Secret UK report says Gujarat death toll 'much greater'

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 17 Apr 2002 09:39:02 +0100

By Peter Popham in Delhi , 16 April 2002 

The pogroms that erupted in the state of Gujarat six weeks ago continue
to haunt India. 

Yesterday three more people died in violent clashes in the city of
Ahmedabad and a curfew was clamped on affected areas. The Hindustan
Times, a national newspaper, claimed that a secret internal report
prepared by British diplomats here for the Foreign Office put the death
toll in the state at about 2,000 – nearly 1,200 more than the official
figure – and stated that the violence was not spontaneous but planned. 

A spokesman for the British high commission in Delhi said: "We will
neither confirm nor deny what was in the report because we do not
comment on leaks." But the report conforms to what non-government
organisations have been claiming about the true scale of the carnage, in
which the overwhelming majority of the victims were Muslims. 

Both houses of India's parliament were forced to adjourn in uproar
yesterday as opposition MPs attacked the government for failing to
control the violence. "Today Gujarat is burning, tomorrow the country
will burn," said Satyavrat Chaturvedi of the Congress party. 

The opposition is angry because the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra
Modi, who belongs to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),
which controls the ruling coalition, has not only avoided the sack for
allegedly conniving in the pogroms but is being encouraged by the BJP to
stand in new elections. The party appears to believe that, in a
violently polarised election, the party will gain the votes of the great
majority of Hindus and secure a massive new mandate in the western
state. 

The opposition, in common with many disinterested observers, believes
that the violence in Gujarat, which followed the massacre of 59 Hindu
activists on a train in the town of Godhra on 28 February, was not a
spontaneous eruption of Hindu emotion but meticulously planned by
militant neo-fascist groups – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu
Council) and Bajrang Dal. They also believe that Mr Modi allowed it to
happen. The state police, it is claimed, either did nothing or
deliberately instigated violence and fired on the Muslim victims. 

Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister, has been under enormous
pressure both from the Opposition and coalition partners to punish Mr
Modi for turning a blind eye to the worst communal violence in India in
10 years. But radical voices within the BJP, calling on the leadership
to keep faith with the Hindu chauvinism that is the party's core
ideology, now appear to have prevailed. After weeks of prevaricating, Mr
Vajpayee has now made clear that Mr Modi's sacking is out of the
question. 

At a BJP conference in Goa on Friday he even jumped on to the
Muslim-bashing bandwagon. He said in a speech: "Wherever there are
Muslims, they do not want to live with others [of different faiths].
Instead of living peacefully, they want to preach and propagate their
religion by creating terror in the minds of others." 

This broadside delighted his audience of activists but it is an approach
that puts the survival of the ruling coalition, which has two more years
to run if it can sustain its majority, in doubt. For years Mr Vajpayee
has specialised in putting a moderate, secular face on his party. His
sudden return to ideological basics has helped to unite the opposition
in hostility to the BJP, and has come close to bouncing his party's most
important coalition partner, the Telugu Desam Party from Andhra Pradesh,
into the opposition camp, too. If the opposition can force a vote on
Gujarat in parliament, the government might not have enough votes to win
it. 

Indian politics has taken an ugly turn. After several electoral setbacks
in recent months, the BJP has returned to the communal politics that
once made it a parliamentary leper. 

The long-term result is anybody's guess. If it succeeds in galvanising
Hindu votes across India, more pogroms like those of Gujarat may be on
the way. But if the party continues to lose ground, the murderous thugs
who support it may prove even more unruly. 

Source:  The Independent

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