Police took part in slaughter

Police took part in slaughter

India's lawmen offered little protection against Hindu gangs massacring

Muslim neighbours

Luke Harding in Ahmedabad

Sunday March 3, 2002

The Observer


In an alley next to her affluent bungalow, Mrs Rochomal's mobile phone 


still ringing yesterday. Her son's jeans were drying on the washing 


The dishes of her last meal had been carefully stacked, ready to be


Mrs Rochomal - an elderly Muslim lady - was not in a position to take 


call. Her charred, mutilated corpse lay in the sunny courtyard, framed 


the metal posts of an upturned bed. It was not just the kerosene that 


killed her. The Hindu mob that poured into her home two days ago had

slashed her twice across the face. They had also cut her throat.

A few clues hinted at Mrs Rochomal's final terrifying hours: a small 


address book was abandoned next to her Nokia cellphone. She clearly 


what was coming and had been trying to summon help while hiding in her

outside pantry.

The fact that Mrs Rochomal lived 80ft away from a police station 

reveals a

bleak truth about the violence that has convulsed India over the past 


days: it has been state-sponsored.

The authorities have done little to prevent the inferno that has swept 


western state of Gujarat - not because of incompetence but because they

share the prejudices of the Hindu gangs who have been busy pulping 


Muslim neighbours.

Indian troops yesterday finally took control of the rubble-strewn 


of Ahmedabad, the state's main city. They took up positions on the 


of Hindu neighbourhoods. The mood was calmer. But the army's belated

deployment seemed little more than a political calculation that the

Muslims had now got the beating they deserved.

'Everything is finished,' rickshaw driver Narinder Bhai said, gesturing 


the charred interior of his home and his ruined fridge. 'Many people 


been killed here. My wife and children have disappeared. I don't know

where they are.'

Narinder's home is almost next door to Mrs Rochomal's, in the Ahmedabad

district of Naroda, which suffered the worst battering. Hindu mobs 


with iron bars and machetes burned down the entire colony on Thursday 



Yesterday, it was almost completely deserted: a ruin of smouldering

rickshaws, charred family photographs and abandoned homes. 'The crowd 


so big, the officers could not control it,' one policeman said. 'They 


done their job very well.'

The reality is that the police made no effort to hold back the mob, and 


certain places even joined in. 'Several policemen without uniforms 


firing guns at us,' said one Muslim resident, Naseem Aktar, in the 


of Bapunagar. 'They killed six or seven people.'

The violence - prompted by last week's gruesome attack on a train 


right-wing Hindu activists back from the temple town of Ayodhya - is

clearly an embarrassment for Hindus of moderate views.

In an address to the nation, India's elderly Prime Minister, Atal 


Vajpayee, yesterday appealed for peace in his country. But Vajpayee's 


Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is part of the problem.

Gujarat is one of the few Indian states still controlled by the BJP. It

has a reputation as a laboratory for Hindu revivalist thinking. Since

sweeping to power in the mid-1990s, the BJP has pursued a communal

pro-Hindu agenda. It has also supported the construction of a temple on

the disputed site in Ayodhya, where Hindu zealots demolished a mosque 


1992. Several members of the present Cabinet, including India's hawkish

Home Minister LK Advani, watched.

The Ayodhya issue now threatens to tear India apart. The extremist 


Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council has called for construction 


the temple to begin by 15 March. It has so far not been swayed by pleas

from Vajpayee to abandon its plan.

The official death toll since last Wednesday is now 250 - but few 


that the real total is vastly higher. The army has restored some order 


Ahmedabad, and the first bulldozers embarked yesterday afternoon on the

epic task of clearing up.

But in the vast countryside around Gujarat, where Hindu and Muslim

villagers live side by side, local massacres were still going on. On 


national highway leading to Bombay, Hindu gangs yesterday manned

roadblocks and set fire to all trucks driven by Muslims.

Last night, meanwhile, Mrs Rochomal still lay face up in front of her

veranda, her gruesome remains a warning to those who survived the 


Her white flip-flops were where she had left them, next to the shoe 


and a brightly-painted swing-seat. Before being murdered, she had

padlocked her front door. The ferocity that killed her left her home

largely untouched. She was clearly a lady of fastidious habits and 


the windows it was possible to make out black-and-white photographs of 


family pinned to the wall.

 The Foreign Office confirmed the death of Mohamed Aswat Nallabhai, 41,

from Batley, West Yorkshire, who was attacked on Thursday along with 


relatives while on a social visit to the region.

His group was travelling in a minibus when they were attacked near

Himmatnagar, about 100 miles from Ahmedabad.

Two of the men, named in reports as Saeed Dawood and Shakil Dawood, are


Ayodhya: India's religious flashpoint

 Sectarian tension in Ayodhya dates back to 1528, when the Babri mosque

was built on the site that Hindus claimed their god, Lord Rama, had 



 There has been repeated tension over the site ever since. In 1859, the

British administration annexed the mosque, creating within it separate

Muslim and Hindu places of worship. In 1949, the gates were locked 


Muslims claimed Hindu worshippers had placed deities of Lord Rama in 



 In 1984, the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad party started a campaign 


replace the mosque with a Hindu temple.

 In 1992, an angry mob of Hindus stormed the Babri mosque and destroyed

it. Hindus are now pressing to build the temple at the site.


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