December 5, 2007
Shri N. Gopalaswami,
The Chief Election Commissioner,
The present chief minister, Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi has reportedly used a blatantly communal angle in his speech at Mangrol in South Gujarat on December 4, 2007, saying that “Sonia Gandhi spoke of terrorism. But she has no right to talk of this the Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But it should explain what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms?? You tell me what should be done?” and the crowds reportedly shouted back, “kill him kill him”.
Sir, we believe that this is an open exhortation to violence, an illegal act by a person seeking re-election to a powerful and responsible position in the state. It also amounts to an Unconstitutional and Unhealthy attitude in a leading politician in a polity. We also believe that this amounts to blatant misuse of religion for political ends and is violative of the Election Code of Conduct since indirectly Shri Modi is only referring to ‘Sohrabuuddin’ a Muslim was killed and not of the manner in which his wife, Kauserbi, an innocent was killed as also was Tulsiram Prajapati, and Mahendra Kadhav, Ganesh Kunthe (in other incidents of encounters) . In any case, an illegal act by agents of the state (Modi and his chosen policemen) is illegal regardless of who the victim is and which community he/she hails from. To equate and justify a criminal act with a particular community is nothing short of introducing communal politics in the electoral arena and fomenting hatred against a section of our people.
Sir the Election Code of Conduct, Rule 1 (2) and 1 (3) in General Conduct clearly mentions this.
Thirdly, the crude stance of Shri Modi is contrary to what the state of Gujarat has stated on affidavit admitting the illegality of the killing of Sohrabuddin (the rape and) killing of his wife, Kauserbi and the similar illegal encounter killing of Tulsiram -all by policemen commandeered to do so!! in the Hon’ble Supreme Court indicating that Shri Modi is resorting to both desperate and unhealthy measures to garner votes. It also means that either the state of Gujarat is misleading the apex court, or the chief minister is so far veering from the truth to make cheap electoral forays!!
Fourthly, of the officially admitted 21 encounters in Gujarat between 2003 and 2007, in which 5 Hindus were also killed it is emerging that grossly unlawful and unconstitutional means have been used. Therefore, can the CM of a state justify illegal murder lawlessness and extrajudicial killings?? Does his speech not just violate the rule of law enshrined in the Indian constitute but criminal law and the election code of conduct?
We urge that action should be demanded and taken against him for fomenting hatred and violence against a particular community . We urge action by the Election Commission in this regard.
Sir, Gujarat has had a legacy of sever communal strife and polarisation since 2002 when one of the worst ever post Partition genocidal carnages took place. Even today victims live like refugees in their own land. There have been no attempts by the state to re locate them with dignity. Today’s blatantly crude, desperate and communally surcharged speech of Shri Modi is an attempt to bring Gujarat back to the dark abyss of violence and polarisation yet again. It is also an attempt to win an election by foul means if not fair!! As the Constitutional body in charge of the state we urge the Election Commission to step in sharply and clearly in this regard.
December 6th, a day that will live in infamy. Fifteen years after the Sangh Parivar demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid aided and abetted by those in power, and goaded on by those who went on to become deputy prime ministers and the like, the event remains a scar on the body politic. It marks the violent entry of the Sangh Parivar and its fascist project into the corridors of political power culminating in the rise of a BJP led government six years later. December 6th and the organized killings that followed in Bombay and other cities throughout North India, made the pogroms of Gujarat 2002 possible – from the relative margins of the political consciousness, an ethic that valorizes fascistic brutality, hate-filled visions of power, and an aggressive desire to dominate and crush those demonized as cultural others came to center stage where it continues to exist despite temporary setbacks. Three years into supposedly ‘secular’ UPA rule, and there is still no hope for justice for either the victims of 2002, nor those of 1992.
Yes, December 6th, 1992 is remembered all over India by Sangh Parivar supporters as a day when their repressed feelings of inadequacy got a small jolt of feigned manhood. But it is also remembered by Muslims and secular Indians, as a day that will live in infamy, and a day in which the quest for justice and equality should be energized.
A brief report on a demonstration led by TN Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.
Around mid-day, it began. A stream of autos, motorbikes, and scooters with large black and white flags brought about a hundred slogan-chanting people from Nagore, a largely Muslim town, to the bus stand area in Nagai’s town center, in front of the courthouse. Here the caravan joined a couple of hundred people already assembled in front of the courthouse, as minivans and cars also brought in more people from other places. There were a large number of women who assembled on one side. Slogans were chanted, and after the loudspeaker jeep managed to navigate its way to the front of the demonstration at the polite urging of the organizers, the proceedings began. Several speeches followed interspersed with slogans.
