Monday, February 27, 2012

Reflections on Gujarat riots, post-Godhra killings and should the carnage be forgotten?

Mass Hysteria Was Seen IN Gujarat During The RIOTS
Gujarat riots, often termed as post-Godhra killings or the Gujarat Genocide, evoke extreme reactions.

Ten years have now elapsed since the unprecedented scale of mass murders and rapes, in which Muslims largely suffered, had shaken the country.

Whatever happened in Gujarat then was shocking not just by the scale of violence or the inaction of the State government.

Independent India has seen many riots in the past. Justice was denied to victims of riots in Delhi 1984, Meerut-Hashimpura-Maliana killings 1987 & Mumbai 1992-93 as well. These days it's fashionable to say, why talk about old wounds? And that one must forget the past? Is it? It is really important not to forget.

Let's see the reasons:

1. In Gujarat, for the first time, a mass hysteria was seen. The hate that was incited against minority Jews in Nazi Germany was seen in democratic India's Gujarat state. People were not ashamed. Middle-class, educated people participated in riots and looting.

2. Across the world, in failed and lawless states, an 'enemy' is invented and people's ire is directed towards it rather than focus on government's failures. This strategy suits the ruler. As aggressors feel the government is their, standing solidly by their side, they go out for the killing.

Its classic strategy to mobilise the people. It could be the 'immigrants' who are blamed for bringing their culture or snatching jobs or the wealthy minorities. However in 2002, the violence surpassed all previous standards.

3. It's not just the goons, the anti-socials and criminals, the unemployed and the employed, sudden start seeing a 'cause'. They unite behind the 'macho' leader. It makes them feels 'potent' to participate in murders and sexual violence. Rape is always about power. Psychologists agree that the 'high' is more about subjugation.

It brings out the worst, the beastly behaviour out of the society. After all, for years, people were fed on false notions like stories of Muslim aggression and their appeasement that inflamed the hidden hate. With police siding by the rioters. Abetted by leaders, Aided by police, it was the dance of death that left nearly 2,000 dead.

The cable TV revolution had occurred a few years ago. And hence the horrific killings were seen across the world. Even people within the 'Parivar' were astonished. Shanta Kumar condemned it, Vajpayee is learnt to have been upset, but was prevailed upon by the hard-liners' camp.

Of course, the rioters had no qualms. In later years, Tehelka's sting 'Operation Kalank' captured Babu Bajrangi's spine-chilling confessions. See the LINK.




4. If a crime takes place, it is the law that should take action. Surely, the victim or his kin will be angry. But it is not that you identify the person on the basis of his caste or creed, and then go on murdering children belonging to his religion, burning people, killing by hundreds or raping their women.

Further, you shamelessly try to justify this. Even ten years later, most of the top leadership of BJP just does this. They repeat the 'action for reaction' theory for justification. Blame was pinned on all Muslims for doing the coach.  Isn't this utterly shameful.

5. Those who were termed conspirators of Godhra train compartment burning, were booked, even charged for Terrorism under the stringent POTA. Many were falsely implicated and later released. Others get sentenced for life and long years in prison. It was surely an unfortunate incident. Of course, state was proactive in this case.

6. But when it came to the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, police didn't register FIRs, witnesses were threatened, statements were not registered, investigation was shoddy, proper sections of IPC were not applied, evidences were concealed, the 'accused' were not 'identified'.

The killings in Gulbarg Society, Naroda Patiya, Best Bakery, Sardarpura and umpteen other massacres were conveniently buried. In rural areas of Gujarat, the situation was even worse and things didn't get reported for long. Muslims left en masse from towns and villages.

The prosecution seemed to have little interest in the cases. The situation was so bad that Supreme Court had to intervene and ponder over shifting the cases from Gujarat, as there was fear that justice would be subverted.

7. People talk of good governance now. What else can we expect. The first option was exploited and can't be replicated. Yes, there will be good governance wherever there is fear. Either it's during Emergency years or it is the Nazi Germany or dictators [other monarchs], there is an order visible on the street, not in democracy.

