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SACW | 1-2 Sept. 02

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 September 2002 __________________________ #1. Freedom Unfinished-Fundamentalism and Popular Resistance in Bangladesh Today
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1, 2002
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | 1 September 2002


      #1. Freedom Unfinished-Fundamentalism and Popular Resistance in
      Bangladesh Today
      (Jeremy Seabrook)
      #2. Narendra Modi's Hindutva laboratory (K.G. Kannabiran)
      #3. Gujarat: a citizen's perspective (Shymala)
      #4. Gujarat BJP stirs hate cauldron



      Freedom Unfinished-Fundamentalism and Popular Resistance in Bangladesh Today
      Jeremy Seabrook
      Zed Books, London & New York
      ISBN: 1-85649-908-1
      243 pages
      $25 /14.95 Pounds sterling [paperback]




      Little Magazine
      Vol III : issue 2 [2002]
      In bad faith

      Narendra Modi's Hindutva laboratory

      K.G. Kannabiran *

      In the fall of 1944, Himmler realised that the game was up. The war
      was coming to a close and the extermination facilities at Auschwitz
      had to be dismantled. He said to Eichmann, "If up to now you have
      been busy liquidating Jews, you will from now on, since I order it,
      take good care of Jews, and act as their nursemaid." That is
      precisely what is happening in Gujarat now.

      Vajpayee seems to have given Modi similar instructions. They sent
      star policeman K.P.S. Gill in lieu of Article 355. A peace initiative
      is taking shape and like all such initiatives, it will be as loosely
      structured as possible, promising no redressal, no justice, but an
      abundance of pity and mercy for the plight of the victims of this
      great experiment. This is not my description of these macabre
      incidents of the last few months - February, March, April and May.
      Gujarat, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) announced, will be the
      laboratory of the Hindu Rashtra. From the time the Bharatiya Janata
      Party (BJP), the political wing of the RSS, captured power in Gujarat
      through the electoral process, they have been true to their
      declaration. Soon after assuming power, the BJP state government
      removed the ban disallowing public servants from being members of the
      RSS. The recent Gujarat violence has graphically shown how the
      bureaucracy, at various levels, has turned into a Hindutva brigade.


      The nature and extent of the carnage also makes it clear that the
      state had been preparing the people for the Hindutva experiment for a
      long time. In fact, the roots of Hindutva go far deeper still - to
      the systematic destruction of institutions under Indira Gandhi's
      authoritarian rule, followed by a succession of myopic leaders who
      had neither principles nor ideology but were driven solely by the
      greed for personal power. It is this climate of cynicism and despair,
      leading to one hung parliament after another, which fostered the
      growth of the BJP.

      The BJP, in its previous incarnation as the Jana Sangh, had little
      presence in the parliamentary political process. It was only after
      the Emergency (1975), when it joined the Jayaprakash Narayan (JP)-led
      movement and merged into the Janata Party, that the erstwhile Jana
      Sangh managed to gain a sizeable presence in Parliament by riding the
      anti-Emergency wave that swept the country. The motley Janata Party
      headed by Morarji Desai gave an opportunity to the Hindutva forces to
      enter the power structure and that was the beginning of the
      manoeuvres of fascism within the constitutional framework, leaving it
      to a palsied Left to uphold the Constitution. The Janata experiment
      ended in a fiasco, Indira Gandhi returned to power, but the Jana
      Sangh did not wither away - it renamed itself as the BJP and despite
      the setback of 1984, when it was reduced to just two seats in the Lok
      Sabha, it continued to grow in insidious ways. Just as it used the
      Janata wave in 1977 to become a national player, it piggybacked on
      the V.P. Singh-led anti-Bofors campaign of the late 1980s to once
      again form the central government (albeit supporting it from the
      outside) in late 1989. Having reached thus far, the Hindutva forces
      then began their systematic assault on the Constitution and
      democratic values in the form of the anti-reservation agitation and
      Advani's infamous rath yatra, both in 1990.

      In the course of my recent stay in Gujarat I came to know that
      Advani's rath yatra was Narendra Modi's brainchild. Their game plan
      was simple - given the complete failure of the welfare state and
      democratic politics, and with no countervailing challenge from the
      Left movement, capturing the support of the majority community would
      enable them to gain power at the Centre. Successive Prime Ministers,
      too short-sighted to see the looming threat, only facilitated this
      game plan, paving the way for a BJP-led government in India. Rarely
      have we seen such vulgar display of religiosity by public
      functionaries as we witness now. In the context of these practices,
      secular values seem to have lost their relevance. Every caste
      division and division on religious lines have become grist to the
      mill of electoral politics. As commitment to social transformation
      diminished, the electoral process distanced itself from the people
      and caste and communal factors remained the sole strategies in
      adversarial politics, beginning the spiral of degeneration. The
      resounding success of the Dalit movement did not help strengthen the
      democratic and secular content of politics.

