Open Letter to the Women of Gujarat

Since the violence that swept across Gujarat in February and March of 2002, the victims have received neither justice nor adequate rehabilitation. This letter asks the state government of Gujarat to take adequate steps to address the needs of the victims.
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals working to end violence
against women in the United States, write to express our deep sympathy
and support for the women of Gujarat who suffered and continue to suffer
due to the state-sponsored communal genocide that took place in February
and March of 2002.

We write to convey our heartfelt grief for the scores of women and girls
who were murdered and brutally raped, and the thousands of women who were
widowed, orphaned or lost other loved ones as a result of the violence.
We recognize that the minority Muslim community was the main target of
this genocide and that the violence was pre-meditated and perpetrated by
mobs of men including members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP),
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and the Bajrang Dal. We are outraged
at the horrific sexual violence and humiliation women and girls of all
ages were subjected to during the attacks. We strongly condemn Gujarat's
Chief Minister Narendra Modi and the government of Gujarat for justifying
the violence and the Sangh Parivar for its role in the pre-meditated
attacks against the minority Muslim community.

The widespread sexual subjugation of Muslim women and girls in Gujarat is
a testament to the fact that women's bodies were the battleground on
which state-sponsored violence was perpetrated. Women bore the brunt of
the violence in Gujarat just as women bear the brunt of violence every
day in their own homes at the hands of family members and loved ones. We
also recognize that what happened in Gujarat is not an isolated event and
that other communities in different parts of India have suffered as a
result of the hateful actions of a few to communalize Indian society.

We recognize that no one is safe in the culture of violence unleashed by
the militant Hinduism of the Sangh Parivar, and wish to express our
sympathy to the Hindu women who also suffered during the mob attacks. We
also want to recognize our solidarity with the so-called lower caste
women of all religious backgrounds whose victimization is often silenced.
We recognize that violence against women knows no boundaries and takes
many forms. Hence, we denounce violence against women everywhere in all
its forms including female infanticide including abortion, forced
marriage, marital violence, financial and reproductive control, physical
and sexual abuse, and murder.

We wish to convey to the women of Gujarat that we have not forgotten
them. After the horrific events that occurred in 2002, some of us spoke
out against the atrocities and community-building movements did occur.
However, with this letter, we wish to speak out against the atrocities
with one voice. We refuse to be silent any longer and make the following
demands of the Indian judicial system:

1. We hold the government of Gujarat accountable for the crimes committed
and denounce it for its inaction to end the violence.

2. We demand that those who perpetrated the heinous crimes in Gujarat and
those responsible for organizing the genocide be brought to justice.

3. We demand an immediate halt to the revictimization and continued
harassment of Muslim women by the Gujarat police and members of the Sangh

4. We demand adequate relief and rehabilitation for the more than 100,000
Muslims who were displaced by the violence.

We are aware that many of the groups responsible for orchestrating and
perpetrating the violence in Gujarat received and continue to receive
funding from the Indian community in the United States. We are concerned
that the overseas Indian community donates to these charities believing
that the funds will be used for development and humanitarian purposes
when in fact they are routinely diverted to finance communal politics.
Hence, we strongly urge the NRI community and individuals to ensure their
contributions go to worthy charities and not to organizations such as the
VHP and RSS, groups which promote an ideology of hate and violent acts
against minorities.

We call upon the international community to help us break the silence and
join us in solidarity with the women of Gujarat and those around the
world working to end communal violence and violence against women. As
organizations and individuals working to end violence against women, we
pledge to continue to speak out against the atrocities and to make
communal harmony an integral part of our work.

Note: This statement was produced as a conference document of Aarohan,
the second annual conference of South Asian Women's organizations in the
U.S. held on August 21-23, 2003, and is also endorsed by the following
organizations and individuals


AASRA (Boston, MA)
Chaya (Seattle, WA)
Daya (Houston, TX)

Manavi (New Jersey)
Narika (Berkeley, CA)
Saheli for Asian Families (Austin, TX)
Sakhi for South Asian Women(N.Y, N.Y)
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