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October 9, 2008

The Ethics of Religious Conversion by christian missionaries

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The Ethics of Religious Conversion

 
PRAJNA JOURNAL
APRIL – JUNE 1999
VOLUME 3 NUMBER 2
 
The Ethics of Religious Conversions – Dr. David Frawley
 
Conversion has always been a topic that arouses, if not
inflames our human emotions. After all, the missionary is
trying to persuade a person to change his religious belief
which concerns the ultimate issues of life and death, the very
meaning of our existence. And the missionary is usually
denigrating the person’s current belief, which may represent a
strong personal commitment or a long family or cultural
tradition, calling it inferior, wrong, sinful or even
perverse.
 
Such statements are hardly polite or courteous and are often
insulting and derogatory. The missionary is not coming with an
open mind for sincere discussion and give and take dialogue,
but already has his mind made up and is seeking to impose his
opinion on others, often even before he knows what they
actually believe or do. It is difficult to imagine a more
stressful human encounter short of actual physical violence.
Missionary activity always holds an implicit psychological
violence, however discreetly it is conducted. It is aimed at
turning the minds and hearts of people away from their native
religion to one that is generally unsympathetic and hostile to
it.
 
In this article I will address conversion and missionary
activity mainly with regard to Christianity, which has so
commonly employed and insisted upon the practice. Indeed it is
difficult to imagine the Christian religion apart from
missionary activity, which has been the backbone of the faith
for most of its history. Christianity has mainly been an
outward looking religion seeking to convert the world. In this
process it has seldom been open to real dialogue with other
religions. It has rarely examined its own motives or the harm
that such missionary activity has caused, even though the
history of its missionary activity has been tainted with
intolerance, genocide and the destruction not only of
individuals but of entire cultures.
 
But much of this discussion applies to Islam as well, which
shares an agenda with Christianity to convert the world to its
particular belief. As an American raised as a Catholic and who
attended Catholic school and then later adapted Hindu-based
spiritual teachings, I can perhaps provide another angle on
this topic that hopefully will give ground for new thinking. I
had to break through much religious intolerance and prejudice
to make the changes that I did.
 
Conversion and the Missionary Business
 
First let us define what we mean by conversion. Let us
immediately clearly discriminate between conversion or change
of beliefs that happens in free human interchange in open
discussion as opposed to organized conversion efforts that
employ financial, media or even armed persuasion. That certain
individuals may influence other individuals to adapt one
religious belief or another has seldom been a problem. There
should be open and friendly discussion and debate about
religion just as there is about science. But when one religion
creates an agenda of conversion and mobilizes massive
resources to that end, targeting unsuspecting, poor or
disorganized groups, it is no longer a free discussion. It is
an ideological assault. It is a form of religious violence and
intolerance.
 
Organized conversion efforts are quite another matter than the
common dialogue and interchange between members of different
religious communities in daily life, or even than organized
discussions in forums or academic settings. Organized
conversion activity is like a trained army invading a country
from the outside. This missionary army often goes into
communities where there is little organized resistance to it,
or which may not even be aware of its power or its motives. It
will even take advantage of communities that are tolerant and
open- minded about religion and use that to promote a
missionary agenda that destroys this tolerance.
 
Such organized conversion efforts often go by the name of
evangelization. The Catholic Church uses this term for its
long-standing conversion efforts. Fundamentalist Protestant
Christians call their movement the evangelical movement.
Evangelization sounds nicer and more ennobling than
conversion. But let us be clear about the matter. The
Evangelist aim is to convert the entire world to the Christian
faith, which naturally implies the rejection of other
religions. Such evangelical movements have world conversion
strategies and programs to target India and Hindus state by
state, tribe by tribe, even village by village. They keep
track of the numbers of converts and mark them in the win
column as gains for Christ. Organized conversion and
evangelical efforts are not interested in dialogue or in
learning from other religious groups. Such organizations have
their mind made up that theirs is the true faith and they are
unwilling to grant equality to any other belief. Real dialogue
is only possible when there is equality and open-mindedness.
This cannot occur between a missionary faith and the faith
that it is targeting anymore than it can happen between a
hunter and his prey. If missionaries initiate dialogue it is
either to promote conversion or to protect their converts. The
missionary is not about to change his mind, believe that he
might be wrong about something or accept any other point of
view that might compromise his conversion agenda.
 
The missionary business remains one of the largest in the
world and has enormous funding on many levels. It is like
several multinational corporations with the different
Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical groups involved. There
are full-time staffs and organizations allocating money,
creating media hype, plotting strategies and seeking new ways
to promote conversion. The local native religion has about as
much chance against such multinational incursions as a local
food seller has if McDonald’s moves into his neighborhood with
a slick, well-funded advertising campaign targeting his
customers. Yet while many Third World countries have
government policies to protect local businesses, they usually
do not have any safety mechanism to protect local religions.
 
In fact, missionary activity is like an ideological war. It is
quite systematic, motivated and directed. It can even resemble
a blitzkrieg using media, money, people and public shows to
appeal to the masses in an emotional way. Therefore, with
missionary activity we are not talking about unplanned,
spontaneous or isolated events. We are talking about a
religious effort towards world conquest that is quite happy to
put an end to other religious traditions, that looks to
establish one particular religion for all human beings in
which the diversity of human religions is discredited and
forgotten.
 
Regions where missionary activity has been successful have
seen their older traditions demoted or destroyed, whether it
is those of the pagan Europeans, the native Americans, or the
pre-Islamic Arabs. Hinduism would likely fall along the same
wayside should it lose the battle against missionary
religions, just as Hinduism in Islamic Pakistan has all but
disappeared.
 
Missionary activity and conversion, therefore, is not about
freedom of religion. It is about the attempt of one religion
to exterminate all others. Such an exclusive attitude cannot
promote tolerance or understanding or resolve communal
tensions. The missionary wants to put an end to pluralism,
choice and freedom of religion. He wants one religion, his
own, for everyone and will sacrifice his life to that cause.
 
True freedom of religion should involve freedom from
conversion. The missionary is like a salesman targeting people
in their homes or like an invader seeking to conquer. Such
disruptive activity is not a right and it cannot promote
social harmony. In fact, people should have the right not to
be bothered by missionaries unless they seek them out. Those
of us in the West are irritated by local missionaries like the
Jehovah’s Witnesses that often come soliciting at our doors.
Can one imagine the distress or confusion they could cause to
some poor person in Asia? Once let into the door, it is hard
to get them out.
 
Religious freedom should not be a license for one country or
one community to wage religious war against another. Even if
this conversion battle is softened by charities it is still
hostile in its intent and destructive in its action.
 
History of Conversion
 
Let us look at the history of conversion, how it arose and
what it has become through time. Organized conversion on a
mass scale hardly existed anywhere in the world before the
advent of Christianity some two thousand years ago. It became
particularly strong after the Roman Empire became Christian in
the fourth century. This resulted in a Roman or Imperial
Church that used the resources of the Empire, including the
army, to promote the religion, which was a state institution.
Church and state became closely tied and one was used to
uphold the other. This alliance of church and state occurred
well into the Middle Ages and into the nineteenth century
throughout much of Europe.
 
In the seventh century, Islam brought about a religion in
which church and state, or religion and politics were not
simply allied but became the same, with the Caliph functioning
as both the religious and secular head of the Empire. This
non-division between religion and politics continues in most
Islamic countries today, including Pakistan, which has gone so
far recently to proclaim the Koran as the supreme law of the
land, though it is not a secular law book or any kind of law
book. Can one imagine a Western country proclaiming the Bible
as the law of the land? Yet the church dominated the laws of
Europe for centuries.
 
Prior to adapting Christianity, Rome had its state religion
but this existed largely as a show for political purposes –
the worship of the Emperor. Rome tolerated all other religions
as long as they gave a nominal and political support to the
state religion. The Romans persecuted Christians not because
they were intolerant of religious differences but because they
expected all religious groups to at least afford this nominal
recognition for the state religion, which the Christians
refused to do.
 
When Christianity became the state religion, because of the
belief that it alone was the true religion, this tolerance of
other religions came to an end in the Roman Empire. Pagan
temples and schools were closed, if not replaced by churches
or even destroyed, including the closing of the great Platonic
Academy in Athens in the sixth century. Paganism in all of its
forms was eventually banned as not only false, but also as
immoral and illegal. Pagan, or even unorthodox groups,
continued to be oppressed in Europe up to the witches of the
Middle Ages, which resulted in the deaths of millions in the
name of religion and protecting the church.
 
In the colonial period, Christian missionary activity spread
throughout the world and brought with it a great violence and
intolerance that continued the anti-pagan crusades as part of
colonialism. Missionary efforts in the colonial period, with
some exceptions, contributed to, or even brought about, the
tremendous genocide of native populations not only in America
but also in Africa and Asia. Native peoples had their
religions banned, their holy places destroyed or taken over by
the Christians. The history of the Spanish in Mexico and Peru
in the sixteenth century is comparable to the Nazis of this
century, if not worse, pillaging and plundering a continent in
the name of and with the blessings of the church. This process
of missionary colonialism reached its zenith in the nineteenth
century, in which Native Africans were the main group subject
to genocide, and it is only now slowly declining. However,
missionary groups have done little to apologize much less to
atone for the violence and hatred this five hundred years of
colonialism created, and which destroyed many traditional
religions and cultures.
 
In fact colonialism has not truly ended but has recently taken
a more economic rather than military, form along with the
Westernization along economic lines. As Christianity is the
dominant Western religion, it continues to use the current
economic expansion of Western culture to promote its
conversion agendas. The greater financial resources and media
dominance of the West affords Christianity a great edge in
religious and social encounters throughout the world. Even
when it is a question of a Christian minority in a land
dominated by a non-Christian religion, the non-Christians are
often at a disadvantage in terms of money and media through
the Western support that the Christian community has,
particularly in regard to its conversion activities.
 
Though most countries in the world today are secular, this
still has not created a level playing field in the area of
religion. Western religions are still taking an aggressive,
intolerant, if not predatory role toward non-Western beliefs.
They are using financial and media advantages, including mass
marketing, to promote their agenda of conversion. Though
missionary activity became less overt after the end of the
colonial era, it still goes on. And we cannot forget the
bloody history of missionary activity or its potential for
disruption, violence and destruction should the circumstance
again arise.
 
The main reason that there is secularism and religious freedom
in the West is not because of Christianity but owing to an
older secular Greco-Roman tradition that was pagan in nature
and managed to reassert itself against Christian intolerance
after the Renaissance. Unfortunately, Western countries are
far less discriminating of Christianity for export and its
missionary aggression than they are of its actions in the
West. While Christianity is largely subdued in the West, where
few people are pious or take religion seriously, its old
medieval aggression and intolerance easily comes out in
missionary circles overseas.
 
The Motivation Behind Conversion
 
What is the motivation behind conversion activities? Why
should one person want to convert another to his or her
religious belief? In a pluralistic world, such as we live,
there are many different types of culture, art, language,
business and religion that contribute much to the richness of
society. Why should we demand that everyone be like us in
terms of anything, including religion? Isn’t this diversity
the very beauty of culture and our greater human heritage?
 
Clearly the missionary seeking converts must believe that
other people cannot find their goal of life by any other
religion than the one that he is propagating. Otherwise there
would be no need to convert anyone. And generally, the
missionary is not simply announcing that he has something good
or better, like someone who has invented a better light bulb.
He is usually claiming that his religion is the one true faith
and that the others are either inferior, out of date, or
simply false.
 
One could argue therefore that the conversion mentality is
inherently intolerant. If I recognize that many religions are
good and religious belief should be arrived at freely and
without interference, then I will not create a massive
organization to convert other people to my belief and get them
to renounce what they already have. Only an intolerant and
exclusive religious ideology requires conversion or funds it
on a massive scale.
 
In short conversion activity is anti-secular. It does not
tolerate the religious differences that must exist in a truly
secular society but aims at eliminating them. The irony is
that secular law provides the religious freedom that allows
conversion activity to go on. The very missionaries that once
used colonial armies to promote their conversion agendas are
now maintaining them in the post-colonial era under the guise
of freedom of religion. The very groups that denied or limited
religious freedom when they were in power in the colonial era,
now use freedom of religion to keep those same missionary
activities going! This is both ironical and hypocritical!
 
Generally, missionary efforts are stronger to the degree that
the missionary is opposed to the religions that people already
follow. The old dominant Christian strategy, which many
Protestant groups still promote, is to denigrate non-Biblical
beliefs as heathen, or the work of the devil. Evangelical
missionaries still identify Hinduism with devil worship. Pat
Robertson and Jerry Falwell, two of the most influential
American evangelical leaders say this repeatedly, as do their
followers, and they are sponsoring missionary activity in
India as well. Naturally this gives a missionary much zeal and
intensity, saving souls from the clutches of evil and driving
out demons.
 
