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|How the Hindu-Muslim Riots Really Started...|
|03/06/02 at 01:14:46|
|GODHRA, India, March 5 — For two days, as the Sabarmati Express snaked across northern India, some Hindu activists in cars S-5 and S-6 carried on like hooligans. They exposed themselves to other passengers. They pulled headscarves off Muslim women. They evicted a family of four in the middle of the night for refusing to join in chants glorifying the Hindu god Ram. They failed to pay for the tea and snacks they consumed at each stop.|
WHEN THE TRAIN pulled into this hardscrabble town in western India on the morning of Feb. 27, the reputation of its rowdiest passengers preceded it. When they refused to pay for their food, Muslim boys among the vendors at Godhra station stormed the train.
When the confrontation was over, 58 Hindu passengers - mostly women and children - were dead, incinerated by a fire that consumed cars S-5 and S-6. In retaliation, mobs of enraged Hindus descended on Muslim communities across Gujarat state, igniting riots that killed more than 500 people, India’s worst religious violence in a decade.
Indian officials have characterized the riots as Hindu rage for an attack on innocent activists. However, interviews with passengers on the train, witnesses to the incident and police and railway officials suggest that the train fire was not a premeditated ambush by young Muslims, but rather a spontaneous argument, provoked by the Hindu activists, that went out of control.
“Both sides were at fault,” said a police official here, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “The provocation was there and the reaction was strong. But no one had imagined all this would turn into such a big tragedy.”
B.K. Nanavati, the deputy police superintendent in Godhra, said the investigation does not support the contention by Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, that the assault on the train was a “terrorist attack.”
“It was not preplanned,” Nanavati said. “It was a sudden, provocative incident.”
The confrontation illustrates the volatile mixture of religion, history and extremist politics that plague India, a Hindu-dominated but officially secular nation of 1 billion people. In 1947, when India achieved independence and was partitioned to create the Muslim nation of Pakistan, thousands of Hindus fleeing Pakistan settled in Godhra. Enraged that Muslims in Pakistan had evicted them, they vented their anger at Godhra’s Muslims, burning their homes and businesses with truckloads of gasoline.
Since then, government officials have deemed the city one of the country’s most “communally sensitive” places. In the 1980s and again in 1992, it was wracked by riots, some started by Muslims and others by Hindus.
Today, the population of 150,000 is almost evenly split between Hindus and Muslims, who live in segregated communities separated in places by the train tracks. There is little interaction between the groups, which regard each other with suspicion.
Hindus, who question the depth of the Muslims’ loyalty to India, refer to the other side of town as Pakistan. The Muslims contend they are mistreated by the local Hindu-dominated government.
Enter the World Hindu Council, whose cadres want to transform India into a Hindu nation with limited minority rights. The group, part of a coalition of Hindu-nationalist organizations that includes the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, favors a confrontational approach to push its agenda.
At council rallies, members brandish tridents and swords - symbols from Hindu mythology - and shout Hindu slogans. And in 1992, the group led a mob of Hindus who destroyed a 16th-century mosque in the eastern town of Ayodhya. Since then, the council’s followers have made pilgrimages to Ayodhya, where they hope to build a temple to Ram on the site of the razed mosque.
Activists from Gujarat state, where the Hindu council has a strong base, often made the trip on the Sabarmati Express. Along the way, witnesses say, they frequently would scream out “Victory to Lord Ram” and “Victory to Hindus” as the train passed through Muslim neighborhoods.
“There was a history of provocation,” said Syed Umarji, a wood trader who lives in a Muslim neighborhood near the tracks here. “They would say these things all the time.”
TAUNTS ON TRAIN
On the train that left Ayodhya on Feb. 25, members of the Hindu council were particularly boisterous because of a government order that they vacate the Ayodhya grounds. Muslims who were on the same train say the activists walked through the cars shouting taunts such as “Wipe out every Muslim.
“The train was full of them,” said Fateh Mohammad, a Muslim passenger who was traveling with his daughter and son-in-law. “They were shouting and dancing all the time. All the Muslims were very scared.”
Savita Darbar, a member of the Hindu council who was on the train, insisted that her group was not confrontational. “We were just singing prayer songs to Lord Ram,” she said. “We did not bother the Muslims.”
As the train came to a stop in Godhra, however, all the elements were in place for a fight.
The train was five hours late, largely because the activists’ behavior had forced the conductor to make several emergency stops. Instead of arriving quietly in the middle of the night, the Sabarmati arrived at 7:43 a.m., just as word of the group’s behavior had trickled in from vendors at other stations.
The vendors in Godhra were resolved not to be victimized. The Hindu council members, too, were ready for action: Rocks collected from near the tracks were piled near the doors of their cars.
When the Hindus refused to pay for their tea and snacks, several young Muslims jumped on the train as it started to leave the station and pulled the emergency brake chain. With a piercing squeal, the Sabarmati ground to a halt a half-mile from the station, in the middle of a Muslim neighborhood. An argument ensued, drawing hundreds of residents.
Police and railway officials said they do not know who began throwing stones first. But the officials said they believe that after about 10 minutes, one or more Muslims poured a flammable substance on a mattress and ignited it between the S-5 and S-6 cars.
FIRE WITHIN MINUTES
A few minutes later, a fire broke out at the other end of the S-5. Within moments, the car was engulfed by flames.
Police officials said they are not sure how that second fire began. Nanavati said the Muslims could have set another fire, or the Hindus, trying to respond in kind, might have accidentally sparked a blaze in their own car, which was filled with kerosene and cooking gas.
“It could have been an accident,” Nanavati said.
