Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002
An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat
Preparation for Violence
From its declaration of the Gujarat bandh on February 28 and the Bharat bandh on March 1, following the Godhra tragedy, the questionable role of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat and the ruling BJP’s active ‘fraternal’ support to them is clear. Within hours of the VHP’s bandh call, on the afternoon of February 27, the BJP’s Gujarat general secretary extended to them his party’s support.
1.2. Following the declaration of the bandh with detailed action plans, including steps taken to ensure police complicity, (see chapters — State Complicity, Police Misbehaviour, Volume III), many of the BJP’s elected representatives to the civic corporation or Parliament, were active in leading the mobs targeting Muslims.
1.3. They have been named in FIRs, fact-finding reports of citizens groups and newspaper reports. (see chapter-- List of the accused, Volume III)
1.4. The tight control that outfits like the VHP and RSS have on the ruling BJP in Gujarat and on the dominant partner of the National Democratic Alliance at the Centre, has been evident for long. The Gujarat carnage has thoroughly exposed how even the murder of innocents could be condoned by a party, the BJP, ostensibly wedded to democracy and the rule of law.
1.5. Most shocking in this condonation of the Gujarat carnage, was the role of the deputy prime minister and home minister, Shri LK Advani, whose electoral constituency is Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat. On innumerable occasions, Shri Advani has been engaged in high praise for Shri Modi and given him a clean chit, when he should, in fact, have been upholding the Constitution of India. He referred to the Gujarat CM as the "best chief minister in 50 years" and has repeatedly praised Shri Modi’s Gaurav Yatra, which is nothing short of a celebration of the violence that his government effectively sponsored. It is in the course of his Gaurav Yatra that Shri Modi made some extremely offensive remarks, describing the relief camps as "breeding centres" for Muslims, which his government had no interest in promoting.
1.6. The close nexus between the Modi-headed BJP government in Gujarat on the one hand, and the RSS and VHP on the other, is apparent from the backing that each gave to the other’s statements, including those casting aspersions on constitutional authorities like the election commission and the chief election commissioner (CEC).
1.7. Three days after Shri Modi had hit out at the CEC, JM Lyngdoh, as well as the Congress party president, Smt. Sonia Gandhi, because they both happen to be of the Christian faith, on August 23, the international general secretary of the VHP, Shri Praveen Togadia, forcefully repeated the charge. Describing Shri Modi as the ‘he-man’ of Gujarat, he charged Lyngdoh with having an ‘anti-Hindu’ bias because of his decision to defer the elections in Gujarat. After delivering a lecture on Islamic terrorism, organised by the Indraprastha VHP at the Constitution Club in Delhi, Shri Togadia told reporters, "There are two similarities between Mrs Gandhi and Lyngdoh. They are both Christians and both of them don’t want early elections in Gujarat." The CEC, he said, had also "betrayed his anti-Hindu bias" earlier, in a lecture delivered at Mussourie in the aftermath of the anti-Christian violence in Dangs (Gujarat) in 2000.
1.8. The clear connection and nexus between the democratically elected BJP government in Gujarat and outfits like the RSS and the VHP is evident from the former’s conduct, since the carnage. Reports of the Gujarat government’s deliberate avoidance of the arrest of at least 150 VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP kingpins — their names figure in the FIRs filed by the police for directly leading the mobs who slaughtered Muslims and indulged in bloody violence — have been confirmed by the absence of their names in the charge-sheets.
1.9. Although Shri Modi’s government claims to have arrested over 2,500 persons involved in the post-Godhra riots, not a single mastermind from the VHP, BJP or Bajrang Dal named as riot perpetrators and mob leaders in various police complaints, have been arrested. On the contrary, police officials who have named these leaders from the Sangh Parivar in the FIRs are being pressured to either drop their names or book them under less serious charges. At least six BJP workers have been named as the main accused in the Naroda carnage case, where over 150 Muslim men and women were massacred after girls and women were brutalised sexually. The accused include, Shri Raju Sharma, Shri Kishan Kurani, Shri PJ Rajput, Shri Harish Rohara, Shri Bapu Bajrang and Shri Raju Chaubal, all identified as BJP and VHP activists. FIRs have been lodged against the six Sangh Parivar activists under IPC 302, 395 and 143, 149 and 148 for slaughtering and rioting. However, police have been instructed not to arrest the culprits. "It is politically incorrect to arrest them and we are under tremendous pressure not to act against them," said police officers. (The Indian Express, March 9, 2002).
1.10. The Tribunal observes that in Gujarat, many cabinet ministers are simultaneously prominent leaders of the VHP. The home minister, Shri Gordhan Zadaphiya, is one of them. So, too, is the former revenue minister Shri Haren Pandya, a senior VHP functionary. He has been named by many witnesses who appeared before us, as trying to influence police not to take action against the accused. Minister for forests, Shri Prabhat Singh Chauhan and minister for cottage industries, Shri Narayan Laloo Patel are also two clear examples of this.
1.11. In Bhavnagar, which witnessed the worst communal violence in its history, there are FIRs against Shri Om Trivedi, the city VHP president, and Shri Mansukh Panjwani, a city BJP office bearer and former municipal councillor. Both Shri Trivedi and Shri Panjwani are alleged to have led mobs that set fire to over 80 Muslim-owned business establishments. They are, however, yet to be arrested.
1.12. Similarly, at Surendranagar, CR No. 54/2002 names six persons, who are primary members of the BJP and VHP, for instigating riots and indulging in mayhem. They have been charged under IPC 395, 436, 147, 148 and 149 but have not been arrested. These include district VHP in-charge, Shri Raju Vaishnav, BJP councillor, Shri Narottam Satwara, VHP joint secretary, Shri Dhiren Shukla, Shri Tulsibhai Ranchhod Bharwad and Shri Devji Bharwad, (the last three being active BJP workers). Each time chief minister Shri Modi and the union home minister and present deputy prime minister, Shri LK Advani were questioned on this matter, they have simply feigned ignorance. This attitude, on both their parts, amounts to shielding the guilty.
1.13. Soon after the Gujarat carnage, there was a nation-wide clamour for the dismissal or resignation of the chief minister and the imposition of President’s rule in the state. While on occasions the Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee gave the impression of being somewhat shaken by the events in Gujarat, it soon became evident that it was the RSS who had the final say, when the then BJP president, Shri Jana Krishnamurthy, effectively overruled the PM and asserted that Shri Modi’s resignation was out of the question.
1.14. It is clear from these associations, and the desire of the central and the Gujarat governments to grant these outfits legitimacy, that a close and abiding link exists between the BJP, the RSS and the VHP/BD. (Two years ago, the Gujarat government decided that there lift the bar on government servants from joining the RSS. The decision had to be withdrawn following country-wide protests, including those from the BJP’s allies in the NDA coalition at the Centre.)
1.15. On February 27, concerned over the strident posturing related to the campaign for building the Ram temple at Ayodhya on the site of the demolished Babri Masjid, none less than the Prime Minister of India, Shri Vajpayee, met with the working president of the VHP, Shri Ashok Singhal.. At this meeting, the RSS joint general secretary who was also present promised "to tone down the movement."
1.16. Within days of the PM expressing some remorse over Gujarat during a visit to the US, Shri Singhal responded (September 22): "PM Vajpayee’s statement in the US regarding the Gujarat riots had lowered the image of the people of Gujarat. The prime minister made a ridiculous remark in the US that what happened in Gujarat was a matter of shame. The remark in fact is most shameful… Gujarat is a lesson for all times to come. Since Independence, Hindus had been victims of Muslim vandalism. Now the Hindus of Gujarat have beamed a message that jehadi programmes will no longer be tolerated in any part of the country. Gujarat has served as a warning to those trying to make India a pan-Islamic nation. There are one lakh madrassas (Islamic institutions) which are propagating a dangerous ideology to make India Dar-ul-Islam. They are breeding grounds for terrorists…"
1.17. The role played by the BJP and organisations like the RSS, VHP and BD in threatening internal peace and security in many parts of India is clear. There is an urgent need to put a complete stop to these activities, which are subversive of the Indian Constitution.
