[The article is available-www.shahfoundationbd.org]
Silence: A Crime
by Shah Abdul Halim
Bertrand Russell making the opening remarks at the inaugural session of the Vietnam War Crime Tribunal in London on 13 November 1966 made the historic statement that ‘silence is a crime’. Silence is a crime against humanity. It is still a bigger heinous crime when people remain silent in opposition to their own conscience against killing of noncombatant innocent civilians, old, women and children, whether such incident takes place in their vicinity or in any distant far flung area and when people remain silent just because the perpetrators of such crime are powerful elements though such crime has been committed in front of their very eyes and within their knowledge. Silence feeds the evil, emboldens the murderer and the arsonist. Sometimes efforts are being made to justify such crime on different alibi using sugarcoated words and Gobbles propaganda. The recent incident in Gujrat is a glaring example of dreadful and appalling crime engineered by hypocrite communal Hindu leadership of India.
The riot, which began in the India’s western state of Gujrat on 27 February 2002, has until now no sign of end. More than 5000 Muslims were killed of which 122 were burnt alive including a Muslim former member of the Indian parliament. This slaughter of innocent Muslims is the result of planned, calculated and coolheaded murder. The death includes old men, women and children. Hindu rioters used swords, rifles, petrol bombs and acid bombs. LPG Gas Cylinders and Oxygen Gas Cylinders were used to explode commercial establishments, residential quarters and mosques. As a result of the massacre, more than 350 mosques were demolished and property worth U.S. $500 million damaged and over 100,000 people have become homeless who are living in 56 different makeshift relief camps (not even one camp for the Hindus from which one can imagine the number of Hindus affected and the truth of the allegation that Muslims killed large number of Hindus) including one camp established within the Muslim graveyard in south Ahmedabad and in dire need of financial assistance as they have lost dwelling houses and businesses, and children lost guardians and have become orphans (Indian Muslim Relief Committee, ISNA, USA. www.imrc.ws/html/gujrat_riots.
This is not the first time communal violence erupted in Gujrat, the ‘laboratory of Hindutva’. The first major communal carnage in post independent India (1947) took place in 1969. Since then Gujrat has witnessed several more riots- in 1981, in 1985, in 1990, in 1992-1993 and now in 2002 and in between several others. The most regrettable part of the carnage is that the ruling BJP government of Gujrat to advance its political agenda has used leaderless backward Dalit Hindus to attack minority Muslims of the state. The recent bloodbath in Gujrat is the culmination of years of unabated communal violence, most brutal, burning victims alive and throwing even the young children into the rising flames. Another unfortunate and deplorable aspect of the Gujrat mass murder is that all sections of Hindu civil society, the state organs and government machinery and even the judiciary became thoroughly communalized and played dirty role and; this could happen as never in the past offenders or culprits of such crime were punished.
The sad part of this mass murder, indeed a massacre, is that the people of Bangladesh being totally dependent on such media sources as PTI, AP, Reuter, BBC, CNN and such other unfriendly sources is completely unaware as to what has happened in Gujrat although Bangladesh and Pakistan being the neighbouring Muslim countries could make first hand factual report on the situation in Gujrat for the benefit of conscientious people worldwide. In the absence of active and positive role by the Bangladesh media, the people of our country remained in total darkness as to what has happened in Gujrat. The inactive role of the Muslim media, its pacifist attitude gave India the opportunity to make mal propaganda, blaming Muslims responsible for the bloodbath in Gujrat. Unfortunately al-Jazeera Television, which came to limelight during the recent attack on Afghanistan by U.S. led coalition, played no significant role in reporting the Muslim massacre in Gujrat. A careful review and analysis of the world press will however make open the hidden hand behind the Muslim bloodbath in Gujrat. Undoubtedly underneath the Hindu cultured outfit most of them have stinky underwear of communal feelings. Poet Tagore in the backdrop of 1926 Kolkata riot sarcastically commented to Poet Nazrul Islam that you could see and sever the tail that is outside but cannot sever the tail that is inside (Hindu-Muslim. Nazrul Rachanaboli. pp 883- 884 Vol. 1. 1996). Undoubtedly Tagore, being himself a Brahmin, was aware of the inner mind of the Hindus. What Tagore possibly meant is that the paws and biting teeth’s of the Hindus are always hidden.
