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Delhi 1984, Sikh Riots Ahmedabad 2002, Gujarat Riots

DIPANKAR GUPTA Feb 1, 2014, 12.04AM IST

Rahul Gandhi has finally become the ‘game changer’ he always wanted to be. He may have kicked the ball into his own net, but that is Rahul for you. Catch Manmohan Singh or Narendra Modi admitting that their party members were even remotely around when riots happened during their tenure. Rahul, however, did exactly that in a recent interview when he acknowledged that workers of the then ruling Congress may have been involved in the Delhi Sikh carnage.

By accepting that those in Congress could have had a hand in the 1984 killings, Rahul opened the door for Arvind Kejriwal to walk in. Now that Delhi`s chief minister is demanding a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the carnage of 1984, Modi is hoping to look pretty.

Yet there is this short, brutish fact that will not go away. Both in Delhi and in hundreds of innocent people died and those who killed them are still loafing around somewhere. Neither Rajiv Gandhi nor Modi may have been caught with the smoking gun, but that does not mean that those deaths did not happen.

And if hundreds died, who did this to them? Manmohan and Modi are quick to express anguish but always stop short of taking responsibility, and this is why the victims hurt.

Many politicians and lawyers think that it is pointless for a SIT to go into the Sikh killings of 1984. Three decades, they argue, have buried crucial evidence and it is in the best interest of everybody to forgive, forget and move on.

But does the passage of time mean that the brutalities never happened? Or that nobody really killed anybody? Now that the lights have come on and the movie is over, should we all just go home?

Whether in Delhi or Ahmedabad, relations of victims still sit and sleep in sullen anger. It needs just a little prod for their eyes to well up. Perfectly calm women, going about their daily chores, dissolve in tears when a stray thought, object or voice reminds them of those they have lost. This is true of Ahmedabad 12 years after the carnage and in Delhi too, even after 30 years. When tragedy is delivered by criminals who roam free, time rarely fades that memory.

several do-gooders, some international NGOs among them, advocated a South African style Truth and Reconciliation Commission. To rake up the past, they argued, would only open old wounds from which nobody would gain. Wrong; by not raking up the past the killers would gain and gain a lot. They can go back to polishing their knives, but the victims would have lost their one last shot at dignity.

No matter how well meaning the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission looks from a distance, its outcomes were very painful to many. Bishop Desmond Tutu, who championed this commission, wept openly, almost without a break, emotionally extorting forgiveness from the victims. This let off the agents of apartheid but left many of its victims in psychological tatters. Tutu, however, came out of this a hero, crying his way to stardom.

Nevertheless, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission had at least one bone of honesty hidden somewhere in the flab. After all, a regime change had happened in South Africa with Nelson Mandela now in charge. Maybe, under these circumstances, it was a good idea to take the scenic route. The country needed peace to start anew, even though masses still wanted good, old-fashioned justice.

In India, no such regime change took place. Congress ruled the country after 1984 and Gujarat is still under Modi after 2002. Even in the brief years when non-Congress governments were at the Centre, they did nothing to pursue the Sikh killers of 1984. This is because of a fundamental unity in the way Congress and BJP want us to understand why communal killings take place.

For them, it is always because of a human failing: we are all creatures of passion. According to Congress, 1984 happened because a giant tree fell; for BJP, thousands died because of the Godhra train incident.

This is how parties wash their hands of for not getting a grip on the situation. Through all of this, a niggling question remains. If Modi is so super-efficient at everything, why did he fail in 2002? If Congress is so secular, why did it allow Sikhs to be killed for three straight days?

Victims of communal carnage demand justice and not blind revenge, delivered either through terrorist strikes or kangaroo courts. The only way bereaved families can put away the past is when the law of the land is justly delivered. It is this that would bring closure and not the lapse of time, 12 years or 30.

It is interesting that while communal killers brand themselves as being proud ‘people’ of India, the victims always brand themselves as proud ‘citizens’ of India. In fact, one of the poorest resettlement colonies for displaced Muslims in Ahmedabad is called Citizen Nagar. What could be more emblematic than this of the faith minorities place in the Constitution?

To be able to forgive, one must ask for it; but to be able to forget, one must get justice first.

The writer is a social scientist.

Raed mor ehere – http://m.timesofindia.com/articleshow/29674966.cms

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