The Gujarat Genocide
By M Hasan Jowher
01 March, 2005
Bludgeoning forex reserves, growing FDI,
rising GDP accompanied, increasing political stock of India, growing
number of NRI millionaires.. makes great news for most of us. But the
victims of post-Godhra riots await more mundane news: justice done,
security strengthened and compensation awarded. For three years to this
week they have waited for truth to prevail.
To recap: As the
political stock of the ruling right-wing BJP started dwindling through
1999-2001 it replaced Keshubhai Patel with the RSS pracharak Narendra
Modi as Gujarat CM to face ensuing elections. Then, following the burning
of Sabarmati Express on 27th February, 2002, claiming 59, mostly innocent
Hindu lives, nearly 2,500 innocent Muslims were brutally killed, many
more permanently handicapped, hundreds gang-raped in their homes, farms,
factories and on the roadside. Several thousand homes were gutted; lakhs
of people lost livelihood, tenancy and heritage. Some could never return
to their villages and societies. Chamanpura in Ahmedabad, for instance,
where former MP Ehsan Jaffary was burnt alive along with several others,
In the following
months Gaurav Yatras were taken out unmistakably celebrating these heinous
acts. The CEO of Gujarat that presided over this mayhem was re-elected
with a thumping majority and is now arguably an icon of macho Hinduism.
The star criminals roam free and some also deface its legislature. None
of the killer outfits: VHP, Bajrang Dal, Shiv Sena were banned. Instead,
nearly three hundred Muslims languish under the long-dead, dreaded POTA
despite Forensic Laboratory, Justice Bannerjee, Hazard Centre and numerous
nationalists' probes ruling out Godhra Muslim conspiracy behind the
On the other hand,
fast track courts have routinely acquitted criminals accused of brutalizing
Muslims, in most cases, thanks to a pro-accused prosecution by pro-VHP
public prosecutors. Even in the cases reopened with Supreme Court intervention
justice is suffering, thanks to a heady mixture of opportunism, enticement,
hopelessness - as in Zahira's case - or sheer intimidation, as in Viramgam,
Godhra, Panchmahals et al. Where the accused are hounded by a chastened
police, their sympathizers make the complainants' lives miserable.
by and large been a farce. Take Sikander's case for instance. He drove
a Hindu professor of IIMA for fifteen years. At 50 he lost his wife,
brother, bhabi, two nephews, domestic goods worth over two lakh, plus
all the jahez [dowry] they had readied for their daughter. She and her
brother being away, escaped the killing. The dead mother's cash compensation
of ninety thousand rupees went to finance her daughter's wedding a year
later. Meanwhile Sikander lost his three thousand rupee job as he became
risky for his good boss who at times took grave risks to save him. To
sell his burnt house, obviously at a throw-away price, he needs sixty
thousand rupees on basic repairs.
Lamenting his loss
he asks God, through mortals like us, why this happened to him, why
his wife who offered "all the five prayers daily" suffered
this fate? Our impotence, if not indifference, provides no answer. And
God clearly doesn't seem too interested in the meek. As for Muslim leadership,
the less said the better.
So who is really
guilty in Gujarat? Sadly, virtually everyone. Half of Gujarat, at any
rate, for that was the voting percentage of BJP in the elections that
followed the killings. No senior cop, not one IAS officer
quit protesting the killings. Not one religious guru of some stature
condemned the killing publicly. Instead all kind of crafty justifications
and consolations have been systematically planted in popular perception.
Consider some: "reaction" to Godhra killing; "conspiracy"
of anti-nationals, pseudo-secularists to "defame" Gujarat;
look ahead, not behind.
Few Gujaratis ponder:
if Gujarat's reaction to Godhra was justified, wasn't Godhra itself
then a justified reaction to the kar sevak's mischiefs and Babri demolition?
That a whole decade before the Sabarmati burning virtual ethnic cleansing
has been carried out in Ahmedabad is forgotten. Does Gujarat's honour
[asmita, as Modi calls it] lie in booking or bailing out the murderers
and rapists? In one sweep Supreme Court, NHRC, Citizens' Tribunal, numerous
fact finding commissions, NGOs and eminent nationalists are held guilty
What then is the
future of Gujarat? Frankly pretty bleak in the long run. No wonder the
FDI has vanished; even Gujaratis avoid investing here, despite all the
chest-beating, festivals and bravado put up by Modi. No sane person
would want to risk good money on bad politics.
Equally, the integration of the nation has been badly affected. The
Muslim psyche, not just within Gujarat but throughout India, is deeply
hurt. Nothing in recent times, not even Babri Masjid demolition, has
shaken their faith in the Indian state as much as the Gujarat killings.
Not until the state acts decisively to punish the guilty and compensate
the losses fully, not until the Hindu clergy and society condemn the
guilty, not until Moditva is extinguished and Modi tried, can true justice
be perceived. With a ruined Sikander in every mohalla, a gang-raped
Bilkis in every town, crying for justice in wilderness, pray, how can
there be peace and harmony?
Partly encashing the revulsion the nation felt at the Gujarat carnage,
the UPA ousted NDA at the centre with Sonia replacing Vajpayee as the
nation's darling. However, little has changed for Gujarat's riot victims.
But alas! There is no alternative to justice. Even if delayed, let it
not be denied for brazen injustice cannot pave the way for peace and
a fractured society cannot be harmonious.
The author runs a voluntary agency, SPRAT, and is accessible at firstname.lastname@example.org