Gujarat victims were 'stripped, burned and hacked'

Gujarat victims were 'stripped, burned and hacked'  

By Peter Popham in Delhi

27 April 2002

Two months after the event that triggered Gujarat's pogrom, Muslims in the

 western Indian state are still counting the cost. Yesterday, 40 survivors came 

to Delhi to tell journalists and parliamentarians how their relatives and 

friends had been stripped, raped, burned and mutilated.

A boy of 11, Raja Bundubhai, recalled seeing his mother and sister stabbed then 

burned alive. A woman identified as Reshma recounted how she saw a heavily 

pregnant woman called Kausar Bano "being brutally raped ... Her stomach was 

carved open, her baby flung into the fire before she was sexually abused, cut up 

and burnt."

On 27 February, a mob of Muslims in the town of Godhra attacked a train carriage 

full of Hindu activists returning from the temple town of Ayodhya, killing 59. 

Hindu retaliation in the days that followed left hundreds of Muslims dead 

inpogroms that shamed India and appalled the world.

And although the scale of violence has slackened, peace has yet to return to the 

state, famed as the home of Mahatma Gandhi and as an economic powerhouse before 

it became a byword for savagery.

At least 35 people have been killed in Ahmedabad, the commercial capital, in the 

past week. "They [Hindus] provoke us by yelling insults and bursting crackers 

during the night," said Iqbal Kansara, who lives in Juhapura, a large Muslim 

area. "Youngsters who can't stand the insults come out to retaliate and police 

fire at them."

The state government says some 850 people have died in the violence, but a 

secret report by British diplomats leaked this week to the BBC says at least 

2,000 died. The report claims that far from being a spontaneous eruption of 

Hindu anger after the Godhra outrage, the violence was pre-planned and carried 

out with the support of the state government.

The British officials said the violence had all the marks of ethnic cleansing, 

and that reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims was impossible while the 

controversial chief minister, Narendra Modi, was in place. Mr Modi heads the 

Hindu nationalist BJP government, and Gujarat is now the only sizeable state 

where the party that leads the ruling coalition in Delhi is in power. For this 

reason the central government is accused by the opposition of doing nothing to 

bring about normality. A censure motion on the government's performance on 

Gujarat will be debated next week.

Delhi claims Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has apologised for the leaking 

of the report, but there have been many European rebukes.A Foreign Ministry 

spokeswoman said some governments were interfering and could damage relations. 

The "interference", however, is unlikely to end as long as the government 

ignores the worst communal bloodletting in 10 years.

Tens of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat remain crammed into squalid camps, too 

scared to return to their homes. Some commentators believe cold political 

calculation by the BJP is to blame. The Indian Express said: "Because of the 

severe beating that the Muslims have taken ... no Hindu is safe unless 

governments ... partial to us are put in place."


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