BELOW IS A SAMPLE LETTER WHICH MAY HELP FRIENDS IN FORMULATING THEIR OWN RESPONSES, WHICHEVER OF THE ACTIONS YOU CHOSE TO PURSUE.
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His Excellency A J P Abdul Kalam
President of India
Office of the President
New Delhi 110 004
Fax: + 91 11 23017290 / 23017824
Mr A.B. Vajpayee
Prime Minister of India
New Delhi 110 004
Fax: +91 (11) 2301 6857 / 2301 9545
We, the undersigned, are writing to protest against the genocidal process against the Muslim community taking place in Gujarat over the past 12 months.
The lack of appropriate state response - which would include punishment of perpetrators and justice for the victims - is bound to produce an extremely negative image of India and undermine its proclaimed status as the world's largest democracy.
The complicity of the Indian state has been highlighted in reports by numerous human rights and women's groups, including Human Rights Watch whose 2003 report notes that "authorities embarked upon covering up their own role, and that of the Sangh Parivar, in the attacks against Muslims".
While it appears that the Indian state is denying the scope and extent of the atrocities against the Muslim community in Gujarat, there is recent evidence that infringement of basic human rights is taking place on a daily basis. For example, economic strangulation is causing groups of Muslims to relocate to other districts or states in search of alternative livelihoods and homes. Children are being denied in overt or covert ways the opportunity for education while the entire community faces systematic violence and threats, leading to further ghettoisation. Furthermore, an organised campaign has been launched to intimidate all those who maintain links with members of the Muslim community, including social workers, employers, teachers, health professionals, media workers and progressive activists.
On the occasion of International Women's Day, we call your attention to the urgent need to address the past and ongoing physical, psychological and sexual violence being perpetrated against women from the minority community and those in inter-religious marriages. The few survivors who tried to bring charges of sexual violence not only face tremendous pressures to withdraw their complaints but have also found the legal, medical and investigative systems totally unresponsive to their needs. In many cases, it is the police who were the instigators and perpetrators of sexual violence. That there was a concerted effort to destroy evidence by burning the bodies of raped women is all the more reason for the state to vigorously pursue justice.
Instead, by rewarding the perpetrators, permitting the continuing harassment of victims, and failing to address the communal biases evident within the police and judiciary, the Indian government is in effect encouraging the spread of communal violence to other parts of India. This is particularly worrying given the forthcoming elections in Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh in 2004. It is a matter of great concern that the general misuse of religious and ethnic identities for political gain is leading to the steady elimination of all of India's minorities.
In order to prevent a repetition of the horrendous events of February-March 2002 and to put an end to the ongoing violence, the Indian government must recognise its responsibility to investigate the Sangh Parivar for crimes against humanity. And ensure that the conditions are created where identity cannot be manipulated in order to obtain or maintain political power.