By Subhsash Gatade
02 February, 2007
"The struggle of humanity against power is the struggle of
memory against forgetting."
- Milan Kundera
Gohana, 75 kilometers away from
the national capital witnessed burning of 50-60 houses belonging to
Valmiki community on 31 st August 2005 in broad daylight. A 1,500-2,000
strong of mob of upper caste people mainly belonging to the Jat community
attacked their houses in a systematic manner. The perpetrators had come
fully armed with spears, batons, axes, and petrol and kerosene oils.
They broke TV sets, Refrigerators, Washing Machines, looted the valuables
and burst LPG cylinders.
Anybody could see that an
organised and experienced team of houseblasters led the ‘spontaneous
expression’ of anger of the upper castes against the dalits. Independent
neighbors in the area, who did not want to be named, had disclosed to
us the way in which the gang of lumpens under the leadership of an advocate
and son of a local MP had led the marauders. People working in a nearby
hospital even told us that the marauders had brought with them mini
trucks to ferry the loot from the houses. Definitely even a layperson
would be able to tell that the 'task' of burning, looting 50-60 houses
which are spread over an area of three square kilometers cannot be accomplished
within 15 minutes as the police wanted us to believe initially. The
police is on record that only 5-6 houses were burnt and the rest caught
fire because of winds.
The recent charge sheet filed
by the CBI which was asked to look into the attack and arson in Gohana,
has once again rekindled all those experiences, which clearly exhibit
the partisan role, played by the upholders of law and order themselves.
According to a newspaper report the CBI charge sheet into the 2005 Gohana
riots in Haryana has '..revealed that some people in Valmiki Basti had
set their houses on fire themselves, allegedly for compensation."
The charge sheet talks of CBI's observations that " extensive burning
was observed in 19 out of 28 houses. Of these, nine houses were inspected
thoroughly and it appeared that in these houses the “simulated
arsoning” was carried out, which are yet “to get compensation”.
One still remembers our visit
(4 th September 2005) to Gohana as part of a fact finding team - comprising
of writers, journalists, social activists - which had rushed there to
get first hand details, mere five days after the incident...Haunted
houses, barren faces, fear still lurking in their eyes...only some old
people or relatives of the inhabitants were visible there who were roaming
there. We still have copies of the photographs, which we took to comprehend
the magnitude of damage. None of those photographs, by no iota of imagination
convey that people residing in those houses themselves undertook all
that exercise supposedly to get compensation (as the experienced officers
of the CBI wants us to believe).
Perhaps all these details
are now meaningless, as we have before us the 'official' truth scripted
by the deligent officers of the CBI. Perhaps all these details would
be useful for posterity, wherein some gennext researcher would discover
the metamorphosis of victims themselves into perpetrators, which used
to happen in the wee hours of the 21 st century.
But can it be said that Gohana
is an exception in our much-valorised democratic setup. Dust your memories
and you would discover that Gohana is not just the name of a place;
it is a phenomenon which has become part of the modus operandi of our
Apart from the hapless families
themselves, does anyone remember the 1984 genocide of Sikhs! The whole
Sikh community had to pay the price of the assassination of the Prime
Minister by two of her own bodyguards. Delhi, which happens to be the
capital of the country witnessed more than two thousand killings by
lumpens instigated by leaders of the Congress party, which was holding
reins of power at the center. And the incumbent Prime Minister had no
qualms in rationalizing all those crimes by underlining a natural phenomenon
that ‘if big trees fell on the ground, then the earth is bound
to face tremors’.
Any sane person who could
still maintain her/his sanity during those fateful days was told umpteen
‘They invited it’
‘They deserved it’.
‘They needed to be taught a lesson’.
A newly manufactured common
sense was weighing heavily on people’s minds, which had decreed
that a inhuman act by two people was reason enough to brutalize the
1984 illuminated to the rest
of the world in a big way that victims themselves could be held responsible
for their victim hood. To be fair, 1984 had not discovered this rationale.
