torching of bogey S-6 of the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express at Godhra
on February 27, in which 58 passengers, including 26 women and 12
children, were burnt to death, is an unpardonable act. The perpetrators of
this grossly inhuman crime must be tried swiftly and given the most
stringent punishment. But, for the burned corpses of the ill-fated
passengers to become the justification for armed squads of the ruling BJP
and its ‘brother’ organisations — RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal — to
launch a pogrom that sits well with what the UN defines as genocide
against the innocent Muslims of Gujarat?
Even during the
unspeakable horrors that communities inflicted on each other in 1946 and
1947, all organs of the state had not been directly involved in stoking
the fires. Not so in Gujarat, 2002. The chief minister of Gujarat,
Narendra Modi, called the targetted attacks in 16 of Gujarat’s 24
districts, a ‘natural reaction’. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee
is guilty of worse: "If there was no Godhra, there would have been no
Gujarat," he said, at the meeting of the national executive of his
party in Goa in mid-April. Both the CM and PM have opened themselves to
the charge of complicity in ‘crimes against humanity’.
The BJP, flanked
by the RSS, VHP and BD combine in Gujarat had laid their grounds well.
Both the Modi, and his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel had systematically
implanted, through insidious hate propaganda and school textbooks, the
mindset to justify such a pogrom. They had their men in key jobs to
prevent any hindrance to their plan. They used threat and intimidation to
numb conscience-keepers. And they trained their cadres well. They
bestialised the ‘art of killing’.
Dead bodies no
longer resembled human beings: they were reduced — whenever they had not
been burned to ashes — to a grotesque and pathetic sight that were a
haunting reminder of the depth of hatred and the intense dehumanisation
that the politics of inherent superiority and exclusiveness generates.
Nowhere did eyewitnesses and victims, survivors and observers, put the
crowds who terrorised them at less than 2,000; most often, even in
far-flung villages, they were closer to 10-15,000-strong mobs, armed with
deadly agricultural implements. Key men carried guns and rifles. (The
number of cases of private firing has astounded the state police). A few
in the crowd even carried mobile phones to enable military co-ordination
in the attacks.
Rape was used as
an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community. A
chilling and hitherto absent technique was the deliberate destruction of
evidence — barring a few cases, women who were gang raped were
thereafter hacked and burned.
after the Godhra tragedy, 58 bodies were brought to the Sola Civil
Hospital for the arthi, vengeful slogans were raised. Thereafter,
from February 28 to March 6, the raging fires of hatred and venom consumed
16 of Gujarat’s 24 districts.
Many ministers in
the Gujarat cabinet are members of the RSS, VHP and BD. It is, therefore,
not surprising that survivors have named many key leaders of these
outfits, even cabinet ministers, as mob leaders. Modi and his mobs have
brazenly flaunted the CrPC, the Arms Act and the Indian Constitution
itself. Should they be allowed to go scot-free, the very future of Indian
democracy would be in peril.
Even as we go to
press, violence continues in Gujarat. The police shot dead two persons on
April 16; another met a similar fate on April 18. Twelve and 13-year-old
girls were terrorised by mobs as they appeared for their eighth and ninth
In the last four
years, CC has put Gujarat on the cover five times and published several
special reports, drawing attention to the ominous signs of the build-up in
the state. Hence, for Teesta Setalvad to travel through Gujarat, to record
the accounts of traumatised victims and survivors to put this fact-finding
report together was both painful and heart-rending.
acknowledge the unstinted support extended to us in this effort by
numerous survivors presently in the relief camps and those managing them
in Gujarat — in particular Rais, Ilyas and Mahir whose full names are
being withheld for obvious reasons –; father Cedric Prakash and Prashant,
the management and staff of Gujarat Today, friends and colleagues
like Batuk Vora, Indubhai Jani, Hanif Lakdawala, Gautam Thaker, Sophia
Khan, Uves Sareshwala, Sheba George, among many others in Gujarat; SAHMAT
(Delhi), and Dr Uma Seth, Sufiya Pathan, Rashmi Gera and Gitanjali Dang,
Najeeb Khan. And the entire Sabrang team in Mumbai. But we alone assume
full responsibility for the contents of this report.
thrown an unprecedented challenge for all individuals and groups working
for the restitution of sanity, humane principles, representative democracy
and the rule of law in this country. Do we have it in us to challenge the
fascist onslaught on the Indian Constitution?