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Taking Stock
This bloodshed is a watershed
By Rizwan Ullah

Rizwan UllahMr George Fernandes stated in the Lok Sabha during the debate on Gujarat that the pogrom like the one going on in Gujarat was a fifty year old tradition in India. What he intended to say was that the massacre and destruction had been an usual practice in the independent India. As Mr Fernandes is a recent convert from socialism to the parivar brand of fascism his memory could also be short, and in his own words, at times his mind stops thinking. Had everything about his memory been perfectly matched to his recent conversion he must have traced the history of mass killings in India to the days of Asoka’s (273-232 BC) invasion of Kalinga (now Orissa), or even earlier when the Aryan invaders coming from Central Asia in distant past had pushed the native Dravidians away into the Southern wilderness; he could have traced the origin of that monstrous practice even to the Mahabharat era. Anyway, his statement about this country is a matter of shame even for the most shameless people.

Apart from Mr Fernandes, many speakers in the Parliament and out of it and many more statements and writings in the media during the past couple of months have compared the Gujarat holocaust with similar eruptions elsewhere. But there is simply no comparison. For instance, the curse that befell the people of this country in the wake of the unfortunate division was the culmination of a long and united struggle for independence by the people of India. A divisive element had been injected into the movement during its last phase when the British rulers had found that it was not possible for them to hold any longer. The riots broke out in all parts of the country in full fury. But it was the thunderous crackle of a breaking monolith. Can there be a similar foreboding in the wake of the Gujarat episode? The government machinery at that time despite being shattered and scattered was impartial. The forces could be in action or in a state of suspended animation but they were certainly not a party to the killings. They did not take sides nor directed the killers, rapists, looter and arsonists towards the helpless minorities marked for elimination. They did not drive the helpless women of all ages towards the surging mob of rapists. The men in Khaki did not rape girls. Gujarat stands prominently different in those respects where the people who had put on their uniforms and badges with the oath to be faithful to the Constitution which they threw to the winds. 

In another instance of 1946 riots in Calcutta I remember that the troops were called out in about a week’s time. As the military took over it was not a silent spectator. It marched down the streets, began house to house search for looted goods. Those who were suspected to possess such articles had to prove that it was their own otherwise they were arrested; as a result people threw away the booty and bonfires of such commodities could be seen on the city streets. Again in Culcutta, during the 1964 riots Mr Gulzarilal Nanda, the then home minister rushed to the city, immediately called meeting of the high government officials and gave them specific orders in the presence of the chief minister PC Sen. The situation was brought under control though by that time much damage had been done due to the anti-pathy of the chief minister. 

On the contrary, in Gujarat the union home minister and the defence minister were mute observers. There can be two explanations for that posture of theirs: Either they were in collusion with the state administration in all of its misdeeds which is quite likely in view of the fact that the misruling party in Gujarat is a leading partner in the NDA administration at the centre or despite being union ministers they were helpless in restraining the state maladministration. Anyway, if a confederated state becomes so powerful or unwieldy as to arrogantly reject all advices of sister states and contemptuously trample all human rights then it is certainly a bad omen for the confederation itself. Going through the Indian history one finds that the emergence of local leaders powerful enough to flout or challenge the central authority or the centre becoming so weak as to be unable to control local leaders have always been the bane of India. Seen in this light the case of Gujarat stands out completely different from what Mr Fernandes believed to be for the past fifty years.

Moreover, in pre and past independence decades global game was played on a different plane. The axis of fascist powers had been reduced to shambles. Nazi Germany and fascist Italy were badly mauled but Japan being an Asian partner was thrown into the nuclear inferno and was made to swear that its troops would never be committed overseas, beyond its shores. The fascists of Asia today will do well to remember this lesson. Europeans will never play on a levelled pitch in Asia. As the sun of the British Empire, the erstwhile global power, set finally on the Eastern horizon a new strain of globalization has emerged which believes in one way traffic only. The Arab friends were betrayed. The dagger of Israel was pierced into their bosom and Arabs were made aliens in their own lands. That game was replayed on our soil. Gapping wounds were caused on our body. Millions of our people were made aliens in their own land on both sides of the divide. Fascists forces were groomed to keep the sore running. 

The Gujarat episode and other related events have rudely shaken the traditional friendship with the Muslim world. India has been accused of violating human rights and such accusations have come from human rights organizations in the country and many other countries. Delhi would do well to remember that the violation of human rights has emerged as a powerful weapon in the hands of those who are the sole authority to define human rights and what amounts to its violation which is as open as the definition of terrorism. Moreover, it has dimmed for a long time to come the prospects of India being promoted for a permanent membership of the UN Security Council which the country has been aspiring for since the days it started playing a leadership role in the non-aligned movement. 

Thus the plague in Gujarat should be seen in much wider national and international perspective with far reaching implications. It must be taken as a watershed in the history of free India.
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