Archived conflict (updated: January 2006)

There were no reports of inter-communal clashes in Gujarat in 2005 and it is likely fewer than 25 people were killed for a second consecutive year. A government investigation into the 2002 train fire that began the current phase of the conflict was not completed. The ruling BJP state government continued to face charges of complicity in the 2002 riots.


    

 

 

Summary
2004 Sporadic, inter-communal clashes between Muslims and Hindus wounded dozens but killed less than 25 people. Following a national election victory, the Congress Party coalition ordered new investigations into major incidents and a new trial for Hindus acquitted in 2003 on charges related to the conflict violence.

2003 The large scale violence of 2002 did not recur. Frequent clashes between the state’s Muslim and Hindu communities continued however, reportedly resulting in fewer than 100 deaths, the majority resulting from an August bomb attack in Bombay. The anti-Islamic bias of Gujarat’s state police and judiciary in bringing to justice those responsible for the previous year’s violence resulted in further animosity between the two groups.

2002 Thousands of people died in violent confrontations between Hindus and Muslims. The conflict began in February when a Muslim mob set fire to a train carrying Hindus heading to a disputed religious site, killing 59 people and initiating a cycle of statewide Muslim and Hindu retaliation attacks that claimed over 2,000, mostly Muslim, lives. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, won state elections in December.

Type of Conflict:

Failed state

Parties to the Conflict:

Communal violence between Hindus and Muslims.

1) Hindu groups: The following groups are members of the Sangh Parivar (family of Hindu nationalist organizations) and were accused of orchestrating the deadly 2002 riots against Muslims:
a) Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council, VHP);
b) the Bajrang Dal, the military youth wing of the VHP; and
c) the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps, RSS).

2) The Hindu nationalist Gujarati state government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also led the coalition national government until the Congress Party won a large election victory in 2004 to lead the ruling coalition.

“The VHP has close links with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a relationship that some observers believe has led to the communalisation of Gujarati politics.” [BBC News, September 25, 2002]

3) Muslim groups: While no particular group was held responsible for setting fire to the train carrying Hindus in February, the extremist group, the Tehrik-e-Qassas (the Movement of Revenge), was suspected of the attacks against a Hindu in temple in September 2002 and claimed responsibility for setting bombs in Bombay in August 2003.

“The militants were in their early 20s, clean-shaven, and armed with at least 20 grenades and six AK-47 magazines … Officials said they found two letters in Urdu on their bodies identifying them as members of a previously unknown group called Tehrik-e-Kasas (Movement of Revenge). Their motive seems to have been to avenge the 2,000 Muslims killed in the riots in Gujarat in February and March.” [Guardian Weekly, October 3-9, 2002]

[Sources: Human Rights Watch, May 2002; BBC News]

4) Pakistan-based Muslim militant groups may be contributing to the inter-communal animosity and violence by allegedly recruiting youths from Gujarat to fight in Kashmir.

“It was Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and not Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) behind the July 5 attack on the Ram Janambhoomi Temple Complex in Ayodhya as was suspected earlier, informed sources said.” [Press Trust of India, August 21, 2005]

“[Police] said the four [attackers] belong to a local unit of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, one of the main Islamic militant groups staging violent attacks in the divided Kashmir region.” [The Washington Times, September 2, 2003]

“Pakistan-based militant outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami are luring youths from Gujarat to militancy and sending them across to training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir through Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir.” [Indianmonitor.com, August 17, 2003]

Status of Fighting:

2005 There were no reports of inter-communal violence in Gujarat this year. However sporadic clashes between Hindus and Muslims took place in neighbouring states.

“[A] 5 July attack on [the] disputed Ayodhya Hindu site in northern Uttar Pradesh state, [was] attributed to Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Tayyaba [later attributed to Jaish-e-Mohammed]….Hindu-Muslim clashes [were reported] in central Madhya Pradesh state kill[ing] 2.” [CrisisWatch, International Crisis Group, August 1, 2005]

2004 Sporadic clashes between Hindus and Muslims occurred, but less frequently than in the past two years.

“Two explosions at separate mosques in India’s western state of Maharashtra wounded six people during Friday prayers, prompting angry mobs to pour into the streets, police said.” [Associated Press, August 27, 2004]

“A curfew has been imposed in the town of Veraval in the western Indian state of Gujarat for a third consecutive day, following Hindu-Muslim clashes.” [BBC News, July 28, 2004]

“Muslims and Hindus burned buildings and clashed with police Wednesday in a third day of sectarian riots in this western Indian town, throwing acid at officers who shot at the crowd. The unrest has left two dead and more than a dozen wounded.” [Associated Press, July 28, 2004]

2003 Violent incidents between Gujarat’s Muslim and Hindu communities continued throughout the year, resulting in scores of injuries and much property damage, but relatively few deaths. Twin car bombings in Bombay in August killed 55 people – the most devastating attacks of the year for which the Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force claimed responsibility. Although the violence within the state of Gujarat was isolated and less intense, there was sustained tension between the two communities.

