X. INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION
2004 : Report on International Religious Freedom
Report on International Religious Freedom,
2004 released by the Government of the United States of America
made the following observations with regards to the progress of the trials
in the Gujarat riots cases and the anti-minority agenda of the Modi
government and the Sangh Parivar.
There have been
reports of intimidation and harassment of witnesses; however, the NHRC and
Supreme Court continued to press investigation of the Best Bakery case and
the NHRC pressed for a retrial. To date there have been no prosecutions of
any of those responsible for religiously motivated killing and destruction
in other parts of the country.
In January at
the direction of the Indian Supreme Court, the CBI began investigating the
rape of Bilkis Rassol (which occurred in 2002) and the murder of her
relatives. In May according to the Indian Supreme Court’s direction, the
Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) assigned several of its officers
to guard witnesses in four major post-riot cases in Ahmedabad and Anand
In April the
Indian censors refused a censor certificate to a commercial Hindi film
called "Chand Buz Gaya", which has a character resembling the
controversial Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. The story involves a
Muslim girl and Hindu boy in love with each other, who are separated by
Hindu-Muslim riots that occur after a train arson incident.
In March 2003,
the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP),an offshoot of the
Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), an organization that propagates a
return to Hindu values and cultural norms, announced it would launch a
nationwide campaign to "reclaim" 30,000 Hindu temples that it contends had
been converted into mosques. The VHP’s published list of such mosques
includes the Gyan Vapi mosque in Varanasi, the Idgah mosque in Mathura,
and the Ram temple grounds at the former Babri Mosque in Ayodhya.
In March 2003,
the state assembly of Gujarat passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act.
The act requires those involved with a conversion to seek the permission,
both before and after the conversion ceremony, of the district collector,
who is the sole arbiter of the validity of each conversion. This act also
requires the police to investigate cases of forced or induced religious
During the May to June 2003 trial of 21 Hindus accused of burning 12
Muslims and 2 Hindu workers alive in the Best Bakery, 41 of the 73
witnesses recanted their stories. On June 18, 2003, the 21
defendants were acquitted. The key eyewitness, Zahira Sheikh, a
19-year-old woman, claimed in July 2003, during a press conference in
Mumbai, that she had testified falsely after BJP leaders repeatedly
threatened her family. The NHRC dispatched its team to study the Best
Bakery judgment in July 2003 and filed a petition for retrial outside
Gujarat in the Supreme Court in August 2003. Subsequently, on April 12,
the Supreme Court ordered a new investigation and trial outside of Gujarat
in the Best Bakery case, following the state government’s submission of an
affidavit to the Supreme Court on January 28.
There were minor Hindu-Muslim skirmishes in Gujarat in Vadodara (September
2003 and February), Viramgam (November 2003), Ahmedabad (November 2003 and
January), and Godhra (September 2003 and February). Seven persons (three
Hindus and four Muslims) were killed in these skirmishes.
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