1.18. The Tribunal would like to record here, the ample evidence placed before it by expert witnesses, newspaper reports and fact-finding team reports, documenting the aggressive tone and posturing of organisations like the RSS, VHP and BD, especially since the BJP-dominated National Democratic Alliance came to power at the centre. These activities and such public posturing indicate several things:
uThe intimate connection and the hold that these organisations have on the BJP, a party which heads the central government today;
u The avowedly anti-constitutional thrust of their intent and activities, whether in the matter of the construction of a temple on the site of a demolished mosque, in the absence of a court verdict on the matter, or on other issues;
u The series of arms training camps held all over the country, by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, both off-shoots of the RSS, with close links to the BJP, since, at least, the year 2000. The Indian Arms Act, 1959, expressly prohibits the possession of arms by private parties without licence (the only exception being security agencies). The possession of a licence before a firearm is owned is a legal requirement. The Bombay Police Act, which applies to Gujarat, is similarly stringent on the question of possession of arms by citizens. The police are empowered to demand production of a licence. (Section 19 of the Arms Act). The exemption of the trishul (which in fact is a sharp, three-pronged weapon, which can cause fatal injury), from the provisions of the Arms Act, through a GR issued by the central government, is a clever ploy to encourage the militarisation and arming of a section of civil society by such groups. The swords that are also freely sold at the arms training camps, along with the air guns and rifles that are used for shooting practice, are clear pointers to the intent of these organisations. Yet, the police in BJP-ruled states and the BJP-led central government have turned a blind eye to such ominous developments.
u In the specific case of the Gujarat carnage, whether on the issue of the removal or resignation of Shri Modi from the chief minister’s post or others, it is evident that the BJP-led ruling NDA’s demeanour and actions have been strongly influenced by the utterings of the RSS and its siblings, the VHP and the BD.
1.19. The intelligence departments of three states in India — Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan — have asked for a ban on the Bajrang Dal, on the grounds that it is generating "terror" and spawning home–bred terrorists. The testimony of many witnesses, from both communities, who appeared before the Tribunal, reinforces the assessment of the state police in Gujarat’s neighbouring states. "Many Gujaratis, Hindus and Muslims alike, felt that the Bajrang Dal had made a business of deliberately transforming ordinary people into terrorists. Where people had been living peacefully, they unnecessarily spun stories about Muslims, although, so far, Muslims had never given them any trouble. They wondered why people were being taught things like this." (A witness’ testimony before the Tribunal.)
2.1. In recent years, groups affiliated to the Sangh Parivar have been in the ascendant country-wide, given their increased access to political power, patronage and money. But the extent and scale of their mobilisation in Gujarat should be a matter of grave concern for the law and order machinery.
2.2. The BJP’s rule in Gujarat, after its return to power in February 1998, has been marked by frequent attacks on the religious minorities in the state and other anti-constitutional actions that remained unchallenged. (See chapter on Build -Up in Gujarat, Volume II).
2.3. Evidence led before the tribunal from Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gaon, Gulberg society, Chamanpura, Gomtipur and Rakhial (all in Ahmedabad), from Vadodara, Bharuch, Ankleshwar and from villages in Himmatnagar, Sabarkantha, and Panchmahal district reveals that local tensions built up after the formation of an RSS/VHP/BD unit in the area. These groups started marshalling young Hindus, assuming an aggressive attitude, distributing swords and trishuls and, in general, adopting a vigilante stance against ‘impending attacks from Muslims.’
2.4. The Tribunal has led specific and detailed evidence on the method of mobilisation and training adopted by the VHP and Bajrang Dal from four recruitsformer recruits. This explains the phenomenon whereby huge mobs surfaced so promptly all over the state during the carnage. It also explains the ability of these organisations to collect youngsters, indoctrinated with misconceptions and with hatred in their hearts, who were available at a signal from their leaders to commit murder, loot, arson and rape, and defy all laws, secure in the conviction that with the BJP in power, they would have full protection and need have no fear of the law and order machinery.
2.5. Reproduced here is the gist of the testimony of the four recruits/former recruits mentioned above, which provides a clear picture of the BD’s and the VHP’s mobilisation techniques. The enrolment fee for a new entrant to a BD shakha (cell) is Rs. 55. Once admitted, you are expected to attend meetings held around 8 p.m. every night, mostly on private premises, sometimes in small temples. Secret meetings for the more select are held once a week, later at night, around 10 p.m. Enrolment to the shakha entitles the volunteer to a card identifying him as a Bajrang Dal karyakarta (activist). If you help recruit 10 more youth, you are made a ‘VHP Mantri’. You are given a trishul the moment you enrol. You are told that trishuls were not meant to be kept inside a temple and worshipped but to be used to protect the Hindu faith. You are also told that the trishul should not be used to kill one’s ‘brothers’, but to save ‘our’ religion.
2.6. At the weekly meetings, members are told, more explicitly, that the trishuls are to be used against Muslims whenever there was a riot or a fight. If you killed Muslims, the organisation was there to protect you from penal consequences. If something happened to you, the organisation was there to take care of your family. If you did get arrested during the riots, all you had to do was to show your Bajrang dal membership card and the police was sure to let you go.
2.7. The VHP Mantris are assigned the responsibility of training 60-70 boys each day. What did the training involve? The training primarily involved compiling an exhaustive list of all Muslims living in the area. Members had to collect information about Muslim places of residence, property, businesses, family, etc. in the locality: Who lived where, how much they were worth, how many children they had, etc. All the information so gathered was to be passed on in the form of a written report that was maintained by the Mantri.
2.8. The Tribunal notes with horror, the level of impunity that such unlawful, armed organisations have come to enjoy in BJP-ruled Gujarat.
2.9. Apart from the detailed account of the four recruits/former recruits to the Bajrang Dal, other witnesses from Naroda, near Ahmedabad, and from Kheda, Bharuch and Panchmahal districts also gave evidence before the Tribunal about training camps being organised in their neighbourhoods. In all these cases, an intensive training of the BD/VHP volunteers began after September 2001. An advertisement encouraging youngsters to join the Bajrang Dal in large numbers had appeared in the Gujarat daily, Sandesh in August last year.
2.10. This suggests sinister preparation and planning for the Gujarat carnage long before the Godhra tragedy, by the Sangh Parivar affiliates, their leaders confident of impunity from the long arm of the law since they enjoyed the patronage of the ruling party.
2.11. Notwithstanding the in themselves startling and brazen revelations made by professor Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, the 96-year-old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the VHP, in an interview to rediff.com, there is evidently an attempt to deny past preparation and planning, intensively so in Gujarat since last year. In the interview (see Annexures, Volume I) Shri Shastri said that the list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself. This was in response to the allegation that shops in Ahmedabad were looted on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in advance, and that the violence was not a spontaneous outburst against the Godhra outrage. Asked why they did it, he responded, "’Karvunj pade, karvunj pade’ (‘It had to be done, it had to be done’). We don’t like it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind." He said the rioters were "kelvayela Hindu chokra" ("well-bred Hindu boys"). The impunity with which Shri Shastri could speak with the candour that he did in his interview on March 12, and again on March 29, when he told the same journalist that the organisation (VHP) had been asked to pull back, is shocking, to say the least. That the Gujarat government has taken no action whatsoever against Shri Shastri speaks volumes about the BJP-VHP nexus.
2.12. The constant invocation of caste Hindu symbols, militant and aggressive posturing, the possession of trishuls and swords and regular weapons’ training were elements of the methodical preparation of these cadres. Young men were told that Bajrang Dal workers should always greet each other with ‘Jai Shri Ram!’ to identify themselves. One of the centres used for physical training was at a theatre beyond Adalaj on the Gandhinagar road outside Ahmedabad. While trishuls were often distributed on payment of enrolment fees, members were asked to pay Rs. 310 for a sword. They were assured at the secret weekly training sessions that the swords were ‘legal’. They were also told that if ever the police found them, all they had to do was tell them that it was a Bajrang Dal sword, and no one would say anything. Swords were sold to the recruits quite openly and instructions on how to use them were given at the secret meetings.
