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Gujarat riots and future of Muslims
By Aziz Burney

Rioting and burning of Gujarat which started with the Godhra train incident of 27 February is going on till date. When I set foot in Ahmadabad on 1 March after the outbreak of violence, my intention was to make a survey of all the affected areas and try, as far as possible, to help the oppressed people and to take some practical steps to create a peaceful atmosphere. But in spite of repeated insistence of Amar Singh, Raj Babbar, Shabana Azmi and Sita Ram Yechuri, we were compelled to come back after seeing the injured persons and dead bodies of innocent people in the hospital. But when there was no let-up in the genocide of Muslims till 23 April which began from 28 February, I had to decide once again to go to Gujarat. This time the delegation was led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and other members of the delegation were the former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, Har Kishan Singh Surjeet, Amar Singh, AB Bardhan, Dev Varat Majumdar and Abni Roy.

We set out from Delhi at 6 in the morning on 24 April and reached Ahmadabad guest house at 8 a.m. A lot of people from the affected areas were waiting for us at the Ahmadabad airport. The chain of heart-rending tales of genocide of Muslims which began from Ahmadabad airport made us shed tears of blood every moment of our stay in Ahmadabad. All those people who were narrating their tales of woe at Ahmadabad airport came with us to the guest house. It was difficult to hear every body simultaneously. Therefore we met the representative groups of the affected people from different areas of Gujarat one by one. The stories of all these people were more or less the same, though the style of narrating the stories was different and the narrators were also different. Their sorrowful faces, frightened and wet eyes, trembling lips and every sentence from their tongues which had become dried after repeating the same stories to different people again and again were sufficient to bring tears to even the most callous person having a human heart.

It was really the great courage of the Lok Morcha leaders that they were listening to their tragic tales, with strongly controlled emotions. Their hearts too were weeping but if eyes also started weeping, the matter would have ended there. There would have been a sorrowful atmosphere and only sighs would have been heard. The courageous people who were narrating the stories of massacre and destruction of Muslims had no doubt the pain and sad feelings of the death and destruction of their own kith and kin but the bigger and more important question for them now was where to go and what to do.

A handsome young man, Mamoon who by profession was an engineer and was narrating his tales of woe very innocently said that his all and every thing is here itself. He was born in this country. He did not know what fault his parents and other relatives had committed. They never went to Pakistan. Moreover, if his forefathers would have decided to go to Pakistan and preferred that country to India, why would they have to remain in India? Why would they have been born in India? They have treated only India as their country. This is their country. So why and for what they are being punished. Is it only because of being Muslim? Our innocent children are being slaughtered before our eyes. The honours and chastities of our sisters and daughters are being outraged. Innocent baby girls who are like flowers, who have not yet seen the world are being made to suffer and undergo pains by the gory scene of wildness these blood thirsty beasts…, he is unable to say any thing further and bursts into tears. Delegation members understand what he wanted to say. Amar Singh and Deve Gowda, in an effort to conceal their tears, take handkerchiefs. Mulayam Singh consoles him by saying that this is your country in the same way as it is ours. Sacrifices rendered by Muslims are in no way less than others. This is a secular country. The communal forces will not be able to do things of their own liking for long. Keep up courage. We are with you.

There were so many people to relate their tragic stories that if every one was heard, there would have been no end. But all these leaders this time decided to go and see all the settlements which are destroyed including mosques and ‘dargahs’ which have been razed and burnt, to meet and listen to the people living in refugee camps. Therefore the administration was contacted. The response of the district collector was the same, that most of the areas you want to go are curfew bound even now. Conditions are very bad and you can be allowed to go to some of the places only. You can go and meet the patients in the hospital, but it is difficult to go to Johapura, Rakhial and such other places.

