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|September 17, 2002|
The Rediff Special
The text of the memorandum submitted by the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin to Prime Minister of India A B Vajpayee on September 13, 2002, in New York to protest against the communal violence in Gujarat
The American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) takes this opportunity to express their sincere thanks to you for this dialogue between the Government of India and non-resident Indians.
American Muslims of Indian origin are part of a vibrant non-resident Indian community. They are an active constituent of American democratic pluralism. Moreover, they are also an integral part of the over 7 million American Muslims representing different cultures and regions. The Indian Muslim community in the United States consists of highly educated professionals and businessmen and women. They are part of the American mosaic in every aspect of life.
The American Indian Muslim community seeks to ensure that the image of India as a democratic, secular, pluralistic country is never compromised. However, the events of the last few years in India have raised serious concerns about the image that we all cherish.
We appreciate and commend the public expression of this serious problem by the President of India, Shri A P J Abdul Kalam, in his recent address to the National Judicial Academy on September 5 in Bhopal. His bold statement against growing "intolerance and contempt for others' religions and lawless violence" is very timely. We respectfully request that your Government address the concerns raised by the President and institute effective remedial measures and programs to control and reverse this dangerous trend in India.
We care for India's image and reputation; we feel very sad and disappointed when barbaric violence occurs and inhuman atrocities are committed with impunity against fellow Indians. As present citizens of a democratic, secular, pluralistic United States, where the freedoms and rights of all law abiding citizens are equally protected, we desire the same for all citizens of India as enshrined in our Constitution and its implementation depends on the policies of the government in power as witnessed recently in Gujarat.
We very much want to uphold and promote an attractive image of India as a democratic, secular, pluralistic, peaceful, and civilized country. We are distressed to note that recurrent lawless violence in India, often politically motivated, and the pogroms like the recent carnage in Gujarat, have greatly tarnished India's image that we all cherish and want to enhance. Rise of religious extremism, gross violations of human rights, targeting of religious minorities for their beliefs, and resulting civil strife are serious impediments to progress and prosperity of India. International perceptions of recurrent lawless violence and civil strife of India will adversely affect India's economic interests and relations with other democratic countries.
When organized violence, the pogrom, was unleashed over helpless men women and children in Gujarat, the authorities allowed a free hand to killers and looters. For days the violence went unchecked. Instead of bringing the situation under control, the Chief Minister [of Gujarat Narendra Modi] justified the violence by his infamous remarks, "Every action has a reaction."
It is, however, encouraging to note that the National Human Rights Commission, reputed NGOs, eminent jurists, the international Human Rights Watch, many intellectuals and the mainstream media in India acted very commendably in raising public awareness and focusing attention on the culprits. We are proud of them.
Even your delayed visit to Ahmedabad, much after the carnage, did allow the victims to tell you their tragic experiences and horrible suffering. Your visit and words of sympathy must have been very welcome to them and to, the nation; however, your subsequent statement in Goa damaged this goodwill and caused great concern and disappointment. That statement coming from the Prime Minister of the country was shocking as it articulated the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] ideology and their attitude towards Muslims.
To our knowledge, [Deputy Prime Minister] Shri L K Advani's first public expression of regret came five months after the event during his recent visit to UK but not in India. Apparently the central government did not implement the secular commitment of the ruling coalition.
The RSS and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric is very divisive for India, is dangerous for peace and progress of India, and it damages India's interests abroad.
Shri [VHP Working President Ashok] Singhal's recent highly objectionable and provocative statement given in Amritsar is full of hate against Muslims of India, he openly praises and takes pride in the Gujarat pogrom as a successful experiment and threatens to repeat it all over India. This is clear incitement for violence and terrorism. We wonder why he is not apprehended for violation of Indian law.
We are also very concerned about the some recent statements of Shri Modi in Gujarat ridiculing Muslims, apparently to gain votes in the forthcoming elections in Gujarat. Is it acceptable to make baseless derogatory comments against religious minorities to win votes in a secular democracy? The pride of Indian culture is its civility, how can you discard it?
We are very disappointed with the state government's handling of relief, rehabilitation and compensation for victims of the carnage. Not only that the process has been slow but also discriminatory, as reported by impartial observers. The compensation actually paid so far has been very small compared to the actual losses, even much less than what the state government had announced. This attitude indicates that the life, honour and property of Muslims are not considered equal to that of other Indian citizens.
We are sad to note lack of sincere, impartial, and effective efforts on the part of the government to bring the real culprits to justice. It is reported that even those who were seen participating in the violence and are recorded on camera and in video, have not been apprehended. We request involvement of central law enforcement agencies with clear mandate to ensure fair and equal justice to all those who were involved in instigating or committing violence and crimes.
We understand that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) of India had recommended an investigation by the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] concerning the violence in Gujarat, which was not accepted by your government. We believe it would have been helpful to instil confidence in the government's handling of this very tragic situation.
Mr PM, the purpose of this meeting is not to repeat what has been extensively brought out by the Indian and the international media, journalists of impeccable credentials, human rights activists, social workers, India's own NHRC, and international HRW [human rights workers]. They gave a grim picture of happenings in Gujarat and are extremely critical of the attitude of the state government. Our aim in seeking this meeting is to request you to ensure the fullest and earliest rehabilitation of the victims of Gujarat carnage.
We want to see a stable and peaceful India. We all must do our part to root out violence and terrorism from our midst. We would like to see India achieving its destiny in full measure; take its rightful place amongst the nations of the world. It has the potential but to realize it India has to harness creative energies of all sections of its population. For this to achieve (sic) India must live up to the noble ideals in its constitution.
AFMI is willing wholeheartedly for India's progress and prosperity. With its extensive membership and the network, AFMI is well placed to build bridges between our mother country and our adopted country and the future generation through multidimensional efforts.
We would like to have a constructive dialogue with Indian authorities at all levels. We need, Mr PM, your support for such interaction on the continuing basis.
If we have referred to the past it is with the intention of learning from it. But our efforts will be focused on the future.
Thank you for giving us your valuable time.
A S Nakadar, Secretary General AFMI
Design: Rahil Shaikh
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