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One thing was distinctly rotten about 2002 Gujarat riots: use of rape as a form of terror

Harsh Mander writes about women and children who were subjected to the most sadistic and vicious forms of violence during the 2002 massacre

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Extreme public cruelty and brutality has characterised all the big communal massacres of post-Independence India: Nellie in 1983, Delhi in 1984, Bhagalpur in 1989, and Bombay in 1992–93. But the Gujarat carnage stands out for its extensive and specific targeting of women, young girls and children, who were subjected to the most sadistic and vicious forms of violence. As reported by Tribunal, women suffered the most bestial forms of brutality, sexual violence, including rape, gang rape, insertion of objects into their bodies, stripping, and molestation. A majority of the women who suffered this violence were then burnt alive. Amongst the survivors, many have spoken about the assaults but many have been silenced for fear of further attacks and for fear of censure from their own families and community. Besides the lack of faith in the system of justice, the humiliation faced by women who dare to challenge taboos and demand punishment for gender crimes like rape have silenced the natural cry for retribution and justice.

There was a distinct, tragic and ghastly feature of the state sponsored carnage unleashed against the Muslim minority in Gujarat, which was the systematic sexual violence committed against young girls and women. Rape was used as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community. A chilling technique, absent in pogroms unleashed hitherto but very much in evidence this time in a large number of cases, was the deliberate destruction of evidence. Barring a few, in most instances of sexual violence, the women victims were stripped and paraded naked, then gangraped, and thereafter quartered and burnt beyond recognition.

The ‘sexual violence consisted of forced nudity, mass rapes, gang-rapes, mutilation, insertion of objects into bodies, cutting of breasts, slitting the stomach and reproductive organs, and carving of Hindu religious symbols on women’s body parts’. An international fact-finding committee comprising gender activists from US, UK, France, Germany and Sri Lanka reported that ‘sexual violence was being used as a strategy for terrorising women belonging to minority community in the state’.

Also read: In age of amnesia, it is easy to forget Bilkis Bano’s fight and the failure of chowkidars

There were several wrenching testimonies of unprecedented cruelty of mass sexual violence on women. Sultani, for instance, from village Eral in Panchmahals, speaks of how, escaping from a mob,

[I] fell behind as I was carrying my son, Faizan. The men caught me from behind and threw me on the ground. Faizan fell from my arms and started crying. My clothes were stripped off by the men and I was left stark naked. One by one the men raped me. All the while I could hear my son crying. I lost count after three. They then cut my foot with a sharp weapon and left me there in that state.

A mother, Medina, from the same village testifies that, ‘two villagers pulled away’ her own daughter.

My mind was seething with fear and fury. I could do nothing to help my daughter from being assaulted sexually and tortured to death. My daughter was like a flower, still to experience life. Why did they have to do this to her? What kind of men are these? The monsters tore my beloved daughter to pieces. After a while, the mob was saying cut them to pieces, leave no evidence. I saw fires being lit. After some time the mob started leaving. And it became quiet.

Many reports refer to the horror experienced by Kausar Bano. In the words of Saira Bano, ‘What they did to my sister-in-law’s sister Kausar Bano was horrific and heinous. She was nine months pregnant. They cut open her belly, took out her foetus with a sword and threw it into a blazing fire. Then they burnt her as well.’

The Survivors Speak report describes this as a ‘meta-narrative’ of the carnage, a story told many times over.

Sometimes the details would vary—the foetus was dashed to the ground; the foetus was slaughtered with a sword; the foetus was swung on the point of the sword and then thrown into a fire. In all instances where extreme violence is experienced collectively, meta-narratives are constructed. Each victim is part of the narrative; their experience subsumed by the collective experience. Kausar is that collective experience—a metanarrative of bestiality; a meta-narrative of helpless victimhood. There are a thousand Kausars. Members of the fact-finding team have seen photographic evidence of the burnt bodies of a mother and a foetus lying on the mother’s belly, as if torn from the uterus and left on the gash. We do not know if that was Kausar Bano.

Also read: Bilkis Bano has another reason to smile in her 17-year fight for justice

In a recent account, Splintered Justice, lawyer Prita Jha recounts that the rioters of 2002 did not limit their acts of sexual violence to Muslims. They also targeted fellow Hindus who had any association with Muslims.

