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Gujarat 2002 and Modi's Misdeeds

Ten years after the killings in Gujarat, Narendra Modi has neither expressed regret nor has he been held accountable for those mass deaths. Where do we go from here?

MARGIN SPEAK

Gujarat 2002 and Modi’s Misdeeds

Anand Teltumbde

managing the television anchors while looking after the needs of inmates; and half-burnt houses within sight that re- minded them of their lost worlds. These are the memories. Camp after camp, one worse than the previous one with even more gory stories made us almost sense-

Ten years after the killings in Gujarat, Narendra Modi has neither expressed regret nor has he been held accountable for those mass deaths. Where do we go from here?

Anand Teltumbde (tanandraj@gmail.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.

J
ust thinking of it, a shiver runs down my spine. I had my own brush with how the Hindutva gangs carried out the abominable organised killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. It was 4 March 2002, just five days after it all began. Like anybody else, disturbed by the gory tales coming out from Gujarat, but with the bravado of a civil rights activist, I rushed to Ahmedabad, the city that I had loved as a student of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahmeda bad. The flight had just about 10% occupancy. The airport did not show any sign of untowardness but as I was driven into the city, the scars of the previous three days began appearing with increased frequency. As planned, I took one of my Muslim friends, well-bred and wellplaced, an aristocrat of sorts, to take me to the disturbed areas. My driver did not quite understand what I was up to and spoke of his fears but maintained an uneasy cool. On our very first round, we were intercepted by a gang of some 20-odd people that hurled a volley of questions. Mustering all my strength, I managed not to show any nervousness and asked them what they would do if I was a Muslim. There was a little commotion. My driver intervened and told them in Gujarati that I was a high offi cial coming from Mumbai. They could have reacted anyway they liked, they could have damaged the car, they could have assaulted us or even gone beyond. Somehow they let us go with a warning to be careful. The makeshift burial grounds which had been loosely filled and sheltered scores of corpses of innocent men, women and children; the blank stares of the onlookers who had escaped that fate; the community camps with hundreds of uprooted families who had lost everything and lay there half-starving with swarms of flies; the busy volunteers

march 17, 2012

less. The afternoon meeting at IIM with the students who were infused with a humanitarian spirit and the meeting with activists at Prashant where I got to see some of the gory pictures like of a heap of half-burnt bodies of children that made me burst into tears. It was too much to take. The evening meeting at the Behavioural Science Centre enlivened the sagging spirit, seeing scores of people daring all the odds and organising rehabilitation work. Chief Minister Narendra Modi was providing palpable proof of his being behind the genocide, as everybody believed, by defi antly keeping his government away from the scenes of devastation. It was only after the world began expressing its indignation at his misdemeanour that he began the patch-up work.

No Shame, No Pain

Scores of fact-finding teams visited Gujarat and brought out gory details of the tragedy. All of them were unanimous in holding the state government and Narendra Modi, personally, as being responsible for this unprecedented human tragedy. In May 2005, the government informed the Rajya Sabha that 254 H indus and 790 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in the post-Godhra riots of 2002. A total of 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 sustained injuries, 919 were rendered widows and 606 children were orphaned during the riots. Notwithstanding the fact that these fi gures have been vehemently disputed by the activists, the Hindu fatalities mostly pertained to the adivasis and dalits, who were used as the foot soldiers in this carnage (which multiplies the crime of the Hindutva forces), and the property destroyed mostly belonging to the Muslims. If Modi had been a non-partisan chief minister, as the Constitution mandates him to be, he should have expressed

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EPW
Economic & Political Weekly

MARGIN SPEAK

g enuine regret for having failed to arrest such a wanton destruction of lives and property. Instead he and his minions kept repeating their nauseating linkage between the organised carnage in the state and mysterious burning of a coach of the ill-fated Sabarmati train on 27 February 2002. The persistent orchestration of this irrationality, neither Modi nor BJP realised, was exposing their guilt instead of covering it up.

