On 20th anniversary of one of the biggest genocides since 1947, we must dip our blood in memory of all the victims and pledge to disarm the breeding ground of Hindutva fascism. It is ironical that this event was staged on February 27th, the very day the Nazi storm troopers set fire on the Reichstag, which lit the first spark of fascism in Germany. One got echoes of the SS storm troopers. led by Hitler’s Nazi regime .on the Reichstag.
It not only carried on legacy of the Hindu fascists but also of fascism worldwide, like that of Germany, Italy and Spain.Modi patronised it to whip Hindu chauvinist hysteria, to capture the vote bank and took every possible step to distort the truth. Communal fascism of the Hindu variety scaled heights unprecedented in history. Similar to Babri Masjid it completely transformed the psyche of Hindus and Muslims. It brings tears in my eyes the extent to which communal feelings have been escalated, even in a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai. It is hard to describe the scale at which the Muslim psyche has been demoralised and the community alienated in post-Ghodra days.
Quoting Harsh Mander in the Print in April 2019 “There was a distinct, tragic and ghastly feature of the state sponsored carnage unleashed against the Muslim minority in Gujarat, which was the systematic sexual violence committed against young girls and women. Rape was used as an instrument for the subjugation and humiliation of a community. A chilling technique, absent in pogroms unleashed hitherto but very much in evidence this time in a large number of cases, was the deliberate destruction of evidence. Barring a few, in most instances of sexual violence, the women victims were stripped and paraded naked, then gangraped, and thereafter quartered and burnt beyond recognition. The Gujarat carnage stands out for its extensive and specific targeting of women, young girls and children, who were subjected to the most sadistic and vicious forms of violence. “
” More than 1,000 people, the large majority of who were from the minority Muslim community, were killed. Tens of thousands of homes and small business establishments — petty shops, wooden carts, autorickshaws, taxi jeeps, eateries and garages — were set aflame, and cattle and lifetime savings looted. This resulted in the long displacement and enduring pauperisation of more than 200,000 people. More than half of these were actively prevented — by fear, intimidation and social and economic boycott — from ever returning to their homes, resulting in their permanent expulsion from the villages and colonies of their birth. There is the new normalcy of Gujarat, in which Muslims have learnt to live separately, much like Dalits have been forced to exist for centuries.”
It was a reminder that our parliamentary democratic system was secular only in form and not in essence, The policies of successive Congress regimes paved the path for the ascendancy of Hindu comunalism.Who can forget the Congress patronage of Shiv Sena in Bhiwandi riots, the opening of the doors of the Babri Masjid in 1986 and support to Rath yatra in 1990? We can recount instances of Congress endorsing brick worship and lighting Ramshilas ,to win elections. It never revoked the demand to build a Ram Mandir in the decade before the demolition of the Babri Masjid.It was this very policy that set a fertile ground for a leader like Narendra Modi to sprout in Gujarat. It is pertinent that today an activists like Teesta Setalvad is hunted down and incriminated, which testifies the fascist nature of the ruling party
Any historian or democrat needs to dwell into all archives which record how for a sustained period a tempo or breeding ground was sown to whip up anti-Muslim communal hysteria ,culminating in the massacre at Ghodra.The attack on Hindu pilgrims was stage managed by the ruling BJP ,to provoke its fatal carnage. People must understand how the genesis of this carnage lay in the pro-Hindu and anti-Muslim policies of the ruling parties. I feel historical light should be thrown on the 1969 anti-Muslim riots, where anti-Muslim wrath originated and germinated into a genocide.
There was continuous ebb and flow in various commissions in projecting what led to the Gujarat carnage. One trend termed it as an ordinary Communal disturbance, while the other projected how it was a plot hatched by the Hindutva forces. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission appointed by the government went out of the way to distort the events. I salute the efforts of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal which made a historic intervention in investigating the truth; particularly V.Krishna Iyer.They gave a striking blow to the lies of the Govt.apointed Nanavati Commission and exposed how partisan the judiciary was with Hindutva ideology.