2.13. At the advanced stage of training, the more seasoned members were told they would have to participate in fights or riots (ladhai-jhagda, danga-fasaad) whenever necessary. They said that, as Bajrang Dal leaders, they would, necessarily, be the most active, but young men, too, should always be prepared. They might be woken up in the middle of the night and should be ready to participate. The recruits were promised that when they participated in a riot, the organisation would pay them double the money that they lost in regular wages. Young men were also assured that if ever they were injured or killed during a riot, their families would receive adequate compensation.
2.14. The speeches at these meetings followed a basic pattern. Leaders would be brought in to brainwash the young members against Muslims. The single point agenda, evidence before the Tribunal has recorded, indicates that the desire was to demonise the Muslim community as also to create an armed cadre of young men, indoctrinated, full of hatred in their hearts, and sufficiently trained to perpetrate the grossest forms of physical abuse on their victims.
2.15. The Tribunal collected concrete information about the kind of mental training and brainwashing imparted to young men at the secret, weekly meetings – "We were told that until now it is the Muslims who have been harassing Hindus. ‘They have molested Hindu sisters and Hindu daughters. In Hindi films today, all the top heroes are Muslims, but there are no Muslim heroines. It is Muslims who are forging ahead in our country. They don’t let their daughters out in public but they spoil our Hindu daughters. Muslims are the ones who always use force. Our country was once a Hindu nation. The Muslims invaded us by force, married our mothers and our daughters and converted us to Islam.’"
2.16. According to the witnesses, in the Bajrang Dal camps, young men are told: "Under the pretext of prayers [namaaz], Muslims gather at 2 p.m. every day and maulvis instruct them in several activities. They specially employ young men, pay them a salary and send them to college to spoil Hindu girls. Muslims are involved in several such nefarious activities." They said that they wanted to start a similar practice amongst Hindus. That was what the secret 10 p.m. meetings were meant for. Here the members would all band together, worship/invoke Hanuman and prepare "to give Muslims a fitting reply." The secret meetings – gupt shakhas — also gave special training in the use of arms.
2.17. The Tribunal, therefore, concludes that abundant financial resources was one distinguishing feature of these outfits; that mercenary means are adopted to sustain the interest and participation of young cadres, ready to do the bidding of their hate-filled masters.
2.18. The Tribunal records that in Gujarat, quite apart from the political patronage and impunity from the law accorded to these outfits, there is enough money to finance the mobilisation. The source of such funds, used increasingly for blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional activities, needs to be investigated.
2.19. The Tribunal received detailed information on the Sangh Parivar’s shakha activities all over Gujarat, from the evidence of witnesses living in neighbourhoods where the training takes place. It should be a matter of priority for the local police to keep a tab on such activities, and curtail them, as they clearly disseminate hate literature to create permanent disharmony, fissures and tensions in Indian society and distribute arms and give arms training to pit one religious community against another.
2.20. Reports in credible national dailies and periodicals show that the VHP and the Bajrang Dal have been regularly conducting arms training camps in different parts of the country, for the last two years at least. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III). From the statements on record, the objective behind these camps is evident, as are the objectives of their organisers and the instructors who conduct them: to spread venom against the minorities, especially Muslims and Christians, and to prepare a band of heavily indoctrinated, well-trained youth ready at a moment’s notice to pounce on the minorities. "We are preparing these able-bodied persons to fight any eventuality. With the ISI spreading its tentacles, these people are being trained to challenge the anti-Hindu forces... It is not the gun that matters, but self-confidence." (Ved Prakash Sachchan, joint convenor of the UP unit of the Bajrang Dal, in an interview to The Times of India, June 13, 2001.) Such are the declared activities at these camps. The Tribunal has on its record, details of such arms training by these outfits in different states all over the country.
2.21. Given this background and the detailed evidence gathered by the Tribunal in the course of its investigations for a fortnight in Gujarat in May 2002, on the objectives and the kind of training given in the course of these camps, it is clear that they are a means to poison minds and generate hatred among Hindu youth towards other faiths and their followers. For Indian society, the consequences of such systematic and large-scale indoctrination and training, which is blatantly unconstitutional and seriously threatens internal peace, cannot be overemphasised. Instead of orienting them towards productive, creative and noble purposes, hate-mongers from the Sangh Parivar are busy mobilising youth for destructive activities. Anyone concerned about the health of Indian society and its progress should be acutely disturbed by these developments. Governments in the states and in New Delhi should view these developments with the urgency they deserve and halt such hate-driven mobilisation for violence.
2.22. Testimonies recorded by the Tribunal from Vadodara showed that about 2 months prior to the Godhra incident, a big meeting (sabha) was held at Tarsali bus stand near Vijaynagar colony. About 2-3000 people attended. It was a meeting for people from the Bajrang Dal and was attended by the international general secretary of the VHP, Shri Praveen Togadia as well a religious leader whose speech was telecast on the local television channel. The Tribunal recorded evidence that showed objectionable and criminal statements were made and telecast. Witnesses testified before the Tribunal saying that Hindus should not interact with Muslims on a normal basis but should only maintain good relations with those Muslims who have good looking wives, so that when the time came they could do what they had to do.
2.23. In August 2001, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal had organised a VHP Bharti (Join VHP) programme. Nearly one lakh people marched through the streets of Ahmedabad even though curfew was declared. This went on until September. One of the main programmes was held at the VHP’s Vanikar Bhavan, Paldi. Their main avahan (call) was, "Muslim ko nasht kar do!" ("Destroy the Muslims!") Advertisements were also released, asking for membership.
3 Impunity from Punishment
3.1. Gross and heinous crimes instigated or committed by the Sangh Parivar with the connivance of the BJP-ruled state government, during the post-Godhra carnage in Gujarat, has been matched with a celebration of the crimes and open contempt for the rule law. On March 9, The Indian Express reported that even before the police had apprehended or prepared charge-sheets against the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists named in FIRs for attacking Muslims, the VHP had a team of 50 advocates ready to defend the killers in court. "The advocates will work in teams of five each. What is more, a core committee was set up on Tuesday to provide ‘succour’ to families of men on the run or in judicial custody... The VHP state wing general secretary, Jaideep Patel says, ‘These men (the Godhra victims and those facing police action for post Godhra crimes) have fought a religious battle. They also fought to protect Hindu lives under attack. Not only the VHP and Bajrang Dal, the whole community should come forward to help them’… Patel is not sure how many of his men are already in police reports or will be named in them, but says it ‘will not be less than 3,000’, including those responsible for the Gulberg society and Jakar Falia attacks."
3.2. According to the same report in The Indian Express a top Bajrang Dal functionary, Shri Harshad Gilletwala said, "Cases are being registered against our men all across the state — Ahmedabad, Surat, Panchmahal. Maybe some of our men may have been involved in reprisals, being emotionally charged by the Godhra attack. But in most cases they are being falsely implicated."
3.3. Incidentally, Shri Gilletwala himself faces similar charges. He is named in several cases of rioting in Ahmedabad over the last few years, the most infamous being the 1999 Bhagyodaya restaurant case. Gilletwala and a gang of Bajrang Dal men allegedly set fire to the restaurant in the Satellite area and burnt alive one of its Muslim owners in July 1999. (See chapter on Build-Up in Gujarat, Volume II)
4. Hate Speech and Hate Writing
4.1. Since the BJP came to power in Gujarat in 1998, the parent RSS and its progeny have been conducting a relentless hate campaign against the minorities, which goes against the laws of the land and violates international covenants, many of which India is a signatory to. After the Godhra tragedy, where, in an unpardonable act, 58 passengers aboard a train were burnt alive on February 27, the hate speeches and hate literature has been geared to both incite and justify the gross violence against Muslims.
4.2. The Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS, held at Chennenahalli, near Bangalore, from March 16-19, reflected the organisation’s role and thinking on the Godhra and post-Godhra incidents. On the eve of the meeting of its leaders, the RSS gave a clean chit to Shri Modi’s role during the Gujarat carnage. Describing the violence after the Godhra incident as a "natural reaction of Hindus", the RSS asserted that no government could have controlled the "upsurge". While expressing the view that the "natural reaction" (read gruesome and unprecedented violence) was unjustifiable, the RSS spokesperson Shri MG Vaidya said, "Whole Hindu society irrespective of caste, creed and political affiliations, reacted violently against what had happened at Godhra." (The Times of India, March 16.)
4.3. At the conclusion of the conference, two days later, with over 2,000 innocent Muslims having been brutally killed, not to mention the other indignities heaped on the community in Gujarat, the RSS thought it fit to lecture to Indian Muslims on their "extremist leaders" and "Hindu-baiters". A resolution adopted at the three-day conference of the Sangh, said: "Let Muslims understand that their real safety lies in the goodwill of the majority." Although a few Muslim leaders interpreted ‘jihad’ as not supporting terrorism, they had not been able to influence the extremist elements, it said. "The Sabha wants to make it clear that it does no credit to the Muslim community to allow itself to be made pawns in the hands of extremist leaders," the resolution added. Describing the Godhra incident as "horrible and ghastly", the RSS delegates said it was imperative to present things in the proper perspective. "The reaction to the incident was spontaneous. The entire Hindu society had reacted. It was unfortunate that a number of people died in the violence." (Shri Vaidya quoted in The Hindu, March 18). Ten days later, the RSS restated its position and further elucidated the advice given in Bangalore. Shri Vaidya demanded that Muslims "re-interpret and define" the words kafir (infidels), kufr (the philosophy of infidels) and jihad (holy war against infidels). When asked how, in his view, Muslims could earn the goodwill of Hindus, Vaidya said they must condemn the activities of those who professed to carry out a " jihad" against "idol-worshippers". He said the RSS did not consider all Muslims terrorists, but "many terrorists happened to be Muslims" and claimed that they were pursuing " jihad, which is an Islamic cause". (The Indian Express, March 28). The RSS spokesperson used the occasion to advise Christians, too. "Christians should also accept that there is salvation outside the Church, too. Nobody should indulge in mass conversions and nobody should claim to offer a superior spirituality."
4.4. The attitude of the top leadership of the VHP to the post-Godhra carnage embodied not just open support and celebration of the mass crimes, but also the threat to repeat Gujarat’s example all over India. On March 6, The Hindustan Times quoted the all-India vice-president of the VHP, Shri Hareshbhai Bhatt as saying that he was proud that Hindus have finally stirred: "For years, we have been harassed and attacked. The law protects them and governments, including the one led by the BJP, have appeased them." Shri Bhatt scoffed at the idea of an inquiry into the mayhem: "Inquiry, what inquiry? An inquiry is held when an offence has been committed. What happened at Godhra was an offence. What happened after Godhra was a reaction... The VHP has taken a long-term decision that all Hindus will boycott Muslims economically, financially and socially. Muslims have to change their mindsets if they have to live here."
4.5. Such statements by office bearers of the VHP must not be seen in isolation. Pre-and post-Godhra Gujarat and India is testimony to how these statements are also translated into venomous actions against the minorities.
4.5.1. Since the Gujarat carnage, the working president of the VHP, Shri Ashok Singhal, its international general secretary, Shri Praveen Togadia, and other prominent leaders have revelled in repeated public utterances gloating over the violence against Muslims, instigating further hatred against them and threatening to force all Indian Muslims into refugee camps, as in Gujarat.
4.5.2. On September 17, the VHP’s national secretary, Shri Surendra Jain, told a news agency that what happened in Gujarat after the Godhra killing was "not a matter of shame but a matter of pride." He was criticising the Prime Minister who had described the Gujarat happenings as a matter of "national shame."
4.5.3. On September 3, describing Gujarat as a "successful experiment," Shri Singhal said, "Godhra happened on February 27 and the next day, 50 lakh Hindus were on the streets. We were successful in our experiment of raising Hindu consciousness, which will be repeated all over the country now." The very next day, he expounded on his proposition. Shri Singhal spoke in glowing terms of the fact that in the state of his dreams, entire villages had been "emptied of Islam" and large numbers of Muslims had been forced to seek the shelter of refugee camps. "People say I praise Gujarat. Yes, I do."
At a press conference on October 11, Shri Singhal stated, "What happened in Gujarat will happen in the whole of the country. Hindus were not born to be cut like carrots and radishes… the Hindukaran (Hinduisation) of the people of Gujarat was a direct result of the ‘jehadi’ mentality of Muslims."
4.5.4. On September 15, Shri Praveen Togadia, who has repeatedly mocked the law of the land in recent months, (see section on Annexures, Volume I) said that Gujarat would decide the country’s politics.
4.5.5. On August 9, the VHP leader Acharya Giriraj Kishore demanded that Muslims should amend certain verses (Ayaat) in the Koran.
4.5.6. On September 9, the chief minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi, addressing a rally in Mehsana district during his Gaurav Yatra, said: "Relief camps are actually child-making factories. Those who keep on multiplying the population (read Muslims) should be taught a lesson." (The Hindu, September 10)
Shri Modi’s very offensive remarks created a national uproar. When, following news reports, the National Human Rights Commission demanded a copy of the taped speech of the chief minister, the Gujarat government pretended that no such tape existed, until Star News telecast the same. Undeterred by all this, Shri Togadia announced at a press conference, "The VHP will distribute all over the country one lakh copies of the cassette of Modi’s speech delivered on September 9, to make the people aware of the double standards of the so-called secularist parties including the Congress." (The Deccan Herald, September 24)
4.5.7. "The time was ripe for forming a separate army of Hindu youths who would protect the religion from attacks by jehadis." (Praveen Togadia, The Times of India, October 18, 2002)
4.6. The above statements and others made at different points by influential office bearers of the VHP and BD, jubilant over the Gujarat carnage post-Godhra and eulogising Shri Modi as one of the three modern day heroes of Hindus, along with Shri Singhal (for his role in the Ramjanmabhoomi movement and demolition of the Babri Masjid) and Shiv Sena leader, Shri Bal Thackeray (for his anti-Muslim pogrom in 1992-’93), reflect the intimate connection between them and the common design by which they operate. They also reveal the real intent of these organisations. Not only is the generation of animus and hatred against a particular section celebrated and justified, there is little concern that such an attitude militates against the country’s secular democratic ethos. It is clear to the Tribunal from the vast evidence placed before it that the real intent and purpose of the Sangh Parivar is the subversion of the Constitution of India.
4.7. Quite apart from the public statements and utterances that have been widely publicised in the national media after the Gujarat carnage, the plethora of hate pamphlets in circulation in Gujarat before, during and since the carnage are testimony to the calculated use of demonising tactics, by these outfits, to spur their cadres into action.
4.8. Evidence in the form of the originals and translations of these pamphlets were placed on record before the tribunal. (See section on Annexures, Volume I). Many of these have been in circulation, intermittently, over the past four years. But the period between February and April, 2002 saw the proliferation of such literature, some identifying the author, others anonymous, but all a foul testimony to the debasing levels of hatred that the ideologues of a ‘Hindu State’ can reduce ordinary people to. The Tribunal records with horror, the deep-rooted conspiracy and design that is evident from a perusal of all these pamphlets. From openly asking for a blatantly anti-constitutional boycott of Muslim shops and establishments, there are also exhortations to violence against Muslim women and children that are too shocking and painful to detail here. They reveal a depth of hatred that can be no good for the people it grips and takes hold of. Only a sick and degenerate leadership can want the whole of Indian society to descend to such demeaning levels of hatred whereby any excuse is good enough to unleash bloodshed and mass violence. The Tribunal has recorded dozens of testimonies from different parts of Gujarat that show how in the past four years, 3-4 times a year, tens of thousands of such pamphlets would flood Gujarati homes, thrust upon even those Hindus who are repulsed by their contents. From February-April 2002, the circulation of these pamphlets intensified considerably. It is astounding that no action was initiated by any wing of the Gujarat state intelligence or police against such hateful and incendiary writing; nor did the judiciary take suo motu action, which it is empowered to do. While most of the hate pamphlets are anonymous, there were at least four for which both the VHP and BD claimed proud authorship. (See section on Annexures, Volume I). It is a matter of profound shame that even in these cases, no action was initiated against the errant outfits and their office bearers.