“Three persons were killed and 40 injured when violence erupted in Virangham town, 70 km from Ahmedabad, on Sunday morning. Deputy Inspector General … said the incident occured when ex-councillor Purushottam Yadav allegedly opened fire from his licensed rifle after a cricket match between locals turned violent.” [rediff.com, November 2, 2003]

“Although many Muslims died in last week’s blasts, the government believes the attacks could be linked to religious riots in western Gujarat state last year. … In the Aug. 25 attacks, two taxis packed with explosives blew up within minutes of each other, one at the Gateway of India arch – a colonial-era tourist attraction – and the other at a busy market.” [The Washington Times, September 2, 2003]

“On January 1, 2003, approximately forty Muslim shops were burnt in the predominantly Hindu town of Lunawada … Small incidents are also liable to turn into large-scale episodes of communal violence. At least fifteen people were wounded in Ahmedabad in sporadic clashes between Hindus and Muslims during a kite flying festival on January 16, 2003.” [Human Rights Watch, Compounding Injustice: Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, July 2003]

“Senior BJP leader and former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya was shot dead today by two unidentified assailants … Forty three-year-old Pandya, who had revolted against the leadership of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and was denied party nomination in the last Assembly poll, collapsed in his car.” [tribuneindia.com, March 26, 2003]

“Incidents of communal violence continue to be reported almost on a daily basis in Gujarat. Despite assertions to the contrary by the state government, the situation is far from ‘normal.’” [Human Rights Watch, February 27, 2003]

2002 In February, 59 Hindus were burned alive in a train stationed in Godha that was travelling to a religious site sacred to both Hindus and Muslims. The incident incited a series of reprisal killings from both communities, including a three-day anti-Muslim riot in which up to 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were killed, and another 100,000 people were forced to relocate in relief camps within Gujarat. State police and officials of the ruling BJP were accused of participating in, and even orchestrating, the riots. In September, Muslim extremists attacked a Hindu temple in retaliation killing 30 Hindus, an act that Indian officials blamed on Pakistan. After a brief respite, violence increased during December state elections.

“The religious violence began in late February, when a Muslim mob torched a train, burning alive 59 Hindus. That triggered a wave of reprisal killings and clashes in which officials say nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died. Human-rights groups believe that more than 2,500 people were killed.” [The Globe and Mail, June 10, 2002]

“India has blamed Pakistan for the raid on a Hindu temple that ended last week when commandos attacked at dawn and shot two assailants who had withstood a 14-hour siege after killing 30 worshippers.” [Guardian Weekly, October 3-9, 2002]

“Two men have died in Hindu-Muslim clashes in India’s Gujarat state on the first day of campaigning for next month’s assembly elections.” [BBC News, November 11, 2002]

Number of Deaths:

Total: Independent media reports claimed that 2,000 to 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, died between
February and December 2002 in the most intense wave of inter-communal violence in Gujarat in over a
decade.

“Several monuments were reduced to rubble in the course of the riots, in which 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, died.” [The Guardian Weekly, July 4-10, 2002]

“Soldiers and paramilitary forces patrolled flashpoints in India’s western Gujarat state on Wednesday after at least 14 people were killed and 45 injured in a fresh bout of Hindu-Muslim violence.” [Reuters.com, May 8, 2002]

2005 Less than 25 people were killed again this year. Over 20 people were reported killed in several incidents of communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in neighbouring states.

“13 [people were] killed in [a] bomb [attack] on [a] Uttar Pradesh state train [on] July 28th.” [CrisisWatch, International Crisis Group, August 1, 2005]

2004 Although dozens of people were injured in sporadic clashes between Muslims and Hindus, less than 25 people were killed.

