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14 Years After Gujart Riots : Some Reflections

This is the 14th anniversary of the infamous Gujarat pogrom. We are also aware that those who are responsible for the pogrom are in power today. During these 14 years, violence on the minorities in India have only increased, unfolding issues like Muzafarnagar, Kandhamal, attacks on Adivasis in different parts of the country, Ghar Wapasi, violation of Indian Constitution in multiple ways, capturing of social, historical, cultural and academic institutions by the Sangh Parivar, communalisation of food, culture, language, literature, films and art and attacks on writers, artists and cultural personalities.

In this context we requested a diverse set of people in India who are active in the Gujarat justice movement to write their reflections and observations from lessons learnt on the Gujarat pogrom and what they feel about pursuing for a social order where no more Gujarat violence can take place in future.

The main violence on the minorities in Gujarat started from February 28 the onwards. Today we are publishing these reflections so that we shall never repeat another Gujarat again

Mani Shankar Aiyar ,Former Central Minister/Member, Rajya Sabha

I was in Manipur when my wife telephoned to inform me of the burning of the railway compartment at Godhra. I was deeply apprehensive that this would be followed by wanton attacks on the Muslim community of Gujarat. What I did not anticipate was that the Government itself would extend its patronage and protection to the killers.

Yet, overwhelming evidence has been produced that the State Government in Gujarat did nothing to restrict the organised attacks that led to the massacre of at least a thousand and possibly up to two thousand innocent Muslims, men, women (even pregnant women) and children, with whole townships being set ablaze while the police stood by doing nothing and, in many cases, even egging on the mob. Very soon, the pogrom spread beyond Ahmedabad to a large number of cities and rural areas in the State. District Magistrates who took action were frowned upon and those who let the mobs riot were given governmental approbation.

Although it has not proved possible to pin down the Chief Minister’s guilt in a court of law, wide swathes of informed public opinion continue to hold the view that communal disturbances on such a large scale could not have taken place without at least the passive complicity of the authorities.

Tragically, instead of voters turning down a government that had proved so negligent in its fundamental duty of maintaining public order, communal polarization led to that government being repeatedly elected. Worse still, the man who presided over the mayhem is now the Prime Minister of India.

What happened in Gujarat should never be forgotten or forgiven for that would only encourage a repeat of the crime, perhaps on a national scale. It is necessary that the nation be warned and put on red alert as the last eighteen months have demonstrated the extent to which intolerance can be whipped up, murder condoned and mobs incentivized to take the law into their own hands. The very Idea of India is under challenge and must be resisted now.

Zakia Soman , Founder Member, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan/ Center for Peace Studies Gujarat

Fourteen years after the Gujarat communal carnage it would not be an exaggeration to say that the survivors have become second class citizens. They were attacked by armed mobs led by hindutva fanatics as the police and the administration looked the other way. Over one lakh women, men and children were forced to flee when attacked by mobs and take shelter in relief camps. Most of these relief camps were located in kabrastans or around sufi dargahs in open grounds without any basic amenities such as drinking water, toilets, roofs or adequate food. There was hardly any relief provided by the government and help came only from muslim organizations and some select voluntary groups. There was a refusal to provide relief, register FIRs and enable legal justice. No efforts were made by the government for rehabilitation or healing the wounds of innocent citizens. Paltry amounts were provided as compensation to families who had lost homes and every asset. Till date no plan has been offered for alternative livelihoods or any rehabilitation measures. With passage of time there is very little hope for legal justice. Out of the 2500 plus legal cases justice has taken place only in one or two matters and a then sitting minister is serving jail term for the killings of 90 people in Naroda Patiya. The violence and the apathy that followed have left thousands of families displaced forever. It is a painful reality that the survivors of Gujarat have been forgotten.

