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Citizens' report blames Modi for Gujarat violence

Fact finding team finds out that the anti-Muslim carnage that erupted in the state appeared pre-planned and carried out with the connivance of Modi's government as well as the BJP, to which the VHP and Bajrang Dal are allied reports Ajit Shah

New Delhi: An independent fact-finding mission to Gujarat has blamed Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Hindu radical groups for the anti-Muslim violence that claimed nearly 830 lives in the state since February-end. Consisting of a former top bureaucrat, an ex-police officer and two academicians, the mission that toured the two worst-hit cities of Gujarat Ahmedabad and Godhra - March 22-26 says Modi abetted the carnage of Muslims by Hindu mobs.

In their report issued here these unofficial investigators claim the Modi government told the police and bureaucrats not to hinder Hindu mobs from targeting Muslims, which contributed to the high death toll.

"Throughout the state the police, although responsible for law and order and fully empowered to take all necessary measures in this respect, regardless of what signals were transmitted by the top political leadership, not only failed to fulfil their duties but in various cases actively colluded with rampaging mobs bent on death, destruction and looting," the report says.

It claims that a clutch of Hindu radical groups led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), were responsible for the killings.

"The direct and circumstantial evidence, confirming that there was a systematic and planned pogrom and that the agents responsible are the various organisations of the Sangh Parivar (the RSS and its affiliates), is simply overwhelming."

The former bureaucrats in the mission are ex-Indian finance secretary S.P. Shukla, a retired member of the elite Indian Administrative Service, and former director general of police K.S. Subramanian, who retired from the Indian Police Service.

The other members are Kamal Mitra Chenoy, an associate professor with the School of International Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Achin Vanaik, visiting professor at the Third World Academy with Jamia Millia Islamia.

Their report disputes the claim by Modi and Union Home Minister L.K. Advani that the torching of a train by a suspected Muslim mob at Godhra that killed 58 Hindus and set off the anti-Muslim carnage was planned and backed by Pakistan's intelligence agency.

After visiting Godhra to piece together the sequence of events, the mission says the mob that had attacked the Sabarmati Express February 27 most likely did so under serious provocation from activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP).

The VHP activists were returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh after attending a religious show in support of a divisive bid to build a temple on the ruins of a razed 16th-century mosque despite a court ban.

There was already substantial tension in Godhra - where Muslims equal Hindus and which has had a history of sectarian violence - as VHP activists on the train had reportedly misbehaved with Muslim passengers and vendors, the mission said.

"Given the specific (communal) history of the area and the general circumstances prevailing, the speed with which a large mob of several hundred Muslims could gather together and resort to fire bombs is not at all surprising and did not require the kind of pre-planning suggested by various conspiracy theories.

"Moreover, the fact that the attack was confined to basically one bogie indicates that the presumed provocation was deemed to have come from there. There were 1,700 VHP activists on the train but only one coach was targeted."

By contrast, the mission's report said, the anti-Muslim carnage that erupted in the state appeared pre-planned and carried out with the connivance of Modi's government as well as the BJP, to which the VHP and Bajrang Dal are allied.

"The connecting link between this localised riot (Godhra incident) and the pogrom that followed was provided by the VHP-Bajrang Dal-RSS decision to deliberately inflame matters by calling for a bandh (shutdown) the next day.

"No only did the BJP's state government not disallow this bandh (which it should have) but actually endorsed and supported it. 

The mission, which also visited Ahmedabad, said it based its report on interviews with eyewitnesses, serving and retired administrative and police personnel, journalists, judges, lawyers, rights activists and managers at the relief camps for victims.

It has demanded that Vajpayee dismiss the Modi government and institute an inquiry by a Supreme Court judge into the sectarian violence. - IANS

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