Both national and international declarations and covenants have affirmed the right to life as the most precious and sacred. In fact, India is a signatory to the UN Charter, as also to the Human Rights Declaration and the Special Resolution on Religious Freedom. The country has played a pro-active role in the international arena in the protection of rights, especially during the era of Nehru and Mrs Indira Gandhi. Given the positive interventions of India in South Africa and other African and South Asian countries soon after independence and the support the country provided for the protection and promotion of life in all its dimensions, we could not be defensive on Gujarat and say that it is an internal matter of the country. As we have intervened in many different countries for the protection of human lives, which faced similar situations of racial and religious violence of great magnitude, the country too should permit other nations to speak against it when a fascist group in governance fails the people in a particular State.
Right to Life is Sacred
Among the list of fundamental rights, the right to life is the first one in India's Constitution. Why then should the Prime Minister and his gang fume over the remarks of the Western democracies over the Gujarat genocide? It is because the government in power in Delhi does not hold the right to life as the most important right. In its perception, those who do not belong to its clan, have no right to live. The message is clear: 'If you are not a part of us and refuse to join us, you have no right to live.' The right to kill is a right appropriated by all fascist groups all over the world in the name of nationalism. The Sangh Parivar is no different. It has believed in a strong state to crush and destroy those different from them. Intolerance to any criticism, both from within and outside country, is a mark of highly authoritarian regimes. The fuming of the Sangh Parivar on national and international criticism is therefore, perfectly in keeping with its ideology.
All fascist groups in the past have decided who should live and who should die for the honour of the state. In their understanding, the right to life is a right that can be decided by the state. In Germany under Hitler, the Jews did not have the right to live. Mussolini held that other than the Italians, nobody else had the right to live. The Hindutva group has consistently held that Muslims, Christians and the Communists are no citizens. The Dalits and backwards have a right to live to the extent they subject themselves to the tenets of the Hindu Rashtra. The all-sovereign state has every right to decide who must live within its boundaries and what kinds of belief system should people hold to live in the state. People or the world community cannot criticise the state because the state is sovereign. Prime Minister Sir, the European Union and the others who have condemned the works of your Parivar in Gujarat are not sermonising to the people of the country. They are instructing your Parivar to take on to a meaningful political doctrine in an age of democracy and enlightenment than live on primitive political discourses borrowed from Hitler's Germany or Mussolini's Italy. Before you react to their statements on the genocide of your Parivar in Gujarat which has been witnessed by the people at large, why don't you with your Parivar take a few lessons in politics and evolve a creative politics than a copied one from Germany or Italy? Sovereignty does not mean that you can decide to kill and murder people of a particular religious group to further the political interests of your fraternity. On the other hand, the notion of sovereignty is to provide all people equal public space to live and provide a quality of life. Killers and murderers cannot take cover to hide their evil deeds by recourse to sovereignty. Are you listening, Prime Minister, Sir? Nothing becomes right because you and your Parivar with the backing of some of the opportunists who claim themselves as secular are wielding power at this moment.
International Community has a Responsibility
When a state fails to protect its citizens, the inter-national community should speak out. The safety and security of human lives belongs to the entire community of nations. Any violatoin of the right to life anywhere in the world is a violation of the right to life of people all over the world. When it comes to protection of life, therefore, there can be no geographic boundaries. Human lives are no property of any country. They are the property of the entire human community. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states the universal nature of human rights. No country can deny the right to existence to groups of people on the pretext of religion, race or community. At least, that is not the spirit of the United Nations Charter. The response, therefore, of the international community to the violations of human rights in Gujarat is quite in keeping with the Charter of the UN. Besides, we live in a different world today, a world of instant communication and a world that believes in human solidarity and common destiny. The rhetoric of a single market or a globalised world should necessarily be a part of a global humanity. Markets have no meaning apart from human beings.
World Reacts to Gujarat
Several countries of the world, therefore, have rightly condemned the situation in Gujarat. The United Kingdom was the first to do so. The Britons say that there is a large Gujarati population in the UK, running into several lakhs. A few British citizens were either slaughtered or missing in Gujarat during the RSS-BJP-VHP sponsored bandh and the carnage that followed. Being an affected party the United Kingdom was the first to condemn the genocide in Gujarat. The European Union rightly drew a parallel of the Hindu fundamentalist depredations with those apartheid and the Nazis. The declaration carried 15 signatures, including those of the ambassadors of Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. The declaration was written on the basis of reports from the European Union's own fact-finding team, apart from the reports submitted by government and quasi-government bodies, the National Human Rights Commission, media reports and other sources. The EU report concludes that Godhra served as a pretext for triggering the violence that followed in the State; the post-Godhra violence was pre-planned and the pattern suggests that the attempt was to purge Muslims from Hindu areas; the Chief Minister instructed senior police officers not to intervene in the rioting; the State and Central governments failed to meet the immediate humanitarian needs of the victims; and the Prime Minister visited Gujarat only on April 4, more than a month after the tragedy.
