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Friday, September 3, 2010

Criminology - Terrorism and Communal Violence




Defining terrorism is not merely a theoretical issue but an operative concern of the first order. Terrorism is no longer a local problem of specific countries but an issue involving a number of international aspects. Terrorist organizations may perpetrate attacks in a variety of countries; the victims of attacks can be of different nationalities; the offices, headquarters, and training camps of terrorist organizations function in various countries; terrorist organizations receive direct and indirect assistance from different states, enlist support from different ethnic communities, and secure financial help throughout the world. Since terrorism is an international phenomenon, responses to terrorism must also be on an international scale. Developing an effective international strategy requires agreement on what it is we are dealing with, in other words, we need a definition of terrorism. International mobilization against terrorism, such as that which began in the mid-nineties and culminated in the international conventions in the G-7 countries, the Sharem el-Sheik Conference, etc., cannot lead to operational results as long as the participants cannot agree on a definition.

The definition of Terrorism, as has been given by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), is as follows:
“Terrorism is the unlawful use of force against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a Government, the civilian population or any segment thereof, in the furtherance of political or social objectives.”
Terrorism can also be defined as “any act including, but not limited to, the use of force or violence and/ or threat thereof of any person or group(s) of persons whether acting alone or on behalf of, or in connection with, any organization(s) or Government(s) committed for political, religious, ideological or similar purposes, including the intention to influence any Government, and/ or to put the public or any section of the public in fear.”
One layman definition of terrorism could be that acts of terrorism are politically motivated attacks on non-combatant targets. This definition emphasizes that the victims should be non- combatants, whether military or civilian. The first strike should be made by those committing terrorism either on a small or a large scale, as per the situation and the nature of the attacks. Guerrilla movements, underground movements, national liberation movements, commandos, etc. are often used to describe and characterize the activities of terrorist organizations.
Surprisingly, many in the Western world have accepted the mistaken assumption that terrorism and national liberation are two extremes in the scale of legitimate use of violence. The struggle for “national liberation” would appear to be the positive and justified end of this sequence, whereas terrorism is the negative and odious one. It is impossible, according to this approach, for any organization to be both a terrorist group and a movement for national liberation at the same time. In failing to understand the difference between these two concepts, many have, in effect, been caught in a semantic trap laid by the terrorist organizations and their allies. They have attempted to contend with the clichés of national liberation by resorting to odd arguments, instead of stating that when a group or organization chooses terrorism as a means, the aim of their struggle cannot be used to justify their actions. Thus, for instance, Senator Jackson was quoted in Benjamin Netanyahu’s book Terrorism: How the West Can Win as saying,
“The idea that one person’s ‘terrorist’ is another’s ‘freedom fighter’ cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don’t blow up buses containing non-combatants; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don’t set out to capture and slaughter schoolchildren; terrorist murderers do . . . It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word ‘freedom’ to be associated with acts of terrorists.” The definition proposed here states that terrorism is the intentional use of, or threat to use violence against civilians or against civilian targets, in order to attain political aims. This definition is based on three important elements:
1. The essence of the activity—the use of, or threat to use, violence. According to this definition, an activity that does not involve violence or a threat of violence will not be defined as terrorism (including non-violent protest—strikes, peaceful demonstrations, tax revolts, etc.).
2. The aim of the activity is always political—namely, the goal is to attain political objectives; changing the regime, changing the people in power, changing social or economic policies, etc. In the absence of a political aim, the activity in quest will not be defined as terrorism. A violent activity against civilians that has no political aim is, at most, an act of criminal delinquency, a felony, or simply an act of insanity unrelated to terrorism. Some scholars tend to add ideological or religious aims to the list of political aims. The advantage of this definition, however, is that it is as short and exhaustive as possible. The concept of “political aim” is sufficiently broad to include these goals as well. The motivation—whether ideological, religious, or something else—behind the political objective is irrelevant for the purpose of defining terrorism.
3. The targets of terrorism are civilians. Terrorism is thus distinguished from other types of political violence (civil insurrection, etc.). Terrorism exploits the relative vulnerability of the civilian “underbelly”—the tremendous anxiety, and the intense media reaction evoked by attacks against civilian targets. The proposed definition emphasizes that terrorism is not the result of an accidental injury inflicted on a civilian or a group of civilians who stumbled into an area of violent political activity, but stresses that this is an act purposely directed against civilians. Hence, the term “terrorism” should not be ascribed to collateral damage to civilians used as human shields or to cover military activity or installations, if such damage is incurred in an attack originally aimed against a military target. In this case, the responsibility for civilian casualties is incumbent upon whoever used them as shields.







