4-5 MARCH, 2002

[A central fact-finding team of CPI(ML) comprising General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, Member of Parliament Dr. Jayanta Rongpi and incharge of the Party’s Gujarat unit Ranjan Ganguly visited riot-torn curfew-bound Ahmedabad on 4-5 March. The team, one of the earliest to visit Gujarat after the carnage began, was accompanied by Ahmedabad-based trade union leaders HJ Pagare, Dasrathbhai Sinhali, and KL Dabhi. Apart from visiting several riot-affected parts of the city, the team also spoke to a number of injured riot-victims in the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital and groups of survivors now living in the shadow of fear in the dozen-odd relief camps of the city. Excerpts from the major findings and conclusions of the team.]

Almost everybody the team spoke to described the present riots as the worst in Ahmedabad since 1969. Never before have people been burnt alive in such large numbers – the City Civil Hospital alone confirmed more than 200 deaths caused primarily by burns, most of these bodies charred beyond recognition. The other horrific feature has been the killing of large number of women and children and many women survivors the team met in the Shahibagh municipal School relief camp alleged that many women had been raped and maimed before being set on fire.

The violence that rocked Ahmedabad in the wake of Godhra was of course widely anticipated, but the riot victims and all other concerned people unanimously felt that had it not been for the government’s complete ‘withdrawal’ for full 48 hours, the magnitude of the violence could have been much less. The thin line of demarcation between a marauding mob and the powers that be, between the Sangh Parivar’s riot wing and the wing that is supposed to govern by the book called the Constitution of India has been lost completely in what remains of Ahmedabad after the macabre dance of death and destruction on February 28 and March 1. In the eyes of the riot victims and all sane and secular sections of the citizens of Ahmedabad, the Narendra Modi government has not been a mute spectator but rather a co-sponsor and co-organiser of communal violence. The government stands accused for its criminal connivance at various levels with the perpetrators of the riots.

The riots revealed a well-planned and systematically executed pattern of anti-Muslim cleansing operation directed against the entire community. Poor Muslim families have of course been the worst sufferers, but even prominent citizens have not been spared. Shops owned by Muslims including vehicle showrooms, hotels, shoe and garment stores, bakeries were looted and destroyed in all corners of Ahmedabad. The demolition of mazars, dargahs and mosques and overnight installation of ‘Hullaria’ (Hullar in Gujarati means riot) and ‘Godhria’ Hanuman statues in all those places has been another obnoxious aspect of this anti-Muslim pogrom. The team met families in releif camps who have been victims of successive riots over the last two decades and all their attempts to rebuild their lives have once again been frustrated.

The city police behaved in a thoroughly callous and communal manner. The Gujarat government now claims that it is structurally deficient in terms of police forces. But the riot-affected people of Ahmedabad see the whole thing not so much as a deficiency of logistics as a deficiency of political will on the part of the government and the communal bias of the police administration. The extent of police inaction could be seen from the fact that the heart of Gandhinagar, the seat of power, was left to be virtually taken over by the rioters and the police just watched as the communal build-up was allowed to gather momentum.

The communal fascist character of the Narendra Modi government stands completely exposed on every count. In fact, Mr. Modi is hardly seen as a Chief Minister of a government. The recent spate of communal violence has only reinforced his role and image as a pracharak of the Sangh. The arrests made so far also exhibit the government’s communal bias. While the chairman and another councillor of the Godhra municipality, both of them Muslims, have been arrested, VHP leaders like Mr. Togadia who has been systematically whipping up communal passions and all his accomplices have been left free to terrorise not only Muslims but whoever has got the courage to insist on peace and harmony. Even the students and faculty members of the Indian Institute of management, National Institute of Design and Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology got a taste of the prevailing saffron culture of intolerance and intimidation when they tried to stage a dharna for peace outside the IIM campus gate on 3 March, 2002.

In this situation, the team firmly believes that the communal scar inflicted on the society and polity of Gujarat cannot heal with an RSS-led communal government at the helm. The dismissal of the thoroughly communal and inept Narendra Modi government and resignation of LK Advani from the Union Home Minister’s post have become absolutely essential to inspire even a minimum degree of public confidence and restore peace and harmony in Gujarat.


