Mission for justice in Gujarat to continue


New Delhi: “And Miles to go…”, is a booklet, a sort of limited autobiography or narratives of five women of Gujarat who either themselves suffered during the 2002 pogrom or saw and felt the pains of people who suffered, and its victims. It was released by Abhijit Sen, member of Planning Commission, at a function held in Delhi on 21 April. While releasing this booklet, he said “The 2002 Gujarat riots, whether you like it or not, questioned the idea of India”. Another speaker, Prof. Apoorva of Delhi University who is a writer and social worker, said on this occasion that after the 2002 Gujarat riots, thousands of affected families are eagerly looking to the courts for justice, but, he asked, will the direction of justice be decided by the verdicts of courts only or our society also will do something in this connection? He said that the treatment meted out to Muslim men and women and the circumstances which they faced are dreadful parts of human history. He questioned as to why after all, our Hindu society is tolerating groups of murderers and why are they being allowed to roam freely?

Another Planning Commission member who is also a member of Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council, Sayida Saiydain Hameed, in the light of her 10 years experience said that as a Muslim woman whatever she has seen in Gujarat is extremely painful. She added that incidents and treatment meted out particularly to Muslim women in Gujarat are open facts but inspite of these naked truths the wave of justice was not seen there. On the basis of her own experiences she said that after the riots whenever she went to Gujarat, met Muslim women, heard their extremely sad stories and saw them closely she found and felt pain everywhere. Speaking about ‘Memories of the past’ which is one of the parts of the booklet “And Miles to go....”, she said that after the partition of the country the wave against everything Muslim had almost subsided but the incidents of Gujarat inflamed it again. She said that our mission will continue till social justice is established in Gujarat. Social worker of Gujarat, Zakia Sonam whose painful write-up titled “So what, if I am a Muslim” is a part of this booklet, said that in the lanes and bylanes of Gujarat, everywhere she saw hatred against anything associated with Muslims. Narrating the bitter experience of her family, she said that our house was burnt many times. She said that after 2002, her own and her family’s private life and everything else is completely changed. She added that she still remembers that during the riots her friends not only completely forgot and ignored her but also began to consider meeting her a danger for themselves.

When a burqa-wearing housewife Noorjahan Diwan, belonging to a poor family of Sabarkantha district, decided to become a social worker and step out of her house to help victims of riots, her husband threatened to divorce her. Undaunted, she gave him a pen and paper and asked him to write what he had said, so that she could work freely and without any tension. Looking at her in disbelief, he neither divorced her at that time nor thought of doing so later. The change in Noorjahan was not sudden. Herself a survivor of the riots, she had witnessed the brutality of epic scale with her own eyes in February-March 2002. After actively working for relief and rehabilitation of riot victims, she began to work for communal harmony and peace in her locality Gupta Nagar, where about 150 houses were set on fire. It is adjacent to Juhapura in Ahmedabad.. Her write-up titled “My Journey into Activism” is also a part of this booklet.

The short autobiographies in this booklet describe the way in which the 2002 riots transformed and affected the five women including Syeda Saiyadain Hameed, Shabham Hashmi of ANHAD, Zakia Soman of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan and Soofia Khan, Director of SAFAR, in addition to Noorjahan Diwan over the last decade. Syeda Saiyadain Hameed referred to Maya Kodnani, a former minister in Narendra Modi’s cabinet (who was jailed for inciting 2002 rioters), telling her team during the 2002 riots that incidents like the post-Godhra massacre are ingrained in the prakriti of Gujarat. Hameed said that the concept of justice demands that Gujarat should reject such black sheep by its leaders by ensuring that every single victim sincerely feels that justice has been done to him/her. She criticised the conspiracy of silence by people who are in fact not communal-minded but remained indifferent and silent at the genocide, thinking that the victims are “others”. Shabnam Hashmi said that in Gujarat the murderers are even today enjoying the freedom of moving about openly and fearlessly, mocking at justice. She said that for her it was most difficult to work in Gujarat because of her Muslim name. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 May 2012 on page no. 3

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