4.9. One such pamphlet which bears special mention here, is one that mentions, with name and full address, a VHP office bearer as the author and publisher of this VHP/BD pamphlet: Chinubhai N. Patel, Vishwa Hindu Parishad Office; Vanikar Smarak Bhavan, 11 Mahalakshmi Society, Mahalakshmi Cross Roads, Paldi, Karnavati. Tel. 6604015, 6631365 Tel. (res.) 7454699. This pamphlet, which was in wide circulation, openly propagated hatred against Indian Muslims:
"The terrorist and traitorous Muslims of this country get weapons from more than 50 Muslim nations to carry out their religious wars. They are supplied with AK-56 and AK-47 rifles, automatic machine guns, small canons, rocket launchers and several kilos of RDX… The entire country is sitting on a heap of weapons and heading towards civil war and internal strife... When Pakistan attacks India, the Muslims living here will revolt... In 1947, they only had sticks, swords and spears but now they have modern weapons... They are plotting to kill crores of Hindus and we will be fighting these traitorous Muslims in every lane and by-lane of the country... If the Parliament and the Kashmir assembly can be attacked then what safety is there for the citizens of the country?…"
4.10. The above-mentioned pamphlet, which was produced before the Tribunal is nothing short of a vilification of Muslims. It is shocking that under a constitutional, secular-democratic order, such a pamphlet was not seized, the organisation whose views it obviously represents immediately banned, and its office bearers, who are a grave threat to national security, detained.
4.11. Provocative statements by VHP office bearers and by elected representatives in Gujarat in the immediate aftermath of the reprehensible killing of 59 Hindus on a train in Godhra, are widely believed to have been interpreted by VHP cadres, sympathisers and other individuals in Gujarat as a call to violence, which led to widespread killings throughout the state, earlier this year.
5. Communalisation of the State and Civil Society in Gujarat
5.1. Undeterred by the country-wide condemnation and outrage at the Gujarat carnage, the VHP’s office bearers, especially Shri Singhal and Shri Togadia, have been touring the country and making newspaper headlines each day, pouring fresh vitriol against the minorities and undermining the constitutional scheme itself. The fact that they continue to do so, unchecked by the political executive, the law and order machinery, or by suo motu action by the judiciary, is a sorry comment on the state of the rule of law, or the lack of it, now prevalent in this country.
5.2. When the country’s chief election commissioner (CEC), Shri JM Lyngdoh decided that in the circumstances still prevailing in Gujarat, elections (free and fair) could not be held immediately as desired by Shri Modi and his party, both Shri Modi and Shri Togadia alleged that the CEC was a "Christian who was taking revenge for the attack on Christians in Dangs in 1999." This is nothing short of the denigration of a constitutional authority on sectarian grounds.
5.3. The agenda of these outfits for Gujarat becomes clear when you see their unabashed proclamation of Gujarat as a "Hindu Rashtra" ("Hindu state"). During their tour of several areas of Gujarat in May, Tribunal members saw signboards all over the state, welcoming people to ‘Hindu Rashtra’. "Karnavati city of this Hindu Rashtra welcomes you," proclaims a board painted in saffron, in the heart of Ahmedabad. (Karnavati is the VHP’s preferred name for Ahmedabad). In Chhotaudaipur, 200 km south of Ahmedabad, the signboard on the highway is more direct. It simply says: "Welcome to Hindu Rashtra’s Chhotaudaipur town."
5.4. These signboards are just one part of the legacy of nearly five years of BJP rule in Gujarat. Whenever cornered, the BJP claims it has nothing to do with the ‘hidden agenda’ of the Sangh Parivar, but neither the party nor the government it runs has any difficulty with their fraternity’s open challenge to the constitutional idea of India by Hindutva’s long cherished dream of a ‘Hindu India’.
5.5. Even the Congress party, which returned to power in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) two years ago, has been reluctant to pull down these boards, despite a directive to this effect issued recently by the new state Congress president, Shri Shankersinh Vaghela.
6. Role of the RSS
6.1. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is an organisation with the self-professed goal of India as a ‘Hindu state’. (See section below, Historical Background of the RSS). It spawned the Vishwa Hindu Parishad in 1964 which in turn set up the Bajrang Dal in 1986, an aggressive militant outfit whose activities are nothing short of criminal. The RSS’ links with the BJP are well known. In the early 50s, when the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the earlier avatar of the BJP, was formed to dabble in parliamentary politics, trusted RSS pracharaks (propagators) were ‘delegated’ to the party. Following the failed Janata experiment of the 1970s, after the end of Emergency rule, the Bharatiya Jana Sangh resurfaced as the Bharatiya Janata Party, which dominates the National Democratic Alliance coalition government at the centre today. The antecedents of both present Prime Minister, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, and deputy prime minister, Shri LK Advani, are as trusted pracharaks of the RSS, loaned to the BJS decades ago, to translate Hindutva’s ideology into a political programme.
6.2. The loyalties of Shri Vajpayee, Shri Advani and other senior BJP leaders like former law minister Shri Arun Jaitley and the chief minister of Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi, to the RSS are well known and have been established beyond any doubt.
6.3. The role of the RSS in the build-up to Godhra (the shilapoojan in Ayodhya on March 15) and the post-Godhra carnage is both curious and enlightening. On March 15, the RSS gave a clean chit to the Modi-run administration in its handling of the violence. As mentioned above in the section on hate speech and writing, it justified the carnage as a "natural reaction". Two days later, as also detailed in the section above, it castigated Indian Muslims for their extremist leadership.
6.4. In January 2002, the RSS announced that henceforth, it would hoist the National Flag at all its shakhas on every Republic Day and Independence Day. This is a recent phenomenon. Until now, when, as a body, it claims the inculcating of nationalism and patriotism in every citizen to be its primary objective, it had doggedly shunned the national flag — a precious national symbol for any country — except on a few occasions.
6.5. In January 2002, the RSS convened a massive rally in Jhabua in MP state in which an estimated 1.5 lakh Adivasis from Gujarat, MP and Rajasthan participated. As the crow flies, Jhabua is not far from the Panchmahal district in Gujarat. Inflammatory speeches made by the RSS chief, Shri KS Sudarshan, and others at this rally are believed to have contributed to the incitement of tribals to violence against Muslims in the tribal areas of north Gujarat. From news reports, it appeared that the rally had more to do with ‘Hinduisation’ of Adivasis and inciting them against minorities than with anything related to the genuine welfare of the Adivasis.
6.6. The statements of RSS leaders made at training camps in Bihar, teaching students that because President Shri APJ Abdul Kalam reads the Gita, "He is a Hindu" (The Statesman, September 3), and the constant questioning of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which upholds the freedom of faith, are further indicative of the organisation’s anti-constitutional thrust.
6.7. A clear demonstration of the communal and blatantly unconstitutional manner of functioning by the RSS was the recent campaign launched by that organisation in Rajasthan, to draw the city’s youth into its fold by undertaking a communal survey of the city’s population. At the end of this campaign, the RSS hopes to have a database on every Hindu boy and young man in the city of Jaipur. Its aim being, "To proselytise uninitiated Hindus, and to give memberships to those who show sympathy for the sangh." (The Hindustan Times, Jaipur August 21, 2002)). The report also pointed out that a similar survey was conducted in Gujarat six months prior to the carnage. The Tribunal is convinced that given the track record of this organisation and given the fact that a large part of its mission is to engender communal feeling among sections wherein none existed before, the activities of these outfits need to be watched and, if necessary, curtailed.
6.8. Role of the RSS in Indian Politics: The RSS has always expressed keen interest and taken its own stance on what it considers to be key national issues. Since the BJP’s assumption of power in New Delhi, this articulation became more pronounced. Every so often, it has attempted to issue a ‘whip’ to its parliamentary wing – the BJP. Routine political utterances by RSS functionaries, either in approval or disapproval of the decisions taken by the BJP-led cabinet are examples of this.
