This chapter provides a brief overview of the February-March 2002 violence in Gujarat, the role of the sangh parivar, and the complicity of the Gujarat state government. While much of this information is taken from Human Rights Watch's previous report, "We Have No Orders to Save You," this chapter also summarizes additional evidence that has emerged in the intervening months, including evidence of state complicity and the foreign funding of sangh parivar activities.
Overview of the Violence
By the evening of February 27, retaliatory attacks against Muslims had begun, including in Rajkot, Vadodara, and Bharuch. Starting on the morning of February 28, Hindu mobs unleashed a coordinated attack against Muslims in many of Gujarat's towns and cities.4 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. In a matter of days more than 2,000 people were killed, an overwhelming majority of them Muslim. The violence quickly spread to poorly protected rural areas, fanned by hate campaigns and economic boycotts against Muslims. Accounts of politicians directing the violence were commonplace.
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, hundreds of Muslim girls and women were brutally raped and mutilated in Gujarat before being killed.5 Widespread looting and burning of homes accompanied the brutal killing and sexual violence. Attackers destroyed dargahs, traditional meeting grounds for Hindus and Muslims, and razed mosques. In some cases makeshift Hindu temples were erected in their place, and saffron flags, the signature emblem of Hindu nationalist groups, were dug deep into mosque domes. Roughly twenty mosques were destroyed in Ahmedabad alone. Even historical monuments were not spared.6
State Complicity in the Attacks
In Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital and the site of Human Rights Watch's investigations in March 2002, 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 business, and hotels. 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 2002.8
Attacks throughout Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, 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; those concentrated in Muslim enclaves 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.9
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. Armed with swords, trishuls (small, sharp tridents associated with Hindu mythology), sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders, they shouted slogans of incitement to kill. Guided by voter lists and computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties, information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation among other sources months earlier, the attackers embarked on a murderous rampage.10
In many cases, the police led the charge, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way of the mobs. The state offered 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"-none sufficient to explain their participation. 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 ranged from inaction to direct participation in the looting and burning of Muslim shops, restaurants, hotels, and homes, and the killing of Muslim residents. In many instances, the police also fired upon Muslim youth, crushing any organized self-defense against the mobs.11 A key state minister was 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.12
The Gujarat government, and in particular its chief minister, responded to severe criticism 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."13 "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.14
Since the release of Human Rights Watch's previous report, much more evidence has emerged detailing the extent of state participation and of the sangh parivar's execution and planning of the violence against Muslims. The following section offers a partial accounting of that evidence as documented in the two-volume report of the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal - Gujarat 2002 [hereinafter Citizens' Tribunal] titled Crime Against Humanity.15
The following are excerpts from the report:
· On the evening of February 27, after visiting Godhra, Shri Modi announced that there would be a state bandh [shutdown] the next day. This was after the VHP and BD had already given the bandh call. Thereafter, the chief minister called a meeting of senior police officers. At this meeting, specific instructions were given by him in the presence of cabinet colleagues, on how the police should deal with the situation on the bandh day. The next day, i.e., on the day of the bandh, there was absolutely no police bandobast [cordoning arrangement]. The state and city (Ahmedabad) police control rooms were taken over by two ministers, i.e., Shri Ashok Bhatt and Shri Jadeja. Repeated pleas for help from people were blatantly turned down.
The Sangh Parivar
The VHP was formed in 1964 to cover the social aspects of RSS activities. The VHP organizes and communicates the RSS message to Hindus living outside India and holds conferences for Hindu religious leaders from all over the country. The most publicized of the VHP's activities was its Ram temple campaign in Ayodhya (see above). The VHP has also organized programs to reconvert those who have converted from Hinduism to other faiths. The Bajrang Dal is the militant youth wing of the VHP. It was formed in 1984 during the Babri Masjid conflict, in order to mobilize youth for the Ram temple campaign. The Jana Sangh Party was formed in 1951 as the political wing of the RSS, and later replaced by the BJP in 1980. The BJP heads India's coalition government. Gujarat, one of few Indian states led by the BJP, has earned the dubious reputation of being a laboratory for the Hindutva agenda. Since the BJP first assumed power in Gujarat in 1995, it has stacked the government's inner ranks with VHP and RSS members and others that shared and would actively promote sangh parivar policies and programs.19
Distribution of Weapons and Training by the Sangh Parivar
Shakhas or training camps have long been operational in Gujarat and have experienced increased enrollment since the events of February and March 2002.21 Trishul diksha or trident distribution programs were introduced in Gujarat fourteen years ago. According to VHP statistics, more than 280,000 youth have been given "this indoctrination" in Gujarat, the highest recorded number in the country.22 In April 2003 alone, tridents were distributed to more than 3,000 youth in the border districts of Kutch, Banaskantha, Panchmahals, Surat, Kheda, Mehsana, and Gandhinagar. VHP Gujarat's general secretary Kaushik Mehta told the Times of India that trident distribution does not violate the Arms Act as tridents are less than six inches in size and therefore cannot be classified as weapons.23
When coupled with reports of ongoing violence, and a rise in attacks against Christians, tribals, and Dalits in Gujarat (see Chapter XI), the mushrooming of shakhas and the distribution of weapons is cause for great concern for the future security of minorities in Gujarat. The expansion of trishul dikshas to other parts of the country must also be addressed. As the controversy over trishul diksha in Rajasthan rages on (see Chapter XI), the Gujarat unit of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal declared that such programs would continue in the state, adding that Gujarat was actively supplying trishuls to neighboring Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.24
In January 2003, Human Rights Watch interviewed Rajeev Singh Pawaar, security head for the Bajrang Dal in Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh. He told Human Rights Watch: "Fifty-eight people were killed in Godhra. Everyone knows this. If this kind of thing happens in Gujarat we will again do the same thing, here also and we are planning for it.... If in any part of the nation Godhra is repeated we will react in the same manner. To end Islamic terrorism is our main priority. This is why we train in the use of trishuls."25
Instead of cracking down on the arming of civilian populations, the Gujarat state BJP government has included the distribution of arms as part of its manifesto under a section on security. Proposed "security" measures outlined in the manifesto include:
· training youth to counter terrorism;
Foreign Funding of Sangh Parivar Activities
The Citizens' Tribunal report states:
· The Tribunal recorded evidence of the vast amounts of money at the sangh parivar's disposal, to lure cadres, pay for advertisements in the mass media, print hate literature, hold arms training camps, distribute trishuls in lakhs for free and even employ fully paid cadres.
