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...Sikhs in November 1984 & now Muslims in Gujarat

They came for shelter, were turned over to the killers


AHMEDABAD, MARCH 1: JUST across the road was the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) headquarters. But that meant little to the thousand-odd people who stayed in the Naroda Patiya slum on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Last evening, a mob several thousand strong came after them; by the end, more than 60 people had died, burnt alive after being assured of protection by the same mob.
All the while, more than 100 armed SRPF men sat in their building across the road.

A day later, as the last body was being removed from the shanties, little seemed to have changed in the security arrangements. Smoke billowed from the smouldering structures and the shells of a dozen or more vehicles were lying on the road. There were few passers-by: those who did venture this side were grilled by men in saffron scarves.

There were thousands of people at the site. And protecting the minority were 17 policemen, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector - only 11 of them were armed with .303 rifles. It seemed like yesterday once more. ''The trouble started in our area around 10 am. We saw mobs of thousands of mean wearing saffron scarves, brandishing swords and carrying heavy stones. All of us began running in the opposite direction. They chased us as if we were dogs, shouting abuses,'' said Naimullah, whose sister Sabeera is in hospital with 80 per cent burns.

The scared slum-dwellers stopped running when some Hindu residents guided them to an enclosed area.

Method behind Centre's laxity?



NEW DELHI: Was there a method in the casual manner in which the Centre responded to the communal tragedy in Gujarat? The Vajpayee government received news of the Godhra carnage early on February 27. Available Central paramilitaries in Gujarat were put on alert. The PM also cancelled his Australia visit.

If all this was an indication of how seriously the Centre was viewing the unfolding situation, what followed was inexplicable.

Early on the 28th, reports poured in of mobs targeting Muslims throughout Gujarat as the police stood by. Neither Vajpayee, nor Union Home Minister L K Advani - whose political base is Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar - saw fit to instruct their party colleague, Narendra Modi, to crack down.

Later that day, Vajpayee met RSS leaders to discuss not what VHP activists were doing in Gujarat but the Ayodhya issue; and finally, after some 70 people had been killed, the Cabinet Committee of Security met and decided only to place the Army on alert.

In the two-day stasis that gripped the Union government, defence minister George Fernandes' single-handed sweep through strife-torn Gujarat on Friday stood out. By all accounts, it was his presence that compelled the Gujarat police to initiate action against the mobs beginning Friday.

In some places, Fernandes waded amid hostile crowds and appealed to them to keep the peace. It's not clear why the defence minister felt compelled to do the home minister's job in the latter's constituency.

The events in Gujarat are a macabre replay of the November 1984 massacre of the Sikhs. Then, as now, terrible "revenge" is being visited on innocents for the heinous act of some members of their community.

Then, as now, the delay in the response appears deliberate: To allow hoodlums to ''punish'' the community. Rajiv's infamous remark about the earth shaking when a big tree falls, has been echoed by Modi: "The people of Gujarat have observed restraint in the wake of grave provocation".

In 1984, the civilian authorities refused to call in the Army till thousands of Sikhs were killed. In Gujarat, the Union government claims ''there were no Army columns in or around Ahmedabad'' for immediate deployment.

Considering that the state bordering Pakistan has a especially heavy deployment of the Army, this excuse does not quite wash

''They said we would be fine here, so all of us stayed there till 4 pm. Half an hour later, they said the police had come and we all could go out safely. Trusting them, we went out only to find a 15,000-strong mob waiting for us. We had been tricked,'' he said.

They tried to flee but found themselves surrounded. ''We were around 1,000 people but were no match for them,'' he says. The mob then began pelting stones at the crowd before dousing them with kerosene and petrol. Children, women and men - completely helpless - were then set on fire. ''They burnt us all,'' sobbed Sabeera.

''No human being can do this to another, even if they are from a different caste or community. We were made into a bonfire by them,'' said Farzana Bano.

When asked about the incident, a Bajrang Dal member said, ''People from the minority community went on the rampage at two shops belonging to our supporters. That was when we lost control and this incident took place.'' Claiming that he did not know how many people had died, he said, ''A woman from our community were also burnt alive in the same area.'' DCP P B Gondiya his force was not large enough to handle the crowd.

Others, like Badal Singh

Amit Sengupta

The winter chill had arrived. November 1984. They were picking up Sikhs in the trains. Delhi was taken over by criminal politicians and killer mobs while Narasimha Rao played the flute. Exactly what is happening in Gujarat now, ruled by a RSS pracharak.

VHP goons have taken over the cities of Gujarat, a state still recovering from the trauma of the quake. They are trapping and burning people alive. Till late Friday afternoon, the army had not been called in. The smell of burning property and the dead is everywhere - in Godhra, Ahmedabad, Naroda. But what stinks most is the complicity of the ruling regime. As in 1984. As in February-March 2002.

In other words, they are doing a 1984 in Gujarat.

