Monday, April 27, 2009
Gujarat Muslims Ignored by Indian Politicians
It has been almost seven years since the 2002 Gujarat riots in India in which at least 2,000 Muslims were killed by Hindu mobs and several hundred girls and women were stripped naked, raped or gang-raped, had their wombs slashed and were thrown into fires, some while still alive. But even today, tens of thousands of Muslims continue to languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes. Why? Because the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom are widely known. Some of them were even caught on video, in a sting carried out by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in a recent report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence. Another organization, Human Rights Watch, has also criticized the Indian government for failure to address the humanitarian condition of the victims, "overwhelming majority of them Muslim." Following their traumatic experiences, the surviving Muslim victims of Gujarat are still living in fear, as the perpetrators of riots remain powerful and roam free.
But the plight of the riot victims does not find any echo in the general elections of the world's largest democracy, according to a BBC report. Both the ruling BJP and Congress party remain silent on the shoddy rehabilitation of the victims or the delay in bringing the culprits to justice.
Most independent observers believe that the Nanavati commission report, which absolved Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of any responsibility for the riots, is nothing but a farce. Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government accused of complicity in the riots, echoed the government's position that the Godra incident was a pre-planned conspiracy. The Nanavati report was designed to pre-empt the findings of the independent Justice Bannerjee commission report which clearly found that the fire incident in which 58 Kar Seveks on the train died was an accidental one.
"We cannot vote for the BJP and the Congress almost has a fixed deposit on our votes. So it's a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea," the BBC quotes Mr Ansari, a refugee in Ahmadabad, as saying.
Muslims comprise barely 10% of the population in Gujarat. "Despite the riots and the headlines, the political parties here feel that they can ignore them, because they don't comprise a decisive vote bank," analyst Achyut Yagnik told the BBC.
Such total disregard for the rights and plight of minorities in India raises serious questions about the secular character of India's democracy and adherence to its secular constitution. But the Indian and Western media continue to be silent about the suffering of Gujarati Muslims.
Similarly, while the torture and human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib by the Bush administration have been exposed, documented and condemned by the world media, the continuing abuses of Muslims in India's "war on terror" have gone largely unnoticed. There appears to be a conspiracy of silence by the world media when it comes to the brutality against Indian Muslims practiced by officials and the right-wing Hindu extremists in world's largest secular democracy. The western media, in particular, have completely bought what Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, describes as a "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" India. Even the officially-endorsed anti-Muslim violence and resulting deaths of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have not been able to shake the faith of the Indophile western journalists.
Here's a Tehelka.com video clip of Babu Bajrangi account and confession of killings of Gujarat Muslims in 2002:
Amnesty International India Report
India: Justice- the Victims in Gujarat
India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs