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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
The violence in Gujarat began in the town of Godhra when two carriages of a train carrying Hindu activists was set on fire on February 27, 2002. Fifty-eight people were killed, many of them women and children. The activists were returning from Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, where they had traveled to support a campaign led by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP) to construct a temple to the Hindu god Ram on the site of a sixteenth century mosque destroyed by Hindu militants in 1992. Hindu-Muslim violence following the destruction of the mosque claimed thousands of lives in Bombay and elsewhere in 1992 and 1993. The VHP claims that the mosque was built on a site that was the birthplace of Ram.3

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
Soon after the Godhra carnage, the national government sent the army to Gujarat. The state government refused to deploy the soldiers until twenty-fours hours after they arrived and only once the worst violence had ended. After allowing thirty-six hours to pass without any serious intervention, the first of several contingents of army troops were sent to Ahmedabad, Rajkot, and Vadodara on March 1. 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.7

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.
      · Senior ministers from Shri Modi's cabinet organised a meeting late in the evening on February 27, in Lunavada village of Sabarkantha district. Shri Ashok Bhatt, the state health minister and minister Prabhat Singh Chauhan from Lunavada attended. At this meeting, a diabolical plan was drawn and disseminated to the top 50 leaders of the BJP/RSS/BD/VHP, on the method and manner in which the 72-hour-long carnage that followed was to be carried out.
      · According to confidential evidence recorded by the Tribunal, these instructions were blatantly disseminated by the government, and in most cases, barring a few sterling exceptions, methodically carried out by the police and the IAS administration. There is no way that the debased levels of violence that were systematically carried out in Gujarat could have been allowed, had the police and district administration, the IPS and the IAS, stood by its constitutional obligation and followed Service Rules to prevent such crimes.16

The Sangh Parivar
Attacks on Muslims in many cases are directly encouraged by Hindu nationalist organizations as part of a concerted campaign to promote and exploit communal tensions to further the BJP's political rule-a movement that is supported at the local level by militant groups that operate with impunity and under the patronage of the state.17 The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS) was founded in the city of Nagpur in 1925 by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar with the mission of creating a Hindu state. Since its founding, it has propagated a militant form of Hindu nationalism, which it promotes as the sole basis for national identity in India. According to the RSS, the leaders of India's nationalist movement and of post-independence India failed to create a nation based on Hindu culture. Western thought and civilization are perceived as enemies of Hindu culture. Religions such as Islam and Christianity are depicted as alien to India; they are seen as the religions of foreign invaders―the Mughals and the British. The RSS wanted "the entire gamut of social life" to be designed "on the rock bed of Hindu nationalism," a goal that inspired the creation of RSS political, social, and educational wings, a family of organizations that, as noted above, is now referred to collectively as the sangh parivar.18

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
The Citizens' Tribunal report also detailed the extent of organization and planning by sangh parivar groups that carried out the attacks. Before the anti-Muslim pogrom, tridents and swords were distributed freely throughout Gujarat and were extensively employed as weapons in the killings. Evidence collected by the Citizens' Tribunal from Ahmedabad, Kheda, Bharuch, Ankleshwar, Panchmahal, Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, and Vadodara, revealed that,

training camps were conducted by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, backed by the RSS and supported by democratically elected representatives from the ruling BJP. The camps were often conducted in temples. The aim was to generate intense hatred against Muslims painted as `the enemy', because of which violence was both glorified through the distribution of trishuls [tridents] and swords, and justified as the legitimate means to self-defence.20

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;
      · issuing identification cards for border area residents, training them in the use of weapons, and issuing them arms licenses;
      · forming Shakti grams or village forces in border areas; and
      · making special efforts to "attract private sector in manufacturing of defence equipments in Gujarat."26

Foreign Funding of Sangh Parivar Activities
The sangh parivar-sponsored militarization of a growing Hindu nationalist cadre enjoys political patronage, outright impunity, and, as evidence increasingly suggests, funding from Indians living abroad. Since the release of "We Have No Orders to Save You," details have emerged identifying sangh parivar outfits in the United States and United Kingdom as major sources of funding for sangh activities in India. A November 2002 report titled The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva, for example, documents the financial ties between the Indian Development and Relief Fund ("IDRF"), a U.S.-based charity, and sangh parivar groups that have been linked to attacks against Muslims and Christians and to forcible conversions of tribals to Hinduism.27 The report is based on analyses of more than 150 pieces of documentary evidence, almost three-quarters of which were published by the RSS and its affiliates. IDRF has rejected the allegations contained in the report and has asserted that it "does not subscribe to any religious, political, or sectarian agendas."28 Many who donate to IDRF and other such groups do so for charitable and humanitarian purposes and likely are unaware of the uses of some of their funding.

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.
      · Fund-raising has become a zealous activity for the RSS and VHP, the latter known as the World Hindu Council abroad. Evidence before us suggests that organisations such as the Hindu Sevak Sangh (HSS), a U.K.-based `charity' and many such fronts in the U.S. collect and contribute large sums of money to these organisations.
      · The VHP finances the Bajrang Dal, which remains an unregistered body, from the money it receives as donations for charitable work.
      · Evidence before the tribunal suggests that the VHP itself has floated several organisations through which it collects funds that are in addition to the contributions it receives from other sources.
      · The most active have been VHP (USA) and VHP (U.K.), both of which are also connected with other "charitable" societies in these countries.29

The U.K. Charities Commission is reportedly under pressure from London-based South Asian organizations to withdraw the charity status of the U.K. unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, which have been accused of diverting charitable donations to fund sectarian violence in India.30 Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department has asked the Justice Department to look into reports suggesting that the India Development Relief Fund is siphoning off funds received from major U.S. companies and individuals to RSS-run institutions with the express purpose of furthering the "Hindutva" agenda.31

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], (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], (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.

24 Ibid.

25 Human Rights Watch interview with Rajeev Singh Pawaar, Lucknow, January 14, 2003.

26 See (retrieved May 29, 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], (retrieved May 29, 2003). The study found that:
less than 20 percent of the funds sent to India by IDRF go to organizations that are not openly non-sectarian and/or affiliated with the Sangh. More than 50 percent of the funds disbursed by the IDRF are sent to Sangh related organizations whose primary work is religious `conversion' and `Hinduization' in poor and remote tribal and rural areas of India. Another sixth is given to Hindu religious organizations for purely religious use. Only about a fifth of the funds go for disaster relief and welfare-most of it because the donors specifically designated it so. However, there is considerable documentation indicating that even the relief and welfare organizations that IDRF funds, use the moneys in a sectarian way. In summary, in excess of 80 percent of IDRF's funding is allocated for work that is clearly sectarian in nature. Ibid., § 1.4.

28 Press Release, India Development and Relief Fund, IDRF Dismisses Hate Campaign Against IDRF Launched by Leftist Groups (Nov. 22, 2002), at

29 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, pp. 70 - 71. For more details see:, sections 9.1-9.21. See also, Rukmini Callimachi, "The scars of nationalism," Daily Herald, May 7, 2003 [online], (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.

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