By TMO Editor in Chief, Dr. Aslam Abdullah
A man comforts a small child in the aftermath of the horrendous Gujarat riots.
The Special Courtâ€™s verdict in India in a case pertaining to the brutal killing of 95 Muslims in Naroda Patiya during the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 is a victory of the India that is, over the India that the murderers want it to be. It is a verdict against the Gujarat government led by the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and its leader Narendar Modi. It is a verdict against the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh, Vishva Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Shive Sena and similar outfits, who supported the bloodthirsty fanatics roaming the streets of Gujarat and killing â€œthe otherâ€ in the name of religion.
Visionaries like Teesta Setalvad, Mukul Sinha, Shabnam Hashmi and Harsh Mander, among many others, were the ones who never abandoned the path of peaceful justice–and ultimately the people got what they should have got immediately after the 2002 pogroms.
The Gujarat pogrom should have never happened. But they were planned in the evil minds of people leading the Hindutva movement. In a climate where revolt against caste Brahmins wasbecoming common, where people identified as lower castes were renouncing Brahminism and where the BJP was losing hope to ever come to power in Gujarat and India, the riots were conceived and planned as the only hope for the future.
No one can prove that they were planned. No one can produce evidence that meetings to organize mass killing ever took place, because whenever these evil deeds are planned there is no record, there are no memos, there are no written blueprints and, on the record, there is no such meeting. It is the oath of secrecy that matters. Thus, the true story of the Gujarat riots will not come willingly.
The way mobs were mobilized, the kinds of weapons the fanatics acquired, the manner in which the local police reacted, the style of the state leadership in responding to the news of the violence, the way religious clergy instigated people from religious institutions over public broadcasting systems, the manner in which the state officials behaved, and the slogans the fanatics used to incite mobs, clearly indicate that everything was pre-planned. There were people who knew what to do, when to do it, whom to target and how to target.
The BJP knew the culprits and Narendra Modi knew the instigators–because he rewarded many of them, in fact one of them was made a minister and his close confidante.
What was done in Gujarat in 2002 is exactly what even Hitler had not conceived in his dreams. Had Hitler had the mind of RSS and the skills of Modi, his Reich would have survived even today the same way Modi, RSS and BJP have survived.
There is no justification for these parties and their leadership to remain a part of a democratic fabric. Just as Hitlerâ€™s Nazi party would never be accepted as part of the pluralistic culture of our world, the BJP and RSS, the VHP, the BJP and leaders like Narendra Modi should never be accepted as leaders of the nation.
But fanaticism makes people blind and forces them to commit acts that only evil minds can commit. Gujarat, regardless of its claim of being a state of peaceful people, demonstrated that in 2002 and its refusal to acknowledge and accept the evil and seek forgiveness clearly demonstrate the level of arrogance of its leadership. Every Gujarati, no matter, what religion he or she comes from, has to take the responsibility for the blood thirsty fanatic who surpassed all limits of cruelty. After all, the people of Gujarat are the ones who put BJP and Modi in power.
A party like BJP does not belong to Indiaâ€™s secular fabric. A leader like Narendra Modi does not belong to the league of leaders. Yet, both are thriving and dreaming of leading India. Regrettably, they might one day, who knows! It is easy to incite masses to violence. It is easy to destroy human life and property. It is easy to shed blood in the name of religion.But it is challenging to stand for human dignity, human life and respect for all. It is difficult to recognize the humanity of the other.
The court verdict against the criminals is a statement of hope and courage. It is a life affirming act. It reminds each one of us that if people stand for the human dignity, truth and justice and ignore the differences they have created in the name of God and religion and caste and ethnicity and nationalism, the worst evil forces can be defeated and brought to justice.
So let us at least put our demands on the table.
1. Modi government must resign as it shielded the criminals and rewarded them with a ministry in his government.
2. BJP should be punitively reprimanded for sheltering murderers and criminals in its leadership ranks.
3. Modi must be banned for life to hold any public office.
4. Criminals must be given the exemplary punishment so that future murders might learn some lesson.
But there are some other steps that are also needed.
Muslims must actively participate in the political process of the country identifying with elements that are secular and supporting those who stand for the rule of law. They should fearlessly work for the common good of all and not just Muslims. Rather than begging for their rights, they should be seen as people standing for justice and truth. In every state, they should initiate programs to develop alliances with people of other faiths and ethnic groups. Even after living in India for thousands of years, there are psychological and social barriers between Muslims and other religious communities. They must be broken down by holding each others hand for the common good of common human being regardless of the religion or caste. That requires a dynamic and bold leadership and Indian Muslim community is capable of producing it.