Gujarat Update March 6, 02
Reality What we saw
Teesta Setalvad Fr Cedric Prakash Sushobha Barve
Our update and appeal to the President of India yesterday had encompassed the sheer extent of the humanitarian and human tragedy that has been engineered systematically by the state government in Gujarat. Until 5 p.m. on March 5, relief was actively prevented from reaching the affected areas with the government simply refusing police protection to truck drivers fearful of driving through an utterly brutalised Ahmedabad. The text of this appeal can be read at sabrang.com.
We visited Jamalpur area this morning and met community leaders who had played a role in reaching many of the survivors to the relief camps over the past few days. Later, we spent the day at the Shah Alam Relief camp that is housing 5,500 displaced persons since Thursday night, that is on February 27.
The tales of the survivors are hard to tell and repeat. They are tales of pre-planned and systematic attacks, by mobs of no less than 5,000 with the aid of the police and even SRPF, of killing by arson where petrol and diesel was used in a cynical manner. Young children were killed after being cut to pieces. The severing of trust and faith between communities who have lived with some of their neighbours who participated in the violence will be hard, if not impossible to repair.
Our estimates put the final figures of those dead at 2,000 all over the state. Economically the Muslim community throughout the length and breadth of the State has been crippled. What is truly chilling about both the nature and scale of the violence is that it was systematic genocide, the ethnic cleansing of a minority community accompanied by systematic sexual violence against women and children. Besides, the method of killing reached barbaric and de-humane proportions. This has left the hapless inmates of the relief camps victims of deep and bitter trauma and utterly terror striken. While intellectuals debate about the nature of the backlash, the survivors of the brute violence are so mutely terrorised that they simply await the next round of targeted terror.
The issue of the dead being given a dignified burial looms large. Today 129 bodies at Dariakhanki Ghumbat, Shahibag were given a mass burial around 5 p.m. There are reports of 150 bodies in a mutilated state lying in a village at Naroda pattiya, just outside Ahmedabad. The violence in and around Surat continued today and two women belonging to the minority community were beaten to death in a village just outside Godhra.
The size of the mobs who were encouraged by chief minister Narendra Modi’s verbal statements and sanction to roam the streets was between 5-15000 and the scale of violence and barbarism suggestive of trained trishul-wielding cadres. There appears enough evidence to suggest the permanent existence of such a cadre, approximating 20-30,000, on the payrole of the Bajrang Dal-VHP-BJP, who have received training in physical attack and mental brainwahsing in a dehumanising hatred. It is otherwise simply impossible to explain how in the space of 72 hours, a 15-20 per cent minority in the state has been brutalised through violence and economically crippled, too. This is why we appeal to one and all to refer to the recent Gujarat violence as ethnic cleansing and genocide. The violence that the state witnessed was not just another communal riot.
What was most startlingly evident as we returned for the day was the dual reality of Ahmedabad, a tale of two cities. The unaffected Hindu came out and went about his business even as in at least 15 areas of the same city, 35-50,000 of it’s residents lay shaken, morally and physically broken. Not a shop was open in these ghettos, people cannot step outside their homes or relief camps, for food, medicines or clothing. What is the fate of us as a people if we are unable to generate an adequate enough response countrywide to this bitter reality of two cities?
Response To Gujarat
For the past week there have been various responses to the Gujarat situation. These can be read at sabrang.com. On March 5, 02 we appealed to the President to intervene in the matter of relief. In that appeal we said,
Appeal to the President
“The situation in Gujarat is desperate. It is a tragedy of appalling human proportions. Not only has the State indulged in direct and systematic acts of murder, terror and targeting of economic properties of the minority community in Gujarat. Now the state is actively preventing relief and rehabilitation reaching the affected areas, relief camps in the city that are being treated like concentration camps.
Six days after brutal violence has rocked Gujarat state, especially Ahmedabad city, the sheer scale and dimension of the tragedy and it’s lasting impact is being callously rejected by the ruling state government. The loss of life has been totally put at 500, our approximate estimate is that it may touch a staggering figure of 2,000. While 2,00,000 rupees in compensation was immediately announced to the surviving relatives of the victims of the Godhra tragedy, the Gujarat government is revealing it’s sectarian approach by simply not declaring payment of compensation to the victims of violence post-Godhra. We are collectively demanding that such compensation be announced and the areas that are today housing thousands of internally displaced persons be declared as relief camps….
The situation is so desperate that even the bodies of the deceased, our brothers, sisters and children killed in the most brutal and inhuman manner have not been given any dignified right of life or departure. Bodies lie in the most de-humanised state and the State is refusing to look into this.”
Sir, it would be in order that in your capacity as President of India, the Constitutional Head of the India that you make a generous contribution from the President’s Fund for the Reparation of the Loss of Life, Dignity and Property of the citizens—religious minorities—in Gujarat. What Gujarat, especially the city of Ahmedabad experienced over the past week was an utter and complete breakdown of constitutional authority. The moral and physical response to the scale of the tragedy needs your active intervention in every way possible.”
The Ahmedabad Peace March
More than 1,500 Ahmedabadis from all walks of life took part in a peace march organised by a section of civil society. The march which began at Kochrab Ashram, were Mahatma Gandhi spent his early years, ended about five kilometres away, at the Sabarmati Ashram. The silent peace marchers collectively articulated a pressure on the state government for the immediate restoration of peace.
Justice and Reparation
A team of the People’s Union for Human Rights will be visiting different parts of the city of Ahmedabad and the state of Gujarat to document the deep extent of loss of life and property. Other groups are also collating similar information. This would collectively be the groundwork for a people’s Judicial Commission into the Ethnic Cleansing in Gujarat that would be headed by Justice Krishna Iyer and of which Justice Suresh and Girishbhai Patel would be a part. The detailed collation of material and documentation has already begun.
Communalism Combat, PUHR Fr Cedric Prakash
Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation
Details of Shah Alam Camp March 6, 02
The camp is feeding 5,500 persons each day. The food requirement is
Rice 1,000 kilos per day
Dal 100 kilos per day
Sabzi 200 kilos per day
Oil Ten Tins of 15 kilos each
Tea ` Twenty kilos per day
Sugar Fifty kilos per day
Milk 500 litres per day
They URGENTLY need
This camp needs three doctors for urgent medical attention for the whole day
They need municipal staff to clean the toilets and to construct more.
Communalism Combat, PUHR
Fr Cedric Prakash
Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation