Skip to main content

Memories Never Die! Gujarat carnage took place took place with complete connivance of state govt

By Fr Cedric Prakash sj*
It is sixteen years now since the Gujarat Carnage of 2002. The years have flown by; Gujarat, India and the world has experienced a generation change in many different ways. Let us move on” is the repeated quote of many who were not affected. Such things happen everywhere! is the slogan of those who would like to sweep the reality under the carpet. Oh, they were just aberrations, worse things have happened at other times! say some. For those who try to legitimatize what took place, the oft refrains include, “Didn't they deserve it?” “Why did they have to burn the train in Godhra?” “They are all anti-nationals! They support Pakistan! etc. and ad nauseam!
The truth is facts never lie and memories never die! By all counts, the Gujarat carnage was one of the bloodiest chapters in post-independent India. There was the brutality: barbarity at its worst as children, women and men were burnt alive; chopped into pieces. The murderous mobs spared no one: from the unborn child in the womb of a mother to the very old and sick. Unlike other riots this carnage went on and on. There was arson and loot. An estimated two thousand people were killed, thousands others injured and many times that number who were affected and had to flee from places which they once called their home.
Above all, this one took place with the complete connivance and even involvement of the State Government. There are enough of eyewitness accounts, reports and studies to evidence this. The police who are meant to protect the lives and property of all citizens have gone on record saying, we have no orders to protect you. It was, without an iota of doubt, the Government and their henchmen versus a minority community!
After sixteen years, there has certainly been some justice done. There have been several convictions for the atrocities committed, thanks to the indefatigable efforts of many committed persons. Teesta Setalvad and the Citizens for Justice and Peace have been resolute in this struggle for justice; but there are others too who are determined to leave no stone unturned until the cause of justice has been completely met. Thanks to the efforts of all, the ‘Gujarat Carnage’ is still on the radar of the country and world today. However, the unfortunate reality is that some of the lynchpins- those largely responsible for orchestrating the violence, are today in the seats of power. They have managed to cloak themselves with a certain degree of immunity.
Today one can never forget the victim-survivors who have gone through unbelievable pain and trauma, and continue to do so. There are thousands of them everywhere; some have fled Gujarat never to return to a place, which was their home. Large numbers continue to be displaced from their original villages and towns, living in rather sub-human conditions in so-called resettlement places like the Bombay Hotel area, which is next to Ahmedabad's major garbage dumpsite. It is just unimaginable how people can live in places like these- literally in the midst of filth and squalor, without even the basic amenities of life.
Thankfully, some victim-survivors have shown amazing strength and resilience to take on the powerful perpetrators of this carnage. It has not been easy but they have heroically withstood all hostilities and obstacles, gone to the courts umpteen of times seeking justice, which is legitimately theirs. There is Zakhia Jafri, the wife of the former Member of Parliament Eshan Jafri, who was brutally murdered on that fateful 28 February 2002; there are Rupa and Dara Mody who still wonder whether their only son Azhar who also disappeared that very day, will one day return. There are many more, who still courageously and patiently wait for the light of day.
The powerful, the vested interests, those who are perpetrators of these heinous acts have been doing everything possible to stop the wheels of justice from arriving at the complete truth. They have bought up/coopted some members of the minority community to propagate fabricated stories; they have used former staffers and associates to go to town with total untruths. Human rights defenders, social activists, committed journalists, academics, upright officials and others have had false cases foisted on them; the police and other Government bodies have been misused and manipulated to harass and intimidate those who have accompanied the victim-survivors.
A good part of the mainstream media, in a blatantly Goebbelsian manner, has hounded those in pursuit of truth and justice. It is unbelievable, how sections of the Judiciary without weighing all the merits of a case, can deliver judgements, which are very convoluted. This and much more: the journey after 2002 has not merely been traumatic for those who have actually suffered but also a real ordeal for those who have felt duty-bound to relentlessly pursue truth and justice, in order to preserve all that is sacred in India.
On the 16th anniversary of the carnage, in Gujarat and in other parts of India, several of the victim-survivors, human rights defenders and citizens from all walks of life assembled in rallies, public meetings and in prayer groups, remembering those bloody days of 2002! Many still await the day of justice; several still are and feel ostracized. In between the sharing of pain and struggle, there were also slogans like We are all one! Hindu-Muslim unity! Down with communalism! Embers of hope!
Yes there is a hope that someday truth will triumph, the words emblazoned on our national emblem. There is certainly the need for the healing of memories, for genuine reconciliation, for sustainable peace. These values however are not enveloped in a vacuum; they take place when there is a realization by the perpetrators of what they have done, when there is not merely an acceptance of the wrong but a sincere remorse and the courage to ask for forgiveness.
In the eventuality of that happening, then reconciliation will take place, memories will be healed. As Haruki Murakami, the Japanese writer says so poignantly in Kafka on the Shore, but still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone. Yes, memories never die!
---
*Indian human rights activist, currently based in Lebanon, engaged with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in the Middle East on advocacy and communications

Comments

Unknown said…
We need to find a Supreme Court over the Supreme Court, Father Cedric! Can we? Otherwise we can only hope, sadly.

TRENDING

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

ASI has 'no funds' to protect five centuries old Goa church, a World Heritage Site

Counterview Desk
The century-old All-India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest Laity movement in Asia, has blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for neglecting the historic Bom Jesu church by keeping its ceilings  open to the vagaries weather, with no steps  taken to protect the five century old monument from damage on account of impending rains on the lame excuse that there are "no funds". In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AICU simultaneously asks the Government of India to devise a "comprehensive" national social security safety net, universal health Insurance and medical Infrastructure so that the “calamity” that has befalenl millions of migrant labour and jobless rural and urban poor in “the Covid pandemic-driven lockdown is “never repeated.”

Withdraw sedition charges against three young women activists: 1100 feminists

Counterview Desk
About 1,100 feminists from all over India – organisations and individuals across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders – have issued a solidarity statement condemning what they have called “the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi”, who were at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”