INDIA: Religious fanaticism and cold-blooded murder

Issue 

For several months, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) party has been whipping up communal tension and targeting Muslims in India. In particular, it has renewed its focus on building a Hindu temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, at the same site where the destruction of the historic Babri Masjid (mosque) on December 6, 1992, led to riots in which more than 3000 people died.

Far from trying to prevent this, the Indian government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also controls the state government of Gujarat has provided ample support to the VHP.

Soon after September 11, the government introduced a draconian new anti-terrorist law. This has been used to persecute Muslim youth, while right-wing, Hindu-chauvinist terror outfits remain free to do as they wish.

In the last week of February, kar sevaks — VHP activists travelling to Ayodhya for the temple building — were reported to be terrorising train passengers, tearing burkhas from Muslim women's faces and attacking Muslims.

On February 27, a train carrying VHP activists to Ayodhya was attacked and set on fire at Godhra in Gujarat; 58 people were killed, including women and children, and other passengers unconnected with the VHP.

No sooner had the news of the Godhra incident spread than organised gangs of Hindu chauvinists went on the rampage while the police stood and watched, or in some cases took part in the killings.

From well-off residential areas in Ahmedabad city to smaller towns and surrounding villages, Muslim neighbourhoods were singled out and people burnt alive. Up to 1000 people have been killed. The planned and cold-blooded nature of the killings was clear — in one case alleys adjoining Muslim homes were filled with water and electric cables submerged in them so that those who tried to escape the massacre would be electrocuted.

The BJP government in Gujarat simply watched as the killer squads of the VHP and other Hindu fundamentalist outfits went about the systematic slaughter of Muslims with absolute impunity. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi justified the killings as an “emotional reaction” to the Godhra incident, and congratulated the police for their “excellent work”. Modi's home affairs minister is a VHP leader.

Ahmedabad police commissioner PC Pande openly endorsed the communal role of the police in the massacres by stating that the police “were not insulated from the general social milieu”. Dismissal of this communal government has to be the first step to restoring trust in Gujarat.

The central government is an alliance led by the BJP. The BJP is part of the same family of Hindu fascist organisations to which the VHP and other killer outfits active in Gujarat belong. For all these organisations, Gujarat has been seen as a laboratory for a Hindu rashtra (Hindu state).

Gandhinagar in Ahmedabad is the constituency of the notorious LK Advani, who used Gujarat as the launching pad for his rath yatra (chariot procession) to Ayodhya in 1990.

BJP Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee delayed sending in the army for 36 hours and when it did the army was deployed so slowly and selectively that the killings continued to spread across Gujarat. While vowing to prosecute those involved in the Godhra killings, the central government made no mention of bringing those who took part in the killings of Muslims to justice.

Meanwhile, the results of four state elections in February, in which the BJP lost all of them, reflected the rejection of the BJP by the Indian people from all communities. The BJP had fought the elections on appeals to anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan sentiment and paranoia about national security and terrorist threats.

[Abridged from an article distributed by the UK South Asia Solidarity Group and Asian Women Unite!]

From Green Left Weekly, March 13, 2002.
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