Political direction and police support enable the death squads of the Hindu Right to run riot in Muslim neighborhoods in Gujarat. Essay

Praveen Swami is deputy editor with the New Delhi bureau of Frontline, a widely read biweekly magazine and one of India’s top news and policy publications (United States Institute of Peace). With a liberal democratic political view, he explained how the majority Hindus and the state government controlled by pro Hindu elements misused their power and the different state agencies against minority Muslims.

The article was intended to express concern on the way the state machinery was used for mass killing of people from the minority community (Frontline). It was not exactly a riot but a fascist pogrom or mass murder by killer squads of majority Hindus with full support from the authorities of state government with law enforcing agencies including the police, doing things which was exactly the opposite of what it was supposed to do i.e.

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, they were making way for the death squads for intended mass scale killing. While talking to those who survived this attack and were interviewed in different refugee homes and temporary shelter homes, Swami got himself introduced to the facts that the so called reprisal by the majority community was not an instant reaction against what happened in Godhra but a well planned attack which was longing to happen for a very long time. The whole incident appeared as if it had been planned several months back and the persons involved were just waiting for the right time. In Godhra, the incident of burning of the train Sabarmati Express had happened on February 27, 2002 and it was alleged that the mob comprising of local Muslims living near the railway tracks, were the main culprits (The Times of India 1).

The unfortunate train was carrying many activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a radical Hindu group (The Times of India 2). The whole incident of burning of train and killing of VHP activists added fire to bomb already waiting to blast and caused one of the worst communal riots in the history of modern India. The police was used to prevent any retaliation from the other side.

In Narora, one eyewitness named Nazir Khan Pathan told the author that when the Muslims retaliated, when stone was pelted on them and tried to prevent their houses, the police opened fire on them causing the death of four Muslim youths. The Muslim crowd was successfully dispersed and the whole locality was left at the mercy of the mob better to refer as saffron death squad who burnt down the local mosque. Many survivors at the makeshift shelter stated that there were politicians directing armed youths in the mass scale killing. Even local policemen were present at their disposal to prevent any attempt of retaliation. Even properties and establishment belonging to Muslims living abroad were targeted. The ownership of these properties were not known to people living near by and details related to these properties were present only in government offices. These things only emphasizes that the perpetrators had access to all official files and the list of properties belonging to individuals of minority community was copied and must been distributed months before. This point gets supported by precise destruction of shops belonging to Muslims located in Hindu localities.

The author has tried to raise the point of widespread infiltration of these radical people in state administration thereby making a statement that it was not just the radical part of Hindu society that actually carried out the mass killing of Muslims but the state machinery was itself carrying out the role of killers as a guide to different death squads of the radicals. The attack was not only on common Muslims. The former Member of Parliament of India, Iqbal Ehsan Jaffrey was murdered while the High Court Judge M.H. Kadri had to be vacated from his house when it was attacked.

Justice Akbar Divecha’s home was burned down. The Inspector General of Police Ai Saiyed and Deputy Commissioner of Police Samiullah Ansari despite being top police officials were attacked because of being a Muslim. The statistics given to the author by state authorities gave figures which were no where near to any estimation by private authorities. As expected the government was not interested in making a list of missing persons through information that could have been obtained from different refugee camps.

Some of the data given by the police was stating that Hindus killed in the riots have outnumbered Muslims by large figure thereby making the whole report far from credible. The most interesting part of the whole story is the collapse of Ahmedabad police during the riot. This place has a history of communal violence and that’s why the police over here are believed to be well equipped with any possible communal violence. But the author has pointed out through the figures obtained from the police headquarter itself that in the last three months the whole structure of Ahmedabad police was weakened and this weakness proved to be very costly when the riots erupted.The whole system crumbled like old buildings falling down in an earthquake. The author finally zeroed in to the main culprit who was none other than the State’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi. This Hindu radical leader was to face election in the year 2002 only.

The dismal performance of the party as a part of Government had made sure that it is going to lose the election. On economic front, the government had already failed. The way it had handled the 2001 Kutch earthquake added more woes to already eroding popularity of the party. No was giving a new chance to Narendra Modi’s government to retain power. But after the carnage of Godhra and the riots followed it had made him a hero and now the party who was supposed to lose election is in a position to retain its control.            The Godhra riots made impact in few months only. The Bharatiya Janata Party won the Gujarat election by a resounding majority and the man, the hero Narendra Modi became the State’s Chief Minister (BBC News). He is still the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Nobody knows how the Gujarat government will now give justice to the people whoa are actually there own people but unfortunately of minority community. In the end Swami has stated “Terrorizing Muslims is no longer a vote-driven political enterprise. It has become state policy”.

ReferenceSwamy, P. SAFFRON TERROR: Political direction and police support enable the death           squads of the Hindu Right to run riot in Muslim neighborhoods in Gujarat.,                    Volume 19 – Issue 06, Mar. 16 – 29, 2002.                                                     <http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl1906/19060080.htm>The Times of India.

Mob attacks Gujarat train, toll 57, 27 February, 2002,                                               <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2257508.cms>.The Times of India. Arrest culprits in 24 hrs, VHP tells govt , 28 February, 2002,            <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2308421.

cms>.BBC News, Gujarat election: What will BJP victory mean?. 23 December, 2002,< http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/debates/south_asian/2560013.stm> 


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