8. And where is justice? Even if all atrocities, injustice and oppression is forgotten, where is even the slightest remorse or even a healing touch? The victims were not given compensation. It took courts, human rights bodies and commissions to raise such issues.

The victims live in camps in extremely inhuman conditions. The leaders who talk of 'Sadbhavana' could also have focused on rehabilitation. Aren't they aware of the condition in Shah Alam Camp and similar other temporary shelters for victims.

9. None of the top BJP leaders or administrators visited the refugee camps to take a look at the face of the orphan kid or put a hand on the head of a girl whose family was suffered in the massacre. Nothing of that sort ever happened.

It was a pogrom that was aimed at teaching the minorities a lesson. Gujarat was for long known as RSS' lab for Hindutva. It is a different matter though that the reaction perhaps exceeded their own estimates.

10. The BJP leaders often talk of outsiders demonising Gujarat or insulting the state. These days one commonly hears about the 'campaign to defame the 5 crore Gujaratis'. But it is conveniently forgotten how, Muslims were demonised for years, even after the riots.

In speeches during election campaigns, there were shocking statements. The names of Sohrabuddin and ''Miyan'" Musharraf were taken to rouse popular feelings and to cleverly link them with the Indian Muslims. Hate was spread in a calculated manner.

11. For those who talk how Gujarat is being targeted, they should recall the way Muslims were targeted in speeches. This is all on record.

Like the speech in which burqa wearing women were targeted and made fun of, that whether they go to respond nature's call while wearing burqa. See the Link

12. For years after the riots, the fake encounters continued. Muslims were targeted routinely and killed or arrested. For rogue cops it was a wonderful idea to get accolades and medals. Today DG Vanzara and others of his ilk are in jail, proving how several of the state police officials were complicit in extra-judicial killings.

13. When it was sensed that the anti-Muslim posture can't go on and on infinitely, India saw the birth of a  leader who meant business and won't tolerate any injustice. International PR agencies were hired. The resurgent Gujarat was born. This article in Caravan magazine by Vinod K Jose tells how this branding took place. Read at this Link.

Gujarat and the Gujarati was now positioned as the 'victim'. If you say a word about riot victim's rehabilitation or justice, you were termed anti-Gujarat, accused of being pseudo secular, a person who unnecessarily talks about the ghosts when there were none and when the state had become a sort of utopia.

It was 'Gujarat's Asmita'. Not different from the Hitler's theory. Some decades back, MS Golwalkar had inked his thoughts about culture and minorities in Germany. It didn't take too long for a 'successful' trial that was made in Western India.

14. These days BJP leaders often say that another 'Gujarat' [carnage] can't happen. How are they so sure? Is it because they know the consequences now? Though justice is delayed, and often denied, the process even if slow, when initiates, begins to give sleepless nights to the aggressors.

It is not easy for the 'tainted' to get clean despite using all the resources, to absolve yourself of a shady past. Of late, Collectors-DMs and SPs get worried that if it law-and-order is not brought under control, they might be transferred or face the ire of judiciary. The leaders also fear that their could be action on them from the top.

15. The horrors that unfolded during the riots are too chilling to be recounted. The mini-stories 'Shah Alam camp ki rooheN' by Asghar Wajahad. One of the stories:

When night descends on Shah Alam camp, the children don't fall asleep. They wait for the spirits of their dead parents...Siraj asked his mother, 'how are you?', She looked happy. Now I am a spirit, a soul, nobody can set me afire...Siraj said, 'mother can I become like you?
Read the mini stories here.

It is wrong to think that such riots can't recur. The battle to secure justice for Gujarat riots is on. And it's not easy. As far as last few years in India are concerned, the pressure of activists, media and the understanding that riots will only bring a permanent taint on politicians, such incidents have reduced.

It could happen only because the victims, the civil society, the non-governmental organisations, the judiciary, the innumerable GUJARATIS who fought against the 'system', and kept the issues alive. One must salute them.