Thus far, the railway police have arrested only Muslims - 41 of them - in connection with the fire, a fact that galls Muslim leaders here.
“They should arrest the Hindus, too,” said Shoail Sadamas, an accounting student who witnessed the incident. “They were not innocent victims.”
Special correspondent Rama Lakshmi contributed to this report.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
|Re: How the Hindu-Muslim Riots Really Started...|
|03/06/02 at 01:23:41|
Welcome Stap.. you are our 2 :-X :-X th Madina Citizen!!! :) Have a  on us!
|Re: How the Hindu-Muslim Riots Really Started...|
|03/06/02 at 21:05:10|
|Assalamu 'Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh |
Welcome to the board brother Stap. Hope you enjoy your visits to the board as much as I do. I have posted a similar story in another newspaper that a friend forwarded to me.
----- Original Message ----- From: I. To: ejaz
Subject: Truth about the Gujarat train incident
The tragic incident of Sabarmati Express that occurred at about 1 km away from Godhra railway station has thrown a question mark to those people who claim to be secular or liberal. Many aspects & facts have been ignored & which I would like to bring to your notice. Compartment no S-6 two other compartment of the Sabarmati Express was carrying the kar sevaks (devoted workers of World Hindu Council) of the V.H.P. And it was due to these kar kevaks from Compartment no S-6 that the incident occurred. The actual story didn't start from Godhra as being told everywhere but it started from a place from Daahod 75 km before Godhra railway station. At about 5:30 to 6:00 am the train reached Daahod railway station. These kar sevaks, after having tea & snacks at the railway stall, broke down the stall after having some argument with the stall owner and they proceeded back to the departing train. The stall owner then filed an N C against kar sevaks at the local police station about the above incident.
Then about 7:00 to 7:15 am the train reached Godhra railway station. All the kar sevaks came out from their reserved compartments and started to have tea and snacks, at the small tea stall on the platform, which was being run by an old bearded man from the minority Muslim community. There was a servant helping this old man in the stall. The kar sevaks on purpose argued with this old man and then beat him up & pulled his beard. This was all planned to humiliate the old man since he was from the minority community. These kar sevaks kept repeating the slogan, "Mandir ka nirmaan karo, Babar ki aulad ko bahar karo" (start building the Mandir and throw the sons of Babar i.e. the Muslims out of the country.)
Hearing the chaos, the 16 year daughter of the old man who was also present at the station came forward and tried to save her father from kar kevaks. She kept pleading and begging to them to stop beating her father and leave him alone. But instead of listening to her woes, the kar kevaks lifted the young girl and took her inside their compartment (S-6) and closed the compartment door shut. The train started to move out of the platform of Godhra railway station. The old man kept banging on the compartment doors and pleaded to leave his daughter. Just before the train could move out completely from the platform, two stall vendors jumped into the last bogey that comes after the guard cabin. And with the intention of saving the girl they pulled the chain and stopped the train. By the time the train halted completely, it was 1 km away from the railway station. These two men then came to the bogey in which the girl was and started to bang at the door and requested the kar sevaks to leave the girl alone. Hearing all these chaos, people in the vicinity near to the tracks started to gather towards the train. The boys and the mob (that also included women) that had now gathered near the compartment requested the kar sevaks to return the girl back. But instead of returning the girl, they started closing their windows. This infuriated the mob and they retaliated by pelting stones at the compartment.
The compartment-adjoining compartment S-6 on both sides contained kar sevaks of the V.H.P. these kar sevaks were carrying banners that had long bamboo stick attached to them. These kar sevaks got down and started attacking with bamboo sticks on the bob gathered to save the girl. These was like adding insult to injury for the crowd gathered and their anger was now uncontrollable. The crowd started to bring diesel and petrol from trucks and rickshaws standing at the garages at Signal Fadia (a place in Godhra) and burnt down the compartment. They didn't bring the fuel from any petrol pump as being reported everywhere nor was this act of burning pre-planned as being mentioned by many people but it happened all of a sudden out of sheer frustration and anger.
After hearing about this incident, member of V.H.P. living in that area started burning down the garages in Signal Fadia, they also burnt down Baddshah Masjid, at Shehra Bhagaad (small area in Godhra).
Reliable resources have reported all these information and facts to their information and can't be doubted. I would also mention my sources namely Mr. Anil Soni and Neelam Soni (reporters of Gujarat Samachar newspaper and also member of P.T.I. & A.N.I.) who have worked hard to dig the true facts and they duly deserve words of praise for their hard work.
Mr. Soni's mobile number is 009825038152. Res. Tel. no. 02672-43153 & Off. Tel no. 02672-43152 Fax no. 02672-45999.
Due to no proper substantial and circumstantial evidence and the late arrival of the Police at the scene of crime, the Police investigation was frustrated which resulted in harassment and arrests of innocent local people living in Godhra. Furthermore the police started blaming the Mayor of Godhra, Mr. Ahmed Hussain Kalota for this incident. Mr. Kalota who is the member of the Indian National Congress is also a lawyer. This blaming on Congressmen was also done to humiliate, defame and demoralize the Congress. The V.H.P.'s plan is to weaken the country by planning internal conflicts between communities and bring a backwardness of 100 years in the country. Sorry to say but they are carrying out their plans successfully without the fear of being stopped by anyone. No one but only the innocents will have to bear the consequences of their plans. It is our humble request and prayers to all the members of Parliament along with the Prime Minister, and the entire media circle to try and stop the sparks of a fire to gulp down the whole county in flames to take some auction against the kar sevaks of the V.H.P. before they get out of hand and stop harassing the innocents and catch the real miscreants and culprits.
Allah Subhana Talla knows best.
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