Debating India


Cracking India


Thursday 18 September 2003, by DESAI*Darshan

Article paru dans Outlook India, ?dition en ligne du 12 septembre 2003.

In our rush to ’crack the case’ whenever an atrocity takes place, aren’t we forgetting that we perhaps are widening the cracks between communities that are becoming unbridgeable?

Coincidences in Gujarat somehow happen with religious regularity. On the same day when investigations into the attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar were taken away from the Anti-Terrorist Squad of the Gujarat police and given to the Crime Branch that the latter picked up five persons from old Ahmedabad and said they had cracked the case, which for the last many months was getting nowhere.

It was also on the same day that two key accused persons in the Godhra train attack case retracted their statements. It was on the basis of the statements of these two persons that the Gujarat police had invoked POTA and arrested the Godhra cleric calling him the chief conspirator. The police had claimed they had cracked the case.

In 24 hours of the Gujarat police claim that with the arrest of the five persons the Akshardham case was cracked, the Jammu and Kashmir police came up with a different version and a different name to be involved in the attack, who it seems, has nothing to do with the five arrested.

So, who is right, the Gujarat police or the Kashmir police?

Similarly, the Godhra case stands on its head with the two key accused retracting their statements before a court. What do we make of this?

But let us not go into these questions, for Gujarat, for the past over a year, has become so hopelessly opinionated that every objective question into these issues immediately gets branded as pseudo-secular babble. While one has learnt to live with the allegation, there is also the realization that free speech is getting increasingly muzzled under the guise of democracy. While that is also fine for one has the option to keep quiet, one dreads the result of this process.

It is simple to understand, which is perhaps why it is so difficult to accept. The Mumbai police were asked to account for their failure to prevent the blasts there, but the Gujarat police didn’t face any questions for failing to prevent the Akshardham attack, bang opposite the Raj Bhawan and the Ministers’ Enclave in Gandhinagar. There were intelligence reports of Muslim youngsters, who lost their families in the post-Godhra killings, itching for "revenge" and therefore available for recruitment in terrorist set-ups. Instead, the intelligence official, who said this as well as pointed out that the speeches during the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra were incendiary, was shunted out.

Today, the Gujarat Government itself agrees that Muslim youngsters from the state were being trained by terrorist organizations. National BJP president Venkaiah Naidu has said in a recent newspaper interview that angry youth in Gujarat are being trained for revenge killings.

It is crystal clear that the violence post-Godhra, which was also not prevented, was a "revenge" for the Godhra train incident. Or at least "explained" as that in the action-reaction Newtonian terms. It is also clear that the Akshardham attack was a "revenge" for post-Godhra violence. Or at least disguised as one and similarly sought to be "explained" (as indeed is the case with Mumbai blasts) Should the people of Gujarat now wait for a "revenge" for the Akshardham attack? And thereafter, should they wait for a "revenge" for that "revenge"? And should we continue to hear politicians saying ’they will intensify their campaign against terrorism’? The politicians were not able to prevent the two attacks — Godhra and Akshardham — on their own turf, but should we still believe there is a campaign against terrorism? Is it not the other way round?

The reality is that there is a campaign of terror and we are unable to do anything about it.

Should we not wait and ask why was a so-called Gujarat ’revenge force’ set up? Like it or not, it is abundantly clear that the recent Mumbai blasts are sought to be connected to the politics of communal hatred played out in Gujarat, starting with the barbarity at Godhra, none of which can be rationalised away. Revenge knows no reason and no boundaries. Forming of such a "revenge force" should be severely condemned, but in exactly the same way as the collecting of an undeclared revenge force to avenge Godhra.

It comes handy to cite Kashmir when cornered with uncomfortable home truths. But can Gujarat be compared to Kashmir? And the issues there? And if yes, do we want Gujarat to become another Kashmir? Like Kashmir, do we wish to create a situation conducive to terrorism in Gujarat? The example of Kashmiri Pandits is often cited to defend the killings of Muslims. Nobody reasons that militancy in Kashmir has not seen any religion. It has killed Hindus and Muslims and, for the record, more Muslims than Hindus. It hurts to speak in such communal terms and say ’more Muslims than Hindus’, but this is the language the master communal dividers understand.

Also cited is the gruesome and despicable massacre of Sikhs in 1984 to argue that it was not condemned enough because it was the handiwork of the Congress. Does that provide with a justification that the killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 should not be condemned? Should it mean that if Sikhs were killed, it is fine to do the same with Muslims? In fact, all the human rights organizations in the country in 1984 had severely condemned the anti-Sikh riots and even recorded evidence. So it is absolutely wrong to say it was not condemned ’enough’. Now, the demand is that if the Best Bakery case is re-opened, why not the Sikhs case. Yes, why not? But, why is it not being re-opened? The same party rules in Gujarat and at the Centre, and who can prevent them from re-opening it?

There will be a time when the vast majority of people in Gujarat will realize the implications of falling prey to the politics of communal hatred, and I pray they do so before it is too late. Our icon in Gujarat is Sardar Patel, who strung principalities and fiefdoms together to make India a lustrous necklace. If we wish to be recognized hailing from the homeland of the Sardar, should we not remember that he united India? Or do we wish to undo the Iron Man’s efforts?

The choice has to be made, and quickly.

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