GUJRAT MASSACRE 2002: HOW IT ALL HAPPENED

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The 2002 Gujarat riots are considered as most brutal acts of crime against humanity in Indian history, the riots continued for three days and Muslims population was targeted with unprecedented scale of human right abuses including killings, torture, arson, looting, gang rape and abductions. The main perpetrator was Modi the than CM Gujarat and present PM of India, who had nodded the go ahead, the riots were termed as the biggest example of pogrom in a so-called practicing and functional democracy.

The series of unfortunate happenings was triggered with the burning of a Sabarmati Express train in Godhra on 27 February 2002 (later discovered to be planned and executed by Bajrang Dal a phonetic Indian terrorist organization) the incident has been cited to prompt the violence that caused the deaths of 58 Hindu pilgrims’ karsevaks returning from the inauguration of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s 100-day ‘Purnahuti Maha Yagna’ in Ayodhya.

It was found during the inquiry that an argument erupted between the train passengers and the Muslim vendors on the railway platform. The argument became violent and under uncertain circumstances four coaches of the train caught fire with many people trapped inside.

However, it was blamed that Muslims burnt the Sabarmati train whereas reality was totally opposite, Narenda Modi, being a Chief Minister of Punjab, having a mindset of Hindutva ideology made it an excuse to punish Muslims and the whole incident was crafted to initiate cold blooded genocide of Muslims of Indian Gujarat. A riveting and penetrating study shows how genocide was invented and manipulated by the Indian state the closest post-World War Two parallel to Nazi genocide.

It is highly pertinent to mention that Gujarat Massacre served as the trigger point to a perpetual and pre-planned / state directed series of heinous crimes against the minorities of India, mainly Christians, Sikhs, Dalits and Muslims.

After 2002, Hindu extremists started campaign against Muslims of India under the patronage of BJP leader Narenda Modi that strengthen Hindus extremism politically, socially and culturally.

Interestingly the PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpaee the mentor of Modi had said after Gujrat Massacre, “Kam se kam isteefe ka offer to karte (Modi should have at least offered to resign).” The proposition was vehemently opposed by BJP Hindu hardliners.

Gujarat 2002 was independent India’s first full-blooded pogrom. Delhi 1984 was a semi-pogrom Hindu-Muslim riots are not uncommon in India, but Gujarat violence plumbed new depths of horror and was undoubtedly a pogrom, wrote Ashtutosh Varshney (Indian born political scientist and academic).

In literary sense pogrom is defined as, “An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.”

The Gujrat pogrom figure out in two distinctive ways from the long list of state sponsored ethnic violence incidents against minorities of India:-

The use of children as instruments of terror.

For the first time in the history of communal riots in India Hindu women took part in riots along with Hindu mobs.

Area-wise Gujarat is the fifth largest state in India and has a population of over 60 million. In 1960, Gujarat was formed by splitting Bombay state on linguistic lines. Indian National Congress retained power in Gujarat Legislative Assembly, from 1960 to 1995 while other political parties ruled for incomplete terms in the 1970s and 1990.1 Since 1998, the BJP is in power there and out of these 22 years Narenda Modi was Gujarat’s chief minister for 13 years from 2001 to 2014, till he became the PM of India. Modi assumed power as a Chief Minister of Gujarat in October 2001. Four months later, mass-scale riots were orchestrated in February-March 2002.

The torching of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims sparked deadly communal riots across Gujarat on 27 Feb 2002. The Sabarmati Express train was carrying the Hindu pilgrims who were returning to Ahmedabad from Ayodhya, holy site disputed between Muslims and Hindus.

An inquiry commission set up by the state government said in 2008 that the burning of the train was a “conspiracy” and Modi were failed to halt the violence and indirectly encouraged some of the Hindu rioters.3 There was also evidence to suggest the blaze began inside the train and that it was not fire-bombed. Zakia Jafri, the wife of late Congress leader Ehsan Jafri who was killed at Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002, claimed that the violence in the 2002 Gujarat riots was perpetrated through a “design” and Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat chief minister during the riots was responsible of all these massacres.