Speakers reminded the demonstrators that their anger was against the Sangh Parivar and not Hindus. One speaker said Muslims sacrificed so much to bring freedom for the country and were yet treated worse than second class citizens in today’s India. There were several chants denouncing Advani, MM Joshi and Modi. There were also calls for rebuilding the Babri Masjid, and bringing the Sangh Parivar leaders and their foot-soldiers to justice.
A large police presence did not deter the demonstrators, and some of the police were also polite to demonstrators; one cop chatting with a man holding a TN-MMK flag smiled and asked him to raise the flag higher! After several speeches, the demonstration ended. From the intense passions visible in this demonstration, it is clear that December 6th will continue to be remembered as a symbol of the marginalization and oppression of Muslims throughout India.
Conspicuously absent was any contingent of leftist and liberal voices in solidarity. Nagai has a CPIM MLA, and the CPI has a strong, historical presence in this region and Thanjavur. Neither did the powerful DMK have any presence at the demonstration. Why did these parties not think it necessary to stand in solidarity with a significant part of their own constituency on an issue that they all theoretically agree on – the defense of secularism? It is this indifference that strengthens the view among Muslims that nobody but Muslims give a hoot about what is happening to them in this country.
A TOI report (reproduced below) hypothesizes on why Modi justified the killing of a Gujarati Muslim businessman, Sohrabuddin, and his wife, Kauserbi.
On Monday, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi owned up to killing Sohrabuddin, saying he “got what he deserved”, to packed crowds at a rally in Mangrol, in south Gujarat. Within 24 hours, on Tuesday, the issue — an emotive one and seen as a return of the communal agenda — vanished from his speeches as he addressed rallies in central Gujarat, including Godhra.
But, this was no aberration: There is a method in Modi’s apparent madness. While in rebellion-ridden Saurashtra or Surat, where he has failed to cast a spell, he threw the Sohrabuddin bait; but once out of rebel strongholds, he bypassed Sohrabuddin and talked in general terms about terrorism.
In short, Sohrabuddin was the rallying point in places where Leuva Patels have risen in rebellion against Modi, and which didn’t see much bloodshed, post-Godhra. He resurrected Sohrabuddin, the man his government branded a terrorist and killed in a fake encounter, according to its own admission before SC.
Sohrabuddin’s dead wife Kauserbi has become Modi’s biggest weapon to fight the Congress/ rebels with, who are now fighting on Congress tickets mainly from Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Modi knows only too well that development won’t sell in these parts because the rebels have already burst his development bubble.
Places like Visavadar, in Junagadh, where a Keshubhai Patel man is fighting on a Congress ticket; Wadhwan in Surendranagar where rebel BJP MLA Dhanraj Kella is contesting as an Independent; Jamnagar and Mangrol in South Gujarat, are the places where Modi has told the crowds how his police killed Sohrabuddin. His speeches usually end with a submission: “The Congress is ruling at the Centre, it can hang me!”
But watch him in Panchmahals — where the intensity of riots in 2002 has ensured a clear polarisaton and there’s no sign of dissidence — and Modi is back with his tirade against terrorism, aimed a wooing back the estranged VHP members.
Social scientist Achyut Yagnik seems to concur:
In the 2002 elections, Hindutva forces were united. But during the past five years, three shades of Hindutva emerged — hardline, Modi’s own brand and soft Hindutva. Modi carried on with Gujarati pride factor for a long time, but he has now realised that his development plank is not working and he would have to speak the language of the hardliners. After all the cadre are mostly hardliners.
A few weeks ago, the Tehelka expose shocked many when Baju Bajrangi enthusiastically described slitting pregnant Muslim women. Now, by justifying the cold-blooded murder (archive) of a Muslim couple, Modi has once again shown himself to be no different. More suave than Bajrangi, of course, but that’s about it.
While the Arun Jaitleys of the Sangh would rather have Modi fulminate on Mohammad Afzal, Modi understandably preferred something local that he could take credit for. With the likes of Uma Bharti calling him a pseudo-Hindu, what better way to buttress his Hindutva credentials than asserting that his hands are bloodied? And now that he has been forced to back-track by the Election Commission, he has volunteered to hang Afzal!
Blood and gore are constant companions of Hindutva, more so in election times.
In the case of Sohrabuddin et al, the Gujarat government had admitted (archive) in the Supreme Court (on March 23, 2007) that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that the encounter in which alleged LeT operative Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed in November 2005, was a ‘fake’. Two months later, Gujarat Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri’s report on the fake encounter pointed to the collusion of [the] State government in the form of Shri Amit Shah, MOS for Home and noted that the episode makes a complete mockery of the rule of law and is perhaps an example of the involvement of [the] State government in a major crime. (Also see the Wiki page and the chronology on NDTV)
Modi’s audacious claims on Sohrabuddin need to be seen against this backdrop:
“What should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition ?” Modi reportedly said. “You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin ?… Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”
It’s almost as if Muslims are guilty until proved innocent, and if killed, guilty by definition. That he could whip up communal frenzy portends an ominous future for Gujarat:
He managed to whip up such a communal frenzy with his words that the crowd begin to chant “kill him, kill him” in response to Modi’s question on what should have been done to Sohrabuddin.