The question is why is this slaughter of Muslims in Gujrat ‘in the name of god’ (not God), to quote Salman Rushdie (Washington Post. 8 March 2002). Beneath however lies the Hindu psychology, which is reflected in the writing of even such eminent Hindu intellectuals and perceived secular as Nirad C. Chaudhury who find ‘something unnatural in the continued presence of Muslims in India’ (The Continent Of Circe. p 298). The Indian mental frame work is also reflected in the utterances of the majority community, the Hindus: ‘Gaddar Hai Musalman: Vejo Usko Pakistan (Muslims are traitors: Send them back to Pakistan) or ‘Mandir Ka Nirman Koro: Babar Ki Aulad Ko Bahar Karo [Start building the Hindu temple in place of Babri mosque: Throw the sons (i.e.Muslims) of Babar (the Moghol Emperor) out side India]. Ram Ki Joi: Varat Ki Joi (Victory to Lord Ram: Victory to India), Ram Ki Joi: Hindu Ki Joi (Victory to Lord Ram: Victory to Hindus). The situation has been further deteriorated due to the distorted portrayal of Muslim rule in India in the school textbooks. Agitated Hindu rioters, to justify the killing of Muslims, were shouting: “There is a fire inside us. Our blood is boiling”. The Muslims are totally marginalized in the Indian society. Even with strength of nearly 250 million, they are being systematically suppressed and have no real representation in the corridors of power. Their representation in the government, educational institutions and economic sectors is abysmal. According to 1981 survey there is 0.4 percent graduate now among Muslims. Compared to other communities it is certainly a dismal figure (Muslim and Education. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer. firstname.lastname@example.org).
Although some prejudiced and intolerant Indian press hold that the Muslims are responsible for the riot in Gujrat claiming that the killing in Gujrat is the backlash of Godhra in which Hindu zealots alleged to have been attacked by the Muslims. The real story however is that the trouble broke out on 27 February 2002 when Hindu Kar Sevak refused to pay the prices of the tea and snacks of the Muslim shop owners. Rajiv Chandrasekaran in Washington Post reported on 6 March 2001 that the “kar Sevak pulled the headscarves (hijab) off the Muslim women” and lifted another young Muslim girl of 16 years and this provoked the Muslims and there was tussle between the enraged Muslims and the Kar Seavak. Sukla Sen of National Alliance of People’s Movement relayed the story of another Muslim woman being molested three days earlier by Ram Sewaks (email@example.com). Ahmed Hassan, the Editor of Kolkata based weekly Qalam claimed that Muslim and non-Muslim journalists alike believe that VHP and RSS are responsible for the attack on the train carrying Kar Sevak not the local Muslim.
The Hindu mind is however very much prejudiced and parochial. The Hindu in its issue of 18 March 2002 reported that RSS Joint General Secretary Madan Das reiterated that Muslims would be safe in India provided they won the goodwill (or the mercy!) of the majority community. This is a “veiled threat” to the Muslim as pointed out by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, eminent Indian intellectual and Chairman of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism Mumbai. Indian leading columnist Kuldip Nayar has also raised question on the new warning to the Muslim that their “safety lies in the goodwill of the majority” (The RSS fatwa. Daiily Star. 24 March 2002). Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of RSS after three-day conference at Banglore adopted the resolution: “Let Muslim understand that their real safety lies in the good will of the Hindus”, reported the Hindu (18 March 2002). Minority interest however must not be hostage to the goodwill of the majority. How the fundamental rights of one community can be the subject matter of another community’s mercy? Muslims have never been safe in India and India is perhaps the only country in the world where hardly a day goes without some kind of communal violence and gruesome murder of the Muslims. Gujrat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in an interview with BBC described the performance of his government in protecting the life and property of the Muslims of Gujrat as a ‘success story’ although he did not impose precautionary curfew nor deployed any paramilitary forces and ordered the deployment of army 36 hours after the bloody trouble begin just to give the unruly Hindu zealots and mob enough time to complete the massacre of the Muslim life, honour, dignity and property. The Guardian (2 March 2002) however accused that the Hindu police ‘merely watched’ as gangs rampaged through the Muslim area and the region ‘transformed into a film-like war zone’. The response of the Hindu nationalist-led government to the subcontinent’s worst communal violence in a decade has so far dismal, the report emphasized. The “abdication of responsibility is also evident from reports that the police were often passive bystanders during the mayhem perpetrated by the rioters”, the Hindustan Times editorial commented. The government did little more than ‘public relations stunt’. Hindu mobs across the state of Gujrat systematically turned on their neighbours and general belief among the conscious citizen is that Gujrat massacre was done with the ‘connivance of the state