By Amit Sengupta, in Kindle Magazine

This is the memory which moves in the darkness of the corridors and ravaged inner spaces of life and architecture, like a burnt family picture, or the three birds in flight on the ‘drawing room’ wall. Or like the books stacked in a corner, neatly arranged, because the handsome father with spectacles on, his refined face was also a poet, a scholar and a trade unionist. You can still see the mother, and you know that he was a good man, that she will never forget his presence, that his absence stalks her like the sound of a cracked mirror, falling onto the ground, the sound of silence reminding you of glass.

Her daughter told me the story. She described it in graphic detail, as if she has written down everything in an invisible diary inside her mind. The wounds were so fresh in 2002 that even memory seemed impossible; it almost was like a documentary with its raw footage painstakingly edited, sound becoming silence, and the story becoming a silent movie where every still and moving image has already crossed the crossing. I saw it in her eyes, the story of her mother perhaps: the story of a massacre in bright daylight.


Her father pleaded with the mob. The police commissioner dropped in. He knew so well, the inevitable consequences of this predictable moment. But the top cop, he chose to ignore it, wilfully, deliberately, systematically. All the neighbours were now huddled in their house. Her father made several desperate phone calls, across the political spectrum, perhaps also called the local political and police establishment. He was a former Congress MP, an influential person. No response. It was as if there was nobody on the other end. The line was dead.


When it was all over, she came down. The mother. Alive. Among the survivors. They shut her eyes, as she crossed burnt bodies, hacked limbs, scattered skulls, bloodied faces, broken bangles, torn clothes, distorted, blackened bodies, viscous, vicious layers of blood, on the walls, on the floor, on the doors. She moved in a haze, choked, her eyes shut. But she saw everything, and she knew that Ehsan Jafri, too, among 69 others, were butchered in a public spectacle which only barbarians could indulge, in the brutish spectacles of the medieval past. She later told a court: ‘Mob dragged my husband, stripped him and chopped off his limbs before burning him alive.” She came down from the first floor in the evening, when finally the police arrived. On the verandah she saw the mutilated bodies of her neighbour, Kasambhai’s wife and his pregnant daughter-in-law – she was slashed in the abdomen with a sword.


For Zakia Jafri, this walk from eternity into the dead-end of barbarism, through blood and gore and dead bodies, remains a memory, which is like a long insomnia, a silent wail in the dark, saline waters choked inside the eyes, all hopes crushed and massacred in this moment of ravaged revelation. In the eerie, suffocated silence of the lambs, in tyrant sociopath Narendra Modi’s Hindutva laboratory of State sponsored mass murders; there is not the remotest possibility of any Sadbhavana, nor truth and reconciliation, not the remotest trace of justice. At its purest moment of Nazi ethnic cleansing, it’s like the SS and Gestapo in saffron colours, eternally flexing muscles, pumping chests, literally, sinking, sinking, drinking the blood of its own people. Like the blood smashed on the walls of Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad.


No one lives here anymore. Except Kasam Allahnoor Mansoori, 68, who walks through the grass, and looks inside the window from where Ehsan Jafri would gaze outside, a book in hand. Mansoori lives here like the shadow of a memory which touches him everyday like the grass touches the heat and the twilight. He knows the feeling of this twilight zone, its inner meaning, the absence of presence. His wife, a son, a daughter, three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren were among the 69 butchered by the Hindutva mob under state patronage.


Don’t ask him the meaning of ‘Sadbhavna Mission’, and all the spirits of the loved ones will move into his ravaged home in a long silent procession. Between home and the world, can we see this procession, of people, human beings, and those six grandchildren? If children are the faces of god, than who is Modi’s god? Who is Modi’s anti-god? What is the religion of barbarism and bestiality?


It’s in a to and fro loop, this bitter memory of bitterness and angst and anger, layered into multiple layers of injustices and unfreedoms, moving from the burnt out Best Bakery in Baroda with burnt bodies of people who were alive, to the long film of brutality which Bilquis Bano saw with her own eyes, her own body, like Kausar Bi in Naroda Patiya, and others in Juhapura, Panchmahal, Dahod.


Tough, resilient Bilquis. She and her husband fought till the end. I touched the hand of her little child once. The child smiled. Perhaps the most sublime smile I have ever seen.


Also, the first deaths by fire, inside Coach S-6, Godhra. Some of the dead were reportedly found in the middle of the coach. Why? The doors are not locked from outside. Why didn’t they rush to the door?


And why were the dead bodies brought to Ahmedabad in a public display? And who planned and executed Operation Gujarat Genocide on February 28, 2002, like seismologists look at a map pinned on a drawing board, pointing out the minutest details of the faultlines beyond the epicentre?


Mass murder as an electoral trump card. Hum paanch hamaare pachees! First, a mass murder in full public view. Then, painting an entire community with the brush soaked in blood, hounding them, pushing them to the wall, pissing on their wounds, humiliating and degrading them, wilfully blocking justice, while patronising and protecting the murderers of the Sangh Parivar, calling the vast refugee Shah Alam camp with thousands of homeless and brutalised, orphaned and ravaged, as nothing but a baby producing factory. Sadbhavna?


So what do you do with babies? Throw them into a furnace? Or, inside a gas chamber?
Or simply put kerosene in their mouths, with a lighted matchstick inside? So how many new ways of hacking, burning, raping and butchering became the final experiments with truth in Modi’s Gujarat? Ask Kausar Bi. She will tell you how it feels.


Or ask Zakia Jafri. Waiting for justice, as long as she is alive. The smell of death lingering in the air, like burnt books of a poet whom she loved.