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Yes, it is time to face our demons!

Cedric Prakash
By Cedric Prakash*
(In response to article Time to Face our Demons by well-known litterateur Chetan Bhagat)
Dear Chetan,
Your article ‘Time To Face Our Demons’ in a National English Daily (February 25, 2013) was indeed very interesting. As always, you need to be congratulated for your brilliant simplicity in communicating a message.
There are several good points in your article which the average reader will surely welcome; however, I cannot help but express my discomfort, in at least three areas, at the way you have skillfully nuanced your piece.
The selective use of words:
In the opening para itself, you write about ‘the Godhra train carnage’ and ‘the subsequent riots’ ……there is something extremely misleading in this statement. Let’s accept that the burning of the train was a carnage, then to put things in perspective what followed were NOT riots but also a carnage, if not a genocide.
Later on you write ‘if Hindu groups target a few innocent Muslims in a few stray attacks…..’ I honestly fail to understand if Malegaon, the Samjautha Express, Ajmeri Sharief among others, were just ‘stray’ attacks?
One certainly does not have to quibble about words, but when an author of your eminence writes a piece, the choice of words is important, as they are undoubtedly very carefully selected.
The theory, 'not to point fingers at some':
It is a good theory to hold “all of us” responsible. But one has “to attach villains to the incident”, as this is an incontrovertible fact, even if you don’t agree with it.
Someone is responsible for the killing, the loot, the rapes; someone who presides over it or gives the order that it should happen or perhaps someone who can stop it, but does nothing.
We know that all over and particularly in India, mobs are manipulated. Someone calls the shots, be it in the carnage of the Sikhs in 1984 or in the Gujarat carnage of 2002. In the latter we know, nothing happened in Gujarat or anywhere else in the country for full twenty four hours after the burning of the train; besides, when the violence took place, it happened only in Gujarat. We certainly need to ask why and who was responsible?
The fact that ‘wounds need to be healed’:
I certainly agree with you when you categorically write that “wounds need to be healed”. But wounds can be healed when the person who is hurt forgives the one who caused the hurt. I am a Catholic priest and one of the important Sacraments we have in the Church is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We believe that our God is a forgiving one, whose love transcends every narrow confine; but we also believe that forgiveness is always a consequence of realisation of the sin and of deep remorse. We have the famous parable by Jesus called the ‘Prodigal Son’, wherein the wayward son realises that what he has done was totally wrong and unacceptable and in true contrition, he says to himself, ‘I will arise and go to my father and tell him that I have sinned against Heaven and against thee’.
Forgiveness results in healing, but then one does not forgive in a vacuum. Only when those responsible for a wrong have realised the enormity of their acts and are willing to show remorse, can one actually forgive them!
Some years ago, Australia set the world a classic example when it instituted a ‘National Sorry Day’ (May 26th) to remember and commemorate the crimes that the white Australians had committed on the aborigine population over several years. In 2008, the then Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd moved a motion of apology to Australia’s indigenous peoples in Parliament and apologized for the past laws, policies and practices that literally devastated the aboriginal people.
Having said this, you rightly acknowledge that for you “this has to be the most difficult piece to write.” There is no doubt about that. It is always difficult to write about another’s pain and trauma. Yes, wounds need to be healed but wounds are only healed when those who are wounded can truly experience caring, acceptance, a sense of justice and are able to live without fear.
Until this takes place, we will continue to allow the demons to haunt us!
Terror knows no religion. We all agree on that but there are certainly some who take their diktats in the name of their religion. And civil society needs to act on this and put a stop to it. Every act of terror (including the recent Hyderabad blasts), is totally unacceptable. None of us should hold a brief for anyone (however powerful the person may seemingly be) who commits or encourages such acts.
We surely need to transcend the narrow confines of the religious, ethnic and caste divide. As a people, we do have a long way to go. To ‘put the nation first’, would mean guaranteeing to every single citizen the non-negotiables of Truth, Justice and Inclusiveness. Only if we put our hearts and minds to ensure this for all, will we have arrived at the time to squarely face our demons.
Satyameva Jayate!

*Human rights activist

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