a.m. The role of the police was also very clear. When I interviewed victims, they said that prior to the attacks mass meetings were taking place that were being addressed by local VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders. A rumor was already going around that something was going to happen, long before the Godhra incident.

The attacks also took place where the Muslim population is low, in areas where people could not adequately defend or protect themselves. The police itself was also involved in almost all incidents. Local MLAs [members of legislative assembly] and corporators [local officials] were also involved. In many cases SRP [State Reserve Police] camps were close by. Everybody knew that attacks were going on but no one tried to prevent them. So many women had been gang-raped and then killed.... Usually in our work we address individual incidents so we have hope for justice. But there is no hope here because the involvement of the police is so high. You feel irrelevant, like you have wasted ten years.77

Twenty-six major towns and talukas (sub-districts) in Gujarat were affected in the first week of violence. Attacks had also spread to rural areas. In Halad village in north Gujarat, for example, hotels and businesses belonging to Muslims were attacked when the dead body of a Hindu activist killed in the train attack in Godhra was brought to the village.78 The patterns of violence in the worst-hit cities, where the majority of people killed were Muslim, were remarkably similar, lending further support to the notion that the attacks were planned and not the result of spontaneous riots. An interim report on violence in Vadodara submitted to the NHRC by the nongovernmental People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for example, documents in meticulous detail the selective burning and looting of Muslim homes and places of business, the destruction of mosques, the killing, beating, and maiming of Muslims, the extent of police participation in the attacks, and the role of the local media in inciting the violence. The report also documents the spreading of hate propaganda leading to economic boycotts.79 A separate report by PUCL outlines the impact on women (see below).

At this writing, attacks were being reported on an almost daily basis, over six weeks after the state government's claims that the situation had been brought under control. On March 24, for example, thirty-year-old Mumtazbano was stripped in public and stabbed to death by a mob in the Vejalpur area of Ahmedabad after being dragged off her husband's scooter.80 On April 6, at least five people were killed in Ahmedabad. Two were stabbed to death and three were killed by police gunfire as police reportedly fired to disperse clashing groups of Hindus and Muslims.81 On April 17, three people were stabbed to death and fifteen were injured in Hindu-Muslim clashes in Ahmedabad.82

Police Firings
"They only shot at one side. Why? Why didn't they shoot to stop the attackers?" 83

Numerous eyewitnesses to the attacks in Ahmedabad told Human Rights Watch that police gunfire paved the way for the violent mobs. Marching in front of the mobs, the police burst tear gas shells and aimed and fired at Muslim youth seeking to defend their families and their homes. According to a report in The Week, a weekly Indian news magazine, in the month following the Godhra massacre, 120 people had been killed in police shootings throughout the state, many of them Muslim.84 At this writing, the numbers were climbing. Hindus were also killed in police shootings, some in response to shoot-on-sight orders issued by Chief Minister Modi on March 1 to stop those participating in rioting and arson, and others in the weeks that followed as police tried to contain outbreaks of violence.85

During the first two days of violence, Chief Minister Modi defended the actions of his police stating that they had "mowed down people" to quell the violence. According to the Indian Express, "one such incident he was referring to occurred on February 28 and March 1 near the Bapunagar police station, where 40 were killed in firing. Now, according to a batch of FIRs filed last week and post mortem reports, it has come to light that all 40 were Muslims, most of them shot in the head and the chest. And 36 of them were between 20 and 25 years old."86

A resident of the Chartoda Kabristan camp in the Gomtipur area told Human Rights Watch: "We were able to handle the crowd but when the police joined in then we couldn't stop them. Our spirit was broken. They were shouting, `Kill them, cut them, look for Miyabhai [Muslim man].' The police burned the houses with their own hands. They also looted. Now everyone is afraid of the police; they were only firing on Muslims. They were not firing for riot control."87

According to the Chartoda Kabristan camp organizer:

From the areas represented in this camp, twenty-five people were hit in police and private firings. Sixteen died, the rest are in hospitals.... There are still burnings going on.... If they keep dividing people then people will keep losing faith in this state. They need to put a brake on it. If the state does not want to stop it then it will keep happening. Everyone will tell you that the police came first, fired and then the private attackers came.88

Twenty-five-year-old Abdul Aziz, a resident of Panna Lal ki Chali, near Chartoda Kabristan, witnessed the killing of his brother by police gunfire. He told Human Rights Watch:

On the 28th afternoon at 3 p.m. my younger brother was returning from work. The police said that a curfew was in place. A crowd gathered to attack. The police was leading the crowd. They were looting and the people followed, looting and burning behind them. The crowd was shouting, "Go to Pakistan. If you want to stay here become Hindu." The police very clearly aimed at my brother and fired at him. He was twenty-three years old. At 6 p.m., three hours later, we were able to get him to the hospital.... We have not filed any complaints. All the doctors that have been coming here are private or from NGOs.89

Julamasul Abdul Bhai Kureishi, of Danzi ki Chali near Chartoda Kabristan, lost his son to police gunfire. He told Human Rights Watch:

They made us homeless and they took my son.... The police came from one side and the crowd came from the other. They started setting fire to things and firing shots. My son was shot and killed. He was twenty-two years old. They collected all the young men. The police were calling the crowds. The police had the mob behind them.

