Independent nongovernmental groups estimate that, as a result of the large-scale destruction of homes, properties, and businesses in Gujarat, the Muslim community has suffered an economic loss totaling Rs. 3,800 crore, or approximately U.S. $760 million.248 The prolonged closure of shops, industries, and commercial establishments in the state has also hurt the economy as a whole rendering thousands of Muslims and Hindus jobless.249 Across Gujarat, over 1,100 Muslim-owned hotels, over 100,000 homes, around 15,000 business establishments, 3,000 handcarts, and over 5,000 vehicles were badly damaged or completely destroyed.250 Discriminatory economic boycotts, ghettoization, and the deliberate targeting of businesses and income-generating mechanisms such as handcarts, taxis, autorickshaws, and trucks, have economically crippled the already pauperized Muslim community of Gujarat. In many places, the Hindu community has also been hard hit. Reports have surfaced of Hindu traders committing suicide out of economic desperation. Their businesses were paralyzed for months after the violence and many have been unable to pay off their loans to banks or loan sharks.251 This chapter looks at the phenomena of ghettoization and boycotts in Gujarat, as well as the long-term psychological and educational impact on Muslim children.
Gagan Sethi of the NGO Janvikas laments that NGOs in Gujarat have become "experts in building ghettos." Together with the NGO Navsarjan, Janvikas has participated in the post-violence construction or repair of over 1,200 homes in Gujarat. Members of the Muslim community and nongovernmental organizations have stepped in where the state has failed, first with the running of relief camps, and now in the reconstruction of homes. Sethi told Human Rights Watch, "First we tried to reconstruct homes where people were already staying. But when they were not willing or even allowed to go back then we had no choice but to build homes in Muslim-dominated neighborhoods." Sethi described a five-month long peace process in Panchmahals district where Janvikas tried unsuccessfully to broker peace between Hindus and Muslims in a violence-torn neighborhood.
An employee of the NGO Navsarjan is overseeing the reconstruction of homes in Sabarkantha and Panchmahals districts. She stated that the government did not provide any support for the reconstruction of homes. The funding came exclusively from NGOs or private donors. Payal confirmed that none of the new homes for Muslims were being built in Hindu areas. She told Human Rights Watch:
Payal added that the people they were helping got some money from the government "but not enough to get them back on their feet. They received anywhere from Rs. 2,500 to 15,000 [U.S.$53 to $319] for damages to their homes but that is so little compared to what they lost."257
Discriminatory Economic Boycotts
According to a February 2003 report in the Bombay-based periodical Communalism Combat, a year after the beginning of the violence, economic and social boycotts were still widespread in ten out of Gujarat's twenty-four districts:
Many Muslims remain unable to farm their fields, sell their wares, return to their businesses, operate commercial vehicles, or retain their jobs, including in the public sector.260 Janvikas director Gagan Sethi explained the relevance of the illicit liquor trade in Gujarat-a dry state-to the violence, and the rationale behind the economic boycotts:
Shah-e-Alam camp resident R. Bibi told Human Rights Watch that like many others, her two sons were having a hard time finding work because of their Muslim names:
Afsara's family members were also finding it impossible to earn a living:
The Effect on Children's Education and Identity
Muslim parents are afraid to send their children back to their old schools. According to Martin Macwan, head of the NGO Navsarjan, "Muslim children are not going back to their old schools largely because of insecurity. Children don't feel safe in schools with no Muslim population. The opposite is also true. In Juhapura, Ahmedabad, a majority Muslim area, there are no Hindu students."268 R. Bibi told Human Rights Watch:
As reported in "We Have No Orders to Save You," children's education certificates were destroyed together with other personal belongings when their homes were looted or set on fire. The government did little to replace these certificates or facilitate the resumption of Muslim children's education following the violence. Under financial constraint, many children have dropped out all together to become child laborers.270 The education of girls, already of low priority, is being given even less importance in dire financial times.271
Soon after the violence, principals of English-medium schools in Gujarat were threatened with violence by VHP members if they did not expel Muslim students from their institutions. According to one report, parents were told by school officials to remove their children from these schools on the grounds that their safety could not be guaranteed.272 These tactics are helping to ensure that Muslim children are increasingly confined to madrasas, or Muslim-run religious schools, where education is imparted in Hindi or Urdu-limiting severely the students' career prospects273 and effectively requiring them to have a religious rather than secular education. Simultaneously, sangh parivar-run schools throughout Gujarat and other parts of India continue to impress upon Hindu children a message of religious intolerance.274 The end result could be toxic to relations between communities for generations to come.