“Muslims and Hindus burned buildings and clashed with police Wednesday in a third day of sectarian riots in this western Indian town, throwing acid at officers who shot at the crowd. The unrest has left two dead and more than a dozen wounded.” [Associated Press, July 28, 2004]

“Indian police say they have killed four suspected militants who were planning to kill the Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi.” [BBC News, June 15, 2004]

“Three people have been killed in clashes between Hindus and Muslims in a city in Gujarat ahead of the second anniversary of the train attack, police said. Two people were killed and five injured in a clash which began in the city of Baroda on Wednesday after some people threw stones at a procession by Muslims…On Friday, a man was stabbed to death in the Panigate area of Baroda.” [BBC News, February 27, 2004]

2003 In spite of their frequency, clashes between Muslim and Hindu communities within Gujarat resulted in substantially fewer deaths in 2003, with less than 20 reported. This figure may be inaccurate however, due to the media’s near-absolute reliance upon government sources. Moreover, bombings in Bombay in mid-2003 that resulted in 55 deaths were attributed to the Gujarat conflict, suggesting the total number of conflict-related deaths was at least 70.

” … twin car bombings last week in Bombay that killed 52 persons and wounded 150 and a July 28 blast on a bus that killed three persons and wounded 31.” [The Washington Times, September 2, 2003]

“On March 20 in Gorakhpur district, three people, including a Muslim cleric, were killed and scores were injured during celebrations for Holi, a Hindu festival.” [Indian Express, March 21, 2003 as cited in Human Rights Watch, Compounding Injustice: Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, July 2003]

Political Developments:

2005 A government investigation into the 2002 train fire that instigated mass communal violence was extended until the end of the year. The investigating committee released statements stating the train fire was started accidentally and not by Muslims in Godhra town.

“The government on Thursday extended by three months the term of a high-level committee probing the 2002 fire in the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra in Gujarat.” [Indo-Asian News Service, August 25, 2005]

“An Indian government probe Monday said that a train fire that torched up to 60 Hindus and provoked anti-Muslim riots in 2002 was started by accident, but the main [federal] opposition party [the BJP] dismissed the report as ‘politically motivated’…The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch charged that Gujarat’s state government [BJP], including its chief minister, allegedly orchestrated the attacks against the Muslim community.” [UPI, January 17, 2005]

2004 Tensions between Muslims and Hindus in the region remained high. The Supreme Court
ordered a retrial of several Hindus who were acquitted of murders related to the violence of 2002
and the newly-elected national government launched an investigation into the attack on Hindu
pilgrims on a train that set off the tragic events of 2002. New trials related to the rioting began in late 2004 and continued into 2005, nothing was resolved in 2004.

“Politicians in the state of Gujarat prevented Indian police from carrying out their duties during religious riots in 2002, a senior policeman has said…Mr Sreekumar told the two-member investigating panel that some police officers felt helpless, because instructions from some BJP leaders prevented them from carrying out their duties during the riots.” [BBC News, August 31, 2004]

“India’s new government has ordered a fresh investigation into an alleged attack on a train which triggered off religious riots in Gujarat state.” [BBC News, July 14, 2004]

“India’s Supreme Court has ordered a retrial of a riot case in which 12 Muslims were burned to death by a Hindu mob two years ago in Gujarat state.” [BBC News, April 12, 2004]

2003 In the aftermath of the Godhra riots, animosity grew between the Hindu and Muslim
communities as additional evidence linked the state government’s ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, to the previous year’s communal violence. The activities of the state police force and judiciary also indicated an anti-Islamic bias as only Muslims were charged with conducting terrorist activities during the riots.

“In the first conviction in a post-Godhra communal riots case in Gujarat, a court on Tuesday sentenced 12 people to life imprisonment and awarded two years’ rigorous imprisonment to three others for the killing of 14 Muslims in Ghodasar village in Kheda district on March 3, 2002.” [rediff.com, November 25, 2003]

“Although the Indian government initially boasted of thousands of arrests following the attacks, most of those arrested have since been acquitted, released on bail with no further action taken, or simply let go. Even when cases have reached trial, Muslim victims faced biased prosecutors and judges, harassment and intimidation. In one case, 14 people were set on fire and killed in the Best Bakery in Vadodara, Gujarat. A Gujarat state court acquitted 21 people accused of the killings after witnesses withdrew statements they had given to police identifying the attackers.” [Human Rights Watch, September 5, 2003]