Such a zealous missionary inevitably spreads misunderstanding,
venom and hatred in society. If I am promoting the idea that
your religion is a work of the devil, can I be regarded as a
friend or well-wisher to your community? Can such views help
your community to understand itself or reconcile community
differences?
 
Today it is illegal in most countries to promote racial
hatred, to call a person of any race inferior or the product
of the devil (which white Christians used to call the blacks
until recently). But Hindus can still be denigrated as
polytheists, idolaters and devil-worshippers. This is
tolerated under freedom of religion, though it obviously
breeds distrust, if not hatred and itself is prejudicial.
Prejudicial statements that are not allowed about race are
allowed about religion, and missionaries commonly employ these
derogatory remarks.
 
In fact most Christians view Hinduism like the pagan religions
that the early Christians had to overcome, the Roman, Greek,
Celtic, Egyptians and Babylonian religions, which do have much
in common with Hinduism. Equating Hindus with Biblical
idolaters promotes the history of missionary aggression and
religious conflict. Most such Christians have never seriously
or open-mindedly studied Hinduism or other pagan beliefs. They
know little of Yoga and Vedanta or the great traditions of
Hindu and Buddhist spirituality. They prefer to highlight the
Hindu worship of God even in animal images like Hanuman as a
form of superstition or evil.
 
The Catholic Church is a bit more diplomatic these days. It is
now telling Hindus that their religion may have some value but
that Christianity is even better! Such a view is a bit more
tolerant but cannot be called sincere either. If Catholics no
longer believe that Hinduism is a religion of the Devil, as
they were promoting until only recently, they ought to
apologize to Hindus for their mistaken notions and the
problems that these must have caused.
 
Discriminating Hindus can only look upon this more tolerant
Catholicism of the post-colonial era as an attempt to maintain
the edge of the Church in a less politically favorable era.
The Catholics say they respect the spiritual philosophies of
India, which they for centuries failed to note, but still feel
it necessary to convert Hindus to their religion. What kind of
respect is that?
 
The Ideology of Conversion
 
Conversion reflects a certain ideology. In fact it mainly
involves getting people to change beliefs, ideas or ideology.
Conversion demands that we follow a certain ideology and
reject others. The dominant ideology behind organized
conversion efforts is that of an exclusive monotheistic
religion. There is only one God, one book, one saviour, one
final prophet and so on. Most Christian missionaries try to
get people to accept Christ as their personal saviour and
Christianity in one form or another as the true faith for all
humanity.
 
A religion that is pluralistic in nature like the Hindu cannot
have such a conversion-based ideology. Hindus accept that
there are many paths, so naturally they will not feel
compelled to get everyone to abandon their own path and follow
the Hindu path instead. In fact there is no one Hindu path but
rather a variety of paths, with new paths coming into being
every day.
 
It has long been the dominant belief of Christians and Muslims
that only members of their religion go to heaven, while
members of other religions go to hell, particularly
idol-worshipping Hindus and other pagans. This promise of
heaven and threat of hell has long been used for conversion
purposes and is a prime part of the ideology and its
propaganda. Christians have often been motivated by this
medieval heaven-hell idea in their conversion efforts. The old
nineteenth century idea was a Christian missionary going to
Asia to save the pagan babies from the clutches of hell.
 
This eternal heaven-hell idea does arouse a certain passion as
well as intolerance, but one can hardly call it enlightened.
In fact, it causes emotional imbalance in people, which many
Christians, particularly Catholics, have sought psychological
help to overcome.
 
A God who has created heaven for his believers and hell for
those who follow other religious beliefs is a recipe not only
for missionary activity but also for emotional turbulence and
violence. In fact, this promise of great rewards and threats
of great punishment is the basis of most forms of
conditioning, brain-washing and hypnosis. It is the dominant
strategy of all mind-control cults.
 
Conversion, Charity and Social Upliftment
 
Many missionaries claim today that they are not seeking
converts but merely doing charity, trying to help the
downtrodden in life. Given the mentality behind conversion
efforts and its history, one can only greet that statement
with skepticism, though in a few isolated instances it may be
true. The very missionaries that only recently used colonial
governments and armies to their advantage cannot be regarded
as suddenly without any overt conversion motivations.
 
However, if missionaries simply want to bring about social
upliftment, then why don’t they just open up a hospital or
school and give up all the religious trappings about it. As
long as the religious ornaments are there in these charitable
institutions they are still seeking converts. Once you give
your charity or social work a religious guise, the conversion
motivation must be there and communal disharmony is likely to
be promoted even by your charities.
 
If missionaries want to uplift society they can do that
through education or economic help on a secular level. There
is no need to bring religion into it. That is how societies
have uplifted themselves throughout the world, whether it is
the United States or Japan. It was not religious charity that
raised up these countries economically. In fact bringing
religion into social upliftment confuses the issue. Converting
people to an exclusive creed does not eradicate poverty or
disease, much less promote the cause of religious harmony.
 
The Philippines, the most predominant and oldest Christian
country in Asia, is one of the poorest countries in the
region. Conversion to Christianity did not raise the country
economically. Central and South America, which are much more
staunchly Catholic and religious than North America, are also
much poorer and have a lower level of education. In fact, the
more evangelic and orthodox forms of Christianity are more
popular in poorer and less educated groups in the West.
Fundamentalist Christianity is more common in America with
farmers and those who did not go to college. Educated people
in the West are less likely to be staunch Christians, and many
of them look to Eastern religions for spiritual guidance.
 
In India, Christians claim that by eradicating the caste
system they are helping people and raising them up socially.
They could do this easier by helping reform Hindu society
rather than by trying to destroy or change the religion.
Clearly they are using, if not promoting, caste differences as
a conversion strategy. Christian cultures still have their
class and other social inequalities, particularly in Central
and South America, but Christians do not see that the religion
has to be changed in order to get rid of these.
 
The desire to help people in terms of social upliftment and
the desire to change their religion are clearly not the same
and can be contradictory. Changing a person’s religion may not
help them in terms of health, education, or economics.
 
A similar argument is that the conversion effort is part of
service to humanity, that the missionary is motivated by love
of humanity. This is also questionable. If you are motivated
by love of humanity you will help people regardless of their
religious background. You will try to help people in a
practical way rather than aim at getting them to embrace your
religious belief. You will also love their religion, even if
it is an aborigine worshipping a stone. You will give
unconditional love to people, which is not the love of Jesus
or the Church, but universal love. You will not condemn any
person to hell for not following your particular belief. You
will not interfere with that person’s religious motivation and
seek to convert him to your belief. You will honor the Divine
in that person and in his belief.
 
Such social work born of love is hardly to be found in
missionary Christianity, though it likes to pretend that this
is the motivation. If one were truly motivated by love of
humanity and the need to serve humanity, one would not promote
massive conversion agendas. In fact, one would regard such
practices as inhumane, which they are.
 
Conversion and Cults: Religious Freedom in the West
 
In the West there is a cry against cults, which any religious
movement out of mainstream Christianity can be called. There
is a tendency to regard Hindu-based religious movements in the
West as cults. Under the guise of being a cult, a religious
organization can be sued for millions of dollars if even one
disgruntled or disappointed former disciple can be found who
feels that they were taken advantage of. Many Hindu-based and
yoga movements in the West have been sued as cults.
 
The criticism against cults is that they are outside the
cultural religious norm, that they are intolerant of majority
religions, that they divide families and turn individuals
against their upbringing. Precisely the same charges can be
levelled against missionaries all over the world. The early
Romans, for the same reasons, regarded Christianity as a cult.
 
People in India may believe that, in America, all religions
are treated equally. Certainly the law requires that, but this
is not the fact of life. For example, it is still very
difficult for Hindus to build temples in the United States,
particularly in areas in which fundamentalist Christians are
strong, like the Bible belt of the South. To put it in
perspective, one would say that it is over ten times harder in
America to build a temple than it is to build a church. In
many areas, temples must not outwardly look like a temple, but
should look like a school or church, or the local governments
would not approve of them. While there are a few Hindu-style
temples in America these are exceptional and took special
efforts to be allowed.
 
Most Americans believe that Hinduism is a religion of cults.
Organized Christian cult-busting legal groups, with dozens of
lawyers and budgets in the many millions, go around
systematically encouraging suits against Hindu or Indian
religious groups. Such groups as the Hare Krishnas (ISKCON),
TM, Ananda (a Yogananda group), the Himalayan Institute,
Rajneesh and the Sikhs under Yogi Bhajan, to mention a few,
have had to face such suits and sometimes settlements in the
millions against them. These actions are religious bullying by
Christian groups, not a form of justice.
 
What Christians in America cannot do overtly because of
religious freedom in the country, they are still managing to
do covertly through the legal system. Any prominent
Hindu-based teacher in America, particularly one who is
working with the general American public or bringing people
from Christianity to Hindu-based teachings, remains under a
severe legal threat. Should any Hindu-based group, like the
Hare Krishnas, actively seek converts in the West, they are
likely to face severe litigation on many fronts. On the other
hand, Christian missionaries in India do not have to endure
those types of legal threats or legal suits that can put them
out of business, even if their proselytizing efforts are much
more aggressive.
 
Meanwhile Western textbooks and the Western media routinely
portray Hinduism as cults, idolatry, or even as eroticism.
Such negative portrayals of Christianity would not be allowed
in the Indian press. These views contribute to anti-Hindu and
pro-missionary attitudes. Even in the universities,
discussions of world religions often leave Hinduism out,
precisely because it is not a conversion-seeking religion,
even though it is the third largest religion in the world!
 
So let us not pretend that the West is enlightened or tolerant
about religion. The legal secularism of the West still hides
much religious prejudice. We also note that the West
politically will defend Christian interests overseas and
criticize alleged discrimination against Christians. However,
it will ignore discrimination against non-Christians,
particularly if done by Christians. Recently the Russians
criticized the Mormons, an evangelical American Christian
group, as a cult. The American government lodged a protest to
protect the Mormons and their missionary activity in Russia.
No Indian government so far has made any such protest to
protect Hindu groups in the West.
 
And let us not forget the religious intolerance of communists
and Marxists historically, though in India these days it is
fashionable for Marxists to portray themselves as defenders of
religious freedom. Stalin was perhaps the world’s greatest
destroyer of both churches and mosques but his pictures adorn
the government buildings of Kerala and Bengal.
 
The Destructive Effect of Missionary Activities in Tribal
Cultures
 
The history of missionary activity is one of intolerance and
violence, with only rare episodes of love and charity. This
comes out particularly when the missionaries come into a
primitive or tribal culture.
 
There is a beauty in tribal cultures, like the beauty of the
wilderness itself. You know that wherever the developers go,
the wilderness is destroyed and many species perish. So too,
wherever missionaries go, tribal cultures are destroyed and
much of human heritage goes with it. What missionary honors
the non-Christian cultures of the world or seeks to protect
them? On the other hand, Hinduism does not interfere with
native and tribal beliefs but seeks to share with them and
learn from them.
 
There is a beauty in non-Biblical beliefs like Hinduism,
Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Shinto and the many native
beliefs. The old pagan religions of Europe had their beauty
and profundity. This is lost on the missionary mind that only
sees potential converts held in the clutches of false beliefs.
 
Followers of missionary religions must recognize that their
religion is hostile to other religions like Hinduism, even if
it has good feelings for the people following that religion.
Yet other religions also represent people and their sincere
beliefs. To target religions is to attack people as well. To
attack Hinduism as a religion is to insult and attack Hindus
as human beings.
 
The Ethics of Conversion
 
Conversion efforts do have their ethics, which are the ethics
of conversion. The ethics of conversion is not secularism. It
is not religious freedom, religious tolerance or honoring
religious pluralism. The ethics of conversion is saving souls,
generally saving souls from damnation. The ethics of
conversion follows an exclusive belief system, a one true
faith. After all, if people are really likely to suffer
eternal damnation for their wrong beliefs, the sincere
missionary must do whatever he can to stop it. The missionary
views the non-Christian as a person who is deluded or even
under the influence of a demoniac force, not simply someone
who has a valid but different opinion about life than he does.
 
This ethics of conversion can override other human ethics in
missionary activity. In order to save souls, which is the
highest missionary ethic, missionaries historically have
resorted to various forms of enticement or even force to
arrive at the desired result of new converts. While these
practices appear intolerant or dishonest in a secular society,
in a religious or colonial society they appear moral. To the
sincere missionary these can appear as necessary indiscretions
to save unwilling souls.
 
Please note that I do not doubt the sincerity of the
missionary in all this. No doubt the missionaries who allowed
the massacre of Native Americans were also sincere in their
beliefs, just as were the white slave-holders in nineteenth
century America. The problem is that they are sincere about a
belief that easily promotes intolerance and harms those of
other beliefs.
 