Another resident of Danzi ki Chali told Human Rights Watch: "The police grabbed me and hit me with a sword and a lathi [baton]. They also shot my seven-year-old son. He spent eleven to twelve days in the hospital."

Twenty-two-year-old Mohammed Salim from Bara Sache ki Chali told Human Rights Watch that most of the deaths in his neighborhood were caused by police shooting. He described a pattern testified to by many interviewed by Human Rights Watch:

The Hindus called us outside to fight. When we came out, the police fired on us, twelve to thirteen people died.... They said come forward, then they started shouting, "Kill the Muslims, cut the Muslims, loot the Muslims." The police were with them and picked out the Muslim homes and set them on fire. The police aimed and fired at the Muslim boys. They then joined with the Hindus to set fire to the homes and to loot the homes. The police were carrying kerosene bottles and shooting and setting the bottles on fire. The others were carrying swords and trishuls. Some of the attackers were wearing kesri pattis [saffron bandannas] on their foreheads with the words "Jai Sri Ram" [Praise Lord Ram]. The attackers consisted of both people from our neighborhood and also people from outside. None of the deaths from our area were from the Bajrang Dal, it was all from police firing. One person also lost his eyesight as a result of police firing. One woman was burnt alive. She was old and couldn't run. She was cut in three pieces. The police came inside [the Chartoda Kabristan area] and fired.90

A fifteen-year-old boy named Sanu from the Riyaz Hussain ki Chali was also killed. According to residents of the Chartoda Kabristan camp, "The police caught him from inside the Masjid, took him to the Hindu area and shot him at close range."91

Mass Gravesites and the Collection of Bodies
Surviving family members have faced the added trauma of having to fend for themselves in recovering and identifying the bodies of their loved ones under difficult security conditions and with little assistance from the state government. The bodies have been buried in mass gravesites throughout Ahmedabad. Many bodies have been charred beyond recognition and many are still missing. To bury hundreds of Muslim victims, mass gravesites have sprouted throughout the city of Ahmedabad. A March 6 article on the news site reported that as many as 212 bodies of men, women, and children were buried in graveyards in Dudheshwar, Juhapura, Sarkhej, and Sarangpur-all in Ahmedabad-since March 3, 2002.92

Human Rights Watch visited a gravesite in the Shahibaug area of Ahmedabad. According to gravediggers there: "The state government has not given one paisa [one cent]. No one asks. One police car would accompany a truck full of bodies. Our young would go around and look for the bodies. We use our own trucks."93 When asked about the events of the last several weeks, eighty-five-year-old gravekeeper Abdul Kadir simply said: "I cannot even talk about it." Another gravekeeper added, "New incidents are happening so more bodies keep coming."94 Gravekeepers claimed to have already buried close to three hundred bodies at the gravesite. Human Rights Watch was shown a metal leg brace that survived the burning of its owner to illustrate the story of a handicapped person's murder. A resident of the Chartoda Kabristan camp in Gomtipur told Human Rights Watch: "We ourselves collected and buried the bodies. The military came with us for protection."95

Attacks on Women

I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence as in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports everywhere of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver. Women in the Aman Chowk shelter told appalling stories about how armed men disrobed themselves in front of a group of terrified women to cower them down further.96

Tragically consistent with the longstanding pattern of attacks on minorities and Dalits (or so-called untouchables) in India, and with previous episodes of large-scale communal violence in India, scores of Muslim girls and women were brutally raped in Gujarat before being killed.97

A resident of Jawan Nagar, Naroda, Ahmedabad told the Citizens' Initiative that only four out of his eleven family members had survived. His daughter was raped and burned, succumbing to her injuries in the hospital:

My house has a small grocery store and I was there in the store. A mob came from Charanagar. Five hundred strong mob came from Kubernagar. Two thousand strong mob came. They started riot, burning houses. We ran to nearby Gangotri society and took shelter on the terrace. The mob started burning people at around 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. The mob stripped all the girls of the locality including my 22-year-old daughter and raped them. My daughter was engaged. Seven members of my family were burnt that includes my wife (age 40), my son (18), my son (14), my son (7), my daughter (4), my daughter (2). Police did not allow me to climb down from the terrace. My 8-year-old son has survived with 20 percent burn injuries and he remembers his mother. What can I do? My house and shop has been burnt.... They hit her on the head and burnt. She had 80 percent burn injuries.98

Even pregnant women were not spared. In some cases, their bellies were cut open and the fetus was pulled out before the women were killed.99 A gravedigger at a mass grave site next to the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp in the Shahibaug area told Human Rights Watch: "There were at least three pregnant women and one of the fetuses was partially hanging out. We had to stick it back in before burial. If the fetus was completely removed then we left it out but still buried it with the mother."100

A woman who washed the bodies of female victims before burial at the same site told Human Rights Watch about the conditions of the bodies upon arrival:

I washed the ladies' bodies before burial. Some bodies had heads missing, some had hands missing, some were like coal, you would touch them and they would crumble. Some women's bodies had been split down the middle. I washed seventeen bodies on March 2, only one was completely intact. All had been burned, many had been split down the middle. On March 3 fifteen more bodies came. Then I just threw water over them, I couldn't stand to be around them anymore.101

Some of the cuts down the middle of the bodies may have been a consequence of official autopsies, though not all.

