United States top rights organisation,
Human Rights Watch (HRW), has concluded in an exhaustive report that
government officials of the Indian state of Gujarat are 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. HRW
has asked international community to put pressure on the Indian government
to end violence against minorities.
Entitled "'We have no orders to
save you': state participation and complicity in communal violence in
Gujarat", the 75-page report blames the extremist Hindu umbrella
organisation, the RSS and its affiliates for engineering the anti-Muslim
pogroms in Gujarat.
Saying that police personnel in
Gujarat were directly involved in the killings of hundreds of Muslims, the
New York-based HRW organisation has urged the international community to
put pressure on the Indian government to end "orchestrated violence
against Indian minorities."
The police have been directly
implicated in nearly all the attacks against Muslims that are documented
in the report. "At best they were passive observers, and they acted
in concert with murderous mobs and participated directly in the burning
and looting of Muslim shops and homes and the killing and mutilation of
Muslims," it said.
According to the report, several
witnesses reported being told by the police, "we have no orders to
save you." Phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even
ambulance services generally proved futile. "Many of the attacks on
Muslim homes and places of business also took place in proximity of police
posts," the report said.
"Muslim girls and women were brutally raped. Mass graves have been
dug throughout the state. Gravediggers told Human Rights Watch that bodies
keep arriving, burnt and mutilated beyond recognition," the report
HRW report names the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad (World Hindu Council), the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party, collectively known as the "Sangh Parivar"
[RSS Family], as the "groups most directly involved in the violence
against Muslims." The report also said that the Gujarat state
administration had been engaged in a massive cover-up of the state's role
in the massacres and that of the Sangh Parivar.
Though officially more than 850 people have been killed, unofficial
estimates have put the death toll as high as 2,000, the report states.
Calling it a "retaliatory killing spree" after a Muslim mob in
Godhra attacked and set fire to two carriages of a train carrying Hindu
activists, killing 58, the report says, this incident led to the looting
and burning of Muslim homes, businesses, and places of worship.
Between February 28 and March 2,
thousands of attackers descended on Muslim neighbourhoods, clad in saffron
scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu ultranationalist
groups, and armed with swords, sophisticated explosives and gas cylinders.
They were guided by voter-lists and printouts of addresses of Muslim-owned
properties obtained from the local municipality. In the weeks following
the attacks, Hindu homes and businesses were also destroyed in retaliatory
attacks by Muslims, according to the report.
In holding the RSS Family culpable,
the HRW said that numerous police reports filed by eyewitnesses after the
attacks had specifically named local VHP, BJP, and Bajrang Dal leaders as
instigators or participants in the violence. But the police, reportedly
under instructions from the state, face continuous pressure not to arrest
them or to reduce the severity of the charges filed against them.
In a stinging indictment of the state machinery, HRW also said that, in
many instances, police officials led the charge of murderous mobs,
"aiming and firing at Muslims who got in the way." In some
cases, they were merely passive observers while in others, under the guise
of offering assistance, police officers led the victims directly into the
hands of their killers, the report said.
"What happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a
carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims," Smita Narula, senior
South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch who authored the report after
visiting the state told the Times of India. "The attacks were
planned in advance and organised with extensive participation of the
police and state government officials," she added.
The report provides testimony on retaliatory attacks against Hindus, with
Hindu homes and businesses being destroyed by Muslims. But it mostly
documents excesses by lumpen mobs of Hindu militants and notes that while
burnt Muslim shops and restaurants dot the main roads and highways in
Ahmedabad, neighbourhood Hindu establishments were notably unscathed.
Describing the state of affairs in Gujarat as "a crisis of
impunity," the report says that unless those responsible for the
violence are prosecuted, violence may spread to other parts of India.
The report said that assistance from international humanitarian and UN
agencies was urgently needed for the victims in relief camps. It urged the
Indian government to actively seek the assistance of international
agencies and to invite UN human rights experts to investigate state and
police participation in the violence.
"'We have no orders to save
you': state participation and complicity in communal violence in
Gujarat" is available online at: http://hrw.org/reports/2002/india/