The country is remembering the shame and sorrow of Gujarat 2002 when hundreds of Muslims were massacred, maimed and raped in a state-sponsored orgy of violence. A colossal damage to property and ethnic cleansing of Muslims in village after village, taluka after taluka, town after town was, quite obviously, part of the larger picture.
A committee of retried High Court judges called it genocide. Being some of the best legal minds in the country, they knew what genocide means.
The state, ruled by BJP, was seen as complicit in this crime of monumental proportions. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre shirked its responsibility and gave the state chief minister Narendra Modi a free hand to do what he liked. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, instead of dousing the fire, which was his constitutional responsibility, stoked it by saying that the train burning at Godhra had led to the state-wide pogrom.
Vajpayee, to his eternal shame, said, had Indian Muslims condemned the Godhra attack, the Gujarat killings would not have occurred. It was a blatant lie: Indian Muslim leaders of all shades of opinion had condemned it strongly and unequivocally. Vajpayee’s statement echoed Narendra Modi’s “action-reaction” perspective on the issue. Modi’s infamous remark, backed by Vajpayee’s lie, implied that the Godhra attack was carried out by Muslims.
There were, and still are, too many holes in this hypothesis. The fact remains that everything, from train attack to pogrom was pre-planned in the boastfully proclaimed Hindutva laboratory of Gujarat, as repeatedly asserted by other leaders of the Sangh like Ashok Singhal and Parveen Togadia, to name just two out of dozens of them.
All this occurred under BJP rule in the state and at the Centre. Even relief material was not allowed by the government to reach victims. All access to help was closed by a largely compromised police force and administrative machinery. Even the courts in the state failed to deliver justice and in a great departure from the usual practice, the Supreme Court of India ordered shifting of crucial cases to courts outside the state.
The last ten years have been hell for Muslims in Gujarat. However, to their credit, several civil society organisations, almost all of them led by Hindus, got up to fight the evil and help its victims, often risking their lives, careers and property before a vindictive state. Hats off to those great souls.
Our thanks and gratitude are also due to some of the honest police and administrative offices of the state who have stood firm in the face of state vendetta and continued injustice. They are the best of humanity. Our salutes to them. Also to a sizeable section of Indian media for their uprightness.
The fight for justice is not over. The guilty have not been brought to book. Narendra Modi and his government are still harassing and intimidating victims and upright officials. The victims have not got their compensation and the perpetrators are still being protected. Justice is being sought to be obstructed, averted and even aborted, at every step. This must be resisted and justice brought to the victims.
It is not surprising to hear Sangh-affiliated journalists and assorted commentators saying on TV and writing in print that Muslims should forget the excesses and move on with life.
Muslims have tried to, and succeeded in, building their lives and their houses again, all on their own, often despite official obstruction. However, the great crime would not be forgotten before the perpetrators are sent to jail and their political overlords say sorry publicly. Forgetting Gujarat 2002 is the first step towards having another pogrom. For all that we can see the next Hindutva laboratory is coming up in Karnataka, being assiduously built by men like Muthalik. This must no succeed. A repeat of Gujarat 2002 must not be allowed anywhere in India. For that it is important to punish the criminals of Gujarat. No more pogrom. Never again.