A report sponsored by the Citizens' Initiative dated April 16, 2002 and titled "The Survivors Speak" presents over thirty pages of testimony from female victims and eyewitnesses to the violence in Gujarat. The report is based on investigations conducted at the end of March by a fact-finding team of prominent women's rights activists. Among the report's most significant findings is the fact that crimes against women, in both urban and rural areas, have been grossly underreported and under-recorded by the police. The report states:

Among the women surviving in relief camps, are many who have suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence - including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their body, stripping, molestations. A majority of rape victims have been burnt alive.

There is evidence of State and Police complicity in perpetuating crimes against women. No effort was made to protect women. No Mahila [women] Police [were] deployed. State and Police complicity in these crimes is continuing, as women survivors continue to be denied the right to file FIRs. There is no existing institutional mechanism in Gujarat through which women can seek justice.102

Among the testimonies documented in the report is that of Saira from Panchmahals district, Gujarat. Her name has been changed by Human Rights Watch:

On the afternoon of February 28th to escape the violent mob, about 40 of us got on to a tempo [a vehicle]. My husband was driving the tempo... a Maruti car was blocking the road. A mob was lying in wait. [My husband] had to swerve. The tempo overturned. As we got out they started attacking us. People started running in all directions. Some of us ran towards the river. I fell behind as I was carrying my son. The men caught me from behind and threw me on the ground. [My son] fell from my arms and started crying. My clothes were stripped off by the men and I was left stark naked. One by one the men raped me. All the while I could hear my son crying. I lost count after 3. They then cut my foot with a sharp weapon and left me there in that state.103

The report also cites the extent of Bajrang Dal and VHP participation in the attacks, adding that members of these organizations were distributing arms in rural areas as early as six months before the violence began.104

An interim report by the People's Union for Civil Liberties on "women's experiences and perspectives" on the communal violence in Vadodara, based on data collected between February 27 and March 26, 2002, states:

The wide range of data collected reveals that the post-Godhra carnage has affected most women living in Vadodara in some way or the other. Lives of minority women have of course changed drastically. However, women from all communities are also affected by the reign of fear and the terror promoted by the state and the police. The Hindu women are caught in a fear psychosis that the "other" will attack. A lot of this has to do with the rumours that are being systematically spread through various pamphlets and booklets. Livelihoods of all poor, working class women have been affected. The situation in the minority households is far more serious, and hunger has become an acute problem because the minority men too cannot go out to work. The deep sense of betrayal that women feel by neighbours and children "who grew up in front of my eyes [or in my aangan]" is seen across classes.105

On April 24 India's National Commission for Women (NCW) added its voice to those of the National Commission for Minorities and the National Human Rights Commission (see below) and accused the Gujarat government of "failing to perform its constitutional duty." NCW expressed concern over the state of fear and insecurity in the state, particularly among women, adding that much more needed to be done for the relief and rehabilitation of women, particularly those that had lost family members or were victims of sexual violence.106

The Effect on Children and Young People
The children of Gujarat have been severely affected and traumatized by the violence. In addition to the rape and murder of many children (see above), many bore witness to the death of their family members.107 Unclaimed and unidentified children's bodies still crowd Ahmedabad's morgues.108 Many children have also been orphaned or have suffered serious stabbing and burn injuries. In the aftermath of the violence, their education has been severely disrupted and little counseling is available to them to cope with the trauma of what they experienced. A Citizens' Initiative fact-finding team on violence against women in Gujarat (see above) spoke to young girls from Naroda Patia still trying to make sense of the rapes that they had witnessed. One girl interviewed said:

"Mein bataoon Didi" (Shall I tell you?), volunteers a nine-year-old, "Balatkaar ka matlab jab aurat ko nanga karte hain aur phir use jala deta hain." (Rape is when a woman is stripped naked and then burnt) And then looks fixedly at the floor. Only a child can tell it like it is. For this is what happened again and again in Naroda Patia - women were stripped, raped and burnt. Burning has now become an essential part of the meaning of rape.109

Nineteen-year-old Sheikh S. from Mehndi Kuva, Shahpur, slum quarters in Ahmedabad, explained the long-term consequences of the attacks on children's education and on the livelihood of affected families:

All the children's education has been disrupted. All businesses are closed. All savings are gone. My parents are so old they cannot go back to work. I will surely have to leave my studies now and go to work. I was studying in the 11th standard. Still we won't get the government jobs, those are given to Hindus. We will have to do labor.110

Sheikh added that in the looting and burning of his home, his education certificates and other valuables were also destroyed: "All my education certificates and medical reports that were in a suitcase were also destroyed. I have a blood disease and need those reports."111

