September 15, 2003
The Guardian (UK)

Heart of Darkness

by Luke Harding

[As a young backpacker Luke Harding found India charming and eccentric. Fifteen years later he returned as the Guardian's correspondent. Now, after finishing his time there, he recalls how one terrible incident of secular violence in Gujarat brought his love affair with the country to an end.]

I can identify the moment I fell out of love with India quite precisely. It happened at the end of last February. Riots had just broken out in the western state of Gujarat, after a group of Muslims attacked a train full of Hindu pilgrims, killing 59 of them. In Gujarat's main city, Ahmedabad, trouble was brewing. Hindu mobs had begun taking revenge on their Muslim neighbours - there were stories of murder, looting and arson. Arriving in Ahmedabad from Delhi, I found it impossible to hire a car or driver: nobody wanted to drive into the riots.

But the trouble was not difficult to find: smoke billowed from above Ahmedabad's old city; and I set off towards it on foot. There were rumours that a mob had hacked to death Ahsan Jafri - a distinguished Indian former MP, and a Muslim - whose Muslim housing estate was surrounded by a sea of Hindu houses. A team from Reuters gave me a lift. Driving through streets full of burned-out shops and broken glass we arrived half an hour later outside his compound, surrounded by thousands of people. Jafri had been dead for several hours, it emerged. A Hindu mob had tipped kerosene through his front door; a few hours later they had dragged him out into the street, chopped off his fingers, and set him on fire. They also set light to several other members of his family, including two small boys. There wasn't much left of Jafri's Gulbarg Housing Society by the time we got there: at the bottom of his stairs I discovered a pyre of human remains - hair and the tiny blackened arm of a child, its fist clenched. . . .


"5,000 Killed, 50,000 Homeless in India 'Pogrom'," The Wisdom Fund, March 16, 2002

Harsh Mander, "Cry, The Beloved Country: Reflections on the Gujarat massacre," The Wisdom Fund, March 21, 2002

Bhiku Parekh, "Making Sense of Gujarat," SOCIETY UNDER SIEGE, May 2002

"Godhra bogie was burnt from inside: Report," Times of India, July 3, 2002

[Hindu nationalism, or Hindutva - is rising in India. And some say it has risen with the sometimes unwitting help of Indian Americans who have contributed millions to charities in their native country, particularly schools in tribal areas that the Hindu right views as key to its agenda.--Gaiutra Bahadur, "Hindu nationalists tap immigrant guilt in U.S.," Philadelphia Inquirer, January 17, 2003]

[In a new twist to the Babri Masjid case, five of the accused on Saturday alleged that they had pulled down the structure at Ayodhya at the instigation of Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and other senior BJP leaders.--"'Babri Masjid demolished at Advani's behest'," Times of India, June 7, 2003]

["The primary message of speeches by Acharya Dharmendra and his colleagues was that the holy duty of Hindu youths was to kill and finish off the Muslims scattered across the Konkan region and elsewhere, 'the offspring of the traitor Afzal Khan'.

"Muslims breed like rabbits and their population would soon overtake that of the Hindus. Until now, we Hindus had been moderate in our demands but now we will be demanding all the 30,000 masjids."--Rajmohan Gandhi, "Blah, blah, blood," Hindustan Times, July 4, 2003]

[Project Saffron Dollar aims to put an end to the collection of hundreds of thousands of dollars by the most 'respectable' of the US based funding arms of the violent and sectarian Hindutva movement-the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF). --"The Campaign to Stop Funding Hate,", August 15, 2003]

[After completing a five-month excavation, government archeologists say they have found no evidence of an ancient Hindu temple under the ruins of a 16th century mosque in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya.--"No Hindu Temple Found Under Ruins of Mosque," Los Angeles Times, August 16, 2003]

[The differences follow the release of a report compiled by a team of Indian Government archaeologists excavating at Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh.--"Dispute over Ayodhya ruins," BBC News, August 25, 2003]

Ram Dutt Tripathi, "Hindu helps faithful Muslims fast," BBC News, November 24, 2003

Ram Dutt Tripathi, "Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat," The International Initiative for Justice (IIJ), December 2003

"Sharma' s 'Final Solution' wins award at Hong Kong film fest,", April 19, 2004

"British widows sue Gujarat govt over genocide," Reuteers, May 3, 2004

[India's railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav . . . told parliament that forensic investigations revealed that inflammable material inside the train had led to the fire.--"Fresh probe in India train attack," BBC News, July 14, 2004]

[Unlike the riot cases - where there was no effort by the Sena government to prosecute the murderers from their own party named in the Srikrishna report - the state government went after the (mostly Muslim) bomb-blast plotters with a vengeance.--Suketu Mehta, "Maximum City: India Lost and Found," Knopf (September 21, 2004)]

Harit Mehta, "In Modi's Gujarat, Hitler is a textbook hero," Times of India, September 30, 2004

"Life sentences in India riot case," BBC News, February 24, 2006

"Indian town seething with anger," BBC News, September 9, 2006

[Parliament was in uproar on Monday over the leaked inquiry report which is said to blame senior BJP figures including Atal Behari Vajpayee and LK Advani. . . .

The destruction of the mosque was one of the most divisive events in Indian history and led to Hindu-Muslim riots across the country in which more than 2,000 people were killed.--"India uproar over Ayodhya report," BBC News, November 23, 2006]

Rama Lakshmi, "Indian court convicts former government minister in deadly 2002 riots,", August 29, 2012

"Q&A: The Ayodhya dispute,", December 5, 2012

[Contrary to the contemporary view of Aurangzeb as a temple destroyer, thousands of Hindu temples adorned the landscape of Aurangzeb's India, and the vast majority were still standing at the end of his rule. . . .

Hindu kings had begun the Indian tradition of desecrating one another's temples by the seventh century, long before the dawn of Indo-Muslim rule.--Audrey Truschke, "A much-maligned Mughal,", April 7, 2015]


[The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has always said the destruction of the mosque was a planned event.--"Ayodhya dispute: India top court orders trial for BJP leaders,", April 19, 2017]

[Under Indian law, a Hindu deity has the right to sue and be sued.--Adam Withnall, "'World's greatest archaeological dispute' to be decided as Indian supreme court wraps up Ayodhya hearing,", October 14, 2019]

"Ayodhya verdict: Indian top court gives holy site to Hindus,", November 8, 2019

[The main beneficiaries of the Supreme Court's verdict on Saturday are organically linked to the main accused in the crime of demolishing the mosque. And that's not good for India.--Siddharth Varadarajan, What the Supreme Court's Ayodhya Judgment Means for the Future of the Republic,", November 9, 2019]

John Stratton Hawley on His Latest Book, 'Krishna's Playground: Vrindavan in the 21st Century', The Wire, January 26, 2020

Rana Ayyub, Islamophobia taints India's response to the coronavirus,", April 6, 2020

India PM Modi lays foundation for Ayodhya Ram temple amid Covid surge,", August 5, 2020

Siddharth Varadarajan, "Demolition Men Do Not Build Nations, They Destroy Them," The Wire, August 7, 2020

Namita Singh, Greatest religious gathering on Earth goes ahead in India with 700,000 Hindus attending despite raging pandemic,", April 6, 2020

Balbir Singh Helped Demolish Babri Masjid, July 29, 2021 [true?]

Narendra Modi BBC Documentary: The Modi Question,, January 18, 2023

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