police’ when the nationalists called for a state wide strike. The call for shutdown had the support of state government run by the party of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Chief Minister Modi is on record having said that the people of Gujrat have shown “a lot of restrain” though 5000 Muslims were killed, 100,000 became homeless, property worth of U.S. $500 million destroyed and 250,000 Muslims became destitute overnight. The Hindu editorial commented: “The singularly inept and slow response to the scenes of destruction and death raises disturbing questions about the Gujrat state government’s approach”. The Hindu editorial blamed the Gujrat government for “deliberate lack of firmness in containing the orgy of violence”. Writing in the Observer (UK. 3 March 2002) Luke Harding from Ahmedabad reported that the massacre of the Muslim of Gujrat ‘has been state-sponsored’ and ‘police took part in the slaughter’. “The authorities have done little to prevent the inferno that has swept the western state of Gujrat – not because of incompetence but because they share the prejudice of the Hindu gangs who have been busy pulping their Muslim neighbours’, the report stated. “The police even misguided the Muslims and handed them over to hands of the rioters. There have been many reports of police firing directly on the Muslims, which was the target of mob violence. In one particular case when a young Muslim woman in Ahmedabad with her three month old son sought the protection of police, the police constable directed her to ‘safety’ and she found herself surrounded by a mob” (Harsh Mander. firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no justification of avoiding or ignoring issue of the ethnic cleansing of the Indian Muslims in the name of not interfering in the internal affairs of India when more than 5000 Muslim were killed, over a hundred thousand Muslim are living in the camps and property worth $500 million destroyed. Violation of fundamental human rights cannot be and is not a matter of internal affairs and therefore we have seen in the past that U.S. have protested killing in the Tiananmen Square in China and put economic sanction. We have every legitimate right to make India accountable for the killing of Muslims of Gujrat as we have opposed in the past killing in Bosnia, Kosava, Chechnya, Kashmir and more recent occupation of Palestinian cities by Israel. This is not the question of poking nose in other’s matters.
U.S. President Bush Jr. and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the post 11 September 2001 scenario are much vocal and active in condemning terrorism, of course with the exception of Israeli state terrorism. But the Western leaders did not say a single word to protect the Indian Muslims although these very leaders become crazy when Australian Missionary is being attacked in Orissa, India or a Protestant Church in Islamabad, Pakistan is being attacked or when in Pakistan Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl is kidnapped and killed. “What happened in Gujrat was not just instance of religious communities in conflict rather it was part of a broader tendency toward eliminating civil liberties and scapegoat cultural minorities in an aggressive effort to impose a unified sense of nationhood on one of the world’s most culturally diverse societies”, commented Arun R Swamy quoting Indian political leaders (Asian Times. 5 April 2002).
What has happened to the Muslims of Gujrat under the leadership of fascist BJP and infamous “chief monster” (and not Chief Minister) Modi (to quote India Today’s cover story ‘Sins of Modi’. 18 March 2002) resembles Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. “The India’s Hindu nationalists have always resembled 1930s European fascists more than the contemporary fundamentalists”, Arun R Swamy wrote in Asia Times (Is India going the way of 1930s Germany? 5 April 2002). “The analogy to the rise of Hitler is not that should be made lightly, but there are many parallels. The Gujrat attacks were not spontaneous expression of mob rage but were highly organized and brutally efficient, probably identifying the Muslim homes and business through the use of public records. The state government was almost certainly complicit in the wave of violence that affected the entire state and saw no effort by the police to control it. The central government was slow to dispatch the army”, Arum R Swamy reported. Newspaper reported, “One finds two burned Muslim owned stores amid a row of perfectly intact Hindu business” (www.expressindia.com). This destruction of only Muslim property establishes that the attackers were only Hindus. The question naturally arises how did the mob know which store belonged to the Muslims unless it is organized. Noted film actress and member of the Indian parliament, the Rajya Sabha, Shabana Azmi described Modi as “mass murderer” Veteran journalist and the Editor of The Asian Age. M. J. Akbar described Narendra Modi as “a politician with a blind eye” (Why many questions still hangover India. 4 March 2002).
“The flames of communalism in India have never burnt so fiercely as now. It seems that the BJP is applying Hitler’s extermination method of Jews to the Muslims who would be flushed out”, commented Khaled al-Maeena, Chief Editor of Saudi Arabian prestigious newspaper Arab News (Ominous Sign for the Indian Muslims).
