During Israel’s recent aggressive re-occupation of Palestinian areas that killed many civilians and caused R4.1billion damage to property, Indian state officials also felt the urge to perpetrate crimes against humanity.
Human Rights Watch, on April 30, 2002, reported “State officials of Gujarat, India were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims since February 27 and are now engineering a massive cover-up of the state’s role in the violence.”
“What happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims,” said Smita Narula, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “The attacks were planned in advance and organized with extensive participation of the police and state government officials.”
The police were directly implicated in nearly all the attacks against Muslims that are documented in HRW’s 75-page report entitled “We Have No Orders to Save You: State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat.” In some cases they were merely passive observers. But in many instances, police officials led the charge of murderous mobs, aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way.
Under the guise of offering assistance, some police officers led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. Panicked phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even ambulance services generally proved futile.
More than 850 people have been killed in the Western state of Gujarat in the past two months, most of them Muslims. Unofficial estimates have put the death toll as high as 2,000.
The looting and burning of Muslim homes, businesses, and places of worship was also widespread. Muslim girls and women were brutally raped. Mass graves have been dug throughout the state, as bodies keep arriving, burnt and mutilated beyond recognition. Burnt Muslim shops and restaurants dot the main roads and highways in Ahmedabad. Neighboring Hindu establishments remain notably unscathed.
Between February 28 and March 2, thousands of attackers descended on Muslim neighborhoods, clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist groups, and armed with swords, sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders.
They were guided by voter lists and printouts of addresses of Muslim-owned properties – information obtained from the local municipality. In the weeks following the attacks, Muslims also destroyed Hindu homes and businesses in retaliatory attacks.
The groups most directly involved in the violence against Muslims include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP), the Bajrang Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that heads the Gujarat state government. Collectively, they are known as the ‘sangh parivar’, or family of Hindu nationalist organizations.
The Gujarat state administration has been engaged in a massive cover-up of the state’s role in the massacres and that of the ‘sangh parivar’. Numerous police reports filed by eyewitnesses after the attacks have specifically named local VHP, BJP, and Bajrang Dal leaders as instigators or participants in the violence.
Government figures indicate that more than 98,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them Muslim, are residing in more than one hundred relief camps throughout the state. The state government has failed to provide adequate and timely humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons in Gujarat. Relief camps are in desperate need of more government and international assistance. One camp with 6,000 residents was located on the site of a Muslim graveyard. Residents were literally sleeping in the open, between the graves.
There is an urgent need to invite United Nations human rights experts to investigate India’s state and police participation in the violence in Gujarat, just as Israel should be investigated for its war crimes and barbarity carried out by Israeli commanders and soldiers.
After many months of violence, there is a desperate need to resolve the tensions in Palestine and India, and alleviate the plight of the Muslim victims in these countries.