Therefore, one could argue that conversion is inherently an
unethical practice and inevitably breeds unethical results.
The missionary ethics of saving souls is so compelling to the
missionary that it can easily cause him to compromise the
human rights or integrity of his potential converts. Certainly
the long history of conversion is a history of every sort of
crime, whatever good may have been done along the side.
 
On a spiritual level, one could argue that conversion efforts,
particularly for an exclusive belief, are unspiritual and
unethical. Conversion is a sin against the Divine in man. It
refuses to recognize the religion of another as valid. Above
all, the organized conversion business is one of the meanest
and most underhanded activities of the human being, on par
with war. It seeks to undermine and discredit the natural
faith of people. As we move into a global age, let us set this
messy business of conversion behind, along with the other
superstitions of the Dark Ages.
 
We are all God. There is only one Self in all creatures. Who
is there to convert and what could anyone be converted from?
The soul is Divine. It is not Christian, Islamic or Hindu or
anything else. The soul cannot be saved. It is beyond gain and
loss. We can only understand ourselves. The real goal of
religion is to discover the light of the soul that is not
bound by time, place, person or belief. True religion is to be
true to one’s nature and to respect the nature of others. What
missionary has this attitude or has discovered this truth?
 
Backlash Against Missionaries
 
In recent times there have been some violent backlashes
against missionaries or their religions, which is regrettable.
This has occurred not only in India but also in many other
parts of the world, like Africa or Central America. But given
the intolerance of the missionaries, it is understandable and
cannot be looked at in isolation. You cannot century after
century trash or even destroy the culture and religions of
people in the name of your God and expect that they will just
politely let you go on with it. Particularly if they are poor
or backward people without the financial, legal or government
resources to protect themselves, they may resort to a more
primitive response.
 
Yet the violence of this backlash is minuscule compared to the
physical and psychological violence that the missionaries have
brought about and continue to perpetrate. The anti-Christian
activities in India recently must be viewed in this light.
 
Recently Sonia Gandhi, the head of the Congress Party in
India, though still a member of the Catholic Church which has
yet to renounce its claims as the only true faith or to stop
its missionary efforts against Hindus, quoted Swami
Vivekananda as a spokesperson for true religion. Let us
remember what Vivekananda said to the Americans and in many
other instances about missionary activity:
 
“Whenever your missionaries criticize us please remember this.
If all of India stands up and takes all the mud that is at the
bottom of the Indian Ocean and throws it up against the
Western countries, it will not be doing an infinitesimal part
of that which you are doing to us.”
 
Mahatma Gandhi was also a fierce critic of the missionaries.
Yet, strangely, today it is the Congress Party of India and
various leftists that are defending Christian missionary
activity and painting a picture of Hindu intolerance, ignoring
the whole history and motivation of these massive conversion
efforts against Hindus.
 
Let us also remember the latest word from the Pope in the
“Coming of the Third Millennium”:
 
“The Asia Synod will deal with the challenge for
evangelisation posed by the encounter with ancient religions
such as Buddhism and Hinduism. While expressing esteem for the
elements of truth in these religions, the Church must make it
clear that Christ is the one mediator between God and man and
the sole Redeemer of the world.”
 
In other words all the greatness of Buddhism and Hinduism does
not alter the basic view of Christianity that Christ alone is
the supreme religious figure. No Buddha, Krishna, Ramana
Maharshi or Sri Aurobindo can compare with him. What are the
elements of truth that the Pope is speaking about? If he does
not credit either Buddhism or Hinduism with anything equal to
Jesus, he probably does not give them much credit for their
ideas of karma, dharma or rebirth, their practices of yoga and
meditation, or their entire seeking of enlightenment and
Self-realization that is not defined in terms of Jesus.
Clearly such a statement is condescending. It has abandoned
the old heathen-pagan-idolatry charge but the goal is still
conversion, not respect.
 
Religious Dialogue
 
As a final note, being opposed to organized conversion does
not mean that one should be opposed to discussion and even
debate on religious matters.
 
Missionaries usually target the uneducated and work behind the
scenes. They do not try to create a fair exchange of ideas or
even a debate. They are afraid of being exposed. In fact such
a debate on religious issues is necessary to deal with the
problems caused by missionary activity. The missionaries
usually avoid facing a fair debate on religion and target
those who are not well versed in their own beliefs.
 
More than anything today we need a real religious dialogue, so
that religious conflicts, which have such a potential for
violence, do not occur. This dialogue should be a quest for
truth. It should not aim at proving one religion to be supreme
but at examining the ultimate issues of life. What is the goal
of life? What is the nature of immortality? Is there a
permanent heaven or hell? Is there Self-realization or
Nirvana? What is enlightenment? What is karma? Does the soul
have one or many lives? What is the highest state of
consciousness and how can we achieve it? What practices are
necessary to change human nature from the egoistic to the
Divine? Can mere belief transform us or is knowledge and work
also necessary? Are special psycho-physical techniques
helpful? How do the different religions view such issues?
These are the real issues of religious dialogue.
 
Merely getting a person to change their belief does not
address these complex and profound issues. True religion
requires profound work and examination, particularly of our
own minds and hearts. It is not a matter of mere names,
slogans or labels.
 
In one way, Hindus do lose a lot by converting to a religion
like Christianity or Islam. Hinduism has a much broader scope
of spiritual and yogic practices, philosophies and mystical
teachings than does Christianity. Should a Hindu become a
Christian they lose these and enter into a much more limited
and outward form of religious belief? Hindu teachings of
higher consciousness, self-realization, karma, rebirth,
chakras, and kundalini are almost unknown in Christianity or
rejected as the work of the devil. That is why so many
Americans seeking a spiritual path are attracted to
Hindu-based teachings and leave orthodox and mainstream
Christianity behind.
 
In fact Christianity continues to decline in the West. Very
few new people are taking up the roles of priests and nuns in
the Catholic Church, for example. Partly to replenish their
ranks, the Catholic Church has targeted Asia and, particularly
India, for conversion because Hindus are quite devotional and
easily take up priestly or monastic roles. Meanwhile the
Evangelical Christians are targeting India to counter the
influence of Hindu-based teachings in America, which they find
so threatening as to frequently denounce Hinduism and Hindu
gurus as the religion of the devil.
 
So let us not be naïve about conversion. It is not about
freedom of religion or about social upliftment. The main
conversion activities in the world are part of organized and
well-funded strategies to conquer the world for a single
religious belief that would end religious freedom and
diversity. In this situation it is easy to identify the
predators and the victims. Which are you likely to be and
which are you likely to give your sympathy to?

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November 26, 2007

FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

 

GODHRA AND AFTER

 

A Field Study
by
Justice D. S. Tewatia
Dr. J.C.Batra
Dr. Krishan Singh Arya
Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul
Prof. B.K.Kuthiala

COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS
A-208, Surajmal Vihar
Delhi; 110 092
(Phone 2374816, fax 2377653, Email: rjournal@ndf.vsnl.net.in) COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS  AND HUMAN RIGHTS

GOVERNING BODY FOR THE TERM 2001-03

Chairman : Shri Shanta Kumar, Parliamentarian, Palampur

Vice-Chairmen: Justice D S Tewatia, Jurist, Gurgaon

Shri Chaman Lal Gupta, Parliamentarian, Jammu

Shri Y D Ahuja, Academician, New Delhi

Secy. General: Shri Shyam Khosla, Journalist, New Delhi

Secretaries: Prof. B K Kuthiala, Academician; Hisar

Shri R K Sharma, Journalist, New Delhi

Shri Kumar Rakesh, Journalist, New Delhi

Treasurer: Shri R Chandiwala, Chartered Accountant, New Delhi

Members: 1. Shri A.R.Kohli, Governor of Mizoram, Aizwal.

2. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Medical Administrator, New Delhi

3. Dr N K Trikha, Journalist, New Delhi

4. Dr Ajay Kumar, Physician, New Delhi

5. Shri A N Misra, Journalist, Nagpur

6. Mrs. Sudesh Bhatia, Academician, New Delhi

7. Prof. Shivaji Sarkar, Academician, New Delhi

8. Dr. J C Batra, Senior Advocate, New Delhi

9. Shri Vikas Mahajan, Advocate, New Delhi

10. Dr. J B Goyal, Academician, New Delhi

11. Shri Joseph Gathia, Social Activist, New Delhi

12. Shri Pradeep Thakur, Journalist, Gaziabad

13. Dr. K.C.Pandey, Teacher, Gaziabad

 

PREFACE

The Council for International Affairs and Human Rights is deeply concerned over the Godhra carnage that consumed 58 pilgrims, including 26 women and 12 children, returning from Ayodhya when the Sabarmati Express carrying them was torched near Godhra railway station and the subsequent sectarian violence. These gory incidents shocked the nation to no end. Torching alive innocent citizens is in total violation of Indian values and traditions and is a blot on the fair name of this ancient civilization. It is a gross violation of human rights of innocent citizens who were roasted alive or brutally killed or maimed for no fault of theirs.

The Gujarat tragedy is too deep for tears. An in-depth and objective study to understand the conspiracy, if any, that led to the burning alive of pilgrims and the killing of innocent citizens that took place is several parts of Gujarat is the need of the hour. It is equally important to identify the evil forces that were instrumental in accomplishing the “mission”. The civil society needs to evolve ways and means to resolve the communal divide that has become a festering wound and poses a serious threat to human rights. It is of utmost importance to know how the administration responded to the challenge and what was the role of the political parties, social organisations, the intelligentsia and the media. It is in this context that the Governing Body of the Council that met at Delhi on March 22, 2002 decided to send a team to conduct a field study into the communal strife in Gujarat.

Justice D.S. Tewatia, Vice-Chairman of the Council and a former Chief Justice of Calcutta and Punjab and Haryana High Courts, is the leader of the team. Other members are: Dr J C Batra, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, Dr. Krishan Singh Arya, Academician, Chandigarh, Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, former Assistant Editor, Jansatta, Delhi, and Prof. B K Kuthiala, Dean, Faculty of Media Studies, G.J. University Hisar. The team left for Gujarat on April 1 and returned on April 7, 2002.

The team conducted a scientific field study into the horrendous happenings in Godhra and other parts of Gujarat and collected enormous evidence in the form of interviews and documents. It has produced a comprehensive rep ort dealing with numerous aspects of the tragedy. It was not possible for the team to uncover each and every dimension of the tragedy due to constraints of time and resources. But it has done a wonderful job in the limited time and resources available to it. The Council is extremely grateful to Justice Tewatia and his team for conducting the study and producing a comprehensive report.

The Council hopes that its labours will not go waste and that authorities concerned, the intelligentsia and the media as also the common citizens will take serious note of the conclusions and recommendations made by the team. A careful reading of the report will help sift fact from fiction and identify rumours and canards that have been spread by vested interests. The report, one hopes, will enable the nation to have a correct perspective of the forces behind the tragedy and the elements that exploited it for partisan considerations. 

The Council is grateful to the members of the team, the representatives of various organisations of Hindus and Muslims of Gujarat, concerned citizens who came forward to narrate details of incidents and provided evidence and the local authorities that ensured that the team conducted the study without any  hindrance.

 

Shyam Khosla

 

Secretary General.

 

                                                                                  April 26, 2002

 

CONTENTS

 

 1. Introduction

2. Data Collection

3. Godhra incident 

4. Facts and inferences

5. Communal riots in Gujarat

6. Conclusions

7. Recommendations

 

INTRODUCTION

NEED FOR AN OBJECTIVE ANALYTICAL STUDY 

Finding the truth is the ultimate objective of any intellectual exercise. Be it a fact-finding mission, analysis of social, political or economic processes or a spiritual journey the edifice of truth is built on the facts. In sciences experiments are conducted to generate new information, which forms the basis for the enunciation of new theories and principles. Facts become sacred, inferences and opinions must arise from the information of the past and the new data gathered. Neutrality in the selection of past data, in the process of gathering new information and also in the process of analysis and derivation  of inferences is fundamental to any objective intellectual endeavor. 

UNIPOLAR THOUGHT PROCESS 

Any exercise to search for truth has to make a beginning without any predispositions. Objectivity is lost if the past attitudes and aptitudes of the seeker of truth colour the vision and the analyst becomes blind to a set of information bits and another set of data is visualized as being greater than its real worth. In research hypothesis are stated and the researcher has a mind-set wherein based on dispassionate analysis of gathered data the stated hypothesis is either proved to be right or wrong. Incorrect derivations and inferences would arise if the researcher were emotionally or ideologically inclined to prove or disprove a given hypothesis. Truth is the first casualty of such an exercise. Intellectual honesty demands observations, analysis and derivations that are free from the personal or group prejudice and likes and  dislikes of the analysts.

