16 years after bloody riots, Indian Muslims still struggling
NEW DELHI (92 News) – The Indian Muslim could not yet get justice after sixteen years when the mobs rampaged the state of Gujarat for days, burning houses, looting shops, raping women and killing men, women and children. More than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in the violence.
The riots displaced about 200,000 people in the state, mostly Muslims. Some returned to their homes, while others found new accommodation in mainly Muslim neighborhoods.
Nearly 800,000 people have been displaced by conflict and violence in India, according to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The data is not specific to communal violence.
Muslims displaced by communal violence are often too fearful to return to their homes, and have asked the government to relocate them.
But government officials say that would promote division rather than unity between Muslims and Hindus, who make up about 80 percent of India’s population.
But informal rules and deep-rooted biases are eroding the multi-cultural nature of India’s cities and dividing communities into ghettos, analysts say.
Horrific as the Gujarat riots were, they were not solely responsible for the segregation in the state.
A property law unique to Gujarat, the birthplace of India’s founding father Mahatma Gandhi, helped create ghettos and a sense of apartheid in its urban areas well before 2002.
The “Disturbed Areas Act” (1991), a law that restricts Muslims and Hindus from selling property to each other in “sensitive” areas, was meant to avert an exodus or distress sales in neighborhoods hit by inter-religious unrest.
The state, headed at the time by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, amended the law in 2009 to give local officials more power in property sales. It also extended the reach of the law, saying it was doing so to protect Muslims, who make up about 10 percent of the state’s 63 million people.
But critics say the act’s enforcement and the addition of new districts under it – about 40 percent of Ahmedabad is governed by the law – means it is being applied as a tool of social engineering.