      Earlier, social reforms were used to bring about homogeneity among
      the Hindus by attempting to abolish caste divisions. Those were
      attempts to reform Hindu society, to rid it of its long-standing
      aberrations, which treated a sizeable majority within its fold as
      non-persons. Such noble aspirations are outdated in present-day

      In the course of his epic tour of the riot and violence-torn
      Noakhali, when Gandhiji was informed of the retaliation in Bihar he
      said, "For a thousand Hindus to fall upon a handful of Muslims - men,
      women and children - living in their midst is no retaliation, but
      just brutality. It is the privilege of arms to protect the weak and
      the helpless. The best succour that Bihar could have given to the
      Hindus of East Bengal would have been to guarantee with their own
      lives the absolute safety of the Muslim population living in their


      But communal politics did not emerge suddenly. It has been with us
      for a long time. It was given an ideological content after the
      founding of the RSS. Its contours were clearly defined. It has been
      growing steadily since the Partition. This was made clear to us in
      course of many conversations in Gujarat. Two persons from the Visva
      Samvad Kendra, the RSS media cell, met us at the Karnavati Club in
      Ahmedabad. They found fault with the electronic media's presentation
      of the riots. They said the media talks to just one person in a
      district and draws inferences about the violence in the entire area.
      They then gave us a copy of the magazine they published, which
      highlighted Godhra and not the subsequent violence, though the issue
      was printed much later. They said the root of this violence has to be
      traced to 1947 - a stand that successfully blocked further
      discussions on the current violence. We are taken back in time to
      Nathuram Godse and his reasons for shooting down Mahatma Gandhi. In
      his statement to the court, Godse, without any remorse, enumerated
      these reasons. There was nothing noble or profound about them. The
      logic of his reasoning was limited to the communal ideology (if you
      can give communal politics that name) he was wedded to. Such a
      limited frame of thought cannot understand Gandhiji and his vision of
      society. In the course of his epic tour of the riot and violence-torn
      Noakhali, when Gandhiji was informed of the retaliation in Bihar he
      said, "For a thousand Hindus to fall upon a handful of Muslims - men,
      women and children - living in their midst is no retaliation, but
      just brutality. It is the privilege of arms to protect the weak and
      the helpless. The best succour that Bihar could have given to the
      Hindus of East Bengal would have been to guarantee with their own
      lives the absolute safety of the Muslim population living in their
      midst." Post- independence India has not known a single leader of
      adequate moral stature to effectively intervene in periods of acute
      political violence. The massacre of Sikhs in 1984 on the streets,
      roads and bylanes of Delhi still awaits redressal and justice. We
      have not even honed our institutions to respond to crisis situations
      with speed and justice, which alone will discipline people and
      encourage them to respect the law and authority. Judges,
      administrators, lawyers, the entire quill-wielding class, doctors and
      others who run our state and civil society have their own agenda and
      philosophy and these inform their decisions and attitudes, whether in
      normal times or in times of crisis. The courts, which did not rise to
      defend personal liberty during the Emergency, wrote copiously about
      our liberties after we were released from our incarceration!


      There have been excellent analyses and interpretations on the
      recurring communal riots that have wracked the country. They help
      post facto understanding. The point is, however, and has always been,
      not merely to interpret but to change things - to change the mindset
      that fosters communal violence and to prevent communal riots from
      taking place. The politics of secularism have fallen far short of
      this. After V.P. Singh's fall, there have been no active, committed
      defenders of the Constitution. The BJP, which had nothing to do with
      the framing of the Constitution, has sought to undermine it from
      within in the manner of Hitler. Having found the Constitution
      inadequate for their aims of Hindutva, the BJP is now seeking a
      'review'. The country has been prepared for a communalism that is
      qualitatively different from earlier communal skirmishes that we have
      witnessed. This trend has been evident since Advani's 1990 rath
      yatra, which commenced, significantly, from the Somnath temple in
      Gujarat. From that time, Hindutva has been on the national political
      agenda. The anti-Reservation stir following the Mandal Commission's
      recommendations and Ambedkar-bashing were a prelude to that. The
      demolition of the Babri Masjid was a frontal attack on secular
      values. The Hindu religion, declared the RSS-BJP combine, is more
      equal than other religions. Hindutva's first experiment registered
      its success. They never worried about their electoral strength in
      working out their political agenda. They kept their political agenda
      alive by keeping the temple issue alive. The September 11 attacks in
      New York and Washington also helped this trend to some extent. The
      abracadabra of war against terrorism found support from the BJP
      government. They pushed their agenda of Hindutva while they had POTA
      passed to contain both Islamic terrorism and secular and democratic
      dissent within. The unwritten guiding premise of governance today is
      majoritarian supremacy in the form of Hindu theocracy.

      Investigations into the carnage in Gujarat reveal that even as the
      arguments on whether and where to allow shilanyas for the Ram Temple
      in Ayodhya were being heard in the Supreme Court, preparations were
      underway to test the strength of the Hindutva forces and their
      ability to impose their will on the nation. Although it was the
      minorities who were mercilessly attacked in Gujarat, the Hindutva
      forces were in fact going for the jugular of the Hindu liberal and
      secular society all over the country.

      Gandhiji comes from Gujarat. What happened in Gujarat on February 28,
      2002, is not just a negation of what he stood and died for, but was
      equally a negation of all the values we fought for in the course of
      our long struggle for independence.

