Indian General Elections 2014
Gujarat Riots, Human Rights Violations
and Narendra Modi
Dr. Mozammel Haque
There was a lecture on Gujarat: Human Rights Violations, Impunity and Indian General Elections at the London School of Economics (LSE) on 19 February, 2014. The participants were Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE’ , Carla Ferstman, director of REDRESS, Suresh Grover, director of the Monitoring Group; he has been active in the civil rights field for over thirty years. The Guardian Newspaper has described as one of the most influential people in social policy in the UK and Dr. Biji Mathew an Associate Professor of Business and American Studies at Rider University, NJ and co-founder./ convener of the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG). The discussion was chaired by Professor Chetan Bhatt, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights and Professor of Sociology at the LSE.
Mr.Suresh Grover, Director of the Monitoring Group, talking about Gujarat riots in 2002 said, “Had the local police acted professionally these murders could have been prevented. The initial attack on the jeep and the subsequent chase of the victim by the mob was done within eyeshot of the police who were no more than 200 yards away.”
“Perpetrators were never interviewed and charged until April that year. Even the serious cases of charges, bail was granted to the culprit without any objection from public prosecutor; later it turned out that they were well-known members of the Sangha Seva;” said Mr. Grover.
Human Rights Watch published a report on Gujarat riots in May, 2002. Mentioning about that report, Mr. Grover said, “What happened in Gujarat is not any spontaneous uprising; it was carefully orchestrated attacks against Muslims. It was planned in advance and organised extensive participation of the police claimed by Imran Daud in Indian Courts. I viewed and others show clear evidence of culpability against Narendra Modi and others; that evidence is quite extensive and can be summarised as follows:
“In total opposition to the values of equality enshrined in the Indian Constitution; Sangha Seva arise with that ideology with the ultimate aim of creating a Hindu state. There is clear evidence to show that all the affiliates of Sangha Parivar took active part in the anti-Muslim genocide in 2002 with the full support of the chief minister. Policy pursued by the BJP as soon as they view the far in Gujarat in 1998 reflected the systematic marginalisation, exclusion and targeting of minority communities including the Muslim community in Gujarat.”
Mr. Grover cited an instance. He said, “In 1998 the state department set up a police cell monitoring inter-religious marriages. This was justified by the then Home Minister Haren Pandey on the ground that such marriages were not made out of free choice but force unto them. This disbanding the police cell investigate the atrocities and violence against women.”
Mr. Grover spoke about the withdrawing policy of Muslim police officers from the field as early as 1998. He said, “From 1998 onwards there was a withdrawing policy of Muslims police officers for field posts as far as possible. There was also a size up normal recruitment process by police by appointing police sevak who are a care of the Sangha Parivar. Sangha Parivar was later drafted into police service thereby subverting the recruitment procedure. Gujarat government also used the Home Guard Force as a mean to induct VHP and Bajrang Dal Cadre in a law enforcing machineries. in compliance and obedience to the Sangha Parivar thereby subverting the rule of law and all constitutional norms.”
Speaking on the Ayodhya agitation to demolish the Babri Masjid, Mr. Grover mentioned, “On 15th of January 2002 VHP announced the mass mobilisation in Gujarat for its Ayodhya agitation to demolish the Babri Masjid. This was organised in a movement of thousands of Kar Sevaks from Gujarat to Ayodhya. On the 7th of February, the state intelligence bureau alerted the police commissioners of police of a movement of kar Sevaks in under 27th of February to Ayodhya. State intelligence services also repeatedly alerted the Uttar Pradesh government and their police authorities and the number of Kar Sevaks left for Ayodhya by train. Massive necessary preventive action could have been taken against any incident of violence when Kar Sevaks returned from Ayodhya.”
Mr. Grover mentioned about the Ahmedabad Express train for Ayodhya. He said, “When the Ahmedabad Express its journey for Ayodhya it was carrying a 200,000 passengers on board almost double the capacity of 110,000 people nearly 1700 of these were Kar Sevaks. Media and the press reported incidence of violence occurred in UP, New Delhi and clashes between the Kar Sevaks and the local population at different places. These could have been a cause of concern and ought to have alerted the state intelligence to take preventative measures but no such measures were considered or implemented.”
The 27th of February 2002 at about 8.00am 6 coaches of the Express burned down resulting in the tragic deaths of 58 people mostly Hindus. Because of the burning of the coach injuries judicially ascertained. “There was no evidence burning of the carriages was pre-planned. The local district collector of Godra Jayant Virabhi issued a statement which was broadcast repeatedly for eleven hours from 7am to 6.00pm on that day to the fact that Godhra fire was not pre planned, probably an accident,” Mr Grover said and added, “In reality, despite the social media had reported the incident Gujarat was relatively peaceful on 27th of February.”
