Gujarat Update March 7, 02
Reality What we saw
Teesta Setalvad Fr Cedric Prakash Sushobha Barve
The second day of our stay in Ahmedabad has revealed more tales of horror in the different relief camps that we visited but worse, has also emphasised the systematic patterns of behaviour and complicity in the violence.
Violence has not abated but is simply taking place in the more dispersed rural areas where even the media does not reach. Even as we write this update, reports of four persons being burned alive in Santrapur village came in. Each one belonged to the minority community. In regions of north Gujarat especially violence continues and terror reins the countryside. Villages on the outskirts of Anand have stoicly resisted the violent threats to their Muslim inhabitants. To pressurise the Hindus, the local VHP has been sending them a set of bangles every day. So far the locals have held out. The day before yesterday a minister from the state cabinet actually addressed a meeting of the villagers decrying them for not having been violent.
Yesterday, in our update we had stressed that the violence in Gujarat should not be referred to a communal riot but ethnic cleansing and genocide. Evidence of this was viewed by us, once again, as we drove to the outskirts of Ahmedabad, to Vatwa that has given shelter to a total of 6,000 members in relief camps. The main relief camp was a make shift pandal where women, children and men eat, and sleep right there. There is a problem of sanitation. There is also a problem of insufficient toilets. The administration has not responded to the repeated demand for mobile toilets and tents.
We have also pointed out in repeated media interviews and updates that a factor in Gujarat’s violence is a trend recorded by writer, Teesta Setalvad (through Communalism Combat) in Gujarat for the past two years. The hiring of young men, on high salaries, by the Bajrang Dal for the express purpose of wielding the talwar and the trishul. In fact, a trained militia. Every single account that this writer received before arrival in Gujarat and which has been corroborated since does not simply reflect the systematic use and operation of this violence in this round of ethnic genocide. In every incident in Gujarat over the past few days, the attacks by mobs were not the usual, riot mobs. They were mobs of 5-15,000 that collected swiftly with precision and wrecked total destruction on life and property in brief periods and brutal ways. It is not easy to collect such large mobs in a city of Mumbai, let alone Ahmedabad let alone villages. The clearcut evidence of this militia poses a challenge to Indian civil society and the ‘secular’ Indian state –how will be cope? Can we successfully articulate a demand for the disbanding of such a militia? The training given to this militia is not simply on the perpetration of violence. It is also a mental training in de-humanisation of the ‘enemy’ through ideological hatred that enables men (and women, in some cases) to attack, dismember, de-humanise, kill, burn and then finally enjoy the loot.
On our drive down to Vatwa, along the outskirts of the city, evidence of selective destruction of Muslim shops was clear. For kilometre after kilometre, dhabas, garages,
Laundries, bakeries and garages owned by the minority community were burned even as the shops next to them were completely unharmed.
At Vatwa we met displaced persons from Burhani society (80 homes belonging to Dawoodi Bohras completely destroyed), Bismillahnagar, (60 homes gutted) Roshni Park,(105 homes gutted down) Raunak Park, Bachubai Kua (80 houses) Darbar Khetar, (80 homes) Syedwadi (150 homes destroyed), Azimpura (100 homes gutted) Tufel Park, Iliaz Park, and Navapura (300). This entire area was targeted by their Hindu neighbours living in nearby societies two days after the Godhra incident, Thursday February 28. The attack by all eye witness accounts was planned with meticulous precision as crowds of no less than 15,000 saffron bands on heads, talwars, guptis and dharis in hand, on four-six occasions for the next twelve hours wrecked systematic destruction on homes, reducing them to empty shells. The homes in Burhani society belonging to the Dawoodi Bohra community were utterly gutted. When women tried to go to the sabzi mandi today, orders were issued by the local Bajrang Dal, Mahesh Patel, indicted for inciting the violence ordered sabziwallahs not to sell vegetables to Muslims. Stones were also thrown at women crying to get a glimpse of what was left of their homes.
In almost all areas, the police has not yet fulfilled it’s primary function of registering the First Information Riots related to the violent incidents. Instead often they have registered false cases on young men of the minority community who tried vainly to defend themselves.
The frightening aspect of the violence is the deep-rooted terror still in the minds of the survivors. On three occasions over the past three days we have been told of the kind of casettes played late at night by nearby societies that house perpetrators of the crime where voices of ‘looton, kaaton, maron, Jai Sri Ram’ can be heard.
Provocative speech and hate speech by both the mainline Gujarati media, the statements of the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi and through provocative pamphlets being surreptitiously distributed continue. CM Modi’s statement reported in the Indian Express this morning is telling. “The violence in Godhra was communal violence, the violence after that was ‘secular violence’”. The Gujarati paper Sandesh is probably the worst perpetrator of hate speech over past days. Today a report titled, “Hindu upar khatro-Haj Yatra pachi valta humla ni khaufnaaf saajish” warns the Hindu Gujarati that “Several state govt agencies that after Godhra incident, the fear of terrorism looms karge all over Gujarat. With the help of international help, RDX bombs and aeroplane hijacks are likely to be used by these terrorist forces.” Neither the police nor the state is taking any action against this publication.
Schools re-opened in the ‘other’ Ahmedabad and further evidence was ‘normalcy’ was witnessed. When a few of us friends went for dinner to a Gujarati restaurant, I (Teesta Setalvad) was asked to lower my voice and preferably not speak of the only thing that I can speak of at the moment. Hunger is an equaliser and since our long day had meant no food we ate, but ate in a locale that gave us a real taste of virtual reality. A friend on the table summed it up well, “Aaj kal jab log puchte hai, kaise hon? Lagta hai ki is dinon mein woh shabdon ka matlab hi nahin raha.”
Response To Gujarat
Today a citizen’s initiative has resulted in a pamphlet related to the destruction of the culture and heritage of Gujarat. It will reach in tens of thousands to the villages and remote parts. You may view it on sabrang.com soon, after Friday or Saturday. Other small and larger peace initiatives have also begun. Tomorrow the visit of two ex-prime minister’s V.P.Singh and I.K.gujral is awaited. An all-party delegation of MPs will also visit the city the day after. There are rumours that the State plans to sabotage the visit by taking them to make shift camps where not many problems can be perceived.
needs at many camps March 7, 02
The Nobel Ambulance society that happens to be Muslim owned and run was bitterly humiliated and prevented from reachin relief to affected persons since violence broke out in Gujarat. I had a meeting with the Secretary, Mr Salim Shaikh was requested that I put out this appeal for Medicines
Tablet Zentac 2,00,000
Tablet Furazoladin 2,00,000
Tablet DHQ 2,00,000
Tablet Lopamide 2,00,000
Tablet Vitac 2,00,000
Tablet B Complex 2,00,000
Tablet Ampielox 500 1,00,000
Tablet Proxyl 250 1,00,000
Injection Dextrose 5 % 1,000 bottles
Infusion Set 1,000 pieces
Injection D.N.S. 1,000 pieces
Shet 24 No 23 200 pieces
Tablet Metacin 500 2,00,000
Tablet Ibuprofen 400 2,00,000
Tablet Wysolone Song 2,00,000
Tablet tetracycline 250 mg 2,00,000
Tablet CPM 2,00,000
Tablet Dexona 2,00,000
Tablet Chloroquin 2,00,000
Injection Xylocain 2 % 1,000 bottles
Betadine Cream 1,000 tubes
Cotton 500 pieces
Tablet Voveran 50,000
Tablet Avil 10,000
Capsules Mox 250 10,000
Noble Ambulance Society
2485 Sindhiwadi, Jamalpur, Ahmedabad 380001