Hindus immediately blamed Muslims for the blaze as if they had pre-hand information of the incident and furious Hindu mobs rampaged through Muslim neighborhoods in several cities seeking reprisals during three days of bloodshed, the series of events were highly coordinated and well-timed, pointing fingers toward Indian government and Hindu terrorist organizations.

During the slaughter in Ahmedabad and hundreds of other towns and villages, Hindu mobs rounded up and raped Muslim women. Hindu mobs also torched Muslim homes and businesses, killed Muslim men, women and children, and erased mosques and graves. According to official data, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed, while 223 people went missing and 2,500 others were injured. Human Rights organizations claim the numbers were much higher.5 Over 100,000 Muslims were pushed into the state’s ramshackle refugee camps, where basic amenities were minimal and living conditions abysmal.

On 28 February 2002, just a day after the Sabarmati train burning, a mob of around 5,000 people killed 97 Muslims in Naroda. In the riot that lasted over 10 hours, the mob looted, stabbed, gang- raped and burnt people individually and in groups. It was the “largest single case of mass murder” during the 2002 riots.

In 2012, a special court convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others. Notable convicted was Maya Kodnani, former Gujarat Women and Child Development Minister (sentenced to 28 years in prison) and Bajrang Dal’s Babu Bajrangi.

The Gulbarg Society was a Muslim housing complex in a lower middle-class neighborhood, attacked by a Hindu mob. On 28 February 2002 a day after the train fire, rioters packed in trucks breached the boundary wall of the complex and set houses ablaze. They dragged people out and burned them alive. Many people had taken refuge in former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri’s house while he repeatedly tried to contact the police for help. He was also brutally killed by the Mob. It was one of the two biggest massacres during the riots. However, Gujarat towns Ahmedabad, Vadodara, and Godhra remained the most violence prone and these three turned out to be the worst sites of violence in March and April 2002.

A small outlet in the area of Vadodara, Best Bakery was burned down. A mob targeted a sheikh family and resulted in death of 14 Muslims including 3 employees who were running the bakery.

Bano who was gang raped in one of the worst mass murder cases in the 2002 Gujarat riots. During the post-Godhara communal riots in Gujarat, 14 members of Ms. Bilkis’ family were killed, including her two-and-half-year-old daughter who was snatched from her mother’s arms and smashed on a rock.

On 17 March 2002, a group of Muslim men went back to their homes under police protection to collect luggage for the relief camps in which their families were taking shelter in. While loading the trucks at night, a group of around 5,000 persons started attacking them. Most of them managed to escape, but two men on a motorcycle were chased and killed with swords.

In the case of Gujarat riots 31 accused were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by a lower court. The High Court which heard an appeal had upheld the life sentence of 14 offenders. Though the final verdict on appeals is still pending the bail has been granted in a break with precedence. It is noteworthy that in the prisons of India nearly two-thirds of the prisoners facing trail are from backward tribes or are Muslims. One-thirds of the prisoners are illiterate.

On 28 January 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted bail to 14 criminals involved in the Gujarat massacres of 2002. These were convicted after detailed hearings of several cases of murder that targeted hundreds of Muslims, including children and women. 

The role of the Indian judiciary has become highly questionable in this case. The released prisoners were not under trial detainees but convicted criminals held for murders. Earlier in 2019, the Supreme Court had granted bail to Babu Bajrangi who had played a pivotal role in those riots and killed over a 100 Muslims including children and women.

Gujarat Massacre and IIOJK Connection

As per the renowned international experts and scholars the present-day situation in IIOJK is a grim reminder of the Gujarat Massacre (2002).

The 2002 anti-Muslim riots (pogrom) in Gujarat have coincided with violence in IIOJK and can be termed as the refined form of pogrom in Gujarat, where Indian military forces have resorted to a systematic ethnic cleansing of Muslim majority population.

Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch commented, “The incidents of state sponsored ethnic cleansing show the extreme vulnerability of religious minorities in different parts of India”. “Instead of allowing this violence to deepen religious hatred, the Indian authorities should launch immediate, thorough and transparent investigation to ensure that those responsible are prosecuted and punished.”

Human Rights Watch said the police and prosecutors at the national and state levels should  launch criminal investigations and initiate appropriate prosecutions against the perpetrators and organizers of the attacks in Gujarat. The National Human Rights Commission should launch its own, independent investigations. The same steps should be taken to address the ethnic cleansing in IIOJK.

UN, Human Rights Watch, NGOs and international organizations have repeatedly noted the

failure of the Indian authorities to identify and prosecute those who planned and executed the attacks on minorities in India and IIOJK.

Gujarat 2002 was independent India’s first full-blooded pogrom, Gujarat violence plumbed new depths of horror and was undoubtedly a pogrom.

After Massacre at Gujarat, Modi Programmed Pogrom for Kashmir

Narendra Modi, a name synonymous with Hitler, previously infamous for the butchery of Gujarat, has now programmed another pogrom in IIOJK. This time, he is hell-bent on obliterating Muslims from the land of Kashmir. He neither has any remorse for his past reprehensible conduct in Gujarat nor does he feel any shame for what he is doing now in IIOJK.

The revocation of article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution is a part of the big game that Modi is poised to play with Muslims of IIOJK. The move is aimed at bringing about metamorphosis in the demography of IIOJK and thereby turning Muslim majority into a minority.

Under article 370, the state enjoyed a limited autonomy – its own constitution, a separate flag and freedom to make laws. Foreign affairs, defense, and communications remained the preserve of the central government. As a result, Jammu and Kashmir could make its own rules relating to permanent residency, ownership of property and fundamental rights. It could also bar Indians from outside the state from purchasing property or settling there.

Indian army troops patrol next to the burnt-out remains of vehicles after violent protests in Ahmedabad on August 27, 2015. A court in Gujarat ordered a police inquiry August 27 after at least ten people died in the worst violence to hit the Indian prime minister’s home state in more than a decade. AFP PHOTO / Sam PANTHAKY

Modi and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party had long opposed Article 370 and revoking it was in the party’s 2019 election manifesto. They argued that it needed to be scrapped to integrate Kashmir and put it on the same footing as the rest of India.

The burning of a Sabarmati Express train was a preplanned drama and there was no evidence regarding involvement of Muslims in the conspiracy. There had been a preponderance of evidence that the fire originated in the coach.

The Concerned Citizens Tribunal Report, estimated that as many as 1,926 Muslims were killed. Other sources estimated death tolls in excess of 2,000.

Many brutal killings and rapes were reported on as well as widespread looting and destruction of property. Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat and later Prime Minister of India, was accused of condoning the violence, as were police and government officials who allegedly directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim-owned properties to them.

In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the violence by Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India. The SIT also rejected claims that the state government had not done enough to prevent the riots.

The Muslim community was reported to have reacted with anger and disbelief. In July 2013, allegations were made that the SIT had suppressed evidence. In December 2013, an

Indian court upheld the earlier SIT report and rejected a petition seeking Modi’s prosecution.

In April 2014, the Supreme Court expressed satisfaction over the SIT’s investigations in nine cases related to the violence, and rejected a plea contesting the SIT report as “baseless”.

Though officially classified as a communalist riot, the events of 2002 had been described as a pogrom by many scholars, with some commentators alleging that the attacks had been planned, while the attack on the train was a “staged trigger” for what was actually premeditated violence.

Other observers had stated that these events had met the “legal definition of genocide,” or referred to them as state terrorism or ethnic cleansing. Instances of mass violence include the Naroda Patiya massacre that took place directly adjacent to a police training camp; the Gulbarg Society massacre where Ehsan Jafri, a former parliamentarian, was among those killed; and several incidents in Vadodara city.

