Skip to main content

Lest we conveniently forget: Heroes Vasant and Rajab walked the talk, died for a greater good

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
It is sixty nine years today since that fateful day of July 1, 1946. The traditional rath yatra - instead of being a day of bonding and harmony - resulted in a communal conflagration as both Hindus and Muslims went for the jugular: in a rioting spree and murdering one another.
Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani were good friends and also volunteers with the Seva Dal. Deeply disturbed with what was happening in the city, they were determined to do all they could to stop the venom, the fire and the killing from spreading.
They jumped into the midst of the violence begging those involved on both sides to cry halt immediately; many did listen and relented. Recorded evidence tell us that their heroics helped save a Muslim driver from a Hindu mob and a Hindu who owned a washing company from a Muslim mob.
Their acts of valour seemed to have temporarily quelled the violence.
Late that day, they returned very exhausted to the Congress Office at Khand-ni-Sheri, when they received news that a group of Dalit families in the Jamalpur area were surrounded by a very violent mob. They immediately ran back and tried to pacify the mob.
Their entreaties were in vain. The crowd warned them to stay away; but Vasant and Rajab lay down on the road in order to prevent the Dalit families from being touched. The blood-thirsty mob did not spare them and brutally murdered them: two young men who had the courage to lay down their lives for the cause of communal harmony and peace!
Vasant and Rajab have plenty to teach us: today Ahmedabad, many areas of Gujarat and across the country are polarized and divided on communal lines; powerful politicians and other vested interests leave no stone unturned in dividing and instigating people in the name of religion.
Media in Gujarat has just reported of how a Superintendent of Police has referred to the minority community as “dogs”. The SP shamelessly admits that he is a classmate and close to the international President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and has connections with the RSS; that a ranking officer can boast of such claims speaks volumes indeed of the ground reality in our country today.
The martyrdom anniversary of Vasant & Rajab is indeed a painful reminder to all of us that our great country is about pluralism and diversity; about respect and tolerance of all religions and ideologies and above all, about justice and equity for all.
The sad fact is that the memory of many is very selective and we conveniently forget heroes like Vasant and Rajab, who walked the talk; who died for a greater good!
---
Director of Prashant, Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Comments

TRENDING

Telangana govt proposes to give unfettered powers to forest officials, 'help' corporates

By Dr Palla Trinadha Rao*
The Telangana Government is contemplating to replace the Telangana Forest Act 1967 with a new law - the Telangana Forest Act (TFA) 2019, trampling the rights of adivasis ensured under the Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA Act 2006) and Panchayats Extension to Schedule Area (PESA) Act 1996 both of which are central acts.

RSS, Hindu Mahasabha were 'subservient' to British masters: Nagpur varsity VC told

Counterview Desk
Well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam, associate professor (retired), University of Delhi, in an open letter to the vice-chancellor of the Rashtrasant Tukadoji Maharaj Nagpur University, Dr Siddharthavinayaka P Kane, has taken strong exception to the varsity decision to include RSS’ “role” in nation building in the syllabus of the BA (history) course, citing instances to say that the RSS ever since its birth in 1925 with its Hindutva allies like Hindu Mahasabha led by VD Savarkar worked overtime to “betray the glorious anti-colonial freedom struggle”.

British companies export 'deadly' asbestos to India, other countries from offshore offices

By Rajiv Shah
“The Sunday Times”, which forms part of the powerful British daily, “The Times”, has raised the alarm that though the “deadly” asbestos is banned in Britain, companies registered in United Kingdom, and operating from other countries, “are involved in shipping it to developing nations”, especially India. India, Brazil, Russia and China account for almost 80% of the asbestos consumed globally every year, it adds.

One lakh schools closed down, draft policy 'seeks' commercialisation: Whither RTE?

By Our Representative
A national consultation on the new draft National Education Policy (NEP) with senior experts, teachers’ association representatives and other stakeholders at the India International Centre in New Delhi on July 11, organised by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, has expressed serious concern over curtailment in the budgeted expenditure on education year after year, even as closure of more than one lakh schools over the "last few years."

Lynching as state terror? Complete dearth of 'political will' to deal with mob violence

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
On Friday July 5, thousands of people had gathered at a rally in Surat to protest against the growing mob lynching incidents in different parts of the country. There are different interpretations at what happened during the rally: with police blaming the rallyists and those in the rally blaming the police for using teargas shells upon them without any reason.

Mental health: India's 95% patients "deprived" of medical care, treatment gap 70%

By Moin Qazi*
Among the many challenges India faces, the most underappreciated is the ongoing mental health crisis. Mental illness is actually India’s ticking bomb. An estimated 56 million Indians suffer from depression, and 38 million from anxiety disorders. For those who suffer from mental illness, life can seem like a terrible prison from which there is no hope of escape; they are left forlorn and abandoned, stigmatized, shunned and misunderstood.

Gender budgeting? Govt of India allocates just 2.1%, 0.73% for SC, ST women

By Rajiv Shah
The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), one of the most influential all-India Dalit rights networks, has taken strong exception to the manner in which the Government of India has undermined Gender Responsive Budgeting in the Union Budget 2019-20 for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs), pointing towards “wide gaps” between the goals and the situational reality of “the Dalit and Adivasi women on the ground.”

Universal healthcare? India lacks provisions to 'fight' non-communicable diseases

By Moin Qazi*
Universal health coverage (UHC) -- ensuring that all people receive proper and adequate health care without suffering financial hardship -- is an integral part of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It enables countries to make the most of their strongest asset: human capital.

Beijing-based infrastructure bank 'funding' India's environmentally risky projects

By Our Representative
A new civil society note has questioned the operations of the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multilateral development bank that aims to support the building of infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region, seeking to fund projects in India through the Government of India’s National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF), calling it “a risky venture”.

UN report notes 'suppression' of Kashmiri independence groups in Pakistan

By Our Representative
A top United Nations (UN) body has suggested that the intense fervour of Kashmiri nationalism isn’t just sweeping the Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state but is equally strong in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), pointing towards how the Pak authorities have been seeking to suppress it by placing restrictions on rights to freedoms of expression and opinion, assembly and association on every section of PoK’s population.