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Gujarat – an area of darkness

VHP enthusiasts are going round schools and threatening its headmasters and principals to remove Muslim students from their rolls. It sends chilling sensation down one’s spine: what will happen if Muslim students are really removed from schools under threat from VHP and Bajrang Dal, says Asghar Ali Engineer

A visit to Gujarat is a shattering experience for any sensitive soul. It is more than a month and it still continues to burn. The brutalities are of such a nature that one feels Gujarat has not entered an age of enlightenment or if it ever entered it has exited from it and has entered an era of darkness. Gujarat is an embodiment of brutality today with some honourable exceptions. 

The opposition parties are demanding only removal of Narendra Modi. It is not enough; in fact Narendra Modi Government should be dismissed and President’s rule should be promulgated. Many ministers of this Narendra Modi Government are deeply involved in organising the genocide. Mr.Zadaphia, Home Minister and Harin Pandya, the revenue Minister were seen by many eye -witnesses with the marauding mobs. Some FIRs also have mentioned their names.

As long as this Government is in power the victims and survivors can hope for no justice. The police is either not recording FIRs or framing very minor charges against the killers, looters and murderers. As long as this Government is there the guilty can never be punished. In most of the cases the participants in mayhem were assured that they would be fully protected. Only President’s rule can make some difference. The present governor is also a RSS man. Many people pointed out to me that the present governor should also be removed, though it does not seem possible. 

The Gujarat carnage is an attack on Indian democracy, its diversity and pluralism. India has been plural, not since it adopted democracy and became a republic in 1950. India has been plural for ages and it always has been proud of its rich pluralist legacy. The Indian pluralism is anchor sheet of our secularism. We cannot think of our secular democracy without pluralism.

But what has happened in Gujarat in last more than a month is a concerted assault on this pluralism. Muslims are sought to be completely isolated in ghettos and looked down upon as if non-Indians. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its cohorts are distributing pamphlets on large scale with the blessings of the present Government for economic boycott of Muslims – not to sell to them and not to buy from them. There are many who are also implementing it. A Hindu doctor was stabbed by an unidentified person and these doctors decided not to practise in Muslim areas. But when a Muslim doctor was murdered no such hue and cry was raised. No one even showed such concern. 

Many Hindu employers have already asked their Muslim employees not to come for work. The VHP enthusiasts are going round various schools and threatening its headmasters and principals to remove Muslim students from their rolls. It sends chilling sensation down one’s spine what will happen if Muslim students are really removed from schools under threat from VHP and Bajrang Dal. The ghettoisation will be complete.

It is BJP and RSS people who never tire of accusing Muslims that they refuse to be a part of ‘Indian mainstream’? Though this is not true but even if true who is responsible for their being out of stream. If they are expelled from Government and private schools will they not be driven into madrasa shells? The Government of Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi is, it appears, silently encouraging the VHP enthusiasts to implement their plan of Hindu India, at least presently in Gujarat. This should not be taken lightly by those who care for secular character of Indian democracy. If it happens, even if partially, it will be the beginning of end of our pluralism and our secular democracy. 

Today one can also see how administration surrenders itself to the fascist forces under their rule. For the Gujarat Government Indian Constitution does not exist. So much for the administrative machinery in Gujarat. The administration obeys all illegal and extra-constitutional orders of government of Gujarat. Anyone who insists on the rule of law is instantly transferred. Mr. Harsh Mandar, a conscientious IAS officer, was so disgusted with this state of affairs that he resigned in sheer disgust. He had written a very moving piece on the Gujarat carnage. 

Like administration the police force has also proved to be quite obliging. Many observers have described it as a matter of shame for the police force. When the ex-director general of police Shri Julio Ribeiro visited Gujarat many top police officers avoided to meet him out of this sense of shame. He said in an interview, “Normally when I go to Gujarat senior police officers come to see me. This time, they tried to avoid me.” When he was asked what was the reason for the failure of the police in Gujarat he said that “The top brass must take the blame. I did not sense a whiff of leadership from the top police officers. Senior officers have been reduced to mute spectators as they have little control over the force.” (TOI, Mumbai, 10th April 2002)

I also spoke to a top police officer in Ahmedabad who himself has been a victim of Modi Government for being duty conscious. He was transferred because he did not allow riots to take place in his jurisdiction. He confirmed what Ribeiro has said in the above interview. And many lower officers and constabulary had full sympathy with the marauding mobs. Several victims of the violence told me that the police blocked their way and the mobs attacked them and burnt their relatives alive. And if they tried to run police fired on them. 