The declaration observes that the VHP and other extremist Hindu groups were behind the carnage, relief efforts for the riot victims were slow and that the State Government's compensation programme was discriminatory. It also expresses great concern about the violence, voices pain over the number of lives lost, expresses regret that acts of violence are still occurring and recommends to the Government of India to meet the immediate humanitarian needs arising from the violence as quickly as possible. The declaration urged the Government of India to carry out a full and transparent investigation to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice. A EU source said that they would not be satisfied with the removal of Chief Minister Narendra Modi but would urge his entire government's dismissal since riot victims also indicted several Ministers. What the European Union highlights are facts about Gujarat. The citizens are fully aware of them. In the context, the Bharatiya Janata Party cannot plead that the events in Gujarat are an internal matter. They are a human rights issue as what has happened and is happening is a genocide and ethnic cleansing. And as a signatory of the UN Convention on Human Rights, India is forbidden to conduct such genocide and the world community has a right to express its disgust.
After the UK and the European Union, Germany and Holland have filed reports on the Gujarat violence damning the State Government. The German report, compiled by a senior diplomat in the German Embassy who travelled to Ahmedabad and Baroda, has described the attacks on Muslims as "surgical strikes" specifically targetting minority establish-ments. The report states that the Sangh Parivar-led rioters in Gujarat carried lists of the establishments and residences that were to be attacked, and the police looked the other way. The Dutch report has been compiled by diplomats in the embassy's political section and indicts Narendra Modi's government for failing to protect innocent people. This report also states Muslims were targeted sepcifically, and that the police were partisan. It further says conditions in the relief camps are dismal and that the minorities live in fear. The German report remarks that inter-national perceptions about India have changed and the nation's democratic and secular credentials have been damaged. The German report also mentions instances where some Hindu establishments were attacked because they violated a 'code of conduct' laid out by the VHP, which apparently forbids Hindus to own property jointly with Muslims and to have any dealings with the minority community. The report describes the poor conditions in relief camps. According to sources, the German team prepared the report after speaking to local people and civil rights groups. The report says State Government officials did not speak to the team. Most recently Canada joined the chorus of international concern over the communal violence in Gujarat but said its views should not be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the country. What the reports have highlighted is the involvement of the Sangh Parivar forces in the genocide in Gujarat and their blatant anti-minority mind-set. They have merely exposed their hidden agenda.
The Reaction of the Government
The Indian Government has lashed out at all these countries saying that it was interference in India's internal affairs. The world community, as a result of the growing consciousness of rights in recent years, has been intervening in matters specially pertaining to rights of religious, linguistic and ethnic minorities which until a few years ago were branded as strictly a nation's internal issues. When Americans intervened in Afghanistan recently, the present political regime in New Delhi provided all support to the USA terming what is taking place in Afghanistan as violation of the rights of the people there and a fight against international terrorism. The American interference was not only supported by India, but the Indian regime wanted to be as close as possible to the Americans in attacking Afghanistan. The world community has also taken to arms against regimes that tend to violate human rights, commit war crimes or engage in ethnic cleansing. India too was quick to react to the violence in Fiji and the attack on the Palestinians. It was actively involved in the liberation of Bangladesh. The Indian support to the ANC of South Africa is legendary. Our government did not lose time in registering its protest against the attacks on the Sikhs and other NRIs in the US post-September 11. If a statement on Gujarat is interference in the internal affairs of the country, would speaking on issues, taking a stand and sometimes even providing support to human rights violations outside the national boundaries, as we have done so often, be termed as an 'interference in the internal affairs' of those countries? Then India should acknowledge that they have been guilty in making pronouncements on violations of rights in other countries. If not, we should acknowledge the right of other countries to condemn us when we do not submit ourselves to international covenants and charters.
Gujarat cannot be treated as a localised problem as the Sangh Parivar is trying to treat it. It has national and international repercussions and impact. The entire world has taken note of the violation of the human rights and the anarchy that is reigning in Gujarat. The fuming government, bitter with the global attention and condemnation, seems to be over-reacting to cover its misdeeds and evil designs. However, the signs are that more and more nations will raise their voice against what is happening in Gujarat. As the violence in Gujarat continues with the support of the state, it is quite essential that the international community continues to speak on behalf of the victims. In today's world, where the borders are crumbling, no one should take cover under the bogey of 'interference in the internal affairs'.
