URGENT ALERT: Unwillingness and Failure of Indian Government to Control Gujarat Violence and Stop Massacres

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The Islamic Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned by the failure of the Indian government to protect its minority Muslim communities from mass slaughter and the destruction of their property.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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MARCH 6, 2002

URGENT ALERT: Unwillingness and Failure of Indian Government to Control Gujarat Violence and Stop Massacres

The Islamic Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned by the failure of the Indian government to protect its minority Muslim communities from mass slaughter and the destruction of their property.

Background
Communal riots in the Indian state of Gujarat have resulted in over 570 deaths, although unofficial reports claims that the death toll is likely to have crossed the thousand threshold. A large number of these appear to be unarmed Muslim civilians. The attacks, carried out in an organized way by Hindu extremist groups, have been accompanied by the destruction and looting of property and the demolition of holy places.

According to western media reports and views of leading Indian political personalities, such as the ultra-rightwing Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, the massacres are in response to the attacks on Vishwa Hindu Parishwad (VHP) activists on 27 February. 60 of them, passengers on the Sabormati Express were burnt to death at Godhra Railway Station in the Panchmahal district of Gujarat.

The mainstream media has failed to report that the attacks on the VHP were in reaction to their abduction of a 16-year old Muslim girl. Initially a crowd had gathered outside the train compartment, where the VHP members were holding the girl, to demand her release. However facing hostility, the crowd retaliated by the setting fire to the compartment.

The riots have been taking place under the protection of the Police/ State Reserve Police (SRP). BJP insiders admit that the Police were under the instructions from the Chief Minister Narendra Modi's administration to turn a blind eye to the anti-Muslim violence that began in the state's main city of Ahmedabad, and then swiftly spilt over into the neighbouring rural areas.

The IHRC is alarmed not only at the failure of the State apparatus to put an end to the violence, but also by the fact that the violence was encouraged by the state's Hindu nationalist government.

Moreover requests for the deployment of troops were delayed to allow Hindu extremists time to carry out their orgy of violence. The army was only deployed on 1 March after extensive pressure from all quarters. However, the present army strength remains inadequate in view of the magnitude and dimension of the on-going riots. Although thousands of security personnel are patrolling the streets of Ahmedabad, the state's main city, they have not yet been able to reach the remote villages where the violence continues.

Although India's Hindu nationalist prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee appealed for calm in an address to the nation, many within the BJP who believe that communal violence is the only way of regaining the party's sharply deteriorating electoral popularity.

Tensions between the Hindu community and the minority Muslim community have always been high and are reminiscent of the riots which disrupted in 1992 after the VHP extremists demolished the Barbari Mosque to build a Hindu temple. This has always been a cause for resentment between Hindu and Muslim groups and has acted as a catalyst to recent tensions. IHRC is further concerned that the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishwad), stated they will begin building a temple on the site of the Barbari Mosque on 15th March 2002. Some parts of VHP have indicated that they will delay this process. However IHRC feels that this project will only be a further catalyst for violence and indeed will reward those who have carried out such brutal violence in the name of Hindu nationalism.

Suggested Action
The IHRC calls on campaigners to:

1. Write to Indian government ministers, calling upon them to put an immediate end to the violence by deploying adequate security personnel to actively protect Muslim minorities from such abuse and to investigate the atrocities that occurred during the riots.

Email these letters to at least the Prime Minister and President of India and if you have time to the others in the following list.

President of India, Shri K R Narayanan: pressecy@alphanic.in
Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee: vajpayee@sansad.nic.in
Minister of External Affairs, Shri Jaswant Singh: bishnoijs@sansad.nic.in
Minister of Home Affairs, Shri Lal Krishna Advani: advanilk@sansad.nic.in
Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi: soniagandhi@sansad.nic.in
Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha, Dr Manmohan Singh: manmohan@sansad.nic.in
Minister of State for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah: omar@sansad.nic.in
Deputy Chairperson, Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptulla: najmah@sansad.nic.in

Please see the specimen campaign letter attached below.

Dear . . .

I am appalled at the failure of the Indian government to put an end to the communal riots in Gujarat. The death toll figures are extremely disturbing as are reports of mass lootings and destruction of holy sites.

I am further alarmed at reports that the state's Hindu nationalist government ordered the police to turn a blind eye to the atrocities so that the Hindu extremists could continue with their orgy of violence against the minority Muslim population. The failure of the state apparatus to respond appropriately highlight the lack of protection afforded to Muslim minorities within that region. It is essential that the security forces put an end to this cycle of violence and provide equal protection to all.

I request an immediate independent, impartial investigation into the causes of the riot, the incidents that occurred, what measures were adopted by the state apparatus to deal with the situation, what steps have been taken to bring the perpetrators to justice, and what measures are being taken with a view to compensating the victims.

I am also deeply concerned that the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishwad), state they will begin building a temple on the site of the Barbari Mosque on 15th March 2002. This will only be a further catalyst for violence and indeed will reward those who have carried out such brutal violence in the name of Hindu nationalism.

Yours sincerely

(Name)


2. Write to the Foreign Minister of your country, requesting an investigation in to the riots, the rebuilding of the Barbari Mosque, and requests for expulsion of India from the Commonwealth if it fails to comply.

Specimen letter to the British Foreign Minister:


Rt. Honorable Jack Straw MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
WC1

Date:

Dear Mr. Straw,

I am writing with deep concern about the failure of the Indian government to contain the communal riots in Gujarat and to adequately deploy security forces to protect the lives and property of the Muslims. The death toll figures are extremely disturbing as are reports of destruction and looting of personal property and the demolition of holy places.

Reports reveal that the state's Hindu nationalist government ordered the police to turn a blind eye to the atrocities so that the Hindu extremists could continue with their orgy of violence against the minority Muslim population. The riots of Gujarat highlight the failure and unwillingness of the state apparatus to put an end to the cycle of violence and provide all with adequate protection. It highlights the lack of protection Muslim minorities are given in that region, and indeed in India.

I urge you to use your influence to request that the Indian government immediately set up an independent, impartial investigation into the causes of the riot, the human rights abuses that occured, what measures were adopted by the state apparatus to deal with the situation, what steps have been taken to bring the perpetrators to justice, and to award compensation to the victims.

I am also deeply concerned that the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishwad), state they will begin building a temple on the site of the Barbari Mosque on 15th March 2002. This will only be a further catalyst for violence and indeed will reward those who have carried out such brutal violence in the name of Hindu nationalism. I urge you to request the Indian government to stop this catastrophic event. Furthermore, the British government should urge the Indian government to allow the rebuilding of a mosque at the site of the 16 Century Barbari Mosque, which was destroyed by Hindu extremists in 1992. Indeed, the failure of the government to protect the Muslim holy site has been the cause for long-held resentment.

In light of such facts, if the Indian government fails to comply with the requests, I ask you to request the immediate suspension of India from the Commonwealth until such time it agrees to comply and to oppose plans to give India a permanent seat at the Security Council.

Yours sincerely,

(Name)

3. To participate in a vigil outside the Indian High Commission, India House, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA, UK on Monday 11th March 2002, from 1 p.m. - 3 p.m. This vigil is organized by the Islamic Human Rights Commission and the North London Muslim Community.

For more information, please contact IHRC on the numbers below.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
Tel: +44-20-8902-0888
Fax:+44-20-8902-0889
email: info@ihrc.org
web: www.ihrc.org
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