The Perpetrators of the Crimes against Humanity in Gujarat, India
A Public Forum
New Westminster, The Justice Institute of BC, July 20, 2002
SANSAD (South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy)
Lecture Theatre, The Justice Institute of BC
715 McBride Blvd, New Westminster (corner of 8th Avenue)
Saturday 20th July 2002 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m.
During late February and early March a genocidal attack on the minority Muslim community took place in Gujarat. This has already faded from the media and the attention of the international community. Although the pace of World events tends to make us forget all but the most immediate horror we should not forget that nearly two thousand people were killed, many women were raped and then torched to ashes, and more than a hundred thousand made homeless by organized violence in Gujarat. Those who committed these crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. This forum is organized as a part of an international movement to plan action toward justice for the atrocities in Gujarat and for the prevention of similar occurrences elsewhere.
Moderator: Harinder Mahil, former Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of BC
Invited Speakers and Panelists:
Nishrin and Najid Hussain (daughter and son-in-law of ex-MP Mr. Ehsan Jaffri, who was one of the many people brutally lynched in the Gujarat violence)
Dr. Radhika Desai, University of Victoria, Victoria (A Political Scientist who has done extensive research on the growth of Hindutava in Gujarat and in India)
Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmed, University of Stockhom, Sweden (A Political Scientist, and a committed activist for peace in South Asia, and Human Rights)
Mr. Mordecai Briemberg , Canada Palestine Network.
Dr. Lauri King-Irani, University of Victoria, Victoria (An Anthropologist, and an expert on
International Humanitarian Law, on Crimes Against Humanity)
Mr. Abu Ansari, an Entrepreneur, and a Concerned Muslim from India.
Dr. Nandita Sharma, University of British Columbia
Dr. Satyen Banerjee, A practicing Hindu priest, and president, Bengali Cult. Soc. of BC.
Two short films recently made on the Gujarat massacres will be shown.
For more information contact: Chin Banerjee (421-6742), Rex Casinader (222-1781), Farouk Jamal
(218-9345), Abid Pittawala (325-5092) or Hari Sharma (420-2972)
Genocide in Gujarat
Beginning on February 28 for seventy-two hours organized armed gangs attacked Muslim neighborhoods in the cities and villages of Gujarat. Estimated 2000 Muslims were killed, many being burnt to death. Women were raped and killed. Muslim owned properties; trading and industrial establishments were looted and destroyed. Almost two hundred religious shrines were razed or vastly damaged. Over a hundred thousand persons were displaced and turned into refugees. The organized character and the state support for these atrocities against a minority community clearly identifies them as genocide.
The spark for these events was the burning of a train carriage carrying Hindutava brigades returning from a temple-building ceremony in Ayodhya, resulting in 58 persons being burnt to death. Though there are accounts of various provocations to Muslims, all the way on the journey and upto Godhra Railway Station, this is a shocking crime whose perpetrators must be brought to justice. But the events that followed were not spontaneous "reprisals" or religious riots as they have been falsely characterized. These attacks against the Muslims were an organized, preplanned pogrom waiting for a spark to be unleashed. The Gujarat State Government approved and enabled this pogrom. The agencies of the Gujarat State made the electoral lists available to the attackers to identify Muslim homes and neighborhoods; the State Police watched unconcerned, and sometimes even aided and abetted, the attacks taking place. The subsequent transfers out of the few police officers who acted to prevent the attacks are further evidence of the State's collusion in the events.
Indian civil society has been under great stress in the last few years with the growth of the Hindutva (Hinduness, the essence of being Hindu) movement or Hindu nationalism. This movement sees no place for Muslims and Christians in India, identifying the nation with Hinduism. This ideological attitude in Hindutva raises the danger of ethno-religious cleansing. The events of Gujarat could be occurring elsewhere in India. Gujarat could be the beginning of a greater horror.
Against this dark background we have to find hope in the role played by Indian media, which, with the exception of the vernacular Gujarati media, has published investigative reports on the carnage. The support provided to refugees by many Indian NGOs and activists concerned with human rights, secularism and democracy is equally heartening. The National Human Rights Commission and the People's Union for Civil Liberties, among others, have led such activism. Concerned sections of the international community have condemned the atrocities. The report of the British High Commission in New Delhi triggered by some visiting British Muslims being victims of the massacre have alerted the international community to the collusion of the Gujarat Government in the events.
SANSAD together with many sections of the South Asian diasporic community in British Columbia are grieved and alarmed by the happenings in Gujarat. In order to resist the trend of these events we must engage the attention of the international community. As a first step in this resistance we must bring to justice the perpetrators of the genocide in Gujarat. We call upon all South Asians, in fact, all Canadians concerned with human rights and civil liberties to rally with us in this call for justice. We demand that the culprits be swiftly brought to judicial trials within the legal framework of India. We will constantly monitor the process and if it is found wanting, we will call for an international tribunal, as in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, to try those responsible for this genocide.
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy
Suite 435, 205 - 329 North Road, Coquitlam, BC, Canada. V3K 6Z8
phone : (604) 420-2972; FAX: (604) 420-2970
Electronic mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
[Incorporated in British Columbia under the Society Act as a Non-Profit Society, # S-31797]