Unfortunately in today’s India the vocal, articulate and dominant sections of thinkers and analysts have become predictable. Even before an exercise of analysis of events and processes begins it is possible to almost correctly forecast the inferences and conclusions that are likely to be drawn by the individuals, groups or organizations. A newspaper would publish editorials and articles supporting and proving only one point of view. The outcome of the discussion is predictable depending upon the television channel that is hosting it. Even in the case of simple journalistic reporting the personal predispositions of the reporter glare prominently in the news stories. The questions asked clearly indicate the ideological inclinations of the interviewer. So much so that even the organizations created under the statutes of the Constitution become partisan and their contentions are blind to a set of data and hyper-responsive to another set of facts. Unipolar thought process of Indian analysts and commentators has become a practice rather than an exception.

QUEST FOR TRUTH

When the problems of the nation receive skewed notice from its intellectuals the analysis cannot be realistic. Not only the problems get politicized, the analysis too is coloured with the vision of the analyst.

If the diagnosis of the problem is faulty, the solution is bound to be unrealistic and misdirected. When a physician commits error in the diagnosis of an ailment, he fails to cure the disease and may give birth to new problems. The country today needs better treatment by its intelligentsia. It is the dharma of the intelligentsia to be objective and search and state the truth and only the truth.

If we look back and introspect the achievements and failures of the nation after independence three facts clearly emerge. First, there was acute shortage of food grains and the country had to import wheat. It posed a serious challenge. The farming community and the scientists responded magnificently and we are now faced with a problem of plenty. Second, whenever the nation faced an external threat our jawans lived up to our expectations and defended our borders at the cost of their lives. It is a matter ofpride for us that jawans and kisans that constitute the majority of the population brought glory to the country. The scientists too have taken the country to new heights, be it innovations in farming practices,  atomic and space research or information technology.

 

FAILURE OF GOVERNING CLASS

  Third, in most of the cases when a task came before the governing class of the society that includes bureaucracy and politicians, mismanagement, failures and deceptions are the outcome. The ruling class failed to manage the massive surplus produced by the farmers. The contradiction is that while millions of tonnes of wheat is rotting, a large chunk of our society is denied two square meals a day. It is a sad commentary on the governing class. Successive Governments lost on the table the gains achieved by our jawans in the battlefields. A vast majority of the people has contributed towards the growth and development of the country during fifty-five years of independence but a minuscule minority comprising the political class, bureaucracy, intelligentsia and the media have let the country down.

  The tragic fact is that despite India being a democratic polity, a small minority of the elite controls the destiny of the nation. The intelligentsia, professionals and the media failed to provide the link between the vast majority of patriotic and duty conscious citizens and the governing class. They were supposed to keep a watch and provide policy and action options without prejudice. But what did they do? They lost their moorings and became a part of the governing class and diverted their intellect for perpetuation of the exploitative and self-serving elite class. Whereas kisans, jawans and scientists have more than met the challenges of nation building the intelligentsia along with politicians and bureaucrats have miserably  failed to deliver the goods. 

ALTERNATE ACTION PLAN 

Independent India inherited the problem of disharmonious relationships between Hindus and Muslims. Amongst many other major problems communal disharmony has been a serious issue before the nation after independence. There were certain inherited realities and solutions were to be found within those parameters. The managers of free India have miserably failed to solve this problem. In fact, they have accentuated the problem and widened the gulf between the two largest communities living in the country. The disease aggravated as the decades passed largely because of the wrong medication. Is not the continuation of communal tensions between two major communities of the country an adverse comment on the performance of our ruling class, intelligentsia and the media? The answer is an assertive

YES.

The inhuman burning of the Indian citizens traveling in a train at Godhra in the morning of February 27,  2002 and whatever followed in Gujarat and elsewhere is an evidence of the mismanagement of the communal divide between two major communities of the country. The political class having made appropriate noises to please their respective constituencies will go to back to its Kumbhkarani sleep to be woken up only when another carnage takes place. When a physician fails to cure certain ailment he looks for an alternative action plan and even takes a second opinion. But not our rulers.  

INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONALS

But do our thinkers, planners and implementers ever sit back and ponder over their failures? They sing the same songs with perhaps new music. Instead of looking for their own failures they once again refuse to see the reality and selectively isolate the data to prove their own, many times repeated and widely known viewpoints. They are blind to their skewed perceptions. They are either unaware or willfully remaining unaware of the need for an alternate course of action.  

It was in this backdrop that the Council for International Affairs and Human Rights decided to depute a Study Team of conscientious and independent professionals to conduct a field study in Godhra and other areas affected by sectarian violence. The team comprised:

       1.Justice D.S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice: Calcutta High Court and Punjab and Haryana High Court.

       2.Dr. J.C.Batra, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India

       3.Dr. Krishan Singh, Academician.  

       4.Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, Veteran Journalist.  

       5.Prof. B.K.Kuthiala, Dean Faculty of Media Studies, G J University, Hisar   DATA COLLECTION

VISITS INTERACTION AND DOCUMENTS

The team reached Ahmedabad on 02.04.02 in the morning by train and visited three affected areas andsome of the relief camps. At all the places team members interacted with the members of the public freely without intervention of any officials, government or otherwise.  

On 03.04.02 the team went to Godhra and five delegations from both communities and also of mixed composition presented their views and facts to the team. The team then went to the Godhra Railway Station and interviewed the officials and some other witnesses of the burning of the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express in the morning of 27.02.02. The site where the train was initially stopped and stoned was also visited. The team also minutely observed the burnt S-6 coach. The officials of the Fire Brigade who were involved in the fire fighting on the morning of 27.02.02 were also interviewed. The localities adjacent to the railway station along with the sites where demolition of structures illegally erected was carried out on 27.02.02 during the curfew hours were also visited. The team also visited a Girls High

School at Godhara where Muslims from rural hinterland had migrated for safety.  In the evening the team had a meeting with the District Collector, Godhra along with other officials. The District Collector made a presentation of the actions that the district administration had taken after the incident near the railway station. Information was also provided in response to the questions raised by the members of the team. Prime Minister was to reach Godhra the next day and the team left for Vadodara late at night, as it did not want to be an obstacle in the arrangements being made for his visit. 

RELIEF CAMPS OF HINDUS AND MUSLIMS 

On 04.04.02 the team was in Vadodara where it visited five relief camps of both the communities and seven areas, which were the scenes of arson, fire and violence during the last month. Team also exposed itself to ground situations by visiting some sensitive areas where either: 

                 a. ) two communities lived face to face with each other in different localities.

                  b. )  a small number of families of one community lived in neighborhood and

                    surrounded by a large number of the families of the other community. 

                  c.) two communities lived in the same locality, both in significant numbers with   houses of both communities randomly distributed.  

The team visited some of the areas, which have been evacuated by the residents because either they were attacked or they apprehended an attack. To have the exposure to the realities the team also visited some areas where curfew was imposed. Permission to visit such areas was taken from the appropriate authorities.

In the afternoon the Commissioner Police, Vadodra and District Collector Vadodra met the team along with other officials. The team members were updated with the information regarding the management of situation till that day. The officials also answered the queries of the team.  

At 5.00 pm the team met with the representatives of various media organizations – both print and electronic. About thirty media persons were present and an informative interaction took place. The team had taken a conscious decision not to address a press conference, as it did not want to express unprocessed, half-baked and impressionistic opinions.  

MEETING THE GOVERNOR & THE CHIEF MINISTER 

In the evening thirteen (13) delegations consisting of 121 citizens met the team and presented their viewpoints and information. The delegations included not only the members of both the communities but ranged from the Association of Hoteliers to a group of adivasis to affected Muslim and Hindu women.  

On 05.04.02 the team once again visited the affected areas to see the change in the ground situation in two days after the team has visited on 02.04.02. Here once again the team spoke to common persons at the affected sites. In the afternoon the team had an in-depth discussion on the situation in the state with Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister, Gujarat. After meeting the Chief Minister, the team met the Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad. He gave some data about the preventive arrests (3046), booked (1807),

FIRs lodged (636) killed (267 including 58 in police firing) and rounds fired by police (2842). In the afternoon seven delegations – five from Ahmedabad and two representing state level organizations – briefed the team of their version of the incidents, perceptions and possible remedial measures. Total number of citizens, both Muslims and Hindus, present in these meetings was 91. During and after dinner some important persons of the minority community met the team members personally and provided useful information. A retired judge of the High Court belonging to the Muslim community also apprised the team of his perception of the communal riots. He himself is a victim as his house was burnt a few days ago. In the morning of 06.04.02 team members went out individually to interact informally with common men to feel the pulse of the people. At noon the team went to Raj Bhawan to meet Shri Sunder Singh Bhandari, Governor, Gujarat where a very useful interaction took place.  

 OBJECTIVITY IN OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS

In the evening the members boarded a train back to Delhi from where the team members dispersed to their respective stations. At this point of time every team member carried a heavy load o f information, views and images of realities. For a week the team members engaged themselves in the process of sieving facts from fiction, correlating data with perceived realities and an objective dispassionate analysis. On 15.04.02 and also on 19.04.02 the team met in Delhi and after sharing each other’s analysis the report has been penned down as a collective effort.  

It would also be worth mentioning that the Study Team has used both audio and video systems to record images of ground situation, evidence, and narration of the events by victims and witnesses and interviews. Some of these recordings were done with an explicit assurance given by the team to use the material only for the purposes of analysis and shall not be made public. Similarly a load of printed and handwritten documents have also been collected both from official and privates sources. Use of Internet has also been made extensively to interact and surfing for collection of relevant information.

All this information about the methodology is being provided so that the consumers of this information can evaluate the observations and analysis of the team independently. The strengths and weaknesses are both laid out and there is no attempt to pronounce hasty judgments without any scientific analysis or even without collating the information with other members of the study team. It did not visit the affected areas to strengthen the beliefs and perceptions of its members in a partisan manner, but it went with an open mind and a clean state and allowed the facts to speak for themselves. The objectivity of observation and analysis has been coupled with the honesty and integrity of scientific process of deducing and theory propositions.                                            

GODHRA INCIDENT 

BURNING ALIVE OF 58 INDIAN CITIZENS TRAVELLING IN

COACH S-6 OF  SABARMATI EXPRESS

 

Train numbers 9164, 9166 and 9168 have been named Sabarmati Express after the name of the Sabarmati Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi to experiment and propagate his philosophies of non-violence and swadeshi. The train runs up to Ahmedabad, from Faizabad (9164) on Saturdays, from Muzaffarabad (9166) on Wednesday, Friday and Monday and from Varanasi (9168) on Thursday, Sunday and Tuesday. It covers Lucknow, Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore and Dahod is its first halt in Gujarat. After traveling 74 km in 2 hrs and 19 minutes from Dahod the train is scheduled to arrive at 0255hrs at Godhra. After Godhra it halts at Vadodra, Anand and Nadiad reaching Ahmedabad at 0700hrs  

INNOCENT PILGRIMS

On 26.02.02 Sabarmati Express started from Faizabad about 225 minutes late. On that fateful day, about 2300 pilgrims were travelling by the train. Most of them were returning from Ayodhya where they had gone for either participating in the shila pujan or for the purana ahuti of the ritual jap of Ram naam that the devotees began one month in advance at their respective places.  

There were other passengers in the train including members of the Muslim community. However, it has been reported that most of the Muslim passengers got down at Dahod Railway Station and rest of them

at Godhra and it appears that when the train was torched there was no Muslim passengers on the train

except the elements who were to stop the train by pulling the chain as part of a conspiracy to burn the pilgrims alive.

 

CHAIN PULLED AND VACUUM PIPE CUT

At 07.42 hrs the train stopped at Godhra railway Station. After about five minutes, the train started to move but stopped for a few moments as some passengers could not board the train. It finally left the station but came to halt about 700 metres away from the station as some one had pulled the chain. The vacuum pipe between the Coaches No. S-6 and S-7 was cut thereby preventing any further movement of the train.

Miscreants threw bricks and stones at the train as soon as it left Godhra railway station. The stoning intensified after it finally stopped about 700 metres from the station. The passengers of the train, particularly Coaches S-5, S-6 and S-7, were the main targets. The passengers reportedly shut the windows and doors to protect themselves. Burning missiles and acid bulbs were thrown on and in the coaches. One such acid missile landed in Coach S-7 and a fire started which the passengers were able to extinguish. But the attack continued and more burning missiles were thrown into the Coach S-6.  

                        FIFTY EIGHT PILGRIMS ROASTED ALIVE 

Soon, S-6 caught fire and within minutes it was in flames. Passengers who managed to get out of the burning compartment were attacked with sharp weapons and stoned. They received serious injuries. Some of them got out through the windows and took shelter below the coach. After some time (between 20 minutes and 40 minutes) fire engine arrived at the scene and took about half an hour to extinguish the fire.  

