Asghar Ali Engineer *Article here

ive years have past since the Gujarat carnage of February 28 2002 which lasted over six months. The carnage followed the burning of S-6 at Godhra on 27th February. It is great mystery as to who set fire to S-6 or was it an accidental fire? Before even news spread all over India of this ghastly incident at Godhra in which 59 persons were burnt, Ahmedabad city started burning on the morning of 28th February. In the post-Godhra carnage in central and north Gujarat more than 2000 persons, mostly of minority origin, were killed most brutally. Several women were raped and weapons inserted in their private parts.

The then NDA Government at the Centre and Modi in Gujarat maintained that S-6 was set afire as a result of conspiracy hatched by the ISI of Pakistan with the help of some Muslims in Godhra. The Modi Government arrested about 100 persons under POTA which was then in force. However, during last five years the Modi Government has not been able to produce an iota of proof against the accused in the ‘Godhra conspiracy case.’

The POTA review committee opined last year that there are no substantial grounds for keeping the accused under the POTA but even then the Modi Government refused to release these accused.

It is real mystery as to who set fire to the coach S-6 or was it an accidental fire. The Banerjee Commission set up by Shri Lalu Prasad, the Railway Minister in the UPA Government concluded that the fire was result of short circuit inside S-6 and there is no evidence for setting fire from outside. Mr. Mukul Sinha, the defense lawyer thinks that fire was result of bursting of cooking stove carried by karsevaks had gone on long tour to Ayodhya. The Shah-Nanvati Commission, which is also probing in the train burning at Godhra has still not published its report. One wonders what conclusion it would draw.

Before even the cause of fire was known Modi pronounced the theory of ‘equal and opposite reaction’ and justified the carnage in Gujarat on the very first day the carnage began. Modi also insisted on carrying the dead bodies of Godhra train tragedy in procession in Ahmedabad thus providing direct provocation for the carnage. No administration, let alone a chief minister, would permit dead bodies of those killed in any sensitive communal incident to be taken out in procession as it acts as direct provocation for more violence. But Modi wanted precisely that.

The Gujarat carnage of 2002 was very different from other riots in post-independence India for following reasons:

  1. In no other riot in post-independence period chief minister directly provided justification for massacre as Modi himself did. There have been instances of chief minister not effectively quelling the riots but never of justifying them.
  2. In no other riot ministers and police officers led the marauding mob. In case of Gujarat carnage many eye witnesses named two ministers including Mr. Zadaphiya, the then Minister of state for Home involved in directing the marauding mobs. He even entered the police control room and directed the police what to do. His cell numbers also have been recorded. No outsider is ever allowed in police control rooms.
  3. In no other riots police officers have been transferred for effectively controlling communal violence. In Gujarat 2002 several honest and committed police officers were transferred on this ground and soon after their transfer riots broke out in that region.
  4. In no other riots refugee camps were suddenly closed without providing either alternate accommodation or allowing the refugees to return to their homes and hearth. Modi Government closed the camps without any justification and without providing refugees any alternate accommodation or making arrangements to return to their homes and hearths. Modi while closing down the camps even derisively remarked that I cannot allow ‘baby-producing factories’ to go on, simply because few Muslim women who were pregnant at the time of riots gave birth to babies in refugee camps.

Not only that the refugee camps were closed down even today i.e. five years after the carnage more than 5000 families are rotting in horrifying conditions in various refugee camps. Not only this Modi recently returned more than Rs.19 crore to Central Government saying funds are no more needed as all have been ‘settled’. The victims of Gujarat carnage are unable to return to their original homes as they are still threatened by the VHP activists of the affected villages.

They say that victims would be allowed to return only if they agree to withdraw all cases against the perpetrators of carnage in the village and on condition that they will live in separate quarters like the apartheid and would not give azan on loud speakers. Naturally many victims have refused to agree to these humiliating conditions and are living in most despicable conditions.

