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I Owe This To Mukhtar

By Shabnam Hashmi

08 January, 2006

My ten-year old daughter was waiting at the airport to receive me. She rushed towards me, hugged me and enquired immediately,' Is Mukhtar uncle out of the jail?' I shook my head. "Why mamma? You had gone for a day to Gujarat, you stayed back for four days and he is not out of jail. Why didn't you take him out?"

Its much easier to handle the media or a hostile crowd than replying to a ten year old. "Mamma, he is so nice, why do people hate him?"

I could not explain it to her but I need to address this question. Why do certain people dislike Mukhtar? Why was the Modi administration so concerned about this ordinary man living in a small remote place in Gujarat?

During the past year six attempts were made by the Gujarat state to target him. They tried the usual techniques of declaring him an ISI agent, an anti national element, tried to implicate him in one bomb case or another, the last attempt being as recent as a month ago when a detailed enquiry was conducted about his 'anti national' activities but even a tyrant like Modi did not finally dare to arrest him under any of these charges. Finally on the eve of the New Year, in an extremely well planned operation, Mukhtar was framed and arrested in a Rape case.

The human right activists who rush to the media on the drop of a hat are keeping mum. Some are confused and for others it's a very convenient excuse of not supporting him.

Let me come back to the question why do people dislike Mukhtar? The reasons are broadly three: There is a section which fights for equality & justice with an extremely patronizing attitude: we work together, we fight, we declare we need justice & equality specially for the underprivileged, socially & economically backward, minorities, women. We work with you on equal terms but we know we are superior and you should also know and admit the fact. Mukhtar refused to be patronized. Mukhtar comes from a very ordinary background, he has tremendous self respect, talks to senior journalists, activists, funding agencies, political leaders on absolute equal terms. He demands their cooperation and support, does not plead for it.

The second section is which 'uses' natural or man made disasters. Mukhtar kept a tab on their activities and misuse of funds by this section and hence became unpopular amongst though a very small but influential section.

The third section the 'thekedaars' of all the relief and legal work post 2002 do not tolerate him as they treat certain territories as their own and Mukhtar is an intruder.

Now we come to the Modi administration and its extreme hatred for Mukhtar and the desperation on its part to catch him. For this we need to understand and look at Mukhtar's role in the post 2002 carnage. Very few people know about the kind of work he was doing and why it was important and also why he was such a big threat to the Gujarat government. I met Mukhtar for the first time in 2002. He lived in Kalol near Godhra , had a small business . Once the carnage started in 2002 he immediately swung into action, set up a relief camp. Ran the camp for months helping thousands of victims, battered women and widows, set up a rehabilitation colony for those who were not allowed to return to their villages. I list below some of his contributions. It is impossible to put together everything that he did as Mukhtar worked round the clock, single handedly contributing a lot more to the fight for justice than a number of big organizations put together. He was hardly visible to the world as he worked more on the ground and less in the media. But before I list his contributions I would want to emphasise that in my list of ten highly respected, committed, dedicated, honest, creative activists from across India Mukhtar's name shines very brightly.

I listed the sections who disliked him, however there are a large number of people, activists who are very concerned. Telephones are constantly ringing in Janvikas's office in Ahmedbad, people from different parts of India and the world are constantly calling up Gagan Sethi, me and many others who worked with Mukhtar, to find out the status of the case, to know about Mukhtar. It is not that everyone who is enquiring about Mukhtar agrees with him fully. Many found his ways of working undemocratic, had their differences with him but that is what made him human.

It is a very difficult situation and a difficult fight. He has been maligned and framed very cleverly in an absolutely false and bogus rape case.

I stand firmly with Mukhtar and would fight for him.

You can send your solidarity messages to him on my e-mail and circulate this write up to your friends and to the media in your cities.

1 Eral Village Case Eral case - In this 7 Muslims were killed and 2 Muslims were sexually assaulted near Eral village,Taluka-Kalol,Dist-Panchmahal during the 2002 carnage. Trial has been completed and the matter is at order stage.

Shabnam Hashmi
4,Windsor Place, New Delhi-110001
Tel- 23327366/67/ 9811807558









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