What happened in Gujarat 2002?
A period of extreme communal violence occurred in Gujarat during February-March 2002. The official death toll (in 2005) was stated as 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus; with 2,548 people injured non-fatally and 223 missing. These figures are from information made available by the State Government of Gujarat whose involvement in the violence means they must be treated with caution. The official toll itself has risen subsequently, and considerably higher estimates also exist. While there may never be complete and accurate records of numbers, it is not disputed that the violence was generally brutal and sadistic, that rape and sexual violence were systematically used, that the great majority of the victims of this violence were Muslim, and that government officials took part in the violence.
The violence began with a fire on a train at Godhra which killed 59 people, some of whom were Hindu pilgrims/activists. It remains unclear whether this fire was an accident or a conspiracy, and if so by whom and to what end (see, for example, sources listed on the Wikipedia page about the incident, and the Concerned Citizens Tribunal report). The systematic violence which followed, directed mainly against the Muslim community in Gujarat, was supposedly in retaliation for this fire. Modi stated, in an interview given at the time, "this is a chain of actions and reactions. We want both action and reaction to stop". However, human rights organisations found that the attacks were "planned in advance and organized with extensive participation of the police and state government officials", contradicting Modi's claim of "action and reaction".
Many of the perpetrators of the violence testified to the participation of officials, politicians and police in a series of "stings" and interviews carried out by Indian weekly Tehelka. The report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal enquiry and the testimony of R.B. Sreekumar, former Gujarat State Director-General of Police, also highlight the involvement of the BJP, the Sangh Parivar, and the state government. The question more specifically of Modi's involvement is treated in another FAQ.
Gujarat 2002 violence in our news pages.