It was then that Mulayam Singh Yadav told the district collector in clear and plain words to note one thing clearly and also tell his chief minister that only three courses are left to him now, and that he has to select any one of them, that is, either let them go to places where they want to go, or arrest them or have them killed. He further said that the delegation members will not go back without meeting the affected people. The collector asked for some time, probably to apprise his masters of the situation. Meanwhile, however, Amar Singh had telephoned BBC, London and informed the entire position and closed the door for Gujarat government for all but one course and that was to allow this delegation to go out. Therefore, after about an hour the delegation was allowed to go wherever it wanted. A list of all such places was given to the district administration.

First of all we reached Naroda Patia where we saw a burnt out and destroyed locality, destroyed, desolate houses, totally burnt and half burnt houses and household effects, empty houses, spots of blood at various places which were silently narrating the stories of cruelties heaped on the people. When we moved ahead, a partly burnt Noorani mosque appeared before our eyes. After inspecting this locality our caravan set out for Aman Chowk where a refugee camp was set up. Thousands of people were there, specially women and children, to narrate their tales of woe. The delegation members talked to these children and women and heard their pathetic stories. Again the same heart-rending stories and signs of cruelties inflicted on the ladies and humiliations to which they were subjected, mere narration of which is extremely shameful for a woman. Same stories were told by innocent children and old ladies. An old women fell on the feet of Mulayam Singh and Deve Gowda and started weeping whose innocent and infant grandson was thrust with tip of sword and thereafter thrown into the fire.

Amar Singh who was seeing and listening to these stories could not bear this and shouted in a loud voice ‘O you people who call yourselves Hindus of a Hindu Rashtra, I am so much ashamed of such cruelties that I am feeling very much ashamed’. Challenging Narendra Modi he said that in Gujarat today there is no such thing as government. Here it is the government of rioters whose sponsor is Narendra Modi.

All the delegation members resolved to save the country from communal forces and declared the country to be the motherland of all Indians: Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and others and to continue their efforts for maximum punishment to the culprits. Same stories of barbarism were everywhere: in Al-Ameen Hospital, Juhapura camp, VS Hospital and other places. It was the job of the sympathetic delegation members to wipe tears of the affected people, console them and pray for their better future. There is no end to writing such pathetic events and stories. Every scene and every person in front of the eyes presents a story of destruction, bestiality and sufferings. 

In Juhapura camp, when Mulayam Singh was sharing the griefs of the aggrieved people, a women in ‘burqa’ rushed towards us and embracing Abu Asim Azmi, burst into tears. She was his sister who, after seeing her brother, could not say anything because there was no end to her tears. But, of course we did come across some different scenes in Kankarya camp. People in this camp were also afflicted. They too had undergone sufferings and oppression but their conditions were not so bad as people in other camps. In VS Hospital, there were some Hindu sufferers along with Muslims. Without going into religious communities and angles in detail, this much is sufficient to say that whatever cruelties have been, and are being, meted out in Gujarat were mere dances of bestiality and those responsible for such cruelty and brutality were its government, the goons of RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal being sponsored by its government. The bloody history written in the territory of Gujarat by them will always be remembered in the history of independent India as a black and blemished history. 

For the time being, I am ending here the story of this travel to Gujarat because I do not know how much more will have to be written on this topic and how many times more. I now want to consider it essential to write about some other aspects which are associated with anti-Muslim riots. Every secular person having a sympathetic heart is worried about the conditions in Gujarat and all such persons are doing some thing at their level to put balm on the wounds of affected people, to save the threads of national solidarity from being snapped and to maintain and safeguard the integrity of the country. All types of social, political, religious and other people are involved in such noble efforts. There are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians whose joint efforts sustain the hope that the secular and democratic character of the country is and will remain alive. But it is very painful when we see politics thriving on riots, dead bodies etc.

