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The landslide victory of the BJP in the December 2002 state assembly elections in Gujarat testified to the effective manipulation of communal violence as a political strategy. The party secured the greatest number of seats in areas most affected by the 2002 violence. The election results also helped ensure impunity from prosecution for those who orchestrated the attacks. This chapter explores the relationship between communal violence and electoral politics in Gujarat, and in other states that go to the polls in 2003. It also documents the sangh parivar's targeting of Christians, Dalits, and tribals in Gujarat; attacks that are in part aimed at curbing the conversion of Dalits and tribals to Christianity and weakening the traditional voter base of the opposition Congress party. For years Dalits and tribals have also been recruited by the sangh parivar to act as footsoldiers in anti-Muslim violence. They are now being scapegoated in police arrests and combing operations while those that orchestrated the violence roam free. The end of the chapter revisits the Ram temple campaign, the synthesizing feature of the sangh parivar's anti-Muslim program.

The BJP Victory in Gujarat State Elections
The BJP first assumed power at the state level in Gujarat in 1995. Following its second electoral win in 1998, the BJP suffered a series of defeats in local elections. In panchayat (village council), taluka (sub-district), and district elections in 2000, two-thirds of the areas were won by the opposition Congress(I) party. In September 2001 the BJP again lost to Congress in by-elections for two assembly seats. Shortly thereafter, Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was replaced by Narendra Modi in a bid to reverse the party's losses.281 Modi's appointment was seen as a huge victory for the RSS. He had served as BJP general-secretary for the six years before taking the post, and is also an RSS pracharak (volunteer), the first-ever to become chief minister. Pracharaks function as full-time publicists or propagandists for the RSS, "spreading the message of Hindu fundamentalism."282

In state by-elections on February 21, 2002 the BJP lost by a large margin in two out of three assembly seats previously held by it. Six days later, the state was engulfed in violence. On April 12, the BJP proposed early elections in Gujarat shortly after rejecting Chief Minister Narendra Modi's offer to resign. National political parties were pressing to remove Modi, leading the BJP to temporarily set aside the early election option. At the end of April, the upper and lower houses of the Indian parliament held parliamentary debates on the violence in Gujarat while opposition parties called for a vote to censure the BJP-led national government for failing to ensure the security of Muslims following the Godhra attack. The motion was defeated by nearly 100 votes.283

On July 19, 2002, in what was seen as a bid to force early elections in the state, Chief Minister Modi resigned from office and recommended dissolution of the state assembly eight months ahead of schedule. During an emergency cabinet meeting held that evening, a resolution to dissolve the assembly was adopted.284 Many believed that a push for early elections was engineered to help sweep the BJP, and by extension Narendra Modi, back into power on a rising sentiment of Hindu nationalism. India's Election Commission, however, prohibited such a move, noting that Gujarat was still devastated by the communal violence, and set December 12, 2002 as the election date.285

In the December election, BJP candidates won 125 out of 182 seats in the state legislature, an increase of eight seats from the 1998 elections in the state. The Congress party came in a distant second with 51 seats.286 The BJP's significant gains in central Gujarat-that is, areas most affected by the violence-helped the party overcome losses in all other regions of the state where soaring unemployment rates, water shortages, and retarded economic growth played a critical role. In violence-hit Ahmedabad district, for example, the party won seventeen out of nineteen seats.287 Overall, the BJP secured fifty-three out of sixty-five seats from the regions most affected.288 One dozen BJP candidates went as far as blaming their losses on lack of violence in their districts.289

The campaign rhetoric of both the BJP and Congress(I) party stood in possible violation of India's Representation of the People Act, 1951 that prohibits the use of religion or religious symbols to promote one's candidacy or to adversely affect the election of another candidate. Throughout the campaign, BJP candidates and their sangh parivar allies invoked the memory of Hindus killed in the Godhra massacre and the attack on Hindus at Akshardham, while positioning themselves as protectors against the threat of Islamic terrorism. 290 Posters and videotapes of the Godhra massacre were disseminated freely. An election poster in Godhra featuring Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf suggested that a vote against Modi was tantamount to a vote for terrorism.291 Immediately after the poll dates were announced the BJP produced a set of four CDs meant to "enlighten people." Among them was a CD titled "Trial by Fire," which evocatively showed images of the Godhra train on fire. Superimposed on these images were slides saying: "Godhra, Feb 27, 7.43 over 1,000-strong mob of rioters with no without souls descended upon Sabarmati Express at Godhra station...58 mute more eloquent testimony to the evil that resides in man."292

In his last campaign speech, Modi reportedly told his audience: "You decide whether there should be a Diwali [Hindu holiday] in Gujarat or whether firecrackers should burst in Pakistan... when you all go vote this time, if you press your finger on the hand symbol [the symbol of the Congress(I) party] you will hear the screams of Godhra!"... I'll teach a lesson to the merchants of death."293 On election day, a BJP advertisement in the Gujarati media read: "Pay your homage to the Godhra martyrs. Cast your vote."294

Meanwhile, the VHP worked behind the scenes to rouse anti-Muslim sentiment and ensure the BJP's electoral success.295 While the BJP's hands were somewhat tied by threat of censure by the Election Commission, VHP members were free to campaign on the BJP's behalf without restraint. On December 9, for example, VHP leader Shivanand Maharaj compared the Muslims killed to "garbage" while campaigning for the BJP's Godhra candidate, former state unit Bajrang Dal president Haresh Bhatt.296 "What if some of them [Muslims] are killed?" Maharaj asked. Rally after rally, VHP leaders proclaimed that, "only those who work for the Hindu faith will be allowed to rule this country."297

For its part, the Congress(I) party campaigned on what has been termed a "soft Hindutva" platform.298 According to a report in Frontline: "In some areas, Congress (I) candidates adopted flagrantly communal positions on Godhra, and the party did not take a firm stand on the riot victims' demand for justice. Little effort was made to purge the party of the many Ahmedabad Congress(I) elements who participated in the post-Godhra pogrom."299 Nonetheless, the party won the Muslim vote.