And when the people shouted “kill him”, Modi said: “Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission to do this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”
As the elections approach, NRI sanghis have sought to aggressively market Modi as a visionary leader who has been subjected to malicious propaganda. The more enterprising ones even wear Hindutva as a badge of honor. Unfortunately for them, the likes of Modi and Bajrangi continue to reveal the seamy side of Hindutva. Ratan Tata might want to invest in Gujarat — You are stupid if you do not invest in Gujarat, he allegedly said (archive) — but can Muslims live free from fear in Gujarat?
Even as Modi continues to stoke the Hindutva fire in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, his Sanghi buddies seem to have put behind their differences and ensure his re-election. A VHP press release dated Nov 21, 2007, which surprisingly has not made it to the Net yet, reads:
The Standing Committee of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in a meeting held at New Delhi, on November 21, 2007 declared the position of VHP with regards to the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The meeting was presided over by Shri Ashok Singhal. Also present in the meeting were Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Shri Vedantamji, Dr. Pravinbhai Togadia, Dr Maheshbhai Mehta (Global Coordinator) and 35 other members. All the members present in the meeting expressed unequivocal support to Hindu forces in the coming elections leading the pro-Hindu candidates to a landslide victory, giving crushing defeat to all anti-Hindu candidates.
The VHP further emphasized the need to keep Hindu votes undivided ensuring stable governments in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and give a befitting reply to the anti-Hindu and “So-called Secular” forces.
Mahesh Mehta, listed as Global Coordinator of the VHP, is a founder and past President of the VHP-America (archive). That the VHPA works in close coordination with the Sangh in India should come as no surprise, despite VHPA’s claims to the contrary (archive):
Though inspired by the same ideals as those followed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Bharat, VHP of America is distinct, legally separate and operationally independent Non-Profit organization in its own right within the USA.
Hmm, operationally independent perhaps means the contrary in Sangh-speak. All said, I think VHPA still has some wiggle room left. It’s not clear whether Mahesh Mehta is still a VHPA officebearer, so it could possibly — if need be — distance itself from the PR (and Modi). Of course, it’s not as if the media is keeping tabs on the VHPA, so this instance of cross-border Sanghi coordination will most likely go uncommented.
Varanasi: A book fair was organized by National Book Trust, Delhi on Beniabaug Grounds. Some publishers were displaying and selling books that were anti-Hindu Dharma, denigrating Hindu deities, saints and Holy Scriptures. Devout Hindus came together and protested against these publishers. A book titled “Ramayana, a new perspective” was burnt under the leadership of Swami Jagajeetan Pandeya, Secretary of Akhil Bharateeya Dharma Sangh as it hurt religious sentiments of Hindus whereas some books were thrown away from the book fair and the book sellers were warned to destroy such books.
Some book-sellers were deliberately displaying books with titles like “Rati-Purana”, “Ramayana- Ek Naya Drusahtikon”, “Hindu Dharma ke Padabhrashta Tulsidas”, “Tantra-Mantra-Yantra”, “Hindu Sanskruti”, “Sree Krushna Aur Unaki Geeta” etc. There was furor among Hindus all through the city as they came to know about such display and sale. There were protests in different parts of the city in various manners against this incident. Shri. Balendu Shekhar Tripathi of RSS and Shri. Gulshana Kapur of Shiv Sena visited the book stalls and checked such controversial books. They also brought this matter to the notice of City Magistrate. 13 anti-Hindu books were confiscated and ban was imposed on their sale. Workers of BJP – Youth Wing burnt effigy of Ramaswamy and a book written by him titled ‘Sachchi Ramayana’ since it insulted Sree Rama.
When police arrested agitators, the organizers of the book fair were expressing apology to them instead of taking action against them.
[BJP celebrates its southern debut, proclaims a recent Organiser article. The celebration proved shortlived however, as it couldn’t muster enough support in the Karnataka Assembly and ended up recommending President’s rule (which was duly imposed). Here’s a rather humorous exchange compiled by Rediff]
B S Yeddyurappa (BSY): This is the worst betrayal of my life. I was cheated at the last moment.
H D Kumaraswamy (HDK): What betrayal? The JD-S had only asked him to discuss certain issues, which he did not bother to do.