Indiscriminate terrorism entails “using violence against a civilian target, without regard to the specific identity of the victims—in order to spread fear in a population larger than that actually affected—with the purpose of attaining political aims.” In contrast, individual terrorism entails “using violence against a specific civilian target, or attacking a civilian who embodies a symbol to the public or to the attackers, but who does not function as a political leader at the decision-making level.”




The emphasis in criminology focuses on understanding the nature of crime, measurement of crime, causes of crime and the implications of crime causation for public policies of crime prevention and control. This emphasis is designed for students who wish to approach the study of crime and criminal justice from an interdisciplinary orientation that centers on theory, research, and policy.

The present presentation will be directed towards the study of the commission of terrorism and an analysis of the causes behind the terrorist activities conducted by the Islamist terrorist organization Haraqat- al -Muqawamah al- Islamiyya, better known as the HAMAS. The Hamas (a word meaning courage and bravery) is a radical Islamic organization which became active in the early stages of the Intifada, operating primarily in the Gaza Strip but also in the West Bank. The Hamas has played a major role in violent fundamentalist subversion and radical terrorist operations against both Israelis and Arabs. In its initial period, the movement was headed primarily by people identified with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in the Territories. In the course of the Intifada, Hamas gained momentum, expanding its activity also in the West Bank, to become the dominant Islamic fundamentalist organization in the Territories. It defined its highest priority as Jihad (Holy War) for the liberation of Palestine and the establishment of an Islamic Palestine "from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River". By its participation in street violence and murder, it boosted its appeal in the eyes of the Palestinians, further enhancing its growth potential and enabling it to play a central role in the Intifada. As a result of its subversive and terrorist activity, Hamas was outlawed in September 1989. After the Gulf War, Hamas has become the leading perpetrator of terrorist activity throughout the Territories as well as inside Israel. Today it is the second most powerful group, after Fatah, and is sometimes viewed as threatening the hegemony of the secular nationalists. It is currently the strongest opposition group to the peace process and the escalation of its terrorist activity through the murderous suicide bombings against civil targets in Israel in February-March 1996 has slowed down the political process and threatens to stop it altogether.
HAMAS is actively supported by Islamist states like Syria, Jordan and Iran. The Government of Iran contributes around $3 million every year. Islamic aid agencies in the West - these rely on the Islamic community in the West, numbering about 15 million. Among these: Muslim Aid, and the Islamic Relief Agency - ISRA.
In the course of the presentation, I shall be referring to a case study conducted on five chief perpetrators of terrorist activities. Each participant was individually interviewed twice by a professional criminologist. Life stories were collected in the first session. An attempt to temper the participants’ moral approach toward victims of terrorism was made in the second session. Various aspects of moral judgment were recorded before and after the conversation. Each participant took part in two personal meetings with the interviewer (a criminologist). The meetings were designed first to examine the moral base line of each participant, and then to attempt to soften his approach to victims of suicide terror.
The five chief perpetrators facilitated acts of suicide terror between the years 1993 and 1996 and each currently serving several life sentences in high security prisons in Israel. They had similar primordial, social and educational background. The age range of all participants was 21 to 35. Two interviews were conducted with each prisoner at various jails in Israel. The prisoners were not handcuffed. The interviews were tape-recorded and later transcribed. +
The interviewer created an empathetic and straightforward atmosphere throughout the interview. The first part of the interview was a free conversation about home and family (childhood, parents, siblings, friends, etc.). The participant was told that he does not have to relate to the reason for his imprisonment. As the conversation developed, the prisoner felt increasingly comfortable and was willing to speak freely about events and feelings, including longing for his family and personal dilemmas. The first meeting lasted about three hours, and the participant was told that the interviewer would return. The content of the interviews was tape-recorded.
The second personal meeting took place about two weeks later. The interviewer told the participant that she had read the content of the first meeting, that she understood the difficulties and distress expressed by the participant, and that she wanted to ask a number of additional questions. She then presented the three scales to the participant, as described above. :
(1) The relative graphic scale portraying the friction between national and family sentiments;
(2) The independent graphic scale portraying the friction between national and individual considerations; and
(3) A functional measurement scale calling for judgment of a series of incidents.
The interviewer then initiated a conversation designed to influence the participant’s approach towards victims of violent acts. The interviewer’s approach was deliberately empathetic. The participants appeared to be highly affected as a result, as evidenced by the flood of emotion and longing expressed, especially for their mothers, children, and wives. Whenever the participant expressed some human identification with his victims he received verbal reinforcement from the interviewer. At the end of the conversation the three scales were administered a second time.
In all, the interviews were conducted upon the following points:
1. Morality, values, and moral judgment.
2. The basic family group.
3. The refugee experience.
4. Person dilemmas at the moral and practical level.
5. A sense of inferiority and discrimination.
6. Father deprivation due to death or a dysfunctional role.
7. The criminal life of the participant or his family.

