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Published in the 1-15 July 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

India waging second freedom struggle

By Zafar Iqbal 
raabta_india@yahoo.com

The Milli Gazette Online

Washington: "The country is facing a second wave of struggle for freedom-freedom from politics of hate," Harsh Mander stated while addressing an audience consisting of community leaders on 12 June 2005 here in Metropolitan Washington. 

Harsh ManderHarsh Mander, a senior IAS officer, had resigned from the powerful Indian Administrative Service as a protest against the failure of government authorities during and after Gujarat pogrom in 2002.

He has been actively engaged in rehabilitation of Gujarat pogrom victims and pursuing courts to reopen cases that were thrown out of judicial system citing various reasons under pressure from the Gujarat state government.
 
He said that Gujarat tragedy was unique in many ways and the reconciliation process has a long and difficult road ahead. He lamented that there had been no acknowledgment of the guilt. Instead, the administration has been saying that things were not so bad, and if anything happened to the minority community, they deserved it. Although several high-level officials and different NGOs and Human Rights organizations have documented the lapses in law enforcement during the carnage and even the involvement of authorities in the carnage, Narendra Modi's government is still in the state of denial of the carnage. Furthermore, his government is continuing to block the prosecution of culprits responsible for heinous crimes perpetrated against Muslims with impunity in Gujarat. 

Discussing the importance of Modi as a BJP functionary, Mander informed the audience that the party utilized Modi's services as a star campaigner in recent election in Jharkhand. In that campaign Modi repeatedly told election rallies that he was proud of the manner in which he "defended Hindus in Gujarat". Modi is also reported to have boasted that to do what he did in Gujarat "needs a man with a 46 inch chest."

Mander also observed that unfortunately the communal virus has spread to Rajasthan and Orissa and has made inroads even in states like Kerala, where RSS took advantage of tension between two (Hindu and Muslim) fishing communities. He narrated an incidence when a member of Hindu community told him that in order to teach the Muslims a lesson, a Gujarat-like response would be welcomed in Kerala!

He observed that it is very unfortunate that in India people respond only when their own community faces injustice. If each community only reacts when its own interests are threatened, it will find no support from others in its own hour of need. The best way to fight communalism is to respond when other minorities or groups are being harassed or threatened. In this respect, he suggested that Indian Muslims should also be concerned when the rights of underprivileged communities and other minorities are being trampled. He believed that closer cooperation among the minorities would help all communities.

He noted an apparent relationship between the level of education and communalism; people with higher education appear to be more communal as compared to common masses, perhaps because these less-privileged people are more focused in earning their daily bread and are, therefore, less interested in politics of communal hatred. 

Mander believed that the hope was alive and all was not bleak. Overall, the media, both print and audio-visual, and social workers performed an outstanding job in covering the massacres and in pressing the government to take stronger action. Also, the Supreme Court has been quite responsive. 
While expressing reservation about his generation, Mander said that he has faith in the younger generation to uphold secularism in India. He stressed that secularism means equal justice to all, irrespective of religion, caste, or regional affiliations and the younger generation understands this better than folks of my generation.

Mander is on a five-weeks tour of US at the invitation of the Indian Muslim Relief and Charities (IMRC) with a mission of securing justice for victims of Gujarat massacre. The Association of Indian Muslims and local community members coordinated his trip to Washington.

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