BSY: They were upset that I was trying to do something good for the state. I had taken a couple of decisions as the chief minister, which they objected to.
HDK: Nobody is against development. What was the hurry is all I ask? He could have waited till he proved his majority. This was a coalition government and it is necessary that partners are consulted before any decision is taken.
BSY: As chief minister, I had announced the clearing of Below Poverty Line cards and cycles at subsidy. What was wrong? Did I have to wait to take these decisions?
HDK: Yeddyurappa should not forget that it was I who suggested both the initiatives when I was chief minister. Yeddyurappa had said that it was not possible and we had had several altercations on this issue.
BSY: In my budget as the finance minister, I had done so much good that I think the JD-S was insecure about. I had announced a loan waiver, loans at 4 per cent for farmers, banned both arrack and lottery.
HDK: When this budget was announced, I was the chief minister. Yeddyurappa had said that it is just not possible to waive loans or give loans at such a low interest and ban arrack and lottery. He said the state would reel under a financial crisis. I convened a meeting with the officials and ensured that all this was possible.
BSY: The JD-S said they would give us unconditional support and all of a sudden they seemed to have all the conditions.
HDK: You call these conditions. These were only guidelines. We were not trying to catch the BJP by the horn. If the BJP had abided by these guidelines, it would have done more good than harm to them. When the JD-S said all disputes should be resolved through the respective leaders was there anything wrong? You know what problems I faced during my tenure. I did not want Yeddyurappa to face the same problems.
BSY: Does not Kumaraswamy and his father, Deve Gowda, know the history of this country? Everything here is based on trust and despite this they wanted the BJP to sign on a document sheet stating that we abide by the conditions.
HDK: Why is he talking about the document paper? Ask him who started this trend. Before going to Raj Bhavan, it was the BJP that came out with the terms and conditions of running the government on a document sheet. They wanted us to sign on it. So what is wrong if we asked for the same?
BSY: How can the JD-S impose conditions on us? Who are they to decide on our portfolios? Why were they asking for Urban Development? What is so lucrative about the portfolio?
HDK: Yes, we did ask for Urban Development. But it was not to rob the state. We were only concerned about the people. All of you are aware that we were against the manner in which the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Project was being implemented. Over 3000 acre of land was at stake and the BJP was showing no interest in protecting it. The JD-S is committed towards this cause and hence to prevent any misuse of land, we asked for the Urban Development portfolio.
BSY: As a chief minister, I wanted to seek Gowda’s blessings as he is a senior leader and a former prime minister of the country. He told me to meet Kumaraswamy first and then go to him. What was the need to behave like this?
HDK: This is being blown out of proportion. Why is he making such a big issue? When the government was first formed it was the two of us who discussed everything. Now why was he trying to avoid me? What about his own party leaders who did not even bother calling on my father when they were in Bangalore?
BSY: What was the need to issue the whip against me?
HDK: Till the last minute, I was hopeful that Yeddyurappa would sit across the table and talk. Certain conditions were necessary to be abided by. But that did not seem to happen and it was in the interest of the people of Karnataka that the whip had to be issued.
BJP leader Yeddyurappa is all set to be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Karnataka, in a culmination of the BJP’s biggest political coup in the South so far. A beaming Yeddyurappa took time off his busy schedule to grant an interview.
Q: What are your thoughts on becoming the Chief Minister?
A: I am delighted at this opportunity to serve the people of Karnataka. This is a victory for the common man, and in particular, all Hindus of Karnataka.
Q: Could you comment on your name change?
A: (smiling shyly) Changing names is nothing new in politics, where people often change political parties and money changes hands almost all the time. Atalji had changed his middle name from Bihari to Behari, and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had added an extra a just in time before the 2001 Assembly elections (which she won to become CM). Here in Karnataka, my predecessor Kumaaraswamy had added an extra a in his name and tasted political success. In light of this, and our political reversal last month (when JD(U) initially declined to support us), I began contemplating a name change. It was then that my astrologer suggested replacing the i in my name with a d. Thus, Yediyurappa became Yeddyurappa, and I’ve now become CM!
Q: What are your plans for the state?
A: My astrologer has advised me that Anugraha (Karnataka CM’s official residence) flouts some rules of Vastu Shastra, so my first task after being sworn in on Monday would be to redesign Anugraha. I’ve already discussed this with an architect friend from the party who has promised to finish the redesign in a month. Simultaneously, I’ll introduce a bill in the Assembly to demolish the adjacent Cauvery house. It has brought nothing but ill-luck to its occupants, and I wouldn’t want such an ill-omen in close proximity to my residence. (I hope the Tamil Nadu Government will not misinterpret this gesture as a coded message on the Cauvery water dispute)
We also plan to revolutionize the educational system in Karnataka. Murli Manohar Joshi-ji has kindly consented to preside over a newly constituted committee to design an astrology curriculum for students of all ages — from high-school to university.