End discrimination in relief and rehabilitation

– A report by the second CPI(ML) investigation-cum-relief team that visited Ahmedabad

THE SECOND investigation-cum-relief team of CPI(ML) visited riot-affected areas of Ahmedabad, Gujarat on 11-12 April 2002. The first team of the Party led by General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya and Party MP Jayant Rongpi had gone on 3-4 March. This had been the first visit to the riot-torn state by a political party. The present team comprised Comrade Swapan Mukherjee, General Secretary of the AICCTU and member of the Central Committee of the Party, Comrade Prem Singh Gehlawat, member of the Central Secretariat of CPI(ML). Comrade Tapas Ranjan Saha, a member of the Delhi University Teachers’ Association and Comrade Mohammad Salim, National Vice-President of the RYA. The team carried Rs. 1,00,000 relief for the victims, especially belonging to the minority community. This relief fund had been collected by comrades in Bihar and Jharkhand on an appeal by the General Secretary in the 14 March Save Democracy rally.

The areas visited by the team were Dariapur, Dhalgarhwad, Shaadpur, Mirzapur, Gomtipur, Dudeshwar, Johapura, Sahibagh, Batwa, Khanpur, Ramol Road etc., as well as several camps including the Shah Alam Camp. The team met several social organizations, intellectuals, mediapersons as well as police and administrative officials to find out what concrete steps were being taken to bring normalcy to the state, provide relief as well justice to the victims. The relief money was handed over to a group of democratic and social organizations called “Citizens’ Initiative” as a token gesture of solidarity with the sufferers of the state-sponsored genocide. The Citizens’ Initiative has been actively working for rehabilitation and relief to the victims and has been taking various initiatives at different levels to counter the communal tirade of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat.

The team observed that:

1) The ethnic cleansing started by the Narendra Modi government is still going on;

2) The Sangh Parivar is continuing its orgy of bloodshed, loot and burning;

3) Nothing is being done to help the victims or restore normalcy, except that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi continues with his volley of white lies and the Prime Minister visited after more than a month only to shed crocodile tears and re-establish the leadership of Modi. The relief camps are in a bad state and almost being solely run by voluntary and social welfare organizations and members of the minority community, while the government continues to discriminate on the basis of community in relief operations. While the members of the minority relief-camps are being trapped in legal technicalities and harassed, the open sanction granted to the rioteers, the provocative speeches and statements being made by the VHP-Bajrang Dal members and the rumours being consciously propagated have resulted in a strong feeling of mistrust and insecurity among the victims. People are afraid to go from one area to another.

4) Since the very beginning of the genocide, the police has been functioning as an organized team of the RSS and consciously targeting the Muslims;

5) While the RSS-backed rioteers who have been identified, and against whom FIRs have been lodged by the victims, freely roam around without any fear, the victims are consistently being harassed, arrested and their houses being raided even now. Innocent Muslim youth are being banded as rioteers, serious and false cases being imposed on them and they are being put behind bars.

6) While FIRs on behalf of the victims (minorities) living in the relief camps are not being lodged, on the contrary, under the pretext of helping them, their addresses are being noted down and false cases being clamped on them;

7) Witnesses and advocates of these victims are being prevented from attending the courts;

8) Relief funds which have been declared to have been granted by the PM are being used to help the Saffron goons in the state – they have registered their names as victims of communal violence at the hands of the Muslims;

9) Compensation which is due to the next of kin of those killed in the violence (minorities) is not being granted. Rather, they are being harassed through complicated legal and technical wrangles. The same is the case with widows and orphans. Those whose houses have been razed to the ground or burnt down are being asked to provide proof of existence of their abodes. Widows and orphans are being asked provide proof of their relationship to those killed in the holocaust; and

10) The rioteer Bajrang Dal and VHP activists have been entrusted with huge sums of relief money and relief materials. Rehabilitations schemes have also been entrusted to them – they are looting these with impunity.

In the name of opposition to communal riots in Gujarat, leaders of the Congress party are spending their time in the Circuit House and in front of TV cameras, giving empty assurances. The Ahmedabad Mayor is a Congressman. Yet, the Congress, due to its own record of misdeeds in the state, does not have the moral courage to take on the challenge of combating communal fascism.

The team demanded:

1) Narendra Modi be dismissed immediately;

2) Discrimination in distribution of relief and providing rehabilitation be stopped;

3) Stopping raids of Muslim houses and arrests of innocent Muslims, particularly youth and unconditional release of all those arrested under false charges;

4) It was suggested that a panel of legal experts and advocates be formed under the leadership of Comrade Laxmanbhai Patanwadia, advocate, to provide legal aid and counseling to victims;

5) Immediately dismantling the Shah Committee formed to enquire into the communal holocaust in Gujarat, since it does not enjoy the confidence and faith of common Muslims. The circumstances of the Gujarat genocide be investigated by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court;

6) The guilty officials and rioteers be brought to book immediately and tried for murder, loot and rioting.

The team was helped in its mission by Comrade Ranjan Ganguli, CPI(ML) incharge of Gujarat, Kantibhai Dhabi and Comrade Mukhtaar.