7. Historical Background: The RSS
7.1. An investigation into the state-sponsored carnage in Gujarat would be rudderless without an examination and understanding of the ideology and the workings of the RSS and the VHP, the ideological fountainheads of the Hindu right wing. The BJP, which leads the NDA government at the centre, is merely the parliamentary expression of the sectarian ideology of Hindutva. The Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP, whose mandate involves the use of arms, if necessary, to nurture ‘Hindu pride’ and ‘Save the Hindu Nation’.
7.2. The RSS, the VHP and its numerous affiliates and branches are committed to an ideology that militates against the basic principles that underpin the Indian Constitution. The principle of equal rights to all citizens and non-discrimination are fundamental values in the Indian Constitution. It is clear from its ideological orientation, utterances and activities that the Sangh Parivar — the RSS, VHP, BD, BJP and their ideological offspring — is fundamentally opposed to the Indian Constitution.
7.3. In his book, We or Our Nationhood Defined, published in 1939, Shri MS Golwalkar, the second ‘sarsanghchalak’ (head) of the RSS, reverentially referred to by Sangh Parivar members as ‘Guru Golwalkar’ or simply ‘Guruji’, clearly spelt out his notion of ‘cultural nationalism’, drawing unabashed inspiration from the example of Adolph Hitler. Through painstaking research, some scholars have unearthed information in recent years, to establish, beyond doubt, the ideological and organisational inspiration that RSS leaders drew from fascist Italy and nazi Germany in the late ‘20s and ’30s. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III). The public utterances of the RSS today, its constant invocation of the ‘Hindu nation’ ideal, its consistent adversarial stance against the country’s religious minorities, clearly establish the link between the theory articulated by ‘Guruji’ in 1939 and the current practice of the Sangh Parivar.
7.4. In January 2000, the BJP-controlled Gujarat and UP governments decided to lift the ban on government servants joining the RSS. This raised a nation-wide outcry forcing withdrawal of the notifications, but not before Shri Advani had paid glowing tributes to his parent organisation. The fact that the BJP leadership would like to encourage and legitimise such close links between the RSS and the bureaucracy is a clear indication of the close links between the two organisations. That the short-lived Janata experiment, post-Emergency, collapsed over the issue of former Jana Sangh leaders’ insistence on their right to publicly retain their relationship with the RSS (‘dual membership’) is well-known. It is, of course, another matter that this is no longer an issue for the other (non-BJP) political descendents of the Janata Party who are now part of the NDA.
7.5. On January 30, 1948, barely five months after India won her Independence and the sub-continent was partitioned on religious lines, the unthinkable happened — Gandhi, affectionately called the ‘Mahatma’ and ‘Father of the Nation’ was assassinated by Nathuram Vinayak Godse, a young Maharashtrian. Godse, who belonged to the extremist Hindu Mahasabha, had, in the past, also been been member of a small voluntary organisation, the Hindu Rashtra Dal, and, in the early 1930s, of the RSS.
7.6. Following the assassination, the government of India treated both the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS as constituting a threat to law and order. Shri Golwalkar, the RSS sarsanghchalak and Shri VG Deshpande, general secretary of the Hindu Mahasabha, were arrested, and the government declared that no organisation preaching violence or communal hatred would be tolerated. On February 4, 1948 the union home ministry headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, released a communiqué announcing that the RSS was an unlawful association; the subsequent arrest of a number of its leaders and members reduced its activity to a minimum.
7.7. When a few sympathisers of the RSS within the Congress initiated a move to lift the ban, the home ministry, under Shri Patel, issued yet another communiqué dated November 14, 1948: "The information received by the government of India shows that the activities carried on in various forms and ways by the people associated with the RSS tend to be anti-national and often subversive and violent and that persistent attempts are being made by the RSS to revive an atmosphere in the country which was productive of such disastrous consequences in the past."
7.8. While rejecting all pleas from Shri Golwalkar that the RSS was a reformed body, the communiqué continued: "He has written letters both to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister explaining inter alia that the RSS agrees entirely in the conception of a secular state for India and that it accepts the National Flag of the country and requesting that the ban imposed on the organisation in February should now be lifted. These professions of the RSS leader are, however, quite inconsistent with the practice of his followers and for the reasons already explained above, the Government of India find themselves unable to advice provincial governments to lift the ban. The Prime Minister has, therefore, declined the interview which Mr. Golwalkar had sought."
7.9. In a letter to Shri Golwalkar, on the ban on the RSS following Gandhiji’s assassination, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had written: "It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse Hindus and organise for their self-protection... As a final result of their poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji. The RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets." (From Truth Triumphs, published by a pro-RSS publication in 1997 and distributed by Sahitya Niketan, Hyderabad).
7.10. In August 1948, Shri Golwalkar began a correspondence with Pandit Nehru and Sardar Patel to have the ban against the RSS lifted. His letters to both on September 24, 1948, harped on the ostensible danger to India from communism, as evidenced by the "alarming happenings in Burma, Indochina, Java and other neighbouring states." Eventually, the RSS agreed to adopt a written constitution, maintain regular registers of members, not admitting minors without parental permission, and working openly in the cultural field only.
7.11 The RSS won back its legal status on January 12, 1949. Following the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, the union government imposed a ban on the RSS, the VHP, BD and organisations like the Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamic Sevak Sangh (ISS) on December 10, 1993. But the Bahri Tribunal set up under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention ) Act, exonerated the RSS and the ban was lifted on June 4, 1993. The ban on the VHP, BD and the Jamaat-e-Islami was lifted subsequently.
8. The VHP and Bajrang Dal: Their Evolution and Role
8.1. In an RSS publication, Matrusansthas (literally, ‘mother organisations’), on the numerous affiliates and organisations which the RSS has spawned over the decades and which form part of the Sangh Parivar, are included the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and the VHP. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III).
8.2. The VHP was born in 1964, when the RSS chief, Shri Golwalkar, met a select group of sanyasis and heads of religious organisations in Mumbai with the aim of launching a new organisation to unite all Hindu religious sects under a single umbrella. During the first ten years of its existence, the VHP worked largely in the north-eastern states, proselytising against the Christian missionaries. But following the mass conversion of Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram (Tamil Nadu) in 1981, it shifted its focus and turned against Muslims. In this new phase, it sought to enlarge and formalise the institutional links between the high priests of Hinduism across the country. Two apex bodies were created for this purpose – the Marg Darshak Mandal, which meets once or twice annually, and the Dharam Sansad, which meets only when needed. The Shankaracharyas, all heads of top maths, were given a prominent role within them and most of them became closely identified with VHP politics.
8.3. In legal terms, the VHP was conceived of as a trust, with a 100-member board of trustees and a 51-strong governing council. The latter body includes only one sanyasi at present, Swami Chinmayananda. An indication, perhaps, that the ultimate controlling power rests not with traditional religious leaders, but with the RSS patriarchs. VHP activists are called hitchintaks (well-wishers).
8.4. In a relatively short span of time, the trust has developed eighteen departments. These include the Dharma Anusthan department, which organises kirtans and bhajans in temples. Another branch looks after dharma prachar (missionary work) geared towards ghar vapasi (reconversion, or literally, return to home) of Christians and Muslims. Yet another is the Acharya Vibhag, which trains pujaris (priests) for the VHP as well as for other non-VHP run temples. The Parva Samanuyaya department co-ordinates common festivals with non-VHP temple committees.
8.5. Since the early ’80s the VHP has become politically visible with its aggressive ‘Ramjanmabhoomi Andolan’. The declared aim was to ‘reclaim’ the ‘birthplace of Lord Ram’ in Ayodhya on which the Babri Masjid stood and to build a Ram temple in its place. Among other things, the campaign involved a series of national mobilisations — the Ekatma Yajna (1983), Shri Ramjanaki Janmabhoomi Yatra (1984), other rath yatras (1985-89), Shilapoojan and Shilanyas ceremonies at Ayodhya (1989), and finally, Shri Advani’s rath yatra (1990). All these, except the last one, which was organised under the BJP banner, were conceived and organised by the VHP.
8.6. While some of these yatras were for ‘consciousness-raising’, others required active contributions from everyone – a brick, a rupee, or the sale of a bottle of Ganga water in each village of the country. The mobilisations were a means to claiming and, to an extent, creating ‘Hindu unity’ under the VHP’s auspices.
