When It Rained Blood
By Nachiketa Desai
16 May, 2010
Having covered Gujarat as a journalist for over two decades, Nachiketa
Desai was a witness to the Sangh Parivar's Fascist methods and its
devastating effects on the life and psyche of the people. He traces
the roots of Fascism that culminated in the genocide of 2002.
This article was originally written in 2002 and published on
Countercurrents.org in 2010
When I returned to Gujarat after eight years, in June 2002, the muddy
water of the Sabarmati River had already turned bloody. The sword of
the Saffron Brigade had drawn enough blood from Muslim men, women and
children to redden the azure blue water of the Narmada that had been
fed into the Sabarmati.
The Sangh Parivar, comprising the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),
the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Bajrang Dal and the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), had exploded the saffron bomb successfully in
Gujarat to prove before the world that Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of
peace and non-violence, can be defeated in his own home land.
The Sangh Parivar had been preparing to wage a war against the
humanity since 1920 when its ideologue Savarkar propounded the theory
of 'Hindurashtra' (Hindu nation). When in 1947, their dream to convert
India into a Hindurashtra failed, the Sangh Parivar contracted
Nathuram Godse to kill Gandhi, who symbolized universal brotherhood.
The next assault on secular India was made on December 6,1992 when a
fifteenth century mosque was razed to the ground by a fanatic mob, a
section of which had been trained in demolition techniques in a camp
Having covered Gujarat as a journalist for over two decades, I was a
witness to the Sangh Parivar's Fascist methods and its devastating
effects on the life and psyche of the people. I will try here to trace
the roots of fascism that culminated in the genocide of 2002.
A LEAF FROM THE MEIN KAMPF
One had only read about Fascism and Nazism in books of history and
fiction. But had never experienced living under a Fascist state. One
had lived under the constant fear of arrest and police torture during
the 19 months of the Emergency. But what the Muslims in Gujarat
experienced in 2002 must have been much more dreadful than that.
There were massacres of Muslims, gang rapes of Muslim women and
looting and arson of shops and establishments belonging to them.
Armed mobs, led by known Bharatiya Janata Party and Vishwa Hindu
Parishad workers, were on a killing spree, targeting Muslims to avenge
the burning alive of over 50 VHP volunteers returning from Ayodhya by
train on February 27 near the Godhra railway station.
Instead of providing protection to the Muslims, the police aided and
abetted the killer mobs. Worse, the police refused to file First
Information Reports in several cases and where it became unavoidable
to register a case, the FIRs were so doctored as to help the killers,
rapists, arsonists and looters escape unpunished.
Gujarat had become unsafe for Muslims. Hundreds of Muslims fled their
homeland, Gujarat, after the mayhem. Many enterprising,
forward-looking, well-to-do Muslims, like the members of the Chelia
clan from north Gujarat, who owned over 400 restaurants, most of them
serving only vegetarian food and bearing pronouncedly Hindu names,
sold their establishments to move to Hyderabad and Bangalore.
These popular restaurants, other shops and business establishments
doing flourishing business in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in central and
north Gujarat were singled out, plundered and then set on fire by the
Hindu mobs in the aftermath of the Godhra carnage.
PARTITIONING THE HEART
How could the armed mobs, out on the roads to retaliate the killings
of VHP activists, track down Muslim business establishments throughout
the state in a matter of hours?
The VHP leader Pravin Togadia's disclosure in an interview he had
given me for the Calcutta daily, The Telegraph, on January 10, 1992,
flashed through my mind. Togadia had boasted that the VHP had
undertaken a census and land record survey to take stock of the real
estate ownership pattern among Hindus and Muslims in over 18,000
villages, towns and cities of the state.
The survey, he said, would provide the VHP leadership with the
necessary data that would help formulate short-term and long-term
strategies for 'protecting' the interests of the Hindu community in
The survey, he said, would help the VHP draw up a 'boundary' line in
all the major towns and cities beyond which the Muslims would not be
allowed to expand. "We will establish border check posts manned by
Bajrang Dal volunteers to instill a sense of security among the
Hindus," he had disclosed in the interview.