      Godhra is in the Panch Mahals district of Gujarat. The Sabarmati
      Express, which carried Ram sevaks to Ayodhya earlier, was bringing
      them back to Ahmedabad. They returned without expending their
      energies, as shilanyas for the Ramjanmabhoomi temple did not take
      place. The Ram sevaks, at any rate a majority of them, are quite
      young and energetic. The youth gathered for Ayodhya are from the
      unemployed and idle ranks that have been recruited to Vishwa Hindu
      Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal. They are given a trishul and a sword
      on payment of a small fee. Regular meetings are held to instil in
      them a certain pride, a sense of belonging. This proximity, this
      bonhomie with the upper caste Hindus for a cause is intoxicating.
      These foot-soldiers of Hindutva belong to the lowest rungs of the
      caste hierarchy. The leaders of Hindutva abuse Ambedkar and are
      trying their best to sever Ambedkar's association with the
      Constitution. They tried very hard to deny the literate among the
      penultimate and the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy their right to
      reservations, which alone would make their right to equality
      meaningful. A tenuous cultural link, an amorphous religious identity
      that excludes them, treats them violently, at the same time unifies
      this fissiparous population to a 'Hindu' cause for crusades against
      Muslims - most of whom are as backward as the large majority of

      The train was carrying around 1,200 passengers. Obviously, an
      over-crowded train. Passengers travelling in reserved compartments
      had to allow the rampaging Ram sevaks into the compartments. One can
      imagine the inconvenience and the irritation caused by the crowds
      that had barged in and were strutting about - arrogantly,
      aggressively. After all, it was their train. Railway Minister Nitish
      Kumar (an OBC too) was their man. They had all gone to Ayodhya on
      party work and it was their government which ran the country and the
      trains. That is how all party cadres and crowds behave when they are
      going to or returning from melas held by their political parties.
      There had been complaints against these Ram sevaks both while going
      and on their return on February 27. They had inconvenienced even
      Hindu passengers in the reserved compartments. There were complaints
      by Muslim vendors on the platform that tea and eatables were consumed
      without payment. They also misbehaved with Muslim vendors, some of
      whom happened to be women, assisting the men vending tea and
      eatables. By all accounts, there had been an altercation between the
      Muslim vendors and the Ram sevaks. There is no evidence that the
      Hindus present on the platform also participated in this altercation.

      As the train pulled out of Godhra station the chain was pulled. The
      train stopped near the Signal Falia - which happened to be a Muslim
      inhabited area - and there was an attack on the bogey S-6, a reserved
      compartment. It can be inferred that the anti-social elements among
      the Muslims living there converted an altercation into a communal
      riot. That it was spontaneous to start with cannot be ruled out.
      There was stone-pelting from outside. A few seconds thereafter, the
      compartment was in flames. The stone-pelting would have brought down
      the shutters and yet it is asserted that the interior of the
      compartment was set on fire by a fireball made of cloth that was
      tossed in through the window from outside. At Signal Falia, the rail
      track elevated at about 12 to 15. The compartments have the added
      protection of three to four cross-bars running through all the bogies
      - to prevent robbery, snatching or the entry of miscreants through
      the window. The balls of cloth set on fire and flung from the ground
      level seem to have found their way into the compartment pretty
      easily, since the outer surface of the bogey does not bear much
      evidence of arson, except for the fringes of the window frames. These
      particular marks may be on account of flames that raged within the
      compartment licking the outer fringes of the windows. But the fire
      totally destroyed the interior of S-6, turning it into a heap of
      twisted metal. The tragedy is that the fire killed more than fifty
      human beings which included a large number of passengers who had
      nothing to do with the goings-on in Ayodhya or elsewhere in the
      country. Such crimes should never go unpunished.

      This fire in S6 raises several questions. Union Home Minister L.K.
      Advani is personally aware of what happened in the country after the
      Babri Masjid was brought down. What security measures were taken to
      prevent a flare-up of communal violence in the country in view of the
      tensions being created over the shilanyas programme at Ayodhya, which
      would mark the initiation of the Ram temple there? To say that law
      and order is a state subject is hardly a responsible reply. The
      situation in Ayodhya throughout January and February had all the
      potential for causing a breakdown of public order but the zeal the
      government exhibited in countering terrorist violence was singularly
      missing when it came to dealing with possible violence by the
      majority community.


      After the Godhra tragedy and independent of that tragedy, a genocide
      was unleashed on the Muslim population in Gujarat. The next day
      (February 28) attacks on the Muslim population began simultaneously
      in various parts of the state, which were clearly well planned long
      before the Godhra tragedy. Narendra Modi himself made this
      distinction when he described the events at Godhra as 'communal
      violence' and its aftermath in the rest of Gujarat as 'secular
      violence.' Various facts that have come to light indicate that the
      anti-Muslim violence in the state was independent of the Godhra
      tragedy. Both victims of the violence as well as many other
      independent witnesses confirmed that the government had been planning
      large-scale violence much before February 27. It was part of the
      preparations being made by the Hindutva brigade in tandem with the
      shilanyas programme in Ayodhya. The build-up of the hard-line
      sectarian agenda was very open. The statements of VHP International
      General Secretary Praveen Togadia, senior VHP Vice President Acharya
      Giriraj Kishore, National Convenor of the Bajrang Dal S.K. Jain and
      others in the month of February are instructive. The statements made
      with reference to the temple construction campaign in Ayodhya are
      extremely provocative and the message is very clear. Look at Pravin
      Togadia's statement to the Asian Age, Mumbai on February 7: "It will
      have to be Pakistan or the Mandir. The mosque constructed by Babar at
      Ayodhya 450 years ago by destroying the Ram temple and the September
      11 attack on World Trade Centre are symbols of Islamic Jihad. It is
      necessary for India, Jews and the western world to get together and
      fight Islamic militants." Such statements invariably prelude the
      massacre of the Muslim minorities living in our midst. In one
      statement, the Bajrang Dal leader had threatened that if Muslim
      organisations prevented the construction of the temple, the Dal would
      chant Hanuman Chalisa at the Jama Masjid in Delhi. The VHP and
      Bajrang Dal's record of issuing threats and indulging in violence is
      well-known. Remember December 1992? The VHP had assured the Supreme
      Court that its kar sevaks would only sing kirtans in the vicinity of
      the Babri Masjid, and so they were allowed into the precincts of the
      mosque. What happened to the mosque is a continuing history! This
      time round, the preparations underway in other parts of the country
      can only be guessed from what happened in Gujarat. The scale of these
      preparations came to light when communal violence was sparked off in

