The HRW Report on Gujarat: Another Assassination
                                        Aseem R. Shukla

                 'Dial M. Modi for Murder'
                 'Modi: the Butcher of Gujarat'

                 - The Times of India

                 The embers of the Godhra aftermath have not been extinguished, yet another
                 round of killing has begun. Call it a character assassination -- for nothing less
                 than the humiliation, disintegration and disembowelment of a Chief Minister,
                 the ruling political party, the vernacular press and an entire population is
                 incessantly being pursued. Exhibit A -- the headlines at the start of this article.
                 Presented as a foregone conclusion, sections of the Indian media cavalierly
                 usurp the role of judge, jury and executioner. Libelous accusations are being
                 concocted; a wicked application of Newton's Law is fraudulently attributed to
                 Modi ad nauseam despite repeated denials.

                 Yet, all of this is just a fraction of an ongoing orgy, and the usual suspects are
                 joining the party --a desperate Opposition and a devious intelligentsia. Rather
                 than douse a runaway inferno, these characters continue to pour an acrid fuel
                 on the Godhra aftermath. While a nation thirsts for calm and reconciliation,
                 democratic dysfunction sees a shrill Opposition shatter parliamentary protocol
                 and any governmental function. Six days of a nation's life held hostage to a
                 maneuver so benignly called Rule 184. Opposition members, and some of the
                 ruling alliance, heap the basest of accusations, the most abusive of insults, and
                 demand what they perceive as the biggest prize of all -- Modi's head.
                 Absolutely unsubstantiated indictments continue to implicate Modi and his
                 government as puppeteers directing destruction within their own constituencies
                 (more on this later).

                 Yet, all the ugly maneuvering, the spurious accusations, parliamentary inaction
                 and the ignominious grandstanding -- though eminently revolting -- are, in
                 some way, acceptable. The English press can continue wielding their overt
                 left-wing political agenda. The Jawaharlal Nehru University hangers-on can
                 continue with their inanities. This is India and its diverse citizenry dealing with a
                 searing tragedy. Very much as an individual traverses the stages of grief from
                 denial to acceptance, so too will a shattered India find its bearing, make its
                 peace and move forward. For the agenda is full. Commissions formed in
                 Gujarat are to commence investigations. Arrests have been made in Godhra
                 and during the aftermath. Undoubtedly, only the surface has been skimmed:
                 too many more are to be apprehended. Even The National Human Rights
                 Commission of India has made its uninvited visit and placed very public
                 recommendations for consideration. Ahmedabad has dealt with this before --
                 before Godhra, before the BJP came to Gandhinagar, before 2002 -- and
                 Ahmedabad always limps back.

                 But if all of this is not enough, in the midst of a national catharsis, now comes
                 the invasion from abroad. The international news media that had piled on early
                 with their Indian colleagues, left for some time, and suddenly returned over the
                 last week. A pathetic NRI Muslim group in West Yorkshire, England is
                 shopping around Europe for a makeshift international court to hang Modi; yes,
                 there are even statements of feigned diplomatic concern from the United
                 Kingdom, France and others in the European Union massaging their own
                 Muslim constituencies. A common thread binds this unholy alliance -- the
                 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Gujarat, published April 30, 2002.

                 Authored by a Smita Narula, the report, subtitled 'State participation and
                 complicity in communal violence in Gujarat', is breathlessly touted by media
                 outlets to corroborate the one accusation they cannot prove -- Modi, his
                 government and his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are solely
                 responsible for the Gujarati violence. From Godhra to Ahmedabad, there is
                 only one family of culprits and they are to be 'exposed'.

                 I was drawn to this report for this very reason. For as the personal
                 accusations reached a crescendo over the last 6 weeks, despite my
                 compulsive search of all accounts from Gujarat, I had not seen any
                 substantiation to the charge that the State government carried out the attacks
                 on Muslims. Of course, there is no dearth of accusations -- and the headlines
                 in the Indian press, never known for the mastery of subtlety, skip words like
                 “complicity” and just accuse Modi of murder. Yet here was a report from a
                 foreign organization, no less, that confidently declares state participation and
                 complicity in the massacres. Now I had read the 1999 report on Kashmir by
                 the HRW, an amalgamation of Indian Army human rights abuses that failed to
                 devote even a sentence to the plight of Kashmiri Hindus. I was eager now to
                 understand what this inexplicably often-quoted organization had to say of

                 So I downloaded this now infamous report (at
        with great anticipation --
                 perhaps this was the definitive report, the Holy Grail, so many sought to
                 accurately accuse the BJP. Ah, but I expected too much. Scanning the
                 summary I realized quickly that this document owed its genesis to the same
                 biases, the same perverse equations and the very same sources that had
                 vitiated the atmosphere in Gujarat for eight weeks prior.

                 Ostensibly written as an account of a tragic, maniacal orgy of murder, this
                 75-page report evolves into nothing more than a politically charged and
                 hopelessly biased self-serving account. There are 327 footnotes of which over
                 150 references are none other than the English newspapers widely known for
                 their partiality. Over 20 references belong to the Times of India, now
                 infamous for editorializing Hindu fault in the Godhra massacre. The Asian Age,
                 Telegraph, The Hindu, Outlook Magazine, and a sundry list of other
                 publications spawned from the identically vicious false-secular ideology round
                 out the list of 'credible' sources. Even more difficult to comprehend are 6
                 separate references attributed to the South China Morning Post -- dare not
                 ask when it became a respected authority of Gujarati news. Thus we have to
                 look no further to understand the fountainhead of this report's strategy. But I
                 did choose to read further.