“More than one hundred Muslims have been charged under India’s much-criticized Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) for their alleged involvement in the train massacre in Godhra. No Hindus have been charged under POTA in connection with the violence against the Muslims, which the government continues to dismiss as spontaneous and unorganized.” [Human Rights Watch, July 1, 2003]

2002 A report released in May by Human Rights Watch implicated the Hindu nationalist government of
Gujarat, the BJP, and the state police of complicity in March’s anti-Muslim riots. India’s federal government blamed Pakistan for Muslim reprisal attacks on a Hindu temple in September, serving to exacerbate tension between the two nuclear powers. The Federal government stepped up security surrounding the BJP’s landslide victory in state elections held in December.

“Human Rights Watch’s findings and those of numerous India human rights and civil liberties organizations, and most of the Indian press indicate that the attacks on Muslims were planned, well in advance of the Godhra incident, and organized with extensive police participation and in close cooperation with officials of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party, BJP) state government.” [Human Rights Watch, ‘We Have No Orders to Save You’: State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat. April 2002]

“The deputy prime minister, Lal Krishna Advani, toured the temple in Gandhinagar and described the attack [on a Hindu temple] as the work of India’s ‘enemy’. He referred to a speech by Pakistan’s president, General Pervez Musharraf, last month condemning India for the deaths of Muslims in the communal riots in Gujarat.” [Guardian Weekly, October 3-9, 2002]

Background:

For the past four decades, the Gujarat state has experienced extensive Hindu-Muslim communal violence. In 1969, close to 2,500 people were killed in state-wide violence. Fighting between Muslims, which constitute 12 to 13 percent of the state’s population, and the majority Hindus through the 1980s and again in 1992 claimed the lives of several thousand more people. After a decade of relative peace, violence flared again in February 2002 when Muslims were blamed for a train fire that killed 59 Hindus inciting retaliatory attacks by both the Hindu and Muslim communities. The Gujarat state government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was accused of organizing anti-Muslim violence in order to manipulate Hindu nationalist sentiment for its own political gain.

“The BJP heads India’s coalition government. Gujarat, one of few Indian states led by the BJP, has earned the dubious reputation of being a laboratory for the Hindutva agenda.” [Human Rights Watch, Compounding Injustice: Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, July 2003]

“Once famous as the adopted home town of Mahatma Gandhi, an apostle of peace and non-violence, Ahmedabad today is perhaps the most communally sensitive city in the country.” [BBC News, September 25, 2002]

“The continuing violence indicates the collapse of governance according to the secular tenets of the Indian Constitution and a failure of the state machinery to ensure to the population – particularly Muslims – any sense of security.” [The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative’s Statement on the Gujarat Riots and the Role of the Police, April 8, 2002]

Arms Sources:

Some reports suggest that arms are smuggled into Gujarat from Bombay and Pakistan, and that the weapons used by Hindus to attack Muslims in 2002 may have been provided by the state police. Mobs also killed people with knives and iron bars, and by burning them to death. According to reports, certain militant Hindu groups operating in Gujarat receive funding from Indians living abroad.

“Hindu nationalist groups continue to arm civilians in Gujarat and many other Indian states. Instead of cracking down on these groups, the Gujarat state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has included the distribution of arms as part of its election manifesto.” [Human Rights Watch, July 1, 2003]

“In April 2003 alone, tridents were distributed to more than 3,000 youth… VHP Gujarat’s general secretary Kaushik Mehta told the Times of India that trident distribution does not violate the Arms Act as tridents are less than six inches in size and therefore cannot be classified as weapons.” [Human Rights Watch, Compounding Injustice: Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, July 2003]

“The sangh parivar [extremist Hindu nationalist movement]-sponsored militarization of a growing Hindu nationalist cadre enjoys political patronage, outright impunity, and, as evidence increasingly suggests, funding from Indians living abroad. … [D]etails have emerged identifying sangh parivar outfits in the United States and United Kingdom as major sources of funding for sangh activities in India.” [Human Rights Watch, Compounding Injustice: Government’s Failure to Redress Massacres in Gujarat, July 2003]

“Huge sums of money have been made smuggling arms, contraband and silver from Pakistan to Bombay via Gujarat. Much of that money has found its way into the hands of religious extremists, both Hindus and Muslims. Crime gangs also quite openly take sides in communal riots, making the violence that much more bloody and vicious.” [BBC News, September 25, 2002]

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