Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Gujarat 2002 : A turning point in modern Indian history?

(This was written for India Today's special issue : 30 Years : Turning points in recent Indian history. An edited, sanitised version appeared in the December 26, 2005 issue)

Imagine Gujarat in March 2002. What if the bloodthirsty mobs in Baroda had found Irfan Pathan or Zaheer Khan? What if Mohammed Kaif lived in Naroda Patiya, Ahmedabad? Would there be a resurgent Team India now? Or what if Sania Mirza’s home was Gulberg society, where ex-MP Ehsan Jafri was not just brutally killed, but according to eyewitnesses, “even his body could not be found, just some bones and other parts”? What if Ustad Bismillah Khan was a resident of posh Paldi, home to the prestigious National Institute of Design and the ransacked Delite Apartments? Would his shehnai have been silenced forever and his home reduced to ashes? What if Ustad Zakir Hussain had a home in Gandhinagar? What if...

“We do not want the Muslims to shift to Pakistan. They can live here, as a part of our family, like our brothers, but like younger brothers. They must learn to respect us as there are 800 million of us and they are only 150 million” - Retired Professor Ghanshyam Joshi of the Pavagad VHP, swaying gently on his swing explains his final solution very nicely, during one of the many conversations I had with him in 2002 while shooting my film. Somehow his words are more chilling than the rabble-rousing speeches I first heard from Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Ritambara in 1990-91 and a decade later from the surgeon-turned demagogue Praveen Togadia. The next day, one of his party workers explains even more gently – “we just want these Muslims to first shift out of Gujarat and then we will see what to do with them”.

At the Don Bosco school in Ahemdabad, between 350-400 Muslim children are asked to leave. Their teacher, Pramod Kumar Kul, is very matter of fact – “they weren’t good students, just interested in somehow finishing school and then learning spray painting etc”, summarily dismissing all those young kids who had giggled and smiled the day before while talking to me about becoming a doctor or an engineer or a teacher. At the ‘National School’ inside a ghettoised part of the city, seven-year old Shahrukh Khan, though has different ideas – “ I will study and join the police as then I’d be able to help people during riots”. Little does he realise that in Modi’s Gujarat, you are most likely to get a punishment posting if you happen to discharge your constitutional obligations to try and curb the slaughter of innocent women and children. Ask R B Sreekumar or the SPs and DCPs shunted out of Kutch, Bhavnagar, Banskantha and Ahmedabad city’s zone 4. Innuendos and insinuations triumph – but isn’t anyone interested in giving us the truth behind the gory deaths at Godhra?

Much of the Gujarat violence is justified in the name of the 59 people who died inside coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express. But the late Jyotiben’s family - husband Bharat Panchal and daughter Shefali do not want any revenge to be taken in their name. Dr. Girishchandra Rawal, retired government servant, who lost his wife, tells me Godhra should not have been used during the elections - “Religion should never be mixed with politics, that’s the cause of our recent troubles”. He then asks me a question – “Railway is a government body. Wasn’t it their duty to protect passengers?” Certainly, Dr. Rawal, more so because media had reported trouble along the Sabarmati Express route a couple of days before the Godhra incident. The Faizabad-based daily Jan Morcha, specifically published a report about violence at the Rudauli station in UP. Intelligence agencies had echoed these concerns. Yet, Nitish Kumar, Advani and Modi failed to bolster security for the train and its passengers along the entire route. Reinforced RPF presence inside the train and on platforms would have helped save the 59 karsevaks who died and prevent the manhandling of Siddiq Bakar, the tea vendor and the 16-year old Sophiya Sheikh at the Godhra platform, the two incidents that triggered stone pelting at Signal Falia. Yet, does any of them emulate the former Railway Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, own moral responsibility and resign?

