The anti-Muslim pogrom that killed an estimated 2,000 people in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 remains an open wound and an injustice at the heart of Indian politics.
In the years prior to the slaughter, Hindu chauvinist politicians – including Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi – had created a climate of fear among Muslims.
Following an alleged attack on a train by a Muslim gang in which 60 people were killed, Hindu thugs went on a barbaric killing spree.
According to Human Rights Watch, the gangs – which were sometimes thousands-strong and armed with swords, explosives, and gas cylinders – were guided by addresses of Muslims obtained from the local administration.
The report says, “What happened in Gujarat was not a spontaneous uprising, it was a carefully orchestrated attack against Muslims.
“The attacks were planned in advance and organised with extensive participation of the police and state government officials.”
Repeated calls on the police to intervene to stop the violence were ignored and many independent observers report that the police were often the instigators of attacks. More than 150,000 Muslims were forced to flee their homes.
Even though the scale of the atrocity makes the Gujarat pogroms one of the worst episodes of anti-Muslim violence in India since independence, very few of those who were accused of attacking Muslims have ever faced a criminal trial.
And despite ample evidence of state collusion, no action has ever been taken against those who helped orchestrate the violence. Chief minister Modi was “cleared” of any involvement with the crimes by a government commission in September this year.