Q: What are your thoughts on the communal situation in Karnataka?
A: Elections aren’t due until April 2009, so I’ve strictly instructed my partymen to not indulge in any large-scale violence against Muslims (and if they do, to at least not gloat about it to an outsider) for the time being.
Q: Your thoughts on the Tehelka expose.
A: I do not want to comment on it, it’s an internal matter of the sovereign state of Gujarat. I mean, the law will take its own course. This interview is over.
[Excerpted from an article in the Economic and Political Weekly by Neera Chandhoke, Praveen Priyadarshi, Silky Tyagi, Neha Khanna]
In his pre-election speeches, chief minister Narendra Modi repeatedly makes two firm statements. The first of these statements codes the suggestion that any comment or criticism, which continues to harp on the communal carnage that was visited upon the heads of the Muslim community in 2002 by members of his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other allied organisations of the Hindutva brigade, should be abandoned. These comments/criticisms, alleges Modi, remain far too preoccupied with the past. Apparently the past, for Modi, is another country. Observers of the Gujarat scene, he proposes, should rather look to the future, which promises to be a luminous one for an already “Vibrant Gujarat”, provided he is elected to power once again.
At stake here is a rather barefaced denial of history, particularly of the history of communalism in the state. This is simply bad politics, because as any first year student of political science knows, good politics is always constructed upon an awareness of history. Does Gujarat really want to hand over its future to a man who has such a lamentably short memory?
The second of Modi’s comments completely denies the existence of a rather deep Hindu-Muslim divide in the state. Modi insists that he himself speaks for, and represents all people in the state of Gujarat. However, “representation” happens to be a deeply problematic concept, and Modi who is in the business of politics, should be conscious of this. We as citizens of India, of which Gujarat is a part, must ask this question: can Modi even begin to represent the interests, or more precisely the pressing needs of that category of the population which his government has refused to recognise, or cater to – Muslim families who were displaced by communal violence in 2002? Are these interests fated to be unrepresented just because they do not fit into the self-representations that have been formulated and disseminated by Modi and his ilk for electoral purposes? In effect, Modi not only wants people to forget that the communal carnage of 2002 ever happened, he does not want to acknowledge that five years after the pogrom, the victims of violence still continue to suffer through the production and reproduction of different sorts of violence. Surely this is not the section of society that he represents, because if he was representing this section of society, as the chief minister of a state that ranks first in the country in terms of per capita income, he would have done something to ameliorate the terrible and inhuman conditions that these people live in.
Victims of Violence
Though a considerable amount of research has gone into documenting and analysing the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002, little work has been done on what happened to the people who survived. Where did they go? How have they reconstructed their lives? With the help of which agency? What has the state done for them? These are some of the anxiety ridden questions that our research team has sought to address, through an investigation of the resettlement colonies of Ahmedabad into which the victims of the 2002 violence have been herded. The answer to the last question is easy to negotiate. The government of Gujarat has done practically nothing for the people who might have managed to survive the pogrom, but who lost their family members, livelihoods, hearths, and their homes in the process.
That the victims of violence were herded into poorly funded and grossly inadequate relief camps is well known. In a short time, these camps were rapidly wound up, and the inhabitants, after being given pathetically inadequate funds as “compensation”; funds sometimes as low as Rs 1,200, were now on their own, thrown onto the mercy of a society that had proved complicit in the carnage, either actively or through studied silence. The state government, recognising neither the plight, nor the needs of the victims of communal violence, simply refused to take any action which would help these people to rebuild their shattered lives. At this point a few civil society organisations, predominantly the Islamic relief committee, stepped in to help people relocate and resettle. Some land was acquired on the outskirts of the city, and the victims were resettled in four pockets – Juhapura, Ramol, Vatva and Dani Limda. All of these “colonies” are on the periphery of Ahmedabad, and are poorly connected to the city where most of the jobs are generated. The 729 households that have been relocated in 15 such colonies in Ahmedabad have been displaced mainly from eastern Ahmedabad, from areas such as Naroda Patia, Gomtipur, Daria Pur, Gomti Pur, Saraspur, Bapu Nagar Jamal Pur, Rakhial, and other inner city areas that have repeatedly suffered from periodic outbursts of communal violence right since 1969.
But the legal status of the land upon which these shanty towns have been constructed is contested, because much of it is agricultural land. This has instilled dread among the residents that they still live in temporary settlements, which can be easily mowed down by the bull dozers of the Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC). Not only are most resettlement colonies remotely located from the city where jobs are to be found; they are far away from schools and health clinics that are an indispensable prerequisite of living a life free of oppression. In sum these displaced Muslim families are fated to remain outside the reach of all the amenities that a vibrant Gujarat might perchance offer to those who form an integral part of society and the polity.
