Friday, May 19, 2006

Children's bodies found in Hindu fascist's car

AHMEDABAD BURNING. Mobs in 2002 operated with precision and timing showing a guiding hand - that of the VHP, with connivance from the state, say opponents.

NEWS from the west Indian state of Gujarat took a new sensational and grisly turn yesterday with the discovery of two dead children's bodies in a leading right-wing activist's car in the town of Dabhoi, in Vadodara district. The area has already been the scene of violence following the destruction of Muslim shrines ordered by the authorities. Thousands of Muslims were killed in Gujarat five years ago in pogroms encouraged if not stage-managed by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The children's bodies, showing injuries from burns, were found in a car belonging to Jagdish Pankit, an activist in the right-wing Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), or "World Hindu Council"). The children had been reported missing two days ago. Pankit claimed the car had not been used for months, and said he had no idea how the children's bodies came to be in it. Vadodara was just recovering from riots a fortnight back. Local police said everything was under control, and there had been no new incidents.

The VHP was founded in 1964 as a broader front for the older Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS), which shares roots with Hitler fascism and was banned more than once by Indian governments, accused of fomenting inter-communal violence. The VHP itself includes martial arts and paramilitary training for its youth wing and was accused of involvment in the 2001-2 Gujarat attacks. Its slogan is "Dharmo rakshiti rakshitah", or "By defending what is righteous, you will be protected." Standing for Hindutva (Hindu supremacy), it accused the right-wing BJP government of being too soft, and advocated war with Pakistan.

A team of human rights activists from Delhi and Vadodara which visited the riot areas recently said the violence in Vadodara shouldn't be seen in isolation from the 2001 riots, and accused the authorities of having an agenda to raze structures belonging to a particular community. Holding the city's mayor, municipal commissioner and police responsible, they called for their resignations, and demanded the imposition of Article 355, which authorises central government to intervene if local government fails to uphold the constitution or maintain order.

The recent trouble was sparked when the authorities moved to demolish an old dargah, the shrine of a Sufi saint, claiming it encroached on the road.

''The demolition was not out of the blue. It was a systematic agenda to demolish the cultural sites and heritage buildings of a particular community. The fact that the dargah was present even in the map of 1912 itself shows that it was there even before the road was constructed,'' alleged Hashmi of Anhad, a member of the human rights team.

She added, ''This is an extreme example where the administration, including police officials, has completely surrendered to the Hindutva forces."

The activists said the violence that erupted after the 200-year-old dargah in Champaner Darwaza was razed was an "extension of Hindutva politics''. The politics was being played out by the police, Vadodara Municipal Corporation (VMC) and the State Government against a particular community, and should not be seen in isolation from the 2001 riots . If nothing was done the future would be worse.

The team had visited the home of Mohammed Rafiq Vora who was burnt alive by a mob, and met his family. Hashmi said that though charges had been registered against 12 people no arrests have been made so far.

Times of India,May 15, 2006


Shabnam Hashmi

Three fragile looking women wearing sarees, with their colourful bindis shining in the sun, tugging their children along, were rushing towards Yakutpura. There was a feeling of urgency in their whole mannerism, the way they walked, the way they conversed with each other, the way they carried the flowers, which kept slipping down.

It was the last week of April, 2006. There was enough tension in the atmosphere and any sensible person would have avoided going to that sensitive area. They stopped a few yards away from the Chapaner Gate, near a small light blue structure, which stood on the footpath. They lit candles, offered flowers and tied some threads to the beautiful carved lattice. They sat there with their children for 15-20 minutes, prayed and before leaving requested the 81 year old Sultan Mian Mallik to bless their children.

There was a strange melancholy in their expression, their eyes were wet, when they bid farewell to Sultan Mian. It seemed that they had the premonition that they were leaving never to return again. They could sense that in a few days time bulldozers would ruthlessly turn the beautiful little structure into rubble. The symbol of love and humanity, which had witnessed the city grow, which knew more history than the inhabitants of the area themselves.

The notice to demolish the centuries old Hazrat Rashiduddin Chishti's dargah was left on the mazar about a month ago. Baroda's Mayor Sunil Solanki had declared that if he does not get enough forces, he would demolish the dargah with the help of the bhajpa karyakartas (BJP supporters). Representatives of the Muslim community were meeting the authorities and finding ways to diffuse the tension.