India believes in the concept of the world as one village, Vasudaiva Kutumbakam as the ancient texts put it. In such a global village, made more cohesive in the cyber age, the gang rape of hundreds of Muslim women, the murder of thousands of innocent children and adults in Gujarat in the past two-and-a-half months-amounting to a carefully planned genocide by the Hindutva Parivar with State connivance-cannot go unchallenged. We firmly believe that the entire United Nations system is on test. India is a signatory. The motives of the Indian Government have been exposed in the Ministry of External Affairs' statement alleging that the European Union and others are interfering and taking sides in the ongoing highly politically charged internal debate.
The killings and rape are not an issue of debate-they are the bitter and shameful reality. By turning the killings into a political debate, the government not just mocks at the dead, but also insults Indian democracy and the rule of law. The Gujarat Govern-ment has rubbed salt in the wounds of the victims by its cynical, callous and coercive advertisements in newspapers claiming it has brought the situation under control.
"The daily killings and the travails of the victims are proof that the State Government is lying to fool international public opinion," says a joint statement signed by the All India Christian Council and a Muslim group.
In the situation where the Sangh Parivar goes on butchering the members of the minority community to annihilate them in the State, under dictates from the butche-in-chief, Narendra Modi , in Gujarat with support from Advani, the Home Minister, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister of the country, it would be sinful to the international community to remain silent. The acts of the Parivar have rightly led to India's growing isolation in the international community over the events in Gujarat. All this, despite the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sending a note to several European countries, which was ostensibly meant to assuage any concerns on Gujarat, but where the underlying message clearly was: Lay off Gujarat! Instead of initiating an action programme of prevention of minority killing and rehabilitation of the victims in Gujarat, the MEA has already been upbraided by the PMO for failing to prevent foreign missions from making adverse comments on the nation's "internal matter". South Block sources admit that it is becoming increasingly difficult for Indian envoys to counter the questions put by their host governments or the media in those countries. "We may summon the envoys of these countries to the Foreign Office to protest against these reports, but the criticism will not tone down till New Delhi takes some strong measures to restore confidence and normalcy in Gujarat," remarked an official as reported in one of the messages in the internet.
While the sovereign rights of the country need to be respected, the violation of democracy and basic human rights cannot be simply justified as the private affairs of a country; simply because their externalities are not necessarily limited to that country and several countries may feel the impact of it. This holds especially true in an increasingly inter-dependent world where human right violations, dispossessment of certain communities/turning blind to certain sections of the people have led to out-of-the-nation impacts such as increase in war and conflicts, increasing refugee problems, and breaking of the national and international rule of law. Peace and democracy are a pure public good which all can benefit from if they exist and no one can be excluded if they do not exist. In the century of globalisation, the world community has a larger right to be concerned about what happens within any nation or state. The latest trend has been that the battle against terror will be taken to its doorsteps, wherever it is located. The Sangh Parivar is a terrorist organisation. We have sufficient evidence of it. Human rights groups in the country have documented it. Citizens, specially belonging to the minority and other dispossessed communities, have experienced it. With Gujarat, the international community needs to have no doubts on the terrorist nature of the Sangh Parivar. One has to only go through the doctrines of Golwalkar, Savarkar and Moonje and critically examine the statements of the family of the Parivar and their deeds in the last three years of their governance. They are one and the same. Nothing has changed from the assassination of Gandhiji to the present. The only change is that the group has become more aggressive with political power in their hands.
The country must be aware that the condemnation of the international community is of the fascist forces and not of Indian democracy. The Prime Minister has rightly said that the country needs to learn no lessons on secularism from countries abroad. But what he did not say was that the goons of his fascist gang not only have to learn lessons on secularism but also on humanism. Let us make no mistakes. The European condemnation of the events in Gujarat is no condemnation of India but the condemnation of the forces of the Sangh Parivar and their diabolical deeds. The citizens, therefore, who are concerned about the future of this nation and the people will have to join the many organisations that have demanded an international investigation into the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, RSS and all other organisations of the Hindutva Parivar whose actions threaten not just the minorities of India and the civil society, but also endanger international peace. It is equally necessary to ask for the international tribunal in Hague to try Narendra Modi, Advani, Atal Behari Vajpayee and all those who have directly or indirectly provided support to the genocide in Gujarat.