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US Commission stunned by Gujarat carnage 

WASHINGTON, June 10: A horrific and disturbing picture of the state government's complicity in the anti-Muslim riots in India's Gujarat state emerged at a special hearing held by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom here on Monday. 

The hearing appeared to have been partly prompted by new evidence of the Gujarat state government's involvement and partly by a perception that the United States was indifferent to Muslim lives and had not spoken out forcefully against what is seen as a calculated genocide of Muslims. 



"The hearing was chaired by commission member Felice Gaer, who said while accounts of at least 1,000 Muslims killed in the Gujarat riots was enough for the commission to be concerned, recent reports had suggested that the government of the state and some members of the police force might have been implicated in the violence. "



Demands were heard during the hearing for the US government to make clear its belief to India that the continuing violence in Gujarat must be brought to an end and for the Indian caucus in Congress to take the lead in condemning the violence. 

The hearing also heard demands that American-Indian funding of revivalist and extremist parties in India should be investigated and blocked. 

Dr Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia programme at the Woodrow Wilson Centre, who was among those invited to address the commission, said: "Credible reports suggest that substantial sums of money are sent from Indians resident in the United States, and from American citizens of Indian origin, to groups and organizations in Gujarat and elsewhere in India that are directly linked to the violence in Gujarat. If these reports prove to be accurate, then it is possible that such financial transactions violate US anti-terrorism or other statutes. The commission should urge an official inquiry into financial transactions of this nature ..." 

Charities and associations in the US alleged to be funding Al Qaeda have attracted official crackdowns and are being subjected to investigation. 

The hearing was chaired by commission member Felice Gaer, who said while accounts of at least 1,000 Muslims killed in the Gujarat riots was enough for the commission to be concerned, recent reports had suggested that the government of the state and some members of the police force might have been implicated in the violence. 

Evidence from these reports, including India's own National Human Rights Commission, indicated that the communal violence in the state was carefully planned. This was also stressed by the witnesses who took part in the proceedings. Besides Dr Hathaway, they included Kamal Mitra Chenoy of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Najid Hussain of the University of Delaware, Sumit Ganguly of the University of Texas at Austin, and Teesata Setalwad, editor of the Indian magazine Communalism Combat, which headlined its cover story on the Gujarat riots as "Genocide Gujarat 2002". 

It was emphasized at the hearing that the Indian government should be asked to bring to justice all those involved in the anti-Muslim carnage, and Dr Ganguly said New Delhi should have dismissed the BJP government in Gujarat, which it was entitled to do under the country's Constitution. Dr Hathaway regretted that the response from the Bush administration to the events in Gujarat had been remarkably low-key, in comparison both to the magnitude of the tragedy and to the public response from Europe and Japan. 

The plight of the 150,000 Muslims estimated to be living as refugees in relief camps in their own city and state was also brought out. 
Farida Majid <farida_majid@hotmail.com> 
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