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Introduction

Communal violence is endemic in many nooks of India: some small villages and some large and historical cities. And some of these places, more than others, are exceptionally prone to a conflagration at the slightest provocation. In recent memory, the most violent have been the massacres against the Sikhs in 1984 after the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, and the riots following the Babri Masjid debacle. 

There have been hundreds more and as many continue to take place every day, but they seldom have reached a proportion, in number or goriness, worthy of attention.  The violence that gripped Gujarat from February 28th, 2002 was intriguing in its combination of prolonged tenure, state abatement and societal apathy or even approval, inspite of its sheer ghastliness. Thousands of Hindu militants armed with weapons including guns, swords, knives and lathis, as well as carrying crude home-made bombs and Molotov cocktails descended on Muslim families with uncanny precision. The marauders spared neither children nor the old and infirm; women were a special target.

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