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Why Gujarat is so sensitive?

According to analysts, urbanisation and rising prosperity are partly to blame for a number of riots, which have taken place in different parts of Gujarat.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2004 13:28 IST

Today Ahmedabad is communally most sensitive city in India. In 1969, about 2500 people had died in Ahmedabad in the region's worst communal violence between Hindus and Muslims since the partition of India in 1947.

The city witnessed a series of communal riots in the 1980s and again in 1992 following the demolition of the Babri masjid in Ayodhya.

This was followed by a period of relative peace, which lasted for almost a decade, barring a few months of sporadic anti-Christian violence in the Gujarat's tribal areas three years ago.

But the bloodbath in February 2002 again raised the question of why Gujarat has become so susceptible to communal clashes.

Analyists feel that urbanisation and rising prosperity are partly responsible for such riots.

Rapid economic growth in the 1960s and 1970s turned Gujarat into one of India's richest and industrially developed provinces. Analysts observe that it is this prosperity, which in some ways became a curse for Gujarat. The mushrooming of industry, especially textile mills, meant that there was a large influx of people from other parts of the country. People who were never really brought up in the Gandhian tradition.

In the 1980s, recession forced the closure of many mills in Gujarat. About 50,000 people lost their jobs. Criminal gangs openly take sides in communal riots, aggravating the already tense situation.

Frustration and unemployment turned many to crime. Gujarat now has a thriving underworld, second only to and closely linked with the underworld in Mumbai.

Muslims constitute only about 13% of the state's population, which is in line with the rest of the country. But the fact that one of the state's most powerful underworld dons in the 1980s was a Muslim raised religious tensions.

Huge money has been made by smuggling arms, contraband and silver from Pakistan to Mumbai via Gujarat. Much of that money has found its way into the hands of religious extremists, both Hindus and Muslims.

Growth of Hindu fundamentalist organisations in the last 20 years has further worsened the situation.

LK Advani began his campaign for construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya from Somnath in Gujarat in 1989. Narendra Modi was handpicked by Advani to join him in the rathyatra.

The campaign intensified Hindu-Muslim hostility throughout the country. It also gave the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal a firm foothold in Gujarat.

The close proximity of the VHP with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, observers believe has led to the communalisation of Gujarati politics. It is also the reason given by many Muslims for allegations that security forces stood by and let Hindu mobs rampage across the state.

First Published: Feb 10, 2004 00:00 IST