8.7. Of the myriad texts that exist for the eclectic faith of Hinduism, it is curious that Manusmriti and Arthashastra are treated as central by the ideologues of Hindu Rashtra. It is interesting to remember that the Manusmriti prescribes a rigidly stratified caste and gender hierarchy, while the Arthashastra recommends a police state under a single despotic head.
8.8. In retrospect, the core concern behind the formation of the VHP was the desire to forge ‘unity’ in a society fragmented by the rigidities of caste. Beginning with the tribals of the north-east, VHP activities then extended to Delhi, Karnataka, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, MP, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, UP and Bihar. The ‘Hinduisation’ of exploited social groups became urgent, particularly after the Meenakshipuram incident. In UP, the VHP has been wooing the forest-dwelling Kol tribes. The nature of the VHP’s activities among such groups reveals that their inspiration is drawn entirely from the RSS worldview. On paper, the VHP is engaged mainly in educational work: setting up of libraries, yogashramas, balwadis, student hostels and child samskar centres for the development of the knowledge of Hindu texts and Hindu national heroes. But the central thrust – though the VHP seldom describes it as such – is clearly the ‘conversion’ of tribals and Dalits to Hindutva-approved forms of worship. Raghunandan Prasad Sharma’s VHP: Aims, Activities and Achievements advises the spread of the ‘chief religious samskaras’ among ‘vanvasis, girijans and harijans’. Clearly these are meant to replace existing beliefs and practices among tribals and ensure a homogenised version of religion.
8.9. The Bajrang Dal (See http://www.hinduunity.org/bajrangdal) looks after the training of young boys. It calls itself by different names in different parts of the country. In Bengal, for instance, it is known as the Vivekananda Vahini.
8.10. The above mentioned website describes the formation of the Bajrang Dal thus: "Vishva Hindu Parishad decided to start ‘Ram-Janaki’ rath yatra for awakening the society on October 1, 1984… Many elements refused to give protection to Rath and the participants. The Holy saints made a call to the Youths to protect ‘Rath’. Hundreds of youth gathered in Ayodhya. They performed their duty very well. Thus Bajrang Dal was formed with a temporary and localised objective of awakening youth of UP, and get their involvement in Ramjanmabhoomi movement... In 1986, the VHP decided to form Bajrang Dal in other states and very soon Bajrang Dal was formed in other states too, as its youth wing." (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III).
8.11. It is clear from these assertions that whether it is the VHP, BD or the Durga Vahini, perceived wrongs against a supposedly homogenous Hindu society are played upon to whip up sentiments against India’s religious minorities, be they artisans from Aligarh or Moradabad, peaceful residents of Faizabad or businessmen, traders and agriculturists from Gujarat. Implicit in their agenda is aggression against fellow Indians.
8.12. The Durga Vahini wing of the VHP works among young girls and women.
8.13. Centres of the BD are often located at Hanuman mandirs where they organise weekly satsangs (prayer meetings). The BD was largely instrumental in recruiting urban youths for the ‘kar seva’ at Ayodhya.
8.14. The distortion of Indian history, in a bid to project a ‘Hindu history’ of a people who for centuries were victims of Muslim marauders and Christian design, is at the heart of the mobilisation of these outfits. School textbooks and every other forum of public discourse are used for this purpose.
8.15. During the Ramjanmabhoomi movement between 1989-1992, Sadhvi Rithambara (an incendiary VHP protégé), frequently proclaimed an all-out war: ‘Khoon kharaba hota hai to ek bar hone do’ ("If there has to be bloodshed, let it happen once and for all"). The call for blood was sufficient to instigate cadres into violence against Muslims in Meerut, Maliana, Bhagalpur, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Kanpur, Jaipur, Hubli, Ahmedabad, Surat, and Mumbai.
8.16. "Angry Hindu! Yes. Why not? Why are Hindus in the Dock?" An RSS booklet by that title celebrated manufactured rage as the saving grace for the community. A Hindu Jagaran Manch leaflet from Khurja, published during the same period, evoked the image of divine vengeance, seeking Muslim blood, elevating Hindutva’s blood-thirst to divine desire: "Ranchandi khali khappar liye gali gali vichar rahi hain" ("The goddess of war is roaming the streets thirsting for blood"). The open call for bloody revenge underpins the thinking of these organisations.
8.17. A distinct component of the VHP strategy to evolve an ‘all-Hindu reality’ is to mobilise Dalits to do their job so that caste Hindus can avoid getting blood on their own hands. Thus the Valmikis (Dalits) were deployed in communal conflicts in Nizamuddin (New Delhi) in 1983 and during the riots in Delhi’s walled city in 1987. A more fundamental motive seems to be the assimilation (‘Hinduisation’) of Dalits after their ‘trial by fire’ in Ram’s name. Dalits are invited to embrace the ideal of ‘Hindu unity’ even as discrimination against them and their exploitation remains a harsh reality. A Harijan was thus given the great privilege of laying the first foundation stone at the Ram temple site in Ayodhya in 1989.
8.18. The VHP’s promotion of the Valmiki group, in particular, is significant. It co-ordinates with the Valmiki temple committees for its festivals and VHP literature pays glowing tributes to Valmiki and Ravi Das as ‘Hindu’ religious leaders. The association between Valmiki and Ram is striking. It is also significant that in Delhi, Valmiki temples abound and constitute practically the only visible activity of the VHP among the low caste groups. The strategy is to recruit the traditionally neglected and exploited tribals and Valmikis to defend the high caste Hindu cause, by glorifying them even while showing little concern for their socio-economic status.
8.19. The VHP and the BD have played an important role in Gujarat is recent years. Since the BJP came back to power in 1998, these outfits have been breaking the law with impunity, certain as they are of political patronage from both the state and the centre. The Tribunal was presented with abundant examples of FIRs lodged against the cadre of these outfits in the past four years. The police, however, have launched no investigations. (See chapter on Build-Up, Volume II)
9. Funding of RSS and its Affiliates
9.1. Non-resident Indians (NRIs) of Gujarat have been the lifeline of finance for Hindutva organisations.
9.2. The Tribunal recorded evidence of the vast amounts of money at the Sangh Parivar’s disposal, to lure cadres, pay for advertisements in the mass media, print hate literature, hold arms training camps, distribute trishuls in lakhs for free and even employ fully paid cadres.
9.3. Fund-raising has become a zealous activity for the RSS and VHP, the latter known as the World Hindu Council abroad. Evidence before us suggests that organisations such as the Hindu Sevak Sangh (HSS), a UK-based ‘charity’ and many such fronts in the US collect and contribute large sums of money to these organisations.
9.4. The VHP finances the Bajrang Dal, which remains an unregistered body, from the money it receives as donations for charitable work.
9.5. Evidence before the tribunal suggests that the VHP itself has floated several organisations through which it collects funds that are in addition to the contributions it receives from other sources.
9.6. The most active have been VHP (USA) and VHP (UK), both of which are also connected with other "charitable" societies in these countries.
9.7. The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the overseas incarnation of the RSS and the Friends of India Society International (FISI), the political mobilisation wing of the HSS, work very closely with the India Development and Relief Foundation (IDRF) in the USA. The IDRF was set up as a tax-exempt, non-profit organisation in 1989, under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the tax code in the US. Its ostensible purpose is to raise money for organisations in India, "assisting in rural development, tribal welfare, and urban poor." According to its tax returns, the IDRF raised $ 3.8 million in the year 2000, of which it disbursed $1.7 million in "relief and development work." (From the exemption application of the IDRF filed with the IRS in 1989 and Form 990 filed by the IDRF for the 2000 tax year). (http://www.hssworld.org/usa/wc/shakha/LosAngeles/rss_75years_files/frame.htm)
9.8. However, a closer scrutiny of the projects that the IDRF funds, the IDRF itself, the political affiliations of its office-bearers and of the organisations that raise funds for it, reveals that the IDRF is closely linked with the Sangh Parivar — the RSS/VHP/BD and BJP.