In addition to destruction of educational records, students have been attacked while going to school. An eighteen-year-old student in Bharuch was pulled off a rickshaw and hit on the head and killed while returning home after taking a board exam.112 In Modasa, the college-aged son of a police inspector was stabbed and killed.113 The violence has also led to school exams being postponed in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Bharuch, and Modasa.114 In addition, at Gujarat University, exams have not yet been completed because mobs have been successful in disrupting exams. The school plans on completing exams by having police vans stationed in sensitive areas.115 There are also disturbing reports that the same groups which collected information on Muslim shops and residences in preparation for attacks, are now openly collecting information on the number of Muslim children in each school in order to intimidate Muslim children from attending.116 Principals of English-medium schools in Gujarat have also been threatened with violence by VHP members if they did not expel Muslim students from their institutions. According to one report, parents are being told by school officials to remove their children from these schools on the grounds that their safety could not be guaranteed. The tactics are helping to ensure that Muslim children are confined to madrasas, or Muslim-run religious schools, where education is imparted in Hindi or Urdu-limiting severely the students' career prospects.117

Destruction of Mosques and Dargahs
Attackers also destroyed Dargahs, traditional meeting grounds for Hindus and Muslims and razed mosques. In some cases makeshift Hindu temples were erected in their place. In many places saffron flags, the signature flag of Hindu nationalist groups, were dug deep into mosque domes.118 Roughly twenty mosques were destroyed in Ahmedabad alone, many on March 1 during Friday prayers.119 Even historical monuments were not spared. According to the preliminary report of an Indian human rights fact-finding team:

The famous 500-year-old masjid in Isanpur, which was an ASI [Archeological Survey of India] monument, was destroyed with the help of cranes and bulldozers. The famous Urdu Poet Wali Gujarati's dargah was also razed to the ground at Shahibaug in Ahmedabad. While a hanuman [a Hindu god] shrine was built over its debris initially, all that was removed overnight and the plot was [paved] and merged with the adjoining road. No authority claimed any knowledge about the entire episode. It is worth noting here that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, which is responsible for the maintenance of all these structures, and for the building of roads, is run by the Congress [party] with a near two-thirds majority.120

More problems and possibly violence may ensue in deciding how and whether to reconstruct the shattered mosques on these the new religious sites.

The brutal killing and sexual violence was also accompanied by widespread looting and burning of homes. For many the violence became an excuse for daylight robbery in which even affluent Gujaratis took part.121 Most relief camp inhabitants are now homeless and completely dispossessed of all their belongings. Numerous victims testified to the extent of the theft and looting of their property both during the attacks and in the days that followed after they had fled for safety to makeshift camps.

A fifty-year-old woman named Fatu Bhen from Sanjay Nagar Nanachiloda, an area just outside of Ahmedabad, told Human Rights Watch, "When they attacked we ran into the fields. For one day and one night we hid in the fields. Then we walked to Gandhinagar. My brother brought me here. We didn't even have a chance to lock our doors. My brother went back to see and found that everything had been burned and looted."122

Jinat A., a forty-year-old woman from Naroda Patia, told Human Rights Watch:

The riots came, we ran. We saw people getting cut up and burned. They used swords and sharp weapons. The first two days we were somewhere else and then we came to the camp. They stole all our things and burned our homes. They took our TVs, tapes, everything, even the beds. They took everything.... We have been here since March 1. We arrived at 3 a.m. Where will we go? The curfews are set. The police killed as well.123

Thirty-year-old Noorjehan belonged to a relatively affluent Muslim family and lived in the government quarter of Mehndi Kuva. Out of a total of thirty-six homes, only three belonged to Muslims. The rest belonged to Hindus. Noorjehan suffered severe head injuries but survived the attack after being left for dead. Visibly in pain and with fresh bandages around her head, she told Human Rights Watch:

On February 28 we were all sitting at home and heard a noise, this was around noon. Our Hindu neighbor said, "Don't go out." If he said go then we could have run and saved ourselves. He was drunk. Everyone started to surround the house. They all had swords and pipes. I locked the doors. They then broke down the main door. They threw an iron pipe through the iron bars, which hit me across my eyes. I got dizzy. They then started to set fire to things. I tried to close all the doors as fast as I could, but they came in and hit me with pipes all over on my head, my legs. They were about to take out a sword and cut me with it. But one Hindu had pity on me I guess and said, "Don't cut her, set her on fire." When I heard that I fainted. When I fainted they took off all of my jewels. They were screaming, "Ram bol." [Say Ram]. I think they then put me on top of the fire. My twelve-year-old niece dragged me off and threw water on me to save me. I was covered in blood. I had sent my brothers away; they went to hide in another Hindu's house. They thought I was dead so they moved on to the next Muslim house. My mother took me inside the house. A Dalit scavenger brought the doctor to me. They gave me an injection because I was going to hemorrhage. Finally the family doctor came. I was vomiting for two days. The police were nowhere. They did not help anyone. When we called they said, "You protect yourselves." The police are only two minutes away from our home.124

After Noorjehan and her family left for the camp they learned that their home had been looted:

We contacted this camp by mobile phone and people here sent a car for us and brought us here. After we came our house was looted. They didn't even leave our animals. My mother was so fond of raising those animals. They took them, cut them, and ate them: our sheep, our chickens. There was a temple in front of our house. They ate the animals there the next day. They took our gold, our silver. We had four safes in the house. All of them were looted. They took our cutlery as well.125

Noorjehan believed her neighbors were involved in the attacks and had long been participating in meetings to plot attacks against Muslims:

In previous riots, we used to close the main gates to the residential quarters, but not this time. The people inside were mixed up with this so they left the big gates open. They were always meeting about how to go after Muslims but we never believed it would happen to us, we have been there for so many years. I can't sleep properly. They are enemies of humanity. They are complete monsters and devils.126

Noorjehan and her family arrived at the camp on the evening of March 1: "We left even without our shoes on. No one has come to ask us anything about who attacked us or how much was taken. On March 2 or 3 we filed a complaint. My mother went back on March 16 to see what had become of our home."127 Her mother added: "I went to see if any of my animals were left. There was nothing left. The people were still roaming the area with swords."128

Unlike residents of Naroda Patia, Noorjehan very much wanted to return to her home but lamented that it was too unsafe. "If we got security then at least we could go back home," she said.129

Rehman Pata, Noorjehan's twenty-year-old brother described the reaction of the police when he approached them for help during the attack on his home:

I ran to the police station, I fought the crowds to get through. Two constables told me, "You go and we'll follow you." But they never came. I came home and saw that my sister had been hit by a pipe.... These were Shiv Sena and VHP workers. We know the names of some of the people who did this. After the attack one of them made a call and told the person he was talking to move on to the next Muslim home. They were coordinating everything on their cell phones. We filed a complaint against them. They didn't leave anything, even my childhood toys.... One of our Hindu neighbors told the mob not to burn our home otherwise theirs would catch on fire as well. He said, "Don't burn it just loot it."130

Nineteen-year-old Sheikh S., also from Mehndi Kuva, lived in a slum quarter adjacent to the government quarter. He told Human Rights Watch that his neighbors were involved in the attacks and that police gave them their blessing to loot Muslim shops and homes:

It all started at 10 a.m. on February 28. They came after the Muslim shops. Around 8 p.m., they attacked my quarters. They were screaming, "Jai Shri Ram." They opened the locks with their iron pipes. They burned all the beddings but took all the nice things. They did not set fire to our house because it was a flat system and Hindu homes would also have been affected. We were calling the police all day. The police said, "You help yourselves, we are getting pressure from above, we cannot help you." We called fifty to a hundred times. Around 2:00 or 2:30 p.m. I saw a police inspector shake hands with the attackers and say, "You can loot peacefully, we won't do anything. We are with you."131

Sheikh listed the names of those involved in the attacks, many of whom he recognized. He then added:

We filed a complaint and wrote down all the names. During the attack, thirty to thirty-five went to hide in a Goanese Christian home after 6 p.m. Then the crowd surrounded that home and said, "You send them out or we will kill you too." After that we came here to the camp with police escorts. We called the camp on our mobile phone and they sent the police to us to bring us here. We arrived March 1 at 1 a.m. We then called the Christian family from here and they told us the crowds started looting the homes on March 1. Our dowry, marriage money, machines, etc. all of them were looted. They even took the two lights and the wiring and the fan. They took everything. They took my brother's new cycle but set my old one on fire.132

Sheikh also sustained head injuries during the attacks and still wore a dressing on the wounds at the time of the interview three weeks later: "At one point they surrounded me and started shouting, `Miya, Miya' [Muslim, Muslim]. They started throwing stones and I ran upstairs.133

The Role of the Media
While the national Indian press has played an important role in exposing the violence and official neglect or misconduct, sectors of the local press have been accused of inciting the violence.

On April 5, 2002, the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Shanti Abhiyan, both nongovernmental organizations, issued a comprehensive analysis of the role of the media during the violence in Gujarat. Among the papers analyzed is the Vadodara edition of Sandesh, a Gujarati newspaper. The report concludes that the major effort of Sandesh for the period under review "has been to feed on the prevalent anti-Muslim prejudices of its Hindu readership and provoke it further by sensationalizing, twisting, mangling and distorting news or what passes for it."134

Sandesh published especially inflammatory headlines, pictures, and stories the day after the Godhra attack. For example, a front page report on February 28, 2002, read: "AVENGE BLOOD WITH BLOOD."135 Another headline during the first week of March, when Gujarati Muslims were returning from their pilgrimage (Haj) to Mecca, stated: "HINDUS BEWARE: HAJ PILIGRIMS RETURN WITH A DEADLY CONSPIRACY."136 In fact, most Muslims returning from Haj were so terrified of being attacked that they sought and received escorts home by army officials.137

Attacks on the Media
The national media has also come under verbal and physical attack for its coverage of the Gujarat violence. Gujarat Chief Minister Modi has accused the media of exaggerating the extent of violence, and for provoking the violence by naming the religion of the victims.138 Modi also objected to All India Radio (AIR) coverage of the Godhra attack, specifically reports that mentioned that the trouble in Godhra began after kar sevaks (Hindu activists) refused to pay for the tea they consumed from Muslim tea vendors. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj "gave a dressing down to the top brass of AIR," reportedly at Modi's behest, though no action was taken against anyone.139

