March 11, 2003
European Union and Netherlands should suspend official aid to Gujarat
Both the European Union (EU) and The Netherlands have thus far continued their official development co-operation with the state government of Gujarat (India), also after Chief Minister Modi of the ruling BJP won the elections in December 2002 after a hate campaign against the Muslim minority. Since June 2002 the EU and The Netherlands have not publicly raised their voice again about the massacre supported by the Modi-government on more than 2000 Muslims in Gujarat, even though it is becoming clear that surviving victims have no access to justice and are hardly being rehabilitated and compensated.
The position of The Netherlands and the EU calls for an explanation in the light of 'good governance' criteria, including respect for human rights, that especially The Netherlands considers to be thé cornerstone for government to government development co-operation.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have end of February 2003 send out press releases making statements that those guilty of the violence in Gujarat still go unpunished and that there has hardly been any relief and rehabilitation for the victims. According to Amnesty International 'the right to equality before the law is also routinely violated in Gujarat' and the recommendations of the official National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have so far been ignored. The NHRC has published some very critical reports on the issue in the first half of 2002 but had to stop its activities after the election victory of Narendra Modi. Modi is the new hero of the Hindu nationalist BJP party (which is in power in Gujarat and also leading a national coalition government - and in Gujarat), but also a number of strongly related mass organisations of Hindu fundamentalists that are working to create a 'Hindu Nation'.
Both The Netherlands and the EU financially support programmes of the government of Gujarat in the areas of primary education, health care, drinking water and rehabilitation of the victims of the earthquake that hit Gujarat in 2001. In 2002 The Netherlands supported the government of Gujarat with €12,5 million. Through non-governmental organisations the Dutch also supported a programme for victims of the massacre.
The EU supports the government of Gujarat in 2002 and 2003 with €40 million for a health sector reform programme and post earthquake re-development. In addition the EU supports non-governmental organisations in Gujarat with an amount of €55 million. However, neither the European Union nor The Netherlands have taken a public position on the question if official development co-operation with the government of Gujarat is still justified, and if so why, in a situation which can certainly not be characterised by 'good governance'.
Two questions seem to be crucial here:
The India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) is of the opinion that the official development co-operation with the government of Gujarat should be suspended until these questions are answered and until the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are satisfactorily implemented.
- is the continued co-operation with the government of Gujarat not a justification of a government that is co-responsible for mass murder, does not punish those that are responsible, ignores the victims and discriminates the Muslim minority?
- are the programmes supported by The Netherlands and the EU being negatively effected by a government that discriminates Muslims?
The statements of both Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch are supported by the conclusions of a recent visit (27-29 January) of a team consisting of, among others, the directors of Action Aid (New Delhi) and the Confederation of Voluntary Agencies (COVA) from Hyderabad. According a report from the COVA director Ali Asghar about this visit, the police is pressurising victims to withdraw cases and complaints they have filed and several of them are still living in makeshift camps and rented rooms in small towns because they cannot return to their village. The reason is 'the economic boycott imposed by the Hindu right wing parties'. Asghar also writes: 'There are a number of welfare schemes of the government that could benefit the victims. But they have not been able to access these because of non-cooperation from the officials and also because of rampant corruption'.
Asghar further describes a recent case of setting on fire 31 houses of Muslims in the city of Dahod 'with the police as a bystander all the time'. The main accused, including a BJP leader, are still roaming free. Instead the police arrested 40 young Muslim men, part of whom are still in police custody. Around 600 people are now living in a relief camp and they have not received any assistance from the administration so far.
On February 27th a train coach with mainly Hindu pilgrims was set on fire and 59 person were burned to death. It is still not clear who the perpetrators of this horrible act are. Right after this 'violence of unprecedented brutality targeting the Muslim community spread in the state and continued in the next three months, leaving more than 2000 people killed. The state government, administration and police took insufficient action to protect civilians and in many cases may have colluded with the attackers and actively participated in the violence'. (Amnesty International in press release on 26 February 2003).
In a systematic manner, pre-planned according to a large number of independent reports, properties of Muslims - houses, shops, mosques etc. worth roughly €700 million - were looted and burned. Many women were raped on a large scale by mobs and often killed thereafter. According to the same independent investigations, the government of Gujarat - especially in the first few days after the attack on the train in Godhra - did not interfere in the orchestrated violence while ample evidence has been provided that the police, other officials and politicians have in fact actively participated in the violence and protected the guilty.
On 23rd of April the Indian Ambassador in Madrid was officially summoned by the Spanish chairmanship of the European Union on the issue of Gujarat. Furthermore on the 2nd of May the European Union, during a official meeting high-level meeting between India and the EU in New Delhi, expressed its deep concern about the situation in Gujarat to the Indian authorities.
During the same period an internal EU-report was leaked mentioning 'the clear evidence of complicity by state ministers [of the Modi government] in the Gujarat killings' (The Week, May 12 2002). Another leaked Netherlands report also referred to the targeting of Muslims and indicted Gujarat Chief Minister Modi for his failure to protect the minorities (The Week). The government of India, 'loosing its diplomatic cool ... responding in a tone of unseemly anger' (tehelka.com, 24 April 2002), accused the EU of playing 'a partisan role which could affect the friendly relations between India and the European Union, as well as with the European countries (The Hindu, April 26 2002). This didn't stop the European Parliament to adopt a resolution on May 16th 2002 asking the government of India and Gujarat to 'continue their investigations ... independently and impartially and to bring those responsible to justice, irrespective of their positions, religion, identity of political belief'. The resolution also stated that 'numerous independent inquiries by human rights organisations confirm that state officials and police of Gujarat were involved in the clashes'.
At the end of June 2002 the Dutch Minister of Development Co-operation, Mrs. Eveline Herfkens, wrote in a letter to ICCO, the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) and six other NGO's that 'the governance situation has come under considerable pressure because of what happened'. Furthermore she wrote: 'I assure you that I will continue to follow up on the developments in Gujarat. It is of great importance to follow up to what extent the Indian central and Gujarati state government will match deeds with words, will take preventive measures to stop repetition of violence, will undertake action to bring the perpetrators of violence to court, take care of an adequate rehabilitation of the victims and implement measures to counter discrimination of religious minorities (in particular in programmes that are financed with Dutch funds). I have requested Her Majesty's Ambassador in New Delhi to continue to report about this to me.'
For further information mail to:
Gerard Oonk, co-ordinator India Committee of the Netherlands: firstname.lastname@example.org