Anti-Muslim Violence in Gujarat Was Planned by State, Says EU Report

Source Says Probe in India Points Toward «Ethnic Cleansing»

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NEW DELHI, India, APRIL 30, 2002 ( A European Union investigation into India´s worst race riots in a decade has concluded that the violence was a pre-planned policy involving state Ministers to «purge» Muslims and destroy their economy.

The Financial Times published the news today, quoting an internal report by European Union embassies in Delhi.

The report provides one of the harshest indictments yet on the Gujarat riots, which have killed almost 900 people, mostly Muslims, in a matter of weeks. One EU source said the report pointed to «ethnic cleansing» of Muslims in the state and that there was clear evidence of complicity by state Ministers.

The report has been submitted to the 15 EU governments who will decide what action to take and how to raise their concerns at next week´s EU-India summit in Delhi.

The disclosure is sure to put further pressure on India´s Hindu nationalist BJP-led government, which faces an opposition censure motion in Parliament today over its handling of the riots.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hit back at foreign criticism last week, accusing the international community of meddling in India´s internal affairs. But that position was becoming harder to justify this week amid mounting evidence that the violence was pre-planned and state-backed.

Last week some Western diplomats described events in Gujarat as «genocide» for the first time. While the EU report stopped short of using that word, it clearly implied there was a policy of ethnic cleansing.

«The pattern of violence suggests the purpose was to purge Muslims from Hindu and mixed Hindu/Muslim areas,» said a copy of the final draft seen by the Financial Times. «Muslim businesses were systematically targeted and destroyed.»

On the role of BJP state officials in Gujarat, it said: «Ministers took active part in the violence … senior police officers were instructed not to intervene in the rioting.»

Until now, the BJP central government has said the revenge riots were ignited by a fatal arson attack on a train carrying Hindu activists at Godhra. That attack, which killed 59 people, was blamed on Muslims.

But the EU report, based on investigations by a number of individual member States that sent staff to the region, said Godhra was no more than a «pretext» for Hindu mob violence, which was planned months before. Diplomatic sources said free swords were being distributed by Hindu activists days before the riots began.

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