Belatedly Western Media has taken note of Gujarat's 2002 Communal Riots. Now that International Criminal Court has become overactive, issuing orders on war crimes and genocidal massacres unleashed by state agencies, it is bound to turn towards Asia and its record on human rights violations bordering on crimes against humanity. It has to come in as justice and political will to prosecute criminals of such heinous crimes against humanity is still dithering and guilty are roaming around scot-free.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
07/03/world/asia/gujarat-riot- trials-may-alter-indias-cycle- of-violence.html?_r=1&emc=tnt& tntemail1=y&pagewanted=all
AHMEDABAD, India — The police stood by as Hindu mobs slaughtered nearly 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, in massacres that evidence suggests were an election-year ploy by state officials to garner votes. Mothers were skewered, children set afire and fathers hacked to pieces.
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Justice and ‘a Ray of Hope’ After 2002 India Riots
Kuni Takahashi for The New York TimesOfficials in Ahmedabad, India, built the Citizen Nagar neighborhood for some of the thousands of Muslims displaced by sectarian riots in 2002.
Published: July 2, 2012
India Ink: Jafri Widow Receives Full Report on Riots (May 7, 2012)
Shaking Off the Horror of the Past in India (February 16, 2012)
31 Indians Convicted in Violence That Killed Muslims in 2002 (November 10, 2011)
Kuni Takahashi for The New York TimesShareefa Bibi with a portrait of her 18-year-old son, Sharif, who was killed by a mob, she said, as the family sought shelter during the 2002 riots.
The New York Times
The riots began after a display of bodies in Ahmedabad.
That was 10 years ago. A decade later, the riots in Gujarat State may be remembered less for the horrors they unleashed, however, than that such sectarian carnage, which once struck India as often as a heavy monsoon, has not been repeated since. There are many reasons for this astonishing quiescence, but technology has played a crucial role. The killers made cellphone calls, and records of those calls became evidence.
After years of dithering, India’s creaky justice system lurched into action. Hundreds of rioters have been convicted, and more cases are pending. On Saturday, a judge trying 61 defendants — including a former state education minister — delayed issuing verdicts until Aug. 29 in a case that involves about 94 deaths. A total of 327 people testified, but the crucial evidence, again, was the phone records contradicting claims by some of the accused that they were nowhere near the scene of the crimes.
Indeed, those same records continue to be examined for any role played in the riots by the office of the state’s top official, Narendra Modi, who is among India’s most prominent politicians. But even if Mr. Modi is never charged, the political calculus behind stoking sectarian clashes — long a staple for winning elections here — has fundamentally changed, political analysts say.
“We reached a tipping point,” said M. J. Akbar, author of “Riot After Riot” and editorial director of India Today, one of India’s leading news organizations. “This is the first time that India’s judicial system has actually worked to hold people accountable for rioting. In the past, the guilty never got punished.”
India was once the world’s wellspring of religiously inspired massacres. As such violence rages across the Middle East, the bougainvillea sprouting from Gujarat’s charred buildings offers hope that even societies steeped in blood can curb the self-perpetuating logic behind such clashes.
Shakeel Ahmad, chairman of the Islamic Relief Committee in Gujarat, said he was optimistic. About 150,000 people were displaced by the rioting in 2002. Witnesses and other evidence suggest that the violence was encouraged by state officials, who deny the charge. Dr. Ahmad’s son was imprisoned for nearly seven years, accused of plotting against the life of a state official who is now on trial himself.
During a lengthy interview in his office at the edge of a Muslim neighborhood, Dr. Ahmad could not suppress a triumphant smile.
“There is a ray of hope,” he said in his office here, his white hair and beard swirled in cigarette smoke. “For the first time in Gujarat, we have seen demands for justice.”
To be sure, India’s politics are still vicious and violent, its society riven by religious, cultural and caste divisions that feed continuing discrimination and sporadically erupt in fury. Assassinations are frequent, corruption endemic and the courts largely feckless.
Gujarat’s Muslims have never entirely recovered from the riots, and the state’s population is more religiously segregated than ever. No one can promise that large-scale riots will never return, but there are signs of hope.