What is most shocking is that the Gujarat society is still completely polarised and one sees no signs of repentance among those who indulged in most brutal violence against fellow human beings. They still feel the violence against Muslims was justified. The Sangh Parivar has been carrying on high-pitched hate campaign against minorities even today. Modi needs this campaign to go on as it be used a s political capital in coming assembly elections.

In fact the Gujarat carnage, as it is well known was carried out with the sole purpose of winning the 2002 assembly elections in Gujarat. When the Modi Government won the elections with two-third majority the BJP functionaries celebrated the victory by saying we have found a ‘model’ to win the elections and we will repeat it in other states. Even Mr.Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India when asked for his reaction as to the winning model, he replied ‘will Muslims burn train in other place?’ In other words even Vajpayee found the ‘model’ acceptable.

However, the BJP lost general elections of 2004 and Mr. Vajpayee accepted that NDA Government was defeated mainly because of Gujarat carnage. The people of India who are basically peace-loving and secular rejected the BJP-led NDA Government lest other states should experience such carnage. The BJP is in disarray ever since and has not been able to find yet its political bearings. The BJP and Shiv Sena are the two political parties which, thrive on anti-minority hate campaign. They want to base their victory in elections on hatred against minorities. The Sena Chief Bal Thackaray again made sharp attack on Muslims during the Mumbai Municipal Corporation elections.

Is there any way out? In Gujarat one does not find any way out as of now. What Gujarat needs in healing touch and only civil society can provide it. But as pointed out above, the civil society itself is deeply polarised on communal lines. In South Africa the blacks and coloured had suffered immensely under the White Government. When Nelson Mandela could establish government of people of African origin, he did not seek any revenge and instead set up a truth and justice commission. Bishop Desmond Tutu played very vital role in functioning of the commission. It provided the healing touch.

But one does not see any Desmond Tutu in Gujarat. The civil society is badly divided. In democracy civil a vibrant society can play very important role but when it is itself polarised on communal lines how can it intervene to set things right? Harsh Mandar, who himself is not from Gujarat, but is extremely sensitive soul, is trying his best to bring about some reconciliation is few villages of Gujarat. But it is only a lonely battle of an outsider.

Why the Gujarat society is so polarised today? The BJP has won over dalits, backwards and tribals in its political fold and thus Hindus, despite deep internal cleavages appear to be united. There has never been a strong dalit movement in Gujarat emphasising their own separate identity like in Maharashtra and other states. There has been no reform movement either. Thus in absence of such a movement dalits, backwards and tribals find it politically beneficial to be part of Hindutva parivar.

Only in 1985 the then chief minister of Gujarat Mr. Solanki had made a feeble attempt to unite weaker sections of Gujarat society by forming a KHAM alliance. KHAM stood for kshatriya, harijans, adivasis and Muslims. He gave them reservations as per Bakhshi Commission recommendations and won 1985 assembly elections with two-third majority. However, the BJP saw the red and launched an aggressive movement against KHAM alliance and succeeded in toppling Solanki Government. Solanki also unfortunately did not stand up firmly with the alliance and suspended reservations to save his government.

However, that knocked the ground off the KHAM alliance and except Muslims, other weaker sections sought refuge under the Sangh Parivar. That is the main reason why Sangh parivar has been able to successfully create the illusion of ‘Hindu unity’ and Hindu rashtra. The Congress after Solanki could not stand up and almost willingly conceded ground to the Sangh Parivar. Most of the Congressmen themselves subscribe to Hindutva ideology in Gujarat. It has rightly been described the B-party of BJP.

The BJP has been further helped by the identity crisis among the Gujarati NRIs living in U.K. and USA. They help the Hindutva movement in Gujarat generously through their financial contributions to compensate for their identity crisis. Most of the Gujaratis have struck it rich in USA and satisfy their conscience by supporting the Hindutva movement back home. Taking all this into account there is very little hope in Gujarat for the time being. Let us hope for better days in future.

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