In Bapunagar area it is alleged that police killed about 40 young boys at point blank range. The bullets had hit them, as post mortem reports show on their heads and chest. Many lives were saved just because the military arrived. The death toll otherwise would have been much higher. And in case of Akbarnagar in Ahmedabad whole colony was destroyed just behind the office of assistant commissioner of police. 

Gas cylinders were used in a big way to blast even Pucca houses. Who supplied them gas cylinders on such a scale? Several trucks loaded with gas cylinders were brought to Ansar Nagar where a madrasa building Jamia Qasim was set on fire. I saw the building, which was greatly damaged.

There is another factor which also should be seriously reflected upon: participation of dalits and backwards in this genocide on a big scale. Many have emphasised Dalit-Muslim unity to fight communal fascism. But the Hindutvawadis have instilled a sense of Hinduness among dalits for their misuse against Muslims. The huge crowds of ten to fifteen thousands which collected and surrounded Muslims form all sides mostly consisted of dalits and backwards. Of course in Gujarat there is no dalit leadership worth the name. Some who had taken lead for dalits during 1981 anti-dalit riots have become now totally ineffective and dalits who had shown anger against upper caste Hindus and vowed to fight them have united with them again. They were no doubt given liquor and money plus incentive of loot. But this does not explain the fury with which they attacked.

The constant propaganda against Muslims that they are the enemies and anti-nationals and must be taught a lesson also had its effect. The VHP, in order to fight Muslims with the help of dalits expresses ‘solidarity’ with them as Hindus and instils in them a strong dose of Hinduness de-emphasising their dalitness in such situation. In the political strategy of Hindutva dalits’ support is important not only for Muslim carnage but also win elections with their support assigning them subordinate position. 

They have also worked out strategy to buy dalit leadership by accommodating them in power structure. Be it Mayawati or Paswan, after arousing fury of dalit masses against the BJP and upper caste Hindus, have worked out their equations with the upper caste leadership. These dalit leaders, Mayawati and Paswan and likes of them kept quiet throughout Gujarat carnage. Mayawati when asked about it quipped ‘and what about Godhra incident?’ Only those dalit leaders still outside power structure continue to show their anger against the upper caste Hindus. Thus it will be seen that politically Dalit-Muslim unity has never been very effective. 

What was encouraging in this mayhem by Hindutvawadis is that the Muslims in relief camps were sad but not bitter and angry. This gives us some hope. Those who are business people like Bohras, Khojas and Memons are more worried about re-starting their businesses though it will be very difficult for them to find wherewithal. A top police officer told me that the Chief Minister Narendra Modi has clearly told them in a meeting that there is no question of doing any thing about rehabilitation (despite Prime Minister’s announcement). He said only relief for few days should be given and the inmates of relief camps should be asked to go back to their ‘homes’.

Another thing one should note is that there is lot of concern among people outside Gujarat for peace, harmony and secularism as never before. Many Gandhians who had kept mum during earlier riots are protesting this time and actively working for restoration of peace. The peace meeting in Ahmedabad which was convened by Mallika Sarabhai and disturbed by the VHP men was well attended from all over India. Chunnibhai Vaidya, a prominent Gandhian from Gujarat is working for peace though he is receiving many threatening calls. There have been protests against the carnage throughout India, which is very hopeful sign. Though the BJP might have gained in Gujarat it will suffer reverses elsewhere in India. The allies of BJP in NDA will also undoubtedly suffer. They made noises here and there just for public consumption but showed no genuine concern for peace in Gujarat. The TDP, though worried about Muslim votes in Andhra Pradesh, has spoken out only after all damage was done in Gujarat. So has Paswan. It will certainly not go down well with their electorates.

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