Skip to main content

Caste and regional divide "replacing" Gujarat's communal cleavage begun in 2002

Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah
By RK Misra*
Pebble-stirred ripples both caution and crush. In either case they leave a lasting impact. Three news items that appeared in the recent past bear eloquent testimony to it.The first, pertains to the account of Lt Gen Zameer Uddin Shah (retd) who had been dispatched at the head of a 3,000 strong army contingent to control the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. 
His memoirs only confirm, what is internally well known, that the response of the state administration was ’tardy’ and that the army was delayed transport for over a day despite a request to the then chief minister, Narendra Modi.
The former vice-chief of the army staff said that the sequence of events has been recorded in the ‘war diaries‘ of the army. General S Padmanabhan, the then chief of Army Staff had backed the assertions of Shah. Thus it is that crucial time was lost in the statewide deployment of the army while the cops gave a free hand to the rioting mobs targeting the minorities in cities and towns engulfed by violence.
This revelation now assumes added importance in the light of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team(SIT) report that had cleared Modi’s name saying that there was no delay in ‘requisition and deployment of the army’, based on the testimony of Ashok Narayan, additional chief secretary (home). ”Let me say again, it is a blatant lie. When the time comes, the war diaries will be provided. What I have said is the gospel truth”, said the retired General. It is merely incidental that this highly acclaimed officer of the Indian Army happens to be the brother of filmstar Naseeruddin Shah.
For many of us field reporters who covered this distressing chapter in Gujarat’s history up close, these are well known facts; also the white wash that followed and the communal cleaving through Modi’s ‘gaurav yatra’. Pitting the majority versus the minority reaped instant electoral results and Modi won the State assembly polls held immediately thereafter with a steamroller majority.
However, the slow and insidious impact of this poison is now being felt far and wide. On October 12, in far off Atlanta in the USA, a Gujarati and his friends were thrown out of a garba celebration because his name was not found ‘Hindu’ enough. It did not matter to the organisers, Shree Shakti Mandir, that Vadodara astro-physicist Dr Karan Jani had won India acclaim when he made it to the LIGO team in the US which discovered the gravitational waves in 2016.
Jani had gone with his three friends, including two women, and were ‘thrown out’ because their surnames did not seem to be Hindu enough. A humiliated Dr Jani put the shameful proceedings on Twitter.
A Patidar agitation in Gujarat
Nearer home in Ahmedabad one got to see another strain of the proliferating virus at another hindu religious gathering. Non-vegetarian food forms an intrinsic part of Bengali food culture, including those of Brahmins. References to some of these practices can be found in the sanskrit text of the ‘Kalika Purana’. Durga Puja is a religious festival which has been organized by the Bengal Cultural Association in Ahmedabad since the last 80 years.
The food fest which also has a non-vegetarian component is an intrinsic part of these celebrations. This time, the Ahmedabad Education Society, owners of the land where the Durga Puja celebrations are held, issued a last minute directive against cooking or serving non-vegetarian food leaving the organisers of this religious congregation no time to shift venue.
From other religions to their own, and within it from targeting cultural to social mores and now faith itself, the dictating of percepts and practices is acquiring ingenious forms.
As things stand in Gujarat today , the majority Hindu society is more fractured than ever before. The Patidars are up in arms seeking reservations, violence against Dalits has seen a 50 per cent spurt over previous years and the OBCs are in ferment with infighting breaking out amongst sub-communities.
Six people were killed and one injured in violent sparring on October 23, between Ahirs and Kumbhars -- both OBC communities in Chassra village of Mundra taluka of Kutch district of Gujarat which borders Pakistan.
What began with rising religiosity witnessed through the sharply growing number of people walking down to key temples like Ambaji , Pavagadh and Chotila in north and central Gujarat as well as Saurashtra respectively, has now grown to flaunting caste identity through stickers on their respective vehicles and business establishments (Jai Patidar, Jai Parushram, Jai Mataji [kshatriya] etc).
The 'Pagpada Sanghs’, which is a loose association of neighbourhoods that encourage ritualistic walking to religious places during specified periods of the hindu calendar, were a creation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad but it has gradually petered down to caste groupings, frequently at loggerheads with each other. Thus, those who set out to unite Hindus for electoral gains have only gone to bitterly divide the very same components of the Hindu caste matrix.
The latest fall-out of this fragmentation which began a new chapter altogether ,was when the rape of a 14 month old girl belonging to an OBC family in Sabarkantha district of north Gujarat, allegedly by a youth of Bihari origin, triggered off violence against migrants from hindi speaking states leading to their large scale exodus. The caste you belonged to did not matter, the region you came from did, when choosing targets to attack.
It was a ‘controlled‘ political experiment with an eye on the impending elections in the neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where Congress was seen as ascendant, but careened dangerously out of control forcing the ruling BJP to go into damage control even as the lob and volley blame game continued between the two principal political opponents.
Thus it is that what began as communal cleaving has over the years come to acquire divisive, casteist permutations and destructive, parochial combinations.
When you roll a boulder downhill, it develops a mind and momentum of its own, crushing all in its path before fragmenting itself. Those who use cleavers and crushers could do well to remember this hard fact!
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

Comments

TRENDING

NYT seeks UN intervention, says: Modi turning autocratic, talks absurd on Kashmir

By Our Representative
In what appears to be a scathing reply to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-publicized “New York Times” (NYT) article on Mahatma Gandhi titled “Why India and the World need Gandhi”, NYT’s powerful editorial board has said, Modi “didn’t address” the Kashmir issue in his United Nations (UN) speech, calling his assertion at the Houston rally a few days – that revoking the constitutional clause on Kashmiri autonomy meant “people there have got equal rights” with other Indians – “absurd”.

