Shuddhabrata Sengupta on Thu, 25 Apr 2002 16:49:43 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> from india: save mallika

Dear all at Nettime,
(apologies for cross posting to those also on Undercurrents)

You have already read the posting forwarded by Drazen. The situation in
Gujrat continues to be alarming. I quote from a news report on NDTV -
"After weeks of calm there have been incidents of violence in the
Saurashtra region of Gujarat.

An indefinite curfew has been placed in Bhavnagar following clashes, and
the army has been deployed in parts of the city.

Meanwhile in Ahmedabad 6 people have been injured when the police opened
fire to disperse two groups in the curfew bound Vejalpur area of Ahmedabad
last night. Two people badly hurt in last weekend's violence have now

Group clashes and incidents of arson have also been reported in the
Amdupura area of Ahmedabad which has also been under curfew since last
night. "

Here is a more detailed  news report on Ahmedabad, Gujrat's most important 
city which belies the impression that "calm" and normalcy have returned to 

Ahmedabad on the edge
Nalin Mehta and Sanjeev Singh

In the last few weeks, the nature of the violence in Gujarat seems to have
changed. Although there has been no large-scale rioting, there is an
atmosphere of deep and persistent mistrust in which even the slightest
provocation can trigger off trouble.
The local residents immediately surrounded the NDTV correspondents as they
entered a small mohalla in Dariapur in Ahmedabad's walled area. No
strangers venture here and all newcomers are looked at with suspicion.

In such an atmosphere, it doesn't take much for a crowd to materialise and
even a small incident can ignite passions and convert the crowd into a

For instance, in Ramol on the outskirts of Ahmedabad where three people
were recently killed, the violence started with mattresses being burnt by
one community on one side of what is now called the border.

Barricades have now been set up across the city to demarcate the Hindu and
Muslim areas in colonies where both communities have lived side by side
for years. Access is strictly controlled.

The border signifies the deep divisions in this city and the rules of
engagement are very clear. There is constant provocation from both sides,
but the boundary is considered sacrosanct.

Near this locality in Juhapura, an area with a large Muslim population, a
permanent fence has been put up to signify the border.

"We are very worried. The border is nearby. They call it the Pakistan
border and the government doesn't do anything," said a local.

The violence often starts with stones or Molotov cocktails being thrown
across the dividing line. Unlike the first phase of rioting which was
mainly one-sided, both communities have been involved in this latest cycle
of violence.

277 people were killed in Ahmedabad city in the first two days of
large-scale rioting on February 28 and March 1. (the total toll of dead in
all of Gujrat state has crossed 800, by conservative estimates)

Since March 5, although large-scale rioting has subsided, 63 people have
been killed. Twenty-six of them have been killed in the last four days

"This happens because of rumours, because of mistrust. People come out and
there is intolerance. It's not possible to prevent all of them," said P C
Pandey, Police Commissioner.

With nearly half the city once again under night curfew almost two months
after the violence began, Ahmedabad's nightmare is still far from over.

Meanwhile, efforts are on to build a case against Narendra Modi, chief
minister of Gujrat in the International Court of Justice. It may be
recalled, that the largest party (Bharatiya Janata Party) of the National
Democratic Alliance which is in power in India, cleared Narendra Modi of
all responsibility for the violence in Gujrat, and even commended him for
bringing 'Normalcy' back to the state.

Read below a news report detailing the efforts to build a case against Modi 
in Britain, which appeared recently in the Times of India
Modi to be sued for genocide in London 

LONDON: Britain-based Gujaratis are working alongside the British
government to bring three cases in three separate courts across Europe
against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The cases, which are to be filed separately in the British High Court, the
Belgian courts and, possibly, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in
The Hague, are expected to compliment two other proposed cases against
Modi and his administration in India and the US.

The charges, ranging from complicity with murder to genocide, could,
theoretically, lead to a formal request for Modi's extradition, as seemed
likely when Belgian court officials recently held preliminary hearings in
a genocide case against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Belgian law, unique and controversially, allows its courts to hear cases
of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity no matter where they
are carried out or by whom.

Sulaiman Qazi, solicitor and cousin of British national Mohammed Aswat who
was killed near Ahmedabad, says that the British government is cooperating
fully in the preparation of the case, which could be filed in as little as
"four or five weeks."

Describing the Gujarat violence as "a crime against humanity and not
against one community," Qazi said he felt the British Foreign Office (FCO)
would support them to the hilt.

"The FCO has said that high-ranking officials were responsible for the
massacre of innocents and we know that is a statement of support if it
comes to extradition," Qazi told The Sunday Times of India as he worked on
a "a database consisting of hundreds of eyewitness accounts, with
verifiable names, addresses and contact numbers."

Sources acknowledged that the FCO's alleged help sits oddly with a
government pronouncement on Gujarat in the House of Lords in early March,
when junior foreign office minister Baronness Amos "appreciated the
efforts which have been made by the Indian Government to restore calm" and
said "the Indian authorities are seen to be doing all that they can."

The minister had been replying to concerned queries about Aswat's two
still-missing companions, Shakil and Saeed Dawood.

Qazi admitted that extradition is only one possibility. More likely, he
said, "is a Henry Kissinger-like situation, in which the former American
secretary of state's arrival in the UK will be attended by Spanish
investigators seeking to interview him on Cambodia." In other words, if
Modi or others named were ever to set foot in the UK or European Union,
they will almost certainly be "interviewed" by investigators.

Qazi's search for "admissible and irrefragible evidence against Modi,
which would prove he had a direct hand in the killing of my cousin," will
hinge on the testimony of a fourth British Muslim who was travelling with
Aswat and saw his companions "lynched, set on fire and brutally murdered."

The man, who along with the other three, belongs to a West Yorkshire
region made up of 15,000 Indian Gujarati Muslims, returned to the UK on
Thursday after being nursed back to health by the British authorities in

His testimony was also recorded by the British political secretary in

The British case, to be filed by all four British families will not only
charge the VHP, the RSS and the BJP, but also "name specific names."

Qazi confirmed that British data-gathering, which took the form of a
now-controversial and leaked report, has helped human rights organisations
on the ground. London was, apparently, deeply involved in crucial
data-gathering and, according to sources, two or three FCO officials flew
out from here to join the British fact-finding team in India.

Zafar Sareshwala, rich expatriate member of a prominent Ahmedabadi family,
lived near the dead British men, knew them well, and is helping to
organise the legal challenge.

He says the British authorities, particularly the local MP, have been
stung into strong support because the Yorkshire Gujarati and Muslim
population complained that Indian officials were not helping even to reach
the site of Aswat's murder.

"There are more non-Muslims in the UK, US and India helping in the search
for justice against Modi," said Sareshwala, who lectured at Harvard last
week and was approached there by a senior professor, Balakrishnan
Rajgopal, to help take Modi to the ICJ at The Hague.

In the face of this, and a discreetly growing tide of international
opinion, the ministry of external affairs of the government of India has
issued communiques declaring that all is well in Gujrat, and condemning
any comments expressed by people who are not Indian citizens as
'interference in the internal affairs of India'.

I would like to urge the readers of this list to consider whether
expressing concern at a rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in
India constitutes undue interference in our lives, or whether a statement
of solidarity with communities that are living in fear, while those who
killed and looted, and those who orchestrated the violence go unpunished,
is not the least that one could expect from people outside India.

Please use every means at your disposal to re-iterate that you know that
things are not "Normal" in India, and that they have not been for quite
some time. It would help if you communicated these feelings to
representatives of the state in India, wherever they may be in the world.

If this is "Normal", then I would shudder to think what a real crisis
could mean for us here.

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