According to the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), some twenty journalists and media workers were attacked by the police on April 7, 2002, in Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad while two peace demonstrations were disrupted by members of the Gujarat Yuva Morcha, a youth section of the BJP. A cameraman for the private television station NDTV was told by a deputy police superintendent to stop filming. When he asked why, he was struck on the head and later was admitted to the hospital's intensive care unit. Witnesses say police then attacked the journalists, seriously injuring several others.140 RSF adds that a journalist for the Asian Age was beaten up by the Gujarat police while interviewing Muslim women who had complained of police atrocities.141

The Government of Gujarat's Response
The Gujarat government, and in particular its chief minister, has responded to severe criticism regarding its posture during the violence by either tacitly justifying the attacks or asserting that they were quickly brought under control. On March 1, Chief Minister Modi confidently declared that he would control the "riots resulting from the natural and justified anger of the people."142 "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction," Modi told reporters. "The five crore (50 million) people of Gujarat have shown remarkable restraint under grave provocation," referring to the Godhra massacre.143

The Gujarat government's official report of the events, presented to the National Human Rights Commission, includes the following accounts, as reported in the Hindu:

The gory details of the Godhra incident, depicting charred bodies through the electronic media, aroused passions of the people of Gujarat on a very large scale. In the wake of the call for "Gujarat bandh" and the possible fall-out of the Godhra incident, the State Government took all possible precautions. However, on account of widespread reporting in the media, incidents of violence on a large-scale started occurring in Ahmedabad, Baroda... Crowds that assembled in the towns were huge and consisted of higher and middle class people. It became difficult even to implement the curfew. Due to timely measures taken by the State Government, major incidents were contained within 72 hours and normality and confidence of the public were restored.144

Tellingly, the report does not once mention the role of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or the Bajrang Dal, whose members have been named as leaders of the violence in police reports (FIRs), and grossly undercounts the number of mosques and dargahs destroyed and makeshift Hindu temples erected in their place.145

The appointment of retired high court judge K. G. Shah to head a Gujarat state commission of inquiry into possible police inaction or direct complicity and administrative failure during Godhra and its aftermath has also raised concern. Shah's close association with the BJP government, including his participation on a panel of lawyers representing the state government before the Supreme Court, has left many questioning his ability to conduct an impartial investigation. Dr. Shakeel Ahmed of the Cell for Legal Help and Guidance for the Islamic Relief Committee told the Times of India: "It's better if someone from outside is appointed. The state government is involved and is a party to what happened."146 Even if the Shah commission's investigations are impartial, his perceived partiality will likely influence victims' willingness to come forward. The history of government-appointed commissions of inquiry in the state, and the country, also raise doubts as to whether the commission's recommendations will be followed.147 The recommendations of two commissions of inquiry established following the 1969 and 1985 riots have yet to be implemented.148

50 "Time Line," Hindustan Times, March 3, 2002.

51 Sujan Datta, "When guardians of Gujarat gave a 24-hour license for punitive action," Telegraph, March 9, 2002, (accessed April 9, 2002).

52 Ibid.

53 Manas Dasgupta, "Saffronised police show their colour," Hindu, March 3, 2002.

54 Ibid.

55 "Violence Spreads Like Wildfire in State," Times of India, February 28, 2002.

56 Muslims make up about 10 percent of Gujarat's fifty million-strong population. Praveena Sharma, "Woman stripped and stabbed, Indian rights watchdog slams Gujarat for riots," Agence France-Presse, March 24, 2002.

57 A Muslim hotel was burnt right across from the police commissioner's headquarters. Human Rights Watch visit to Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

58 Sujan Datta, "Where had all the soldiers gone?", Telegraph, March 2, 2002.

59 Ibid. The long delay in deploying the army in Gujarat is strikingly similar to the failure to immediately deploy the army after mobs began attacking New Delhi's Sikh population after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination. Asia-Pacific Human Rights Network, Gujarat riots point to need for police reform, (a joint initiative of the South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre and the Human Rights Documentation Center), March 13, 2002, (accessed April 10, 2002).

60 Rajart Pandit, "Centre Delayed Deployment of Paramilitary Forces," Times of India, March 3, 2002.

61 Beth Duff-Brown, "India's Religious Violence Spreads to Rural Villages in Gujarat," Associated Press, March 2, 2002.

62 Rahul Bedi, "Soldiers `held back to allow Hindu revenge,'" Telegraph, April 4, 2002.

63 Rajart Pandit, "Centre Delayed Deployment of Paramilitary Forces," Times of India.

64 Anosh Malekar, "Silence of the Lambs," The Week, April 7, 2002.

65 A three-pronged spear often carried as weapons by militant sangh parivar activists. Trishuls also feature prominently in the depiction of some Hindu gods.

66 SAHMAT, or the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, is a collective of artists, intellectuals, and others working to promote the idea of a secular, democratic, Indian state.