History has repeated itself in instances like The Muzzafarnagar riots, the Delhi riots, Malegaon killings Etc.Communal fervour still grips Gujarat today, at an intensity unscaled.Secular police inspectors have been transferred or even teachers with secular inclination have been forced to quit their posts.
The ruling parties left no stone unturned in subverting the reports that portrayed the true facts of the Ghodra incident and organised effective counter propaganda to portray the Muslim community as the culprits.
Still we must never obliterate from our memories, the numerous instances of Hindus and Muslims not abstaining from the scene and saving many a life of a person. There were many examples of Hindus giving food and shelter to Muslims and Vice Versa. I was deeply touched by the cultivation of a brotherly relationship between Qutbuddin Ansari and Ashok Parmar .Ansari inaugurated Parmar’s footwear store. and Parmar earlier launching Ansari’s biography. Both were embodiments of the Ghodra carnage.
The media completely distorts the true plight of the Muslim community, dubbing them as a pampered minority. They shed no light that since independence the Muslims have been an oppressed minority, and faced abject discrimination in all spheres. Today the media often cats as an apologist for the Hindu fascists and goes to the extent of even absolving Modi from any responsibility. Textbook s today tarnish the image of Muslims as though historically they waged a conspiracy on India by destroying temples and robbing Hindus of their rights. They give no credit to the Muslims for the heroic role they staged in confronting the British colonialists. Today discrimination of Muslims has reached an unprecedented height.
Today the media often behaves as a catalyst as an apologist for the Hindu fascists and goes to the extent of even absolving Modi from any responsibility. It is fatal that a strong tide has erupted within the Social media exonerating prime minister Narendra Modi of any responsibility for the genocide, which reflects how it is turning into a stooge of Hindutva fascism. In 2012, Modi was cleared of complicity in the violence by Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India. The SIT also rejected claims that the state government had not done enough to prevent the riots. The Muslim community was reported to have reacted with anger and disbelief In July 2013, allegations were made that the SIT had suppressed evidence. That December, an Indian court upheld the earlier SIT report and rejected a petition seeking Modi’s prosecution.] In April 2014, the Supreme Court expressed satisfaction over the SIT’s investigations in nine cases related to the violence, and rejected a plea contesting the SIT report as “baseless.
One of our greatest enemies is the NRI forces abroad financing the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which has sprouted into a big organised force. Activists of Chinmaya mission world over openly profess that Muslims are enemies, indoctrinating Indian youth. about the superiority of Hinduism. I deeply regret how Hindu or Vedanta spiritual organisations morally back hindutva, and even justify Hindu attacks on Muslims.
It was the weakness in Gujarat of the organised democratic and left movement to effectively check the escalation of Hindutva politics .The trade Union movement was simply ineffective to give any jolt to communalism, and was often paralysed during communal riots. The reformist approach of the traditional Marxist parties like the CPI and CPM and the fragmented Communist revolutionary camp were 2 major obstacles in the democratic movement from obstructing the Communal fascists. The Gandhian approach diffused the cutting edge of revolutionary class struggle to confront Communal forces. with glaring weakness of no organised Marxist movement. It is significant that unlike in Maharashtra, Gujarat had no secular democratic movement or youth, workers. I recommend everyone to read Bernard De Mello’s chapter dealing with the Ghodra riots in book ’India 50 years after Naxalbari’ and by Meera Nanda ,Cristopher Jaffrelot and Wendy Dowinger on the penetration of Hindutva fascism.
It is of immense importance to summarise the link between how the Ghodra riots escalated the domination of the monopoly capitalist and big landlord classes and in further concentrating wealth in the hands of the very few.
Teesta Setalvad, played a truly heroic role in confronting every obstacle to expose the truth about the genocide. It would mark a permanent place in the battle against religious fascism.
