(New York, December 7, 2007) The Indian
government should immediately order an
investigation of Narendra Modi, the chief
minister of Gujarat, for statements apparently
endorsing the extrajudicial execution of a
terrorism suspect by the police, Human Rights
Watch said today.
Gujarat’s antiterrorism squad in November 2005
gunned down Sohrabuddin Sheikh, whom police
claimed was a militant conspiring to kill Modi.
The Gujarat government has since admitted that
there is no evidence Sheikh was a terrorist and
that he had been executed in a fake “encounter,”
one in which police falsely claimed that he had
been killed in an exchange of fire. In July, the
government filed charges against several police
officials. In a speech on December 5, however,
Modi suggested that people like Sheikh deserved
to be killed.
"Modi’s remarks send a green light to the police
that executing terrorism suspects is fine with
his administration," said Brad Adams, Asia
director at Human Rights Watch. "The government
in Delhi should immediately investigate this
seeming incitement to violence."
At a rally in his campaign for re-election as
chief minister, Modi said that Sheikh "got what
he deserved.“Modi asked the crowd,”What should
have been done to a man from whom a large number
of AK-47 rifles were recovered, who was on the
search list of police from four states, who
attacked the police, who had relations with
Pakistan and was eyeing to enter Gujarat?“The crowd replied”mari nakho-mari nakho" (kill
him, kill him), to which Modi said, "Does my
government need to take permission of Soniaben
[Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi] for this?
Maut na Saudagar [merchants of deaths] will be
dealt in the same fashion on the land of
After widespread criticism of his remarks, the
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician explained
that he had been provoked and was responding to
the allegation by Congress Party leader Sonia
Gandhi that his government was a "merchant of
death.“”Modi cannot hide behind accusations of
provocation to justify remarks endorsing a
murder,“said Adams.”He used similar excuses
after the police participated in a killing spree
of Muslims in 2002, but his pretexts were as
hollow then as they are today."
After Sheikh’s killing, his family filed a
petition with the Supreme Court requesting an
independent investigation. In its response to a
Supreme Court notice, the state government
admitted that Sheikh had been murdered in a false
armed “encounter.” The Supreme Court ordered the
Gujarat government to create a special police
team to investigate the case and submit status
reports. In July, the Gujarat police filed
charges against 13 police officials, including D
G Vanzara, who headed the anti-terror squad.
In its charge sheet, the police said that Sheikh
and his wife Kausar Bi were pulled out of a bus
by members of the Gujarat antiterrorm squad on
November 22, 2005. They were secretly detained
for four days. (They were not carrying any
weapons as alleged by Modi in his speech).
According to an eyewitness, early in the morning
of November 26, Sheikh was taken to the outskirts
of Ahmedabad, where he was shot by police
officers. His body was then taken to the hospital
and a police report filed which claimed that he
had been killed in an exchange of fire.
The whereabouts of Kausar Bi remains unknown.
Police investigations suggest that she was killed
and her body burnt.
In response to Modi’s comments, India’s Election
Commission has served notice to Modi saying that
it is of the view that the speech "amounts to
indulging in activity which may aggravate
existing differences, creating mutual hatred and
causing tension between different communities."
Modi has until December 8 to respond.
Local activists and Muslim organizations have
long accused Modi of responsibility for the
anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat in February and
March 2002, which left at least 1,000 dead. After
59 Hindu pilgrims died during a mob attack by
Muslims on their train in Gujarat in 2002, Hindu
militant groups carried out widespread and
coordinated attacks on Muslims in which thousands
were killed, hundreds of women were raped and
Muslim properties destroyed.
Human Rights Watch found that the attacks on
Muslims were planned and organized with extensive
police participation and in close cooperation
with supporters of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata
Party and the state government. Modi had
justified those attacks at the time, saying that,
"Every action has an equal and opposite
reaction,“referring to the Godhra incident.”Modi’s defenders say that his speech is being
misrepresented, and that politicians make
exaggerated remarks during election campaigns,“said Adams.”But endorsing a police killing sends
the wrong message at all times, and especially
during an election."