In addition to the enormous impact on their health, education, and psychological well-being, children in relief camps also struggled with issues of identity. According to one study:
Dr. Satchit Balsari, a research associate at the Program on Humanitarian Crises at the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard University, made repeated visits to Gujarat between August and October 2002 to assess the mental health and education status of children affected by the violence. Balsari met with over one hundred children in relief camps in Ahmedabad and Panchmahals district. A child psychologist from Delhi accompanied Balsari during his visits to Gujarat. Together they worked with children and facilitated the expression of their emotions through art. Invariably the children's drawings were replete with images of bombs, guns, swords, burning homes and mosques, and mutilated bodies.276
Balsari told Human Rights Watch: "The children were deeply traumatized. Their notions of identity of self and others were very warped. Their understanding of the protective role of the state was also permanently altered." When Balsari asked Muslim children who they thought was responsible for what had happened to their lives they responded, "the Hindus did this. The Hindus are those that grow up to be Bajrang Dalis277 or police officers and kill Muslims." Balsari added:
Balsari also spoke to several Hindu children and found that their understanding of the events that had transpired was very much dictated by what they were told in their homes, their school, or what they heard on the street: "The children in the majority community thought that a majority of those in relief camps were Hindus when the opposite was true. A few even cited Godhra to justify the so-called backlash adding that Muslims should `go to Pakistan.'" Balsari echoed the fears of many activists in Gujarat about the deep communal divide that had permeated all levels of Gujarati civil society. "A secular voice isn't reaching the children of either community. The religious space has been taken over by extremists and fundamentalists on both sides while sane voices are reluctant to engage in the religious sphere. The polarization between the two communities is so strong, which will only contribute to continuing cycles of violence."279 He then cautioned, "Muslim children are now vulnerable to extremists in their community because they have lost so much and have been so pushed against the wall that they have very little to lose."280
247 Human Rights Watch interview with Sheba George, head of the NGO SAHR WARU, Ahmedabad, January 3, 2003.
248 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 44.
249 For a more detailed account of the economic devastation caused by the violence in multiple industries see: "Economic Destruction" in Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II.
250 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 27.
251 Rasheeda Bhagat, "The great divide in Gujarat," Business Line (The Hindu), December 11, 2002.
252 The term ghettoization is defined here to encompass economic and other circumstances that result in the impoverishment and segregation of members of a minority group from the larger community.
253 The 27th is significant as the date of the attack on Hindus in Godhra, which took place on February 27, 2002.
254 Members of the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the VHP.
255 Human Rights Watch interview with Gagan Sethi, Ahmedabad, January 5, 2003.
256 Human Rights Watch interview with Navsarjan employee (name withheld) Ahmedabad, January 3, 2003
258 The full text of the pamphlet can be found at http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/india/India0402-10.htm (retrieved June 1, 2003).
259 Setalvad, "Gujarat-One year later."
260 International Initiative for Justice in Gujarat, "An Interim Report," p. 4.
261 Abdul Latif was a mafia leader in Ahmedabad who controlled the illicit liquor trade in the eighties and won several municipal elections as an independent. "When pride is prejudice," Indian Express, June 4, 2002.
262 For more on the recruitment of Dalits by the sangh parivar, see Chapter XI.
263 Human Rights Watch interview with Gagan Sethi, Ahmedabad, January 5, 2003.
264 Human Rights Watch interview with R. Bibi, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003.
265 Human Rights Watch interview with Afsara, Ahmedabad, January 5, 2003.
266 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 39
267 For more on the children's mental health concerns, see Medico Friend Circle, "Carnage in Gujarat: A Public Health Crisis," May 13, 2002, pp. 18 -21.
268 Human Rights Watch interview with Martin Macwan, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003.
269 Human Rights Watch interview with R. Bibi, Ahmedabad, January 2, 2003.
270 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Satchit Balsari, Boston, May 15, 2003.
271 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 67.
272 Human Rights Watch, "We Have No Orders to Save You," p. 31.
273 S.N.M. Abdi, "Hindu hoodlums warn school heads to remove Muslims," South China Morning Post, April 9, 2002.
274 See Smita Narula, "Overlooked Danger: The Security and Rights Implications of Hindu Nationalism in India," Harvard Human Rights Journal, vol. 16, Spring 2003.
275 HIC, YUVA, Rebuilding from the Ruins, p. 63.
276 See for example, http://childreningujarat.tripod.com/expressions.htm (retrieved June 1, 2003)
277 Members of the Bajrang Dal, the militant youth wing of the VHP.
278 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Dr. Satchit Balsari, Boston, May 15, 2003.