Gauri was in love with a Muslim man and was living with him when the violence began. When the Hindu mob attacked her village, Gauri said, she persuaded her partner to leave the house and hide in the fields, believing that since she was a Hindu, the rioters, her co-religionists, would not harm her. If only! Gauri was gangraped by seven Hindu rioters, in front of 30–40 fellow villagers, none of whom even tried to help her. Her ordeal was also witnessed by her minor daughter, who later testified in court as the only eyewitness. Going through the trial process was traumatic, Gauri said.

Many reports also describe the use of children as instruments of terror.

In what is surely the most perverse dimension of the violence, children were used to torture and terrorize victims. In one particularly tragic incident in Tarsali, an old Muslim man was shown the head of his beheaded son on a tray before he was brutally slewed [sic] himself. Another woman surrounded by a mob had to watch as her son, who had climbed up a tree to escape the mob, be brought down, his fingers cut off, and the rest of his body dismembered in her presence, all before she herself was killed.

The impact of such merciless violence on children is excruciating even to imagine. Thirteen-year-old Azharuddin testifies,

I saw Farzana being raped by Guddu Chara. Farzana was about thirteen years old. She was a resident of Hussain Nagar. They put a saria [rod] in Farzana’s stomach. She was later burnt. Twelve-year-old Noorjahan was also raped. The rapists were Guddu, Suresh and Naresh Chara and Haria. I also saw Bhawani Singh, who works in the state Transport Department kill five men and a boy.

Also read: Modi should have at least offered to resign — Vajpayee, after 2002 riots

Eight-year-old Saddam described how men attacked and ‘then…then they stripped my mother naked…usko nanga kar diya’. A nine-year old volunteered to explain to another women’s team what balatkar [rape] means. ‘Balatkaar ka matlab jab aurat ko nanga karte hain aur phir use jala deta hain (Rape is when a woman is stripped naked and then burnt)’. It goes on to observe: ‘Only a child can tell it like it is. For this is what happened again and again in Naroda Patiya—women were stripped, raped and burnt. Burning has now become an essential part of the meaning of rape.’

For children, the sense of loss is more innocent but no less profound. For example, seven-year-old Shaheen can’t understand why her loss is less important than others. Resentment is barely concealed in her innocent eyes. Because the looters who attacked her village snatched away her most prized possessions—her toys. She says, ‘Ek cycle thi (I had a cycle).’ But lest we don’t appreciate the full extent of her loss, she quickly adds, ‘Doosri cycle bhi thi (I also had another cycle).’ Thereafter, in barely audible tones, the list starts pouring out of her mouth— ‘Ek kursi, ek vimaan. Ek choolah bhi tha. Chooleh pe roti banate the. Gudiya bhi thi. (One chair, one aeroplane, one stove. I used to make rotis on my stove. I also had a doll).’ When asked are Hindus bad? ‘Yes,’ she nods, followed by a quick, ‘No.’ She is thinking of Anita and Kamal, her friends in the village school in Atasumba. They are Hindus. She misses them.

This excerpt from ‘Between Memory and Forgetting: Massacre and the Modi Years in Gujarat’, written by Harsh Mander, has been published with permission from Yoda Press.

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  1. The author is famous for his anti hindu sentiments… write about kashmiri pandits dear… Its still continuing since 1992

  2. Now only solution left for Indian muslims is that when next time any such riot happens, and to protect the dignity of their women, one muslim from each family should jump into the crowd of hindutva rioters blowing their heads off. I gurantee these cowards will stop riots if just 2-3 such incidents happens. It is better to die with dignity.

  3. Both Congress and BJP Governments and leaderships had given total freedom to their goons to kill thousands of innocents and rape women. And both ruling governments have failed to punish the guilty. Infact they protected guilty goons.

    • Firstly hindu polititions killed their own Hindu people in a train.. it was a rumour that muslims did this, but it is not.. and they spread false news fastly, just to blame muslims and kill Muslims and gain faith of blind Hindus and thier votes…
      The world knows how politician people play strategies to gain votes.. make hindu Muslim strategies.. BJP and RSS are the dirty polititions.. they are the killer’s. And these blind hindu people given vote to them..