Narendra Modi considers Muslims are themselves responsible for their killing, a backlash of their own misdeed. He even reported to have quoted Newton Third Law (for every action there is opposite and equal reaction) to justify the killing of Muslim by the Hindus in Gujrat. What a civilized way of behaving by the otherwise outwardly polished and cultured Indians. His statement provoked the Hindus to kill Muslims. Gujrat President of the VHP Giriraj Kishore supporting Modi said: “Its simple science. Hindus are angry and naturally they will react. We can’t be slapped on the face and sit quietly? Is it possible?” (www.expressindia.com).
Indian Defence Minister George Farnendas after a visit to the Gujrat told the Times of India correspondent that Muslim massacre could happen because of the “complete absence of civic leadership” and there were “no tall leaders”. Now the big question is what made this leadership disappear. Parsa Vankateshwar Raw Jr. in his article ‘Stemming communal barbarism: the importance of a new kultur’ opined that the carnage could happen “because political parties have systematically destroyed the moral primacy of the mindless in their desire to mobilise mass support (Tehlka. 3 March 2002. www.tehlka.com/channels/
Gujrat state government also took a sectarian approach by announcing relief and compensation to the victims, Muslims half than what the state government is paying to the Hindus, reported The Times of India. (7 March 2002). Is it not the Indian version of the New World Order in conformity with its discriminatory caste system? Shall it be wrong if we term it a new from of racism, apartheid of the IndianChanakya, Indian version of Machiavellian deceit and treachery. Where now proud India stands with its democratic system, perceived secularism (fragile indeed) and its ancient civilization. According Hindu mythology man is Narayan (god). Now the killing of Narayan is continuing unabated in the land of Gandhi itself.
How poisonous today is the air of Gujrat! Hate, distrust and revenge fill the land of Gandhi
Burn, destroy, loot and kill.
It is very difficult to describe in words the mental condition of the victimized Muslims of Gujrat. Frontline columnist after visiting the affected area wrote: “Harassed, humiliated, preyed upon, the post Godhara Indian Muslim finds himself in a twilight terrain where hope and despair live in uneasy truce”.
Why the Muslims of Gujrat have been made the victim of horrendous brutality? Why is this widespread systematic destruction of Muslim social, cultural, educational and religious institutions? Bohras, Khojas and Memons community of the Muslims who are very peaceful non-political entrepreneurs mainly inhabit Gujrat. The Muslims of Gujrat made significant progress in business and industry. Perhaps the orthodox Hindu leadership wants to bring about the economic extermination of the Muslims of the state of Gujrat and therefore this organized and most horrible ethnic cleansing of colossal scale to make Muslims systematically paralysed and pauperized. In Surat and Ahmedabad over 60 factories owned by the Muslims have been completely gutted. In other cities, all big and small commercial establishments have been looted. Now organized Hindu hoodlums and goons are preventing banks from extending loans to the affected Muslim businessmen and industrialists. Vinay Menon reported in the Hindustan Times that Hindu activist are conducting a sinister survey to identify Muslim students from rich, educated Muslim families just to ensure their drop out creating psychological fear with the objective to clear educational institutions of all Muslim students.
The distinguished Indian writer Mahasveta Dev in a letter to the Indian President K. R. Narayan blamed the Gujrat government led by Hindu hardliner BJP for doing “too little too late”. She blamed the BJP leadership for making Gujrat Muslims “human bonfire” and for the “motivated, well-planned and provocative actions”.
India can overcome such a situation if it is led by such leaders like Jayprokash Narayan and Morarji Desi otherwise it is bound to disintegrate, commented Luke Harding (Police took part in slaughter. The Observer. 3 March 2002). The same view is also held by Saudi daily Arab News Chief Editor Khaled al-Maeena whose opinion is that unless common sense prevails over ideological bigotry and fascism and India gives up the policy of physically eradicating Muslims and their cultural and economic base, as a consequence it might result in “undoing of India”.
