Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002
An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat

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Role of Non-BJP Parties


1. National Democratic Alliance

1.1. The BJP’s allies in the National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre were shaken by the violence in Gujarat but failed to go beyond shedding the usual crocodile tears. The Tribunal notes with anguish that the allies in the NDA who claim to continue to be wedded to democracy and secularism, did nothing more than issue statements after the Gujarat carnage. Much more was expected from them and history will hold them guilty for failing to rise to the occasion, putting narrow political considerations aside and using all the strength at their command to ensure that the central government acted and acted swiftly to control the Gujarat carnage. This they did not do, and hence, a government indicted before the country and the world continues to be in power in Gujarat today.

1.2. The Tribunal has no great expectations that the NDA allies will do anything in future to assure the physical, emotional and economic rehabilitation of Muslims in Gujarat. However, it observes that the NDA allies must push for a proper rehabilitation of, and justice for, the victim-survivors if their claim to be wedded to the Indian Constitution is to have any meaning.

2. Role of the Opposition Parties

2.1. The role of the opposition Congress party in the state of Gujarat, though vociferous in demanding the dismissal of the Modi government, was obviously lacking in any political or moral resolve while the violence was actually taking place. Former MP Shri Ahsan Jafri, who belonged to this party, was killed along with others after, after his house had been besieged for 8 long hours and during which period he made innumerable calls for help. The Tribunal finds it shocking that not a single senior member of his party went physically to his aid, or tried, independently, to contact the police commissioner to ensure his safety. Barring a few exceptions, Congressmen were absent while the violence was at its height. Independent MP, Shri Madhu Sudhan Mistry from Sabarkantha and Shri Praveen Rashtrapal from Patan are exceptions. The mayor of Ahmedabad Shri Himmatsingh Patel was visible on television, and on the streets and in the hospitals at the time, working for peace and helping victims. On March 5, a peace march of prominent Gujaratis was organised by the Gujarat Lok Samiti. Independent individuals sent out this much-needed message for peace, against hatred. Political parties became active much later.

2.2. However, the conduct of the Congress-controlled Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation — in aiding and abetting the demolition of the tomb of Wali Gujarati opposite the police commissioner’s office in Ahmedabad, or the demolition of the 100-year-old Madni mosque in Vasna, Ahmedabad, months later, is shocking to say the least. The corporation body faced a crisis following the resignation of 19 party corporators from various committees, in protest against the demolition of the Madni mosque, on July 3. The Congress mayor, Shri Himmatsingh Patel, claimed that the demolition was carried out under instructions from Gandhinagar and the municipal commissioner and had kept the elected representatives in the dark.

2.3. The mosque had been in the eye of a storm for causing obstruction to traffic. However, no temples were similarly targeted though hundreds dot Gujarat roads even in the heart of the city. Hooligans damaged the mosque, along with nine shops adjoining its boundary wall, during the recent violence. Repair work had just been taken up by a private Muslim trust when municipal bulldozers demolished it.

2.4. Objectionable bill-boards, proclaiming Gujarat to be a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (Hindu state) have come up in Ahmedabad city over past months, after the carnage. "Karnavati city of this Hindu Rashtra welcomes you," proclaims a bill-bill-board painted in saffron in the heart of Ahmedabad. (The Times of India, August 18, 2002). In Chhotaudaipur, 200 km south of Ahmedabad, the bill-bill-board on the highway is more direct. It simply says: "Welcome to Hindu Rashtra’s Chhotaudaipur town." These are a legacy of five years of BJP rule. Though symbolic, they send out clear a message that is entirely in tune with the ideology of the sangh parivar and the conduct of the BJP in Gujarat. A freshly painted bill-board on a crossroad outside Shahpur Gate in Ahmedabad proclaims the roundabout to be ‘Kashi Vishwanath Chowk’.

2.5 The bill-boards have been put up by the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Durga Vahini. Most of them proclaim Dharamraksha (Protection of Faith), Rashtraraksha (Protection of Country) and Gauraksha (Protection of Cows) as the main objectives of these organisations. But while welcoming people to ‘Karnavati city of Hindu Rashtra’, a bill-board at Kalupur, Ahmedabad, goes a step further: ‘Garv Se Kaho Hum Hindu Hain’ (‘Say with pride you are a Hindu’).

2.6. It is tragic that even the Congress, which was returned to power in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) two years ago, is dragging its feet on pulling these bill-bill-boards down, despite a directive to this effect issued by new state Congress president Shankersinh Vaghela recently.

2.7. The Gujarat carnage has shown to India and the world how some political parties that use the electoral process to come to power work towards the steady erosion of secular and democratic values and defiance of the Constitution through the manipulation and misuse of the very state institutions that were created to protect them.