    Perhaps the Parcharak should explain the Surat riots which he organised.
    Now that he has whitewashed himself from the Gujarat 2002 riots.
    People forget the Surat riot where Modi as a RSS Paracharak was alleged to be the mastermind along with his partner Amit Shah.
    The systematic use of ga…ng -r…ap…e.. as a weapon occurred in the Surat riots after the Babri Masjid demolition, and an ugly innovation was the videotaping of the gang-rapes.
    This was not a case of some random bystander filming the attacks, but a meticulously- planned spectacle with the venues flood-lit despite the fact that electric wires to the rest of the neighbourhood had been cut .
    Prof Ipsita Chatterjee, University of Texas, spent many months in Surat and has written, done primary research and had written about the Surat riots as the topic of her PhD thesis, this is a Brahmin lady who is a devout Hindu, but never proclaims the fact. Why don’t you email her Browneyes or telephone her for a chat.
    According to Praful Bidwai, who then wrote in the Times of India and Indian Express, Modi was the mastermind of the unspeakable atrocities against women in the 1992 Surat riots .

    Modi was Prachark of Surat when these riots happened, they have been researched in the following books.
    Brass, Paul R.
    Production of Hindu-Muslim violence in contemporary India.
    Seattle, Wash. : University of Washington Press, c2003

    Votes and Violence
    By Steven I Wilkinson
    Electoral Competition and Ethnic Violence in India
    Cambridge University Press

    Globalization and Social Conflict: A Case Study of Hindu-Muslim Conflict in Gujarat By Prof Ipsita Chatterjee, University of Texas.
    Read this brilliant and very well researched book.

    I would recommend that anyone who believes that Mr Modi has been acquitted/given a clean chit by the courts makes an effort to read Manoj Mitta’s “The Fiction of Fact-finding: Modi and Godhra”. This book examines the paper trail relating to the Communal violence in Gujarat in forensic detail and lays bare the lies, obfuscations and subversions of the law that have allowed Modi and his supporters to claim his name has been cleared.

  5. The world is moving forward but we r moving backwards thanks to the party we voted for .Shame on us to have voted for such a person who caused such riots .Shame on us that this happened in the name of religion .Which religion teaches u to rape n kill in it’s name ? Would u not become a terrorist if the same happened to ur own blood whether daughter sister or mother? Perverse r the people who encourage such things and feel sad for the people who lived thru all this .Sorry my vote shall no more be for this party

    • These things are always wrong.but

      What was happen with kasmiri pandits
      Girls & women’s are raped not in one day but
      over a period of time ,continuously in front of there family and down into pieces or shot dead by bullets

      They are continuously planning against Hindus
      They are educated to do this in madarsa and by there dharm guru

      You find many Hindus are going hazi Ali in Mumbai near mahalaxmi Mandir
      But no Muslim come to mahalaxmi Mandir

      Hindu are always like humanity but giving right answer to there act with Hindu women is very necessary

      I think you first read about Kashmiri pandit voilence

    • These things are always wrong.but

      What was happen with kasmiri pandits
      Girls & women’s are raped not in one day but
      over a period of time ,continuously in front of there family and down into pieces or shot dead by bullets

      They are continuously planning against Hindus
      They are educated to do this in madarsa and by there dharm guru

      You find many Hindus are going hazi Ali in Mumbai near mahalaxmi Mandir
      But no Muslim come to mahalaxmi Mandir

      Hindu are always like humanity but giving right answer to there act with Hindu women is very necessary

      I think you first read about Kashmiri pandit voilence

  6. V D Savarkar the RSS ideologue has recommended the use of rape as a political tool. So bjp being it’s political party has used it

  7. There are names, children’s stories, instead of just ranting against the writer , why doesn’t some investigate? It’s so easy to give your opinion biased or otherwise but how about probing the truth? ….. There definitely terror let lose during the ” Modi” reign.

  8. Harsh Mander, the upcoming new Tukde Tukde gang member. Probably the Congress face for Journalism or the Pakistan’s sponsored C**t**.

    I just hope that the freedom of speech and writing have some guidelines on the context of the events, representing the factual data and non provocative, failing which can face severe prosecution.

  9. Remember Kasab wearing hindu signature gears, propaganda of faking hindu terrorism. With whose help he reached till mumbai, plus who had benefits of projecting hindu as terrorists.
    Pure congress supported attack with their political agenda, they thought they are near to failure so the agenda.