The large-scale rioting that occurred in the run up to the demolition
of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 and thereafter
witnessed how property owned by the Muslims were mde target by
arsonists and plundering mobs.
By drawing up a boundary line, the VHP is trying to create a
'Hindustan' and a 'Pakistan' in almost all the villages and towns of
Gujarat, the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi who lived and died for love,
peace and non-violence.
The VHP has put up signboards at the entry points of all major towns
in the state welcoming visitors to 'Hindurashtra's such and such
town.' The unstated message in these signboards is louder: The country
belongs only to the Hindus; all others have place in it.
Savarkar had seeded the idea of partition by propounding the theory of
'Hindurashtra' in the 1920s, much before Mohammed Ali Jinnha came up
with his two-nation theory. When the country was partitioned in 1947
and India decided to remain a secular state, the followers of Savarkar
were angered that India had not become a 'Hindurashtra'. So, one of
them, Nathuram Godse, killed Mahatma Gandhi who was a living symbol of
universal brotherhood and secular India.
The Muslims who had opted for Pakistan were far less in number than
those who had chosen to stay back in India. It was their conscious
decision to opt for the citizenship of a secular and democratic
nation. But for the followers of Savarkar's ideology, a secular and
democratic India was neither palatable nor acceptable. They had no
reasons to celebrate either the Independence Day or the Republic Day.
When the Union government banned the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
and the Hindu Mahasabha after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi,
there was no sympathy for the Hindutva forces. The dogmatic Hindutva
was stoutly rejected by the country's diverse religious, linguistic
and ethnic people, who have had coexisted peacefully for centuries,
enriching their respective cultural heritage through inter-mingling
The Hindutva forces, represented in the political arenda by the
erstwhile Jan Sangh (renamed later as the Bharatiya Janata Party),
were rebuffed by the Indian electorate in all the successive elections
to the Parliament and various state legislative assemblies but for the
elections held in 1977.
The 1977 general elections proved a turning point in the
post-independence political history of India. The elections were held
under the shadow of a dictatorial rule. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi,
indicted by a court for indulging in corruption during her election
and facing a country-wide protest movement led by youths, had declared
a state of emergency and suspended all the fundamental rights of the
citizens, gagging the press, arresting her opponents and unleashing a
reign of terror.
The Indian voters expressed their anger against the dictatorial rule
through the ballot papers, routing the Congress party and electing to
power the Janata Party, a newly formed coalition of opposition
parties. Mainly because they had joined the Janata coalition that most
of the Jan Sangh leaders got elected to the Parliament.
It was a negative vote against the dictatorial rule of Mrs. Indira
Gandhi and not a positive vote for the Hindutva ideology that helped
the Jan Sangh gain political legitimacy in the country. When the
Janata government fell due to bickering among the constituentsand
fresh elections were held, people voted Mrs. Gandhi and her Congress
party back to power. The biggest loser was the Jan Sangh that had
renamed itself as Bharatiya Janata Party. Only two BJP candidates
managed to win their seats in the Lok Sabha.
From the subsequent events and developments, it would become clear
that the BJP gained more political mileage from the follies of the
Congress than from the popularity of the Hindutva ideology. It was
because of fragmentation of opposition votes due to the presence of a
large number of political parties in the election fray that the
Congress was managing to win a majority in the Parliament and in state
assemblies. Else, the popularity of the Congress party was fast
depleting on account of corruption in high places, rising inflation,
the culture of sycophancy and perpetuation of one family rule - that
of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
But it was chiefly because of some retrogressive action of the
Congress government like the decision to nullify the Supreme Court's
judgment on the Shah Bano case through an ordinance and Prime Minister
Rajiv Gandhi's move to throw open the Babri mosque for the devotees of
Lord Ram, that gave a shot in the arm to communal elements among both
the Hindus and Muslims.