2.8. The Constitution of India is founded on a notion of representative nationhood. It is this critical principle that gives every citizen equal rights and an equal stake in the nation. But this constitutional provision is seriously compromised when religious or some other sectarian identity redefines the share and stake of different citizens in public life. For genuine secularism to be re-injected into Indian political and public life, it is imperative that political parties that profess commitment to secularism are undaunted in their critique of discrimination and hate politics. Ultimately, their actions must speak as much as words. What India badly needs today are men and women of stature, committed to countering violence whenever and wherever it occurs. And for this are prepared to risk their life and limb.

3. Role of Neighbouring States

3.1. The relatively more sensitive governance being provided by the state governments and administrations of neighbouring Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh deserves appreciation.

3.2. Attempts were made by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP, supported by the RSS and the BJP, to inflame sentiments in the neighbouring districts of both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The fact that there was no spill over violence in these areas is testimony to the fact that communal tension and violence spread only when the state wishes them to, and when it connives with such communal elements. In the border areas of Rajasthan, commissioners of police in the cities and SPs of districts were personally in charge for a fortnight while the situation simmered.

3.3. While returning from Mecca, Haj pilgrims who hail from Gujarat diverted their journey and sought refuge in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The governments there, in sharp contrast of the state of affairs in Gujarat, housed and fed them. They returned only when they felt comfortable about their security. Similarly, in Rajasthan, the local administration in the districts bordering Panchmahal, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha actually ran refugee camps for victims who had fled from Gujarat in terror.

3.4. On August 17, 2000, having amended the Indian Arms Act, the MP government ordered a crackdown on VHP-Bajrang Dal cadres in that state trying to foment trouble through mass distribution of trishuls. The Indian Arms Act, 1959, prohibits possession and carrying of sharp-edged weapons longer than six inches. Taking advantage of this provision, the VHP had decided to distribute Tridents measuring five-and-three-quarters of an inch. Thousands of trishuls would have been distributed all over the state. However, the government amended the Arms act, curtailing the permissible limit to four inches.

4. Role of Gandhian Institutions

4.1. Gandhian institutions have been a pivotal force in the state of Gujarat. In the past they have had a significant influence on political forces like the Congress(O). However, since 1977, their distance from active politics has played a significant role in their declining influence. The absence of any organisational work among the young, too, has contributed to this. These factors culminating in an active distancing from active politics have added to their declining influence. Gandhian organisations, which number over 2,000 in the state of Gujarat and are beneficiaries of state funds, have therefore lost the stature they had in past decades. Individually, senior Gandhians have condemned violence and communalism. But their silence in some significant cases, and open allegiance to stances taken by Hindutvavadi organisations on occasions have further contributed to the communalisation of civil society in Gujarat.

5. Godhra Tragedy Condemned

5.1. Among other things, the BJP and the sangh parivar have frequently reiterated that ‘Hindu anger’ was fuelled largely by the reluctance of opposition parties, secular groups and Muslim organisations to condemn the merciless killing of ‘kar sevaks’ in the Sabarmati Express. This, however, is far from the truth.

5.2. Leaders of various opposition parties have repeatedly challenged this contention, pointing out that on February 27 itself they had condemned the Godhra killing in unambiguous terms. We have examined this and found the BJP and the sangh parivar’s charge as unfounded. If their statements did not get the prominence they deserved is of course another issue altogether that needs to be addressed, in the first place, by the mass media.

5.3. Heads of Muslim organisations throughout India condemned the killing of 58 passengers of the Sabarmati Express. In a statement released on February 28, they called upon the people of Gujarat to exercise restraint. The signatories included Shri Syed Shahabuddin, president, All India Majlis-e-Mushawarat, Qazi Mujahid-ul-Islam Qasmi’s Milli Council, Shri Asad Madani, president Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind, Shri Saiyid Hamid, president, Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians, Shri Jalaludin Umri, acting amir, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Shri Mohd. Yaha, president, Markazi Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, Shri HR Nomani, president, All India Momin Conference, Shri Syed Nizamuddin, general secretary, All India Muslim Personal Law Bill-board, Shri Amanullah Khan, general secretary, Rahat Committee, Shri M. Afzal, president, All India Urdu Editors’ Conference and Shri Navaid Hamid, secretary, Minority Council.

5.4. Statements promptly condemning Godhra were also made by independent citizens like Shri Javed Akhtar, Shri Alyque Padamsee and other concerned citizens from Mumbai and elsewhere.


Published by: Citizens for Justice and Peace