Dear Mr. van Ham,
Apologising for the delayed reply I thank you, also on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, for your letter of April 9th in which you have asked attention for the violations of human rights in Gujarat.
I share your concerns about the religious violence that took place in this Indian state and - to a much lesser degree - still takes place. Although at present the attention of the world is focussed on the conflict about Kashmir between India and Pakistan, it has not escaped my attention that even at this moment 100.000 Indian muslims are staying in the refugee camps in Gujarat.
As was mentioned on May 27th during the discussion about the situation in Gujarat with you and other agencies, the Royal Netherlands Embassy in New Delhi undertook a fact-finding mission in Gujarat last March . The findings of this mission are largely supported by reports that were later published by Amnesty International, the National Human Rights Commission, Human Rights Watch and Communalism Combat. It is clear that the 'governance'-situation has come under considerable pressure as a result of the events.
Furthermore the events in Gujarat were, on Dutch initiative, discussed in the framework of the European Union. As a result of this, the Indian Ambassador in Madrid was summoned by the Spanish chairmanship [of the European Union] on the 23rd of April. Consequently on the 2nd of May the European Union, during a official meeting high-level meeting between India and the EU in New Delhi, expressed its deep concern about the situation in Gujarat to the Indian authorities. The government of India informed them that the Upper House of the Indian Parliament had just promised Rs 150 crores for the rehabilitation of the victims of the communal violence. In addition the government undertook further action to restore peace in Gujarat, among other things through the deputation of the renowned Punjabi police commissioner K.P.S. Gill, who started energetically. After the withdrawal of the Indian army from the cities in Gujarat to border areas with Pakistan, a massive resurgence of violence was feared. Fortunately this did not happen. Unfortunately, after a period of relative tranquillity, there have been new attacks since the end of May. Positive are indications of stronger action by the local authorities (aimed at prevention of further escalation instead of contributing to violence). In the beginning of June a number of persons are said to have been charged with the burning and murdering of moslims.
As Mr. J.J. Speelman, state co-ordinator Gujarat for development co-ordination of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in New Delhi, told you during the before mentioned discussion, the Embassy has end of May approved of a project proposal creating a fund of €1,9 million (Rs. 19 lakhs) that will be managed by CARE. Organisations like NGO's and CBO's can use this fund for activities aiming at immediate support for refugees in the camps (e.g. water, sanitation, tents, medical assistance etc.), easing of insecurity, fear and anger en recuperation of livelihood of the victims (e.g. development of small scale businesses).
I assure you that I will continue to follow up on the developments in Gujarat. It is of great importance to track to what extent the Indian central and Gujarati state government will match deeds with words, will take preventive measures to stop repetition of violence, will undertake action to bring the perpetrators of violence to court, take care of an adequate rehabilitation of the victims and implement measures to counter discrimination of religious minorities (in particular in programmes that are financed with Dutch funds). I have requested Her Majesty's Ambassador in New Delhi to continue to report about this to me.
Hoping that I have sufficiently informed you,
The Minister for Development Co-operation,