Two days before the election, the Imam (a Muslim cleric) of the Ahmedabad Jama Masjid (mosque) in Ahmedabad made an appeal in a local newspaper widely circulated among Muslims to vote only for Congress. The appeal was reprinted in leading Gujarati newspapers by the VHP asking Hindus to "retaliate against the fatwa" with 100 percent voting. The Muslim cleric faced angry protests from members of his own community who faulted the VHP's manipulation of his appeal for galvanizing Hindus to come out in droves and cast their vote for the BJP.300

Criminal cases against elected officials
In Gomptipur, former municipal corporator Jitendra Vaghela was arrested for rioting and murder, spent several days in jail, and was released on bail. Vaghela was then elected as the BJP MLA from Sherkotda town. His constituency includes the Gomptipur police station area where a case against him had been filed.301 In all, a total of thirty-six winning candidates from the state assembly elections have criminal cases against them, of which twenty-eight belong to the BJP. Of the remaining candidates, six belong to Congress(I) while two belong to Janta Dal (U). BJP MLA Purushottam Solanki from Ghogha, for example, was implicated in the Bombay riots of 1992-1993 in which thousands were killed following the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. He also has fifteen cases of murder and dacoity against him. BJP MLA Jetha Bharwad from Gondal was booked for rape, "bogus voting" and "booth capturing." He also served a jailterm.302

BJP MLA from Naroda, Maya Kodnani, and VHP Gujarat state General Secretary Jaideep Patel are among those accused of leading the mobs in the attack on Naroda Patia, Ahmedabad. Each have numerous FIRs registered against them.303 In the 1998 elections Kodnani secured victory by a margin of 7,000 votes. In 2002, she won by a margin of 60,000.304

Post-election violence in Gujarat
In "We Have No Orders to Save You," Human Rights Watch reported extensively on what in retrospect was the first phase of violence in Gujarat: the burning of the train in Godhra on February 27, 2002 in which 58 Hindus were killed and the organized massacre of Muslims throughout the state in the days that followed. Twenty-six major towns and talukas (sub-districts) in Gujarat were affected in the first week of violence. In the months that followed, and to date, incidents continue to be reported from districts throughout Gujarat.305

Immediately following the elections, a Muslim was killed and more than thirty-two Muslim shops were burnt in Baroda city. Later in the month thirty-four Muslims in Pavagadh town said they were attacked by mobs. On January 1, 2003, approximately forty Muslim shops were burnt in the predominantly Hindu town of Lunawada, eighty miles south of Ahmedabad in Panchmahals district. According to eyewitnesses, the police looked on as the shops burned down.306 Earlier in the day, a Muslim rickshaw driver was beaten up and his vehicle was torched by Hindus. Aggressive police raids on Muslim neighborhoods often followed these incidents, while complaints registered by Muslims went unheeded. At least forty-five Muslims were arrested during raids in Lunawada, for example. The Hindu perpetrators were left untouched. According to Muslim residents, the police also looted Muslim shops during the raid. Police have denied the charges. In June 2002, the Gujarat High Court passed an order stating that those making complaints had to produce a witness to identify the culprits. Fearing for their own security, and potential criminal charges, witnesses have been hard to come by. Police claim to simply be following the high court order.307

Small incidents are also liable to turn to into large-scale episodes of communal violence. At least fifteen people were wounded in Ahmedabad in sporadic clashes between Hindus and Muslims during a kite flying festival on January 16, 2003.308 On January 30, 2003, in Sevaliya Village, Kheda district, an argument between students at C.P. Patel high school ended in the burning of Muslims shops and stalls.309 On February 1, 2003, three people were injured following a Hindu-Muslim altercation at a barbershop. Eight hawker stalls were torched in the Muslim-dominated Jamalpur area of Ahmedabad.310 On March 20 in Gorakhpur district, three people, including a Muslim cleric, were killed and scores were injured during celebrations for Holi, a Hindu festival.311 And the list goes on.

The Targeting of Christians in Gujarat
In 1999 Human Rights Watch released a report titled "Politics By Other Means: Attacks Against Christians in India" that documented a sharp rise in violence against India's Christian leadership and its institutions by sangh parivar members in numerous Indian states since the BJP came to power nationally in 1998.312 Many of the incidents took place in the tribal-dominated Dangs district in southeastern Gujarat, site of a ten-day spate of violence and premeditated attacks on Christian communities and institutions between December 25, 1998, and January 3, 1999. Churches and prayer halls were damaged, attacked, or burned down in at least twenty-five villages in the state. Scores of individuals were physically assaulted, and in some cases tied up, beaten, and robbed of their belongings while angry mobs invaded and damaged their homes. Thousands of Christian tribal community members in the region were also forced to undergo conversions to Hinduism. Pamphlets containing anti-Christian propaganda were in wide circulation preceding the attacks.313 Christian institutions were also targeted by sangh parivar during the violence against Muslims in March 2002.314 Since the violence, Christians in Gujarat are once again coming under legislative, administrative, and physical assault. Like attacks against Muslims, attacks against Christians also serve to synthesize and promote the Hindutva message.

Anti-conversion legislation
On October 31, 2002, the controversial Prohibition of Forcible Conversion of Religion Bill was passed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.315 The new law attracted widespread criticism. Among other things, it makes it more difficult for poor people and others ostracized under the caste system to convert from Hinduism to another religion.316 Ordered by the AIADMK-ruling government of Chief Minister Jayalalitha Jayaram, the bill found support with the federal government, led by the BJP. On April 9, 2003, Gujarat Governor Sunder Singh Bhandari signed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill.317 The bill was modeled on the Tamil Nadu bill.318 The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill is unprecedented in that conversion is lawful only if prior permission is obtained from the district magistrate.319

The Freedom of Religion Bill has come under attack by legal experts in the state who believe that some provisions of the bill are unconstitutional.320 India's National Commission for Minorities has stated that the prior permission requirement stands in direct violation of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees "freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion" to every citizen.321 Supporters of the bill say that it will protect lower-caste Hindu communities, who they see as vulnerable to conversion by Christians,322 adding that Christianity is a "foreign" religion and that Christians are trying to undermine India's Hindu culture. Christians make up 0.5 percent of Gujarat's total population, while Hindus make up 85 percent.323