Badal Singh was an 80-year-old granthi that November, fragile and old, with a little beard. He had no idea how communal riots are engineered for political wish-fulfilment. He used to sing hymns in a gurdwara of Block 32 and 34 in Trilokpuri, East Delhi. He could not understand why they burnt the gurdwara down. Or why they were dragging people out and burning them alive with tyres and kerosene stolen from ration shops.

What went wrong? He was not a terrorist. And he had always voted for the Congress.

The ravaged Block 32 and 34 used to be a colony of hardworking weavers and taxi drivers. Their sparse houses were clean, some had refrigerators, in the glass shelves were the usual middle-class artifacts: three birds flying, a doll, crockery. But all that remained now was a half-burnt picture of a couple on the wall and broken bottles of country liquor - Masti, Tohfa, Pritam.

I found Badal Singh far away in a South Delhi camp. The government had done nothing but volunteers were pouring in. My job was to trace missing persons. "Are you Badal Singh?" "Yes", he said, tears in his clear light eyes.

He was hiding in a gutter-pipe for three days, his old body in a semi-circle. He could not understand why this should be happening to him.

In every riot, there are thousands of Badal Singhs who can't understand why this should be happening to them. The women and children (and kar sewaks) in the Sabarmati Express could be ordinary pilgrims to Ayodhya. How do human beings turn into savage mobs? The Godhra massacre proves yet again that barbarians have no religion and communal politics no humanity.

The Muslim family in the Sumo which was burnt yesterday in Naroda, are they responsible for the Godhra killings? Or even the Muslims of Godhra, why should they prove that they are 'not guilty'? The family of Ehsan Jaffrey in Ahmedabad, burnt alive on Thursday by VHP goons, despite repeated calls to the police for help, what was their crime except that they were Muslims? Or ordinary Hindus, Christians and Muslims, now victims of amazing bestiality, how are they responsible for Godhra or Ayodhya?

Come to think of it, who masterminded the Sabarmati Express massacre? Where was the local or railway police when a huge mob had gathered in a crowded public place in broad daylight with swords and petrol bombs in a town with a history of communal riots? How did they get away without being arrested or shot on the spot?

There are too many questions which the dead can't answer. Only those who do hate politics (majority or minority) can tell us why they kill and burn - in Delhi, Jamshedpur, Bhiwandi, Surat, Bombay, Maliana, the Dangs, and now in Gujarat. Others, like Badal Singh, can only silently cry.

Army's timing: Rewind to 1984 when the govt dragged its feet


NEW DELHI, MARCH 1: ONE of the countless questions Chief Minister Narendra Modi is finding it difficult to answer today is: Why was the Army called so late? And why was the Army on standby last night, a night in which the toll went up from 80 to over 200?

The answers may not come soon but in a striking parallel and coincidence on February 26-a day before the Godhra massacre-the same questions came up in the Nanavati Commission probing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi.

And the Army, replying to an application questioning the delay in its deployment, listed the sequence of events showing that the administration, under then Lieutenant Governor P G Gavai, took too long to decide.

(In the case of Gujarat, where the army moved in 12 columns - approximately 600 troops - today, defence sources say the delay was largely due to the absence of clear instructions from the state government, a lack of local guides and inadequate transport arrangements. This, though it had a contingency plan for deployment even yesterday but they were asked to remain on standby.)

Armed mobs had a free run of Delhi following the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Though the attacks started that evening itself and the first deaths were reported early next morning, the Army was out on the streets only by 6 pm.

According to the Army's affidavit, that delay was despite its proactive role in contacting Gavai at 11 am and offering its services. The ''clearance'' came only at 2.30 pm after Gavai had a meeting with the then Police Commissioner S C Tandan. The Army's affidavit also makes it clear that it was deployed only in the relatively less affected south and central districts of Delhi.

The east and west districts, where the killings began early in the morning of November 1, saw the troops for the first time only in the afternoon of November 2.

Tandan, however, contradicts this saying the Army is to blame for the delay. In his statement, Tandan claims it was Gavai who called Maj Gen J S Jamwal, the then General Officer Commanding (GOC), and not the other way around, as the Army says. And the delay was because Jamwal ''was not willing to come directly to me,'' but wanted the meeting in the L-G's presence.

As for the areas the Army was deployed in, Tandan claims that the Army was the one making that decision. The Army's affidavit says just the opposite.

The Nanavati Commission has summoned Tandan to depose on March 5 and Maj Gen J.S. Jamwal on March 14.

Senior advocate H.S. Phoolka, who will be cross examining them on behalf of the Carnage Justice Committee, says "it is important to nail the lies about the Army to unravel the conspiracy hatched by civil authorities to prolong the riots."

Curfew ties victims, frees killers
Vinay Menon
(Ahmedabad, March 1)

In the mayhem that they have unleashed in Ahmedabad over the past 48 hours, the VHP's hoodlums have had an important ally - the city's police force. There are allegations that curfew was imposed selectively over the city - pinning the Muslim population of the walled city inside their homes, even as Hindu mobs were allowed to run amok elsewhere.
All the worst trouble spots across Ahmedabad were in Hindu strongholds where Muslim families formed small, easily identifiable targets -- Chamanpura, Bapu Nagar, Paladi, Naroda, Shahpur Gate, Hajipura Garden. In the Muslim-dominated walled city, a few stones flew around, but little else.

