//Indian Church condemns Gujarat violence

Indian Church condemns Gujarat violence

4 May, 2006

Bishops’ Conference is saddened by violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Vadadora; it calls on all parties to engage in a patient dialogue. Minister condemns police for inaction and shooting into the crowd.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/CBCI) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) condemned on Wednesday the continued violence in Vadodara, Gujarat.  In a press statement, CBCI Secretary General Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes said the Catholic Church in India was “saddened by the violence in Vadodara.”

“It is unfortunate,” he said, “that the razing to the ground of a holy shrine, symbol of peace and harmony, should also bring crumbling down the fragile edifice of trust and harmony that was emerging in this communally-sensitive state.”

On May Day, local authorities tore down a dargah, a century-old shrine built over the grave of a Sufi saint, because the land was state-owned. The local Muslim community’s protest was met by police shooting at the crowd. Hindu extremists fanned the flames of sectarian violence by targeted attacks against Muslims. In three days, six people have been killed.

The government responded by imposing a curfew and deploying army patrols since yesterday. Tensions have eased somewhat today and the curfew was lifted for a few hours for women and children.

Sriprakash Jaiswal, minister of State in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, condemned the demolition of the dargah as well as police behaviour.

Some 50 people, both Hindu and Muslim, were arrested yesterday in relation to the violence.

The clashes have re-opened wounds still fresh from 2002 when some 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in sectarian violence in the state.

In the CBCI statement, Archbishop Fernandes said that “only proactive and patient efforts and actions of tolerance and respect can build goodwill and harmony among peoples of all communities.”

The CBCI statement appealed to all groups and communities and religious leaders to promote reconciliation and peace and not provoke harmful religious sentiments.

The prelate reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s commitment to work for harmonious and peaceful resolution to conflicts and situations of injustice so that all of India’s peoples and communities can enjoy a lasting and fulfilling peace.


Gujarat violence brings back spectre of 2002 massacres

3 May, 2006, by Nirmala Carvalho

For three days now, in Vadodara, clashes between Muslims and police have raged after the demolition of a sacred place; six people have been killed. VHP Hindu extremists are fanning the flames. The bishop and human rights activists have condemned the local authorities, the forces of order and fundamentalists.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – People burned alive, clashes between Muslims, Hindus and police, curfews. In the state of Gujarat, western India, deep, as yet unhealed, wounds from inter-religious clashes in 2002 have been reopened. For three days now, in Vadodara (first known as Baroda), a Hindu extremist crowd, fomented by activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP – extremist group), has been carrying out violent protests against the Muslim minority community. The police at times just stand and stare; other times they simply shoot on the crowd.

The unrest started on 1 May, when local authorities demolished a dargah, the tomb of a holy Sufi, because it was built on state property. Muslim residents claimed the administration knew the community intended to transfer the "centenary" construction somewhere else but it paid no heed.

Today, the death toll rose to six after 1am last night, when a 38-year-old man was burnt alive in his car on Ajwar Road. The crowd carrying out the attack was led by Ashok Thakur and other renowned VHP activists. Yesterday, another man met the same fate. On 1 May, the death toll of violence between Muslims and police reached four.

The bishop of Vadodara, Mgr Godfrey de Rozario, condemned the approach of the civil authorities "who should show more sensitivity to the religious feelings of people instead of provoking anger." He said: " If they thought the demolition was legal, they should have paved the way for it: the inter-faith violence in 2002 is still alive in our minds and the wounds have not yet healed."

In 2002, the so-called "Gujarat carnage" took place, that is, a series of inter-religious clashes that claimed the lives of 2,000 people, mostly Msulims.

Catholic human rights activists have taken the side of the Islamic community. Fr Cedric Prakash, director of Prashant, a Jesuit human rights centre, said: "We are shocked by what is happening in Vadadora; we condemn the violence perpetrated by part of the population, but we also condemn the indifference of the police and its complicity in these incidents. All those wanted to take justice into their hands should be arrested, especially members of fundamentalist groups like the VHP."

The Jesuit, who has followed the situation in Gujarat since 2002, said: "Once again, the local government has failed to protect minorities and their property. New Delhi should intervene promptly to avoid a repeat of the 2002 events."

For the moment, an intermittent curfew is in force across the city. The Interior Affairs minister said "five teams of the Central Reserve Police and four of the Rapid Action Force" are on their way to the area.