Government-sponsored surveys of Christians
Prior to the bill's passing, the BJP-led state government ordered a number of surveys by police officials to obtain detailed information on Christians in Gujarat.324 A similar government-sponsored survey of the activities of Christian missionaries in the state preceded the destruction of churches and other Christian institutions in December 1998 and January 1999 (see above).325 Between February 2002 and this writing, three additional surveys had taken place. Christians were asked how they came to adopt their faith-by conversion, through marriage, or by birth. Their addresses were also noted.326 The surveys have alarmed many residents because, prior to the massacre of Muslims in the state, similar surveys were conducted to assess Muslims' whereabouts. The lists were then used to pinpoint Muslim targets.327

The government of Gujarat initially denied that any surveys were taking place, then reluctantly admitted that they were but insisted that they were not surveys but "routine inquiries"328 taking place at the "local level" in response to a parliamentary query about the anti-conversion bill.329 The surveys have also been criticized as discriminatory in their targeting of a specific religious group.330 According to Cedric Prakash, spokesperson for the Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights, the Gujarat police have visited Christian institutions and families all over the state, sometimes in the middle of the night and often without any form of authorization. When questioned about the purpose and source of their inquiries, the police have been unable to provide an answer.331

Renewed attacks against Christians
Following the communal violence against Muslims in the state in 2002, Christian community members in Gujarat fear that the information obtained in the surveys will facilitate further attacks. 332 In fact, Gujarat has already experienced a resurgence in the targeting of Christians. In October 2002, for example, Christians living in Dangs district were told by sangh parivar members that they should "give up luring tribals," as they put it, warning them to take the warning seriously, or "experience another spell of riots, this time targeting foreign-funded Christians."333

On April 11, 2003 members of the VHP attacked a healthcare center in Limbdi village, Gujarat. The attack took place on the opening day of the dispensary. VHP members were reportedly upset because the dispensary had been funded by a U.S.-based Christian organization through its India chapter. The attackers ransacked the building, tore down the boards that listed the names of the Christian donors, and wrote pro-Hindu slogans on the doors in red paint.334

The Recruitment and Targeting of Dalits and Tribals
A surprising feature of the violence in Gujarat in 2002 was the mobilization of Dalits, tribals, women, and the urban middle class in attacks against Muslims. Many Dalits, tribals, and Hindus also acted heroically to protect their Muslim neighbors during the violence.335 The focus of this section is on the simultaneous recruitment and targeting of Dalits and tribals by the sangh parivar.336 Much like attacks against Christians in Gujarat and other parts of the country, the recruitment and targeting of Dalits and tribals is aimed in part at consolidating the Hindu vote bank and encouraging voters to defect from the opposition Congress(I) party. Many Dalits and tribals were actively involved in the violence against Muslims. While Dalits were deployed in urban centers, towns and villages, far-flung districts saw tribals taking part in the anti-Muslim pogrom.337 Dalit and tribal participation in the violence has also made them the scapegoat in police arrests while those that orchestrated the violence roam free.

The Sangh Parivar's recruitment of Dalits and tribals
The sangh parivar has actively campaigned to break the Dalit-Muslim nexus in Gujarat-a nexus forged over the years by their common placement at the bottom of the class ladder, their similar non-vegetarian eating habits, their adjoining neighborhoods, and their common occupation as factory workers in the now defunct mills of Ahmedabad. According to an article in the Hindustan Times, an English daily,

In many areas, Hindutva forces have cashed in on poverty. Inroads have been made over years into Dalit constituencies hit by textile mill layoffs. Through meticulous campaigns, Muslims have been identified as the `other' who have taken away Dalit jobs; and frustration has been channelised into hatred against the community. In Sabarkantha, the VHP front Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad has distributed food and fodder to tribals during two years of drought, earning a lot of goodwill.... Yet, the anti-Muslim alliance between Dalits and tribals and the champions of Hindutva is not a pan-Gujarat phenomenon. In areas where Sangh Parivar outfits are weak, the OBC, Thakores and Dalits provided safe passage to Muslims.338

For over a decade, Dalits and tribals in the state have also been mobilized to participate in the Ram temple campaign.339 The mobilization, which included the distribution of weapons, began ahead of the violence that followed the Rath Yatra led by L.K. Advani (now Deputy Prime Minister of India) in 1990.340 An article in the newsmagazine Frontline elaborates on the sangh parivar's recruitment of Dalits:

The BJP attracts Dalit youth... by giving them opportunities to flex their muscles in their neighbourhoods. But the BJP government has done nothing to create employment for them. Hiren [a Dalit] is from Ahmedabad's old textile mill area, Gomtipur, where more than a lakh [100,000] workers, including his father, lost their jobs when the mills closed down. But instead of new jobs, the BJP only has Hindutva to offer. For several Dalits, it is a way to gain social acceptance with the upper castes. Even as the economic recession in the State worsens, growing numbers of urban unemployed youth are recruited into the Sangh Parivar. The lumpenisation of this section is complete. The Sangh's fascist ideas also appeal to a large section of the aspiring lower middle class. Several Sangh workers are also teachers, a fact that enables the widespread infusion of the Sangh's propaganda and ideology among students. The fact that Gujarat is the most urbanised State in the country, with a 38 percent urban population, has made the spread of communalism relatively easy.341

As explained to Human Rights Watch by P. Parmar, a Dalit social worker, who has worked to promote Dalit human rights in Gujarat for several years:

During the violence there was a lot of tension between the two communities [Dalits and Muslims]. In the past, Dalits and Muslims used to live together and work together because of the mills. After the mills were shut down, everything went to pot, and the BJP took full advantage of it by rounding up the Dalit boys who were unemployed and who were drinking and gambling. And then they started a business-they would give Rs. 10,000 [U.S.$213] to somebody for killing a Muslim, they would give Rs. 5,000 [U.S.$106] for breaking arms and legs, they would give Rs. 2,000 [U.S.$43] for burning somebody's home. That was the kind of business they were running.342

P. Parmar's own relative was recruited in the attacks. She continued:

My relative's son was involved in the massacre at Naroda Patia. He's unemployed and he doesn't have any work. He has two children, but he has no work, so he has to fill four stomachs, and he was quite concerned. He kept looking for work, but that possibility doesn't exist right now, except for manual labor. So when the riots took place, he was involved in them as well, during the attacks. He was telling us that he killed a woman and he killed a man, and they died right there. Their child was falling at his feet saying, "Uncle, please spare me, please spare me, please don't kill me." He told us, "I didn't even have mercy on him. At first I thought I should leave him, and then I thought no, he's a Muslim, and our kar sevaks were killed." And of course he had also been drinking and the VHP person had also given him money. There was nobody else around. He then said, "My heart was saying, spare the child, but I didn't end up doing it and I killed the child as well." Now he says, "I can't sleep, and whenever I sleep I just see the vision of that boy, saying, `Uncle, please spare me, please spare me.'" So he can't sleep anymore.

