The 2002 Gujarat violence describes the Godhra train burning and resulting communal riots between Hindus and Muslims. On 27 February 2002 at Godhra City in the state of Gujarat, the Sabarmati Express train was forcibly stopped and attacked by a large Muslim mob.
As a result, 58 Hindu pilgrims — mostly women, children and seniors returning from the holy city of Ayodhya — were burned alive. The attack prompted retaliatory massacres against Muslims on a large scale, in which 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. 223 more people were reported missing.
523 places of worship were damaged: 298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples, and 3 churches. Muslim-owned businesses suffered the bulk of the damage. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled their homes. Preventive arrests of 17,947 Hindus and 3,616 Muslims were made. In total 27,901 Hindus and 7,651 Muslims were arrested. Nearly 10,000 rounds of bullets were fired by the police, killing 93 Muslims and 77 Hindus.
The nature of the events remains politically controversial in India. Some commentators have characterized the massacres of Muslims as a genocide in which the state was complicit, while some government sources have countered that the Muslim dead were victims of mere "riots" or "disturbances".
1 Godhra train burning
2 Post Godhra violence
2.1 Attacks on Muslims
2.2 Attacks on Hindus
Godhra train burning
On 27 February 2002, 58 Hindus, including 25 women and 15 children, were burnt alive in a railway coach by a mob in the town of Godhra following an altercation between local Muslims and activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (Kar Sevaks) returning by the Sabarmathi express train from Ayodhya. Initial media reports blamed the local Muslims for setting the coach on fire, in what Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the VHP leader Giriraj Kishore alleged was a "pre-planned" attack.
The New Nanavati Report states that the Attack on the "Kar Sevaks" on the train from Ayodhya was pre-planned, and exonerates Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
A previous report on the Godhra train burning, filed by Justice Banerjee, a more recent report filed by Justice Nanavati states that it was "pre-planned" by the mob. The Gujarat High Court ruling, as of 2006, has declared as illegal and unconstitutional, setting up of the Umesh Chandra Banerjee committee, which had concluded the fire started by accident. Gujarat High Court quashed the conclusions of the Banerjee Committee and declared its formation as a “colourful exercise,” “illegal, unconstitutional, null and void,” and its argument of accidental fire “opposed to the prima facie accepted facts on record.".
According to the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, "most Congress corporators" "and some Congress leaders of Gujarat had actively participated in last year's riots". The majority of the media and party remained silent over the issue Congress role in the riot
However, in September 2008 the Godhra Commission confirmed that there was an attack by a mob. Going further, the report claims that one Hassan Lalu had thrown burning objects into the train and 140 litres of petrol had been used to set the train on fire, adding that stones were thrown at passengers to stop them from fleeing.
The bodies of those killed in the train were brought to Ahmedabad, where a procession was held, a move seen as a major provocation for the ensuing communal violence. The VHP issued a call for a state-wide strike on 28 February 2002, which was supported by the BJP.
In February 2011, the findings of the Nanavati-Mehta commission were upheld in court, and the Godhra train burning was called a "pre-planned conspiracy". 31 people were convicted of setting fire to the train and "roasting alive 59 helpless kar sevaks." of which 11 were sentenced to death and 20 to life sentences.
Post Godhra violence
151 towns and 993 villages in fifteen to sixteen of the state's 25 districts were affected by the post-Godhra violence, which was particularly severe in about five or six districts. The violence raged largely between 28 February and 3 March, and after a drop, restarted on 15 March, continuing till mid June.
Northern and central Gujarat, as well as the north-eastern tribal belt which are closer to Godhra City, were the worst affected while Saurashtra and Kutch remained largely peaceful.
Attacks on Muslims
Attacks by large Hindu mobs began in the districts of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Saberkantha and, for the first time in its history, Gandhinagar on 28 February. Violence spread to the largely rural districts of Panchmahals, Mehsana, Kheda, Junagadh, Banaskantha, Patan, Anand and Narmada the next day. Over the next two days, Bharuch and Rajkot and later Surat were hit.
The first incidents of attacks on the Muslim community started at Ahmedabad, where Hindus began throwing stones at and later burned a Muslim housing complex known as Gulburg Society, and then spread elsewhere. The initial violence was believed to be instigated by unsubstantiated rumours, endorsed by a senior VHP leader, of Muslims having kidnapped three Hindu girls during the Godhra train attack.
In Ahmedabad, the dargah of the Sufi saint-poet Wali Gujarati in Shahibaug and the 16th century Gumte Masjid mosque in Isanpur were destroyed. The Muhafiz Khan Masjid at Gheekanta was ransacked. Police records list 298 dargahs, 205 mosques, 17 temples and three churches as damaged in the months of March and April.
Attacks on Hindus
Attacks on Hindus by Muslim mobs in Danilimda, Modasa, Himmatnagar, Bharuch, Sindhi Market, Bhanderi Pole, and other localities in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat were perpetrated by Muslim mobs.
There was a significant loss of property. Late in March, more than one thousand Hindus in Dariyapur and Kalupur, including 550 dalits, fled their homes to stay in makeshift shelters after being attacked by Muslims mobs.
