Survivors look at the pictures of the Godhra riots victims at a photo-exhibition held to commemorate its 10th anniversary in Ahmedabad, February 27, 2012. (REUTERS)
More than 1,000 people, the large majority of who were from the minority Muslim community, were killed. Tens of thousands of homes and small business establishments — petty shops, wooden carts, autorickshaws, taxi jeeps, eateries and garages — were set aflame, and cattle and lifetime savings looted. This resulted in the long displacement and enduring pauperisation of more than 200,000 people. More than half of these were actively prevented — by fear, intimidation and social and economic boycott — from ever returning to their homes, resulting in their permanent expulsion from the villages and colonies of their birth.
Less noted, less dramatic, but even more terrifying is what happened in the dozen years and more that followed.
There is the new normalcy of Gujarat, in which Muslims have learnt to live separately, much like Dalits have been forced to exist for centuries. Much was touted, and celebrated, about the “Gujarat model” and the elections that followed were seen as a mandate to nationalise this in all of India. One part of this “Gujarat model” is no doubt connected with privileging a business-friendly administration over investment in the social sectors.
But what is less recognised is that part of the model is the systematic reduction of the country’s religious minorities to second-class citizenship. This is not different from what was accomplished so effectively — and with such little resistance or even notice and commentary from the country’s liberal public opinion — in the aftermath of the riots. This second-class citizenship of Muslims extends also to Christians, Dalits and tribal people in Gujarat as well.
Campaigns for ghar wapsi or (home-coming) of Christian and Muslim converts to Hinduism, suggesting that only the Hindu faith is “home” and persons converted to other faiths need to be brought back; or against beef-eating and “love jihad”; and abusive hate-speeches against Muslims; have generated fear and dread among India’s religious minorities. Especially during various state elections, anti-minority hatred is stoked cynically — examples are the comments on the “pink revolution” and the killing of rhinos to accommodate Bangladeshi Muslims in Assam in 2014, and the charge of discrimination after death to Hindus in the ongoing UP elections.