For an economically and psychologically decimated population, membership in the sangh parivar offers an opportunity to climb out of impoverishment while finally being "accepted" into the Hindu fold. P. Parmar continued:

The whole Dalit youth, whose minds are already awash, who were alcoholized and in a stupor, and who were gambling, all of them joined this business. At the same time, they wanted to go to war for Hindutva, because for the first time they were being treated like Hindus instead of Dalits. And they started thinking that it's better to be Hindus than to be Dalits. So it was part of the war philosophy and also because of money. So the BJP and the Bajrang Dal and the RSS used the Dalits completely. They used them really well.343

Over the past few years, the Bajrang Dal has actively recruited unemployed Dalits in the state, offering them salaries of Rs. 3,000 to Rs. 5,000 (U.S.$64 to $106) per month, and enlisting them in camps that specialize in indoctrination against Muslims and arms training.344 The VHP has distributed weapons to Dalits and tribals throughout the state. Ahead of the violence, Dalits were plied with alcohol and money and insignificant positions within the RSS, VHP, or Bajrang Dal shakhas to become the new "footsoldiers" in anti-Muslim violence. They were then assured full state protection and legal assistance should cases be filed against them.345

Activist Sheba George told Human Rights Watch that alongside Dalits, tribal community members have also been recruited by the sangh parivar. "Dalits and tribals have been used in a Hindu identity," she stated. "Everyone has participated in this anti-Muslim pogrom. Being anti-Muslim is the synthesizing feature for Hindutva."346 Tribals comprise 15 percent of Gujarat's population, far higher than the national average of 8 percent. Like Dalits and Muslims, they are among the poorest in the state. Successive Congress governments did little for the upliftment of Dalits and tribals, leaving them vulnerable to the sangh parivar's influence.347 An article in Frontline characterizes the recruitment of tribals as part of an electoral strategy:

Over the past 10 years, the Sangh, through its Vanvasi Kalyan Kendras, has been trying to gain ground in the Adivasi areas of central and south Gujarat, where the Congress(I) has an old and strong support base. The Congress(I) retained a large majority of the seats in these regions. These were precisely the areas that were targeted during the communal violence. The BJP has swept the polls in the riot-hit areas of Panchmahal, Dahod and Vadodara, winning every seat in this "Congress(I) bastion". Its propaganda has seeped so deep that the tribal people have started talking about Godhra instead of basic survival problems. "This has always been a Congress(I) area, but now the BJP has also become popular. During the riots, the BJP bailed us out when we were arrested. The Congress(I) didn't help us. If Muslims harm our religion, why should we let them?" asked Ramsinh Dhabi (name changed), from Bhilpur village in central Gujarat. Several poor Adivasis from this drought-hit region were paid and given liquor to be part of the Sangh mobs. They were told that they would not be arrested.348

Dalit and tribal participation in the violence, as well as their lack of political power, has helped to ensure that they are over-represented in jail cells that house those arrested for attacks against Muslims in the state. They are becoming the scapegoats for the attacks while the ringleaders escape prosecution altogether. Dalits were also killed in police shootings during the violence and, like others who have tried to register complaints, have had fabricated charges brought against them. Anand Teltumbde, a prominent Dalit activist, writes:

It is a fact that the Dalits and Tribals were used in large numbers in violence against Muslims but no one can say that the entire carnage was their act. Rather, being in the neighborhood of Muslim masses, only the Dalits suffered their counterattacks. It was not because they identified their attackers as living in their neighborhood but because of their sheer vulnerability. The caste people and that includes backward castes,349 the torchbearers of the Hindutva, are not to be found in the relief camps because they are not as vulnerable. These people did it and got away with it. Either way, if people are to be charged it always came handy to catch hold of some one like a Dalit. The bias is intrinsic, embedded in the system that readily problematises the have-nots... Now that the storm is settling and the police machinery is getting activated, it will be the Dalits and Tribals who will be stamped as the sole perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage.350

D. B. Parmar, also a Dalit social worker in Gujarat, adds:

In the police cases following all the violence, non-Dalits are not being named in FIRs. So many Patels and Darbars [upper-caste community members] were implicated, but their names are not in the police cases, even though they were the ones who participated the most, their names are not in the FIRs. When Dalits went to the police station to file cases, they would lock them up. When Muslims went, they would refuse to file their cases, and they would put them in detention as well. That has deterred many Dalits and Muslims from going to fill out FIRs at all. They will even give the names and say, "The people who came and attacked me were from the Bajrang Dal or from the VHP, the RSS." They would even give their names. But if you look at this politically, then the government had put so much pressure on the police that the police would even refuse to file the FIR and put their names in. And also, the police themselves were involved in the violence. There was police firing in Dalit neighborhoods and on Muslim neighborhoods. Even though the VHP ones were the ones who were provoking the violence, but there was no firing on them. There's no FIRs against them, and they have not been arrested.351

P. Parmar added:

There were a lot of politics in the arrests. People were given Rs. 100 [U.S.$2] to go to prison for one night, so that it would look like people were being arrested. The Patels were sent to Togadia hospital352 so there was no investigation against them to implicate them in the violence. On the other hand, Dalits were sent to the government hospital so that they could be charged with rioting. Anyone who was injured was charged with rioting, including Muslims. There are still many Dalits and Muslims in jail.353

