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INTERVIEW: Siraj Tirmizi
No Muslim reprisal because there is no leadership 

Siraj T
Gujarat Today, the lone Muslim-owned Gujarati daily being published from Ahmadabad has been doing its bit in covering different aspects of riots and massacre of Muslims in the state. When two Gujrati language newspapers published from Ahmedabad are actively vitiating the atmosphere by publishing provocative reports, Gujarat Today stands tall. Local Language press have been accused of abetting riots by publishing highly insensitive pieces of news and analysis. Some had been particularly singled out for aiding arsonists and it is reported that they published numerous fabricated and highly provocative stories about Muslims' hand in Godhra incident and 'mass kidnapping' of Hindu women by Muslims.
 
In the midst of all the dangers Gujarat Today has been reporting steadily on rioting and carnage. Nobody should overlook the dangers involved in such a surcharged atmosphere while speaking truth and reporting accurately.

Siraj Tirmizi, Gujarat Today group chairman, is an outspoken person and has been airing his views against the dispensation in the state and its open connivance with rioters despite being holed up amidst fire in the state capital, Ahmadabad. Syed Ubaidur Rahman of the MG talked to him in Ahmadabad. Excerpts:

What do you think about the continuing violence in Ahmadabad?

The violence is continuing in Gujarat. Everyday there is news of killing and arson coming from different areas of the state. And there is no sign that things are going to improve anytime soon. Instead, things are getting from bad to worse.
It is true that the rioting has been aided and abetted by the government and that it gave rioters a free hand. I believe that things are going out of the government’s hands. Now it seems that the problem has more to do with the internal squabbling in the BJP and the VHP. There are several camps in the state BJP and it doesn’t want normalcy in the state to return.

Have you studied as to how the rioting was carried out in the state?
They have carried out the rioting with a well-planned strategy. First, they targetted areas that were dominated by the Congress party. They have almost been successful in completely evicting Muslims from where the Congress was doing well. Muslims have been the greatest support-base of the Congress in the state. They intended to destroy this formidable Congress base. Later they targeted other areas. Now they are going everywhere and targetting Muslims in any and every area where they could find them. Even large Muslim localities are being targeted by them on a daily basis. 

What about the role of the state government and the VHP and Bajrang Dal?
The VHP and Bajrang Dal are the organizations which have carried out the arson, killing and setting afire the Muslim families. These are the people who have destroyed Muslim businesses. And the BJP government in the state has actively assisted these organizations. Gujarat is the VHP’s laboratory where it has been experimenting different things over the years. This round of carnage is another experiment in the same direction.

What about the relief camps? How these camps are running?
These are being run by local Muslim leaders and community elders. There has been minimal assistance for these camps from the government. Government officials are not visiting these camps. There is very little medical or any other assistance from the government. What it is doing at the most is to casually provide relief in these camps. It is also not reaching all the camps. 

What about the people who are out of these camps?
The people living out of relief camps are no better than the people inside these camps. They have no money. They are sinking toward death due to hunger. Lots of people are starving. Can you think how a poor person will be able to get food if he is out of work for so long? There is no work for them to do. Everywhere it is curfew. Even if there is no curfew they will not be able to go out in such a hostile atmosphere.

Why do you feel there has not been any reprisal against these rioters from Muslim community unlike the past riots?
First of all these riots were well-planned whereas riots in the past were spontaneous and not so meticulously planned. It has been the most important reason for the precision raids on Muslim localities, houses, businesses and shops and the large-scale killings during these riots. The VHP has built a vast network most of the areas of the state. Even in small villages and talukas in remote parts of the state they have their offices. Another very important reason has been the absence of effective leadership in the Muslim community. There is virtually no leadership among Muslims in the state. Muslims are not organized. What individuals are supposed to do? They cannot do much alone. 
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