Inside the coach, 58 charred bodies were found. These included 26 women and 12 children. Those who had seen the charred bodies shiver even weeks after the incident while recalling the gory scene. Even a cursory look at the photographs of the charred bodies is a chilling experience. Forty-three (43) injured persons were rushed to the Civil Hospital at Godhra with different degrees of burns. The train left Godhra at about 1230 hours minus Coach S-6, 58 dead and 43 injured.  

The question why a large number of Hindus were roasted alive at the hands of Muslim crowds at Godhra and also what was the motivation to enact such a ghastly act needs to be answered. There is strong logic supported by direct and circumstantial evidence that enables the team to assert without an iota of doubt that the entire action was carried out on the behest of the Government of Pakistan. The primary objective was to create Hindu-Muslim communal conflagration in India. The reasons why Pakistan would resort to such acts are: 

  1.Hindu-Muslim communal riots in India would have echo in Bangladesh, and would help in cleansing of Hindus from that country resulting in further straining of relations with India. The communal rioting will provide yet another excuse for India bashing. The reaction in Bangladesh will add fuel to the already communally tense situation in India. It would ultimately gives  sustenance to the “Two Nation Theory”.  

2. Hindu-Muslim riots in India would further accentuate alienation of Kashmiri Muslims, thereby creating further space in Kashmir for Pakistan’s nefarious activities against India.  

3. Hindu-Muslim riots in India would tend to adversely affect India’s present friendly relations with Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning here that Prime Minister of Afghanistan had in a television interview while responding to a question about the nature of Afghanistan’s relations with      India observed, “That would depend upon how India treats its Muslim minority”. Incidentally, the      Prime Minister of Afghanistan was in Delhi on the fateful day the train was torched.  

  4.Situation at the Indo-Pak border is extremely critical and volatile. A little misunderstanding or even an unintended move can lead to a war between the two countries. Hindu-Muslim riots in such a  situation would come handy to weaken our defences as the army would have to be withdrawn  from the borders to combat riots. The army is normally summoned to assist the civil authorities  when the situation worsens as happened during recent riots in Gujarat.  

With a view to maintain law and order, two Brigades of army were deployed in various parts of the  state thereby leaving a portion of our border uncovered or weakly protected. To cite an example, if  the troops deployed on the Katch border are withdrawn our defences in that area become weak  and border more porous thereby increasing the danger of infiltration by jehadis and smugglers  dealing with drugs and arms. What would please more the hostile neighbour and ISI than weak  defences and porous borders and what can be a better mechanism than creating a situation where  Indian army’s attention is diverted because of its deployment in riot-hit areas. All patriotic and nationalist forces demanding deployment of army to assist the civil authority for one reason or  the other need to look at the situation from this angle as well. 

  5.Hindu-Muslim riots increase the alienation of the saner elements among Kashmiri Muslim and add  to the support base of terrorist outfits sponsored, armed and financed by ISI. Terrorism and insurgency get a shot in the arm. In the event of a war between the two countries these subversive  groups can play havoc.  

  6.Hindu-Muslim riots create tensions and misunderstanding between India and Muslim countries with which India has developed understanding and goodwill. By provoking communal violence,  Pakistan wants to isolate India in the international community and tarnish its image as a pluralistic  and democratic society.

Another question that needs systematic analysis is: Why Godhra? Why did Pakistan choose to enact this ghastly act at a small, little known town of Godhra? On the basis of information gathered from various sources the team identifies the following reasons for choosing Godhra for this carnage: 

     The rate of growth of Muslim population in Godhra is much higher than the national growth rate of Muslim population. At present the estimated ratio of Hindu-Muslim population ranges from 60:40  to 48:52. In any case, it is an established fact that Godhra has a very large Muslim population.  Most of them live on both the sides of the railway station in depth. In normal course, the Sabarmati Express was to arrive at Godhra railway Station at 02.55 a.m. The conspirators must have chosen the place with a view to complete their operation “Burn the train” at the dead of night      when most of the passengers would be asleep. They must have planned to accomplish their evil      “mission” unhindered and with impunity.  

     Godhra has the dubious distinction of having a large number of Muslim fundamentalists and ‘jehadi’ elements. Godhra is neither a Muslim pilgrim center like Ajmer nor a Muslim educational center like Aligarh and Deoband. The local Muslims are not economically affluent either, yet this town had hosted three ‘istema’- religious congregations. In one of the ‘istema’, Muslim representatives from more than hundred countries  participated. The holding of international congregations on such a massive scale gives credence to  the commonly held perception that there has been a massive inflow of foreign money into Godhra.

   One Shri Haji Bilal, a Congress member of Nagarpalika, who has been booked by the police as   the executor of the carnage, have been, according to locals, proudly proclaiming himself to be “Bin Laden of Godhra”. President of the District Congress Committee, Farooq Malla and Congress activist and member of Godhra Nagarpalika, Abdul Rehman Dhatia, are amongst those booked  for the carnage giving credence to reports that local Congressmen were actively involved in the  burning of the train.

 

The next question is: Why was this particular train chosen for torching? The team provides the following answer: 

     This particular train was chosen because the 2300 ‘pilgrims’ were returning from Ayodhya on this train. Torching and burning alive a large number of Hindu pilgrims (including women and children) was intended to let loose a tide of indignation and provocation of horrendous  proportion in Hindu population resulting in intended ignition of the communal tinder box, causing  wide spread Hindu-Muslim riots all over the country. However, the train got late and the  miscreants were able to burn only one compartment instead of the entire train and (contrary to the expectations of their Pakistani masters) the communal riots were confined to only a part of  Gujarat. 

The evidence that leads to the conclusion that the torching of Sabarmati Express on the morning of 27.02.02 was pre-meditated can be stated as:  

     The train took only three minutes, as per the statement of the Stationmaster, form the platform to the place where it was stopped by pulling the chain at a distance of about 700 metres. It is impossible for a mob of about 2000 persons carrying acid bulbs and highly combustible liquids to  converge within three minutes that too in the early hours of the morning.  

     The conspirators had done their homework. They ensured that the mob gets enough time to accomplish the misdeed. Had the train stopped because of chain pulling, the driver could have  re-started the train after it was attacked by the mob. In order to ensure that the train would not move even an inch, the conspirators had deputed certain persons to cut the vacuum pipe.

     Consequently, the train could not move before the pipe was repaired. 

In order to establish the correct chronology of events the Study Team collected information from: 

       1.Staff at the Railway Station, Godhra 

       2.District Administration

       3.Passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 in S-6 

       4.Passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 other than in S-6 

       5.Staff of the Fire Brigade, Godhra 

       6.Others who were witness to the later part of the incident

        7. Reports in local, regional and Delhi Press.  

STAFF OF RAILWAY STATION GODHRA 

The staff at the Railway Station Godhra told the team that no serious quarrel took place on the platform when the train halted there for about 05 minutes. Immediately after the train started moving it stopped and few left-out passengers boarded the train and it started again. A mob of about 1000 Muslims ahead of the Railway Station started pelting stones and other missiles on the train. The train after moving about 700 metres stopped once again but with a jerk as a result of chain pulling. The vacuum pipe of the Coach No. S-6 was cut. The mob had by then swelled to more than 2000. They stoned the train and also threw burning missiles, concentrating on S-6 and S-7. Soon the Coach S-6 was seen burning and the flames reached outside the coach in no time. Railway Police rushed to the scene and after initial hesitation fired in the air to disperse the mob. There was no impact on the mob that did not disperse even after firing in the air and kept shouting slogans and throwing missiles at the police and the crowd comprising railway officials, passengers of the other coaches of the train and bystanders.  

Fire brigade reached the site after about half an hour (from the time of the departure of the train from the platform). It took about half an hour to extinguish the flames and cool down the S-6 coach. District administration reached the spot after the fire had almost been extinguished and the mob had withdrawn to a distant place but was still shouting slogans. All through voices were heard on loudspeakers from both the sides of the railway track inciting the mob to kill and burn the infidels (kafirs) and the enemies of Bin Laden. With the help of civilians, the injured were taken to the Civil Hospital and the dead were brought out and counted. Burnt bodies of passengers were identified with the help of other passengers of the train including those of S-6 who had escaped unhurt or were not seriously injured.  

DISTRICT ADMINSTRATION, GODHRA 

As per the presentation made by the Collector of Panchmahal at Godhra, the Sabarmati express arrived at Godhra Railway station at 7.43 am (scheduled arrival at 2.55a.m.). Train departed at 7.48 a.m. and was stopped at a distance of 1km from Godhra railway station by pulling chain at “Signal Faliya”. A mob of about 2000 miscreants attacked the train with stones and firebombs. Bogies no S/5 and S/6 were set on fire, bogies S/6 was completely burnt with 58 passengers in it including 26 women, 12 children and 20 men roasted alive. 

D.S.P. rushed to the spot as soon as he got the information about the incident. Relief work started immediately by the Collector. Arrangements for firefighters were made. Along with the arrangements of Ambulance Van and ST Buses from RTO. Team of three doctors rushed to the site. Twentyfive passengers were treated on site. Food packets, drinking water was made available to stranded passengers. 43 injured passengers were shifted to civil hospital. Police fired 14 rounds and 30 teargas shells to prevent the mob from causing further damage. Curfew was imposed in the town at 10.55am. Collector with senior railway officers entered the burnt carriage to assess the casualties – 58 dead bodies found. Train departed for Ahmedabad with the rest of passengers at 12.40 pm. Inquest & post-mortem of all bodies was done by 4.30 pm. Bodies dispatched at 10.30 pm to Civil hospital, Sola, Ahmedabad.

PASSENGERS TRAVELLING IN SABARMATI EXPRESS ON 27.02.02 IN COACH NO S-6

Kamala (name changed in view of threats received and bomb attack on her a day before she was interviewed by the Study Team on O4.02.02), a college student, went to Ayodhya along with her parents and two sisters to perform the purana ahuti of the Ram jaap her mother was doing for the last one month. The family boarded the train at Faizabad in Coach no S-6 on 26.02.02 at about 0800 hours. There were many passengers on the train who were chanting Ram naam and occasionally chanting jai Sri ram. In the morning of 27.02.02 the train was at Godhra railway station and as soon as it moved, a barrage of stones were thrown at the compartment. Terrified and taken aback, the passengers closed the windows.  

The train stopped for a few moments and again started. After about 2-3 minutes the train stopped with a strong jerk rattling the passengers and the luggage. The train continued to be stoned with great intensity.

Mob outside the train was pounding upon the windows and doors. Somebody from outside the train was able to open a window and threw a burning object into the compartment. It fell on the luggage and the fire started. Some passengers stated stamping on the fire, but more burning objects were thrown in as the mob broke open more windows. Some liquid was also poured in from the windows, which intensified the fire. Iron grills of some windows were detached from one side and bent to pick up the passengers’ luggage. This luggage was set on fire and thrown back into the coach. The passengers were terribly shaken and shouting for help. Some of them were able to open the door and get out.  

Soon the entire coach was gutted. Smoke was so thick that it was impossible to breathe or see anything. She looked for her family members in vain and dropped out of the train from a window whose grill had been bent and detached from one side. Lying of the ground she could breathe a little and saw a huge mob with swords and iron rods hurling abuses at Hindus. She moved below the coach from where she was rescued after sometime. She may have remained unconscious for some time. She later identified the charred bodies of her mother, father and two sisters. One sister was an engineer and the other was a commerce graduate.  

The same train took her to Ahmedabad where she now lives with her younger sister. She has already got Rs. 50,000 as relief and expects more. She told the team that she had heard certain Muslims saying that a lot of trouble was caused to them because of her narration of the Godhra tragedy and that she would be eliminated. A bomb was thrown into the room in which she was sleeping a day before the team met her. Fortunately, it did not explode. The matter was reported to the police who are investigating the case.  

Raghu (name changed for reasons of security of the witness) was traveling in Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 and his narration of the events is similar to those of Kamala. When the coach was set on fire he went up on the upper berth in the hope that the fire will soon be extinguished. But when he got a choked because of the thick smoke he moved from one upper berth to another towards the door but the flames frustrated his first attempt to jump out. He returned and after some time made a desperate attempt and was able to reach the door where a passenger whom he had earlier seen in the train dragged him outside. He fell unconscious and was given water and sugar by a lady who was managing the passengers belonging to Ahmedabad. Though he felt dizzy he received no burn injuries except that his hair were partly burnt. His father and uncle were burnt alive in the same coach. 

