Monday, September 12, 2011

Let Gujarat be

For long I have resisted the temptation of writing on this subject because a lot has been spoken and written about it. But today as the SC puts the wheels of justice back in place, I might as well pen down by thoughts gathered over these years.

Godhra 2002 and the riots after that were a blot on society just as Sikh Genocide of 1984 or Mumbai riots or Neyveli, Meerut, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur riots or ethnic cleansing of Pandits in Kashmir. But the fact also remains that this incident has drawn more attention that all other cases of violence in India put together. The skewed attention matrix does draw suspicion to the political and social interests' behind keeping the wounds open.

No discussion of a riot can be complete without understanding the social dynamics at work behing it. Gujarat has seen the maximum number of riots in post independence India. Right from 1967 till late 80s, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat were waylaid by bloody riots every year. Ahmedabad in particular used to witness riots on every Jagannath Rath Yatra. The underworld of Gujarat for long was controlled by gangsters like Latif who enjoyed open political patronage from then Congress governments. This changed in the period post 1990. Congress lost power to JD and BJP alliance. Contrary to the popular belief that Advani's Rath Yatra was divisive, in Gujarat it actually united the otherwise highly fragmented Hindu community. It started the period of Hindus asserting their religious identities. First glimpse of this aggressiveness and anger against local Muslim community (mainly because of the belief that Latif and gangs troubled Hindus the most) was seen in 92 riots. In a way, Gujarat for long was on a tinterbox of Hindu anger and that exploded in 2002. It was also the period when anti-Islamic sentiments were at the peak due to 9/11 and other local reasons mentioned below.

India was out of a bloody war with Pakistan. Kandahar hijack was fresh in public memories and the Parliament attack had happened just a few months ago. The subsequent deployment of the forces on the India-Pakistan border meant there were not much forces to be used within the country at times of an emergency.

After the incident at Godhra happened, it is well-known that Gujarat did ask Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for additional forces and those states refused the plea. Is it sheer coincidence that all the 3 states were then ruled by Congress? The delay in deploying police and other forces led to the riots spreading across the state except for some parts of Kutch and Saurashtra. Though this can't be a justification, it also means that administration or the ruling class was not hand in glove with the rioters. At the worst, it shows administrative inefficiency and nothing more. But to call these riots a genocide is unfair. 11,000 rounds were fired and most of those killed were Hindus. So in no way was the administration trying to shield the majority community. Also one can rioting happened from both the communities and hence high number of deaths on each side. Figures have no emotion nor any bias and they just tell you the sad story as it was.

Once the riots were over, the long road to recovery meant 3 things - Legal Justice, Political Justice and Reconcilliation. Narendra Modi did the right thing by dissolving the assembly and calling for fresh elections. Only the people of Gujarat had the right to say then if they believed their leader was a murderer or not. Once that was done, he set on to the path of rebuilding Gujarat and confidence of its people. Today that is showing results. Muslims in Gujarat as far more in the mainstream (socially, economically) than most other states. The inclusive development of the state has ensured that the community which languishes in despair in other states is living a life of dignity and prosperity in Gujarat.

Coming to the critical issue of legal justice. Of all riot cases in Indian history, Gujarat riot cases have seen the fastest trials anc convictions. Many of it even before activists like Teesta came to fore. Compare this to 84 where no chargesheet too was filed and hardly anybody has been convicted. Or with Bhagalpur where justice took nearly 2 decades. Congress-NCP government in power for nearly 15 yrs after Mumbai riots have not pushed for legal closure to the cases. More than 4000 cases registered and nearly 25000 people were arrested and brought to trial. More than 40 cases have already seen convictions. This cannot happen if the state is trying to prevent justice. Also point to note is that those arrested and facing trials include politicians both from the BJP and the Congress. Process of Justiceujarat riots cases has been the most unbiased and the faster in the country till date.

For long Narendra Modi has been suffering at the hands of those who believed that justice has to be subservient to their instints and beliefs only. By readily co-operaitng with the probe agencies he has shown his willingness to confront the blot and come out clean. And by ensuring the smooth reconcilliation process he has ensured that hurt feelings of a community are healed.

Now it's only good for India if the vested interests let Gujarat be.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written. All humans want to pin the blame of atrocities of something, someone- else how can one rationalize the atrocities, right?

    So what triggered the riots in Godhra, who did it help, hence, in this context the political n social interests working to keep the memories of the riots alive even today, makes complete sense. Gujarat still burns as does the 84 Sikh genocide or Mumbai riots. Whether we were involved or not directly, it has impacted our lives, so yes while there indeed were political and social indices working behind the scenes to never let go of this disaster, my sense is the rhetoric is not likely to fade or dim soon. Perhaps in time…it will.

    Why ask the neighboring states- and not the central govt for additional security resources? Wldn’t it then be imperative on the central Govt to provide for Internal Security? And if indeed he did approach the Central Govt, why cldn’t the Central Govt redirect one of the 3 border states to release security personnel to Gujarat?

    The irony of such riots is not lost on the common man. Who doesn’t have such strict lines drawn between BJP or Congress. The common man once again feels bare and defenseless and asks “why is my life not important,? It is to my family, right? So in your political war, why do you make me the pawn?” And it is this exact Achilles heel that will keep hurting and will keep the memories alive. And opposition parties will continue to press this part on a daily basis!

    Ahh Teesta the zealous activist! Frankly what is her credibility? Riding a highly charged political environ with a star player called Namo in it, right? Opportunism

    In the end did Namo suffer. Sure he must have, afterall even Supermen have human forms! Does he have the toughness to take it in stride. Perhaps does. Even if Gujarat lets go of the Godhra rhetoric, will the rest of the nation? Its time to showcase some brilliant transformational, life enhancing work Namo has done to quicken the healing of the wounds. Namo will come out stronger.