Between February 28 and March 2 the attackers descended with militia-like precision on Ahmedabad by the thousands, arriving in trucks and clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist—Hindutva—groups. Chanting slogans of incitement to kill, they came armed with swords, trishuls (three-pronged spears associated with Hindu mythology), sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders. They were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties, information [they] obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation among other sources, and embarked on a murderous rampage confident that the police [were] with them. In many cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who got in the mobs' way. A key BJP state minister is reported to have taken over police control rooms in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing orders to disregard pleas for assistance from Muslims. Portions of the Gujarati- language press meanwhile printed fabricated stories and statements openly calling on Hindus to avenge the Godhra attacks.
The starkest evidence of Hindu extremism came in late February and March 2002 in the prosperous western Indian state of Gujarat. In a region internationally famous for its business communities, Hindu mobs lynched over two thousand Muslims and left more than two hundred thousand homeless. The violence was ostensibly in retaliation for an alleged Muslim attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which a car was set on fire, killing fifty-eight people. Nussbaum, who is engaged in a passionate attempt to end "American ignorance of India's history and current situation," makes the "genocidal violence" against Muslims in Gujarat the "focal point" of her troubled reflections on democracy in India. She points to forensic evidence which indicates that the fire in the train was most likely caused by a kerosene cooking stove carried by one of the Hindu pilgrims. In any case, as Nussbaum points out, there is "copious evidence that the violent retaliation was planned by Hindu extremist organizations before the precipitating event."
Low-caste Dalits joined affluent upper-caste Hindus in killing Muslims, who in Gujarat as well as in the rest of India tend to be poor. "Approximately half of the victims," Nussbaum writes, "were women, many of whom were raped and tortured before being killed and burned. Children were killed with their parents; fetuses were ripped from the bellies of pregnant women to be tossed into the fire."
Gujarat's pro-business chief minister, Narendra Modi, an important leader of the BJP, rationalized and even encouraged the murders. The police were explicitly ordered not to stop the violence. The prime minister of India at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, seemed to condone the killings when he declared that "wherever Muslims are, they don't want to live in peace." In public statements Hindu nationalists tried to make their campaign against Muslims seem part of the US-led war on terror, and, as Nussbaum writes, "the current world atmosphere, and especially the indiscriminate use of the terrorism card by the United States, have made it easier for them to use this ploy."
A widespread fear and distrust of Muslims among Gujarat's middle-class Hindus helped the BJP win the state elections held in December 2002 by a landslide. Tens of thousands of Muslims displaced by the riots still live in conditions of extreme squalor in refugee camps. Meanwhile, the Hindu extremists involved in the killings of Muslims move freely. Though denied a visa to the US by the State Department, Narendra Modi continues to be courted by India's biggest businessmen, who are attracted by the low taxes, high profits, and flexible labor laws offered by Gujarat.
Be that as it may. The Tehelka expose, available
in detail on the website , deserves to be seen
and read and discussed widely, not because it
will bring down Modi's fascist rule in Gujarat.
Nor is the expose important for bringing out all
the gory details of the rape and macabre murder
of many innocent victims, the way Ehsan Jaffrey
was cut to pieces, or a woman disembowelled and
her foetus smashed in the womb. It is also not a
revelation that Hindutva activists are imbued
with the same sense of missionary zeal as any
suicide squad among Muslims or any other faith.
The expose is important because the rape of
Gujarat failed to budge the conscience of the
great patron of democracy, the United States. We
had to pointedly ask Assistant Secretary of State
Christina Rocca to comment on the violence before
she gave a grudging lukewarm disapproval of the
mayhem there. Later Ms Rocca told the US Congress
that Gujarat's legal authority was robust and was
pursuing the criminals of the violence.
That was before Pandya slipped up before the
hidden cameras of the Tehelka reporter. Ms Rocca,
are you there?
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