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home > Impact of Violence on Women  > Saheli Women's Resource Centre writes to National Commission for Women

Report of the Committee Constituted by the National Commission for Women to Assess the Status and Situation of Women and Girl Children in Gujarat in the wake of the Communal Disturbance

A Letter from Saheli Women's Resource Centre - New Delhi

Dr Poornima Advani,
What You Can Do:
Petition Condemning Violence Against Women in the Gujarat Massacres in India

Gujarat Carnage: Archive: Selected Analytical Articles

Chairperson, National Commission for Women,
4, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg,
New Delhi 110 002

6 May 2002

Sub: Report on Gujarat

Dear Dr Advani,

This is with reference to the "Report of the Committee Constituted by the National Commission for Women to Assess the Status and Situation of Women and Girl Children in Gujarat in the wake of the Communal Disturbance." We would like to place on record our comments on the Report.

In the first place, we would like to point out that the inordinate delay in appointing the Committee only on 9th April, more than five weeks after the carnage in Gujarat began on 27th February, demonstrates a complete lack of response to these alarming events.

Moreover, the entire Report fails to take cognisance of the evidence that the attack against the Muslim community in Gujarat was orchestrated, systematic and pre-meditated. Such one-sided violence cannot be called 'communal disturbances' or 'riots' as referred to in the Report. We visited Gujarat from March 22-27 as part of a women's team along with Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai, Awaaz-e-Niswan, Mumbai and Sahiyar, Baroda. Our findings, which form a part of a chapter entitled 'Women's Perspectives' in the Report of the People's Union for Civil Liberties (Baroda), have led us to the inescapable conclusion that the attacks on the Muslim community following the Godhra carnage, were pre-planned, methodical and had support from the State Government and administration, and can most appropriately be termed genocide.

Similarly, the Report nowhere identifies the perpetrators of the violence. Our own findings, reports of other independent Fact-Finding teams, as well as media reports, clearly indict the armed militia of the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS. An avoidance of naming the guilty is hardly likely to restore a sense of security in those who have been subjected to the gravest forms of violence. The plea that the Report makes its observations in a "very restrained manner" so as not to "further inflame passions", is thus untenable in a situation when the perpetrators of violence are still at large and moving around with impunity while the attacked community cowers in camps, too insecure to move out. Unless the guilty are identified and brought to book, the affected persons cannot hope for justice.

The Report also absolves the State Government of any responsibility for this genocide. We found evidence that not only is the State Government guilty of 'allowing' the attacks to continue till date, various arms of the State Government actively took part in the arson, looting, murder and rape of Muslims. Members of the BJP government have been named in FIRs, while other evidence, like transferring of police officers who have managed to control the violence, points to the control of an anti-minority government over the civil administration.

Thus, when the Report recommends that "in cases of crimes against women prompt action needs to be taken by all wings of the law enforcement agencies," we fail to see how this can be done without prosecuting the officers themselves for dereliction of duty, as well as the politicians who participated in the carnage.

The dismissal by Ms Nafisa Hussain, member, NCW, of an independent report by the Women's Panel as an 'exaggeration', and your silence on the subject, sends unnerving signals to women of the minority community who have been subjected to gang-rape, torture, extreme sexual violence, mutilation and murder. NCW's statement not only negates this factual reality but is also dangerous in so far as it comes from an apex body entrusted with the welfare of women.

Your indifference to the plight of women who have suffered in an unprecedented manner for over two months, your refusal to admit the fact that minority women were the target of gruesome violence and your unwillingness to condemn the Gujarat Government for its complicity, have much in common with the indifference and inaction of the State and Central Governments. Today, when relief camps are being disbanded with no alternative arrangements, when inmates of relief camps are being threatened by mobs demanding that their names be withdrawn from FIRs, and there is no security to return to their homes, what measures are being taken to ensure that the NCW recommendations regarding law and order, relief and rehabilitation are being implemented?

This takes us back to the year 2000 when you brought out a document entitled "Rape - A Legal Study" in which you put forward an extraordinary notion that the subjugation of women began as a result of foreign invasions. The study revealed not only complete ignorance of vast historical and feminist literature on the origin of patriarchal society, but also operated in the framework of a communal stereotype. Although our protest, along with other women's organisations succeeded in withdrawal of the study, we find the same communal stereotype and anti-Muslim prejudices at work in the present Report on Gujarat.

Your stand on the Gujarat genocide, as reflected in the Report, has failed to engender any faith in the National Commission for Women. The autonomy of the NCW has been an issue of concern for women's groups right from the inception of this apex body. When bodies like the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities have been unequivocal in raising issues of human rights, women and minorities and indicting the Government for complicity and inaction, what, we would like to ask, is ailing the NCW? The NCW should not work as an agency of the ruling party but as a representative of women from all communities all over the country. This is the role that has clearly been abdicated by the present National Commission for Women.

Sincerely Yours,

[Dr Sadhana Arya] [Laxmi Murthy]

[For Saheli]

Copy to all Members of the Committee:
Ms Nafisa Hussain, Member, NCW
Ms Reva Nayyar, Member Secretary, NCW
Mr EN Rammohan, Former Director General, BSF
Mr Anees Ahmed, Advocate Supreme Court
Ms Pinky Anand, Advocate, Supreme Court
Prof Pam Rajput, Mahila Dakshita Samiti and Director, Women's Study Centre,
Punjab University, Chandigarh
Dr Vasudha Dhagamwar, Executive Director, Multiple Action Research Group (MARG

Saheli Women's Resource Centre
Above Shop Nos. 105-108
Defence Colony Flyover Market (South Side)
New Delhi 110 024
Tel.: 461 6485