3 See Human Rights Watch, "India: Communal Violence and the Denial of Justice," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 8, no. 2, April 1996 [online], http://www.hrw.org/reports/1996/India1.htm (retrieved May 22, 2003).
4 Muslims make up about 10 percent of Gujarat's fifty million-strong population.
5 See Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You": State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2002), pp. 16-18, 27-29; 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."
6 See Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," pp. 31-33.
7 Rahul Bedi, "Soldiers `held back to allow Hindus revenge,'" Telegraph, March 4, 2002.
8 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," p. 22.
9 Anosh Malekar, "Silence of the Lambs," The Week, April 7, 2002.
10 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," p. 22.
11 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," p. 24.
12 Praveen Swami, "Saffron Terror," Frontline, March 16 - 29, 2002.
13 "Gujarat used as Hindutva laboratory," Asian Age, March 25, 2002.
14 Scott Baldauf, "Indian government struggles to maintain order; Continuing riots test Hindu-led coalition's credibility," Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2002.
15 The eight-member tribunal was comprised of eminent members of Indian society, and included: Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, retired Supreme Court judge; Justice P.B. Sawant, retired Supreme Court judge; Justice Hosbet Suresh, retired Mumbai High Court judge; Advocate K.G. Kannabiran, the president of the People's Union for Civil Liberties; Aruna Roy of the NGO Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan; Dr. K.S. Subramanian, former Director General of Police, Tripura; and Professors Ghanshyam Shah and Tanika Sarkar of Jawaharlal Nehru University. The Tribunal collected 2,094 oral and written testimonies from victims, independent human rights groups, women's groups, NGOs, and academics. The Tribunal also met with numerous senior government officials and police officers. Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. I (Mumbai: Citizens for Justice and Peace, 2002), pp. 9 - 10 [hereinafter Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. I].
16 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II (Mumbai: Citizens for Justice and Peace, 2002), p. 18 [hereinafter Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II].
17 For more on the sangh parivar, see Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," pp. 39-40.
18 Ibid.; Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, "Sangh's March," in Widening Horizons [online], http://www.rss.org/library/books/wideninghorizons/ch9.html (retrieved September 1999).
19 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," pp. 41-43.
20 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 25 (emphasis in original). The Concerned Citizens' Tribunal report continues: "Six months before the carnage, the tempo of communal mobilisation had increased in a number of villages, with the launch of the shilapujan connected to the building of the Ram temple in Ayodhya. `Trishul diksha' programmes, in which trishuls were distributed at large gatherings, were also organised in a number of areas during the same period. Pranti (Sabarkantha), Sanjeli, Pandharwada and villages from all over Khanpur taluka (Panchmahal) reported such meetings. These meetings were only held in villages where there were Muslims and where openly threatening the latter appeared to be one of the main objectives of the assembly." Ibid., p. 36. A shilapujan is a ceremony for the consecration of foundation stones for temple building.
21 Anil Pathak, "RSS Shakhas Poised to Swell in State," Times of India, May 29, 2002. For more on the recuitment, methodology, and funding of the camps, see Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, pp. 55-59.
22 "`Trishul diksha' to continue in Gujarat - VHP," Times of India, April 23, 2002.
23 Ibid. The Indian Arms Act proscribes weapons with a sharp blade greater than 10.5 cm or six inches in length.
25 Human Rights Watch interview with Rajeev Singh Pawaar, Lucknow, January 14, 2003.
27 Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt. Ltd. & The South Asia Citizens Web, The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva (2002) [online], http://www.mnet.fr/aiindex/2002/FEH/ (retrieved May 29, 2003). The study found that:
28 Press Release, India Development and Relief Fund, IDRF Dismisses Hate Campaign Against IDRF Launched by Leftist Groups (Nov. 22, 2002), at http://www.idrf.org/pressrelease112202.html.
29 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, pp. 70 - 71. For more details see: http://www.sabrang.com/tribunal/vol2/prepvio.html, sections 9.1-9.21. See also, Rukmini Callimachi, "The scars of nationalism," Daily Herald, May 7, 2003 [online], http://www.dailyherald.com/special/passagefromindia/hindu.asp (retrieved May 18, 2003); and Kalpana Wilson, "Foreign direct investment in hatred," The Hindu, March 23, 2003.
30 Hasan Suroor, "Pressure to withdraw charity status of RSS, HSS in U.K.," The Hindu, March 5, 2003.
31 Seema Mustafa, "U.S., U.K. to probe Parivar funding," Asian Age, February 25, 2003; David Bank, "Matching-Gift Practices Face Scrutiny Amid Worries About Who Gets Money," Asian Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2003.