The frequency with which each participant mentioned these topics is presented below. A qualitative analysis of the data permitted general conclusions to be reached about each participant and group. The quantitative analysis relates to the ratings given by the participants in the second interview, before and after the conversation. Two kinds of data were produced by the (third) primary measurement, functional judgments:
(1) Moral Ratio (MRh), which reflect the relative weight assigned to the humanistic base (characterizing the victims by types – women, children, soldiers, or all three), and overall justification (Ju) of terror. The MRh calculation was performed according to the following formula:
MRh = J/ (J + D)
“D” and “J” represent the independent weight of damage and justification, accordingly. These values were reached by calculating the difference between the averages of the marginal rows of the original data matrix for each participant. The range of MRh values is 0-1; the closer to 1, the greater the weight given to the humanist element.
The relative values for damage (MRd) are as follows:
MRd = 1 – MRh
(2) The calculation of Ju, Justification of terrorist acts, was performed as a simple average of all data cells.
Measurements were also performed using the two other scales: A relative scale (RI) and an independent scale (II). The analysis was simple: For RI, the higher the value assigned by the participant, the greater the importance assigned to family. The calculation was performed according to the following equations:
Then: Length of scale = RI (‘before’)
Now: Length of scale = RI (‘after’)

For the first question, in which participants were asked about “then,” the calculation was performed according to the following equation:
Length of scale =RI for ‘then’
(5) Scale II (independent) was calculated according to the following equation:
‘Before’ and ‘After’ measures: Individual + Family/ (National + Individual + Family)
(6) The results and combined analysis of the two types of measurements, qualitative and quantitative, are presented separately for the group.
Qualitative Analysis. Table 1 presents frequency distribution for each of the seven categories identified in the content analysis of the transcripts of interviews with chief perpetrators. This analysis was conducted independently by two distinguished eastern specialists. There was a 94% fit between them. They agreed upon the content of the remaining 6% in an ad hoc conversation.
The frequencies in Table 1 show that content related to the moral base of the national struggle (Category 1) are most frequent (except Participant 4) and are apparently the most meaningful category for the chief perpetrators. For significance testing, a non-parametric test is required due to the qualitative nature of the scale.
The only available test ‘indicates that the source of the observed effect is the difference between Categories 1-5 and Categories 6-7. Such an inference is not sufficiently informative. Thus and due to the relatively small number of participants inferences based on visual inspection of the results had to be made. Therefore, the following analysis of the qualitative tables is based on a comparison of the values shown (for individual participants, between participants, and between categories).