      All the attacks in different parts of the state commenced almost
      simultaneously. The pattern of killing also never varied. A mob,
      locally termed a 'tola', comprising thousands of bloodthirsty men,
      would chase Muslims from one end and the police force would block
      them on the other to prevent them from fleeing to safety. The mob
      then fell upon them, and killed, quartered, and set their victims on


      The BJP government took direct control of the postings and transfer
      of police inspectors. As soon as Narendra Modi assumed power,
      inspectors were carefully chosen to man certain police stations. He
      also handpicked the Commissioner of Police, who supervised the
      violence. Police officers belonging to the Muslim community were not
      given executive posts, but were transferred to man administrative
      posts. The Bajrang Dal and the VHP, the militant wings of the RSS,
      were allowed to spread their tentacles in the state machinery
      effectively. For quite some time, they have been working among the
      tribals and, in fact, used them as their sword arm in the post-Godhra
      carnage quite effectively. They had armed their cadre and we were
      told meetings were regularly held in various centres of the state.
      Since Godhra is known to be communally sensitive, the administration
      ought to have swung into action and used the preventive detention
      provisions of the law as soon as the train tragedy took place. That
      course was not open because several ministers in Modi's cabinet were
      participating in the violence and/or monitoring the organised crowds
      to guarantee effective pillage and slaughter. Ministers Ashok Bhat
      and Jadeja occupied the police control rooms at Gandhi Nagar and
      Ahmedabad and directed the mayhem. Revenue Minister Hiren Pandya,
      eyewitnesses said, led the mob to destroy Muslims and their property.
      A former Chief Justice of the state emphatically confirmed the
      people's version by declaring that the Constitution and the laws
      stood suspended on February 28 and the following days. Narendra Modi,
      like the anomic man, is "spiritually a sterile person responsive only
      to himself and responsible to none". Such a person is still allowed
      to continue as Chief Minister. This in itself, along with the support
      extended to him by the BJP and RSS leadership despite his lawless
      conduct while in office, is part of the all-India plan to realise

      All the attacks in different parts of the state commenced almost
      simultaneously. The pattern of killing also never varied. A mob,
      locally termed a 'tola', comprising thousands of bloodthirsty men,
      would chase Muslims from one end and the police force would block
      them on the other to prevent them from fleeing to safety. The mob
      then fell upon them, and killed, quartered, and set their victims on
      fire. A child victim told us that he saw ten members of his family
      being slaughtered. The manner in which Jaffri, Kausar and Geetha Ben
      were killed are now household stories in the country. The murderers
      wore headbands imprinted with the words 'Jai Siyaram'. The leaders of
      the tola sometimes asked their victims to say 'Jai Siyaram'. When
      they refused, they were put to death. The tolas converted Lord Rama
      into a psychopathic, bloodthirsty god.

      The violence did not stop with just the killings. There was an effort
      to destroy the identity of the dead. The same violence was used to
      kill the rich. The killers had lists of Muslims in each ward or
      mohalla, and lists of properties of the Muslims in each such
      locality. Two high court judges, one of them sitting, were attacked
      and their houses destroyed. They had to flee the judges' colony and
      take shelter in a Muslim colony. When some fool had thrown a knife at
      Justice Grover of the Supreme Court, Indira Gandhi - describing it as
      a grave breakdown of law and order - had cited it as one of the
      reasons for invoking the Emergency. But in this case, when
      state-sponsored murderers attacked judges in their homes, the Supreme
      Court took no notice of it and failed to come to their rescue.

      Women were raped in front of hysterical tolas. Pregnant women were
      killed and foetuses pulled out and quartered and thrown away. The
      leaders of the mobs zeroed in on inter-religious married couples and
      if one of them was a Muslim, killed them both. Children, too, were
      not spared. Properties and business houses of Muslims were
      systematically destroyed, including business houses where one of the
      partners happened to be a Muslim. Countless places of worship were
      destroyed. How does one explain this all-encompassing violence and
      destruction? Is it possible to conceive of madness without lucid
      intervals? Erich Fromm's explanation of human destructiveness answers
      the question to some extent. According to Fromm, "the degree of
      destructiveness is proportionate to the degree to which the unfolding
      of a person's capacities is blocked. If life's tendency to grow, to
      be lived, is thwarted, the energy thus blocked undergoes a process of
      change and is transformed into life-destructive energy. Destruction
      is the outcome of unlived life."

      We have here a state-sponsored, state-directed and state-supported
      violence where more than a thousand were killed. The perpetrators
      have destroyed evidence of the numbers and identities of persons
      killed. The ruling party at the Centre and the state are the same.
      The carnage in Gujarat deserves a Nuremberg style trial. It has all
      the elements of genocide. This is not the first time such a genocide
      has been committed in India. The massacre of Sikhs in the wake of
      Indira Gandhi's assassination in 1984 by the leaders of the Congress
      Party was by no means a riot. The killing of Sikh students in Bidar,
      Karnataka, in September 1987, was also not a riot. Both were
      instances of deliberately targeting a particular religious group.
      After Hitler's Final Solution, there is a name for this. After the
      Second World War, on December 9, 1948 to be precise, an International
      Covenant was brought into existence to 'Prevent and Punish the Crime
      of Genocide.' It has in all 19 articles. Article II and III are
      important. Recalling the decimation of Jews in Hitler's Germany,
      Article II defines the crime of genocide thus:

      " ŠGenocide means any of the following acts committed with the intent
      to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial, or
      religious group, as such:

      (a) Killing members of the group;
      (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group;
      (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life
      calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in
      (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
      (e) Forcibly transferring children of one group to another group.

