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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 18:29 GMT
NGO says Gujarat riots were planned
Hindu mobs in Ahmedabad
Rioters arrived equipped with phones and trucks
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By Ayanjit Sen
BBC correspondent in Delhi
A leading non-governmental organisation in India has alleged that recent communal rioting in western Gujarat state was systematically planned by Hindu mobs.

It's not possible to identify Muslim shops with Hindu names within 24 hours and this suggests the meticulous planning of the attackers

Dr Kamal Mitra Chenoy

At least 700 people died when Hindu mobs went on the rampage, apparently in revenge for an attack by Muslims on a train-load of Hindu activists returning from the disputed holy site at Ayodhya.

But Dr Kamal Mitra Chenoy of the Sahmat organisation said Hindu groups were simply waiting for an excuse to launch pre-meditated attacks on Gujarat's religious minority.

He said the violence, which centred on the state's largest city, Ahmedabad, was targeted in a way that would not have been possible without prior planning.

In a report on the violence, Sahmat also criticised conditions in relief camps set up by the state government for more than 70,000 Muslims displace by the unrest.

Violence continued on Tuesday as four people were killed when police opened fire on mobs trying to torch buses and shops in Bharooch and Sabarkantha towns.

Another man was injured in a stabbing incident at Sabarkantha.


However, a Gujarat government spokesman, Bharat Pandya, told the BBC the rioting was a spontaneous Hindu backlash fuelled by widespread anger against Muslims.

Rioters destroy property in Gujarat
Sahmat says Muslim property was clearly targeted

"Hindus are frustrated over the role of Muslims in the on-going violence in Indian-administered Kashmir and other parts of India," he said.

But Dr Chenoy said it was obvious that the Muslim community and its commercial interests had clearly already been singled out.

Aside from establishments that were immediately identifiable as Muslim, Muslim-owned shops with Hindu-sounding names were destroyed by the mobs, he said.

He also noted the violence in Ahmedabad erupted just one day after the attack on the train, which left 58 Hindus dead.

"It's not possible to identify Muslim shops with Hindu names within 24 hours and this suggests the meticulous planning of the attackers," Dr Chenoy said.

He also said that rioters arrived at the scene equipped with mobile phones and supplies of bottled water, and brought in trucks to take away looted goods.

None of this would have been possible, he said, without prior planning.

State criticised

The Sahmat report, compiled after a fact-finding tour of Gujarat, also said displaced Muslims were living in appalling conditions in state-run relief camps.

Displaced Muslims
More than 70,000 Muslims were displaced by the rioting

Dr Chenoy said there was a scarcity of blankets and clothes and a lack of adequate medical help.

He also alleged that audio cassettes of cries and howls were sometimes played at night on loudspeakers to frighten the refugees.

The report said that trucks carrying relief goods were being stopped from entering the camps on the grounds that they might be carrying arms for Muslims.

But the government justified this action saying it was necessary to ensure security.

Government spokesman Mr Pandya told the BBC that the state was extending all possible help to the people in the camps.

Ayodhya special report

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See also:

15 Mar 02 | South Asia
Hindu anger at Ayodhya
07 Mar 02 | South Asia
Thousands homeless in Gujarat
06 Mar 02 | South Asia
Traumatised victims wait for help
07 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: India
14 Mar 02 | South Asia
Ayodhya Muslims live in dread
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee's Ayodhya dilemma
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