67 Ibid.

68 Barkha Dutt, "Opinion: Covert Riots And Media," Outlook, March 25, 2002.

69 Human Rights Watch interviews with eyewitnesses (names withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22-23, 2002.

70 Ranjit Bhushan, "Thy Hand, Great Anarch: The overriding theme of the riots: surprisingly systematic targeting, little state intervention," Outlook, March 18, 2002. District administrations in Gujarat, Delhi, and Orissa were also conducting surveys to assess the activities and whereabouts of minority community members and leaders. Human Rights Watch, World Report 2001: Events of 2000 (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2000), p. 198.

71 "Riots in Ahmedabad, India-`It Had to be Done,'", March 13, 2003, (accessed April 9, 2002).

72 "Misuse of voters list in Gujarat riots alleged," Press Trust of India, March 12, 2002.

73 Nirendra Dev, "Gujarat riot victims allege `communal cleansing',", March 12, 2002, (accessed April 10, 2002).

74 Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police P.C. Pande as quoted in Reuters: Sanjay Miglani, "Hindu mobs rampage in India, army called out," Reuters, February 28, 2002. State Director General of Police K. Chakravarty said that his forces were overstretched and given the simultaneous and large-scale nature of the violence added that, "available forces may not have been able to do justice." Bhushan, "Thy Hand, Great Anarch."

75 Basant Rawat, "Minority hole in Gujarat police force," Telegraph, March 26, 2002, (accessed April 9, 2002).

76 Praveen Swami, "Saffron Terror," Frontline, March 16 - 29, 2002. Bhatt is also facing murder charges in the killing of a police constable during anti-reservation riots in the state in April 1985. "Contempt, perjury proceedings sought against Bhatt," Times of India, November 8, 2001.

77 Human Rights Watch interview, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

78 Uday Mahurkar, "Godhra: Horror on 9618 DN," India Today, March 11, 2002.

79 People's Union for Civil Liberties, "An Interim Report to the National Human Rights Commission," March 21, 2002, (accessed April 13, 2002). In Rajkot, the police chief reportedly switched off his cell phone and vanished as mobs took to the street burning one Muslim shop after another on February 28. Sudhir Vyas, "Police chief vanishes as Rajkot burns," Times News Network, March 1, 2002; Muslim truck drivers were also killed by Hindu gangs manning the roadblocks on the national highway leading to Bombay. Luke Harding, "Police took part in slaughter," Observer, March 3, 2002.

80 "Woman stripped, Fresh violence in Gujarat," Asian Age, March 25, 2002; "Woman stripped and stabbed, Indian rights watchdog slams Gujarat for riots," Agence France-Presse, March 24, 2002.

81 "Five killed as fresh violence hits India's Gujarat," Channelnewsasia, April 6, 2002.

82 "Fresh Violence in Gujarat," BBC News, April 17, 2002, (accessed April 17, 2002).

83 Human Rights Watch interview with forty-five-year-old female resident of Chartoda Kabristan camp, March 23, 2002.

84 Malekar, "Silence of the Lambs," The Week.

85 See for example, "Seven Hindus killed in Udhampur attack," Press Trust of India, April 8, 2002; "3 Killed in India Mob Violence," Los Angeles Times, March 11, 2002. In Ahmedabad, 249 bodies had been recovered by the night of March 5. Thirty were of Hindus; thirteen were shot by the police, while several others died in attacks on Muslim-owned establishments. Praveen Swami, "Saffron Terror," Frontline, March 16 - 29, 2002.

86 Janyala Sreenivas, "Who shot them point blank?" Indian Express, April 7, 2002.

87 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

88 Human Rights Watch interview, Chartoda Kabristan camp organizer, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

89 Human Rights Watch interview, Abdul Aziz, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

90 Human Rights Watch interview, Mohammed Salim, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

91 Ibid.

92 "212 bodies buried in Ahmedabad graveyards," Press Trust of India, March 6, 2002.

93 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

94 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

95 Human Rights Watch interview, eighteen-year-old male resident of Chartoda Kabristan camp, Ahmedabad, March 23, 2002.

96 Harsh Mander, "Cry, the Beloved Country: Reflections on the Gujarat massacre," South Asia Citizens' Web, March 13, 2002, (accessed April 15, 2002). Harsh Mander spent twenty years in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), and currently heads Action Aid India, a nongovernmental poverty prevention organization.

97 See Human Rights Watch, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables" (New York:
Human Rights Watch, 1999), Chapter IX; and Human Rights Watch, "India: Communal Violence and the Denial of Justice." According to a human rights activist working in the camps, one woman arrived at the Dariyakhan Ghummat camp unconscious and with an iron rod stuck inside her vagina. Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

98 Describing the role of the police during the attack, the witness added: "The SRP [State Reserve Police] beat us. Said they did not have orders (to protect us). An employee of the ST [state transport] depot provided oil and diesel to burn. The phone lines were snapped." Citizens' Initiative, "Sub: Asking for appropriate action."

99 See sections on Naroda Patia and Gulmarg Society.

100 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

101 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

102 Citizens' Initiative, "The Survivors Speak," April 16, 2002.

103 Ibid.

104 Ibid.

105 People's Union Civil Liberties-Vadodara, Shanti Abhiyan, "Women's Perspectives," February 27 - March 26, 2002, (accessed April 13, 2002).