The Ministers and MLAs deny any involvement in the genocidal violence; yet their cellphones mysteriously make their way into Naroda Patiya and sites of other massacres. Senior Ministers are found directing police operations inside the Police Control Room to ensure their ‘mobs’ have immunity and in some cases, active help from the cops. The MP from the Gandhinagar constituency does precious little to contain violence in his own constituency. He also happens to be the Deputy Prime Minister and the country’s Home Minister at the time. On election results day in 2002, Advani looks into TV cameras and comments on the BJP election campaign – “I think it is unique that the party decided not to raise the Godhra issue...because we did not want to create that kind of climate...it is remarkable”. Just a few days earlier, I shoot a speech by Bhupendra Singh Solanki, the BJP MP from Panchmahals. Says he – “This election is not about development...the issue is Godhra...Everyone knows that even in America, England and Delhi!” The Congress remains silent, though there is both scope and precedent for legal action – after all, Bal Thackeray was disenfranchised on similar grounds! Hindutva ideologues first deny any horrific violence, then deny state complicity and finally deny their cynical exploitation of the Godhra tragedy for electoral gains. Haren Pandya, the only Minister from the Modi government to testify before the Citizen’s Tribunal provides some insights into the State’s involvement in the carnage. He is shot dead a few months later, under what can only be euphemistically termed as “mysterious circumstances”.

Report any of this and earn the sobriquet –“enemy of Gujarat” or “human-rightswallah-out-to-defame-Gujarati-asmita”! NDTV’s coverage of the carnage so infuriates Modi that he orders a black out of their signal for several days. “60 Hindu girls abducted from Sabarmati Express” headlines a prominent Gujarati daily on Feb 28, 2002, fuelling sexual violence against Muslim women, only to retract the report a couple of days later in a tiny paragraph buried in the inside pages. Modi personally expresses his high appreciation for the newspaper’s restrained coverage in the ‘best traditions of journalism’; Times of India, Indian Express and other national dailies do not receive a similar letter of commendation from him.

Prof Bandukwala, whose home was destroyed by the very people who invited him to deliver the Savarkar Memorial lecture on Feb 26, 2002, tells me – “Gandhi was an accident that happened to Gujarat”. I attribute it to anger and despair, but it sets me thinking – Would Bapu have embraced Modi as the “chhotey Sardar Patel”? Could the Mahatma have ever imagined that the gates of his Sabarmati Ashram would be shut to those who sought shelter at the height of the carnage? What would he have thought of his Congress – of some of its members equally complicit in communal attacks, of its president who failed to visit her own ex-MP’s home, the site of his brutal hacking or of the myriad ‘intellectuals’ who failed to raise their voice against Moditva? Would he have been proud of Vali Gujarati’s flattened mazaar or Ustad Fayyaz Khan’s desecrated tomb? Of the kathakars and Godmen who failed to condemn the killings and preach peace? Or of Mallika Sarabhai’s persecution? Or the Gaurav Yatra?

At the karsevak anniversary meeting on Feb 27, 2003 in Pavagad, the local leader exhorts the crowd – “Buy only from Hindu shops, use only Hindu rickshaws and raise saffron flags from your shops”. He has police protection! In village after village, Muslims are unable to return home, their shops and fields taken over by people who should’ve been behind bars for driving them away in the first place. In cities and towns, informal ghettos have sprung up, children speak of being afraid to cross the ‘border’ to go to their schools. Would Mahatma Gandhi himself have been safe in his own Gujarat?

So, who do the people of Gujarat turn to? A partisan Legislative? The Executive – IAS and IPS officers - intent on serving its political masters – the very same bunch of IAS and IPS officers who crawled when asked to bend, barring a few notable exceptions? Or that last bastion of hope - the state Judiciary?

According to the Editors’ Guild report on the Gujarat carnage – “Two serving Muslim Judges of the Gujarat High Court, Mr Qadri and Mr Akbar Divecha were threatened and had to flee their homes. The residence of one was attacked and burnt. A Hindu brother judge who offered him a safe haven in his own home was reportedly the recipient of threatening calls”. A senior lawyer insisting on anonymity speaks of hindutva in the Judiciary and cites examples of many BJP or VHP sympathisers appointed as public prosecutors or judges in the last decade! I attend a trial at the Godhra court – a courageous Muslim woman has decided to seek justice for the horrific rape and killing of her daughters. An ace lawyer, an ex-BJP MP, represents the accused. The Public Prosecutor, an erstwhile partyman, seeking justice on behalf of the Muslim woman as her lawyer hasn’t seen it fit to even meet her though she is a key eyewitness! Later, many of us read the Gujarat High Court’s remarks against Teesta Setalvad and Mihir Desai with a mix of horror and resignation; thankfully, the Supreme Court expunges them. Still later, the Zaheera Shaikh drama is played out, the SC steps in again and terms her a “liar”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh created history by apologizing to the nation for the 1984 anti-sikh carnage during his speech in the Parliament. But, honestly, do you see M/s Sudarshan, Advani, Togadia and Modi apologizing for the genocidal violence in Gujarat? Instead, they speak of janadesh – the peoples’ mandate; Modi is now flying high on the back of his triumph in the Ahmedabad municipal elections and his earlier sweep of the Gujarat assembly elections. But does an electoral victory legitimise evil? After all, Hitler did win the German elections!

Former Prime Minister Vajpayee preached rajdharma to Modi, but himself shunned all advice to practice what he preached, deliberately ignoring counsel from the President of India. Said the late K R Narayanan in March 2005 in an interview to Malayalam monthly Manava Samskriti – “I met him personally and talked to him directly. But Vajpayee did not do anything effective…I feel there was a conspiracy involving the state and central governments behind the Gujarat riots”

Can politics of hate and intolerance be the basis for the creation of a harmonious society and a robust democracy? Is Gujarat 2002 a turning point in our recent history? You decide...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am speechless, although i am not surprise to read what you wrote it was obvious what happened but it is saddening to read it again..

thank you for writing it and keeping the humane feeling alive in my heart


6:43 AM  
Blogger janak chandarana said...

well said..
very true...but in 2002 people were much ignited
and i had seen thier eyes..
its scary..

4:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah! A great attempt by you to emotionally blackmail the innocents by distorting and selectively hiding the Islamic barbarity; and completely ignoring the extreme provocation for Hindus to retaliate, just once in the last 1200 years.

A few questions remaining unanswered!

What if Muslims had not killed millions of Hindus in the last 500 years?

What if Jinnah had not asked for a Muslim homeland and all Indian pre-47 Muslims have been proud of being Indians?

What if Muslims have not converted all Muslim-majority area into ‘Islamic Republics’ while demanding the non-Muslim regions to remain secular?

What if Muslims can live in harmony with their Kafir neighbors at least in one small region of the world?

What if Babars, Gauris, Temurs and Gaznavis had not raped thousands of Hindu women and converted their offspring into Pakistanis?

What if Dhimmis like you don't try to provoke the otherwise non-violent Hindus by blaming them for all evils despite being victims for centuries!

Nope I can’t blame you!! You are a product of hundreds of years of Hindu slavery and Islamic tyranny. A few more decades and after 1-2 generations, these genes of dhimmitude and slavery, so evident still in some Indians like you, would be diluted enough to see the murderous sect of Islam for what it really is! Americans have already recognized the curse of Islam. Europeans and Russians are in the process of realizing so. Chinese, anyway, treat their Muslims the most appropriately. India would also get there in a few decades. We have put up with centuries of Islamic barbarity; we can wait for a few more generations!

Till then, happy blogging!! After all, a man is nothing but a vehicle of his selfish genes!!

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well disclosed facts. I believe humanity still prevent in india. I am surprised how people are blemming muslims for burning s-6 coach. Why the godhra train enquiry was not made public ??many of the reports after enquiry carried out by private agency revealed that fire was due to the explosive matterial carried with the kar sevak of course because of stone pelting furied by crowd. Over all we should think why this haapend ?? It was initiated by some kar sevak who tried to molest a local seller's poor daughter. And in the last I want to ask this anonymous guy if u feel u are right why then you are anonymous . You should speak in front of the public.
VHP Raped many womain because it is in their agenda that do not get married and and fulfill your need by raping innocent womain. You can see live examples yourself like modi and vajpayee etc ..

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous....
R u an Indian or Modi's rightwing??
If I had a GUN, definitley you will be one on my list along with Sudarshan, Advani, Togadia, Modi, and the long list continues.
Religion...!! Dont u indians have shame to talk about all these issues?
I am a Christian bcoz im born to it. I have no control over it..so is the case of all Hindus and Muslims.
But my point is this when are we goona stop identifying in terms of religion and start growing as a country.
If this does not happen, i Say its better to have a divided India where all the states can be independent.
Y make people suffer when the law of the land and the representatives of the people forget their own roles!

I am an Indian and I will rejoice the day when these fanatics of any religion for that matter, will die and peish.
That will be the day when we cherish our Great Indian dreams!
Love to all sensible Indians!