"There have been no lynchings in the walled city," said resident Nasir Hussain. "That's because the curfew is being implemented strictly and no one is being allowed to leave home. But outside, mobs are congregating and running amok." Police have been backing them -- either by standing around doing nothing, or doing too little too late -- said residents.

In Chamanpura, where one of the most gruesome mass murders took place, the police apparently made no attempt to stop the killers.

"Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey visited the area and spoke with Ahsan Jaffrey shortly before the mob burnt the ex-MP alive," said a Congress worker who was witness to the incident. "Policemen on duty did not fire a single shot till seven in the evening, by which time the killers had accomplished their mission."

Through the day, the only action police apparently took against curfew-breakers was to lob some tear gas shells and flay lathis at mobs armed with petrol bombs and iron rods. "Most of the violence took place as VHP and Bajrang Dal members forced people to observe the bandh," said Bhushan Desai of Naroda on Ahmedabad's outskirts. "Surely the police could have stopped them."

Commissioner Pandey said he could not have raided VHP offices without sanction from above. "How can we raid offices? What purpose would that serve? Taking any step like this (against the VHP) calls for higher action."

The police were not the only agency accused of bias. There was no government official at hand to ensure medication and food for inmates of a Muslim 'safe house' set up at Daryakhan Gumbat in the heart of the city. Riot victims with serious burns and head injuries were seen lying on the floor, awaiting treatment. Ambulances bringing victims here were demanding Rs 20 per person, payable before the trip.

Indian Police Stand By While Hindu Militants Burn Muslim Homes

This Is Standard Modus Operandi to Kill Minorities in India

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 1, 2002 – Police stood by while militant Hindu fundamentalists burned Muslim houses in the city of Ahmedabad today, according to the New York Times. According to the report, the police were in front of the houses while they were set on fire.

Over the last three days, at least 251 people were killed in these attacks, according to the Associated Press. The attacks reportedly came in retaliation for an attack on a train car full of Hindus on their way to Ayodyha to build a temple on the site where the most revered mosque in India was destroyed several years ago. For several days, trainloads of Hindu extremists had passed through the village of Godha, where the train attack occurred, shouting provocative slogans about building a temple. The National Post reported that Ehshan Jefri, a former Congress Party Member of Parliament, was killed by Hindu militants.

According to the Times report, eyewitnesses said that police stood and watched while homes, cars, and businesses were burned. Even the city’s police commissioner, P.C. Pande, admitted that his police "are equally influenced by the overall general sentiment."

"The police would drive by knowing the crowd was pelting us with stones, and they did not even stop to disperse the crowd," said one teacher quoted by the Times. This teacher would not let his name be used, because "I would be killed tomorrow."

"We condemn these attacks and call on all sides to end the violence," said Dr. Gurmit Singh Aulakh, President of the Council of Khalistan, the government pro tempore of the Sikh homeland, Khalistan, which leads the struggle for the independence of the Sikh homeland, Khalistan. "Unfortunately, this is the typical modus operandi in India," said Dr. Aulakh. "By standing by while this violence went on, the government condones it," he said. "It is unfortunate that atrocities against Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, and other minorities can be carried out with impunity," he said. Hindus set up roadblocks, stopping cars to look for Muslims, the National Post reported. At one roadblock, they pulled a Muslim from his car and killed him. "This is the same thing that they did to Sikhs in 1984," said Dr. Aulakh.

In 2000, Indian troops were caught red-handed trying to set fire to Sikh homes in Kashmir. During the Delhi massacres in November 1984, Sikh police officers were locked in their barracks while more than 20,000 Sikhs were massacred and the state-run television and radio called for more Sikh blood.

"The Sikhs and Christians have been targets of Indian tyranny," said Dr. Aulakh. "Now it looks like it is the Muslims’ turn again," he said.

The Indian government has murdered over 250,000 Sikhs since 1984. Over 75,000 Kashmiri Muslims have been killed since 1988. More than 200,000 Christians have been killed since 1947, along with tens of thousands of Dalits, Tamils, Assamese, Bodos, Manipuris, and other minorities. A report issued last year shows that 52,268 Sikh political prisoners are held in Indian jails, as well as tens of thousands of others. Since Christmas 1998, Christians have felt the brunt of the attacks. Priests have been murdered, nuns have been raped, churches have been burned, Christian schools and prayer halls have been destroyed, and no one has been punished for these acts. Militant Hindu fundamentalists allied with the RSS, the pro-Fascist parent organization of the ruling BJP, burned missionary Graham Staines and his two young sons to death.

"Now is the time for Sikhs, Kashmiris, Nagas, and other nations to claim their freedom," he said. "Now is the time for a Shantmai Morcha (peaceful agitation) for the independence of Khalistan," he said. "If India is truly the democracy it claims, then it should allow a free and fair vote on this issue," Dr. Aulakh said. "Sikhs are a separate nation and ruled Punjab up to 1849 when the British annexed Punjab.