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Human rights group calls for urgent inquiry as Indian Government fails to prevent Gujarat massacre

6 March 2002

A full, independent and impartial inquiry is required into the recent communal violence in India and the role of the authorities, said Minority Rights Group International (MRG) as it released a background media briefing (attached) today. MRG expressed its extreme concern over reports from community groups and media observers who have accused Gujurat State police of standing by while attacks took place and failing to restrain anti-Muslim rioters. MRG states that failure to act to protect all communities contravenes India’s constitutional law and may result in further deaths.

The Gujurat State administration has been accused of delaying deployment of the military to restore order and prevent further violence. An urgent independent inquiry is needed into allegations by opposition MPs that the Gujarat authorities were ‘deliberately not taking action and colluding with the arsonists and rioters.’ The Hindu nationalist Government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also been heavily criticised for failing to prevent revenge attacks on Muslim communities following the outbreak of violence.

MRG unequivocally condemned both the killing of 58 Hindu activists at Godhra returning on a train from Ayodhya on 27 February and the subsequent killings in communal violence of mainly Muslims.

Ayodhya has been a flash point for communal violence since the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque by Hindu activists who claim that the site is that of an earlier Hindu temple. The Muslim community has seen the demolition of the mosque and subsequent plans to erect a new Hindu temple on the same site as a direct violation of their constitutional rights by Hindu dominated authorities and far-right Hindu nationalists who maintain close links and influence with the BJP. The hard-line Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have significantly declared 15 March as the date to begin temple construction at Ayodhya, which is likely to incite further communal hostility and constitutes a violation of Indian Supreme Court directives to maintain the status quo of the entire area pending a final court judgement.

MRG’s Director, Mark Lattimer, stated that ‘The return to communal violence is a tragedy for both Muslim and Hindu communities alike and for a country that has prided itself on its secular traditions and a long history of ethnic and religious tolerance. National and State government must act decisively to restore confidence to all communities and avoid further bloodshed.’

MRG calls on the Indian Government to uphold the constitutional rights of all its citizens and accord the protection due to members of all religions and ethnic communities. MRG further urges a full and independent inquiry into the killings on and since 27 February with full attention given to the actions of the police, the military and the civil authorities. Moderate elements within both communities are urged to use their influence with those who would advocate further violence.