Statement of the CGPI, March 3, 2002
The terrible communal massacre in Gujarat, where hundreds of men, women and children have been burnt alive by organised communal gangs, has roused the anger of the masses of Indian people. Who is to blame for this communal violence? What must be done to prevent such crimes? These have become burning questions in the minds of all peace-loving people. In order to find a solution, we need to examine the facts.
First, a communally surcharged atmosphere was created in Gujarat as well as other parts of the country by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has been spewing anti-Muslim venom publicly with the blessings of the Indian State. Second, a premeditated attack was organised by an unidentified gang in the form of burning the bogie of the Sabarmati Express carrying VHP supporters. Immediately following this incident, which was clearly pre-planned, large-scale violence against Muslims in general was unleashed all over Gujarat.
Government spokesmen claim that all this happened because of some "intelligence failure". To call it intelligence failure means that those in power wanted to stop the violence but they did not have the necessary information in time. This argument cannot be accepted because the facts show otherwise.
The BJP, which is in power in Gujarat and in New Delhi, cannot claim that it did not know the plans of the VHP, whose renewed activity to build a Ram mandir in Ayodhya was timed to coincide with the UP elections. Suppose we accept, for the sake of argument, that those in power in Gujarat did not know that violence was going to break out in Godhra on February 27. By that evening, the news was on television and the whole country had heard about it. If the governments in Gujarat and the Centre were really interested in avoiding the spread of communal violence, they could have easily brought in many battalions of the armed forces that are stationed close by at the Pakistan border. Instead, the communal gangs were given a free reign, with the state police watching from a distance. In other words, the communal violence in Gujarat, which has already lasted for over 2 full days, could not have happened if those in power did not want it to happen. To talk of "intelligence failure" is an attempt to cover up this basic fact.
The events of Gujarat once again show that the Indian State is communal, despite all the pretence of being a "secular" democracy. The events of November 1984 had already shown how the party in power can use the state machinery to attack any particular religious minority it pleases and get away with it. The events of February-March 2002 are a repeat performance. That time it was the Congress Party in power and Sikhs who were massacred. This time it is the BJP in power and Muslims were the main victims. What is common about both is that those in power wanted the communal violence to take place, not to prevent it.
The communal holocaust following the Partition in 1947 took place because the British colonialists, who were still in control at that time, wanted it to take place. Since that time, an illusion was created that "it will not happen again", allegedly because the Indian people now had a "secular" state that would safeguard the life of every citizen. The experience of the past 54 years and 6 months, including the latest carnage in Gujarat, shows that the people cannot afford to live with such an illusion any longer.
The first step in finding a solution to the problem of communal violence is to accept the fact that it is not the broad masses of people but the state that is communal. If communal violence is to be ended, the people of India need to address this question of what is to be done with this communal state. What is to done with the existing political system and process of democracy that enable parties in power to unleash violence on a communal basis to achieve their narrow ends? This is the real issue.