Justice for Gujarat victims is pivotal in the struggle to save India’s secular tradition
Friday, February 28, 2014
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, joined human rights activists, survivors and people of conscience across the world in commemorating the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 on the occasion of its 12th anniversary. The commemoration is an expression of resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice and a call for unity against the hateful ideology responsible for the massacres, that claimed over 2,000 lives and rendered over 150,000 people homeless. Neither continued obstruction of justice nor the passage of time can diminish the enormity of the horrific crimes against humanity committed in the Indian state of Gujarat in February and March of 2002.
February 27 marks the 12th anniversary of the genocide of over 2,000 Muslims in the Indian state of Gujarat. “The graves of the thousands of victims of Gujarat genocide, and the countless survivors who are living with the trauma of seeing their loved ones raped and burned alive, are calling us to action. They beckon us to stand up and be counted among those who will spare no efforts to save the soul of India,” said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. “The lessons from Gujarat have not been learned as violence driven by Hindutva supremacists targeted minorities again in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. The world cannot afford to make light of the expression: ‘Never Again!’,” added Mr. Khan.
Under Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s watch, the killing and mayhem continued for over a month, with the complicity of the state’s administration and law enforcement machinery. Hundreds of women were subjected to the most brutal forms of sexual violence in a macabre show of savagery unleashed by the forces of hate. Mr. Ehsan Jaffery, a former Member of India’s Parliament and a lifelong proponent of pluralism, was dismembered and burnt alive. While human rights activists and whistle-blowers within the police and administration have called for accountability at the highest levels, there have been very few convictions, from the thousands of cases related to the Gujarat pogrom.
With the exception of Maya Kodnani, the major political figures that orchestrated the massacres remain free despite overwhelming evidence of state complicity. The conviction of Maya Kodnani, a sitting BJP legislator and later a minister in Modi’s cabinet, for leading a murderous mob, is indicative of the fact that the pogrom was planned and executed at the highest levels of the state government. Not surprisingly, Chief Minister Narendra Modi was described by Katrina Lantos-Swett, Vice-Chair of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as the “poster child for India’s failure to punish the violent.” Mr. Modi’s complicity and active connivance in the pogrom are evidenced by the testimonies given by top ranking law enforcement officials such as ex-DGP R.B. Sreekumar and IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt.
The “Concerned Citizens Tribunal”, established by journalists, retired judges and intellectuals in India to investigate the massacres in Gujarat, noted in its report:
The scrutiny of the evidence, which came before us, also reveals that there was systematic preparation for unleashing the violence all over the State. The attackers had with them the lists of persons and properties of the victims. The lists could not have been prepared without an access to government records and agencies like the state intelligence, the sales tax department, the revenue department and the state electoral rolls. The Muslim localities were identified beforehand, as also the property and business houses belonging to the Muslim community.
[Crime Against Humanity, Volume 1 – An Inquiry into the Carnage in Gujarat]
Babu Bajrangi, a convicted mass-killer of the Gujarat pogrom, acknowledged on camera during a media sting operation, that the pogrom would not have been possible without the support of Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
The state government’s efforts to shield criminals, sabotage the investigations and appoint Hindutva extremists as prosecutors amount to open admissions of the state’s intent to shield the guilty. In this context, that the Special Investigation Team – with officers appointed by the very same state government, found insufficient evidence to initiate prosecution comes as no surprise. The compromised nature of the team, which had officers that were themselves under investigation, has resulted in a monumental travesty of justice. Human rights organizations have been at pains to point out that the first step towards justice would be to take the Gujarat pogrom related cases outside the state of Gujarat.
More than a decade after the orchestrated violence, around 16,000 people are still living in refugee colonies without being able to return to their homes or villages for fear of being targeted again. The isolation and marginalization of minorities in Gujarat is now complete.
IAMC honors the brave victims and the activists that are at the forefront of the struggle to secure justice in a system that is indifferent to their suffering. “The world’s resolve to bring the perpetrators of the holocaust that happened almost 70 years ago remains as strong as ever. So too should our resolve be, to not rest until there is full accountability for the crimes against humanity in Gujarat in 2002,” Ahsan Khan further added.
Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 15 chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our new website at: http://www.iamc.com
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