Table 1
Frequency of Results of the Content Analysis for the Five Chief Perpetrators
Participant A B C D E F G
No. Morality Family Refugee Dilemma Inferiority Father Criminality
1. 44 18 31 27 30 6 3
2. 18 11 16 14 20 5 0
3. 24 17 11 23 13 15 5
4. 16 57 14 12 3 1 3
5. 17 12 20 12 10 9 8
Median 18 17 16 14 13 6 3

1. MORALITY: The Palestinian struggle is justified in the eyes of the beholders. Some said, however, they would not hurt children. Participant 1, who mentioned this with a considerable frequency (44 times), said: “…I’ve always liked children, whether they’re Jewish or Arab. If I see a picture of a small child I take it. I saw terror attacks against Israel on television. I couldn’t watch if they showed a dead or injured child. I remember that child that was killed at ‘Apropo’ (a blown up restaurant bombing), and it feels like a knife in my back.”
Generally, the chief perpetrators interviewed seem to be searching for ways to justify their terrorist activities, in part by pointing to parallel activities performed by Israel. In the words of Participant 1: “People were motivated to do that car bomb attack, because they themselves were injured, their brothers and sisters, their family, girls and boys, young children, adults.” Moral justification is mentioned most frequently in the interviews with chief perpetrators, as if they were trying to say that the struggle is moral and not without its dilemmas regarding injury to women and children. They felt it necessary to de-humanize and de-legitimize the Israeli side in order to justify their terrorist activities. They drew a clear distinction between attacking soldiers, which was considered legitimate, and attacking women and children. Moral quandaries were spoken about in various ways throughout the interviews, even when participants spoke about very personal matters, such as whether or not to remain married after receiving a long prison sentence and the implications of that decision for a beloved wife.
2. The family as an overriding value was a prominent theme in the interviews with the chief perpetrators. In the words of Participant 1: “There’s a good atmosphere at home, very strong ties, we all love each other, can’t part from each other. That isn’t the reason there are problems. A person can have problems with himself…You give to mother and father what they deserve. Everyone would feel they have someone who supports them. All my life, what’s been important to me is my family. I don’t even think about myself. I can’t do it – brothers, sister, Father, Mother, family, clan. I can’t leave them.”
3. Another important theme was the participants’ experience as refugees, as illustrated in the interview with participant 4: “…I agreed to help wanted Hamas members. There’s something that pushes me to do it. I’m always looking for my faith and my honor… My parents ran away in ‘48 …” When the participants talked about their families, most mentioned events in 1948. They said it was national sentiment and awareness of their problems that pushed them into terrorism. For example, Participant 4 said, “Before ‘48, my father lived in the last village on the Gaza side. When the Palestinians left, they went to a refugee camp. Some of the members of the village are still in Gaza, but they have no land.”
The significance attributed to ideology was another prominent theme in both interviews. As Participant 3 said, “The things that happened in the Intifada, those aren’t the main thing to me. The main thing is, who am I , where was I, what happened to my land, who is my father, where is his land.” Generally, the national struggle between Israel and the Palestinians played a prominent role in the interviews. The participants said that the occupation led them to recruit themselves for the struggle.
4. The fourth ranked topic was moral dilemmas. For example, Participant 1 said, “In the world I live in, I’ve got to go through a few processes. As a Palestinian, I have to decide between living with my mother’s and the family in the camp or just leaving… rising up and doing what I did. It was my last choice in life. Either go to jail or stay with my parents. The dilemmas were primarily inner struggles about the heavy price the family would have to pay for the participant’s choice of terror. In the words of Participant 3: “I considered whether to leave my wife. When I got married I was wanted. After I was married a month I was arrested.”
5. The fifth-ranked topic was the sense of inferiority and discrimination. Some participants spoke about the sense of humiliation felt on various occasions. An example given by Participant 1: “…I couldn’t find a job, I was 18 years old. In the end, I found one at a Tel Aviv restaurant… It was hard for me there. I cleaned up, and that wasn’t for me, didn’t go along with my psychological state…”
Bitterness and anger about Israel and the Israeli establishment was mentioned in various ways. For example, Participant 2 said, “…They let out (of jail) criminals who stole, murderers, not criminals who committed security crimes. Most of the people here are from (the) Fatah (organization). There are high level people… there is racism and no family on your side. You treat all Arabs like criminals.” Participant 1: “When I worked in Israel and had to go through checkpoints, they used to leave us standing at Checkpoint Erez for two, three hours.”
6. Father deprivation was another meaningful topic. Though not mentioned with a considerable frequency, it relates to the sense of pain at the lack of a father for death (in three instances), arrest, or a second marriage (to someone other than the participant’s mother). Participant 3 mentioned the topic 15 times; for example: “When I was 10 years old, my father died of leukemia. My father was very strict when we were young. Even though we were minors, it was important to him that we be able to do everything… He taught us how to be men. Daughters spend time with their mothers, and sons learn from their fathers. I remember that my father used to give me more responsibility.” The recorded matter reflected the need for a father’s love or, primarily, the need for a moral compass. The father was also mentioned as a source of security. The pain was apparent in the words of Participant 5: “I was a year old when my father was put in prison, and he stayed there until I was 8…That had an impact on me…Why did they take my father?” Every participant lacked a father in some way or another, and in every case this deficiency seemed to influence their lives.
7. CRIMINALITY: There was no mention of a criminal way of life or of a family that exhibited criminal patterns of behavior. These people and their families led normal lives. Families appeared to be consistent with the accepted norms. A combination of personal difficulties and nationalist consciousness led the participants to take the father’s place and choose to become chief perpetrators.
Overall, three content areas are evident from the interviews: (1) the moral base of a struggle and the tress imparted to the view that their acts are justified because they are victims. (2) The family and the capacious importance attributed to it. The participants described their families as normal, usually quite poor but not referred to as economically destitute; parents encouraged their children to be educated and there were good relations among family members. The participants described themselves as dominant figures in their families. (3) The refugee experience, which is referred to as something significant in their lives.
Quantitative Analysis. The ratings given by the participants before and after the conversation in the second session were analyzed. The two primary measurements were humanism (MRh) and justification of violence (Ju). The former represents the relative weight assigned to victims’ suffering, is the most important measure. The latter represents the degree of justification given for acts committed by the participant.
There were two, somewhat marginal, measures –RI and II. The former is a relative scale designed to represent the weight given to the nationalist element as opposed to the family element, and the latter is an independent scale designed to represent the same tendency. The two latter measures are simple and somewhat restricted in their ability to reflect perception changes as a result of the interview.
Table 2
Relative Weight Attributed to Justification and Severity of Judgment by the Five Chief Perpetrators, Before and After the Interview (according to the measurements described in the report)

