Day 1 of Riots - Role of Government in curbing it

Published: Friday, Mar 09,2012, 12:41 IST
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Now-the government faced genuine difficulties in controlling the anger of the masses in view of the limited police force. Uday Mahurkar wrote for weekly India Today dated 18 March 2002:

“Ahmedabad has a police force of 6,000, including 1,500 armed personnel. In addition, the entire state has just four companies (530 jawans) of the Rapid Action Force (RAF) of which only one company could be spared for Ahmedabad. Considering that the mobs that simultaneously surfaced at nearly half a dozen places numbered from 2,000 to 10,000, the forces proved woefully inadequate. At one point on February 28 there were at least 25,000 people targeting the Muslim localities in Ahmedabad alone. Elsewhere in Gujarat, the problem was broadly similar. The state police force is about 43,000 strong, though only 12,000 of them are armed. The SRP numbers 14,000. The mobs which targeted Muslims in rural areas ranged in strength from 500 to 10,000. In Sardarpura, where 29 people were burnt to death, the mob was over 500-strong while in Pandarwada, where more than 50 were burnt to death in their homes the mob, drawn from people of nearby villages, numbered over 5,000.”

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It further quotes Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pande: “In my 32-year career I have never seen something like this. It was an upsurge, unstoppable and unprecedented. A stage came when it became physically impossible for the police to tackle mobs running into thousands.” It mentions that Union Law Minister Arun Jaitley stated in the Rajya Sabha that the police fired 2,000 rounds which killed 98 rioters. In addition, 4,000 people were arrested for rioting in one week.

The Times of India reported on 2nd March 2002 - “Neither the Army nor the shoot-at-sight orders given to the Gujarat police could control the mob frenzy in Ahmedabad on Friday (1st March 2002) as the city witnessed a total collapse of the law and order machinery for the second straight day taking a heavy toll of human lives…”

And this was on 1st March- when the violence was much less as compared to 28 February. If even the Army and shoot-at-sight orders couldn’t control violence when it was much less, what must have been the situation on 28 February- when the Army was not present during the day and the violence was far more?

This shows that the situation in Ahmedabad has slipped out of hand- and no administration –be it of Narendra Modi or of Sonia Gandhi could have controlled it. What Acharya Giriraj Kishore had warned, reported by The Times of India on 28 February 2002, that the anger of the Hindus could be uncontrollable- became true.

The Hindu reported in its issue dated 1st March - “The Army units started arriving in Ahmedabad and are likely to be deployed in the city on Friday (i.e. 1st March)”. This shows that the Army units reached Ahmedabad so quickly on Feb 28- past midnight- that The Hindu had time to report their arrival and publish it in its issue dated 1st March!

According to The Times of India in its online edition of 1st March 2002- police escorted 400 Muslims to safety in Naroda Patiya after succeeding in dispersing the mob.

On February 28- former Lok Sabha member from Ahmedabad- Ehsan Jafri was killed by a Hindu mob in Gulmarg society in Ahmedabad. Now- in this case- there were around 250 people in the complex. Ehsan Jafri fired on the Hindu crowd with his revolver-injuring 7- as per India Today weekly- 18 March 2002. This drove the crowd mad- and they killed Jafri and 68 others. Police shot dead 5 Hindus outside his house and saved the lives of 200 Muslims in this episode. This claim seems to be completely true- going by the fact that there were 250 people in the complex- and 69 were killed.

As per information put up on the site www.indianembassy.org the state also requested for additional forces from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Two companies of Maharashtra Reserve Police Force arrived and were deployed in Surat.

Thus, in brief, the steps taken on 28 February were:

# The riots began in Ahmedabad at 11 AM. The Chief Minister Narendra Modi informally contacted the Central Government to send Army at 12 noon – i.e. within 1 hour. Curfew was imposed by 12:20 at noon.

# As per the report of The Hindu- Narendra Modi “frantically” called the Army units.

# Narendra Modi requested the Union Defence Minister George Fernandes to come to Gujarat.

# Curfew was imposed in 26 towns and cities in Gujarat.

# There were around 250 people in the housing complex of Ehsan Jafri and the mob killed 69- with the police saving about 200 Muslims- despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered by the mob- which was 10,000 strong- and the crowd going mad by Jafri’s firing. Police shot dead 5 Hindus outside his house.

# The police fired 1,000 rounds in the state- including 600 in Ahmedabad.

# The police shot dead 10 Hindus in Ahmedabad and injured 16. At least 2 were shot dead outside Ahmedabad in Nadiad and Godhra.

# Gujarat Government requested Army deployment within 1 hour. At 4 PM- a press conference was held- in which this decision was publicly announced. All procedures needed for this were done very quickly- Cabinet meeting of Central Government was held at 6:45 PM, it approved Army deployment and Army units reached Ahmedabad after midnight.

# The Army units reached Ahmedabad so quickly that newspapers like The Hindu, The Indian Express had time to report their arrival on 28 February 2002 (Thursday) itself and publish it on 1st March 2002 (Friday)!

# Defence Minister George Fernandes reached Ahmedabad so quickly that newspapers like The Indian Express reported his arrival the next day!

# Police escorted 400 Muslims to safety in Naroda Patiya after dispersing the mob. Total of 95 people were killed- at least 900 Muslims were saved, since The Times of India reports that 1,000 Muslims lived in the attacked area in Naroda Patiya.

# The Gujarat Government requested neighbouring states to send additional police force. All these states were ruled by the Congress.

# 700 people were arrested by the police in the state, including around 80 in Godhra on the very first day of the violence when situation was out of control. Tear gas shells were also burst.

Thus, going through all the news reports of March 1st, 2nd, we see, there is no allegation of complicity or even incompetence against the government. These charges of “Police turning a blind eye, allowing killings for 3 days, not calling Army until 3 days had passed…etc” were made after the riots were over, in a bid to slander Narendra Modi, and earn political benefit on the corpse of the innocent riot victims. If these charges were true- the newspapers would have screamed and gone downtown on the very next day.

Continued at How government controlled riots in 3 days

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