According to the HRW report, over ten thousand Hindus were made homeless.
Several Hindu residential areas, including Mahajan No Vaado, a fortified enclave in Muslim dominated Jamalpur, were targeted following calls for retaliation.
In the morning the mosques began announcing that Islam was in danger, that there was poison in the milk. This was used as a code word. The milk was meant to be Muslims & poison meant Hindus. The rioting lasted between 2:15 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Residents were unable to go to work, fearing attacks. A Hindu temple in the area was destroyed. In Himmatnagar, a young man was killed when he went to a Muslim enclave on business.
According to an official estimate, 1044 people were killed in the violence - 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus including those killed in the Godhra train fire. Another 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 injured, 919 women widowed and 606 children orphaned.
Unofficial estimates put the death toll closer to 2000, with Muslims forming a high proportion of those killed.
When missing people were declared dead after 7 years, total deaths went up from 1044 to 1,267
On 6 March, the Gujarat government set up a commission of enquiry headed by retired High Court judge K.G. Shah to enquire into the Godhra train burning and the subsequent violence and submit a report in three months. Following criticism from victims' organisations, activists and political parties over Shah's alleged proximity to the BJP, on 22 May, the government reconstituted the commission, appointing retired Supreme Court Justice G.T. Nanavati to lead the commission.
In 2008, the Nanavati commission came out largely in favour of the Gujarat government's aspect. Nanavati's evidence hinged on the acquisition of 140 litres of petrol hours before the arrival of the train and the storage of the said petrol at the alleged key conspirator's, Razzak Kurkur, guest house. This was further corroborated by forensic evidence showing fuel was poured on the train compartment before being burnt. The alleged mastermind was said to be the cleric Maulvi Husain Haji Ibrahim Umarji and a dismissed Central Reserve Police Force officer named Nanumiyan, from Assam, who had instigated the Muslim crowds. Furthermore, two Kashmiris, Gulamnabi and Ali Mohammed, were in the same guesthouse for a fortnight prior to the event speaking about the Kashmir liberation movement.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Indian National Congress party both came out railing against the exoneration of the Gujarat government by the commission citing the timing of the report (with general elections months away) as evident of unfairness. Congress spokesperson Veerappa Moily commented at the strange absolvement of the Gujarat government for complacency for the carnage. He also said the report reinforced communal prejudices.
National Human Rights Commission
In its Proceedings of 1 April 2002, the Commission had set out its Preliminary Comments and Recommendations on the situation and sent a Confidential Report of the team of the Commission that visited Gujarat from 19–22 March 2002 to Gujarat government and Central Home Ministry. The Gujarat government in its reply did not provide its response to the Confidential report. Therefore, the Commission was compelled to release the confidential report in its entirety and observed that nothing in the reports received in response "rebuts the presumption that the Modi administration failed in its duty to protect the rights of the people of Gujarat" by not exercising its jurisdiction over non-state players that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights.
It further observed that "the violence in the State, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time despite the measures reportedly taken by the State Government".
The report claims failure of intelligence, failure to take appropriate action, patterns of arrests, uneven handling of major cases, and "Distorted FIRs: ‘extraneous influences’, issue of transparency and integrity" as key factors in the incident(s).
In September 2004, a panel appointed by the central government and headed by former Supreme Court judge UC Banerjee to probe the Godhra train fire concluded that the fire was accidental. Its findings were challenged by the BJP and the Gujarat inspector-general of police. In October 2006, the Gujarat High Court ruled that the panel was set up illegally, in violation of the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 which prohibits the setting up of separate commissions by state and central governments to probe a matter of public importance.
Concerned Citizens Tribunal
The citizen tribunal headed by retired Supreme Court justice Krishna Iyer collected evidence and testimony from more than 2000 riot victims, witnesses and others. In its report, the tribunal accuses the state government and chief minister Modi of complicity in the violence. While Krishna Iyer was nominally part of this tribunal, he made it clear in the preface of the report that his involvement was very limited.
Opposition parties as well as three coalition partners of the BJP-led central government demanded the dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for failing to contain the violence, with some calling for the removal of Union Home Minister L K Advani as well.
On 18 July, Chief Minister Narendra Modi asked the Governor of Gujarat to dissolve the state assembly and call fresh elections. The Indian Election Commission ruled out early elections, citing the prevailing law and order situation, a decision the union government unsuccessfully appealed against in the Supreme Court.
In August 2002 a plot by Lashkar-e-Toiba to assassinate Narendra Modi, Praveen Togadia, and other Sangh Parivar leaders was unearthed by Indian police. The terrorists were planning to set up a base in Gujarat and were trying to lure some of the riot-hit people into taking up "so-called jihadi activities" Delhi Police Special Commissioner (Intelligence) K K Paul said.
In September 2002, at least 29 people were killed when Islamic fundamentalist gunmen engaged in the Akshardham Temple attack in the city of Gandhinagar in Gujarat. The Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and Islamic terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba were accused of supporting the terrorists.
Elections were held in December and Modi was returned to power in a landslide victory.
Emails made public by the perpetrators of a series of bombings in western India in July 2008 indicated that those attacks were "the revenge of Gujarat".