Jammu: Paramilitary personnel stand guard during restrictions, in Jammu, Wednesday, Aug 07, 2019. Restrictions have been imposed in several districts of Jammu and Kashmir after the state lost its special status and was bifurcated on Tuesday as Parliament approved a resolution scrapping Article 370 of the Constitution and passed a bill to split the state into two Union Territories. (PTI Photo)(PTI8_7_2019_000073B)

Scholars studying the 2002 riots state that they were premeditated and constituted a form of ethnic cleansing, and that the state government and law enforcement were complicit in the violence that occurred.

Numerous accounts describe the attacks on the Muslim community that began on 28 February 2002 (the day after the train fire) as highly coordinated with mobile phones and government-issued printouts listing the homes and businesses of Muslims.

Attackers arrived in Muslim communities across the region in trucks, wearing saffron robes and khaki shorts, bearing a variety of weapons. In many cases, attackers damaged or burned Muslim- owned or occupied buildings while leaving adjacent Hindu buildings untouched.

Although many calls to the police were made from victims, they were told by the police that “we have no orders to save you.” In some cases, the police fired on Muslims who attempted to defend themselves. The rioters used mobile phones to coordinate their attacks. By the end of the day on 28 February a curfew had been declared in 27 towns and cities across the state.

It is estimated that 230 Mosques and 274 Dargahs were destroyed during the violence. For the first time in the history of communal riots Hindu women took part, looting Muslim shops. It is estimated that up to 150,000 people were displaced during the violence.

The anti-Muslim violence was considered and celebrated as an ideological victory for Hindu nationalist.

Narendra Modi’s BJP had not only failed to protect Muslims and other minorities from attacks but also provide political patronage and cover for bigotry.

India have adopted laws and policies that systematically discriminate against Muslims and India is not a safe place for Muslims.

Indian Judicial system is saffronise that failed to provide justice to the Muslims and convicted criminals of Gujarat riots are freely moving in India.

It is time that International community need to focus and pressurize India to equally treat minorities and their basic rights should be protected.

In Hindu majority India it is very much evident that a community’s vulnerability depends on whether it is in the majority or minority.

“Double burden” that weighs on Muslims of India – of being labeled “anti-national” and simultaneously signaled out for being appeased by different past governments is the main cause of victimization and marginalization.

“Muslims of India need to prove on a daily basis that they are not ‘anti-national’ and ‘terrorists’, it is not recognized that the alleged ‘appeasement’ has not resulted in the desired level of socio- economic development of the community.

In general, Muslims complained that they are constantly looked upon with a great degree of suspicion not only by certain sections of society but also by public institutions and governance structures.

This has a depressing effect on their psyche. The living conditions and social exploitation of Indian Muslims’ bear stark resemblance with the conditions of Jews in Hitler’s Germany.

“Markers of Muslim Identity the burqa, the purdah, the beard and the topi while adding to the distinctiveness of Indian Muslims have been a cause of concern for them in the public realm. These markers have very often been a target for ridiculing the community as well as of looking upon them with suspicion.”

Muslim men sporting beards or skullcaps were detained for interrogation from public spaces. Their religious markers rendered them suspect. Muslim women, complained that those who wore hijab found it difficult to find corporate jobs, and the ones in burqas were treated impolitely in public places.

The highlighted facts speak of the difficulties Muslims face in renting homes in non-Muslim localities, a factor that pushes them to live in community-dominated ghettoes. This, in turn, deprives their children access to good schools, most of which are located outside Muslim neighborhoods.

One is reminded of the Nazi regime treatment of Jews which set up ghettos across German- occupied Eastern Europe in order to segregate and confine Jews, into small sections of towns and cities furthering their exploitation.

As per highly acclaimed Israeli News Paper Haaretz, Hindu Mobs, anti-Muslim Boycotts: In Modi’s India, the Echoes of 1930s Germany Are Growing Louder.

During the, in person SCO meet (2021), Modi was talking to world leaders about the threat of Islamist radicalization. But the real threat to India comes from a radicalizing Hindu majority fueled by the increasingly brazen, violent anti-Muslim and anti-minorities bigotry of Modi’s own party.