Former Chief of the Indian Navy L. Ramdas in an open letter to the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has condemned the anti-Muslim violence in India describing it as genocide and a “program”. Ramdas demanded that Chief Minister of Gujrat be dismissed for his involvement in the anti-Muslim riot and a ban on “extremist rightwing organization like the VHP and the RSS”. Arun R Swamy writing in the Asian Times (5 April 2002) accused that the national government did not use its constitutional authority to take over the state’s administration on law and order ground as both the union and state governments are headed by the same Party, the BJP. Indian Prime Minister Atal Brhari Vajpayee’s refusal to dismiss the Gujrat government “to restore faith among the Muslims”, as a matter of confidence building of the minority Muslim community and then to describe the Gujrat carnage as “a disgrace to the nation” and “a bolt on the country’s face” is indeed nothing but “shedding crocodile tears and talk big”. How could there be confidence building between Hindus and Muslim in India when “Indian Muslims continue to be viewed as a drag on Indian’s progress, as an alien community, intolerant, aggressive and uncompromising ready to break but not willing to bend, prepared to rot in their ghettos but refusing to adjust to the changing requirement”. “The trouble with the Muslims is that they have ceased to be dominant power and have become the subjugated community; their erstwhile subjects have become the rulers who have no sympathy or consideration for them. The result is that every action of a Muslim is criticised, every move condemned; every reaction misunderstood, and the whole community is damned for either the fault of a few or the indifference of the many”.
What has happened in Gujrat is absolutely distressing and must be condemned in strongest possible terms. Now the question is what the OIC member countries can do to stop massacre of the Indian Muslims. OIC can put pressure on India to stop this most brutal and systematic ethnic cleansing of the Muslims through diplomatic channel. OIC and individual Muslim countries can warn India that unless it stops the barbaric killing of the Muslims, they are going to boycott Indian products and stop imports from India. Arab Muslim countries and South Asian Muslim countries can warn India that unless India stops the massacre of the Muslims they are going to expel Indian nationals working in their countries. Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahatir Mohammad otherwise so vocal to protect Muslim interest (he in the past played very important role to protect the interest of the Bosnian Muslim and was much vocal on the issue) did not say a single word on the killing of the Muslims in Gujrat. Malaysia has a good trade relation with India and a decision by Malaysia to suspend trade relation with India unless terrorist attack on the Gujrati Muslim is stopped could bring an immediate end to their suffering. Oil rich Arab countries and Indonesia can warn India that they will stop selling oil to India unless she stops mass murder of Indian Muslims and mass destruction of their properties. Arab and Muslim countries can jointly put pressure on India through the U.N. to end the bloodbath of the Indian Muslims. In fact OIC members can raise the issue in U.N. Security Council and General Assembly and demand U.N. investigation of the killing of Muslims in Gujrat. Saudi Arabia being the khadem of the two holy mosques, theummah naturally expects much from them. A firm declaration from Riyadh would have enabled India to feel the pulse of the Muslim World and would have brought an end to the miseries of the Indian Muslims. But all this will not suffice unless Muslims governments take effective measures to strengthen OIC particularly by electing a Secretary General of the high stature of Tenku Abdur Rahman, the late Malaysian Prime Minister.
India should be asked to ban all terrorist organizations, which are operating under the cover of religious and socio-cultural programmes. Writer Arundhati Roy who in the recent past has been imprisoned for fighting to preserve environment told the British newspaper that while President of Pakistan Gen. Pervez Musharraf was dealing with his fundamentalists, here in India they are given “a free rein”, Hasan Suroor reported in an article in the Hindu (A view of India from Britain. 23 March 2002). This situation cannot be allowed to continue. Keeping in view of the experience of the last fifty years of repeated communal violence in India and the partisan role of predominantly Hindu police force and its failure to play impartial role to protect the lives, honour and property of the Muslims, India should be asked to raise Special Riot Police Force with equal representation of both Hindus and Muslims for that can ensure peace and harmony between different communities in India.
"When Muslim blood is shed, the police play party to the frenzy. When there is a fear of cow being killed, the government demands justice, commented U.S." -peace worker Zahir Janmohamed after visiting the riot affected areas of Gujrat.
“Secularism doesn’t mean minorities can defy laws of the land”- Kuldip Singh, retired Supreme Court Judge (quoted in the article ‘The Birth of Intolerance’. India Today’s Cover Story: Is Secularism Deed of 8th April 2002. page 25).
“It must be terrifying to be a Muslim in this country (India) today”- Arundhati Roy (quoted in India Today of 8th April 2002. page 31).
“A politician who having taken one hour and 20 minutes after 36 days of the carnage, went abroad to say: the situation is under control.” (Anjala Mody sarcastically commented in an article ‘Vajpayee Goes to Gujrat’ published in The Hindu of 12th April 2002).
16th April 2002