      The Covenant has also enumerated the offences that are punishable and they are

      (a) Genocide;
      (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
      (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
      (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
      (e) Complicity in genocide."

      At present, there is no law in India specifically dealing with
      genocide. No law on genocide can have retrospective operation. But I
      do believe that the international Covenant on Genocide has become
      part of customary law as it does not conflict with any other existing
      law. Such an interpretation may help the National Human Rights
      Commission to conduct a detailed investigation into the crimes and
      submit a comprehensive report to the government and the nation.

      The facts narrated in its Summary Report on Gujarat add up to a prima
      facie accusation of genocide. The Commission has an immediate
      obligation to the people and a mandatory obligation to posterity to
      inquire into the Gujarat violence and record its findings so that no
      political party and no government in future can resort to such brutal
      practices. As part of this obligation, the National Human Rights
      Commission must prepare a Model Statute on genocide, including
      provisions for effectively taking preventive measures to protect
      religious, ethnic and linguistic minorities from being attacked.
      This, in my view, is mandatory because under the International
      Criminal Code, genocide and crimes against humanity are declared as
      offences. As Hannah Arendt said, "Genocide is an attack on human
      diversity as such, that is upon characteristics of the human status
      without which the very words 'mankind' or 'humanity' would be devoid
      of meaning."

      Genocide apart, there is also the question of the right of
      minorities. After the collapse of the socialist states in central and
      eastern Europe in 1989, violent ethnic conflicts erupted involving
      minorities in Europe. By 1993, the war in the former Yugoslavia -
      Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, along with Vojvodena and Kosovo - had
      taken a toll of several thousand lives and displaced two million
      people. The violence spread to the Caucasus and Moldavia and
      threatened to engulf the former Soviet Union. It was during this
      period that the Declaration of Rights of Persons Belonging to
      National or Ethnic, Religious or Linguistic Minorities was adopted by
      the UN General Assembly by a Resolution dated December 12, 1992. The
      principles for the protection of minorities are expansively spelled
      out in this resolution, much of which are also guaranteed in our
      Constitution. Genocide is the forfeiture of minority rights.


      The members of the Constituent Assembly knew only too well that India
      was a conflict-ridden pluralist society. So they provided for
      secularism as a value. Secularism was the major implicit premise of
      the Constitution until the 42nd Amendment, when it was explicitly
      made one of the national objectives. Secularism as a concept came
      into existence in the days of early capitalism as a response to the
      misery inflicted on the poor by unregulated working conditions. In
      fact, the dictionary defines secularism as a doctrine which states
      that morality should concern itself solely with the well-being of
      humankind in the world as it exists, to the exclusion of all
      considerations drawn from a belief in God or in a future state. This
      concept of secularism was later eclipsed by the emergence of
      socialist thought. In this broad sense, secularism includes in its
      ambit the objectives set out in the Preamble of our Constitution, in
      the Articles pertaining to abolition of untouchability, bonded and
      child labour and almost all of the Directive Principles in the
      Constitution. The Supreme Court, too, defined secularism in this
      broad sense in the S.R. Bommai case, which came up in the backdrop of
      the Ayodhya controversy. Now that ethnic claims and conflicts abound
      all over the world, there is a necessity for the international
      community to bring forth an International Covenant on Secularism in
      Plural Societies within States. The argument that 'secularism is a
      western concept and therefore is a problem' appears to be wholly
      misconceived; so also our definition that it means that 'all
      religions are equal.'

      What should one do about the crimes committed in the course of
      executing this plan of Hindutva by Narendra Modi and others? Our
      courts are not geared to deal with such large-scale social violence.
      Courts and the present legal system have reduced the entire judicial
      process into a game in which the real protagonists are not the
      victims, the accused or the plaintiffs, but the lawyers who play for
      high stakes. In fact, the stakeholders in the institution of justice
      are the successful 'professionals.' The institution is successfully
      subverted from its institutional purpose and is converted into a
      private enterprise. In Gujarat, the situation is far worse. Even the
      first information reports, the basic document required to register a
      crime, are flawed because the police department of the state is an
      associate in this crime. Under such circumstances, how can one ensure
      a fair and independent investigation? Is it possible for the NHRC to
      get together a Special Investigation Team under the Protection of
      Human Rights Act, to investigate and file a charge sheet on the cases
      in Gujarat?

      The Muslims of Gujarat do not need compassion and pity. They need
      justice in all its facets as mentioned in the Preamble of the
      Constitution. It is their right. They don't need charity or doles.
      What they need is political justice and to achieve this, prosecuting
      the criminals is imperative. That alone will ensure their dignity and
      restore their faith in the system; that alone can assure them that
      their individual and collective rights as a minority are protected. A
      formal compliance with the law or a routine engagement in the courts
      will not bring justice alive. One of the Articles in the Constitution
      states that justice - political, social and economic - shall inform
      all the institutions of the State. Our campaign for a secular
      democracy should commence from this Article.

