for Peace and Justice in Gujarat
Coalition Against Communalism
gathers to condemn the violence and demand justice for
all victims in Gujarat; Indian Consulate presented with
petition bearing 4233 signatures asking the National
Human Rights Commission to ensure human rights and justice
in Gujarat; Gathering draws 250.
Francisco, CA - On Saturday, March 23rd , 250 people
gathered at the Gadar Memorial, a tribute to the movement
that Bhagat Singh belonged to, and
marched to the Indian Consulate in San Francisco to
present a petition bearing
over 4233 signatures from across the world asking the
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to safeguard
the human and constitutional rights for all residents
of Gujarat - regardless of religion or ethnicity. The
petition asks the NHRC to ensure the following:
- Setting up of an independent
and impartial judicial enquiry. It rejects both the
charter and the constitution of the current judicial
- Immediate government assistance
- Equal and fair compensation to
all victims, whether of the Sabarmati Express or of
the communal violence.
- Gujarat Government to condemn,
not explain, the violence.
- The Dismissal of the Police Commissioners
in cities worst affected by the violence.
- The Resignation of the Gujarat
Chief Minister, Narendra Modi
- That the recent decision not
to apply POTO to the current violence is commendable,
and needs to be sustained.
- An immediate end to all measures
to curb the freedom of, and acts of violence against,
the freedom of the press.
who signed the petition included film-maker Anand Patwardhan,
former Chief of Indian Navy, Admiral Ramdas, social
activist Lalitha Ramdas, author Chitra Divakaruni, Magasaysay
award winner Rajendra Singh, Narmada Bachao Andolan
activist Shripad Dharmadhikary, human rights activists
Dr. Vineeta Gupta and Mukundan Menon, university professors
Dr. D. N. Jha (Delhi University), Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy
(Jawaharlal Nehru University), Dr. Raka Ray (University
of California, Berkeley), Dr. Rafiq Dossani (Stanford
University), Dr. Hari Sharma (Simon Fraser University),
independent film maker Ali Kazimi, journalists Arundhati
Parmar and Beena Sarwar, and leaders of Indo-American
organizations Srikanth Nadhamuni (former President of
Indians for Collective Action) and Pradeep Kashyap (Director
of the Indian American Foundation).
march, orchestrated under the banner of Coalition Against
Communalism, was a reflection of India in all its diversity
- with representation from all its religions, brought
together by the carnage in Gujarat. It was also a representation
of an often silent majority of Indians living in the
San Francisco Bay Area, who were outraged by the events
in Gujarat, and believed that their voice needed an
expression, and wanted to show the people of their support
in these troubled times. On reaching the Indian Consulate,
the marches observed a minute of silence to honor and
respect all the victims of Gujarat.
The march included a talk by Shalini
Gera, the author of the petition, who debunked many
of the myths perpetuated on what happened in Gujarat,
and Why? According to Gera, this violence was neither
spontaneous, nor expressive of a sentiment among the
Hindus in Gujarat. It was pre-planned, meticulously
executed, and often carried out in collusion with the
civic, administrative, and political bodies. Furthermore,
the government has been both biased and negligent in
its provision of relief to victims of the riots. Gera
also took exception to the claim by the Sangh Parivar
to be both patriots and pro-Hindu, saying they neither
represent Hindus in their distortion of its beliefs,
nor the country in their rejection of its founding principles.
Hindus and Muslims, as with other communities in India,
live together peacefully, and the recent violence was
a deliberate and malicious provocation by people opposed
to that fact.
Sangh Parivar, and in particular its more extreme bodies
that function outside the political process - the VHP,
RSS, and Bajrang Dal, were condemned by those who marched.
There were several slogans against the Vishva Hindu
Parishad (VHP), which is active in the Indian community
in the US, and has been directly linked to both the
instigation and the execution of the violence against
Muslims in the India. The speakers also made this point.
Raju Rajagopal, an activist in the Indian community,
spoke of the need for Indians everywhere to speak up
against the violence. Gurdip Ankhi, who spoke in Punjabi,
and has been active in politics in Punjab, spoke of
the government forcing Indians everywhere to hang their
heads in shame by their failure to uphold this most
basic right of all citizens - the right to life. Samittar
Uppal, of the Indian People's Cultural Association drew
parallels between the challenges of today, and the work
of the Gadar Party in fighting both for India's freedom,
and their vision of a secular and democratic India.
Manzoor Ghori and Omair Farooqui of the Indian Muslim
Relief Committee read a statement condemning the violence.
Syed ji of Hyderabad spoke of the fact that Muslims
in India were Indians to the core, rejecting the Sangh
Parivar argument on the external origins of Islam. Avi
Singh also spoke of the need for holdings those responsible
accountable under the rule of law, and the responsibility
everyone shared in preventing these tragedies from reoccurring.
Other speakers included Sanjiv Mahajan and Professor
Praveen Sheth and Manzoor Ghori presented the petition
to the ConsulateThe Vice Consul Saxena, on behalf of
the Consul General, received the petition.
The mood of the march was somber
in light of the events in Gujarat. Nalini Shekar led
the marched in singing songs on communal harmony. Among
banners displayed at the march, some included:
"Religious Harmony and Social
Justice in India"
"PM: Do your Constitutional Duty"
"We want a Secular and Democratic India"
"Vajpayeeji, Uphold the Rule of Law"
"VHP Represent Hindus - What a Joke?"
"Bring all Law-Breakers to justice now"
"We must stop this violence now. I urge the
government and the human rights groups to do their part
to end it. I pray for all our brothers and sisters who
have suffered in this hate-filled carnage in India."
-Chitra Divakurni, Author
"We must condemn crimes committed in our name,
and plan for long term strategies toward secularizing
India and Indians so we might honour the promises we
have made to each other in the name of democracy, justice
and freedom for all her citizens."
-Professor Angana Chatterji,
California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco,
"This is not just a Gujarat issue. This is not
just an Indian issue. This is about upholding the constitution
and law & order."
-Raju Rajgopal, Activist