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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Hindus fight to get justice for Muslims in Gujarat riots: The Great untold story of secular India

RB Sreekumar
If ten years after Gujarat riots, the issue continues to be at the centre stage of Indian politics and the judicial process is moving forward, even if slowly, credit is due to Indian society.

One must admit that it is mostly the non-Muslims, the secular Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and Jains who have fought on behalf of Indian Muslims. Putting their lives in danger, they have fought for the minorities' rights and their justice.

It is an incredible story, if someone ever wrote it. Activists who painstakingly fought for victims, journalists who risked lives to do 'stings' and nail culprits, lawyers who have in trying times and braving social stigma [even threats] sided with victims.

Prashant Bhushan
If Gujarat riots were India's shame. The fight for justice is Independent India's glory. A large section disapproves of human rights activists. But mostly this right-leaning segment of middle-class forgets that societies in other countries also act similarly.

In Pakistan, human rights activists who speak and fight for Hindus, Ahmadiyyas or Christian minorities are disliked by a large section, seen as 'noise-makers' and abused on Twitter and Facebook.

It is not an easy job to side with the victim, a person of other community, and take a stand. Particularly, when the might of state is against you. Frankly, majority of Muslim community had no idea how to fight this battle. On every front, it is mostly the non-Muslim leadership that has stood by Gujarati Muslims.

Teesta Setalvad
It was Harsh Mander, who resigned from Indian Administrative Services (IAS) in wake of the riots, openly saying that his colleagues didn't do what was expected from them during the pogrom.

Till date, he has been fighting for relief and rehabilitation. Teesta Setalvad is a symbol of this amazing story. The communalists, the right-wing dislike her.

However, for poor Muslims she is a messiah. Yes, she spoke for the 'other'. You have to be a victim to realise how it feels when someone speaks for you.

How can we forgot Mukul Sinha, whose Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), has painstakingly collected vital evidences, records by scanning thousands of pages of documents, so that the culprits are today feeling the heat.

Rahul Sharma: Ordered firing that saved 300 Muslim  kids
And Prashant Bhushan. At every forum, he has taken up the cause of sufferers. The senior lawyer-activist has been a defender of civil rights and his commitment towards secularism, is surely amazing.

There aren't enough Muslim activists who can take the fight at this level [Of course, Shabnam Hashmi is there but who else?].

The 'intellectual' or common Muslim had little time to think of it or dare do it in Gujarat, let alone act for years in such a hostile atmosphere when section of bureaucracy, society and officials see activists as enemies of Gujarat.

All these are Hindus. How many can dare take on the system in such a way as RB Sreekumar did. The intelligence chief, he was an insider. Disgusted by what happened in Gujarat and driven by pure humanity and conviction, he has been at the forefront in the fight.

Nandita Das
Since 2002, at ever forum he has openly said what others suspected but couldn't have been established easily: about officers' laxity, alleged complicity and the politicians' role in letting the riots go on after Godhra train burning incident.

For many he is a maverick police officer. But IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt has risked his entire career at stake. He named Narendra Modi repeatedly. Even Muslim officers were obsequious and enjoyed plum postings a few years after the riots, content with the fruits of power.

It takes extraordinary courage to speak up when you are in the 'system'. Bhatt has no qualms. Many of these people are staunch Hindus and deeply religious. And yes, their religious beliefs give them the strength when they stand by Muslim Gujaratis.

Mallika Sarabhai
Exemplary commitment towards service was shown by several officials in 2002. Who won't be indebted to Rahul Sharma, the IPS officer, who ordered firing on the mob when rioters were on way to burn a madarsa where 300 children lived, in Bhavnagar.

Sharma later came up with information that showed politicians' nexus with rioters. The government acted against him, gave him charge-sheet. Satish Verma faced departmental harassment.

FIRs were filed against Bhatt. He was arrested as well. I don't know if any other country can have similar example of people in high offices taking such strong stand amidst the typhoon of hate and violence that had swept Gujarat then.

Sanjeev Bhatt
The figure of deaths in Gujarat was enormous. But it could have been even greater but for such brave men in uniform. The combined efforts have resulted in Supreme Court monitoring of cases, constituting the SIT, rapping government, all important steps.

Surely, it is wrong to squarely blame Gujarat or Gujaratis. Innumerable Gujarati Hindus are fighting this battle for the last decade. Their dream is a secular India, a secular Gujarat, for which they are all striving for.

Harsh Mander is a Sikh. Mallika Sarabhai belongs to a Jain family. Christian activists are also involved in this campaign to secure justice. Can we forget the contribution of Indian media that has shown its commitment towards secular India.

Harsh Mander
Artists also expressed their protest. Movies like Rahul Dholakia's Parzania that told the story of a Parsi family which lost its son as he had a Muslim-sounding name or Nandita Das' Firaaq shows the agony they underwent in the aftermath of the massacre.

Ashish Khetan, whose landmark Operation Kalank had established the role of Babu Bajrangi as well as the alleged go-ahead given to Bajrang Dal-VHP leaders in 2002. This is just an example. Innumerable journalists, activists and writers have done every bit to ensure that the wheels of justice move.

So that the society doesn't forget the horrors. When we talk of DG Vanzara, who is in jail for fake encounters, we see only one side of the picture. There are officers who didn't budge despite immense pressure.

Officers who we must salute. V K Gupta, Manoj Shashidhar, Narasimha Komar, Vivek Srivastava, M D Antani, Upendra Singh and Keshav Kumar led from the front and ensured that violence was controlled in their areas.

Mukul Sinha
Go anywhere in India, the respect Teesta Setalvad's name commands, is unbelievable. People have seen her act, speak and passionately fight for Muslims.

Criticising perpetrators of riots is fine for outsiders. It's very easy. But its not an ordinary task to speak for the victims when it is considered 'a moral sin', especially when you are part of the 'system' [bureaucracy] in the Gujarat.

Call it conscience, courage, honesty, humanity or sense of duty, these officers have done something rare. And there are many such officers who have defied the diktats and decided to act as per law.

Whether Gujarat is shining right now or not, whenever history of this period [200-2012] would be written in future, it will be due to these people that the next generations would see as heroes and they would not have to hang their heads in shame for the conduct of rioters.

Rajnish Rai
Honest officers, the courageous activists, the ordinary Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis who fought to ensure justice for their Muslim brethren.

It is this reason that entire Gujarat can't be condemned or defamed. There were no personal gains involved. All of them paid price and faced harassment.

Trolls & hate-filled anonymous cyber warriors con't understand these sentiments. The fighters are not 'pseudos', 'sickulars' or 'Congis', but humans. No wonder we are a mature democracy.

Despite the occasional failures, we can redeem ourselves, bounce back and set new standards. There is no fun fighting for yourself. Everybody does it. But what we have seen in a decade is something extraordinary. It sends the message that humanity and justice ultimately prevail.

This is a story of many heroes and it has a lesson for every society. Our salute to all the heroes. [There are many more activists, lawyers and journalists who played their part in this fight for justice. Some names mentioned above are just to give an indication about the nature of this fight.]

This was second part on the series on post-Godhra killings on this blog on the tenth anniversary of riots. Read first part here.

22 comments:

Aziz P. said...

I really appreciate your coverage of the aniversary. I've linked to your series at City of Brass:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2012/02/tenth-anniversary-of-the-gujrat-riots.html

Aziz P. said...

salaam - great post! I am linking to this and the previous one at City of Brass:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/cityofbrass/2012/02/tenth-anniversary-of-the-gujrat-riots.html

Ganesh Dhamodkar said...

It really needed to be told. When we talk of Gujarat and post-Godhra riots, it inadvertently get colored as Hindus versus Muslims. It was by some Hindus and Muslims against all Gujaratis. Of course, there were elements that were using religion as a catalyst, but there were also a lot that were fighting for justice of the victims and there stories often go untold.

Thankfully, there are a lot many people in India that keep humanity above religion. That keeps up our spirit of secularism.

indscribe said...

Thank you so much Aziz bhai.

Shukria Ganesh bhai.

Just for the record. The two important programmes on ten years of Gujarat riots:

1. Barkha Dutt's special 45 minute programme where she revisits Gujarat. Too emotional, chilling and yet inspiring:
GUJARAT REVISITED

2. Rajdeep Sardesai's special report [documentary] from Ground Zero, a decade after riots. Ground Zero GUJARAT

Rashmi said...

India can't forget Gujarat. Thanks for the video link. I cried so many times watching the report.

Anonymous said...

brought tears to my eyes ..

Anonymous said...

I know. Thats the greatness of India and a predominantly hindu culture of standing up for fairness. Just imagine something like this done in an islamic country against hindus. 10 years later everyone would have forgotten it ever happened. Why islamic country,kashmir itself is there na. in some interview some local educated kashmiri was saying "pandits? who pandits?"

Lokesh said...

It amazes me and saddens me to see what people are capable of doing in the name of religion. I hang my head in shame.

Anonymous said...

I am a hindu, to be frank don't want to have such childish tags like Hindu,Muslim,Sikh...I would rather prefer to be called as human only.I had a misconception that hindu is a lenient & versatile religion(It seems this is a extinct religion now).But after seeing anti-sikh roits in 1984 & acquainted with people like Babu Bajrangi & involvement of so called intellectual Narendra Modi in heinous activities.I have lost that perception.
Modi will definitely get punishment with those who had burnt S6 compartment in Godhra in almighty's court.I had a little respect for RSS because of their patriotic approach.But now, to me RSS is nothing but Indian Taliban.What kind of peoples are produced in this kind of organisation. kaise log massom baccho aur aurto ki jaan le lete hai....Kaun sa dharm hai inka..kon si jaat hai inki pata nahi..jo janwar bhi nahi karte woh insaan hokar kar gujarte hai....

Anonymous said...

I am glad that I read your blog. It's so easy to forget, because of the horrific incidents and the aftermath, that the people fighting for justice are from the majority community and are staunch Constitutionalists. I'm glad that you made the point about the middle class tendency to abuse Human Rights workers in Gujarat, especially Teesta. I think this comes out of a misguided sense of patriotism.

As a middle class Hindu myself, I am ashamed to see the legions of Modi fans online always complaining about 'sickularists' and Congis. They don't understand how closely they mirror some people in middle class Pakistan who hold the same prejudices about Hindus and Jews. I was actually a supporter of BJP initially, since it was a much needed balance against the Congress, but Godhra has ensured that I'll never vote for them unless they shed their Hindutva tag. However, I'm very disappointed with Gujarati society in general. When I visited there, the society seemed to be deeply segregated with well-educated people holding deep prejudices and spouting hate speech against Muslims. The overall feeling one got was that "We have taught a lesson to them". Thankfully, Gujarat is not India and the subsequent years have given me hope for the future.

Anonymous said...

Teesta Setalvad is NOT a Hindu. She used to be one, but now she is a despicable traitor of Hinduism, who married a Muslim and has allowed her children to be weaned away from Hinduism into the vile fold of Islam. She has even given them Islamic names. Do not spread falsehood, blogger!

Anonymous said...

While I'm appreciative of any effort at reconciliation and anyone fighting for the victims of any riot, most of the people you have listed just have Hindu names. They are doing this so-called activism for reasons other than genuine concern for the victims. If they were really only seeking justice, they also would have helped out Godhra victims. Many are just planted by Congress/external forces to create anti-Modi noise. it may seem like they are helping out victims, but beware they are not genuine.

Anonymous said...

Anyone Against Humanity can never be Human..People who burnt the train, people who killed people aftermath...both are Inhuman..and deserve nothing that refers them as Muslims or Hindus..They are Kasabs of India..And Kasab's of Humanity..any pity to either of them will make you one!!! - "A Hindu"

Khan Sahab said...

Salut deep down from the heart to the AUTHOR of this post, to INDIAN JUDICIAL SYSTEM and to this COURAGEOUS OFFICERS.

Anonymous said...

Really Good artical , unfortunatly this angle of story is not told frequesntly

Anonymous said...

We salute these great secularist and Humanist, who fought for justice by any available means they had. And means were so powerful which help the judiciary, to book the culprit.
Let us not forget 'Tehelka'Ashish Khetan and the movie (The Final solution) maker and many others.
Our society has integrated to fairness and justice.

Shahid Anwar Hussain said...

An excellent article !!! Salute to the bravehearts ! Stood their ground amidst adverse circumstances, political and social pressure to establish the rule of law. A true examples of religious botherhood and preserving the ethos of Indian Secularism. Their exemplary examples make us equally proud to be an Indian. Jai Ho !!!!

Nurul Hoda said...

In words we can't express their bravery and love to mankind for justice. May Allah give best reward to them in their life here and hereafter ie the day of judgement 'Yuam-e-Akherat' by enlighting the tru path.

Shahid Anwar Hussain said...

An excellent article !!! Salute to the bravehearts ! Stood their ground amidst adverse circumstances - political and social pressure to establish the rule of law. A true examples of religious botherhood and preserving the ethos of Indian Secularism. Their exemplary examples make us equally proud to be an Indian. Jai Ho !!!!

I G Bhatkali said...

We appreciate for this special article. All Muslim should come forward to felicitate all those brave persons who fought for muslims to get justice in Gujrat.

Every muslim of India should proud that we are Indian and still democracy is alive here.

pavan said...

well thise people are traitors and should be kicked off from india, let them live in pak and wash the ass of jihadi terrorists,

these people ignored the burning on innocnet people in the traint by terrorist muslims

those who supprt the terrorist muslims should be kicked of from india

indscribe said...

PAVAN JI

1. Those who fight for Hindus' rights in Pakistan, are also blamed in the same manner in that country.

2. Those who were accused of Godhra case, have been given death sentence long back.

3. If you kill someone's family member, then you should get jail term, not that he should be allowed to kill your father-mother-brother or child. Please be rational.

Peace. Think of the well being of this nation.