On February 28, 2002, over 50 Kar Sevaks traveling from Ayodhya to Gujarat on the Sabarmati Express were tragically burnt alive in a fire at Godhra.
Immediately following this horrific incident, the state declared that the burning of the train was the handiwork of Muslims and launched a genocidal attack on Muslims in Ahmedabad and other places in Gujarat. In this bloodbath, which carried on in the towns for a whole week and in the rural districts for several weeks, thousands of people of the Muslim faith were brutally murdered, raped and burnt alive and all kinds of unimaginable atrocities committed on the people. Lakhs of Muslims were turned into refugees, forced to live in terrible conditions in refugee camps. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi publicly justified the genocidal attacks, which were personally led by ministers, MLAs and top functionaries of the BJP, with full police support. Local Congress leaders in Gujarat either participated in or condoned the massacre, while the Congress Party pleaded ‘helplessness’ in the face of the alleged ‘Hindu backlash’. The then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and his party and government, fully justified the Gujarat genocide.
The pogrom against Muslims in Gujarat was organized in the same manner as the pogrom against Sikhs in Delhi and other places following the assassination of Indira Gandhi. It was a pre-meditated, pre-planned massacre, carried out with voters lists and arsenal for killings, stock piled in advance. It was clearly not a spontaneous response of Hindus to the Godhra massacre.
Following the Gujarat genocide, communists and hundreds of people from all faiths boldly took up the task of assisting the victims of the genocide in their miserable conditions in the refugee camps. They did this in the face of terrible state opposition, in a climate of poison and hatred deliberately spread by the rulers. Rabid communal propaganda was unleashed, declaring that all Muslims deserved to be raped and murdered and all those who opposed this were regarded as enemies of the state. Various citizens heroically took up the challenge of exposing the role of the state in the genocide, Their work and struggle helped to establish before all Indian people that the genocide was not the work of Hindus, but of the state and the ruling party.
The campaign of the people of India that those guilty of organizing communal massacres must be punished, which had been going on since the 1984 massacre of Sikhs, took a further step forward following the Gujarat genocide. Basing itself on the experience of 1984 and 2002, and the refusal of every government that had run the country in this period to punish those guilty, the campaign enlarged the question to “How can the people of India punish the state and ruling parties when they are the perpetrators of sectarian massacres?”
The Congress Party led by Sonia Gandhi and the Left Parties like CPI and CPI(M) tried to divert the popular struggle to end state organized communal massacres and punish the guilty, into a platform to bring the Congress Party to power by building a anti BJP united front. The united struggle of the masses of people against the second generation capitalist economic reforms, that the bourgeoisie was trying to introduce at that time, was diverted on to the path of bringing in a “secular” government. The CPI-CP(M) claimed that in the light of the Gujarat genocide, bringing in a “secular” government took priority over opposing the economic reforms.
The CGPI along with various other forces organized a mass rally at the Parliament on July 6 2004,as soon as the first UPA government with Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, was sworn in, The mass rally declared that the people of India would continue their struggle to punish those guilty of organizing communal massacres and create a condition wherein state organized communal massacres would not be possible. The declaration was an expression of the resolve of the fighting forces to continue the struggle, it was an expression of the understanding of the fighting forces that the UPA government would do nothing to punish the guilty.
Life experience has confirmed this. Narendra Modi continues to rule Gujarat and no one has been punished for the Gujarat massacres. The Congress Party has never been indicted for organizing the genocide of Sikhs. There is no mechanism in place to punish the guilty when the guilty is the state.
The first UPA government introduced a bill in parliament in 2005 allegedly aimed at dealing with communal violence. This bill had to be shelved because of strong protests from the people fighting to really punish the guilty. The fundamental flaw in the bill was that it made out that state organized communal violence was an act committed by ordinary people. It refused to recognize command responsibility- that is responsibility of the government, the top officials and top police officers in organizing and perpetrating these massacres. Now, in the current session of parliament, a new version of the Bill is slated to be presented. The people fighting state organized communal violence and demanding mechanisms to punish the guilty have been once again reiterating their concerns.
There must be no illusion amongst the people that the Congress Party, the BJP or the Left Parties are going to actually take measures to punish those guilty of organizing communal massacres. The history of India since 1858 shows that dividing the people along sectarian lines, and periodically organizing communal massacres has been a preferred policy, first of the colonial rulers, and later on of the Indian ruling class, to defend and strengthen its rule. It is aimed at creating deep divisions amongst the people and lining them behind the ruling class parties. It is aimed at preventing a united opposition to the anti worker anti peasant course of the ruling class.
Communists cannot foster any illusion about the “secular” character of any of the bourgeois political parties, as has been done from time to time by the CPM and CPI. Secularism and communalism are twin weapons of the ruling class to defend their rule. The “secular” Indian state is in fact a communal state as life experience has repeatedly confirmed. All the bourgeois parties, whether they claim to represent all the Indian people, or represent this or that religious community or caste, work to divide the people on sectarian lines and line them up behind the program of the ruling class.
Only the establishment of worker peasant rule in our country will enable the people to get rid once and for all, of the scourge of state organized communal massacres.