PASSENGERS TRAVELLING IN SABARMATI EXPRESS ON 27.02.02 IN COACHES OTHER THAN S-6 

Shakuntla (name changed because of security reasons) narrates a story similar to that of Kamala and Raghu except that she was traveling in Coach S-7 and she was looking after a group of pilgrims from Ahmedabad. She got down at Godhra Railway Station and saw many pilgrims bidding each other Jai Ram ji ki as the first greeting in the morning. Some passengers took tea and one of the vendors angrily asked them not to make a noise. The pilgrims did not respond and got into the train as it had started moving. As some lady passengers were not able to board, the train stopped for a few moments and again steamed-off when the left-out passengers boarded. Along with the stones a burning missile landed in S-7 in which she was traveling but the fire was put out without much effort. After some time the train again stopped with a great jerk and shouts of maro-maro came from outside. She could not tell the approximate number of persons in the mob as all the windows were closed. Some one using a mike was inciting the mob to kill and loot the kafirs and the enemies of Bin laden.. Through a slit in the window she saw a part of the mob with iron rods and swords.  

There was tension and suspense in the compartment No one knew what was happening or what would happen to him or her the next moment. After some time both the shouts of the crowd and the voice on the mike stopped. Shakuntla along with some other passengers got out and saw S-6 in flames. There were some injured and perplexed passengers outside. The mob had withdrawn a few hundred yards away. The fire engine arrived and the fire was put off. The mob kept throwing stones at the train from a distance. A few policemen were also there but they did nothing to protect the passengers. More and more passengers assembled near the burning coach and urged the police to take action against the miscreants but the police did nothing. Crying and shouting Shakuntla took out her bangles and offered them to the two policemen with rifles. The policemen fired a few shots in the air. That did not deter the mob. 

When more police came and the fire was put out several passengers along with some policemen chased the attackers. Some persons told the police that the attackers had taken shelter in a nearby garage. The police hesitated to enter the garage. When the policemen on duty did not take any action, some passengers and locals entered the garage. But it was too late as the miscreants had by then escaped from another door on the other side of the garage. Shkuntla helped the authorities to identify some of the bodies and returned to Ahmedabad by the same train.  

STAFF OF THE FIRE BRIGADE, GODHRA 

Shri Pradeep Singh s/o Shri Bhola Singh, Motor Driver, Fire brigade, Godhra & Shri Vijay Kumar s/o Shri Ram Chander Sharma, Fireman, Fire Brigade, Godhra (names mentioned with the consent of the witnesses) said they reported for their shift duty at 0800hrs on 27.02.02. One of the major vehicles was out of order, as its clutch-plates had been taken out a few days earlier. On their arrival on 27.02.02 in their office they found that one of the nuts that connects the pipe to the water tank of the other fire engine was also missing. By the time they had put the nut in place a message about the fire in the train was received.  

The Driver along with the firemen rushed towards the spot but on the way a mob led by Haji Balal, a Congress member of the Godra Nagarpalika, stopped the vehicle and did not allow it to proceed any further. A tall well built young man stood in front of the vehicle. The mob started pelted stones at the vehicle. A fireman sitting in the front seat had to take shelter behind the driver. The headlights and the windowpanes of the vehicle got damaged. Fearing for his own and his crew’s life the driver drove the vehicle through the mob, as it was not possible to move backwards. The mob gave in but by that time precious 15-20 minutes had been lost.  

The vehicle reached at the site and crew saw one of the compartments blazing. The fire was brought under control in about half an hour. Fireman Vijay Singh reported that he saw one woman trying to come out. He covered himself with a blanket and tried twice to reach the lady but the flames were too hot and high and he could not enter the coach. He is deeply disappointed and said some lives could have been saved if the miscreants had not delayed the arrival of the fire engine. Both the witnesses stated that they were sure that the acts of demobilizing one of the vehicles and removing the nut of the connection of the pipe with the water tank were premeditated and the Congress member of Ghodhra Nagarpalika, Haji Balal, who is also chairman of the Vehicle Committee of the Nagarpalika, had hatched the conspiracy. Haji Balal had been visiting the fire station at night for the past few days on the pretext of watching films on the television. They also stated that had the train reached during the night, the entire train would have been burnt. Both the witnesses also said that the manner in which the bodies were charred and the furniture and luggage burnt indicates the use of some highly inflammable material like solvent in addition to petrol, diesel and kerosene.  

The fire-crew informed the team that although they had reported the damage to the vehicle to their seniors no formal complaint had been registered. They also reported having received a threatening call warning them not to give statements about the obstruction to the fire engine by a crowd on 27.02.02. As the fire station has a call identification system, they know who made the threatening call   

The Study Team also inspected the Coach S-6. There was no evidence of any stove in the compartment. Although the Team was surprised to find two plastic jerrycans that have been referred to in the report submitted by a team of CPI (M). Wonder of wonders is that while the entire coach got burnt roasting alive the passengers, two plastic jerrycans remained intact. It seems to be a deliberate attempt to plant evidence that is a very serious offence. 

OTHERS WHO WERE WITNESS TO LATER PART OF THE INCIDENT 

It is natural that when an incident of such a gravity happens many citizens gather at and near the place of incident. While visiting the affected areas and the relief camps the team members kept on searching for the persons who had been the witness to at least some part of the incident. Three such persons could be contacted and interviewed. All of them reported of the inability of the police to take action against the mob. The firing in the air was reluctant and no one saw firing of teargas shells or use of lathies as claimed by the police.  

                   REPORTS IN LOCAL, REGIONAL AND DELHI MEDIA 

The Study Team went carefully through the reports of the gory incidents published in 22 newspapers and 9 newsmagazines. There is so much variance in the reporting of the events in these publications that it is impossible to draw out a cohesive and acceptable chain of events. The reports vary from an accusation that the fire was stage-managed in order to malign the Muslim minority to an assertion that all Muslim passengers were asked to get down before Godhra by the conspirators. Since the team had reasonably credible evidence from direct witnesses it decided not to analyze the media reports for reconstruction of the chronology of events.  

GODHRA INCIDENT- ANALYSED

FACTS AND INFERENCES

There has been so much said, written and broadcast about the Godhra incident that it is difficult to distinguish between facts, half-truths, innocent imagination and motivated lies. Media and interested parties have selected, distorted and added fiction to the story to prove their respective points of view.

Unfortunately, professionalism took a back seat as media persons, fact-finding commissions and administrators, by and large, failed to maintain the fairness, neutrality and objectivity expected from them. To engage in a dispassionate analysis the Study Team has divided all the facts relating to this incident into four categories: 

       1.Indisputable facts. 

       2. Facts that appear to be true but need verification. 

       3. Information that appears to be untrue. 

       4.Mysteries.

 

INDISPUTABLE FACTS 

       1.On 27.02.02 Sabarmati Express from Faizabad reached Godhra more than four hours late.  

       2.There were more than 2000 Hindu pilgrims on this train. 

       3.No serious dispute took place at the platform at Godhra between the passengers and the  vendors. 

       4.The entire train was stoned right after it left the platform at Godhra and it continued even after it was stopped at Signal Faliya. 

       5.Firebombs, acid bulbs and highly inflammable liquid(s) were used to set the coaches on fire  that must have been stored already for the purpose.  

       6.Miscreants succeeded in torching only one coach.

       7.The conspirators did not allow the fire fighting staff to reach the burning train expeditiously.  

       8.The iron grills of the windows of S-6 were broken and bent from outside. 

       9.Fifty-eight passengers of coach S-6 were burnt to death by a Muslim mob and that one of the conspirators was a Congress Councillor, Haji Balal. 

      10.The train was stopped by pulling the chain and the vacuum pipe was cut. 

      11.Someone used the public address system exhorting the mob to kill kafirs and enemies of Bin  Laden.  

      12.Assembly of a mob of about 2000 Muslims in three minutes could not have been           spontaneous. 

      13.The attack on Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 was pre-planned and pre-meditated. It was the  result of a criminal conspiracy hatched by a hostile foreign power with the help of local  jehadis. 

                             FACTS THAT NEED VERIFICATION 

       1.There was a conspiracy to reduce the effectiveness of the fire fighting system of             Godhra    municipal committee. 

       2.The mob that burnt the coach had Muslims from outside the town as well. 

       3.Firearms were used by the mob. 

       4.Police could have caught or killed some of the miscreants at the spot. 

       5.Local politicians and elected representatives took active part in instigating the mob. 

       6.Railway Police at Dahod sent a message to Godhra Railway police that some Muslim youths   on board Sabarmati Express were likely to create mischief at Godhra. 

       7.Head of a passenger of S-6 coach was cut when he tried to get out of the window. The head was later thrown back into the coach to burn. 

   

                      INFORMATION THAT APPEARS TO BE UNTRUE 

       1.Some women passengers are missing. 

       2.Some women passengers were raped or molested. 

       3.Passengers had pulled the beard of a vendor at Godhra Railway Station. 

       4.Passengers carried weapons with them. 

       5.Railway staff connived with the miscreants. 

       6.The pilgrims had taunted certain Muslims of Godhra while returning from Ayodhya. 

       7.Police firing while they were burning the coach killed two Muslims.

 

                                      SOME MYSTERIES 

       1.Assistant Collector, Godhra (a young Muslim from eastern UP) goes on leave two days before the incident and does not return till the middle of the March while the district of his  posting was aflame with communal riots.  

       2.The unusual growth rate of Muslim population in Godhra. 

       3.Absence of information with the District officials about the number of arms licenses issued.

       4.Abnormally large number of passports issued to the residents of Godhra. 

       5.Presence of a very large number of persons without ration cards in Signal Faliya and Polan Bazar areas of Godhra.  

       6.A large number of unemployed Muslims in Godhra have mobile phones. 

       7.Very high traffic of telephone calls from Godhra to Pakistan (mainly Karachi) before    27.02.02.  

          8. Holding of ‘istema’ – religious gatherings – at Godhra that were attended by foreigners in large numbers.                 

 

COMMUNAL RIOTS IN GUJARAT
AFTER 27.02.02 

BOTH SPONTANEOUS AND PLANNED BUT A TRAP OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

The news of the events of 27.02.02 at Godhra at about 0800 hrs spread like wild fire all over the country by the afternoon. The television media, which has the advantage of instantaneous reporting, played its role in disseminating the information about this carnage. Nothing happened for almost twenty-four hours, though the situation was said to be very tense. Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave a call for statewide bandh to protest against the Godhra carnage. Communal violence erupted almost simultaneously on 28.02.02 in many parts of the state when the charred bodies, the injured and the passengers travelling in the ill-fated train reached their homes. It became more intense during next twenty-four hours and started subsiding after that. After 01.03.02 there were only stray incidents of communal violence in certain parts of the state. 

On 15.03.02, after shila daan ceremony at Ayodhya by Ramchandra Paramhans, processions of Ram dhun were taken out all over Gujarat. The participation on these occasions was very large in Gujarat, presumably as a reaction of what had happened in Godhra. The Ram dhun processions at many places including Ahemdabad and Vadodra became the points of communal tensions once again and the communal tension that was subsiding again flared up. Although the Muslim elders had assured the police at Vadodra that peace would be maintained at all costs, the processions were stoned from a mosque.

The intensity of the attack proves that these were pre-meditated. The attack was so massive that the police had a tough time handling it. The state once again came under the grip of communal riots. The rioting was very intense for about three days. Sectarian violence, however, continued in several parts of the state even three days after the attack on Hindu procession at Vadodra.  

Incidents of violence on a large scale were initially reported from Ahmedabad and Vadodara towns and the districts of Panchmahals, Sabarkantha and Mehsana. Later it spread to other areas also. However the communal violence was mainly confined to Central and North Gujarat. Saurashtra and South Gujarat remained relatively peaceful. There was no communal violence in almost one half of Gujarat. The team was told that when the charred bodies of the dead reached their families or the news of their killings reached the relatives, friends and neighbors attacked the nearby Muslim establishments. Similar incidents took place when chautha and kriya ceremonies of the dead were solemnised.  

Gujarat has a long history of communal riots. The first such riot has been reported in 1714. After independence major riots broke out on several occasions since 1969. Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry of 1969 and Dave Commission of Inquiry of 1985 analysed the causes and consequences of communal tensions in great details. Serious rioting occurred in 1970 and also in 1992-93. According to official data, Gujarat witnessed 443 major communal incidents between 1970 and 2002. Another characteristic of the communal frenzy in Gujarat is that it has always taken a long time to return to normalcy. For instance in Godhra itself in 1985 curfew remained imposed for about a year. Communal disturbance in 1985 continued for more than five months from February to July 1985.  

The Study team has not gone into the facts and figures of the number of persons killed, injured and displaced, the loss of property destroyed and the number of cases related to molestation of women, if any. It is not because these facts are not important but because the team lacked the time and resources to go into these details. However the Study Team has analysed the situation for:  

       1.Administrative response 

       2.Deployment of Army 

       3.Relief and resettlement measures 

       4.Confidence building measures 

       5.Socio-economic profile of the rioting mobs 

       6.Involvement of vanvasis 

       7.Role of media 

                               ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSE 

Based on the information collected from official and non-official sources at Godhra, Ahemdabad and Vadodara the Study Team is of the considered opinion that: 

       1.The local administration did not respond with speed to the Godhra carnage. The police  remained a passive spectator and hesitated to use force against the miscreants. It made no attempt to apprehend the leaders of the mob that indulged in burning alive innocent pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. However, the administration took preventive measures after the VHP gave a call for Gujarat bandh in protest against the attack on the train.