I recommend everyone to read the analysis of late reformer Asghar Ali Engineer on Godhra riots ‘Sowing Hate and Reaping violence-The Case of Gujarat Communal Carnage’ , which is masterpiece in education cadres about the actual realities and in tracing the genesis of Hindutva fascism.. It give a sound historical perspective.20 years ago my memories still behold the protestors from all walks of life in Mumbai, particularly the student and youth community.
In Mumbai Certain organizations and NGO’s played a most commendable role’s joint front of democratic and secular organizations held a sustained postering and leafleting campaign and undertook a massive relief programme. The secular spirit of Mumbai could not be broken. A joint statement condemning the BJP and Modi was published by 5 Communist revolutionary groups. In many a basti area secular self defence forces were set up which stung the saffron brigade. At an All India level the All India peoples Resistance Forum played a significant role in exposing the genocide while the C.P.I. (M.L) Liberation sent fact finding team.
Intellectuals like Randhir Singh,Sumanta Banerjee ,Romila Thapar,Ranna Ayub and Gautam Navalakha most bravely rebuked the saffron brigade and so did civil liberties groups like the PUDR in Delhi. praiseworthy efforts were made by students of Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai .All democrats must salute the courage of the Peoples tribunal to explore the truth and project the real facts. Fronts like Jagrut Kamgar Manch and Lok Shahi Hakk Sanghatana also did creditable work in quelling Communal hysteria in that period, particularly in basti areas.
In recent times I recommend articles by Harsh Mander, in The Caravan magazine in 2015, his article today in ‘The Wire “The Soul-Wounds of Massacre- Why We Should Not Forget the 2002 Gujarat Program, “,”15 Years After Ghodra Riots The Politics of Hate-still divides us “in Hindustan Times in 2017,” and “Use of rape as a form of Terror” in 2019 in the Print.. They are a must read for everyone. Another very touching article is by Cherian George on February 25th in ‘The Wire’. On ‘Why Gujarat 2002 is so hard to Forget.”
Though officially classified as a communalist riot the events of 2002 have been described as stage managed by many scholars, with some commentators alleging that the attacks had been planned, with the attack on the train an act of premeditated violence. Other observers have stated that these events had met the “legal definition of genocide,” or referred to them as state terrorism or ethnic cleansing. Instances of mass violence include the Naroda Patiya massacre that took place directly adjacent to a police training camp;] the Gulbarg Society massacre where Ehsan Jafri, a former parliamentarian was among those killed; and several incidents in Vadodara City. Scholars studying the 2002 riots state that they were premeditated and constituted a form of ethnic cleansing , and that the state government and law enforcement were complicit in the violence that occurred.
Many scholars and commentators have accused the state government of manufacturing the attacks, either in failing to exert any effort to quell the violence or for actively planning and executing the attacks themselves. The United States department of States ultimately banned Narendra Modi from travelling to the United States due to his alleged role in the attacks. These allegations center around several ideas. First, the state did little to curb the violence, with attacks continuing well through the Spring. The historian Gyanendra Pandey described these attacks as state terrorism, saying that they were not riots but “organized political massacres.”
The media has described the attacks as state terrorism rather than “communal riots” due to the lack of state intervention. Many politicians downplayed the incidents, claiming that the situation was under control.
Throughout the violence, attacks were made in the complete presence of police stations and police officers who did not intervene. In many instances, police became part and parcel of the mob fury. At one Muslim locality, of the twenty-nine deaths, sixteen were caused by police firing into the locality Some rioters even had printouts of voter registration lists, allowing them to selectively target Muslim properties. Selective targeting of properties was shown by the destruction of the offices of the Muslim Wakf board which was located within the confines of the high security zone and just 500 meters from the office of the chief minister.
According to Scott W. Hibbard, the violence had been planned far in advance, and that similar to other instances of communal violence the Bajrang Dal the VHP and the RSS all took part in the attacks. Following the attack on the train the VHP called for a state wide bandh(strike), and the state took no action to prevent this.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist who has frequently toured around India, particularly Punjab. Participated in the Protests movement against Gujarat carnage in Mumbai in 2002.