PUNISH THE GUILTY OF GUJARAT GENOCIDE

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PUNISH THE GUILTY OF GUJARAT GENOCIDE
Call for a National Campaign For Defence of the Indian Constitution
NB : This statement is being circulated as a contribution to the ongoing public discussion on the current events.

The recent events in Gujarat demonstrate without a shadow of doubt that a section of the Indian ruling establishment is generating communal conflict and undermining the Indian Constitution. It includes political leaders, officials and extra-constitutional centres of power such as the RSS and its fronts. The symptoms of this creeping coup detat against the Indian Constitution are as follows:

1./ Mob violence and barbarity have been legitimised by high executives of the State. After the heinous and reprehensible attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, that led to the death of 57 Hindu rail passengers, the entire Muslim community of Gujarat was held responsible for the actions of a few. The brutal killings of innocent men, women and children was sought to be justified in the name of the fascist doctrine of collective guilt, the doctrinal basis of Hitlerism.

2./ Revenge and retaliation have been made instruments of state policy. In Gujarat, armed gangs owing allegiance to the ruling party and its parent body, the RSS, have been given free rein by the state Chief Minister to indulge in crimes against humanity without any fear of the law. The police were neutralised by orders from elected authorities who are under oath to protect and implement the Constitution. By failing to acknowledge this fact the Union Government has sought to legitimise officials who have violated their oath of office. The VHP attack on the legislative assembly in Bhubhaneshwar demonstrates yet again the confidence displayed by criminal elements with political links to the Union Government. This government, that claims to be in the forefront of the so-called war against terrorism, is itself guilty of harbouring terrorists and promoting their activities in the name of so-called Hindu nationalism. The preaching and practice of collective guilt in India (and in other countries of South Asia), require that the crime of genocide be incorporated into the criminal justice system. Political assassination is no less a crime when its victims are ordinary Indian citizens.

3./ Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees to every Indian, the right to life and liberty unless deprived of them by due process of law. Events in Gujarat since February 27, 2002, demonstrate that state officials unilaterally and illegally withdrew these protections from a section of Indian citizens. Similar malicious misuse of the state machinery took place during the massacre of Sikh citizens in 1984. (The fact that the Indian Parliament can meet in joint session to pass draconian laws, but has not yet condoled the mass murder of Sikh citizens in 1984, is a matter of shame for Indian democracy). Such events are part of the same process and demonstrate the same truth - that certain criminal elements in the body politic function as if they were above the reach of the law. This is a blatant violation of the oaths of office taken by elected state officials.

4./ By acts of deliberate deception, (such as the recent arguments in favour of the VHP by Attorney General and the acceptance of the so-called Ramshila in Ayodhya by a state official), the Union government is supporting the unilateral claim of the RSS and VHP that they represent all Hindus. By so doing, the swayamsevaks in high office are undermining the authority of Parliament, which has been elected by millions of citizens, including a large proportion of Hindus. A PARALLEL SYSTEM OF REPRESENTATION IS BEING FORCED UPON THE INDIAN PEOPLE. This must be rejected as a violation of the Indian Constitution. We reiterate that the RSS-VHP do not represent all Hindus, nor do the Muslim Personal Law Board and Babri Masjid Action Committee represent all Muslims.

5./ The systematic and violent humiliation of one or other section of the Indian population by the highest State authorities will tear our society apart, brutalise the social ethos, destroy the economy and polarise the people towards extremist ideologies.Today, tens of thousands of Gujarati Muslims are living in anguish and fear, housed in refugee camps, with no guarantee of personal security or rehabilitation. The relentless use of communal hatred and violence by the Indian ruling elite has converted the dream of national independence into a nightmare for ordinary Indians. Our rulers have progressed from the hiring of criminals to the propagation of brutality and criminality as a means of obtaining power. This process will result in nothing less than the fragmentation of the Indian Union and the demolition of Indian democracy.

6./ We would like to recognise that there are honest and conscientious officials in the bureaucracy and police who have honoured their professional obligations and striven to defend the right to life and liberty of the citizens. We acknowledge their commitment, and condemn the Gujarat government for transferring those police officers who did their best to prevent bloodshed. In the words of the NHRC Chairman, Justice J S Varma, we call upon all state officials "not to seek permission to perform their duty under the law".

7./ Communal violence in other countries of the region is no less vicious. From time to time, Hindus, Christians and Ahmadiyas in Pakistan, Hindus and Hill Tribes in Bangladesh, and Tamils in Sri Lanka have been made targets of hatred and violence. These campaigns are also fascist in nature, and serve to exacerbate communal tensions in India. In the light of the close inter-linkages between various types of communal and chauvinist politics in all these countries, it is necessary that determined efforts be made towards cooperation amongst democrats across all frontiers in South Asia. We unequivocally denounce and reject all forms of communal hatred and violence, whether this is done in the name of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs or any other identity.

In the light of the above, we believe that:

The Indian Constitution is being deliberately undermined by those sworn to protect it

Democracy is being misused for the purpose of destroying democratic institutions; the secular and pluralist tradition is being undermined by cultural policing and intellectual censorship

Mob violence enjoys the tacit or open support of certain high state officials and political leaders

The culture of violence and bloodshed is being propagated ideologically as a nationalist virtue

Civil society in India is being rapidly converted into a war-zone; and

Indian citizens are faced with nothing less than a constitutional breakdown, heralded by a section of their political leadership
In the face of this alarming situation, WE HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO LAUNCH A PROLONGED AND NON-VIOLENT SATYAGRAHA TO DEFEND THE LETTER AND SPIRIT OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION. To this end, we call upon all peace-loving and democratic citizens to unite in a Coalition For the Defence of the Indian Constitution. (name to be decided by consensus). The first step in this direction can be the arrangement of regional conventions. This process could culminate in a national convention later in 2002. The convention should construct a platform unifying all democratic forces on a consensual programme for resisting fascism and defending democracy. We suggest the following principles for such a convention:

1./ The Convention should be a gathering of concerned individuals rather than of representatives of parties and groups. (This will not prejudice their right to remain members of any parties or groups).

2./ The Convention will address the grave crisis outlined above and strive to mobilise a sustained and organised campaign to protect democratic institutions, pluralist values and constitutional liberties

3./ The entire process will be funded only by individual contributions in cash or kind

Among the demands that the convention can consider are the following :

That sworn testimonies of eye-witnesses and officials be placed before judicial authorities of unimpeachable impartiality, that executive and criminal culpability for the Gujarat events be established, and the guilty punished.

That hateful communal propaganda of all varieties be stopped forthwith, that the VHP and Bajrang Dal.be prosecuted under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code.

That a joint session of Parliament be convened to condemn and condole the death of innocents in Delhi, Kanpur, Bokaro in 1984, Gujarat in 2002, and all communal killings in general

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Dilip Simeon
Dunu Roy
Harsh Kapoor
Jairus Banaji
Purushottam Agrawal
Rohini Hensman

[11 April 2002]