Nirjari Sinha , ‘Convener, Jan Sangharsh Manch, Gujarat

The fire that had engulfed Gujarat in 2002 has now virtually spread to every part of our country. From students to journalists to artists to activists to minorities, everybody is under an unprecedented attack by the current fascist regime. In addition to their own goons, they have misused state power so blatantly that it brings back memories of the 1975 Emergency. Even if this fascist regime falls in 2019, much like 2002, the hate and divisiveness that the saffron brigade has injected into the populace will haunt India for many years to come. That makes it all the more necessary for all progressive forces of the country to unite and completely uproot the saffron brigade so that India can heal.

Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

The Gujarat Genocide of 2002 was the bloodiest chapters in post-independent India. Sadly, the one who presided over it today “rules’ the country- which seems to legitimize the killings, rapes, arson, loot, displacement, denigration of thousands of Muslims. True, there have been some convictions- but the real culprits still roam with impunity and immunity. There must be healing- but for that to take place, the victim-survivors have to experience the triumph of truth and justice. A reality can never be swept under the carpet. The Judiciary must prove that it serves the cause of Justice alone, media has to be impartial and objective and above all, civil society must be courageous to counter the fascist and fundamentalist forces at work in the country.

Ram Puniyani, Writer/Former Professor of IIT,Mumbai

Fourteen years ago on the pretext of Godhra Train burning violence was launched. The tragedy led to the death of 58 innocent people. In the carnage unleashed by communal forces nearly 2000 people lost their lives and a loss of thousands of crores of property. The displaced persons could not come back to their old homes, they hardly got adequate compensation and the rehabilitation efforts were not initiated by the ruling government. This tragedy was followed by the ghettotisation of Muslim community, the polarization of society along religious lines and strengthening of BJP at political level. Struggle for justice is going on but the path is very difficult.

Ajaya Kumar Singh, Activist, Kandhamal justice movement

“You are just burning tyres. How many Isai houses and churches have you burnt? Without kranti (revolution) there can be no shanti (peace). Narendra Modi has done kranti in Gujarat, the reason why shanti’s there.” Odisha Viswa Hindu Parishad Leader Laxmananda Saraswati ordered his followers. (Tehelka, Jan 19, 2008). The Hindutva leader had his eyes on other southern districts to consolidate Sangh Parivar. Despite Malkangiri district administration detention, he forced upon them to visit then Maoists dominated southern districts in April 2008. Rumours spread that he wanted to build the forces like Salwa Judum to fight against Maoists and religious minorities.

The Maoists warned two days before that he would be eliminated as he was spreading hatred among the communities. Swami filed the complaints too before the Police station two days before he was gunned down and Maoists claimed responsibilities of killing. There was lull for two days until Gujrati Pravin Togadia, Viswa Hindu General Secretary and Indresh Kumar, National Executive Member, Rastriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSSS). Although Maoists had claimed the responsibilities of gunning down, the hardcore, blood thirsty bayed for Christians blood and announced through media that the Swami was killed by Christians; not Maoists leaving the trails of anti-christian violences; with women and girl children being raped and molested, reducing the churches and houses into ashes; chasing Christians out of their homes and villages.

Angana Chatterji, Anthropologist and historian wrote Orissa: A Gujarat in the Making in Communalism Combat on 2nd November, 2003. How prophetic she was. Script was ready. Only the characters required and sequences were only awaited. Godra train burns and some karasevaks died. Here Laxmananda Saraswati gunned down. It is immaterial who set the train on fire or it is immaterial even if Maoists claimed the responsibilities. Christians and Muslims are responsible. They deserved to be punished. They would not be spared. It just spontaneous reaction and only natural justice for the traitors of the nation!!

To whip up the passion and hatred towards the religious minorities, dead bodies are brought to the city of Ahmedabad in a procession; so also the body of swami was taken in a procession throughout the district covering more than 150 kilometres.