It is clear that for the present government these families just do not form an integral part of Gujarati society and politics; they have been expelled both spatially and socially to the margins of the city. In these bare, stark, inhospitable areas, civil society organisations constructed rickety one room tenements, without water supply, without electricity, without access to internal roads because there were none, and without sanitation and sewerage for families. And it is here, in these barren spaces, that the victims of the carnage in Ahmedabad have been settled, and expected to begin their life anew, amidst even more deprivation that they faced in their original habitats.
Role of NGOs
Since the state government continues to be in the denial mode, non-governmental and other civil society organisations have stepped in to support the victims of communal violence. Notably whereas a small group of such organisations has done a commendable job in resettling victims of communal violence, and it is because of their concerted effort that these people have been able to survive, a majority of civil society organisations have proved indifferent to the cause. The cloud of Hindutva obviously hangs heavily on civil society organisations. Post carnage, the relief work was carried out predominantly with the help of the resources of the Islamic Relief Committee (IRC) along with few more agencies such as Action Aid.
The role played by some of the civil society organisations has been highly commendable, and the victims are all praise for them. Organisations like Aman Biradri and Jan Vikas, for example, have waged a long battle against the indifferent attitude of the state agencies towards the victims of communal violence, and the issue of the relocation of these victims. The documentation carried out by some of these organisations has gone a long way in exposing the callous attitude of the state towards victims of violence, and in fixing responsibility. It is with the help of these organisations that displaced families have been able to press for their rights, and put their demands before the government at the local level. That the plight of these victims has not been subsumed completely in the state-sponsored din about “Vibrant Gujarat” and the benefits of globalisation is due entirely to these organisations.
For instance, on February 1, 2007, the Antarik Visthapit Haq Rakshak Samiti, Centre for Social Justice and ANHAD, along with some other organisations conducted the “Convention of the Internally Displaced” in Gujarat. Thousands of internally displaced households gathered in the convention, and demanded “recognition, reparation and rehabilitation”. Discussions on several issues and problems such as livelihood of the internally displaced, discrimination, exclusion, and economic boycotts, police intimidation, the problems of the children, youth and women of this category highlighted several crucial issues. The convention was successful in exposing the lie of the state government’s claim that the rehabilitation of “riot” victims had been accomplished. The convention also provided the victims with a forum where they could share their troubles and come together to fight these predicaments. Apart from the demand for the provision of basic amenities and livelihood, the convention suggested forcefully that there should be a national policy for rehabilitation for people displaced due to communal violence.
One positive outcome of this convention was that the Election Commission recognised that the inhabitants of these colonies should get election cards even though they could not establish residence, simply because they have not been given the required documents by the agencies that have relocated them. The second positive outcome is that there is hope that these families will be given BPL ration cards, even though they cannot render proof of residence, such as sale deeds, rental receipts or electricity bills.
However, private initiatives in resettling such massive numbers of the displaced cannot substitute for state action. For one, given the limited resources at the disposal of these agencies, relocation has been partial and insufficient, and falls well short of the requirements of the residents. Neither the poorly constructed houses, nor the pathetic state of facilities and services, can give the victims a sense of security, or a feeling that they are being compensated for a major lapse of justice. Secondly, since the colonies are a product of initiatives by non-governmental organisations, they are obviously not in accordance with the “city plan”. The victims of communal violence continue to pay for the sins committed by others in 2002, because the status of these colonies as unplanned or unauthorised, gives the civic agency a pretext to deny basic amenities to the inhabitants. Thirdly, the land on which colonies are constructed is privately bought, in most of the cases by the Islamic Relief Committee. This does not help either. According to city authorities these lands are “not for residential purposes”, and purchase of this land for residential use is not legal. This breeds trepidation and uncertainty among people, who have lived amidst fear most of their lives.
Two more consequences should be noted here because these are of some import. One, the manner in which the victims of violence were relocated, and the non-response of the state when it came to the pressing problem of looking after citizens who have been rendered jobless and homeless for no fault of their own, has led to new kinds of conflicts and tensions within colonies. Bagh-e-Aman in Vatva area is witness to one such tension. Here 12 families were relocated from various parts of the city which had witnessed intense violence. Rehabilitation was accomplished through the collective efforts of the Islamic Relief Committee, private initiatives, and the people themselves. However, some people who belonged to this area had rebuilt their lives after the communal violence, mostly on their own, and without any external support. Now they face the odd problem of not being recognised as “relocated” in the same way as the 12 families, which have been rehabilitated with outside help. Even as the state agencies have been forced to take cognisance of the 12 relocated families because of litigation in various courts, they refuse to recognise other affected households as displaced. As a result about 100 households are deprived of government schemes or compensation. Consequently these households do not even have voter identity cards.