The riots began on Feb. 27, 2002, when a train filled with Hindu pilgrims who had just visited a disputed shrine rolled into Godhra, a small city in eastern Gujarat, and was attacked by a Muslim mob. A fire started, and at least 58 Hindu pilgrims burned to death.
Their charred bodies were brought to Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city, and laid out in public, an act that all but guaranteed more violence. Huge mobs gathered to view the bodies.
At the time of the riots, Gujarat’s chief minister was Mr. Modi, a newly appointed functionary from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which advocates Hindu supremacy but faced sinking popularity in the state. Mr. Modi and his party endorsed a widespread strike.
Massacres began immediately. About 20,000 Muslim homes and businesses and 360 places of worship were burned. Later that year, Mr. Modi’s party was overwhelmingly re-elected. Mayors in the United States are thrown out when too much snow clogs streets; Mr. Modi let his streets be choked with blood and won election overwhelmingly.
Mr. Modi was following a familiar script. In 1984, Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and Hindu mobs in Delhi killed thousands of Sikhs in retaliation. The Congress Party, whose members encouraged the rioting, was rewarded later that year with a huge majority in Parliament.
Commissions were formed to investigate, but there were few arrests and fewer convictions. After the 1992 Hindu-Muslim riots in Mumbai, in which 900 people were killed, commission recommendations were again ignored.
Commissions were impaneled after the Gujarat riots as well. A top state official told one panel that Mr. Modi ordered officials to take no action against rioters. That official was murdered. Thousands of cases against rioters were dismissed by the police for lack of evidence despite eyewitness accounts.
But in 2004, the Supreme Court intervened, acting on petitions from human rights groups. The court ordered that more than 2,000 dismissed cases be reopened, a special police team be created and some trials be transferred out of Gujarat. The wheels of justice began to turn, leading more victims to press claims.
That year, a lawyer representing victims was cross-examining a top police official when the official laid a CD on the table in front of him.
“What’s that?” asked the lawyer, Dr. Mukul Sinha.
“Evidence,” answered the officer, Rahul Sharma.
The CD contained records of every cellphone call made in Ahmedabad during the worst of the rioting.
The records allowed advocates to construct precise timelines of the movements of many rioters, timelines that often dovetailed with the accounts of riot victims but contradicted those of the accused.
Dr. Sinha is still mining the records for evidence, but Mr. Modi’s government is vigorously trying to suppress the investigation, charging the officer who provided the records with violating the Official Secrets Act.
The cellphone records have proved invaluable to prosecutors. While no government agency or court seems to have a scorecard of how many people have been convicted, state and court records show that they number in the hundreds, with scores more due for judgments.
Gujarat state officials and representatives for Mr. Modi did not respond to multiple interview requests or to a list of e-mailed questions.
Mr. Modi’s role in the rioting continues to plague him and his party. Two years after the riots, his alliance lost its hold over the national government. Important members of the group have warned against Mr. Modi’s selection as the alliance’s candidate for prime minister in the 2014 elections. Yet Mr. Modi remains popular in Gujarat, where he has recast himself as an economic problem-solver.
Steven I. Wilkinson, a professor of political science at Yale University who has studied India’s riots, said that India’s national elections had become so competitive that no political party could afford to alienate Muslims, who represent 13 percent of the electorate, about the same share that blacks represent in the United States.
“Riots are now a stain on your reputation forever in a way they never were before,” he said.
On a recent morning, Shareefa Bibi sat outside her reconstructed house in the Muslim neighborhood of Naroda Patiya. She recalled fleeing a mob with her husband and five children to a nearby police camp, where officers refused to protect them.
“They said, ‘No, you have to die today,’ ” she recalled bitterly. The family ran to another neighborhood and hid, but in the confusion her 18-year-old son, Sharif, was caught by rioters, gutted and set on fire. Cowering just a few feet away with her other children, Ms. Bibi watched him die.
She testified against her son’s killers, whose judgments have been delayed until Aug. 29.
“I will never get my son back,” Ms. Bibi said. “But our hope is that we will get justice.”
Hari Kumar contributed reporting.