Both P. Parmar and D. B. Parmar have conducted extensive survey work for the NGO Navsarjan in Vatva, Kutbihar, Dargyallam, Shahpur, Dargar, Gomtipur, and Berhampura (areas of Ahmedabad) to help collect affidavits and assess the loss of life and damage to properties. Dalit and Muslim victims, they claim, are afraid to approach the police for fear of being arrested, particularly following the BJP electoral win in December 2002:

The victims tell us, "Nobody listens to us, so even if we wanted to, who would we go to?" Dalits and Muslims are so scared; they're not even leaving their homes. This is the atmosphere now, nobody knows when violence could erupt, so people aren't openly able to accuse people right now, and also because of the police's involvement. We've covered all the sensitive areas of Ahmedabad, and all the areas where a lot of Dalits and Muslims were killed. People have showed us all the evidence but at first they weren't even ready to sit with us, even though we have been working with them for years. They were too scared to talk.354

Dalits also made up a majority of those that resided in Hindu camps in the state following the violence. Several Dalit neighborhoods were also attacked in retaliatory violence by Muslims.355

Attacks against Dalits
Dalits in Gujarat have also been victimized by upper-caste Hindus. In addition to enduring daily abuses such as untouchability, exploitation, murder and rape, Dalits were targeted in anti-reservation riots in the state in 1981 and 1985.356 In 1981 Dalits were targeted in eighteen districts by those protesting a quota system that gave Dalits access to medical and engineering colleges. In 1985, though the hike in job quotas was for OBCs, or backward castes,357 Dalits again became the targets.358 By the mid-1980s, the BJP and its supporters changed their strategy toward Dalits, tribals, and OBCs, who collectively account for 75 percent of the state's population, and began uniting them under a Hindutva plank.359

Dalit populations are simultaneously vilified by some of the same groups that are purporting to help them. D. B. Parmar told Human Rights Watch about pamphlets that are in circulation in the state demonizing Dalit community members and calling on VHP members to attack Dalits and incite Dalits and tribals against one another:

Three months ago, I saw VHP pamphlets saying that now it was the Dalits' turn. These were coming out of the Paladi [Ahmedabad] VHP office. It told people to give Dalits medicines whose expiry date had already passed. It told people to rape their sisters, and to get Dalits and tribals to turn against one another. It also told them to establish Ram as the god of the Adivasis [tribals]. These are internal documents because there are more Dalit youths in the VHP. Now one of them, being sympathetic to our work, gave us the document because he was afraid of what the VHP was going to do to his community.360

Replicating the "Gujarat Experiment" in Other States
Soon after the BJP's electoral victory in Gujarat, VHP International General Secretary Praveen Togadia asserted that the experiment of the "Hindutva lab" would be repeated elsewhere in the country, raising concerns that communal violence would be deployed as a political strategy. Togadia went on to state that "[a] Hindu Rashtra [state] can be expected in the next two years.... We will change India's history and Pakistan's geography by then."361 At this writing four more states had gone to the polls, with five more state elections due before the end of the year. State elections will be followed by national elections in 2004 in which the BJP hopes to gain enough seats to rule outside the constraints of a coalition government.

On February 26, 2003, state elections were held in the northeastern states of Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura, and in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh where the BJP was in power. Contrary to some speculations that the BJP would build on its Gujarat win and secure reelection in Himachal Pradesh, they suffered a decisive defeat to the opposition Congress(I) party.362 The Congress party did not win a clear majority in Meghalaya, but emerged as the single largest party.363 It lost ground to a regional party in the state of Nagaland,364 while leftist parties retained control of Tripura state.365 The BJP defeat in Himachal Pradesh was blamed on organizational flaws within the party.366 According to political analysts, the loss was indicative of the BJP's increasingly declining popularity and the notion that the Hindutva card cannot always be substituted for good governance.367

The Himachal Pradesh defeat was indeed seen as a setback for the BJP, a setback it hopes to make up for with aggressive posturing in ongoing electoral campaigns in other states. Later this year, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, the capital New Delhi, and Mizoram will go to the polls.368 Congress is in power in all states except Mizoram where the BJP is in alliance with a regional party.369 Potentially explosive campaigning efforts are already underway in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, states with populations of 30 million and 40 million, respectively.370 In Rajasthan, members of the VHP have distributed hate pamphlets vilifying Muslims and depicting them as sexual deviants and terrorists. As in Gujarat, hundreds of thousands of trishuls (tridents) have also been distributed by the group as part of a statewide trishul distribution program.371 As noted at the outset of this report, similar weapons were and continue to be distributed throughout Gujarat and were used extensively in the violence against Muslims in 2002.372 On April 13, 2003, VHP International General Secretary Praveen Togadia was arrested in Ajmer, Rajasthan under the Arms Act for defying the ban on the distribution of tridents imposed by the state government on April 8. On April 15, the VHP called for a statewide bandh (shutdown) to protest the arrest.373 Unlike the bandh call in Gujarat following the Godhra attack, the bandh in Rajasthan met with a lukewarm reception with only some businesses and institutions heeding the call.374 On April 16, an Ajmer court rejected Togadia's application for bail, extending his judicial custody to April 30.375 Togadia was charged with sedition for conspiring to dislodge an elected government376 and for disturbing communal harmony in Rajasthan. According to the state government, Togadia's speeches and campaigning tactics incited communal unrest in the state.377

The BJP and the sangh parivar condemned the arrest and warned the Rajasthan government that it would "bear the consequences" for its actions.378 After spending eight days in jail, Togadia was released on bail on the condition that he would not defy the ban. Upon release, he quickly resumed his trident distribution program.379 The BJP was in power in Rajasthan for nine years before Congress came to power four years ago. Under the BJP, the VHP spread its influence throughout the state. According to one estimate, the VHP runs over 1,000 projects in Rajasthan, ranging from village schools to "reconversion" centers.380

In the state of Madhya Pradesh, echoing the early days of the Babri Masjid conflict in Ayodhya (see below), members of the Hindu Jagran Manch (a sangh parivar affiliate) staged violent protests in February 2003 demanding unfettered access to Bhojshala-an eleventh century monument they claim is a temple and that Muslims have been using as a mosque. Three people were killed during the protests. Congress Chief Minister Digvijay Singh has accused the BJP of creating a conflict in order to divide people along communal lines.381