Secondly, our research team discerned a rather troubling development in these colonies. Since the state has refused to step in to rehabilitate the displaced, Islamic organisations have provided the major chunk of resources for the purpose. For example, the land on which victims have been relocated was mostly purchased by these Islamic organisations. But the land deeds remain with the IRC, even after families have started to live in these colonies. As no land entitlement has been given to the victims, people believe with good reason that they live in semi-permanent relief camps, that they are dependent upon other agencies, and that they have not really been rehabilitated. There have also been instances where the IRC has put its own set of conditionalities on people, if they want to live in these colonies.
Most of these problems emanate from the conflict of priorities of the victims and civil society organisations on the one hand, and the IRC on the other. Residents told us that the IRC prefers the construction of mosques to health clinics, madrasas to schools, and that the organisation insists on dress codes for women, read purdah. The residents, on the other hand, are more concerned about incomes, health, and education for their children. In general, there is some evidence that the IRC has been trying to influence people to abandon their traditional life practices, and follow rigid and doctrinaire versions of Islam. This is the natural outcome of state fundamentalism and neglect of religious minorities; for when religious civil society organisations step into the vacuum, they are likely to extort their own price for helping people. Fundamentalism always breeds counter-fundamentalism, and it is the lives and the futures of ordinary people that are at risk here.
Vibrant Gujarat, For Whom?
The plight of riot victims in Ahmedabad, and in Gujarat in general, raises some very critical questions about the state of democracy in Gujarat, and the capacity of the present leadership to represent the concerns of the ordinary people, irrespective of their religious denomination. As the state prepares for yet another assembly election, the pathetic condition of the majority of people who were hit by communal violence in 2002 begs many questions. For one, can Narendra Modi speak of a “Vibrant Gujarat” when a substantial numbers of its citizens live in want and despair? Secondly, why have political parties such as the Congress not taken up this issue? Is this due to the fear that they will lose the “Hindu” vote? Will the Congress Party that proclaims copyright over secularism really make common cause with BJP leaders who led the communally charged mobs in 2002? And if so where do people who have been wronged for no fault of their own, go? Do any of the political parties who are contending for power in Gujarat, but who are supremely indifferent to the plight of minorities, have an answer? It is election time in Gujarat, and elections are meant to hold the ruling classes accountable for their acts of omission. It is time that the electorate in the state judges the government for what it has not done for the marginal sections of society, and not what for it has done for the already privileged.
[This study forms part of the Cities Component of the Crisis States Programme of the London School of Economics and Political Science.]
It has been proved beyond doubt by the Tehelka investigations into the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat that Narendra Modi, the then Home Minister Gordhan Zadaphia, the then Ahmedabad Police chief P. C. Pandey actively colluded in killing Muslims and planning their mass murder and destruction of the property. The Chief Minister, Home Minister and their whole administration not only planned, provoked and encouraged the massacre of Muslims and destruction of their property but also ensured that mass murderers and rapists got a safe hiding.
Active subversion of the fundamental principles of secular governance is a continuous and running theme in the Gujarat governance as has been comprehensively demonstrated on camera that all the arms of the state of Gujarat willingly abdicated their constitutional responsibility to safeguard the life, liberty, dignity and property of the citizens even after the killings, rapes, loot and destruction subsided. What is even more reprehensible is that the whole system of Judiciary stands exposed as it has been claimed by the government counsels that the judges at different levels were actively subverting the course of justice.
The Tehelka tapes present incontestable evidence of the involvement of state machinery in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. It captures several confessions including that of:
- The state prosecutor Arvind Pandya who stated that the mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat should be celebrated every year as a victory day and that Every judge was calling me in his chamber and showing full distance… the judges were also guiding me as and when required… how to put up a case and on which date… because basically they are Hindus sympathy for me… giving full cooperation to me, but keeping some.
- Maza aata hai na, saheb [I enjoy it]… I came back after I killed them, called up the home minister and went to sleep — Babu Bajrangi
- Another confession came from Babu Bajrangi who stated that to get me out of jail, [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi changed judges thrice.
- Yet another MLA acknowledged that Modi gave him three days to do whatever violence they wanted.
We the undersigned endorse the above statement are calling upon the The President of India, The Chief Justice Supreme Court, The Election Commission and The Prime Minster of India:
- The immediate dismissal of the Narendra Modi administration and imposition of President’s rule in Gujarat.