Both Gujarat and Odisha have the histories of communal violence. The targets unequivocally remained Muslims and Christians. For the first time, attacks on Christians in Dangs of Gujarat in 1998 showed that RSS too after the Christians until then, it was Muslims. Of course, the Gujarat Program 2002 shook the world. Although, anti-christian violence in 2007-08 considered the largest attacks on Christians in 300 years of Indian history, Orissa recorded nearly 2000 deaths of Muslims in 1964 unknown until.

Who would forget the gang rapes of women in public when being watched by hundreds including the police personnel around; thereafter the women of Sangh Parivar taking lead role in defending the crimes against halpless women. Shocked to hear that the Sanghi Adivasi women could demand that the raped woman to be handed over to be get married off to their men and took out the procession. Although, the victim survivor adivasi catholic nun herself.

Not to be far off dalit and adivasi who were brain washed in Sanghi ideology were ready to kill and rape their own clan people; only different being they happen to be followers of Christs. Dalit and Adivasi played foot soldiers in the program; ready to kill and burn the houses and villages. The story of Adivasi and Dalit became too willing foot soldiers in Gujarat 2002. Togadia and Indresh Kumar led the violence from the front against Christians in Kandhamal, while the Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal, who was supposed to protect the citizens, was not allowed to visit the district by the state government.

The hatred against the religious minorities is deep seated not just on the part of non-state actors; more over the state seems to be in complicit to it. The state has failed to unearth the killers who murdered people by burying them alive, setting them on fire in houses as well as in jungle and chopping them in front the siblings and parents and relatives; show cases of these ghastly murders and rapes as trophies. More than two thirds complaints were not converted into First hand report. Out of which only 5% conviction according to the study conducted by Vrinda Grover, Supreme Court lawyer. This shows that only less than 2% victims survivors had hard hardly has had secured justice. Presently, not a single person is behind the bar for such carnage while seven innonent adivasi and dalit Christians are behind the bar without bail for murdering the swami for last eight years on flimsy and framed charges although Maoist claimed the responsibility of killing the swam as well as the arrested do not have any connected with them. The subversion of justice as in Gujrat as one study stated to be less than 10% (Times of India, May 9, 2014) sad reflection of the way state cares about it.

Sangh Parivar war on the religious minorities continues and gets consolidated every passing day. It is high time those who care the human rights need to come together before they are consumed in the fire of hatred. Wish the observance of anniversary bring solidarity among the survivors as well as solidarity groups to secure justice for the people as well as end factory of hatred campaign and violence at the earliest.

Dhirendra Panda, Human Rights Activist,National Solidarity Forum Convener, Civil Society Forum on Human Rights (CSFHR) and Secretary, Centre for the Sustainable use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR)

We say, it was a Pogrom, Genocide in Gujarat 2002! For Sangh Parivar – it was great step towards Hindu Rashtra (Nation). It was a big experiment for the fundamentalists. In 2002 they came for the Muslims in Gujarat, in 2007-08 they came for the Christians in Kandhamal, in 2016 they are coming for Leftists, Dalits, atheists, rationalists and liberals. In the name of nationalism, they’ll destroy our Secular & Democratic Nation to establish a Brahmanic Caliphate. They have already started cleansing Universities, Media, Bureaucracy, Police and Judiciary. Not to speak of ‘dissent’, our freedom of thoughts, expressions, beliefs or practice may not be there, unless we are prepared to stand together to protect our Constitution and Nation.

Fr.Ambrose Pinto, Bangalore

It is 14 years since that genocide. The legal system has not yet addressed the issue. Delays are causing frustration in victims. The very same killers have moved beyond Gujarat into Delhi to rule the country. The living of the dead seeking justice are fighting against an unjust system that is determined not to provide justice. The forces of death and destruction, hate and violence have increased their influence and are in a position to subordinate persons willing to stand against. There are more people who have accepted their legitimacy now than then. What is required is hope in the hopeless situation, a massive education of the masses so that citizens and people, individuals and organisations agitate, organize and throw out the ideology that killed the Mahatma and were responsible for the genocide. Who can do it? In the absence of a Mahatma or an Ambedkar all of us need to come together to defeat these forces.