9.9. Evidence placed before the Tribunal points to a strong link between the IRDF and its Indian affiliate, Sewa International. On its web site and in its literature, the IDRF lists Sewa International as ‘IDRF India’ and Shri Shyam Parande, the general secretary of Sewa International, as the IDRF advisor in India. And on its web site, Sewa International also states that it is "associated with the IDRF, USA and Sewa International, UK." (The Sewa International, UK calls itself the ‘service project’ of Hindu Seva Sangh, UK).
9.10. From the evidence before us, it is clear that Sewa International identifies itself with the vision of the RSS. The organisation’s affiliation with the RSS is further confirmed by the contents of the section entitled, ‘Experiments and Results’ on Sewa International’s web site. This section expounds the visions of many RSS leaders (and only RSS leaders), the various "community" activities taken on by the Sangh and the resulting spread of Sangh philosophy in different areas. In some of its earlier literature, the address of Sewa International is the same as that of the RSS headquarters in Delhi.
9.11. Sevadisha, a publication of the Seva Vibhag (Service Wing) of the RSS also lists Sewa International as an RSS affiliate, established primarily to mobilise international support for organisations working within the Parivar framework: "Yet another development is the establishment of an international organisation titled "Seva International" which now has branches in many countries. Sewa International will look after the interests of sewa (service) related issues not only in the respective countries where they have chapters but also take up ‘global’ level care of sewa (service) work carried out under the Sangh ideology."
9.12. The FISI and HSS have held fund-raising drives for the IDRF. Many of the people associated with the IDRF, its founders, affiliates in India and its officials have extensive affiliations with other Hindutva organisations in this country, or the Sangh Parivar in India. The IDRF’s Founders: Shri Bhishma Agnihotri, a well-known RSS ideologue and an HSS Sanghchalak (Chief), is one of the founders of the IDRF. Two of the IDRF’s other founders, Shri Jatinder Kumar and Shri Ram Gehani are office-bearers of the FISI, while Shri Gehani is also associated with the organisation ‘Overseas Friends of the BJP.’
9.13. The Tribunal has evidence that following the earthquake last year, Sewa Bharati, Gujarat, received a lot of funds from foreign donors as well as the Indian government for rebuilding villages in Gujarat.
9.14. The Tribunal has evidence which shows that money was raised by the IDRF, through Sewa International, for five organisations belonging to the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in MP, Gujarat and Nagar Haveli; the Girivasi Vanvasi Sewa Prakalp in UP and the G. Deshpande Vanvasi Vastigrah in Maharashtra). Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram is one of the major Sangh affiliated organisations active in the tribal regions in India. From the evidence before the Tribunal, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams located in Bharuch, Vadodara, Kheda, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha districts have been very active on issues that are a clear part of the RSS agenda, as many witnesses told the Tribunal during its visit to these areas.
9.15. Among what the IDRF describes as its affiliates, most appear to be linked with the vast network of organisations affiliated to the RSS. For example, the One Teacher Schools (Ekal Vidyalays): This is a scheme started by the VHP to indoctrinate students in remote villages (tribal villages). Different Sangh organisations have raised money for this scheme and helped in the administration of the schools. Some of them are the Bharat Kalyan Pratishthan, the VHP, the Swami Vivekananda Rural Development Society, the Friends of Tribal Society, and the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram — all of which have been funded by the IDRF based in the USA. Recently, the Ekal Vidyalay Foundation has been set up as an independent organisation, but it is still under the control of Dr. BK Modi, the current president of VHP-Overseas.
9.16. It appears clear from the evidence placed before us that Sewa International is the IDRF affiliate in India, overseeing its Indian operation. In terms of monetary reimbursements, it may be the most significant ‘sister organisation’ of the IDRF. Sewa International is a Sangh Parivar organisation that was set up primarily for co-ordinating the flow of foreign contributions for Sangh projects in India. Sewa International clearly identifies itself as a Sangh organisation and states in its mission statement that it "is an umbrella for more than 2,000 projects and programmes all over India" overseeing "more than 50,000 volunteers (swayamsevaks) involved in running 76 different types of activities." A swayamsevak, which literally means a ‘volunteer’, is a term that is increasingly identified with an RSS member, especially when used in English. This organisation’s RSS affiliation is further confirmed by looking at the section entitled ‘Experiments and Results’ on Sewa International’s web site.
9.17. Sewa International, UK— the counterpart of IDRF in the UK, which also raises money for projects overseen by the Sewa International, India — is registered under the name of HSS, UK. Lord Adam Patel, a Labour Party peer who was a patron of this organisation, resigned from it after the Gujarat carnage, claiming that Sewa International had "links with right wing extremist groups blamed for provoking rioting in India." A newspaper from the UK reported Lord Patel as saying that he had examined Sewa International’s own records: "I am satisfied that Sewa International is a front for controversial militant Hindu organisations and so I have been forced to resign as one of its patrons."
9.18. In view of the above, the Tribunal notes the lack of accountability and transparency in the funding and running of organisations like the RSS/VHP/BD which have been indicted even by several judicial commissions of inquiry for their role in communal violence. Given their huge network of affiliates, religious-developmental organisations, educational trusts, etc. it is difficult to fathom the manner in which funds are raised, the ostensible purpose for which they are raised and for what purposes they are actually utilised.
9.19. In the course of an investigation into the tax returns and assets of the VHP under the National Front government headed by Shri VP Singh – the income tax official, Shri Gupta had issued summons to VHP leaders, Shri Ashok Singhal, Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Mahant Nrit Gopal Das and Mahant Paramhans to question them on the accounts submitted for the financial year 1988-89. But using a technical loophole, the government quashed the case within 24 hours, after senior BJP leaders threatened to withdraw support to the government. Shri Gupta was transferred to Tamil Nadu. Later, newspapers reported that the entire record of the IT returns filed by the VHP was found missing.
9.20. The Tribunal’s investigations into the Gujarat carnage reveal that free access to funds, from abroad and India have contributed greatly to the strength of Sangh Parivar outfits which openly conduct armed training camps, exhort young men and women to violence and seriously jeopardise communal amity and internal security.
9.21. To check the spread and proliferation of hate ideology any further into the country’s social and political life, it is imperative that the funding sources and links of these organisations and their myriad outfits are immediately and thoroughly investigated.
10. Indictment in Communal Crimes
10.1. Virtually every judicial commission of inquiry officially appointed to investigate communal riots since Independence and Partition, has indicted organisations affiliated with or allied to the RSS/VHP/BD/BJP combine, including the Maharashtra-based Shiv Sena, for their role in violent crimes against India’s minorities. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III).
10.2. Yet, the Indian state has been reluctant to prosecute those guilty of these crimes. Such failure amounts to official complicity and shows reluctance on the part of governments to give justice to a section of its citizens. The Tribunal recommends that such crimes are dealt with seriously and swiftly and punishments accorded so that the demands of internal peace, justice and reconciliation are met.
10.3. Through their high-pitched, ‘Who casts the first stone?’ propaganda, Hindu majoritarian outfits seek to absolve themselves of any blame or responsibility for the violence and bloodshed, in the public eye. Expert evidence placed before the Tribunal shows that in conflict after conflict, these outfits defend their actions as "justifiable retaliatory acts by Hindus in self-defence" against attacks started by Muslims.
10.4. However, after detailed investigations, most judicial commissions of inquiry have concluded that Hindu communal organisations systematically inject the poison of communalism into the atmosphere and cause deliberate provocation to prompt a reaction from Muslims, a reaction which is then projected as proof of Muslims having thrown the first stone. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III).
10.5. In their findings on the Jabalpur riots of 1967, Ahmedabad (1969), Kanyakumari (1982), Jamshedpur (1979), Ranchi (1969), Bhiwandi-Jalna, Mumbai (1970), Tellicheri (1971), the various judicial commissions of inquiry appointed by the appropriate state and central governments to probe into the violence have indicted one or other member of the Sangh Parivar and other votaries of Hindutva. That they have escaped subsequent action is, of course, another matter. (See Detailed Annexures, Volume III). A singular exception was the anti-Sikh riots in November 1984 where the Congress party and its then leadership must bear the blame for the massacre of 3,000 Sikhs in the nation’s capital.
Published by: Citizens for Justice and Peace