It was Prime Minister V P Singh's decision to implement the
recommendation of the Mandal commission on socially and economically
backward classes that hastened the BJP to take up the issue of
Ramjanmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya, lest the coming together of all the
depressed classes - harijans, advisasis, other backward classes (OBCs)
becomes a formidable obstacle to the Sangh Parivar's dream of turning
India into a Hindurashtra.
The Sangh Parivar systematically went about recruiting and mobilizing
harijans, adivasis and members of other backward classes for the
Ramajanmabhoomi campaign. Through the campaign, the Sangh Parivar
managed to 'sanskritize' and bring under the fold of Hindutva members
of those communities who had been suffering the humiliation of
untouchability for centuries. When the bricks meant for the
construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya were consecrated in a Dalit
colony or a slum, those who participated in the ceremony felt equal to
the caste Hindus.
Simultaneously, the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign portrayed the Muslims as
'enemies' of the country who had no place in the Hindurashtra. The
Indian Constitution had rejected the two-nation theory by adopting
secularism. Hence, what could not be achieved through constitutional
means, the Sangh Parivar sought to achieve through unconstitutional
and extra-parliamentary means by driving a communal wedge in the
Polarization of society on communal lines has vastly benefited the BJP
as is evident from the increasing strength of its members in both the
Parliament and the various state assemblies. The communal carnage,
which triggered off the ghastly memories of Nazi concentration camps,
that shattered Gujarat between February and April 2002, was translated
into a mandate for chief minister Narendra Modi to rule the state for
yet another five years.
The Gujarat assembly election results porten a serious threat to the
secular India because the BJP and its extra-parliamentary allies, the
VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the RSS, have made it amply clear that they
will be trying out the 'Gujarat Experiment' in the elections to the
assemblies of six states later this year as also in the parliamentary
general elections the next year.
Though there appears to be a surface calm in Gujarat, the Modi
government and the Sangh Parivar continue to target the Muslims. The
state government is out to subverting the process of justice to ensure
that no one involved in the 2002 carnage is punished. The Best Bakery
case in a glaring example of this. In the Best Bakery case, the
session's court has acquitted all the 21 accused of killing 14 hapless
people, including women and children, after the key witnesses were
coerced by the local BJP MLA and his municipal councilor brother into
retracting their statement. Similar has been the fate of most of the
cases of heinous crimes in which BJP, VHP and RSS activists are the
While those who had committed murder, rape, loot and arson are roaming
fearlessly, the police is hunting down Muslim youths, foisting trumped
up charges against them and arresting them under the draconian
Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA). In most of the POTA
cases, the charge leveled against the detained person is the same that
he had been recruited by Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, after
the Godhra carnage, taken to Pakistan, trained there in terror tactics
and brought back to Gujarat to attack Hindu places of worship and kill
leaders of the BJP and VHP.
In times of communial violence in Gujarat, the language press sheds
its yellow and dons deep saffron. The Gujarati press has proved time
and again that pen is mightier than a trishul (trident). With scant
regard for journalistic ethics, the Gujarati press has been adding
fuel to the fire by whipping up communal passions.
The Muslims in Gujarat are a hounded lot, condemned by the ruling
party politicians (BJP and its VHP-RSS allies), a partisan police
force and civil administration and a belligerent press. If this is not
Fascism, what is it?
A cornered cat pounces at the throat of the one who has cornered it.
Should the Muslims act likewise? Some of them did. The serial bomb
blast in Mumbai was in retaliation to the demolition of the Babri
mosque. So were several other acts of terrorism. But an act6 of
terrorism triggers off state terrorism of greater maginitude. Besides,
terrorism alienates the common people from a terrorist outfit.
An act of terrorism by members of the minority community helps
reinforce the propaganda by Fascist forces that Muslims are
anti-social elements who need to be dealt with an iron hand. It was
because of the attack on the Akshardham temple complex in Gandhinagar
and the assassinatioin of former home and revenue minister Haren
Pandya that the police could terrorize the Muslims by subjecting a
large number of youths to torture and then putting them behind bars
under the provisions of the draconian POTA.