It was in fact part of our psyche – an assaulted woman could be
held responsible for inviting the attack for wearing particular types
of clothes or a dalit could be alleged to have invited an attack for
refusing to prostrate before age-old traditions. – The qualitative
difference, which the genocide made to our way of thinking that it,
rather obliterated the category of perpetrators themselves. Perhaps
we had entered a new life world, which comprised merely of victims and
their victim hood. The victimhood itself appeared to be a function of
being born in a particular community or an exploited section of society.
It is clear that justice
still eludes all those visible and not so visible victims of the 1984
genocide. But despite the horrendous killings on the streets of the
capital itself (and many other parts of the country) one is yet to see
any feeling of remorse among all those people for all the wrongs, which
they have done towards a significant section of our own people.
Of course ‘normalcy’
has been restored.
It may sound ironic, but
the same Congress Party, which had spearheaded this onslaught against
the Sikhs, has exhibited ‘magnamity’ in doling out cheques
of compensation to the victims using monies collected by the public
There have been commissions
after commission to investigate different dimensions of the genocide,
but the real culprits have not been yet properly named. It is a different
matter that some minor operators have received some semblance of punishment.
And what about the ringleaders of the genocide? They are still adorning
different seats of power and have no qualms in peddling Gandhian dictums
every now and then.
If Congress Party and its
leaders would never be able to absolve themselves from their complicity
in the carnage of Sikhs in 1984, the name of RSS and its affiliated
organizations would ever remain itched in the public psyche for the
crimes, which were committed against innocent citizenry in the year
2002 in Gujarat.
Gujarat, as everybody knows,
witnessed a State sponsored genocide that led to the deaths of more
than 2500 Muslims. As many as 150,000 people were driven away from their
homes, many of whom still live in refugee camps.
There is no comparable example
in the history of post independence India of 'planning a genocide' and
'executing it with military precision' and presenting it as a 'spontaneous
outburst' of people.
There is no comparable example wherein one notices continuous subversion
of justice despite the extraordinary intervention of the Supreme Court
to rein in 'modern day Neroes'.
As things stand today the
victim community might have gained little respite from the direct violence
but the ongoing low intensity violence still continues. The deliberate
denial and exclusion of the basic rights of citizens, making a mockery
of the Government and administration's false claims of 'normalcy', is
for everyone to see. The economic boycott of the minorities goes on
unabated, the intimidation of witnesses is going on with impunity and
each and every step is being taken even to deprive even a feeling of
justice from the minds of the victims. From the series of ongoing court
battles and other studies like those commissioned by the National Commission
for Minorities and even the Sachar Committee Report the picture that
constantly emerges is that of a continued boycott of the minority Muslim
community and worsening of their socio-economic conditions. Shortly
we would be entering sixth year of the carnage.
Sixty four reports brought
out by different national and international human rights organisations
have documented different aspects of the human rights situation as it
existed in strife torn Gujarat. There has been no variance of opinion
about the real guilty behind the carnage. All the evidence point towards
the direct involvment of the RSS and its affiliated organisation in
planning the ‘spontaneous reaction’ in the immediate aftermath
of the burning of the coach.
Of course none of the evidence
could match the ‘admission’ by one of their own leaders
in an interview to a webmagazine. In this interview Keka Shastry, leader
of the state Vishwa Hindu Parishad had laid bare the plans of the Hindutva
He had told the correspondent
that '[t]he list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared
on the morning of 28 February itself.' In the tape-recorded interview
he said, " In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We
were not prepared in advance." ( It had to be done, VHP leader
says of riots, Sheela Bhatt, 12 March 2002)
When the correspondent asked him why they did it, he responded, "
It had to be done, it had to be done. We don't like it, but we were
When the correspondent asked
him how he, a scholar and litterateur could condone the burning of living
innocents, he remarked, " The youngsters have done some things
which we don't like. We don't support it. But we can't condemn it because
they are our boys.". He added for good measure " We don't
believe that the boys had done anything wrong, because this was the
result of an outburst.... We needed to do something."
The interview had also explained
the inactivity of the police in simple terms by underlining that "they
feared death" and " some of them were Hindus who thought let
the mob do whatever it wants." While talking to the interviewer
his future prognosis was clear. He said the situation could get aggravated
and bigger riots were possible.