Ceramic worker dies: 20,000 workers in Thangadh, Gujarat, 'risk' deadly silicosis

By Our Representative
Even as the country was busy preparing for the Janmashtami festival on Saturday, Hareshbhai, a 46-year-old ceramic worker from suffering from the fatal lung disease silicosis, passed away. He worked in a ceramic unit in Thangadh in Surendranagar district of Gujarat from 2000 to 2016.
Hareshbhai was diagnosed with the disease by the GCS Medical College, Naroda Road, Ahmedabad in 2014. He was found to be suffering from progressive massive fibrosis. He is left behind by his wife Rekha sister and two sons Deepak (18) and Umesh (12),
The death of Hareshbhai, says Jagdish Patel of the health rights group Peoples Training and Research Centre (PTRC), suggests that silicosis, an occupational disease, can be prevented but not cured, and the Factory Act has sufficient provisions to prevent this.
According to Patel, the pottery industry in the industrial town of Thangadh has evolved for a long time and locals as well as migrant workers are employed here. There are abou…

Gujarat's incomplete canals: Narmada dam filled up, yet benefits 'won't reach' farmers

By Our Representative
Even as the Gujarat government is making all out efforts to fill up the Sardar Sarovar dam on Narmada river up to the full reservoir level (FRL), a senior farmer rights leader has said the huge reservoir, as of today, remains a “mirage for the farmers of Gujarat”.
In a statement, Sagar Rabari of the Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has said that though the dam’s reservoir is being filled up, the canal network remains complete. Quoting latest government figures, he says, meanwhile, the command area of the dam has been reduced from 18,45,000 hectares (ha) to 17,92,000 ha.
“According to the website of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd, which was last updated on Friday, while the main canal, of 458 km long, has been completed, 144 km of ranch canals out of the proposed length of 2731 km remain incomplete.
Then, as against the targeted 4,569 km distributaries, 4,347 km have been constructed, suggesting work for 222 km is still pending. And of the 15,670 km of minor canal…

Cess for Gujarat construction workers: Spending less than 10%; no 'direct help' to beneficiaries

By Our Representative
While the Gujarat government’s Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board, set up in 2004, as of March 31, 2019, has collected a total cess of Rs 2,097.62 crore from the the builders, it has spent less than 10% -- Rs 197.17 crore. And, as on May 31, 2019, the total cess collection has reached Rs 2,583.16 crore, said a statement issued by Bandhkam Majur Sagathan general secretary Vipul Pandya.
Pointing out that just about 6.5 lakh out of 20 lakh workers have been registered under the board, Pandya said, vis-à-vis other states, Gujarat ranks No 13th in the amount spent on the welfare of the construction workers, while 11th in the amount collected.
And while the builders are obliged to pay just about 1% of the total cost of their project, the calculation of the cess is flawed: It is Rs 3,000 per square yard; accordingly, Rs 30 per square yard is collected. “Had the cess been collected on the real construction cost, it would have been at least Rs 7,000 cr…

Why nobody objected to Gautam Gambhir, Sunny Deol in t-shirt, jean?: Activists

By Our Representative
Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan’s excitement on their first day as MPs was overshadowed by a barrage of sexism over their ‘non- sanskari’ outfits, a group of civil society activists have said in a statement. According to Aarushi Nigam, Divya Kaushik, Riya Sharma, Ruman Ganguly, and Anulekha Agarwal, both Bengali actors and first-time MPs "were certainly excited to take them on when they posted pictures from their new workplace on social media."
Hit by misogynistic comments, the activists say, "Their choice of workwear – jeans and a white button-down shirt for Mimi, a wine-coloured peplum suit for Nusrat – was the first and last word on their political competence for many."
“You’re not on vacation”, “they have mistaken Parliament for Kolkata’s Nicco Park or City Centre”, “this is not a photo studio, this is a place where you should fight for people’s rights and legislate”, “keep some respect towards your Bengali society” were some of the &quo…

132 Gujarat citizens, including IIM-A faculty, others declare solidarity with Kashmiris

Counterview Desk
A week after it was floated, 132 activists, academics, students, artists and other concerned citizens of Gujarat, backed by 118 living in different parts of India and the world, have signed a "solidarity letter" supporting the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), who, it claims, have been silenced and held captive in their own land. The signatories include faculty members and scholars of the prestigious Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A).

Amit Shah 'wrong': Lack of transparency characterized bank frauds, NPAs, jobs data

Counterview Desk
India's senior RTI activists Nikhil Dey, Anjali Bhardwaj, Venktesh Nayak, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu, Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Pankti Jog and Pradip Pradhan, who are attached with the National Campaign for Peoples' Right to Information (NCPRI), have said that Union home minister Amit Shah's claim that the Government of India is committed to transparency stands in sharp contrast to its actual actions.