Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Asians united against religious violence

WHITEHALL demonstration, backed by Awaaz united people against nuclear sabre-rattling between Indian and Pakistani governments.

USED to confronting racism together in Britain, and with experience of standing up to conservative and reactionary elements in their own communities, some Asians have come together in South Asia Watch-Awaaz, to oppose any import of divisions here, and back those opposing war and sectarian violence in the Indian sub-continent.

AWAAZ was involved in organising the demonstration against nuclear war threats between India and Pakistan a few years ago, and in the campaign which forced Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, accused of responsibility for carnage in that province, to cancel his visit to Britain last year.

Kashmir, divided between a large Indian-occupied status and small Pakistan-held portion, was the area worst hit by earthquakes last year. When barriers were temporarily downed for the emergency people surged across shouting "Zindabad Kashmir!" But this popular desire for national freedom should not be confused with by the wish of some Pakistan-based armed groups to wage sectarian war against non-Muslim minorities, so they can replace one oppressor by another. As though the suffering caused by the earthquake was not enough, these groups have seen the danger of Kashmiri people uniting in adversity, and hastened to resume their sectarian attacks.

In Gujarat there has been a resumption of Hindu supremacist mob attacks on Muslims, evidently with the connivance of police and state authorities.

AWAAZ has issued the following statement about violence in Kashmir and Gujarat.

Email: contact@awaazsaw.org

Awaaz Condemns Extremist Hindu and Muslim Violence
in Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir

Thirty-five people have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir and several more have died in Gujarat in sectarian attacks and communal violence over the last ten days. Awaaz condemns the perpetrators of the violence against Muslims in Gujarat and Hindus in Kashmir, and urges the Indian authorities to take immediate preventive action to protect citizens and prosecute the perpetrators.


In the city of Vadodara, Muslims are living in a state of fear and siege being deliberately targeted and attacked by Hindu supremacists over the past week

The recent violence in the state follows the horrific communal attacks in the state in 2002, which left around 2,000 people - mainly Muslims - dead.

During the recent riots, as in 2002, the state police have been standing by, and sometimes encouraging, mobs of Hindu supremacists who have been running rampant, harassing and attacking Muslims and their property. The state government, led by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, appeared to be doing little to bring an end to the attacks.

A 38 year old man Rafik Abdul Ghani Vohra was set upon by a Hindu supremacist mob as he was driving back from work. He was burnt to death in his car. The mob had been collecting on the road during curfew hours in the presence of the police who made no attempt to stop them.

The Times of India reported: "his family complained that police refused to heed their distress calls and even attempt to stop the mobs. Other residents in Muslim-dominated areas said their calls to the police control room were met with the response, "Go to Pakistan for help."

Human rights organizations have reported that the Hindu mobs were often led by members of the Hindu supremacist Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The violence followed the demolition on 1 May of a dargah (a mainly Muslim, but often multi-faith shrine) as part of a municipal drive to demolish structures encroaching on public land. Several Muslims in the city held a demonstration in protest at the demolition.

Police fired on the demonstrators, killing several people. The police say they were provoked, but questions remain over why they shot directly into the crowd instead of using other restraining measures. In further violence, two Hindus were stabbed to death later. At least five people have died during the violence and tensions remain high. Many Muslims fear an escalation of violence against them, as occurred with the active complicity of the Guharat state in 2002.

A court order has now stopped demolitions of structures of religious significance, but Awaaz would like to know what is being done to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.


In the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, as many as thirty five Hindus were rounded up from their homes and killed on April 30 and 1 May in the Doda and Udhampur districts of Jammu and Kashmir. The perpetrators are reported to be violent Kashmiri Muslim groups. Awaaz strongly condemns these acts. In the past fifteen years more than 90 per cent of Kashmiri Hindus who lived in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley have fled their homes for fear of attack and are living as refugees in the lowlands and in India's cities. The government of Pakistan is urged to investigate if groups from within territories it controls are responsible, and to take appropriate action.

Violent attacks by armed Muslim militias against especially Hindu civilians in Doda district have escalated, particularly since 1998. Several armed militia groups, including the Harakat-ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e Tayyiba are strongly implicated or involved. Mass targeted attacks on civilians have occurred in the Kashmir Valley and Jammu. Both these organizations have been fostered or sponsored by sections of the Pakistani state.

We are urging people living in the UK to add their voice to the calls for action. Individuals are organisations can write to:

1. Prime Ministers office, Mr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Telephone: + 91-11-23012312., Fax: + 91-11-23019545 / + 91-11-23016857.
Email address of PM: manmohan@sansad.nic.in, pmosb@pmo.nic.in
2. National Advisory Council, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, Chair, National Advisory Council, + 91 11 23018651 (FAX)
3. Home ministry, Mr. Shivraj Patil, Home Minister of India
Phone: + 91 11 23092011 or 23092161 Fax: 23093750, 23092763
Email address of Home minister: svpatil@sansad.nic.in

For further Information contact:
Awaaz Secretariat on 020 8843 2333 or email at contact@awaazsaw.org

Awaaz: South Asia watch is a UK based South Asian secular network committed to challenging all forms of religious hatred and intolerance.

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