Posting it here for the archives
Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat
Report by the International Initiative for Justice (IIJ)
The violence that was unleashed against Muslim communities, and on women from the Muslim communities in particular, in the state of Gujarat, India from February 27, 2002, onwards was beyond description in its horror. Its efficacy in showing the worst effects of communalism combined with a thirst for political power is unmatched in the
post-independence Indian history.
What happened in Gujarat
Although it has been repeatedly suggested that the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on 27 February 2002 triggered the violence against Muslims in Gujarat, much evidence reveals the planned nature of these attacks and casts doubts on the representation of events that occurred on 27th February. Reports show a systematic attempt to identify Muslims in various areas by singling out their homes and establishments much ahead of that date.
They also reveal that arms had been procured and distributed widely to the public as part of the plan to target the Muslim community. What happened on the 27th of February 2002 was but a pretext to carry out the carnage that was long planned, a flashpoint that facilitated it and gave it a rationale.
On 27th February 2002, there was an attack on a train carrying Hindu kar sevaks1 coming back from the demolished Babri Masjid site, where they had gone to volunteer their services for the building of a Ram temple. One of the train compartments was set on fire just outside Godhra, a station in Gujarat and 59 people (women and men) perished in the blaze.
The assailants were not known and the reason for the train attack was not very clear but by late evening there were statements from the Gujarat government and the Hindu right wing organisations that this was an attack on the kar sevaks who were travelling in large numbers in that train. Not only this, there were claims that this was the work of the local Muslim residents around the area where the attacks took place and there were also statements that there was an alleged hand of the Islamic terrorists from across the border – from Pakistan.
The cause for the attack and who was behind it is still not known clearly and although official investigations are still underway, these perhaps shall remain questions that may not be ever fully answered. What followed, however, was a full-scale attack on people from the Muslim communities across the length and breadth of the state.
There were thousands of armed mobs moving in towns and in villages spread over an area of hundreds of square kilometres. They were carrying similar weapons, they were carrying out destruction in the same manner and they were all shouting the same slogans. They were well aware of all the Muslim properties (they carried printed lists at times or the houses were appropriately
marked beforehand) – residential and business – in different towns and remote villages and they went about systematically attacking all of them.
They brutally killed many, they sexually assaulted and violated women and young girls, and they injured people in the most gruesome manner. All property was destroyed in ways that it could not be rebuilt. (See Annexure I for more details on the carnage before and after the burning of the train.)
In a matter of 72 hours – the time for which the administration did not act or was given strict instructions by the state government to not act – there were about 2000 people killed in the violence. Although the official figure is 762, about 2000 people were missing or killed according to unofficial estimates and around 113,000 people were living in relief camps while others who were displaced were living with relatives in Gujarat or outside.
The losses suffered by the Muslim community were estimated to be 38,000 million rupees – 1150 hotels burnt in Ahmedabad city alone, over 1000 trucks burnt, thus severely affecting the hotel and transport industry, which were businesses mainly run by Muslims. About 250 mosques and dargahs were destroyed as part of an attack on the community itself2.
The state was ravaged and its Muslim populations were displaced from lands they had inhabited for generations and made refugees in their own country. They lived in refugee camps set up by others who were able to withstand the attack.
The violence continued much after the first 72 hours and was further compounded by police violence against the Muslim community as well as by the complete indifference of the other state institutions in providing humanitarian and medical support, or compensation to the violence affected and the active hampering by the police of
efforts to register FIRs and other moves towards securing justice.
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