Rashiduddin Chishti is supposed to have come to Baroda during the Babi dynasty, which ruled Baroda till 1732 before the Geakwads. His dargah was perhaps the only space in that area where people from both the communities interacted with each other. All such spaces were like thorns in the eyes of the Sangh Parivar.

Syed Kamaluddin Refai, a soft spoken, learned gentleman, inheritor of the famous Refai Sufi tradition, whose great grandfather was invited by Maharaja Khande Rao Gaekwad (1856-1870) to establish a Sufi shrine in Baroda, was leading the negotiations. He even offered the authorities to move the outer wall by three feet on all the sides and remove the canopy. On May 1, the meeting was again called at 9 am and it continued till about 10.20am.The authorities were adamant.

Refai pleaded with them asking for a month's time, to convince the community and move the dargah to another place. The commissioner got up. Negotiations broken for ever. Almost simultaneously as the delegation came out of the Baroda Municipal Corporation's building the bulldozers reached Yakutpura.
Thirteen BJP municipal counsellors present at the site gave instructions to the Police.

While the police fired indiscriminately, the VHP, Sangh Parivar mobs threw stones at hundreds of people who were sitting on a peaceful dharna, as the last attempt to save the Dargah. The police did not find it necessary to use safer methods to disperse the crowd. Most of the people who refused to see the larger designs during the first few days, fell pray to the official version: 'religious places encroaching the roads are being removed'. The mayor added fuel to the fire by saying that only Muslims are objecting to the removal of their places of worship. The Baroda City survey map of 1921 showing the dargah had no significance for them.

The difference between removing a few years old encroachments and demolishing a centuries' old Dargah, which stood at that spot even before the road came into existence, became blurred. Emboldened by successfully selling their story to the nation, the Sangh planned the next step.Residential colonies were surrounded, well equipped mobs, hurling abuses, shouting slogans, brandishing weapons torched shops, handcarts, homes and factories situated near the 'borders'.

A young man Mohd Rafiq Vora while returning home in his Tata Siera, was surrounded by a mob and burnt alive in his car on Ajwa Road. The first round of burning killed Rafiq and destroyed the car but the tiers were too stubborn. The crowd collected again on the second day and burnt the car again, this time the tiers also turned into ashes. Rafiq's sister crying inconsolably narrated that while her brother was burning, the crowd clapped and danced.

The police crane brought the charred remains of the car and dumped it in front of Rafiq's house in front of us. Rafiq had recently built the Navjeevan Bus Stand with his own money so that passengers who wait for the bus are saved from the scorching heat. Would his killers burn the bus stand too to wipe off his memory from the minds of those who might use the shade?

Mohd Mian Haji Mian Shaikh, Arif Yaseen Khan Pathan, Salim Khan Pathan and Sarfraz while deposing, from their hospital beds, before the Citizen's Fact Finding Team on May 4, 2006 (Fact Finding Team- Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Prasad Chako) narrated similar stories. The policemen asked their names and then fired at them point blank. The VHP cadre can take a back seat now. We have our police to identify, attack, kill and maim minorities. In the middle of all the mayhem and further plans of spreading violence to more areas, there were hundred of phone calls, fax messages from across the world asking the UPA government to take action, activists, national media worked through the night. The UPA Government told Modi in no uncertain terms to stop the violence or face consequences. After a hectic day of meeting hundreds of victims, administration, police, witnessing again the broken stories of people's lives, we started our journey back to Ahmedabad.

Thanks to Awaaz South Asia Watch for keeping us posted on Gujarat. Awaaz, which organised protests to stop Gujarat Chief Minister Modi from coming to Britain, has also denounced sectarian attacks by Muslim extremists in Kashmir.
see also previous blog: Asians United against religious violence,

The Hindu fascists have reached their tentacles out to raise support among Hindu communities in Britain and the United States. I was interested to see that articles by American Zionist and Islamophobe Daniel Pipes, a Harvard professor crusading against opinions he dislikes on the American campus, feature prominently on the VHP website:



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