  10. Actually the most lynchings, gang rapes and murders were carried out by Muslims only at that time, Hindus were most victimized. Stupid.

  11. I think even I should become, journalist and critic writer.
    I want a book which has real facts, any one interested can contact me.
    Subject is
    Congress or Gandhi family funded 26/11 attacks,
    Support for antinationals like Shehla Rashid and kanhaiya Kumar (the tukde tukde gang) by congress or Gandhi family.
    Terror attacks funded by Congress family.
    Mob lynches all over country funded by congress.
    Growth of muslim terror plus
    fake hindu terror propaganda.

  12. How can anyone believe an author who signs mercy petition of Afzal guru and ajmal kasab. What does he wants to prove after 17 years of an incidence? A wrong is a wrong and there is no doubt about it. This article clearly looks like a political agenda at the time of elections. Is he a sickular Hindu by any chance is my quest?

  13. The three worst things ever made is religion, casteism and racism. These three things must be banned

  14. Shame on your journalism! You bloody are successors of great traitor Mrzafar & DNA test will certify it

  15. If this happened then culprits be punished.But u people always crock minorities minorities, r they only to attend n alowed to kill simple childrens n women’s after pouring them with kerosine n burned alive. Why don’t u remind people of ur misdeeds.

  16. Harsh mander is known for anti hindu narratives. He is the same person who took side of anti nationals even after the supreme court verdict. What else we can expect from him other than this highly biased views. He forgot to mention the gujarat riots happened in congress regime in which small hindu children were given acid bath in Bapunagar and saraspur areas of Ahmedabad. He is writing all this under an agenda. Shame on him.

  17. Why doesn’t the print volunteer to tell about the same cases where the victims were Hindu Women. I don’t take the thing that peaceful mob didn’t do anything similar. Seeing through history I can pretty much claim that this type of thing would have been started by them only.

  18. Why doesn’t the print volunteer to tell about the same cases where the victims were Hindu Women. I don’t take the thing that peaceful mob didn’t do anything similar. Seeing through history I can pretty much claim that this type of thing would have been started by them only.

  19. What is wrong is wrong. No words to defend it. Be it Kashmiri Pundits or innocent killing of Kar sewaks in Godhra.
    The criminals be brought to justice. It was a lesson learnt for Modi in the initial period of his role as a CM. That time till now under is watch nothing has happened.

  20. Nice article you tried your best to portray how muslims massacred millions and billion of
    Hindu’s would love to read another article on how hindus were massacred in jammu and kashmir, you very well preferred & conveniently forgot that Godhra happened because of a reactuon where furst Hindu’s were burnt alive. It was startwd by muslims not hindus.

  21. Gujaratis probably followed same pattern which was followed by invaders from Gulf in 15th century on Hindus. They also followed the pattern employed by Kashmiri muslims when they threw Hindus out from their homes and stated. They also followed the pattern adopted by Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan to throw their fellow countrymen out of country. The difference today is that some cheap line journalists taking note of Gujarat and wants forgate the sins of Sunnis in whole world. But people know everything about traitors. They will flush you out through drain.

    • Mr. Raj,
      The world is going forward and you want to move backward. On one side you are probably projecting that the pattern followed by the invaders in 15 th. Century and those Kashmiri muslims were barbaric and on the other side you are tellings that the Gujaratis followed the same. That indicates that what has happened in Gujarat in 2002, when Narendra Modi was CM, is also barbaric.
      So you mean to say nobody should point it out? Do you have that much calibre to drive away other Hindus also who would point out those? Do not dare to do so!

    • No agend, this article was to enlighten you dumb and deafs that the present Prime Minister is a dirty monster. If you still do not realise this then get lost.

  22. Harsh Mander is the man who signed the mercy petition for Kasab and Afzal Guru. He conveniently forgets about the innumerable earlier massacres in Nellie, and in Delhi under the Congress dispensation. How can his views be anything but biased.

  23. The excerpt tells some horrific tales something the millennials should know about. But the header image of Narendra Modi was a bit perplexing to me as nowhere in the article is his name or even CM has been used. So this attributing an image which just mislead (when innumerable images of riots are in public domain) seems fishy to me.

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