Even after facing several embarrassments from official and unoffi cial enquiries, the courts and worldwide indignation, Modi continues to justify the genocide with his mischievous mechanics that it was a mere reaction to the action in Godhra. The centrallyappointed Banerjee Commission had concluded that Godhra was an unfortunate accident. The report, which was promptly challenged by the state government, need not be taken at face value but if one goes by who benefi ted from the Godhra deaths, there remains scope to suspect that it could even have been planned by the Hindutva forces. After all, it was the subsequent mass killings of Muslims that won Modi landslide victories and brought him huge political mileage so as to be projected as a future prime ministerial candidate. Godhra thus presents three equal possibilities: one, it was an accident; two, it was a criminal act of some Muslims; and three, it was a conspiratorial plan of the Hindutva forces themselves.

Lies of Vibrant Gujarat

Though unconnected to the 2002 killings, another lie that Modi has systematically built up over the past decade to build a shield around him is that he made Gujarat prosperous and vibrant. This helped to castigate those who demand justice for the 2002 victims as being against the people of Gujarat and to dodge the issue altogether by saying “forget and move on”. Closing down relief camps, abruptly Modi declared “all clear” and in 2003 launched the biannual extravaganza called the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. By offering investors all kinds of things in a true nawab style, he got many businessmen to shower praises on him and project him as true prime minister

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
march 17, 2012

candidate. Huge sums were publicised as committed investments in the memoranda of understanding but as the right to information queries by activists re vealed, the actual materialisation re mained at a paltry 25%, barely on par with Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. In 2003, Gujarat’s 20 out of 25 districts fi gured in the list of 447 backward districts identified by the Planning Commission, the top place being Dangs of Gujarat. The state contributed six districts to the 50 most backward districts in the country. Gujarat ranks 17th among the 18 larger states in terms of budgetary allocation to the social sector despite its miserable social development indices.

Modi unleashed a massive PR exercise to project himself as the builder of vibrant Gujarat. The fact remains that Gujarat was already amongst the most industrialised states. Two decades back, the annual growth rate of Gujarat was between 12% and 13%, almost double the national average of 6% to 7%. Today, it is 11%, marginally above the national growth rate. By opening the coffers of the state for industrialists to loot, it has immensely contributed to the making of the richest billionaires in the country but has left the common man high and dry. According to the India State Hunger Index 2008 of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Gujarat is shockingly ranked worse than Orissa at as low as the 13th among 17 major states, just above Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. Anaemia in Gujarat shows an alarming rise. The percentage of women suffering from anaemia in Gujarat has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004 (Third round of National Family Health Survey 2006) and that of children from 74.5% to 80.1%. As state Congress president Arjun Modhwadia claimed, 16,000 Gujarati workforce including 9,829 workers, 5,447 farmers and 919 farm labourers committed suicide during Modi’s tenure.

Sadbhavana Salt

Without an iota of remorse, Modi enacted his sadbhavana drama on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the 2002 genocide without ever visiting any of its victims. Oblivious to the ghettoisation of

vol xlviI no 11

Muslims in Ahmedabad that he catalysed and people still reeling in fear of a communal conflagration, he picked up comprador elements from Muslims, dalits, Jains, Sikhs, Christians, etc, to road show his “communal harmony”. It was nothing short of rubbing salt into the wounds of thousands of victims, who still crave for justice. It is inconceivable that Modi will ever pay for his sins. We have such a proven system that works perfect for the class of moneyed and powerful but still keeps the masses hopeful. Ten years of legal battles have thrown only specks of justice that have been favourable to him. In a case fi led by Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress former MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed along with 66 others in Gulberg Society, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) did not fi nd any evidence against 62 accused and their mastermind Modi. So it will be elsewhere, the testimony of the suspended Indian Police Service officer Sanjiv Bhatt notwithstanding. Modi’s misdeeds go beyond the 2002 genocide. There is the case of Hiren Pandya, whose family has raised questions about who the real mastermind behind Hiren Pandya is.

There have been many encounters in Gujarat of the alleged terrorists who were out to kill Modi. In one such case in which I was associated with a fact-fi nding mission is widely believed to have been stage-managed: the killing of 19-year-old student, Ishrat Jahan, along with two others. The case stands opened up and is being investigated by the SIT but the question is whether justice will ultimately be done. One can surmise that most of the so-called terrorist attacks were also the fabrications, the plots that served the strategy of Modi-like unscrupulous politicians.

The question is, where we go from here?

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