The routine use of the labels ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ to criminalise Muslims and legitimise any action against them has reached new levels in India, with cabinet minister Shanta Kumar claiming on April 28 that the Godhra train incident was an act of “international terrorism” whose objective was to “weaken” Indian defence positions on the border and make it more porous for infiltration by jihadis. Although the exact course of events on and since February 27, when a number of Hindu activists were killed in a burning train, remains unclear, Kumar’s interpretation is utterly ludicrous. It didn’t, however, prevent Condoleeza Rice, national security advisor to Bush, from saying four days later that “we believe that the Vajpayee government will do the right thing…[to investigate the violence in Gujrat] and we will encourage them to do the right thing.” She was speaking during a tour of India intended to emphasise India’s part in the West’s war against those who oppose it.
This was also demonstrated by the beginning of two weeks of joint military exercises by the special forces of the two countries on May 11. The exercises, at the Indian army’s training facility at Agra, are the first involving the two countries since 1963. Little wonder, then, that India’s external affairs ministry is happy, saying that Indo-US bilateral relations are on the “right track”.
Events in Gujrat since February 27 are far clearer than those of the day itself – far clearer, indeed, than is usually the case with any kind of unrest in India. It is agreed by virtually all observers that a pogrom has taken place. By the end of April thousands of Muslims had been killed, many more injured, and more than 140,000 driven from their lands and homes, forced to live in refugee camps; as things now stand they have little or no hope of ever being able to return to their homes and properties. It is also clear that the pogrom was highly organised, the rioters having obtained detailed lists of Muslim-owned houses, flats and shops beforehand. The BJP government, flanked by the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal combination in Gujrat – the institutional core of Hindu fascism – had prepared well. Both Narendra Modi and his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel, had implanted, by means of insidious propaganda, the mindset to justify such a pogrom.
Many survivors have complained that the police refused to come to their aid, and of the partiality of the police during the pogrom and their subsequent arrests and prosecutions. Most notably, it came to light in late March that 60 Muslims allegedly involved in the initial Godhra violence had been arrested under the notorious Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO), yet POTO has not been applied against any of the 800 Hindus who were eventually arrested for ‘participating’ in the subsequent ‘ethnic cleansing’. And yet the Indian government continues to blame the Muslims for their own murder. “If there was no Godhra, there would have been no Gujrat,” Vajpayee has said.
The recent events in Gujrat are not unprecedented; they are still dwarfed by the bloodletting that followed the partition of British India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947: Indian Hindus have a record of anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh violence in which some at least take considerable pride. Nearly a thousand died in violence in Bombay, Ahmedabad, Banaras and other towns after the destruction of the Babri Mosque on 6 December 1992. Hundreds more were killed in Bombay in March 1993 after a series of bomb explosions there; an estimated 50,000 Muslims were made homeless. Lower-level violence is routine, mainly against Muslims, but also against Indian Christians and other communities.
The continuing violence well demonstrates the nature of Brahmin-inspired Hindu brutality. The aim is to break the Muslims’ financial and moral backbone. What happened in Gujrat was not a ‘communal riot’, but a Brahminist pogrom, conducted by organised death squads with the entire state apparatus at their disposal. The atrocities were initiated with two main objectives in mind: to ensure that the Muslim population of Gujrat remains confined to its ghettos, and to ensure that the Brahminists’ authority remains stamped on Gujrat’s political landscape. The scale and intensity of the violence may not be the worst India has ever seen, but its significance is undeniable: if the Brahminist forces ever wield their power entirely unchecked over all of the country, Gujrat today is what all of India will look like.
Mr. Iqbal Siddiqui is Editor of Crescent International and Research Fellow at the Institute of Islamic Contemporary Thought.