106 "Women Commission indicts Gujarat Govt," Press Trust of India, April 24, 2002.

107 See "Gujarat inching towards normalcy," Times of India, March 6, 2002. See also, "One killed, curfew imposed in Ahmedabad, about 20,000 arrested," Press Trust of India, March 15, 2002; Rupak Sanyal, "Volunteers Bury 186 Unclaimed Bodies of Muslims in Mass Burial," Associated Press, March 6, 2002; Kim Parker, "Common Scars Can't Heal Hatred in India," Chicago Tribune, March 8, 2002; Beth Duff-Brown, "Residents offer shelter from `shameful' riots-Courageous Hindus harbour Muslims as death toll tops 540," Toronto Star, March 5, 2002.

108 Rupak Sanya, "Unrecognizable bodies of Indian children go unclaimed in morgues," Associated Press, March 11, 2002.

109 Citizens' Initiative, "The Survivors Speak."

110 Human Rights Watch interview, Sheikh S., Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

111 Ibid.

112 "4 Killed in Police Firing in Bharuch, Modasa," Times of India. March 22, 2002.

113 Ibid.

114 "Board Exams Continue Amid Tension," Times of India, March 22, 2002.

115 "Police to Help Conduct GU Exams," Times of India, April 8, 2002

116 Vinay Menon, "Muslim School Kids Targeted in Gujarat," Hindustan Times, April 6, 2002.

117 S.N.M. Abdi, "Hindu hoodlums warn school heads to remove Muslims," South China Morning Post, April 9, 2002.

118 Barkha Dutt, "Opinion: Covert Riots And Media," Outlook.

119 Bose, "Ethnic Cleansing in Ahmedabad."

120 Ibid.

121 Harsh Sethi, "Frayed at the Edges," Hindu, March 16, 2002.

122 Human Rights Watch interview, Fatu Bhen , Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

123 Human Rights Watch interview, Jinat A., Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

124 Human Rights Watch interview, Noorjehan, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

125 Ibid.

126 Ibid.

127 Ibid.

128 Human Rights Watch interview (name withheld), Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

129 Human Rights Watch interview, Noorjehan, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

130 Human Rights Watch interview, Rehman Pata, Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

131 Human Rights Watch interview, Sheikh S., Ahmedabad, March 22, 2002.

132 Ibid.

133 Ibid.

134 People's Union Civil Liberties-Vadodara, Shanti Abhiyan, "The Role of Newspapers During the Gujarat Carnage: February 28 - March 24," April 5, 2002, (accessed April 13, 2002).

135 Ibid.

136 Ibid.

137 "Indian State Pledges Safe Return for Haj Victims," Reuters, March 18, 2002.

138 Rupak Sanyal, "Police beat up journalists as Hindu activists disrupt aid meeting," Associated Press, April 8, 2002.

139 Josy Joseph, "AIR staff reprimanded for Godhra report,", March 1, 2002, (accessed April 15, 2002).

140 "Alert-India: Journalists attacked by police in the state of Gujarat," Reporters Sans Frontières, April 10, 2002, (accessed April 15, 2002).

141 Ibid.

142 "Gujarat used as Hindutva laboratory," Asian Age, March 25, 2002.

143 Scott Baldauf, "Indian government struggles to maintain order; Continuing riots test Hindu-led coalition's credibility," Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2002. On March 17 the RSS passed a resolution warning Muslims that their safety lay in the goodwill of the majority. The resolution, titled "Godhra and After," justifies the post-Godhra violence as "natural and spontaneous." Echoing statements made by the chief minister, RSS Joint General Secretary Madan Das Devi, in explaining the resolution, added that, "there will be a reaction to any action." "Hindu goodwill key to Muslims' safety: RSS," Hindustan Times, March 18, 2002.

144 Anjali Mody, "Gujarat report-whitewashing reality?" Hindu, April 5, 2002.

145 Ibid.

146 Shyam Parekh, "Riots probe panel faces credibility crisis," Times News Network, March 11, 2002. Chief Minister Modi has also reportedly requested a list of judges in Gujarat who have a "track record" of giving "anti-government" verdicts. Deepal Trevedie, "Gujarat CM now targets judges," Asian Age, April 7, 2002.

147 State governments in India share a common history of appointing judicial commissions of inquiry to quell public outcries against police excesses during large-scale communal and caste clashes. Although these commissions do serve a political function, their findings, if and when released to the public, are frequently in favor of the state. Those that criticize the state are rarely implemented. See, for example, the BJP government's refusal to adopt the Srikrishna Commission's recommendations on the 1992-1993 Bombay riots in Chapter VI. The report of the commission singled out various state officials for their role in inciting violence against Muslims. See also the history of Tamil Nadu government-appointed commissions of inquiry into attacks against Dalits in Human Rights Watch, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables," Chapter V.

148 Anil Pathak, "Traditional hot-beds of strife remain relatively quiet," Times of India, March 5, 2002.

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page