      [K.G. Kannabiran is an eminent human rights lawyer. President of the People’s
      Union for Civil Liberties, he was part of the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal
      investigating the recent sectarian violence in Gujarat. He lives in




      The Hindu
      Sunday, Sep 01, 2002

      Gujarat: a citizen's perspective

      She didn't know what to expect when she went to Ahmedabad a few
      months after the violence in Gujarat, but in the end, SHYMALA [*]
      came to a premise that the unprecedented levels of bestiality and
      violence unleashed were only because criminal acts have gone
      unpunished over the years by various political parties that have
      wielded power. An account of her experiences and a reconstruction of
      some of the events from discussions with the victims.

      The dargah...refuge within its walls.

      I DIDN'T know what to expect when I went to Ahmedabad more than three
      months after the violence started. Entering Vatwa, an industrial
      township south of the main city, I noticed that the blue sky was
      dotted with trishuls (tridents): nearly all the factory chimneys had
      trishuls stuck on them. There had never been an instance of
      large-scale communal violence in Vatwa, which bears a Rabari name,
      the Rabaris being cowherdsmen of the area. A prominent landmark is
      the tomb of Hazrat Qutub-e-Alam Burhanuddin who died in the 15th
      Century. The Rabaris, although Hindu, have faith in the healing
      powers of the saint of this Dargah. Often, when their cows have
      fallen sick they have come to seek the blessings of the "baba". In
      the Nawapura area behind the Dargah, both Hindus and Muslims have
      lived together for as long as anybody can remember, without ever
      having had a major face-off. A Jain community also lives around this
      area, and a little Jain temple is built on land once owned by the
      Muslim community. A wall separates the two communities, but the gate
      was always open, until recent events.

      Several testimonies and reports are available on the violence that
      took place this year in Gujarat. What follows is a brief account of
      my experiences and a reconstruction of some events from discussions
      with the victims.

      The attacks on the Muslims in Vatwa began at 12:55 p.m. on February
      28. Because they happened in the daytime and warnings came in from
      other parts of the town where the violence was already under way, the
      residents of this locality had time to flee. They hid in nearby
      localities or fields for up to three days before they wandered into
      camps. Thousands of people came from all sides armed with implements
      of destruction. On average, there were about 200 people to plunder
      and loot a house. About 300 houses in the Nawapura area behind the
      Dargah were burnt down. In several instances of rioting, the police,
      as well as local political leaders, were in connivance and have been
      identified as leading the mob. Police have, without warning, fired at
      innocent people, even entering their houses and wounding or killing
      them. It also appears that each "mob" consisted of three parts -
      cadres of trained killers of political parties such as the Bajrang
      Dal, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Vishwa Hindu
      Parishad (VHP), people who had been brought in from outside to loot
      and burn, and people belonging to the local community.

      In Vatwa, the local Waghari community was involved in attacking its
      Muslim neighbours. Evidence exists of the indoctrination of hate,
      coercion, cold cash as well as an assurance that marauders and
      arsonists could keep the loot and would face no consequence. The
      people noticed that the Wagharis who usually bought daily provisions
      from the local shop for around Rs. 10 were buying oil and foodgrains
      for Rs. 100 the day before the riots. These people were paid about
      Rs. 500 to join in the attacks on the Muslims. Hindus who refused to
      comply were threatened. This was, categorically, a premeditated
      attack and not a spontaneous ignition of mob fury that the State
      could not control.

      A family whose house was burnt down during the riots.

      The Dargah now doubles as a camp for the riot-hit in the Vatwa area.
      It provided shelter to the thousands who had suddenly become homeless
      and were being hunted in the country of their citizenship. It has a
      shifting population: as other camps close down people migrate in, and
      people leave when they can. At one point it had about 3,000 people,
      including 300 children, all living in the blistering heat and dust
      for over four months, under a tattered white sheet tied to the top of
      bamboo poles. Gunnysack has been spread on the mud below, and this
      too is frayed and torn. Sanitation is non-existent, water supply

      Most people in the camp are daily wage earners; working as
      contractors, vendors, labourers, artisans or rickshaw drivers. The
      men have been jobless for months and sit alone or in groups not
      knowing what to do next. They wait for handouts from UNICEF, the Red
      Cross, etc. - clothes, hygiene kits, livelihood kits and so forth. To
      see men and women jostle and run to line up for them as soon as they
      hear that something is going to be distributed makes you realise what
      it means to be so utterly dependent on the charity of others.
      Whatever is being done in terms of rehabilitation seems to be too
      little and too late. Further, the Muslims face an economic boycott.
      Many are not being hired back on jobs after the riots and
      autorickshaw drivers tell of being discriminated against. This
      boycott hampers whatever rehabilitation efforts are being made and it
      appeared to me that the Government was just not interested in
      rehabilitating these people. Perhaps the Government has a genuine
      concern that it would lose the coming elections if it was seen as
      being sympathetic to the Muslims.

      SEVERAL articles of analysis have been written about the genesis of
      communal violence - why it was "likely to happen in Gujarat," how
      Gujarat is a "laboratory for the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra" and
      why the "Dalits and Adivasis participated in violence" - that I do
      feel chary of adding to the din. Yet what prompts me to write is the
      hurt and anguish of the people, the children who have been affected
      by the violence, some of whose names and faces I now know. Nothing of
      what I have to say is in the least bit "original", but I have come to
      realise that few things really are.

