Tens of thousands of Muslims are living in renewed fear in Gujrat as Crescent goes to press, after government and police officials blamed Muslims for an attack on a Hindu temple in Gandhinagar on September 24. About 30 people were reportedly killed when two gunmen opened fire in the temple. The gunmen were killed by security forces after a short siege.
India’s deputy prime minister, BJP ideologue L. K. Advani, who represents Gandhinagar in parliament, immediately blamed the attack on Pakistan, saying that “even last week our enemy spoke of Gujerat in the United Nations so it seems that the plan was on for quite some time.”
In fact, in his speech to the UN on September 12, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf had been referring to the killings of Muslims in Gujrat earlier this year. Advani, however, was clearly determined to link Pakistan — and by extension Indian Muslims, whom the BJP routinely accuses of being Pakistani agents — to the temple incident by any possible means, however ridiculous.
Indian security officials who were involved in the incident said that the two gunmen had belonged to a Pakistani-based militant group called Tehrik-e Kasak, which they described as a front for the outlawed Lashkar-e Tayyeba.
Hindu nationalist groups, led by the World Hindu Council, immediately called a nationwide 24-hour strike on September 26 to protest against the attack. The strike call was also supported by a number of Indian Muslim organizations, which rushed to condemn the attack.
As the strike took hold, Muslims in Gujrat were preparing for what they fear will be a bloody retribution, as Hindu groups take advantage of the attack to renew their bloody campaign against India’s Muslims. Earlier this year, some 3,000 Muslims in Gujrat were killed as Hindus went on a rampage that was ostensibly in response to an incident in which 60 Hindu activists were killed (allegedly by a Muslim mob), but which had in fact been carefully planned in advance by Hindu groups.
Many thousands more saw their homes and livelihoods destroyed, and more than 100,000 were left homeless, destitute and living in terror in squalid refugee camps that the Gujrat government has been closing down. Ashok Singhal, the international working president of the VHP, one of the major Hindu groups involved, later described the Gujrat carnage as a “successful experiment” which would be repeated throughout India.
Muslim fears are exacerbated by the fact that even before the temple attack, Hindu leaders in Gujrat had been giving out anti-Muslim rhetoric. Speaking at an election rally on September 20, an event that was widely broadcast on radio and television, Gujrat’s chief minister Narendra Modi, who has been deeply implicated in Gujrat’s anti-Muslim pogroms, blamed Muslims in refugee camps for the state’s economic problems.
The National Commission for Minorities later said that it would investigate the comments, but considering Modi has been able to withstand all calls for him to be called to account for his role in the earlier anti-Muslim campaign he is unlikely to be worried by this.
Gujrat’s Muslims, however, and those elsewhere in India, have good reason to be afraid.