Jagadish G Chandra, New Socialist alternative, Bangalore

Gujarat was a watershed as for as the oppressed minorities are concerned. The right wing drew monstrous energy out of those ghastly and inhuman carnage. Needless to say the polarisation of Indian polity in general took to speed since that year. No point in brooding over the things that have shed blood, the need of the hour is to build Unity and Defence mechanisms to fight the resurgent RSS/BJP and the whole Hindutva mindset. Even electorally, Bihar has shown the limitations of Modi mania, it is the bounden duty of all of us aspiring for a radical change to build on the latent energy unleashed by the Dalit & minorities assertion in the recent times, and defeat the anti-people, anti-democratic ruling regime.

Kedar Mishra, Writer/ Art Critic, Bhubaneshwar

Gujarat has become a model for all that is inhuman and undemocratic. In the backdrop of Gujarat genocide we heard a new slogan of development. The development model soaked in blood caught the imagination of politically ignorant middle class. Gujarat was a bottle of blood labeled as honey and it was sold to Indians in high prices. The high priest of Gujarat genocide is now in Delhi and he is undisputedly most powerful man of this country. He was very clear, he wants to rule India the way he ruled Gujarat ! In 2014 there was a brilliant repackaging of inhumanity as human development. The hawk dressed like a dove becomes the supreme leader of this country. Today we see the country has become Gujarat of 2002, full of fears and divisiveness. The so called development agenda has gone to hearth, now every freedom loving citizen is branded as anti national. The Gujarat is India now. A dozen of ABVP workers can outnumber a whole university. Few violent members of Bajrang Dal can cut your thraot and go scot free. Gujarat has become India finally.

K.P Sasi, Film Maker

Over 2,000 innocent Muslims were killed in Gujarat, starting from end of February, 2002. Thousands had to flee from Gujarat. Innocent women were subjected to brutal mass rape, houses and shops destroyed and the very dignity of a large community belonging to Islamic faith was questioned, branding them as terrorists and anti-nationals. The justification for such brutal violence on innocent people was the incident of burning of a train in Godhra. Later, ample evidences came out that the burning was initiated inside the train and not from outside. The brutal incidents which followed Godhra reveal that Gujarat genocide was systematically planned affair. The statistics on the communal violence in Gujarat may differ and for all its probabilities, widely underestimated. But the experience of Gujarat never remained in Gujarat alone in the broader evaluation of time and space in history. It remained as one of the greatest attempts of the emerging fascist forces to strip the very identity and dignity of a segment of Indian population. The arrogance of such an achievement paved the way for several series of violations on the citizens’ rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution by Dadasahib Ambedkar. The obvious victims were minorities, women, Dalits, Adivasis, sexuality minorities and those who lived their lives depending on land, water and forests.

Muzafarnagar and Kandhamal may be incidents of such grand schemes in the communal history of our nation during these 14 years. But what really shocked the whole world was the deep violation of human rights and freedom of expression on writers, artists, film makers, academicians, theater personalities and musicians also. Fascism reached our dining tables and menu cards of restaurants during this period. And finally, the recent developments in FTII, IIT (Chennai), and Hyderabad University brought shame to every thinking citizen reminding us about a history since Manusmriti and the very incident of burning it by Ambedkar in order to facilitate our existence without shame. What followed in the end was JNU, placing critical thinking itself as `anti-national’!

What is shocking is that the perpetrators of violence on the bodies and minds of a large population have been lifted up to power in a country which believes in democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, secularism, harmony, diversity and tolerance. Today, on February 28, 2016, it is time for us not only to remember 14 years of Gujarat genocide, but also to reflect on the series of developments during these 14 years. It is the moral responsibility of every conscious citizen in this country to remember the pains and sufferings of a past history and learn lessons from it, so that a new generation can walk towards a future history with joy, peace, justice and harmony. Remember the past to walk without shame and guilt in future!

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