Fear and Injustice Continues 10 Years After Gujarat Riots

Gujarat Riots India

Rafatjhan Meiuddin Shaikh looks on at the refugee settlement 'Citizen Nagar' for Muslims affected by the Gujarat riots near a landfill in the Dani Limda area of Ahmedabad on February 26, 2012. (SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images)

The image of Qutubuddin Ansari is seared into my memory of one of the darkest days in India’s history. Mr. Ansari’s pleading to be spared from the vicious mobs is a reminder of the injustice that continues after the month-long outbreak of violence that resulted in the killing of at least 2,000 women, men and children, mostly Muslims, and the rape of significant numbers of women and girls, in the western Indian state of Gujarat.

The photographer, Arko Datta of Reuters, remembered that moment: “There were youths armed with swords, knifes and spears from Hindu neighborhoods crossing over, setting fire to Muslim homes and shops. I just looked back at for a moment and saw him standing in the first floor of a building, just a few hundred feet away from me. He was pleading, pleading for help.” Ten years after the riots, the families of the murdered victims, the victims of the rape and sexual violence and the 21,000 people still in “relief camps” still plead for justice.


Justice Is Exception Not Rule in India

Biliqis Yakoob Rasool

During the large scale violence in Gujarat, India in 2002, Biliqis Yakoob Rasool was gang-raped and saw her entire family, including her daugher, killed in front of her.

A recent report by the New Delhi-based organization, the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), documents India’s the sordid record when it comes to custodial and extrajudicial deaths. They report that since 2001, 14,231 people died in police or judicial custody in India. Some of the cases may not be due to misconduct, but according to the ACHR, “a large majority of these deaths are a direct consequence of torture in custody.”

Amnesty International has been demanding a thorough investigation into 31 unlawful killings by police in the state of Gujarat during 2002-2006. This is not to mention coming to grips with the massacres of minorities in the state that left hundreds dead.


Suggested Itinerary for Sarah Palin’s Visit to India

Memo to Former Governor Sarah Palin regarding her upcoming visit to India…

To: Former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin

From: Govind Acharya, South Asia Co-Group, Amnesty International USA

Subject: Your upcoming trip to India

Dear Governor Palin,

I understand that you will be travelling to India to deliver a speech to the India Today Conclave.  This conclave is a a group of extremely wealthy and self-declared important people in India, talking about how awesome India is while pretending not to see all of the poverty and hardship faced by hundreds of millions every day. OK, there are some good people speaking at the event and I shouldn’t be so cynical. But, I digress…

Keep in mind that there are lots of vegetarians in India, Gov. Palin.

I realize that we need not worry too much about your expertise on India. India is pretty darn close to Russia and as you told us when asked about your foreign policy experience, “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.” But despite that, I thought it might be helpful for me to give you a suggested itinerary to give you a more well-rounded picture of the country:

1. Gujarat: I’m sure that Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who will also be at the India Today Conclave, will tell you all about how much economic growth and development has occurred in his state during his rule. He’ll tell you about the factories, the roads and the GDP growth. But, I’m sure he’ll omit the fact that nine years ago, he presided over the worst communal pogroms since Indian independence, which left over 1,000 dead.  His former Home Minister (sort of like a state Attorney-General) is currently facing charges for his involvement in a “fake encounter”. He will also fail to inform you that malnutrition indicators have deteriorated since Modi took office. But, when you visit, I’m sure you will get a sense of the problems in the state.

2. Kashmir: It’s great you’ll be there right around the time that Amnesty International is planning to release its report on indefinite detentions in Kashmir. The report entitled A Lawless Law: Detentions under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, documents how authorities are using the Public Safety Act to secure the long-term detention of political activists, suspected members or supporters of armed groups and a range of other individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial or conviction to ‘keep them out of circulation’. I can send you a link over twitter if you’d like, Governor Palin (by the way, my twitter feed is at twitter.com/acharya_dude in case you’d like to follow it).

3. Chhattisgarh: This rural eastern Indian state has been the center of Maoist violence. And while I doubt that the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh will be at the India Today Conclave, I’d recommend heading over just the same to get a look at the violence wrought by the Maoists and by the government-backed Salwa Judum. It’s a horrible situation for the tribal peoples in the area because they are caught between the two militias. The result has been widespread human rights violations. This state is also the place where Dr. Binayak Sen has been imprisoned (take action here) for speaking out for the rights of the indigenous people in the area. Kartam Joga, a political activist, has also been arrested in the same state. While there, Gov. Palin, I hope you will get a chance to ask the Chief Minister to arrest all those involved in human rights violations and to see that there are no more prosecutions of human rights defenders such as Dr. Binayak Sen and Kartam Joga (take action here).

Well, Governor Palin, I could list other human rights concerns in other parts of India, but I’ll stop there since I know that your time is limited. But, I’d urge you (and others of course!) to check out AIUSA’s webpage on India. And, again, I encourage you and others to follow me on my twitter feed, twitter.com/acharya_dude as I’ll be posting lots and lots of stuff on the upcoming Kashmir report in the coming days.

Life Itself Is a Celebration…Unless You're Killed in a Pogrom

The Gujarat state government website features a smiling Chief Minister Narendra Modi touting how “life itself is a celebration” in his state.  Wow, this sounds to me like a swell time to be had by all in Gujarat!  But I guess someone forgot to tell that to the thousands whose lives were irreparably harmed during the pogroms against Muslims in the state in late February and early March 2002. Exactly 8 years ago.


Desi Spotlight Series: Indian Muslims Fighting for Rights in India

This is the first posting in the Desi Spotlight Series, a series of blogs that will spotlight organizations and individuals of South Asian origin living in the United States that are making a difference in human rights in South Asia.

For the interview with the President of the Indian Muslim Council – USA, Mr Rasheed Ahmed, see full entry.

Desi is a term used by South Asians in this country to refer to themselves and means roughly, people.  For example, I would say that I am a desi, albeit born and raised in the United States.  The first organization profiled is the Indian Muslim Council – USA, a desi group based in the United States and made up of Americans of Indian origin dedicated to seeing a pluralistic India.

Over 17 years ago, on December 6, 1992, at the culmination of a decade long campaign by the leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, India’s main opposition party and ruling party from 1998 to 2004, kar sevaks ignored an order from the Indian Supreme Court and began to tear down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, a holy city in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh.  Several days of sectarian violence left thousands dead and the inept government of Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao tottering towards defeat in the 1996 elections.  This inept handling of the violence perpetuated by Hindu nationalists groups and subsequent defeat of the government at the elections no doubt led to the horrors of early 2002 in Gujarat.

On February 27, 2002, 56 kar sevaks were killed when the rail carriage they were in caught on fire, trapping the victims.  Blame fell on Muslim shopkeepers in the Godhra Railway Station in the eastern part of Gujarat, despite little or no evidence.  Immediately, politicians in the state where these murders occurred, Gujarat, began whipping up their supporters to attack specific Muslim neighborhoods and specific people living in those neighborhoods.  The whole state was soon consumed in an orgy of violence that was only stopped a few days later when the Indian Army was deployed in the worst hit areas.  Thousands of Muslims were forced into so-called “relief camps”. Thousands more met a worse fate, killed, raped, or traumatized.  Nearly seven years later, some of the people most closely implicated in the violence, particularly Chief Minister Narendra Modi, are not only free and not facing charges, but are also still holding the levers of power.