Skip to main content

Seventeen years ago: Two unrelated but 'infamous' incidents in Gujarat's history

Haren Pandya
By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*
Seventeen years ago, two seemingly unconnected, but strangely enough, inter-related incidents, took place in quick succession: the murder of Haren Pandya and the passing of the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill. March 26, 2003 would surely go down to rank as one of the most infamous days in the history of Gujarat, and perhaps of India!
Early morning, on that fateful 26 March, Haren Pandya, a former Home Minister of the Gujarat government, was found assassinated under very mysterious circumstances in the heart of the upmarket western area of Ahmedabad.
It was common knowledge that Haren Pandya testified before an independent ‘Citizen’s Tribunal’ some months earlier, in which he provided minute details of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 and the persons responsible for it! The fact that he had testified, was first revealed to the media by Pandya himself.
Even as late as 2012, Pandya's wife Jagruti went on record saying, "My husband's assassination was a political murder. For the last 10 years, I have been fighting a legal battle to get him justice but in vain, however, I will continue to fight”.
His father, the late Vitthalbhai Pandya (who died in January 2011) was quite convinced of who was behind the killing of his son and he went from pillar to post (right up to the Supreme Court) hoping that the full truth of Haren’s murder would be revealed. Several non-partisan political analysts have also written volumes on this murder.
On July 5, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld a Gujarat trial court’s verdict convicting 12 people accused of the murder of Pandya. Whilst this judgement is an ‘apparent’ closure to one of the most high-profile murders in India’s recent history, several unanswered questions in pursuit of the ‘whole truth’ will continue to rankle and are certainly never going to disappear.
A little after Pandya’s body was discovered, on that very day, the Gujarat government passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill 2003
A little after Pandya’s body was discovered, on that very day (March 26, 2003), the Gujarat government unanimously passed the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill 2003. The Opposition had staged a walk-out opposing the contents of the bill.
This Act will go down as one of the most draconian laws in post-independent India. In violation of Article 25 of the Constitution of India, it necessitates (among other anti-people provisions) that anyone wishing to convert to another religion must first seek ‘the permission’ of the civil authority in the State.
It took full five years (till 2008) for the Gujarat Government to frame the rules necessary for the implementation of law. A group of civil society leaders had challenged the constitutional validity of the law. The Gujarat High Court had sent a notice to the Gujarat Government for its response. The Government never responded to the notice, the petition was withdrawn and the law remains in force.
Pandya’s murder and the Freedom of Religion act are clear on two counts: fascists brook no dissent and that a national anti-conversion law based on the Gujarat model is in the offing!
That day March 26, 2003 was no flash-in-the-pan! It is a sign of things to come. It should never be forgotten!
---
*Human rights and peace activist/writer. Contact: cedricprakash@gmail.com

Comments

TRENDING

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

Nalanda mahavihara 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".

Liberating Bengal Hindus? Worst flames of communal division, lessons from the past

By Shamsul Islam*  The whole thrust of the RSS-BJP election campaign for 2021 state assembly elections in West Bengal has been to save Bengal from the rule of Mamata Bannerjee who is allegedly not a ‘Hindu’. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a self-proclaimed Hindu nationalist, as usual set the polarizing agenda. While addressing the first election rally, he called upon the electorate to overthrow the ‘nirmam’ (cruel) rule of Mamata by showing a ‘Ram Card’. He did not name Hindus directly but there was no confusion about the religious identity of the electorate Indian PM was addressing to.

Pradeep Bhattacharya, who spent his life for the cause of working masses, rational thinking

By YS Gill*  At 11:30 pm on May 3, 2021, I lost my best friend and comrade Pradeep Bhattacharya. He spent his life dedicated to the cause of the working masses and rational thinking. A person of thorough scientific outlook and a well-read student of Marxian thought, he was a walking encyclopedia and could speak on a wide variety of topics from art and culture to science, philosophy, history and politics.

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Rs 5 crore 'demand' for India Today anchor: What about 52 lesser souls who died in April?

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*  A well known Hindutva protagonist masquerading as journalist passed away recently resulting in messages of condolences and tribute right from the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to progressive liberals expressing grief of his untimely death. It is said that he passed away due to cardiac arrest, though the fact is, he was also Covid infected. The Prime Minister and the Home Minister termed him a ‘brave’ journalist, insisting, his passing away has left a big ‘vacuum’.

Modi's Hindutva 'ensuring' empowerment of rich, disenfranchisement of poor

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  The Hindutva socio-psychopaths are neither nationalists nor patriotic people. These medieval reactionary forces don’t understand the idea of citizenship, justice, liberty, equality and humanism. Indian democracy is merely an electoral transaction for the Hindutva forces. Hindutva forces neither follow science nor understand the sufferings of fellow human beings. These core qualities are common among the Hindutva forces in India.

Despite crisis, Modi's Hindutva strategy 'increased' mass base in society and polity

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Narendra Modi and his RSS brethren can qualify as masters of fake claims. There is a long lists of lies spread by RSS, BJP and their IT cell workers. It is not a personality disorder or lying with fear. They are trained to defend Modi and his government’s decisions in whatever possible way. They defended demonetisation by arguing that it is “an important step” in his fight against black money and corruption.

India's Covid-19 'nightmare': A product of majoritarian Hindutva ideological praxis?

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  Indians struggle to find place and time to bury their dead due to the devastating effects of the second wave of Covid-19 in India. The crematoriums in the capital cities are overflowing with dead bodies. People are dying without oxygen and basic medical support. The cities like Delhi and Mumbai are struggling to cope with the rising number of infections and COVID-19 led deaths. The deaths and destitutions are products of a defunct BJP government led by Narendra Modi.

Communal rhetoric? Hindutva preached by RSS-BJP is 'monolithic', not Hinduism

By Prem Verma*  I am a devout Hindu but not a believer of RSS Hindutva form of Hinduism which brings about hatred of other religions. My Hindu religion has not taught me to look down on other religions and neither has it instilled in me to go about converting others to my religion because my religion is superior.

Indian media persons collapsing to Covid disease as fast as 3 per day, third highest

Yogesh Sharma, Shailesh Rawal  By Our Representative  The Switzerland based media rights and safety body, Press Emblem Campaign ( PEC ) has said that it is “alarming for Indian journalists”, who have lost at least 107 colleagues to Covid-19”, noting, Indian “journo-colleagues” have been collapsing to the Covid-19 complications now as fast as three scribes per day. In a statement, PEC said, “India with 107 media corona-casualties has already placed itself on the third position just below Brazil (181 dead) and Peru (140) in the list of Covid-19 victims among journalist.”