      Why are so many people ready to hate and destroy and fall prey to
      propaganda? A systematic feeding of misinformation and rumours
      against a community can lead to a dehumanising stereotype of that
      community and a feeling of otherness, and this in turn can contribute
      to a large-scale participation of men and women in violence. Prey on
      people's sense of fear and insecurity, promise them wealth and power
      and I suppose you can get them to do terrible things. True enough.
      But what about those who did not take part in these excesses? Among
      them exist people who might harbour prejudices against another
      community, and yet would think it wrong to brutalise the other. There
      are many who are of the "I don't particularly like you, but I am
      willing to live and let live" variety. There are still others who
      might kill the man who raped their daughter, but who simply would not
      say: "A man with a beard raped the daughter of someone in my
      community whom I don't really know personally, so I am going to go
      and kill all daughters and mothers of men who have beards."

      Keeping themselves occupied...Making agarbathis

      It is the extent of individual responsibility and the ability to rise
      above one's internal and external environment versus the inability of
      the individual to withstand the indoctrination by the social
      environment in which he lives that I wish to understand. There are
      reasons that compel me to do so.

      First, while in Gujarat, I met many individuals who remain anonymous,
      who were so distressed by what had happened that they worked
      tirelessly round the clock to help provide succour. Some worked to
      provide rain shelters for the men, women and children rendered
      homeless, some helped families file claims to get the compensation
      promised to them by the Government. Others tried to bring some
      structure, some hope into the lives of the children in the camps.
      They set up makeshift schools and playgroups for children too scared
      to go back to school. Second, there are those people of Ahmedabad who
      felt that targeting a particular community was wrong, and who did not
      participate in the rioting in any manner whatsoever. Among these are
      people who tried to help in their own capacity, big or small, whether
      brave or not so brave. There are also those whom I meet in my
      everyday life, both Hindus and Muslims, the poor and the rich, low
      caste and high caste, who would not think of taking something that
      does not belong to them and would not harm someone because they have
      been threatened by an influential political goon with fascist
      leanings that their very existence would be threatened if they didn't
      get rid of the "other". They simply will not be bought.

      Haven't these people been exposed to the propaganda of the Sangh
      Parivar? Haven't some of them lived in Gujarat for several years? Do
      they not have the same government - the government "they deserve?" Oh
      sure, we can quibble about the numbers and the statistics of what
      categories and classifications such people belong to, but I think we
      do these citizens a tremendous injustice if we don't acknowledge that
      they too have a choice, and choose to live within the norms and laws
      that govern civil society. In times like this, we would do well to
      show our appreciation and thank them, and tell them, "You count and
      you are an asset to civil society" for the choices they have made,
      especially to those who get few other rewards and recognitions in

      Uncertain future...Feroz and his mother Mumtaz Ibrahim.

      One way to show that we, as a society, consider individual choices
      important is to hold accountable those individuals who did
      participate in criminal acts, instead of focussing soley on the
      fascist propaganda, as if these people were laboratory rats with no
      moral compass who had no choice. Not to hold the individuals
      accountable for their criminal conduct is very disheartening to those
      who had the courage to stand up and make a different choice. Not
      every one who read the incendiary headlines in the Gujarati dailies
      felt that it was justified to burn and loot and destroy a whole lot
      of Muslim families.

      THE people who participated in the hate campaigns and violence should
      be considered maladjusted, if we hold the norms enshrined in our
      Constitution as important to the functioning of civil society. I
      believe that those who went on the rampage were essentially
      deceitful, avaricious, and prone to anger, hate, and violence. Do we
      really think that the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands,
      wives and friends who participated in the looting, burning, raping or
      killing are citizens in whom the protection of democratic values such
      as Liberty, Equality and Fraternity could be entrusted - that is if
      only they had not fallen under the influence of fascist propaganda?
      Is it not possible that fascist propaganda only gives such people an
      alibi to break the law? What does one do, if one believes in
      democratic values, and, further, if one believes that such people
      cannot be counted on to protect these values? What do we do about the
      individuals - from the smug, grinning faces heading the recent Rath
      Yatra, faces devoid of any sentiment which could be construed the
      least bit religious or aesthetic (indeed a strange way to express
      one's sensitivity to the ground reality); the young fellows who were
      photographed flexing their muscles during the same Rath Yatra to the
      individuals wielding lathis and trishuls with saffron scarves around
      their heads. Remember that these are all individuals with names who
      have choices to make, and they are making them.

      A LONG-TERM goal of civil society, if it is to survive, would be to
      have a healthy ratio of people who respect the rights of others to
      those who don't. How does one do that? I am not sure, but one has to
      start somewhere. One way might be through an education that
      encourages critical thinking and a social structure that encourages
      cooperative behaviour. Such a structure would foster pluralism and
      acknowledge diversity as the fabric of a human and humane society. An
      education that emphasises critical thinking would produce individuals
      who are more likely to question authority, instead of simply
      accepting what has been told to them. They would have a healthy
      scepticism for all that they read or hear. It would encourage
      measured dissent and creative thought. It would teach our future
      citizens to be observant, to be objective in their observations or at
      the very least be aware of their subjectiveness. It would teach them
      not to be rigid in their thinking, and, most importantly, not to be
      afraid of change. The teaching of these basic skills is essential, if
      we are to build a truly democratic, civil society. As we grow to
      become functioning members of society, these become life skills that
      should come to us as easy as breathing or eating.

      Bharat Sing Uday Singh, 70...has lived through four riots, but
      believes the one this time to be the worst.

      These are not new ideas. In fact, these are important aspects of
      scientific methodology, and in fact several well-thought out science
      teaching programmes that have been around have laid emphasis on such
      teaching. However, greater emphasis needs to be given to these
      aspects of education, and on a larger scale. We must combine the
      teaching of the facts about the physical world we live in, about its
      rivers and mountains, about the civilisation and modes of governance
      that have existed, about the arts and music and books that are a part
      of our cultural heritage, about the molecules that make up our
      bodies, the physical and chemical properties which drive us with a
      strong, rational logical mind. It may not be perfect and it does not
      guarantee that such a person would be less avaricious and hateful,
      but such an education may act as a vaccine in uncertain times when
      insecurities are being exploited and emotions need to be kept in
      check by a mind that remains unclouded.

      For example, arming citizens with a faculty for logical thought would
      help them understand the nature of stereotypes. We all hold
      stereotypes, and they are essential to our survival. As we become
      adults, one of the ways in we build a picture of the world in which
      we live is to stereotype and categorise our observations and
      experiences, and we do so with ever increasing complexity. However,
      we must realise that a stereotype which is too general, or based on
      an erroneous attribute can cause us to misjudge a situation. We must
      also learn to with that which cannot be categorised, and that on
      which judgment must be reserved until further evidence is forthcoming.

      An argument is now being constructed that all those advocating
      tolerance and goodwill between communities have no respect for
      religion - especially the Hindu religion - and for the spiritual
      content of Indian culture. Some of them have been accused of
      "pseudo-secularism". Let us grant for the moment that individual
      choices and actions do reflect the moral bearing of a person, and
      that issues of morality can only be dealt with by spiritual, or deep
      self-enquiry. Even so, any serious enquiry into the nature of the
      individual self and its relationship with the outside world can only
      be helped by a mind which is sharpened by rational thought and
      cognisant of the freedom to change. How can one be discerning if one
      does not know how to think?

      So much for how we might reduce the number of individuals who have no
      regard for common societal aspirations or human life, and who can be
      paid to burn a Muslim or Muslim house down without giving any thought
      to the consequences of their actions. What do we do with the people
      who have made those choices, and who now roam the streets and the
      corridors of power? We have laws and a Constitution because we
      believe that we all have to play by the rules that have been laid
      down for the common good, with the clear understanding that those who
      don't play by the rules will be dealt with according to the laws of
      that society. In an ideal condition, this is done to provide an
      optimum environment for all citizens to fulfil their potential in
      freedom and thus experience happiness. When we have a breakdown in
      law and order, then those who are responsible have to be dealt with
      accordingly, whether we believe that they need to be incarcerated or
      given psychiatric counselling.

      The camp within the dargah.
      So, in the short term everyone who broke the law, in whatever manner,
      must be dealt with and punished according to the severity of their

      Criminal behaviour is deterred when there is a terrible risk
      associated with it. This level of bestiality and violence has
      resulted only because criminal acts have gone unpunished over the
      years by the different political parties that have wielded power.
      Each time that happens it is going to get more brazen, more evil.

      Why is it important that we debate these issues? Why should we bother
      to sit across the table and talk? And why do I want a society where
      individual rights and diversity of views are enshrined? Because I do
      not wish for my children to live in an uncertain, bigoted environment
      where they may come to harm.

      I do not wish for them to be harmed by someone who believes that by
      doing so he is avenging the death of a Muslim who was killed in a
      fake encounter by a Hindu who thought he was finding a quick solution
      to diffuse the tension caused by a Muslim who killed a Kashmiri
      Pandit because he believed he did not have the interests of the
      minority in mind who killed a ... .May be there are degrees of evil,
      and degrees of good, and may be we should start raising the bar for
      what degree of idiocy we are willing to tolerate.

      * The writer teaches and does research. She visited the Vatwa Camp
      in Ahmedabad in June this year.



      The Statesman
      31 Aug 2002

      Gujarat BJP stirs hate cauldron
      Statesman News Service
      GANDHINAGAR, Aug. 30. - Religious sentiments are in full play in the
      BJP's run-up to the Gujarat polls. From exhibiting photographs and
      models of kar sevaks on a burning train (implying coach S-6 of
      Sabarmati Exp.) to protecting cattle (read ban on cow slaughter); the
      BJP's campaign has all the ingredients of raising communal frenzy.
      Banners depicting the burning Sabarmati Express appeared in Ahmedabad
      yesterday, accompanied by questions such as "maaru kaun? (who is
      ours?)". This follows a campaign by the Gujarat Gaurav Samiti asking
      the same question, while pointing out that minorities have many
      institutions to look after them. These banners flaunt the BJP symbol,
      but the advertisements do not proclaim the name of any party while
      condemning Opposition leaders, the EC and NHRC for backing minorities.
      In Rajkot, a float depicting Sabarmati Exp. was paraded and set on
      fire for the Janmashtami procession, in a throwback to Godhra.
      Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Modi attended a ceremony to "fill up" the
      dry bed of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad with the water of the Narmada,
      to chants of "Narmada Sarvade".
      What was lost in the midst of all the propaganda was the fact that
      the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) envisages transfer of water from the
      Narmada to dry riverbeds along the main canal route when there is an
      overflow at the dam site. The main and subsidiary canal systems are
      not yet complete, and water from the dam site thus cannot reach its
      With the dam overflowing, the Narmada water found its way to the dry
      bed of the Sabarmati. And the powers that be chose this to play on
      the sentiments of the people.
      Mr Modi even declared that this flow of water would continue
      throughout the year. This has been discounted by SSP engineers. At
      present, the dam height is 98m. Power generation is to begin when it
      reaches 110 metres. But for now, the overflow at the dam site is
      being utilised by those in power.


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