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Fading Hindutva? Changing times "impact" vulnerable participants in Gujarat riots

By Rajiv Shah
Has unease finally begun creeping into the majoritarian psyche, which got swayed under the powerful Hindutva wave that followed the 2002 Gujarat riots? It would seem so, if journalist and film-maker Revati Laul’s just released book, “The Anatomy of Hate”, is any indication. The book does not say so in so many words, yet suggests that disconcerting traits for the Sangh Parivar have even sneaked into those who directly or indirectly participated in the violence which engulfed the state 16 years ago.
The book, written in a narrative form, tells the story of the riots and their aftermath through three random but vulnerable individuals, two of whom, Suresh and Dungar, actually participated in the riots, in which more than 1,000 people, majority of them Muslims, were killed. While Suresh was served a 31-year jail sentence in 2012 for murder and rape in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad, Dungar, a Bhil adivasi from a village in Godhra district, has sent to prison on “charges of burning down the houses of Muslims”, and now is a local block-level politician, having uneasy relationship with BJP-VHP, which he represented for long.
The third one, Pranav (not the real name), who was a student in a “green university”, was not a direct participant in the violence, yet, as a pillion rider, was an active spectator of looting and burning of shops by his student-mates. He is totally transformed now. In fact, he is quoted as an NGO trainer advising three young boys to “read up” about RSS on the internet, where “they would find that a man who was a member of the RSS and was trained by them ended up killing Mahatma Gandhi in 1948”, calling RSS an organization which “sided with the British colonisers when the rest of the country was struggling for Independence.”
Laul seeks to tell the story of each of them through interviews, spread over three years, to reveal “all their layers and complexities”, including how they lived before the riots, what they did when the riot began a day after the Godhra train burning incident, February 28, 2002, what happened to them during the mayhem that followed, and what are they now.
The book carries one through the long journey following the day the riots began, telling about Suresh, whose “acts of killing Abdul Majid’s family and Kauser Bano were a group act”; for Dungar, who razed the homes of Muslims “as a community rite”; and for Pranav, whose bike rides “were part of public voyeurism”. Today, if Suresh, a former bootlegger and a thief, has totally withdrawn from “all forms of communication other than violence”, Dungar, previously with BJP, was found trying to “help Congress” during the 2017 Gujarat state assembly polls. As for Pranav, he has made “unraveling of the Sangh Parivar’s politics his business.”
According to Laul, February 28 was “not a calendar day” to any of them. “It was a black hole that bent time”, rearranging “all previous days and experiences.” She adds, “Once the day was done, the randomness of the individual actions of each … acquired a new purpose”, drawing “fresh lines from their past that were a complex mix of deliberate action and circumstances...”
A highly complex character, Suresh identified as Suresh Langdo (“langdo” because he suffered from polio in the childhood), lived in one of the most backward areas of Ahmedabad, Chharanagar, next to Naroda Patiya, where 97 Muslims were massacred in the post-Godhra riots. He belongs to a community which was declared a criminal tribe by the British, Chharas, which in popular perceptions is involved in brewing illicit liquor.
Suresh got married with a teenage Muslim girl, Farzana, with whom he ran away, but had an uneasy relationship, especially after the 2002 riots. Laul quotes Farzana to say that on the day the riots broke out, Suresh handed over a dagger in her hands, telling her, “Shove it into the stomach of any Muslim who tries to approach you”. At another place, he is quoted as saying that he had decided to get married with her as a “revenge” against Muslims.
Convicted in 2012 after he was physically identified by an eye-witness, Laul compares Suresh’s arrest that of Maya Kodnani, a minister in the Modi government accused of triggering riots in Ahmedabad. Laul says, “It seemed to those tracking the case that Suresh was dispensable but Maya Kodnani was not. Despite several eyewitness accounts, Maya was not arrested until five years later. In that time, she had contested and won another election on a BJP ticket, and was even made a minister for women and child welfare.” 
Laul adds, “If Mayaben wasn’t going to be arrested, then others in the mob would have to be held to account. It was slowly drawing on Suresh that the charges against him were not going to unstuck so easily.”
As for Dungar, who seemed to have crossed over from the Sangh Parivar on finding support from an NGO working in the tribal area for his legal battles, emerged as a block-level BJP level leader after winning a panchayat election in 2005. Finding resistance from local leaders, he crossed over from BJP to the new party founded Narendra Modi’s top opponent, veteran Keshubhai Patel. As the party collapsed, he began moving closer to Congress, finding BJP losing its sheen.
Yet, things appear to have changed for Dungar, suggests Laul. He appears to feel that the riots seemed to be have been pre-planned. She quotes Dungar as saying, while they didn’t know a train was going to be burnt on February 27, which triggered the riots the next day, he nevertheless admitted, “But our leaders were preparing for the election that was going to take place later in the year. So people’s minds had to be stuffed with something”. Clearly, “everything was building up to move the BJP – an ally of the VHP – towards a win.” Wonders Dungar, “Otherwise why were VHP people being taken in trains from Gujarat, for what?”

Comments

Unknown said…
VEry good review. Kindly also mention the price of the book and address from where it can be procured.
Syed khalique ahmed
Editor, Counterview said…
Kindly follow the link in the second para
Uma Sheth said…
Good topic--I have always wondered what the men who raped the Muslim women and their families, specially their wives and children, feel and think now. This book at least gives us a perspective on one aspect of the mayhem that was created and its aftermath.

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