Violence breeds greater violence. Similarly, communalism of the
majority community thrives on communalism of the minority community.
Some religious and political leaders seek to encourage and strengthen
orthodoxy among the Muslims on the plea that preserving a distinct
identity is the only way to survive the onslaught by forces that seek
to wipe out Islam. But by doing so, they add fuel to the fire of
communalism on which Fascist forces thrive.
Another tendency seen among a few Muslim leaders is to accept the
supremacy of the majority community and be rewarded with a share in
power. Such Muslim leaders, who accept positions in the government or
in the ruling party, play a second fiddle to the top leadership and
come in handy for the Fascist regimes to tom-tom their 'secular'
credentials. As happens with any fifth columnist, they become a
subject of abject contempt among their own community even as their
loyalty remains suspect in the eyes of the majority community.
A vast majority of Muslims are poor and illiterate, making them
vulnerable to the machinations of politicians and the clergy.
Politicians, irrespective of their party affiliations, view Muslims as
a conglomerate of various monolithic, closely-knit clans each
controlled by clerics and/or community leaders. In times of elections,
politicians seek the support of these clerics and community leaders,
who act as power-brokers.
Politicians, clerics and community leaders have shown little interest
in the welfare and uplift of the common Muslims. On the contrary, they
seem to have a vested-interest in keeping the masses illiterate and
their attention diverted from such burning issues as education,
poverty, unemployment, social and economic justice. The same holds
true for the Hindutva forces too.
Karl Marx had described religion as the opiate of masses. The
followers of Savarkar, Godse and Modi are proving Marx right in
RAM AUR RAHIM
When in 1906, young barrister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi launched his
satyagraha in South Africa against the discriminatory treatment being
meted out to people of Indian origin, his chief lieutenants included
Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Dalits and Christians. Among his colleagues
were also Chines, British and Germans. Indeed Gandhi was a Vishwamanav
(global citizen) whose quest for truth could not be constricted by the
consideration of caste, creed or colour.
When he set up the Satyagraha Ashram on the bank of the Sarbarmati
river in Ahmedabad a decade later, Gandhiji nominated Imam Abdul Kadir
Bawazeer, a Muslim priest who had courted jail in 1910 as a Satyagrahi
in South Africa, as the vice-chairman of the ashram's managing
committee. Bawazeer succeeded Gandhiji's secretary Mahadev Desai as
the chairman of the ashram after the latter was arrested during the
Salt Satyagraha in 1930. And, when Gandhiji was arrested, he nominated
76-year-old Justice Abbas Tayyabji to lead the Salt Satyagraha.
Gandhiji's Satyagraha ashram was a global village. Its inmates
included Hindus, Jains, Muslims, Parsis and Christians. Even Miraben,
the youngest daughter of an admiral of the British Royal Navy, was an
ashram inmate, such broad was Gandhiji's concept of universal
When in 2002, a group of concerned citizens gathered at the satyagraha
ashram to discuss ways to promote communal harmony, it was attacked by
a mob crying 'Jai Shri Ram'. A few days back, the mob that had
destroyed the mausoleum of Vali Deccani, a.k.a Vali Gujarati, the
great poet credited with founding the composition of shaayari, was
also shouting the same very war cry of 'Jai Shri Ram'.
Gandhiji had popularized the singing of the hymn:
"Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram, Pateet Paavan Sita Ram
Eeshwar, Allah Tere Naam, Sabko Sanmati De Bhagwan"
The Muslim, Christian and Parsi inmates of the satyagraha ashram sang
the hymn with equal devotion as it was a prayer to one God who was
known by different names and whose blessings the hymn sought so that
good sense prevailed among all human beings.
But since December 6, 1992, when fanatic Hindu mobs demolished the
Babri mosque at Ayodhya as an act of revenge against the 15th Century
Moghul emperor, Babar, the chant of 'Jai Shri Ram' has assumed violent
connotation, striking terror among the non-Hindus, specially Muslims
whom the Hindu fanatics chided as 'Babar ki Aulad' (Descendants of the