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Gujarat riots: Fact file

The large-scale collective violence in Gujarat has generally been described as riots or inter-communal clashes. The perpetrators of the violence as well as Sangh Parivar leaders and the Gujarat government maintain that the violence was a spontaneous, uncontrollable reaction to the Godhra train burning.

india Updated: Mar 16, 2009 12:07 IST

The 2002 Gujarat violence describes a series of communal riots between the communities of Hindus and Muslims that took place in Gujarat between February 2002.

The riots occurred at the Godhra train burning. The train had left Godhra Station and it was forcibly stopped and attacked by a 500 strong weapon carrying Muslim mob that targeted one of the coaches containing the Hindu religious pilgrims and burnt them alive. 58 Hindu pilgrims, 23 men, 15 women and 20 children perished. This incident was the flashpoint that started the communal Gujarat violence.

In September 2008 the Godhra Commission confirmed that there was an attack, by a Muslim mob. Going further, the report claims that one Hassan Lalu had thrown burning objects into the train and 140 litres of petrol had been used to set the train on fire, adding stones were thrown on passengers to stop them from fleeing. According to official figures tabled in the parliament, more than a thousand people were killed (790 Muslims and 254 Hindus) in the violence after the train incident. More than one hundred and fifty thousand people were displaced (about 100,000 Muslims and 40,000 Hindus).

Organisations such as Human Rights Watch criticized the government for failure to address the resulting humanitarian condition of people, "overwhelming majority of them Muslim," who fled their homes for relief camps in the aftermath of the events. Many of the investigations and prosecution of those accused of violence during the riots have been opened for reinvestigation and prosecution. According to an official estimate, 1044 people were killed in the violence - 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus including those killed in the Godhra train fire. Another 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 injured, 919 women widowed and 606 children orphaned. About 100,000 Muslims and 40,000 Hindus were in relief camps.

The large-scale, collective violence has been generally been described as riots or inter-communal clashes. The perpetrators of the violence as well as Sangh parivar leaders and the Gujarat government maintain that the violence was a spontaneous, uncontrollable reaction to the Godhra train burning. Going by the numbers, the vested interests have termed it a massacre and an attempted pogrom or genocide of the Muslim population, emphasizing that the violence was largely directed against defenceless people, indiscriminate with regard to age or sex and alleging that it was pre-planned, organised and aided by the local authorities and political leaders.