The Ram Temple Campaign in Ayodhya
Emboldened by the Gujarat election results, the sangh parivar is once again pushing its Ram temple campaign to the front of the agenda.382 In December 2002, on the ten-year anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid (mosque), the VHP renewed its pledge to build a Hindu temple on the disputed site, despite the BJP's decision not to include the construction of a temple on the site as part of its election manifesto.383 Numerous marches and protests have taken place in recent months to demand that construction begin, timed well to coincide with polling in February 2003 state elections.384 Praveen Togadia has stated that the only legal solution to the Ayodhya dispute is the passing of national legislation to declare the site as the birthplace of Ram and to hand it over to Hindu priests.385 "If the [construction] demand is not met by a Parliament enactment or other means, it can lead to a people's movement which can even lay claim to thousands of mosques," Togadia warned. The VHP has also declared that after Ayodhya, it will target mosques in Mathura and the holy city of Varanasi, also in Uttar Pradesh, alleging that these mosques were built on the remains of Hindu temples demolished by Muslim rulers five centuries ago.386

On March 5, 2003, the Allahabad High Court of Uttar Pradesh ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to excavate the site and determine whether a temple existed at the spot where the Babri Masjid once stood.387 The excavations raised a number of issues, and were the subject of much criticism. The excavators worked under imposed time constraints that inhibited their ability to do the work properly. To complicate matters, other religious groups have laid claims that the site should be opened to them as well-Jains and Buddhists are arguing that there are remnants of Jain temples and Buddhist temples, and that these will be revealed in the excavation.388 At this writing, ASI was due to reveal its findings by early July 2003.

In March 2003, the VHP demanded an amendment to the constitution to declare India a Hindu nation.389 In April 2003 Togadia admitted to the VHP's participation in the Gujarat violence and the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Commenting on the VHP's Ram temple campaign he said, "There are two courses left for us-getting a temple through an act of parliament or the anarchist mode of repeating December 6, 1992. We are ready for both. We demolished the Babri Masjid. We were the ones who came out on the road in Gujarat (post-Godhra)."390

281 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. I, p. 17

282 Kuldip Nayar, "Dilli's Gang of Four," Indian Express, October 23, 2001 [online], (retrieved April 17, 2002).

283 "India coalition defeats censure vote," BBC news, April 30, 2002 [online], (retrieved May 15, 2003).

284 "Modi dissolves Assembly, seeks early polls," Press Trust of India, July 19, 2002.

285 Hemendra Singh Bartwal , Syed Liaquat Ali, "Gujarat polls on Dec 12," Hindustan Times, October 29, 2002. The Election Commission of India delegated a team to visit Gujarat between July 31 and August 4, 2002, to assess the possibility of a "free and fair election in the State of Gujarat in the context of large scale movement and migration of electors due to communal riots and violence, particularly those belonging to the minority community...." Election Commission of India, "Press Note." The team found that widespread insecurity, coupled with defective electoral rolls would deprive the electors concerned of exercising their franchise. Ibid., p.16. Based on the team's report the full Commission visited Ahmedabad and Vadodara between August 9 and 11, 2002 and found that conditions were "not conducive at all for holding any free and fair election for the present." Ibid., p.14.

286 Anosh Malekar, "Gujarat Winning the `Hindu heart'," The Week, December 29, 2002 [online], (retrieved May 15, 2003).

287 Yogendra Yadav, "The patterns and lessons," Frontline, December 21, 2002 - January 3, 2003 [online], (retrieved May 15, 2003).

288 "The Gujarat Story," Economic and Political Weekly, December 21, 2002, p. 5059.

289 Praveena Sharma, "Ministers who lost out in Gujarat blame lack of riots in their areas," Agence France-Presse, December 17, 2002.

290 The BJP state election manifesto, as printed on their website, makes clear that the fight against terrorism is a central plank of the party's agenda. The manifesto declares: "We want to throw the terrorists out from this border state. Anti-national elements shall be over powered and antisocial elements shall be dealt through PASA and POTA. It is needless to state that after achieving this basic objectives, peace and prosperity is certain to follow." See (retrieved June 5, 2003). Like POTA, PASA (the Gujarat Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, 1985) is a draconian law that allows for preventive detention without charge.

291 Praveen Swami, "A challenging phase," Frontline, January 3, 2003.

292 Raveen Thukral, "Godhra CD hits Gujarat," Hindustan Times, November 30, 2002.

293 Dionne Bunsha, "Riding the hate wave," Frontline, January 3, 2003.

294 Ibid.

295 Shekhar Iyer, "Two-day BJP enclava to chalk out poll strategy," Hindustan Times, December 23, 2002.

296 At the height of the violence in March 2002, Bhatt justified the killing of Muslims as a means to teach them a lesson. Celia Dugger, "Hindu right wing defends riots," New York Times, March 5, 2002.

297 Swami, "A challenging phase."

298 "`Soft Hindutva' failed to work for Cong," Times of India, December 16, 2002.

299 Swami, "A challenging phase."

300 "`Fatwa gave Gujarat to BJP,'" Times of India, December 16, 2002.

301 Sourav Mukherjee, "Police closing filed on Ahmedabad riots," Times of India, January 10, 2003.

302 "Criminal cases against Gujarat MLAs," Asian Age, December 20, 2002.

303 See section on Naroda Patia in Chapter IV.

304 "Riot accused, now MLAs," Hindustan Times, December 16, 2002.

305 For a detailed list of incidents between March and November 2002, see "Continuing Violence," in Crime Against Humanity, vol. I, pp. 193 - 205. Between mid-March and mid-May several incidents of indiscriminate police shootings were also reported. The victims were predominantly Muslims. For more on police shootings, see Chapter V.

306 Praveena Sharma, "Muslims fearful in India's Gujarat after Hindu poll win," Agence France-Presse, January 4, 2003; Rathin Das, "Curfew still on in Gujarat town," Hindustan Times, January 6, 2003.

307 Praveena Sharma, "Gujarat Muslims cower in fear, claim Indian police against them," Agence France-Presse, January 13, 2003. For more on the intimidation of witnesses, see Chapter IV.

