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Published in the 1-15 Jan 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

A feminist analysis of Gujarat pogroms

Justice Jahagirdar (Retd) released the report of the International Initiative for Justice (IIJ), titled "Threatened Existence: A Feminist Analysis of the Genocide in Gujarat" in a function in Mumbai on December 10, 2003. Speakers included Anissa Helie and Vahida Nainar (IIJ panellists) Shobha De and Javed Akhtar.

The International Initiative for Justice in Gujarat was jointly organised by many women's and citizen's groups from Gujarat, Mumbai and Delhi and brought together a panel of nine feminist jurists, activists, lawyers, writers and academics from all over the world to Gujarat in December 2002. This panel met with over 300 women, men, survivors and activists working in several districts of Gujarat. The panellists were: Anissa Helie, Algeria/France, Gabriela Mischkowski, Germany, Nira Yuval-Davis, UK, Rhonda Copelon, USA, Sunila Abeysekara, Sri Lanka, and Farah Naqvi, Meera Velayudan, Uma Chakravarti, and Vahida Nainar from India.

The IIJ was conceived in the context of the need to foreground within India the issue of sexual violence in conflict situations and to develop a feminist critique of systems of justice and democratic governance. It was an effort to bring together feminists from India and outside for international solidarity in analysis and action regarding justice for Muslims in Gujarat. 

In its conclusions the report said, "The common portrayal of Muslim men as seducers of Hindu women in Hindutva propaganda licensed Hindu men, and women, to engage in acts of great brutality, by offering the rationale that the violence was revenge for both, ancient and recent incursions on Hindu women’s purity. Meanwhile, in the voices of Muslim women who survived multiple rape and sexual violence in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, it is possible to hear intense self-blame and guilt for having “betrayed” the community. Testimonies that relate how reports of sexual violence were silenced not just by the State, but also by the Muslim community, tell of the ways in which communal politics reduces women to sexualised bodies and territories on which men’s battles for power may be fought.
In the assaults on women, it is not only the attackers that are sometimes unknown or un-nameable; those who are targeted also cannot be named and identified. Besides, even if all women were not physically assaulted, all women from the Muslim community in Gujarat lived through the trauma and fear of a possible assault. In such a situation, justice has to include a public recognition of the crime and an acknowledgement that while all women from the Muslim community are victims of the crime, the rest of society carries the onus of being the accused for committing the crime, encouraging it, or not preventing it."
[Full report:]

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