Participant before after before after before after before after then
1 .59 .64 7.2 2.7 .80 .90 .80 .80 .50
2 .15 .84 6.1 4.3 .41 .59 .52 .67 .52
3 .76 .92 4.83 4.72 .18 .21 .80 .13 .67
4 .78 .88 5.28 3.05 1.0 .91 1.0 1.0 .47
5 .95 .96 3.55 0.25 .70 .73 .57 .55 .42

Table 2 reflects a humanistic shift after the interview. This tendency is particularly reflected in MRh and is evidenced in at test for matched samples, t (1, 4) = 2.82, p< .05. According to the table, there was a decrease in justification for terrorist violence following the interview (Ju), t (1, 4) =3.80, p< .05. The measure of RI gives further evidence that the conversation in-between the two measurements in the 2nd session affected the chief perpetrators.
In summary, chief perpetrators seem to live in two orthogonal worlds –family and terrorism. Despite their intensive and extensive involvement in non-human terrorism, following appropriate facilitation they show sparks of humanism.

Terrorism as an Instance of Moral Deviance

The conclusions about the moral polarity of chief perpetrators demand suitable conceptualization, such as that suggested by the cognitive-developmental approach. According to this view, individuals’ morality develops in stages, with each new stage based on the previous one. It follows that the acts of chief perpetrators reflect a low level of morality (utilitarian-social). However, as previously exemplified, the words of the chief perpetrators are not characteristic of low level of morality. This contradiction can be seen as an indication of a limitation in the ability of the cognitive-developmental approach to connect moral judgment with moral behavior.