                 The report, then, begins with an arrogant list of “recommendations” to the
                 Government of India, India's trading partners, and for good measure,
                 international lending institutions like the World Bank. Over 75% of this list
                 calls for the involvement of United Nations agencies from the investigation to
                 implementation of the HRW agenda -- a clear challenge to the legitimacy of
                 the Indian government.

                 But if the striking audacity of the recommendations from the start of the report
                 is insufficient to set the tone, more is yet to come. The first salvo without which
                 this report would not exist -- the Godhra train burning -- merits exactly 1
                 paragraph on page 13. That's correct -- 3 sentences out of 75 pages describe
                 the killing of innocent Hindus that sparked a national nightmare. The remainder
                 of the Godhra chapter exhaustively quotes Celia Dugger of the New York
                 Times and Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post and their
                 long-exposed, sadistic, blame-the-Hindu victim journalistic gymnastics
                 (examine the bias of these reporters in Ramesh Rao's article at

                 So while 3 pages of this chapter spend more time denouncing POTO than the
                 death of 60 innocents, the following 6 pages (pp. 15-21) exhaustively detail
                 spine-chilling personal accounts of the equivalent number of Muslim innocents
                 killed in each of the Naroda-Patia and Gulmarg Society areas of Ahmedabad
                 in the aftermath. There is no parity when one speaks of murder, but couldn't
                 the HRW agenda spare a few condoling words of empathy for the dead

                 As I focused on the accusations of state complicity, once again only innuendo
                 filled page after page. The initial act of state complicity? The unmitigated gall
                 of the Gujarat government to call a bandh to mourn the mayhem of Godhra.
                 Seeking further evidence of state complicity? See page 22. Reported is that
                 spray-painted on a wall was, 'Andar andar ki baat hey, Police hamare
                 saath hey'. That's right, graffiti on a wall is the standard to what defines
                 evidence in this report. Repeated mention is made of “computer lists”
                 specifying Muslim businesses. But not a shred of evidence is presented that
                 these lists were generated by government officials.

                 The police are repetitively implicated as colluding with rioters during the
                 massacres based on victim accounts. Clearly police in Ahmedabad were often
                 unable to control the mayhem in the early hours: over 30,000 rioters were
                 reported to have attacked Gulmarg Society alone. And certainly despicable
                 individuals in the police, inexcusably blinded by the rage of the moment, may
                 have participated with the rioters in the first 24 hours. There is no evidence or
                 accounts, however, in the report -- due to no lack of trying -- of systematic
                 police or state complicity despite a vast media presence at the time or from
                 the interviews since. In its haste to blame the government, the report again
                 overlooks the facts of rapid police deployment and the massive police firing
                 that disproportionately killed Hindu rioters: 90 companies of the State Reserve
                 Police were called in on February 27, 2002 itself, and over 3,900 rounds of
                 ammunition killed close to 100 rioters. The Gujarat Police overlook a
                 population of 50 million (that would rank as the 22nd most populous country
                 in the world) and have largely succeeded in keeping violence at a minimum
                 within one city since the initial days of madness.

                 Perhaps none of the distortions and none of the insidious lies expose the HRW
                 agenda as clearly as chapter 6 on page 39. Entitled 'The context of violence in
                 Gujarat', this chapter is the ultimate in political ham-handedness. Incredibly,
                 the entire history of communalism in Gujarat is attributed to the rise of the
                 Sangh Parivar. If the rest of the 73 pages of anti-Sangh hatred are not enough,
                 though utterly unrelated, almost 2 pages are devoted to anti-Christian
                 violence. Keep in mind again that the Godhra train killing merited 1 paragraph!
                 It is nothing less than criminal to overlook the infamous, and far more
                 extensive, riots of 1969, 1985, 1989 and 1992 that preceded BJP rule in the
                 state. Gujaratis are well aware that the last decade of communal peace, before
                 Muslim leaders staged a premeditated attack on that calm in Godhra, was a
                 rare chapter in recent history.

                 I could go on about the report's selective respect for only the FIRs filed by
                 Muslims, of its distortions about police transfers (all were promotions), paucity
                 of Godhra victim interviews, etc., etc. But there can be no doubt now that the
                 crocodile tears seek only the political annihilation of a rival. Murder and
                 mayhem in Gujarat was moral bankruptcy incarnate -- but the borrowers span
                 the spectrum of Indian polity -- there is no monopoly. Caste-based,
                 vote-bank politics, nefarious external elements infiltrating the local
                 communities, and a hellish history must be reconciled and re-mediated to
                 assure long-term calm -- not 75 pages of anti-Indian hearsay focused on the
                 political destruction of a popularly elected party. Not a shred of evidence links
                 Modi or his government to substantiate a single conclusion in this report. The
                 reliance on the Indian English press by HRW and its ilk is clear, and I can only
                 hope the media will awaken to how it was manipulated for anti-national ends.

                 Why do I devote this article to a report written by an insignificant
                 paper-pusher with no journalistic integrity securely sheltered in New York
                 City? This report is a convenient summary of a rampant dogma among circles
                 immersed in a modern day political witch-hunt. A witch-hunt aimed at
                 discrediting an opposing ideology -- it is tantamount to an arrogant rejection of
                 Indian democracy, Gujarati electoral intelligence and due process. For
                 evidence of immediate repercussions, just wait until the next session in the
                 United States Congress when the shrinking, yet shrill, India-baiters begin
                 spewing their venom India's way. You can count on them being armed with
                 the HRW report making its way through Washington.