Gujarat Carnage (2002) was one of the major acts of anti Minority violence. It was a catastrophe which took the degree of violence, hate and ghettoization to higher degree. Much before the violence the term, “Gujarat: Laboratory of Hindu Rashtra” was well popularized. On the pretext of Godhra train burning; Gujarat carnage was unleashed in which over one thousand people lost their lives. As per the sting operation by Ashish Khetan of Tehelka, likes of Babu Bajrangi said that they were given three days. Bajrangi also said that he was feeling like Maharana Pratap while doing the killings. General Zamiruddin Shah stated that the army was kept waiting for long time, before it could do its job of curtailing the violence. Just to recall that the likes of Babu Bajrangi got bail on some grounds, and as a reflection rot in our justice system, Maya Kodnani, who incited the violence and was given life imprisonment, has also been given bail. Interestingly Teesta Setalvad who fought for the victims is in jail.
The mayhem well supported by the state; was the conclusion of the ‘Citizens tribunal’ headed by Justice Sawant. One of the cases which initially got justice was that of Bilkis Bano. She and her family ran to the fields where the mobs traced them. Bilkis, her mother and sister were gang raped. Seven of her family members died in the cruel attack. Bilkis who was five months pregnant was left for dead.
Fortunately she was alive and without clothes when left by the marauding mob. She collected all her courage and fought for justice, helped by dedicated social workers. This led to the life imprisonment of eleven, who were punished for the most heinous crime in 2008. Now one of the guilty approached the Supreme Court for remission. SC in its ‘wisdom’ directed the Gujarat government to take the call, forgetting that the case was transferred to Maharashtra as the possibility of justice was ruled out in Gujarat.
Now as on 15th August 2022 our Prime Minster talked of Nari Shakti, these eleven culprits were released with a grand welcome, garlands, sweets and all that.
During their prison term they used to get frequent parole and frighten the eye witnesses. Now with them set free, Bilkis Bano is totally shattered. Many Muslims in the area are leaving their homes for more secure areas, i.e. to form new ghettoes. This decision by SC and Gujarat state has been analyzed as something which is against law and human morality.
The response to this retrograde legal/political step by the system, overseen and infiltrated by BJP has invited severe response from civil society. Congress has come forward to condemn it. BJP seems to have done this to intensify polarization and to capitalize it for the forthcoming Gujarat elections.
Godi media and media cell is displaying deafening silence on the issue. The otherwise verbose PM is silent on the issue for electoral reasons. True, Khushboo Sunder, Shanta Kumar from BJP have condemned the whole episode, else this national shame finds no place in BJP discourse. Many a women’s groups and other human rights groups have protested strongly but to no avail so far.
The Constitutional Conduct group, constituted by the retired civil servants in a strong letter have criticized the whole episode and called upon the Government to reverse the decision of Gujarat Government and put the culprits behind the bar. There is also a petition signed by thousands who have not only criticized the SC and step taken by Gujarat Government.
PILs have been filed by Mahua Moitra, Subhashini Ali, Revathi Lall and Rooprekha Varma among others, expressing their anguish and pain at this humiliation of women’s plight while talking of Nari Shakti.
The worst part of the whole episode is the honoring of the convicts with garlands and sweets. This seems to be in tune with the patriarchal values which are inherent part of the communal ideologies, Hindutva included. All fundamentalisms, regard women as property of men. Communal violence is presented as a fight between two rival communities. Women here are regarded as property of the men, so violating and inflicting humiliation on the women of the religion of ‘other community’ are upheld and appreciated.
One recalls that in 1992-93 Mumbai violence, the women from majority community helped ‘their’ men by handing over minority women to their men (https://www.jstor.org/stable/2645576). The fountainhead of Hindu nationalism, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is currently being promoted by divisive politics. He was the first one to spell the treatment to the women of ‘enemy community’. While writing about Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj he criticized Shivaji for returning the daughter in law of Bassien Subhedar (Muslim). She was part of the plunder by the Shivaji’s army. Shivaji ordered his army to rerun her to her house. Savarkar in his scathing comment on Shivaji says that how did Shivaji forget that this was the time to take revenge!
The shame is not just that the convicts of Gujarat violence have been given bail etc (Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi) and now these eleven culprits, but the mindset of community in giving them a welcome! The degeneration of social morality under the impact of Communal ideology is on the rise in exponential way. We have seen the accused of Mohammad Akhlaq murer was wrapped with tricolor by a central minister, Mahesh Sharma. Another central minster Jaswant Sinha honored the lynching accused when they got bail and to cap it all Shambhulal Regar, the murderer of Afrazul was also upheld by a section of community, which raised funds for him.
The SC must respond to the PILs by Moitra, Varma and others and put these convicts back to where they belong, the prison. At the same time this communal mind set, seeped a criminal manifestation of patriarchal values needs to be combated while realizing that Modi’s pronouncements of Nari Shakti are hollow, the real Nari Shakti needs to be built by combating communal ideology and its component, the patriarchy!
Originally published by South Asia Monitor