Mr. Grover gave a detailed description how the peaceful situation suddenly turned into nightmare by the mishandling of the event by Narendra Modi and his government. “Narendra Modi and some of his cabinet members had arrived at around 2.00pm on that day. Based on the advice of the local administration, Modi took a decision to transport the charred bodies of the passengers to Ahmedabad. The initial plan was not to remove the bodies from the plain to capital. However, to gain maximum publicity and media coverage he and his colleagues decided to take the bodies in an open car Chevrolet to Ahmedabad at7:30pm on that day.”
“Without any evidence to back it Modi made a public statement in which he announced ‘the ISI the Pakistan Intelligence Service is responsible and behind the Godra incident’. Despite Godhra as I quote, “pre-planned violent act of terrorism” On the same day in an interview Praveen Togadia, International General Secretary of the VHP, stated that this has never happened in the history of Independent India. Hindu society will avenge the whole killings. Muslims should set the fact that Hindus are not wearing bungles. We will response vigorously to all such incidence. Next day, Modi said on Doordarshan, the Indian State Television, Gujarat shall not tolerate any such incident. Culprit will get full punishment for this sin. Not only this, he will set an example that nobody, not in his dreams, thinks of committing the heinous crime like this.”
Statements on the basis of the pogrom of a genocidal intent against all Muslims of Gujarat. Mr. Grover also mentioned, “In order to facilitate the spread of violence in Gujarat and the rest of Gujarat and to paralyse the state machinery, the VHP called for a state-wide ban. Despite the fact that the course was illegal, Modi, in total defiance of his constitutional and legal duties, announced and promoted Gujarat state-wide ban next day. He would have known and foreseen that such action would lead to a breakdown of the state machinery and the failure to maintain the rule of law. Indeed, all the reliable evidence suggests that Modi went further by calling two separate meetings about the official response: first with senior police officers and second with senior ministers. In both he allegedly gave specific instructions that resulted in the complete absence of police actions and interventions against mobs and wanton violence against Muslim community on 28 February, 2002.”
Speaking about the role of police officers, Mr. Grover said, “1ndeed central police control rooms were taken over by at least two Cabinet members, Ashok Bhatt and IK Jadeja in direct violations of normal procedure. As a consequence repeated police help were ignored and turned down by the police. The gross political interference was also used to monitor these responsible two police officers and also to ensure the release of mob leaders and known-supporters of Sangha Parivar. Although the army was called in, it is deliberately not deployed for the first 72 hours. Had the army been deployed properly the threat of violence would have subsided.”
What happened during this carnage, Mr. Grover gave a pathetic, pitiable and dismal picture. He said, “The carnage resulted in large scale death sacrileges befallen to the Muslim community. Gruesome and brutal rape against Muslim women was widespread. Violence against women and children were deployed in systematic manner, women’s bodies were made the grounds that symbolises the subjugation of the entire Muslim population. There was widespread destruction of properties, decimation of the places of worship and the cultural symbols. There is an estimate that across Gujarat 110,000 Muslims hotels and homes, not less than 100,000 families. Over 15,000 small or bigger business establishments, over 3,000 hand carts, 5,000 vehicles were badly damaged and violence took that toll of 2,000 murdered Muslims in 2002.”
Carla Ferstman, Director REDRESS
Carla Ferstman is a human rights activist and political analyst and working in an area of international criminal law. She made her comment coming from that perspectives. Ms. Ferstman argued first, “Modi has been rather untouched. Internationally, there has also been a number of processes and although that is little bit more, in particular, there has been in the United Kingdom a request for an arrest warrant of Modi in 2003. That did not succeed on the face of it. It had to do with it the insufficiency of evidence.”
“Several travel bans have been put in place which has been lifted or wavering which one can debate interpret which we are with some that. On the basis of that Governmental was very keen to smooth relations in case Modi is indeed being elected. It is quite interesting in that respect. Given that travel bans were put in place for one purpose which was in response to mass violations and somehow they are now being removed for being very different reasons, economic reasons which we need to consider a little bit further,” observed by Ms. Ferstman.
Ms. Ferstman touched on few issues; the first one has to do with the local accountability process and consider what the actual extra-territorial effect of the local accountability process is or might be? She said, “If Modi was investigated and prosecuted with the verdict of not guilty founded down by the Indian courts which we know that does not go with that effect. Courts in other countries have to follow these verdicts. If something less than full investigations and prosecutions happened, what weight would be given to that domestic process internationally? This is quite a critical question in light of the ongoing allegations and the fact that we are talking about potentially committed crime against humanity, crime committed internal conflict, torture, rape, sexual violations – all range of crimes which give rise to international obligations to investigate and prosecute. There is a court in another country that has to consider the allegations against Modi. If you are tried once can be tried again. I think it is important to know firstly, which has already been said there is no trial.”