 

       2.In Godhra, Vadodara and Ahmedabad the police tried to control the rioting mobs but, more Often than not, failed, as the police were outnumbered- the mobs were unexpectedly large   and the police were inadequately armed. In certain cases, the mob carried more lethal    weapons that the police had. 

       3.The administration was not prepared to handle massive migration of riot affected people of both the communities and did not have any idea of the quantum of the relief and  rehabilitation work required. 

       4.Co-ordination between the administration and the NGOs was inadequate. 

       5.Training and drills for managing communal tensions was conspicuous by its absence in a state  that periodically witnesses communal frenzy. 

       6.Socio-psychological understanding of the communal divide is lacking amongst the officials. 

       7.The adverse comments on the transfers of officials in the media and not so much the actual transfers demotivated the official machinery. 

       8.At many places policemen did commendable work of protecting life and property. 

       9.Policemen, by and large, responded to the situation without communal bias. 

DEPLOYMENT OF ARMY 

There has been lot of comments on the timing of the deployment of army in various urban and rural areas in Gujarat after the outbreak of violence. Although the team did not have enough time to go into the question in depth, the information made available to it shows that there was no delay on the part of the Gujarat Government in summoning and deployment of troops. A comparison with the past is presented for a proper perspective.

       1.By the afternoon of 28.02.02 it was clear that the communal violence has spread widely and   the situation had become so alarming that it was unlikely to be controlled by the police and paramilitary forces. 

       2.On 28.02.02 at 4.30 p.m. the Chief Minister announced at a press conference that the State  Government has decided to call army to assist the civil administration. 

       3.By evening the Union Government had given instructions for the deployment of two brigades in Gujarat. 

       4.Defense Minister air dashed to Ahmedabad at midnight and had a meeting with the Chief  Minister to discuss deployment of the army 

       5.The army had to be withdrawn from the country’s border with Pakistan despite the fact that the troops are deployed in full strength in eye-ball-to-eye-ball situation on Indo-Pak   borders. 

       6.Withdrawal of army from the border may have weakened the country’s defensive and  offensive strategies.

       7.Within less than 24 hours at least one brigade of Indian Army had air landed at Ahmedabad. In a meeting at 0800hrs in which Chief Minister, Defence Minister, army generals and civil  officers participated the formal plan for the deployment of the army was approved. Magistrates who must accompany the army were appointed and by 11a.m. on 01.03.02 the  actual deployment of army at sensitive points had begun. 

       8.The second brigade was deputed to Rajkot and Vadodara on 01.03.02 by that night.

       9.Columns allotted to Godhra reached there in the morning of 02.03.02. 

      10.Army went back to barracks on 10.03.02. 

      11.In 1969 rioting started on 18.09.69 and army was called in on 21.09.69. 

      12.In 1985 the riots started on 15.04.85 and the army was called in on 16.04.85. 

RELIEF AND REHABILITATION MEASURES 

       1.Many persons of both the communities whose houses were burnt or destroyed fled and came  to the nearby towns for shelter. 

       2.Many persons who feared an attack on them also fled and gathered in nearby towns. 

       3.The State Government arranged for shelters called Relief Camps to provide safe temporary shelter to the displaced persons. 

       4.Many voluntary organizations of both the communities also opened Relief Camps for the  displaced persons. 

       5.The Government managed some camps while other camps were run by the voluntary  organizations.

       6.Most of the inhabitants in the camps remained unoccupied, leading to idle talk and further reinforcement of views on communal basis. 

       7.The inhabitants did not feel confident and safe to go back to their respective habitations.

According to the State Government following is the information about the camps: 

District
Number of Camps Number of Inmates
Ahemdabad 44 68100
Anand 13 5200
Dahod 6 4526
Kheda 3 1441
Mahesana 6 2648
Panchmahals 7 8091
Sabarkantha 13 10938
Vadodara 11 12753
State Total 103 113697

 

 

                            CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES

 

        1.In affected areas deployment of police or other forces was very scanty. 

        2.Residents of the sensitive areas were living in an environment of fear. 

        3.The mutual mistrust between Hindu and Muslim population is on the increase. 

        4.Longer the stay in the camps more is the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. 

        5.In affected areas, sensitive areas and relief camps there was no publicity material appealing and  advising for communal harmony and peaceful co-existence  

        6.The Information and Public Relations machinery of the state did not disseminate words of assurance  and appeals by the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and others that are likely to have a soothing effect on the hurt psyche of the people.  

        7.Presence of the reports of arson in newspapers and repetition of such reports on television affected  negatively the process of confidence building. 

        8.Most of the voluntary and social organizations were working on sectarian lines and hardly worked for  creating an environment of communal harmony.

 

        9.Efforts of some of the officials to bring both the communities together and arrive at a compromise  failed, as the amount of antagonism against each other is very high. 

       10.Rumors spread like wild fire increasing the level of anxieties. 

                                               

SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILES OF THE RIOTING MOBS 

(Based on information collected from officials and public, no direct observation)

 

       1.Muslim mobs predominantly included persons of lower socio-economic strata. 

       2.Muslim mobs included many known faces but number of persons not earlier seen in the  locality was also very large. 

       3.Hindu mobs, especially during the first week of March, comprised a mix of people belonging  to lower, lower middle and upper middle socio-economic strata of the society. 

       4.Involvement of upper middle class Hindus in arson and looting is a phenomenon seen for the   first time in the country. 

       5.The Hindu mobs appeared to be more interested in destroying the property of selected establishments of Muslims. It was reported that a chain of restaurants with Hindu names and  owned by a Muslim family was targeted because of the perception that lot of money from  gulf countries had been invested thereby putting Hindu competitors at a disadvantage. 

       6.Another new phenomenon reported to the Study Team was the presence and active          participation of women in the mobs. 

INVOLVEMENT OF TRIBALS 

Earlier in Gujarat, tribals never got involved in the Hindu-Muslim riots. However, their involvement in post Godhra riots added a new dimension to the communal violence. In rural areas the vanvasis attacked the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and the forest contractors. They used their traditional bow and arrows as also their implements used to cut the trees and grass while attacking Muslims. They moved in groups and used coded signals for communication. Two factors seems to have contributed to this disturbing phenomenon:

 

       1. A delegation of tribals told the Study team that the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and forest contractors have been exploiting the tribals for decades. They charged exorbitant rate of interest to money loaned to tribals. In certain cases the rate of interest is as high as 50 per  cent per year. Having got into this never-ending vicious circle of loans, the tribals have been reduced to the status of bounded labour. Tribals working as servants are ill-treated by these  money lenders who happen to be Muslims. The accumulated anger of years of exploitation  became explosive when moneylenders sexually exploited their womenfolk. The tribals are no longer allowed to use forest produce that has been their sustenance for centuries. This too fuelled the feelings of anger, hatred and revenge among them.

      2 . Tribals have, of late, become conscious of their Hindu identity because of the awareness campaign launched by VHP and other Hindu outfits. Burning alive of Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob at Godhra provided the spark for the fire of revenge and hatred.

It may be mentioned that these are only exploratory postulations, scientific anthropological, economic and sociological analysis is required to understand the changed behavior of tribals.

 

ROLE OF MEDIA 

The Study Team received a large number of complaints against ‘biased reporting’, ‘non-objective attitude’ and ‘anti Gujarat cospiracy’of Delhi Media. The team felt it necessary to objectively observe and analyse the role of Media both regional and English language newspapers published from metropolitan cities. It also solicited comments about the role of media from about 500 persons with whom the members of the team interacted. The team’s observations are: 

       1.Local and regional papers at times seemed to be emotionally surcharged and lost sight of  objectivity. However, Gujrati newspapers, by and large, were factual in day to day reporting. 

       2.The editorial pages of local and regional newspapers maintained a balance in projecting all  viewpoints.

       3.Newspapers published in English from Delhi invariably editorialized the news. Direct and  indirect comments in the news writing were so telling that the personal likes and dislikes of  the news reporters were too obvious to be missed.

       4.English language newspapers published from Delhi appeared to have assumed the role of crusaders against the State Government from day one. It coloured the entire operation of  news gathering, feature writing and editorials.

       5.The edit pages of English language press carried comments that clearly indicated biases:   a).against the State Government of Gujarat,

            b. in favor of Congress, leftist parties and the secularist intellectuals,

            c. indifferent to the carnage at Godhra,

            d. against the Hindu organizations, and

             e. against the NDA government at the Center.

       6.Most of the national newspapers and news channels played down the intensity of Godhra carnage and projected it as a result of provocation by pilgrims. Not many reporters were  deputed to dig out facts or to do follow-up stories. This resulted in large number of editorials and articles that projected Godhra as a reaction to provocation by ‘karsevaks’  and riots in rest of the state as “state sponsored terrorism”.

       7.A distorted image of sectarian violence in the state was projected by the electornic and print  media based in Delhi.

       8.Repeated telecasts of arson and violence contributed in spreading the tension to unaffected areas. TV channels ignored warning from officials and kept telecasting communal riots like  infotainment.

       9.Coverage of Machhipiti in Vadodara is an example. One national news channel went overboard to telecast police firing at Machhipit as if it had taken place in Ahmedabad.

      10.On 27.02.02 the Government of Gujarat announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh for the next of kin of victims of Godhra carnage. There were protests about discrimination between Hindu and Muslim victims and the Government announced on March 9 that all victims would  get Rs one lakh. Yet, as late as the first week of April a Congressperson in USA cited a report in an Indian newspaper to accuse the Government of discriminating against minorities In the grant of compensation. The newspaper concerned did not care to inform its readers of  the correct situation.

 

      11.The code of ethics prescribed by the Press Council of India was violated by the media with impunity. It so enraged the citizens that several concerned citizens in the disturbed areas suggested that peace could return to the state only if some of the TV channels were closed  for some weeks.

      12.Media did not help to cool down the tempers. It failed to act as a platform for a dialogue between the Hindus and Muslims on the one hand and between the people and the establishment on the other.

The Study Team is of the considered opinion that the media in general failed to perform as conscious and socially responsible gatekeepers of information. It followed in the footsteps of an American journalist who said, ” My job is to report the facts. I give a damn to the consequences”. Telecasting images that spread hatred and instigated violence is unhealthy, but their repeated telecast is lethal. The media acted as an interested party in the confrontation, not a neutral reporter of facts. The team was alarmed at the intensity of hostile attitude among the people of the state for Delhi press and television news channels. This attitude was especially articulated by delegations of intellectuals like lawyers, doctors, and businessmen. Even the tribals complained that the media had no time to hear their tale of their agony and was spreading canards against the Hindus.

 

CONCLUSIONS
TERRORISM NURTURED BY COMMUNAL DISHARMONY

 

The Godhra carnage and related incidents make a typical case study of international designs and conspiracies to weaken India as an emerging world power. Analysts and professional strategists of all ideological inclinations converge on one forecast that India is going to be a major player on the international scene sooner rather than later. The global community also realizes the inevitability of India becoming an important economic and military power. In such a situation it is but natural that nations hostile to India or its adversaries make all out efforts to create impediments in this process. Their strategy is to keep India engaged in communal and caste strife so that the nation’s focus on development is defused and its endeavour to emerge as a super-power is thwarted. It would surprise no one if Pakistan with the tacit support of not-so-friendly neighbours and world powers hatches conspiracies to destablise and weaken the Indian State.

A careful and in-depth analysis, if carried out with an open mind, would throw open an action plans where terrorist activities appear to be merging with the already existing strong antagonism between Muslims and Hindus. Our hostile neighbour, sometimes in the guise of a friend, keeps on creating wounds on the body polity of our nation. Creation and perpetuation of Kashmir problem is one such example. The support to the authoritarian regimes in Pakistan by USA and European countries speaks volumes about the super power’s commitment, or lack of it, to democratic values. Godhra and the wide spread communal violence in Gujarat in recent weeks is a part of this nefarious design.

The Study Team concludes:

       1.Burning of 58 Hindu pilgrims at Godhra on 27.02.02 was an act of international terrorism carried out with the evil objective of pushing the country into a communal cauldron.  

       2.The plan was to burn the entire train with more than two thousand passengers in the wee  hours of February 27, 2002. It was a terrorist action plan that partly failed. The perpetrators of the terrorist acts received support from jehadi elements operating from Godhra. These included some Congress members of the Nagarpalika.

       1.Preparations for enacting Godhra carnage were made  in advance.

       2.There were no quarrels or fights between Hindus and Muslim passengers on the train.

       3.There were no quarrels or fights between the vendors and the Hindu pilgrims on the platform of Godhra Railway Station.