308 "Hindu-Muslim clashes in India's Gujarat, 15 hurt," Reuters, January 16, 2003.

309 "Fresh riots in parts of Gujarat," Agence France-Presse, January 30, 2003.

310 "Three injured in fresh communal clashes in India's Gujarat," Agence France-Presse, February 1, 2003.

311 Amit Sharma, "Riots mar Gorakhpur Holi," Indian Express, March 21, 2003.

312 Most of the attacks took place in the country's "tribal belt," which runs from the Pakistani border in the west to Burma and Bangladesh in the east. The belt is home to eighty-one million indigenous people, whose ancestors inhabited India before the Aryan invasions of about 2,000 B.C. brought the country its dominant ethnic group. Animists or spirit worshippers by nature, many tribals do not practice Hinduism. Much like Dalits ("untouchables"), they traditionally fall outside the Hindu fold.

313 See Human Rights Watch, "Politics By Other Means: Attacks Against Christians in India," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 11, no. 6, September 1999. More incidents of violence against India's Christian community were recorded in 1998 and 1999 than in all the years since independence. Attacks occurred primarily in the tribal regions of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa, as well as the state of Maharashtra. Activists belonging to militant Hindu extremist groups, including the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad were often blamed for the violence. While the central government officially condemned the attacks, spokespersons for the BJP characterized the surge in violence as a reaction to a conversion campaign by Christian missionaries in the country. Sporadic violence continues to this day.

314 See Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. I, p. 191.

315 "Anti-conversion Bill Passed by Tamil Nadu Assembly,", October 31, 2002.

316 "Anti-conversion Bill Unjustified: AIDWA" The Hindu, November 11, 2002. Attracted by the church's emphasis on social service and equality, many tribals and Dalits ("untouchables") in India have converted to Christianity in part to escape their impoverished state and abusive treatment under India's caste system. For centuries, and throughout the country, Dalits have been treated as outcastes or "untouchables" at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused, even killed, at the hands of the police and of higher-caste groups that enjoy the state's protection. Dalit women are frequent victims of sexual abuse. In what has been called India's "hidden apartheid," entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste. National legislation and constitutional protections serve only to mask the social realities of discrimination and violence. Dalits have also been relegated to the most menial of society's tasks-occupations that are deemed ritually polluting for other caste communities. They comprise the majority of agricultural laborers and bonded in the country, often making less than U.S.$1 a day. According to government statistics, an estimated one million Dalits are manual scavengers who clean public latrines and dispose of dead animals; unofficial estimates are much higher. See generally Human Rights Watch, Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's "Untouchables,"; Human Rights Watch, Small Change: Bonded Child Labor in India's Silk Industry (New York; Human Rights Watch, 2003).

317 "Gujarat Religion Bill gets Governor's Nod," The Hindu, April 4, 2003

318 "Gujarat to Restrict Religious Conversions," BBC News, March 26, 2003 [online], (retrieved June 5, 2003).

319 Ibid. This stipulation is unique to the anti-conversion bill of Gujarat, as permission from the district magistrate is not needed in other states where similar restrictions are enforced, "Gujarat Religion Bill gets Governor's Nod," The Hindu.

320 Ibid.

321 "NCM asks Gujarat Govt. to delete controversial clause," The Hindu, April 5, 2003.

322 "Gujarat to Restrict Religious Conversions," BBC News.

323 Ibid.

324 "A discriminatory exercise," The Hindu, March 14, 2003.

325 Ibid.

326 "Govt. puts Christians under survey for third time," Times of India, March 14, 2003

327 In the attacks in Ahmedabad, for example, the mobs were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties, information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation among other sources. A selective census of Muslims and Christians in the state is one of several unconstitutional administrative directives undertaken by the government of Gujarat. Others include a selective census of Dalits and tribals to ascertain "when they converted to Islam or Christianity"; a directive to the state police asking them to investigate every case of inter-religious marriage; and the setting up of a special cell in 1998 to investigate inter-community marriages. Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, pp. 150 - 151.

328 "`Survey' a routine police inquiry: Govt.," Times of India, March 12, 2003

329 "Gujarat survey on Christian community," The Hindu, March 11, 2002.

330 "A discriminatory exercise," The Hindu.

331 "Gujarat Survey on Christian community," The Hindu.

332 "A discriminatory exercise," The Hindu.

333 "Gujarat mantri threatens Dangs Christians," Asian Age, October 21, 2002

334 "Christian built dispensary ransacked," Times of India, April 12, 2003; Rupal Sanyal, "Hindu hard-liners stop Christians from opening hospital in western India," Associated Press, April 11, 2003.

335 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. I, p. 212.

336 For more on the involvement of women and the middle class see Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 35.

337 Davinder Kumar, "Poisoned Edge," Outlook, July 2, 2002.

338 Rathin Das, "Dalits, upper castes join hands in Gujarat mayhem," Hindustan Times, April 10, 2002.

339 R. Ilangovan, "`Sangh parivar using Dalits as cannon fodder for Hindutva agenda'," The Hindu, December 12, 2002; Bunsha, "The Hindutva experiment."

340 Ibid. A Rath Yatra is a Hindu ritual involving the drawing of a chariot through the streets.

341 Bunsha, "Riding the hate wave."

342 Human Rights Watch interview with P. Parmar, Ahmedabad, January 4, 2003.

343 Ibid.

344 Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, vol. II, p. 35.

345 Kumar, "Poisoned Edge."

346 Human Rights Watch interview with Sheba George, Ahmedabad, January 3, 2003.

347 Kumar, "Poisoned Edge."

348 Bunsha, "Riding the hate wave." Encouraged by its success in the tribal belts during the Gujarat polls, the VHP has declared that it would step up its "welfare work among backwards and tribals" in other parts of the country. The main agenda behind the move is reportedly to "transfer the votes of at least 75 million tribals from the Congress, Left and ultra-Left to the BJP." Sanjay Basak, "VHP targets tribals all over country," Asian Age, December 20, 2002.

349 Those whose ritual rank and occupational status are above "untouchables" but who themselves remain socially and economically depressed.

