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March 05, 2002

British Muslims condemn the Government’s indifference to the killing of Muslims in India

London: The Muslim News
British Muslims have condemned the Blair Government’s indifference to the massacre of Muslims in India. More than 500 Muslims, one of them a British citizen, who was on holiday in India, have been killed in the western state of Gujarat, in a five-day frenzy of violence.

The Foreign Office has refused to condemn the killings of Muslims in India and instead a spokesman told The Muslim News: “We offer our support to the Government of India in this difficult time.” General Secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain Yousuf Bhailok said: “We are outraged at the position of the Foreign Office. We have been devastated. The Government is showing double standards”.
Muslim leaders are meeting Home Secretary Jack Straw at 4.45pm this afternoon to express their concern and displeasure at the Government’s unacceptable stand.

A Foreign Office spokesman justified the Government’s indifference by arguing that “this was India’s internal problem”, and therefore the British Government could not comment. When asked why the Government could condemn the deaths of Israeli civilians but not those of Indian Muslims the spokesman did not respond. Prime Minister Tony Blair has so far ignored the raging violence against Muslims in India, and a Downing Street spokesman refused to comment on Blair’s silence saying that the Foreign Office’s comments were sufficient.

Thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have been left homeless in a carnage which began after the torching of a train carriage transporting Hindu karsevaks (militant activists) returning from their demonstrations in the northern town of Ayodhya, about 1,200 miles from Gujarat. While the burning of the train carriage was used by activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a sister organisation of India’s ruling party the BJP, as an excuse to carry out religious killings, no evidence has so far been produced to prove that the train was burnt by Muslims. Indian newspaper have reported that the train carriage may have been burnt because of a fight between karsevaks, who were said to be stealing goods from the stalls at Godhra station, and the stall owners.

Within hours of the train burning, thousands of Hindu youths took to the streets murdering Muslims, burning their shops and looting and burning their homes. For three days the Gujarat Government watched as the state burned, without taking recourse to deploying the police or the army. Mustaq Momin, an artist who lives in Ahmedabad told The Muslim News over the telephone, “We are coped up in our house as hoardes of Hindu youths are going from area to area torching Muslim properties and hoping they will not spot our house. We have made repeated calls to the police for protection but there is no response, all we can do is pray”.
The Gujarat police force is notorious for being partisan and anti-Muslim. Their partisan performance has been recorded during previous sectarian riots that have hit the state in the last 15 years. The Foreign Office, on the other hand, dismissed as “speculation” charges of the involvement of local police in the atrocities and their refusal to protect Muslims.

Causalities in the latest round of communal cleansing by the VHP include 42 year-old Mohammed Aswat, a British Muslim from Batley, West Yorkshire. He along with three other British Muslims were returning to Surat, Gujarat, after visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra on Wednesday, when their minibus was set upon at Himmatnagar, 100 miles from Ahmedabad. Continued p2
The Muslim News press release cont’d
Musa Kazi, a relative of the dead Briton described the horrific incident to The Muslim News after his telephonic conversation with those accompanying Mohammed Aswat. “Imran Dawood, who is a 24-year-old student and was injured in the attack told me that their mini bus was stopped by a mob of about 40 to 50 people. They set the vehicle alight. When he got out of the minibus, they started beating him until he became unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he found Mohammed Aswat, lying dead near him. He had been stabbed to death,” related Kazi. Shakil Dawood and Saeed Dawood, both 40 who were also in the minibus, are still missing. The driver of the minibus, who was from Gujarat, was also killed.

Two hundred British Muslims are still trapped in Gujarat where the situation continues to be tense. About one hundred are from London, 30 from Dewsbury/ Batley, 50 from Bolton/Preston, and 20 from Leceister. A spokesperson for the Foreign Office dealing with the Counsellor section, said they were in touch with British Muslims trapped in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. “We have told them to stay indoors and we are in constant touch with the police in the area.” When The Muslim News informed her that the police had either refused or had taken part in the killings, so why had the British Counsel in India not consulted the Central Government for assistance, she replied: “I do not know what representations have been made.”

Mike Wood, the MP for Batley said he supported the position taken by the Foreign Office as it was sensible and any condemnation by Britain may endanger the lives of British nationals stuck in Gujarat.

The Chair of the Indian Muslim Welfare Society in Batley, told The Muslim News: “We are appalled by the Government’s comments. I’m surprised Mr Blair is not pursuing the same line as the Zimbabwe affair.” He added that there is “significant evidence that the Indian Government is pursuing an ethnic cleansing policy in Gujarat. There is little or no confidence in the police and our Government should demand the India should protect its minorities”.

Yusuf Dawood, brother of Shakil and Saeed who are missing in Gujarat, told The Muslim News that the British Government “needs to explore fully what has been happening. They need to explore the human rights abuses that have occurred. They need to be vary of misinformation from all channels especially the state apparatus as was the case with Zimbabwe and Germany.”

The Muslim News has learnt that another British Muslim may have been killed. The relatives are awaiting confirmation.

Last night 48 more Muslim shops were burnt in Surat according reports reaching The Muslim News.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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