- Cancellation of the present election dates as elections cannot be held in Gujarat in the present circumstances.
- Requesting the Election Commission to ask the Supreme Court to constitute a CBI probe under a supreme court judge and if there is prima facie case then BJP should be barred as a political party.
- Govt of India should sign the Genocide convention and Modi needs to be tried by a tribunal
- The immediate arrest of the all criminals who have confessed their crimes in the Tehelka tapes.
- RSS, VHP , Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena be declared unlawful organizations and a high level enquiry under the aegis of the Supreme Court of India be set to uncover the designs of these organizations whose top leaders have proudly claimed on camera that they were involved in rapes, looting, making of bombs, rockets.
- Re-investigate Nanded bomb blast case and following bomb blast cases where activists have pointed out the involvement of the RSS. Now there is clear evidence on tape that the Sangh is involved in large scale Bomb making exercise and killing innocent people.
It is a test case for the Indian state and if the Supreme Court and the Central Government fail to act they would sow a seed of destruction of secular polity.
and many more
Why is this newsworthy? Because the Sangh is admitting the truth! Here’s an excerpt from the Outlook interview.
Question: On January 29 this year, you had removed Modi from the BJP’s highest decision-making body—the parliamentary board. At the same time Arun Jaitley was removed as chief spokesperson of the BJP. Did you act under RSS pressure or advice?
Rajnath: The media made too much of it. These were routine changes. Okay, the RSS was consulted. In Modi’s case it was 70 per cent RSS and 30 per cent my decision. In Jaitley’s case the responsibility was 50:50.
As pointed out by the Times of India,
The statement undercuts the denials by both BJP and RSS about the latter’s involvement in the party’s decision making. While organically linked, BJP has preferred to keep up the pretence of autonomy vis-a-vis Sangh, while Sangh itself professes disinterest in the affairs of the party.
Here’ s the rest of the TOI report (all emphases mine):
The Sangh leadership was, naturally, not amused by the statement which can be a weapon in critics’ hands. Approached by TOI, RSS leader Ram Madhav said, “He has to clarify what he means by 70% and 30%. Decisions are taken by the party. You can consult anyone including the RSS, that’s a normal practice, but on what basis do you say that the decisions were taken by the Sangh… of course there is a possibility that he (Singh) may have been misquoted.”
The controversial statement comes in the aftermath of the perception about RSS getting increasingly involved in the routine affairs of BJP under the current leadership. Singh took over the party’s reins from L K Advani who was asked to step down by Sangh leadership because of his controversial remarks on Jinnah.
Advani had made his displeasure known by complaining about Sangh’s bid to micro-manage party affairs. While his protest did not evoke much support, the perception about Sangh’s interference has led to heartburn.
While no one has gone public, it is only because of the reverence for senior Sangh leaders. Murmurs against RSS functionaries who have been imposing their choices have been on the rise. Their role has been called into question also with regard to the recent UP polls. Party circles lament that while they have got the flak, Sangh functionaries who interfered at every stage have gone unscathed.
If the RSS is not happy about an open acknowledgment of its relationship with the BJP, Rajnath’s statement has got to be retracted, right? This is exactly what the BJP has done. Here is its letter to Outlook, reproduced in full:
Dear Shri Mehta,
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its National President are deeply distressed over the cavalier manner in which your magazine Outlook (dated 06 August 2007) has published the interview of Shri Rajnath Singh ji. The interview contains certain statements which he never made, his observations have been deliberately distorted and quoted out of context and there is a palpable attempt to maliciously convey a negative image.
It is evident that there appears to be a motive behind this distortion and the fact that the interview of Shri Rajnath Singh ji was given in Hindi and has been published in English; has been conveniently manipulated and distorted to suit this purpose. In particular, I would like to emphasize that Shri Rajnath Singh ji never made the uncharitable comments or statistical reference in the decision making process against his party colleagues and the two senior leaders of the party Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri L K Advani. Many of the observations about the RSS were either not made by Shri Rajnath Singh ji or have been quoted out of context.
The party would like to place on record its contradiction and condemnation of the objectionable manner in which your publication has gone ahead and distorted the interview.
(Ravi Shankar Prasad)
I can only hope Outlook recorded the interview, and can call the BJP’s bluff! If your appetite hasn’t been whetted yet, here’s another juicy excerpt from the Outlook interview (all emphases mine).
Question: Your critics say that some RSS leaders have begun to have second thoughts about your leadership and that you will be nothing without the RSS…
Rajnath: The media is really trying to create a story. The RSS is united and does not have factions. I am loyal to the RSS and it backs me completely. I have worked for the Sangh from my early youth. I have propagated their ideology from the beginning. Yes, you are right I would be nothing without the RSS.