350 Anand Teltumbde, "Damning the Dalits for the Bania-Brahmin Crimes in Gujarat," [online], (retrieved May 17, 2003).

351 Human Rights Watch interview with D. B. Parmar, Ahmedabad, January 4, 2003.

352 A hospital in Ahmedabad owned by VHP International General Secretary Praveen Togadia.

353 Human Rights Watch interview with P. Parmar, Ahmedabad, January 4, 2003.

354 Human Rights Watch interviews with P. Parmar and D.B. Parmar, Ahmedabad, January 4, 2003.

355 Teltumbde, "Damning the Dalits."

356 Kumar, "Poisoned Edge."

357 See footnote 349.

358 Dionne Bunsha, "The Hindutva experiment," Frontline, May 11-24, 2002.

359 Ibid.

360 Human Rights Watch interview with D. B. Parmar, Ahmedabad, January 4, 2003. A letter from the VHP to Banaskantha Dalit Sangathan (BDS)-an NGO that has been working on human rights violations against Dalits and other marginalized communities for the last three years-reads in part (translated from Gujarati):

Let the Ambedkarite Harijans [Dalits who follow the teachings of Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian consitution and an important Dalit leader] who oppose the Hindutva ideology understand. We will not let them mix with even the soil of Hindustan; today time is in our hands.

Hindutva is the ideology of true Hindus (and) it never accepts the Harijans who are the off springs of the untouchable Ambedkar.

The Ambedkarite Harijans, Bhangis, tribals and the untouchable Shudra castes who believe in (respect) Ambedkar do not have any right to give speeches or criticise the Hindutva ideology in Hindustan, because as a dog raises its leg and urinates when there is a pillar or a hill in its way, in the same way whenever there is a question or discussion related to the Hindutva ideology these Ambedkarites, Harijans, Bhangis, Adivasis and other untouchable low castes sling their dirt on the Hindutva ideology or show their own caste (their low birth) by speaking abusively (about it).

Now Hindutva has become aware and it is time to teach these Ambedkarites, untouchable Harijans a lesson. Not even the miyans (Muslims) can come to their aid now....

Publisher: Vishwa Hindu Parishad, 11, Mahalaxmi Society, Paldi, Karnavati-380 007. Printer: Allied Offset Printers (Guj.) Pvt. Ltd. Kalidas Mill Compound, Gomtipur, Karnavati-380 021.

The letter was sent to Human Rights Watch via email by BDS on March 4, 2003. Both the Gujarati version and English translations were sent. The letter has also been authenticated and published by the periodical Communalism Combat.

361 "`Hindu Rashtra' in Two Years: Togadia,", December 15, 2002 [online], (retrieved June 5, 2003).

362 Rup Lal Sharma, "Lessons for BJP from HP debacle," The Hindu, March 22, 2003.

363 "Congress single largest party in Meghalaya,", March 1, 2003.

364 "DAN to stake claim in Nagaland,", March 1, 2003.

365 "Tripura: Left takes over next week,", March 1, 2003.

366 "BJP setback in HP due to organizational flaws,", March 1, 2003.

367 Sharma, "Lessons for BJP from HP debacle."

368 "Religious and communal issues top agenda in Indian polls," The Straits Times, February 27, 2003.

369 "India elections dominated by cow, trident, temple, mosque... and sleaze," Agence France-Presse, February 26, 2003.

370 Yoga Rangatia, "The battle for India's voters," Guardian, January 21, 2003.

371 "Hindu radicals focus on a new target," South China Morning Post, January 31, 2003.

372 For more on the distribution of weapons in Gujarat, see Chapter III.

373 "VHP calls for Rajasthan bandh on Tuesday," Times of India, April 14, 2003.

374 "Togadia bandh goes unnoticed," Indian Express, April 16, 2003; "Poor response to VHP's Rajasthan bandh: Police," Times of India, April 15, 2003.

375 "Togadia arrested after defying ban on distribution of tridents," Press Trust of India, April 13, 2003; "Togadia remanded to judicial custody," The Hindu, April 14, 2003.

376 "Togadia charged with sedition," Statesman, April 16, 2003.

377 "Will sedition charge stick on Togadia?" Times of India, April 18, 2003.

378 "Sangh Parivar, BJP flay Togadia's arrest," Hindustan Times, April 17, 2003.

379 "Togadia defiant," Press Trust of India, April 23, 2003; "Uproar in Indian parliament over Hindu hardliner's weapons distribution," Agence France-Presse, May 5, 2003.

380 Amrit Dhillon, "Hindu radicals focus on a new target," South China Morning Post, January 31, 2003.

381 "Only ASI order can open Bhojshala: Digvijay," Hindustan Times, April 6, 2003.

382 Shekhar Iyer, "Job done, BJP plays down Hindutva: But VHP claims credit," Hindustan Times, December 16, 2002.

383 "Timeline: Ayodhya Crisis," BBC News, February 27, 2002 [online], (retrieved June 5, 2003).

384 "India braces for fresh Hindu-Muslim showdown over Babri mosque site," Agence France-Presse, February 21, 2003.

385 "Declare India Hindu nation: VHP tells Govt," Press Trust of India, March 3, 2003. During a VHP meet in Pune in December 2002 plans were drawn up to set up a separate cell within the VHP to combat "Islamic terrorism" and to "enlighten" people about terrorism in its various forms. Shashank Mhasawade, "VHP meet in Pune: No. 1 agenda is Hindu nation," Hindustan Times, December 27, 2003.

386 "Indian Sectarian Tensions Resurface Ahead of State Polls," Dow Jones International News, February 20, 2003.

387 "Ayodhya-Excavation," Press Trust of India, March 13, 2003.

388 "Digging for truth at Ayodhya," BBC News, March 11, 2003 [online], (retrieved June 5, 2003).

389 "Declare India Hindu nation: VHP tells Govt," Press Trust of India, March 3, 2003. During a VHP meet in Pune in December 2002 plans were drawn up to set up a separate cell within the VHP to combat "Islamic terrorism" and to "enlighten" people about terrorism in its various forms. Shashank Mhasawade, "VHP meet in Pune: No. 1 agenda is Hindu nation," Hindustan Times, December 27, 2003.

390 "Defiant Togadia admits to hand in Gujarat riots, Babri demolition," Indian Express, April 3, 2003.

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