Today when we talk of saving the secular and democratic character of the country, the necessity of unity of all secular parties and secular minded people is greatly felt. Today when all secular political parties appear to be victims of separatism, unity among them as well as among different people and factions of Congress is also felt necessary. No one can deny that in order to defeat and banish communal forces, Congress party is also necessary. But it would be a historical mistake if it is decided to ignore the past role of the Congress and support it. If, even after committing innumerable atrocities and injustices on Muslims, it wants to garner Muslim votes by taking advantage of present situation, its intentions cannot be called right and trustworthy. If Congress is under the impression that the victimised Muslims in Gujarat and elsewhere, having no where to go, will again come back to its fold after forgetting its atrocities and injustices to them, it would be wrong. If Congress really sympathises with Muslims, instead of deriving political mileage out of the unfortunate situation, it should try to win their hearts. It should apologise to Muslims for the injustices and cruelties meted out to them in the past during its rule before singing dirge about the conditions in Gujarat. Lives and properties of Muslims should be safe and secure along with their honour and respect. They must assure that this will be so and that they will not be used only for political purposes. Only then they should come forward to seek Muslims cooperation otherwise there is no need of shedding crocodile tears.

It was Congress which was responsible for inflicting the first wound to Muslims after Independence. There is no doubt that the then home minister had the same mentality and temperament as today’s home minister LK Advani. It is also commonly believed that Advani is following the footsteps of Sardar Patel. But at that time the country’s prime minister was Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, not Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was the Congress government. The Muslims who were left in India had faith in the Congress. If they would have trusted Muslim League and would have reposed faith in Mohd Ali Jinnah instead of Nehru, they would have gone to Pakistan.

But what did they get in return? The reward that they got for putting their faith in Congress and Pundit Nehru was that there was a general massacre of Muslims right under Nehru’s nose. Their houses and businesses were destroyed. They were selectively killed as is happening in Gujarat today. I have seen the bitter truth of the present day about which I have written and also am writing. I have mentioned the present day truth.

Maulana Azad, who was the eye-witness at that time, has clearly written in his book India Wins Freedom that when he told Mahatma Gandhi that Muslims were being selectively killed, both Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were also present there. Mahatma Gandhi looked towards Pundit Nehru and Sardar Patel. Sardar Patel said that situation is normal and riots have been controlled. Pundit Nehru remained quiet and agreed to what Sardar Patel said, though he fully knew the correct position. Mahatma Gandhi trusted and believed in what Maulana Azad had said. He started a hunger strike for rehabilitation of Muslims and broke his fast only when Hindus decided and promised to rehabilitate Muslims. 

So, what difference is there between the characters of today’s LK Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee and those of Sardar Patel and Pundit Nehru of those days? The chain of cruelties and injustices to Muslims that started during Congress rule is continuing today also. Ayodhya dispute, which is the background and the main cause of whatever is happening today in Gujarat, is also the gift of Congress. In 1949 idols were placed in the Babri Masjid during the Congress rule when Nehru was the prime minister. The lock of Babri Masjid was opened during the Congress rule when Justice Krishn Mohan Pande, chief minister Veer Bahadur Singh and prime minister Rajiv Gandhi were there. Shilanyas took place during the period of Congress rule when Narayan Dutt Tiwari was UP’s chief minister and Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister. Babri Masjid was demolished when Congress government was there at the Centre and Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. In 1987 Muslims were made to stand in a line in Meerut and shot dead by PAC one by one. This too was during the period of Congress rule. In Mumbai riots, Shiv Sena goons selectively killed Muslims and destroyed their business. This too happened during Congress rule at the Centre.

The list is very long and the space is very much limited. Even if, in spite of all these, Muslims want to support Congress and Congress wants to seek Muslims’ support, many things will have to be decided and settled first, otherwise any step taken by Muslims in haste and without much thought may turn out to be much more harmful and destructive for Muslims than Gujarat. Muslim politicians and others put on duty by the opportunists Congress, before taking any step in an effort to brighten their own future, must think about the future of their community and nation first and then take any step otherwise they will be responsible for the destruction of this nation and history will never forgive them. 

Aziz Burney is editor of the Rashtriya Sahara Urdu where this article appeared on 26 April 2002 ( translated from Urdu)

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