There is no doubt that if
the Parivar people would not have been power this literary figure would
have been immediately hauled up and put behind bars for his attempts
at "Promoting enmity between different religious groups on grounds
of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and doing
acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153-A, IPC)",
or "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious
feelings of any class, by insulting its religion or religious beliefs
(Section 295-A,IPC)," or " uttering words, etc with deliberate
intent to wound religious feeling( Section 298, IPC)" or similar
other provisions which have clearly laid down punishment for offences
committed under such acts which ranged from three years to seven years
rigorous imprisonment as well as fine.
It was clear to even a novice that Keka Shastry was putting it in black
and white what others of his ilk were implementing through the 'successful
Whatever may be the predilections
of the Hindutva Brigade about this ‘experiment’, the highest
courts of the country has been very clear about what went wrong there.
In its famous judgement on the Best Bakery Case it had decreed
“ ..The modern day
“Neros” were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent
children and women were burning, and were probably deliberating how
the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected. Law and justice
become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”...
It had also said
“...The fanatics who spread violence in the name of religion are
worse than terrorist and more dangerous than an alien enemy...”
But it cannot be denied that
the situation on the ground remains much the same. Narendra Modi, the
‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’ who spearheaded this onslaught against
the hapless community still remains the most popular leader in the state.
Congress Party which wears its secularism on its sleeves is content
playing second fiddle to the divisive politics being played out in the
state. And as far as the civil society is concerned, it seems to have
acquiesced before Modi’s ‘charisma’.
Much on the lines of 1984
genocide one can notice absence of remorse on a mass scale over the
tragic incidents in the state. Reports emanating from the state keep
underlining this fact. One still notices the language, which was much
in the use in those days. 'They had invited it. 'They needed to be taught
a lesson', 'Hindus have shown that they cannot take it lying down'.
Question arises will this
situation continue forever or one can make radical rupture with our
recent past and move ahead.
But the most pertinent question remains:
How does a whole community
gets out of such an experience in which many of its members did not
remain mere spectators. Frankly speaking it is relatively easy for a
person to get out of such a situation, s/he can make self-criticism,
make amends and rectify one's behaviour. But for a community to do this
it does need special efforts and special actions.
One can look at the transformations,
which took place in Germany and Italy where the people as whole have
been largely redeemed of their Nazi or Fascist past. How could the Germans
get out of their nightmarish experiences dotted with Gas Chambers or
It is clear that one has to get ready for a long haul and till that
time arrives one has to persist in very many ways.
Perhaps one can draw some
lessons from the experience of the great Palestinian Poet Mahmous Darwish.
Jairus Banaji, a famous radical scholar narrated his experience in one
of his speeches where he discussed the ‘Political Culture of Fascism’
"It was August 1982
when Darwish was living in Beirut when it was intensively bombed by
the Israeli airforce and navy. The bombardment was spread over two months,
and almost every day about two to three hundred Lebanese and Palestinian
civilians were killed. To come to terms with that experience, he wrote
a diary which he called 'Memory for forgetfulness”.
It is welcome sign that people/formations
who yearn for the victory of secularism in the country or are engaged
in anti-communal struggle at various levels are coalescing together
at various levels to organize commemorative programmes / campaigns on
the fifth anniversary of the genocide. One such email sent by a friend
in Gujarat explains the rationale for taking up this campaign :
‘WE MUST NOT FORGET’
!....that is the message of the fifth anniversary commemorative programmes.
We must not forget the personal reality for the people and their loved
ones facing this repression, we must not forget the State’s wrong
doings, we must not forget the brutalities and silencing of the entire
society, for, only by remembering can we build the future. A society
that congratulates itself on maintaining its ‘borders’ cannot
talk of ‘Development’ or ‘Gujarat-ni-Asmita’.”
And while committing themselves to ‘Never Let It Happen Again’
it concludes :
“The truth that the
bloody conquest of Gujarat is actually the conquest of us all: of our
minds, our humanity and our self-respect at the very least. If we remain
silent, victory over secularism is assured. “
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