       4.The intention of the mob was to put to death all the pilgrims travelling by the Sabharmati Express.

       5.The fire fighting system available in Godhra was weakened and its arrival at the place of  incident willfully delayed by the mob with the open participation of a Congress Councillor,  Haji Balal.

       6.The demographic changes in Godhra in recent years have made it a center for jehadi  activities.

       7.The Army was requisitioned and deployed in time.

       8.The police was on many occasions overwhelmed by the rioting mobs that were massive and   carried more lethal weapons than the police did.

       9.Police did not have the training and know-how to mange situations of communal strife  witnessed in the state in recent weeks.

 

      10.Barring a few exceptions, the police was not found to be communally motivated.

      11.Frequent deployment of army for internal management weakens the defence of our

international borders and facilitates infiltration from across the border.

      12. The local administration and police at Godhra did not take adequate and prompt action even after the receipt of information about the attack on the train by an armed mob. The local  police was reluctant to use force against the rioting mob and made no attempt to arrest the leaders of the gang.

      13.The local administration and the police should have been on the alert in view of the  demographic and political changes taking place in the town.

        15.The administration in Godhra, Ahmedabad and Vadodra was on the whole sensitized to the plight of Muslim minorities in their respective areas. However, the police failed to protect the citizens from frenzied mobs indulging in arson, looting and killing.

          16. The relief work was carried out by establishing relief  camps for victims of the riots. There are separate camps for Hindus and Muslims. Refugees  are not satisfied with the facilities available in the camps.

          17. Riot-affected citizens belonging to both the communities are reluctant to go back to their  homes due to communal tension and apprehensions about violence.

          18. Although Gujarat is a state notorious for communal riots, the bureaucracy and the police are not trained to handle communal riots and to take pre-emptive action to prevent sectarian  violence.

          19. Alternate strategies to mange communal divide have not been worked out.

          20. Adverse media reports about role of officials affected their performance and de-motivated them. Several officers were reluctant to take firm action.

          21.Gujarati language media was factual and objective. Yet its propensity to highlight the gory  incidents in great details heightened communal tension.

          22.English language media, particularly the Delhi Press, is perceived by the Gujaratis to be biased. The information disseminated by it was neither balanced nor impartial. 

          23.By converting half-baked news stories into major headlines, print as well as electronic media widened the psychological hiatus between Muslims and   Hindus. 

          24.By disseminating half-truths and lies, the media played no mean role in distorting  country’s image in the World. 

          25. The credibility of the media – both electronic and print – is at dangerously  low ebb in Gujarat. 

The sectarian violence in Gujarat that began in Godhra on 27.02.02 can be divided into four phases:

       1.The first phase was Godhra incident which was planned and executed by a combination of external and internal jehadi forces. It lasted for less than an hour. 

       2.The second phase was the reaction of Godhra where Hindu pilgrims were roasted alive in the train. The backlash was very intense for 3-4 days. However, sporadic incidents continued for   several weeks.

      3. The third phase began on 15.03.02 after a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu procession Chanting Ram dhun. Extensive media coverage of this attack provoked yet another  round of communal riots that lasted for 4/5 days. 

4. Sectarian violence continues even more than a month after Godhra. This fourth phase of violence has no provocation or justification other than to sustain the “Remove Modi” campaign. It is the constitutional duty of the State Government to protect citizens and maintain law and order. It is also in the partisan interest of the ruling party in the state to put an end to the communal violence as its continuity in office depends on how soon and how effectively it combats violence. It is, therefore, hard to reject Chief Minister’s contention that the Congress party that has a vested interest in getting him sacked is perpetuating the communal violence by provoking stray incidents.

 

Thus the Study Team concludes:

 

          26.Communal violence in Gujarat has become politicized, and instead of treating it as human tragedy it is being used to  get political mileage by political parties. 

          27.Loaded statements made by political leaders propounding  their action plans increases the hiatus between Muslims and Hindus. 

          28.Continued communal violence in Gujarat has tarnished the image of the country in  international field thereby reducing its status and bargaining power. Western countries jealous of India’s growing clout in the international community have used the riots to interfere  in our internal affairs. The Centre has taken some steps to stem the rot but the role of the   opposition is negative. It is encouraging Muslim outfits to involve foreign powers in their  “oust Mody” campaign. 

29.On the world canvass today strong indicators are visible that point to a concerted effort by jehadi forces to slow down ever-increasing importance of India in the world   affairs. 

30.There are also concerted efforts to disintegrate India, Politically as well as emotionally. 

31.There are elements within the country that help and collaborate with the forces inimical to India. 

32.The governing class in India is ignorant or willfully blind to the threat perceptions posed by the jehadi forces.                                        

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

ALTERNATE PLAN OF THOUGHT AND ACTION

 India cannot escape taking the responsibility of failure to manage the relationship between Hindus and Muslims just by pleading that the problem was inherited from the colonial rulers and the Muslim invaders. Fifty-five years is a long enough period to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, no serious effort has been made to bring Hindus and Muslims closer. On the other hand, certain parties for partisan considerations have exploited the hiatus between the two communities. External agencies fuel the fire of hatred but they succeed only because there are weaknesses within the country. International designs find a ready response from within the civil society as there is a fertile ground for separatist tendencies to grow. 

Traditional methods of conflict resolution having failed, new systems need to be employed to convert communal mistrust into national affection and brotherhood. New approaches are required to convert the weaknesses into strength. A minority as large as the second largest Muslim country should not feel alienated nor should the majority community be made to feel that the minorities were appeased at its cost. The amount of time, energy, effort and other resources that the country spends for managing the communal conflicts and failing again and again, if gets diverted to the process of growth and development, India can become a land of plenty and prosperity. But the old problems must be seen from new angles and unorthodox measures taken.

The intelligentsia will have to come up with new yet realistic principles and theories of social systems that are based on ground realities. They must stop romanticizing the miseries of the nation. The bureaucracy have to devise action plans that show results within their lifetimes and ce ase to giveextensions to the problem solving systems. The politicians have to look for alternate means of winning elections and stop treating citizens as mere voters to be used only as pawns in the hands of politicians. 

The nation must accept that Hindus and Muslims have no options but to live together. There are only two options. One, to live in amity and the other to live in mutual hostility. Saner elements in the two communities would prefer the first option. Every action and situation that carries the potential of disturbing the mutual amity have to be identified and weeded out. The problem is complex and multifaceted and solution is bound to be difficult and elusive. But the country has a large storehouse of brains that can find solutions to still harder problems. New faces have to be entrusted this job. So a different set of persons who look at the problems from new angles and propose a mix of curative and preventive measures is the need of the hour. 

In view of the enormity of the cancerous problem of communal conflicts and the field experience of recent happenings in Gujarat the Study Team proposes to recommend 

             a.long term measures 

            b.short term measures and 

           c. immediate steps to be taken 

LONG TERM MEASURES 

               1. Following groups be constituted to study the problems of communal conflicts in the  country: 

             c.Diagnostic Team: to investigate the genesis of the process of communal conflict and   identify key problem areas 

            d.Curative Team: to determine the solutions for the problems identified by the diagnostic  team 

             e.Preemptive Action Team: to prepare action plans so that existing tensions do not flare  up and also to ensure that no new conflict situations arise. 

The teams should comprise of social scientists, conflict managers, jurists and media persons. 

2. Participation in the acts of communal violence should be treated as a crime of as serious nature as an act of terrorism. In no case, communal violence should be allowed to become a lucrative vocation.  

3. Deployment of army for internal law and order should be confined to the situation of internal emergency. The enemies of the country should not be allowed to use communal violence as a strategy for withdrawal of army from the border. 

4. In the states, police forces on the lines of rapid action force be created for deployment during riots and natural disasters. 

5. Election laws need to be amended so that the politicians are not able to use caste or religion for nurturing votes banks. Once the politicians are aware that vote banks based on caste or religion would not serve their purpose, a major portion of the communal problem will disappear.  

6. A citizens standing committee be constituted to keep a watch on the communal situation so that if and when communal tension in any part of the country tends to increase the administration is warned to take preventive measures. Such committees need to be constituted at State, District, Block and Village levels. 

 SHORT TERM MEASURES 

7. Several laws and orders passed by the successive governments have remained on paper only. Two such laws are directly related with maintenance of communal peace: 

             a.The order to ban the use of loud speakers in religious  places as well as in processions. 

            b.the law to regulate the sale of property by the members of one community to the other in communally sensitive areas.

               It is recommended that the above orders should be implemented and indirect sale deeds such as on power of attorney should also be taken care of. All encroachments in  important public places, busy markets, religious places, near railway stations and bus               stations as well as on highways especially at the entry points to the cities should be                cleared.

               8. It is recommended that the orders for the ban of loud speakers be put to practice  with the cooperation with the leaders of various communities. 

               9. An inquiry commission should be set up to inquire into: 

             c.Economic and social exploitation of tribals in the state. 

            d.Recommend ways and means to stop their exploitation 

10. Rehabilitation is not merely a physical act of placement of families. Serious efforts need to be done to restore the emotional state of mind. The village and mohalla majorities should be intimately involved in the work of rehabilitation. 

11. Gujarat must conduct a review of its police force, which appears to be ill equipped to handle communal violence at the level of recent riots. Special training needs to be given in ‘crowd control’ methods. 

IMMEDEATE STEPS TO BE TAKEN 

12. The case of issuance of disproportionate number of passports in Godhra be investigated. 

13. Punitive fines be imposed on the residents of localities where communal violence erupts after a notified date.  

14. Media should use itself as a platform for creating harmonious relationships between different communities. Its crusade, if at all, should be for or against the processes and not for or against individuals.

15.Persons living in relief camps should be provided safe habitations. Community leaders should be actively involved in managing the rehabilitation. 

16. Persons booked for communal violence must be prosecuted quickly and given exemplary punishment so that it acts as a deterrent. 

17. An independent commission should examine the role of media, both electronic and print, during the communal violence in Gujarat. 

18. A code-of-conduct should be developed for the media both for general news gathering and news presentation and during the communal riots. Till the time new code is adopted the guidelines given by the Press Council of India for covering communal tensions should be followed. 

19. Television news channels have very significant influence on the minds of the viewers. If the channels so desire they can provide a healing touch to the wounded population of Gujarat. Indian news channels also have the professional talent required for the job. It is suggested that the television news channels take the roles of crusaders for peace. 

20. A situation of continuous dialogue needs to be created in every habitation in Gujarat by establishing citizens’ peace committees. It has been proved that regular communication links reduces antagonism between warring groups. 

October 8, 2007

Are Brahmins Dalits of today?

Filed under: Uncategorized — truecongresspolitics @ 11:23 pm

Are Brahmins Dalits of today?
Francois Gautier, (The writer is a renowned French journalist and author, residing in India for several years), Manuj Features.
“The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes.” At a time when the Congress government wants to raise the quota for Other Backward Classes to 49.5 per cent in private and public sectors, nobody talks about the plight of the upper castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is that of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today? There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; all of them are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). A far cry from the elitist image that Brahmins have! There are five to six Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya.
They came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 per cent to 65 per cent). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them secure jobs in villages. Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins working as coolies at Delhi’s railway stations? One of them, Kripa Shankar Sharma, says while his daughter is doing her Bachelors in Science he is not sure if she will secure a job. “Dalits often have five to six kids, but they are confident of placing them easily and well,” he says. As a result, the Dalit population is increasing in villages. He adds: “Dalits are provided with housing, even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for gaushalas (cowsheds) for the cows of the Brahmins.” You also find Brahmin rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50 per cent of Patel Nagar’s rickshaw pullers are Brahmins who like their brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs for lack of employment opportunities and poor education in their villages. Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able to make both ends meet. These men make about Rs 100 to Rs 150 on an average every day from which they pay a daily rent of Rs 25 for their rickshaws and Rs 500 to Rs 600 towards the rent of their rooms which is shared by 3 to 4 people or their families. Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are Brahmins? This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics.
Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out of 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins –the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs. 400,000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them? Their vote bank is negligible. And this is not limited to the North alone. 75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins.
A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) reveals that today all purohits live below the poverty line. Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the ‘backward classes’ prevented them from providing secular education to their children. In fact, according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. With the average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5 to 18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level. The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line–below a per capita income of Rs 650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure! There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and Brahmins Rs 537. Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions.
Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well. According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants.
The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent. Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department of Endowments statistics). Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival! There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected. At Tamil Nadu’s Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest’s monthly salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice.
The government staff at the same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests’ reputation as ‘haves’ and as ‘exploiters.’ The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy. The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed in on it after Independence, but probably no other government than Sonia Gandhi’s has gone so far in dividing Indian society for garnering votes. The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as Haj subsidies!
But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking control of their majority. Anti-Brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism. So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today?

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