Communal riots are an indicator of socio-cultural schism existing between the communities. Every communal riot not only deepens this schism and hardens the socio-cultural divide, new found factors and reasons get added to the divide. The recent communal riots in Gujarat and the horrendous carnage perpetrated during these riots have shocked all sensible persons and has reemphasized the need for bridging this gap and evolving an integrated and harmonious human society which is an essential component of a nation. It is necessary to analyze the causes behind the communal riots and widespread violence in Gujarat as well as their dangerous implications.
Lt. Col. Coke, Commandant of Moradabad wrote in 1822:
" Our endeavor should be to uphold in full force the (for us fortunate) separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavor to amalgamate them. Divide et Impera should be the principle of Indian government."
Lord Canning expressed the same view:
"…As we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided( as in religion and national feeling they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power and with the least possible suspicion of our motives."
The present Indian State was established in 1858 and communal violence was an integral component of it. Following this policy the British institutionalized communal violence in a systematic and methodic manner by communal representations in institutions, education, 1909 Minto Morley Reform, Communal Suffrage and Communal representation in all organs of the state and administration to incite bestial hatred based on religion. They laid the foundation of communal and caste vote banks. Government of India Act of 1935 and Partition were to further incite communal violence.
This divide and rule policy of the colonialists besides weakening the unity of anti colonial forces, also had another aim, that was diversion. While division of the people weakened their unity and movement against the British, Diversion from their struggles to something else by communal violence was also an integral part of this policy.
Communal violence was organised by the British because it provided them a pretext to further suppress the people and declare that it was not the colonial rule that was the cause of the problems of the Indian people, but that religion was the problem, and blamed the victims and their religions for the situation created by the colonial rule, and said that it is the policy of the British to be fair and pursue a Secular policy to " do justice to all religious communities."
Thus communal violence was institutionalized in the state structures, used to weaken the unity and resistance of the people and used as a pretext to further attack them and cause diversions. The British colonialists had already perfected this in Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They had used religion as an instrument to divide the people there and establish their domination.
This communal nature of the institutions and state structure did not change with the transfer of power in 1947 and this transfer of power itself was done in the midst of a communal carnage. The ruling circles continued the same state and same policy, as it also suited them on both sides of the border. The Indian state as well as the Pakistani state continued the same institutions and policies, causing more divisions and violence amongst people on the basis of religion, language, caste, national background etc. . In "Secular and Socialist India" between 1961-1970 there were 7964 incidents of communal violence, killing thousands of people.

It has been officially reported that hundreds of people have perished in the communal violence in Gujarat. Unofficial sources point out that 4-5 thousand people may have been massacred. These massacres were organized and not spontaneous. Several police officers told The Indian Express that they had been told ''not to be firm'' with the rioters. ''No one in the Government had drawn the line so it kept getting blurred,'' said one.
The most shocking case was evident at Hatkeshwar Circle in Ahmedabad, the Capital city. Three houses in a row were in flames and 100 feet away, policemen, including an ACP rank officer, sat in chairs taken out from a nearby shop. When asked, one of them said: ''Let them do something also.”
Seeta Ishwar, a mother of four said: "Our men called up police many times but no one came to help us."
"The policeman who was manning the point was openly helping the crowd," Jagdish Parmar, another victim, told"
" In a sense, the mob that attacked our car in Gandhinagar wasn't some anonymous, enraged group that had gone out of control. They were law-breakers who knew they could get away with their actions because the law-makers would protect them. In Gujarat, sadly, the line between the mob and the government has become a very thin one."
"Driven by mortal fear, most Muslims in Ahmedabad moved into ghettos or relief camps last week. After three days of anarchy and bloodletting, the community had lost all faith in the government and the police. It is now clear that February 28 could not have happened without the connivance-if not the active participation-of the state machinery and the ruling party, the BJP. As mobs led by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists ravaged Muslim homes, shops and establishments in the worst riots that Gujarat has seen, all independent accounts indicated that a well-planned pogrom designed to teach the minority community a lesson had been executed. Eyewitnesses told this reporter that policemen were openly pointing to minority homes and shops for the mobs to close in and 'complete the work'. The Gujarat riots has very well explained the major role that political factors play in the causation of widespread communal violence.