10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I forgot to identify myself!
I'm Sajay Mathew an Indian.
I dont belong to any religion on the earth but to the one called religion of love and peace. I will wait so long as it comes and prevails in the minds of all the Indians and the people of the world.

10:10 PM  
Blogger vijay said...

hey all .. are we indians really idiots in seeing the real picture and truth or the thoughts fueled by t so called protectors of our religions and country -- t dirty politicians makes us blind towards explicit truths ???
do we have to still live believing that these politicians r doing all these on the good being of atleast(!!!) any of the religion or section of ppl .. bt only to their own advantage ..
Do you ppl think that modi will adopt or atleast support 1000 poor hindu children because they are hindu's ???
Please try to understand they t politicians are thieves just trying to vandalise the nation .. they just need a mask ..
and here is one who talks about muslim rulers killing hindu women over t last 1000 years .. how do you people get in to such idiotic arguments ..
what ever you are mentioning are just the direct consequence of absence of democrary in those times ... and u r trying to link it to hindu muslim conflict ..
are you trying to mean that no hindu king or zamindar havent involved in a rape in that time..
we are now more secular .. we speak of human rights ... we speak of democracy .. then again .. but then again weeds like the one who writes about killings before 500 years rise up and talks about vengence ??

11:42 PM  
Blogger vijay said...

Do you ppl feel that only the temples .. the saffran colour .. the idols .. make up the hindu religion .. NO !!! its the way of life and the philosophy behind it and in particular of respecting others (let it be muslims or christians) .. and when some doesnt bother to follow this basic thing .. how do they claim to be hindus ... we should have good self image of us and in the same time never try to destroy the same of others !!

11:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Terror breeds terror.Politicians are laughing and looting the nation.Tomorrow,if Narender Modi finds another BJP/RSS/VHP party worker tries to become a hero,he will be mysteriously eliminated.Really,God alone can save this nation.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ anoying anonymous,
u are starting a cycle of revenge, giving the pathetic reason that theyve done it over last 1000 yrs n i agree wit vijay whn he says that v are leaving in a more civilised world today. besides why cant v treat the worng doers as individuals y do v hav to giv thm a religion coz whnever they kill hurt rape vandilize others they are not religious at the first place they do not understand wat is it to be riligious n its not religion but sum ulterior motive - political n financial or they are been provoked by other bigots to act to vandilize..........

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some 59 Kar Sevaks are ROASTED ALIVE in Sabarmati Express and you say "They Died....."..

Well Well Well......

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


it was sheer ignorance that was fanned by the evil minds of people who destroy peace.......

8:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm a 21 year old Mass Communication student from Christ University, Bangalore. We had a screening of your movie Final Solution today as part of a seminar.

My views on Modi and the Godhra riots were fed to me by news producing agencies. It was great to see something real and largely untouched for once. The VHP propaganda tapes were most interesting. :O

I did think that the documentary as a whole was made with the ADDED agenda of being a tearjerker - lingering cameras till victims hold their tears, etc. And that, in my opinion, TAKES AWAY the impact that you'd like the documentary to have on your audience. Just my opinion, I'd like to know what you think/were thinking.

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous is just another coward hiding behind his anonymity, just like the millions of his coward forefathers who licked the boots of even small armies of foreigners, in abject surrender. No wonder he supports the hindu mob mentality. Too afraid to fight individually like real men. This same mentality is seen in all the anti minority genocides perpetrated by these abject cowards, including the Godhra riots. The problem is that these misguided morons do not follow their own religious texts like the vedas and the upanishads which teach the same islamic fundamentals of a single God without partners or progeny.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous is just another coward hiding behind his anonymity, just like the millions of his coward forefathers who licked the boots of even small armies of foreigners, in abject surrender. No wonder he supports the hindu mob mentality. Too afraid to fight individually like real men. This same mentality is seen in all the anti minority genocides perpetrated by these abject cowards, including the Godhra riots. The problem is that these misguided morons do not follow their own religious texts like the vedas and the upanishads which teach the same islamic fundamentals of a single God without partners or progeny.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Jinan said...

Respected Sir,
Just finished watching your creation, Final Solution. Hats off.. Really makes sense .. It really depicts the how hatred is getting injected by these peoples even in children. I really hope this documentary to be shown all over India, especially in schools. You have done a great job sir..Keep up the great work and expecting much more sensible works from you.

6:58 PM  

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