Violence in the name of religion is not something alien to India. However, the 2002 Gujarat riots were undoubtedly one of the worst in the history of communal violence in India, ever since the partition. Mr. Narendra Modi, the current Prime Minister of India, was at that time the Chief Minister of the Gujarat state.
Let’s take a look at some facts about the Gujarat Riots of 2002.
1. It all started on the 27th of February, 2002, when a carriage of the Sabarmati Express ferrying Hindu kar sevaks, i.e., Hindu nationalist activists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad(VHP – a Hindu nationalist outfit in India) from Ayodhya was set on fire by a Muslim mob in the small town of Godhra in the Western state of Gujarat, India.
2. 59 people, including women and children were charred to death in the incident which led to the further communal clashes termed the Gujarat Riots
3. Even as the bodies of those dead in the Godhra carnage were being brought home, anti-Muslim riots had already broken out and were fast spreading to various parts of the state.
4. In retaliation, Hindu fanatics thrashed and burnt down shops and houses which were the habitat of Muslims in and around the city of Ahmedabad as also in Rajkot, Vadodara and other important cities.
5. In the morn of February 28th, 2002, two major attacks took place simultaneously – one at Naroda Patia, a small Hindu-Muslim neighbourhood on the outskirts of the Ahmedabad city and another at the Gulberg Society, the inhabitants of which were predominantly middle-class Muslims. In Gulberg Society, also lived a former Congress MP Mr. Ehsan Jafri, who was also dismembered and killed brutally by the raging mob. His widow, Mrs. Zakia Jafri has been fighting cases in the courts to convict the then Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi for complicity in the pogrom that followed the Godhra carnage.
6. Also deserving special mention is the Best Bakery incident, where the owner – a Muslim – along with 10 members of his family and 3 Hindu employees were also charred to death by a violent mob of about 500.
7. Another case worth mentioning is that of Bilkis Bano, a Muslim lady, 5 months pregnant with her second child, was gang-raped by the ruthless mob and the men of her family along with her 3-year old child were all killed by the murderous mob. Over the days that followed, a lot of women were brutally raped, gang-raped in the middle of the streets and left to die.
8. Over 2000 people, mostly Muslims, were dead and over 200,000 were forced to abandon their homes and live in makeshift camps, in the communal violence that followed over the next few days. These relief camps were organized and set up by ordinary people, mostly Muslims and other charitable organizations, with absolutely no help or support of the state. Under the directive of the Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi, the state government had ordered these camps to be shut down as of 30th of October, 2002, even as 200,000 homeless people were left in the lurch, vulnerable without any relief, rehabilitation or resettlement.
9. It is said that the murderous attackers did what they did in connivance with the police and state authorities. Even the then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi, was accused of turning a blind eye to the communal clashes that set the Gujarat cities on fire and scathed the lived of so many Muslims in the state. However, Mr. Modi was given a clean chit by the Special Investigation Team(SIT) in 2012, though the victims still refuse to accept his innocence and to this day, feel that he was one of the masterminds behind the attacks that followed the Godhra Train incident.
10. More than a decade hence, most of the accused have been let go off the hook and roam freely, much to the dismay of the victims who have been rendered homeless and fear to return to the abode.