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India: A Blind Eye to Bigotry

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    Five years on, those behind the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom are still running the state A BLIND EYE TO BIGOTRY Mike Marqusee Guardian
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2007
      Five years on, those behind the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom are still
      running the state

      Mike Marqusee

      Five years ago this week, across the Indian state of Gujarat, the
      stormtroopers of the Hindu right, decked in saffron sashes and armed
      with swords, tridents, sledgehammers and liquid gas cylinders,
      launched a pogrom against the local Muslim population. They looted and
      torched Muslim-owned businesses, assaulted and murdered Muslims, and
      gang-raped and mutilated Muslim women. By the time the violence
      spluttered to a halt, about 2,500 Muslims had been killed and about
      200,000 driven from their homes.

      The pogrom was distinguished not only by its ferocity and sadism
      (foetuses were ripped from the bellies of pregnant women, old men
      bludgeoned to death) but also by its meticulous advance planning. The
      leaders used mobile phones to coordinate the movement of an army of
      thousands through densely populated areas, targeting Muslim properties
      with the aid of computerised lists and electoral rolls provided by
      state agencies.

      Much of the violence unfolded with the full collaboration of the
      police. In some cases, police fired at Muslims seeking to flee the
      mobs. When asked to help a group of girls being raped on the roof of a
      building, police officers demurred, explaining: "They have been given
      24 hours to kill you." Subsequent investigations confirmed that police
      knew in advance of the pogrom and had been instructed not to interfere
      with it.

      Indian and global human rights organisations have singled out
      Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, of the Bharatiya Janata party
      (BJP), as the principal culprit. As a result of his alleged complicity
      in mass murder, he was denied a visa to the US and cannot visit
      Britain for fear of arrest.

      Yet Modi remains chief minister and has become not only the BJP's most
      popular figurehead, but also a poster boy for big business, foreign
      and domestic. Gujarat, which contains 5% of India's population, now
      boasts 18% of its investment and 21% of its exports. At this year's
      Vibrant Gujarat conclave, the showpiece of the BJP regime, the great
      names of Indian capitalism - Ambani, Birla, Tata - sang Modi's
      praises, echoed by delegations from Singapore, Europe and the US.
      Anxieties about dealing with a politician accused of genocide have
      been allayed by the appeal of Gujarat's corporation-friendly
      environment, not least its labour laws, which give employers
      hire-and-fire rights unique in India.

      Five years on, Muslims in Gujarat still live in fear. About 50,000
      remain in refugee camps. Most of the cases filed by victims of the
      violence have never been investigated. Witnesses have been
      intimidated. No more than a dozen low-level culprits have been
      convicted. None of the major conspirators has been brought before the

      The events of 2002 did not conform to the paradigm of the war on
      terror, in which India was a prize ally, so never achieved the infamy
      in the west they deserved. An array of interests - in New Delhi,
      London and Washington - is dedicated to ensuring the atrocity is
      consigned to oblivion. For them, the release of Parzania, a feature
      film centred on the violence, is an uncomfortable development. Despite
      dramatic flaws, it accurately depicts the savagery of the anti-Muslim
      violence, its planned, coordinated character, and the complicity of
      the police and the state government. Cinemas in Gujarat, under
      pressure from the Hindu right, are refusing to screen the film.

      If and when Parzania reaches audiences here and in the US, it will
      offer a necessary counter-tale to the fashionable fable of the Indian
      neoliberal miracle, exposing the brutality and bigotry that have gone
      hand in hand with zooming growth rates and hi-tech triumphalism.

      ยท Mike Marqusee writes a column for the Hindu; his most recent book is
      Wicked Messenger: Bob Dylan and the 1960s.



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