The second issue that Ms Ferstman wanted to raise briefly is about the travel ban. She said, “2002 violence led to de facto travel ban imposed on Modi in a number of countries including the UK and certainly the United States and European Union has been in motion in that direction. Travel bans are part of the much wider sets of some restrictive measures that can be imposed to target governments, or non-state entities or also individuals. Other types of restrictive measures we can think of might be arms embargo, trade restrictions, financial restrictions and also visa ban in addition to general travel ban. Travel ban I can say it is easy diplomatic approach in general state have control over who they can let in; or banning someone or denying someone; entry is a matter which is within their prerogative.”
Dr. Shakuntala Banaji
Dr. Shakuntala Banaji, Lecturer at the LSE, first of all starting saying about the social context. She said, “what we note in India an aggressive patriarchcal family masculinity violent; structured which actually excludes the voices of children and young people; which excludes the voices of many many men and women; which excludes people from public places where people from certain caste, certain class do not feel welcome whether they are shaking their way; we have allowed them to come and to play.”
Secondly she mentioned about the normalisation of violence; Inter-penetration of Right-wing Hindu Chauvinist (Hindutva) in position of power; growth of Hindutva propaganda machinery with new media and in the west all for investment and vicious gap between rich minority and poor majority, which means you have a massive disenfranchised population who are not on twitter, who are not on face book and who are very rarely appeared in the urban middle class debate.
Motifs of the Pro-Modi campaign
Dr. Banaji the explained the motifs of the Pro-Modi campaign. She said, “Politicians from other parties are corrupt. You know secular; we need to try something new; Modi; he gives hope. The Congress Party is led by inexperienced young man from wealthy family. Like him Modi shows strength; he does not flinch when something tough has to be done. Hindu nation, at a time, when politically correct secular; Modi proudly stand up and call themselves Hindutva. He has done 20 years sitting on the pit. We need to remember things that happened 600 years ago. This is an absolute Hindu campaign. Hindutva campaign. We need to think about Temple which was burnt 600 years ago. We need to think about rewriting the story written in 1400 years ago but we must forget what happened 12 years ago. We must forget in order to move forward as a nation because we absolutely have to move forward.”
Dr. Banaji also argued, “Hindu-right is absolutely wonderful and embracing new media absolutely hats off to them. Nobody on the other side can compete. Modi supporters are absolutely ubiquitous on twitter, in face book, in comment sections; in blogs, in newspapers; literally everywhere you go. You get the same rhetoric and it’s very very consistent. My leader, right or wrong stands for development.”
“The story is building up. The enemies of Modi are somehow basically related to the Congress and Modi has brand India behind him. He has got money; he is endorsed by the super rich obviously evidently billions of business. So he is here embracing one of the richest men in India. He has vibrant Gujarat. Everything is really really well,” said Dr. Banali.
Concluding her speech, Dr. Banali said, “Finally we need to look forward with a little bit of caution what is coming in the next ten years. Democracy is being dismantled in front of our eyes. It is the media which is the fourth pillar of democracy; we have allowed this to happen; a single narrative was not uncontested and it is now. So we need to invent a new metaphor; a quickly. We need to have new framework we have to put out there to contest this narrative. We have to think beyond those strong man; good business for it. We need to think about when we can reassemble something which India has always has very strong grassroots democratic culture, non-violence at a time when media was not there either on twitter or face book.”
Dr. Biji Mathew
Dr. Biji Mathew talked about the media supports for Modi. He explained how the kind of media supports Modi’s potential prime ministerial candidate. He described the three trajectories that produce this Modi moment.
Talking about how the business class promoted Modi, Dr. Mathew said, “That the base of business running economy slowed down and therefore what is required is somebody who has potential for more authoritarian kind of implementation of new liberalism agenda. I think it is a very clear signal that has come from the business elite that we need somebody like Modi. Strong man like Modi who has pushed back social movements; social movement in the weakest state like Gujarat. Modi is projected as the big development chief minister; the big business chief minister.”
Speaking about the media supports of Modi, Dr. Mathew maintained, “If you want to understand the media; how the media, specially the electronic media structured in terms of business houses or which part of it The part of what is happening, I think the part which is happening is that Modi is being promoted as such not so much because of his actual achievement in the ground of positive production or better development but much more because he has managed to crush opposition and managed to crush social movement and the landscape of Gujarat is probably the best example for it. And that vector arises out of particular business elite wanting that kind of environment.”
Dr. Mathew pointed out about the VHP and Sangha Parivar. He said, “The second vector is the vector that is VHP, Sangh Parivar for a really long time. And this one is the vector around caste. The Hindutva movement is identified with the Hindutva Brahmic movement; the Vedic and Brahmanic Hindus and in that context the second vector that has not been fully played out but I anticipate might get played out in the next two months before the elections come in. The vector around Modi is being projected as an OBC candidate because if you look at the RSS; if you look at the BJP elections strategy, caste and caste-based mobilisation of various societies, not the progressive caste but the caste based mobilisation have become in one sense or other one of the bulwarks against Hindus. Especially if you look at the regional parties launching and how the bricks down caste is one the of the bulwark against Hindus.”