08/26/2004, 00.00
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Modi government under cloud because of Gujarat massacre probe

Ahmedabad (AsiaNews/AFP) – The evidence accumulating before a panel of inquiry into the 2002 Gujarat Hindu-Muslim clashes that led to the death of 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, is increasingly pointing the finger at law enforcement officers and local politicians. Hearings are in fact indicating that the Hindu nationalists running this western Indian State either turned a blind eye or actually encouraged the riots.

The riots were sparked by an attack on January 27, 2002, in Godhra (Gujarat) in which a group of Muslims torched a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The attack left 59 Hindus dead leading Hindu fundamentalists into a violent reaction. Over the next month at least 2,000 Muslims were massacred in different Gujarat towns and cities.

Despite the enormity of what happened many witnesses appearing before the two-judge panel in the last few weeks have pleaded memory losses and lapses.

After days of vague answers and 'can't remember', the judges heard Police Inspector K. K.  Mysorewala explain why the police waited for hours before intervening: the police control room had given orders not to use radio to relay riots-related information.

"There were instructions not to send messages to the city police control room over the wireless sets as frequencies would be jammed," inspector Mysorewala said. In the area under his control alone, more than one hundred Muslims died on that fateful February 28. The central and local police control rooms were informed of the massacre only late at night on the 28.

Political authorities are suspected of having encouraged the violence. A senior bureaucrat told the judges that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi had all the charred bodies of the Hindus taken to Ahmedabad, a city with a long history of inter-communal strife.

According to human rights activists the bodies' arrival in a city already seething with religious resentment was the spark that set off state-wide riots.

The panel now wants to hear Chief Minister Modi explain "why he took the decision to bring the dead bodies to Ahmedabad and why he did not call the army on February 27".

From the beginning this episode in anti-Muslim violence has been labelled "a state-sponsored pogrom" in a state governed by Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.

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