There is a causal link between violence and deprivation. Any form of deprivation leads to frustration which in turn produces anger responsible for aggression or an act of violence. Sense of deprivation is a personal perception. When a gap between expectation and achievement develops due to change in economic, social and political situations or psychological reasons, deprivation sets in at individual and/or group levels.
The economic situation is particularly related with Ahmedabad. Besides, Ahmedabad being the main city of Gujarat, whatever happens here has, sooner or later, repercussions or contagious impact on other parts of Gujarat as well. During last three decades a large number of textile mills in Ahmedabad have closed down. This has adversely affected the economic life of many, especially the economically disadvantaged sections of both the communities. A large number of mill-workers became unemployed. Most of them belonging to Muslim and backward class communities and even middle class Hindus were forced to search for alternative means of livelihood. They felt deprived and frustrated. The persistence of this situation over the years has provided a mass of people readily available for any aggressive act. Another incidental, yet significant aspect of this closure of mills is related with an agency which could defuse communal tension and maintain communal harmony. A major union of the textile workers known as Majdoor Mahajan (inspired by Gandhiji and run by Gandhian leaders) was reduced to irrelevance. It lost the capacity to influence the working class communities and defuse or minimize or stop the communal violence. It is interesting to note that where such labor unions are strong (e.g. Ahmedabad Electricity Company – started by Humanists) they can pre-empt or contain the effects of the riots. It seems that in absence of such an agency appeals for peace or ‘Shanti Yatra’ have no tangible impact.
After closure of the textile mills, unemployed mass of the mill-workers was in search of jobs. Some were absorbed in the power loom industry. But many of them were enticed by the illegal activity like smuggling and bootlegging. As Gujarat is a border state Pakistan-Gujarat border became a route for smuggling and Pakistani agent provocateurs. Extensive sea coast has attracted smuggling from the Middle Eastern Muslim countries. Naturally many Muslims got recruited in this activity. With the passage of times they became transformed into organized gangs and acquired arms and some position in their community as they provided patronage. Another group of organized crime was connected with bootlegging. The prohibition policy of Gujarat has also promoted similar types of gangs in both the communities, dealing in alcoholic drinks. Similarly, though on small scale, a flourishing tribe of the foot-path vendors have come into existence. They are also protected (on payment of ‘haftas’) by some gangs. Thus a core of well organized gangs is operating in different spheres and localities indulging in systematic arson, killing, looting, or intensification of violence in the process.
Power politics oriented election strategies is a significant political factor that has contributed to deepening the communal divide. The sizable Muslim community votes can be a key-factor in capturing power in Gujarat. To create a solid vote-bank the Congress strategists evolved the popularly known KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adiwasi, Muslim) model. To compete against the Congress and break its politics of vote-bank BJP resorted to Hindutva-card, isolating Muslims and winning a large number of Hindu community votes.
The prevailing situation in Ahmedabad is significant since whatever happens in Ahmedabad may have a contagious effect in other parts of Gujarat. The contagious effect is not only due to economic factors, socio-cultural factors have added a new dimension to the situation and intensified the contagion. It is worth noting that since last decade a virulent campaign of Hindutva is carried out and VHP, with its subsidiaries like Bajarangdal, Durgavahini etc. has taken hold on Gujarat’s public life. Under the patronizing eyes of BJP and the Sangh-Parivar, they have almost turned fascist threatening and attacking even secularist and rationalists, in the name of preserving ‘Hindu-Culture (!)’. During last riot it was seen that they were well informed about minority community as to who lived where and who owned a particular shop or business premises, and attack them accordingly. This shows that they are organized, their actions are planned and they are prepared and supported by the party in power so that they could terrorize the people.Godhara incident was just an excuse to launch their assault. It is true that the Karsevaks travelling by that train had behaved badly and were harassing other passengers, particularly Muslims. On Godhara station also their behavior was the same. However, burning the whole coach (it is said that the plan was to burn the whole train) and more than fifty of its occupants (including ladies and children) spread instant horror, anger and hatred throughout Gujarat. A ‘Bandh’ (voluntary curfew) was called and observed on the next day. Overnight the VHP and its subsidiary groups became active and well organized and planned attacks on Muslims and their business premises were carried out. Hundreds of people of both the communities (more than 800) have lost their lives, unbelievable mayhem and atrocities have been directed against men, women and children, thousands of business premises and houses have been ransacked and burned, more than fifty thousand people are living in relief camps or with relatives and/or friends.

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