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April 23, 2018

The Thesaurus Of Unloving | Shiv Visvanathan

Outlook Magazine
30 April 2018

The Thesaurus Of Unloving
In the brutalities that the Bakarwal child suffered till she died, we need to see the battle of hate against the moral emptiness of democracy

Shiv Visvanathan


The psychologist, Bruno Bettleheim, who was a concentration camp survivor, once wrote of a psychologist who went to interview Adolf Eichmann. The scholar found his own questions inadequate, unable to meet and match the mundanity of the man in front of him and the enormity of his crime. The psychologist claimed he felt less normal than Eichmann after interviewing him. Innocuous, trite, replete with cliches, Eichmann demanded a different level of analysis. He behaved as if his hate had been sanitised into a management mac­hine and violence transformed into a question of productivity and technique. Eichmann’s hate and violence represents the rationalisation of violence that has become impersonalised and technocratic. The violence we are discussing today is less sanitised, individualised, still brutal, embodying a pin cushion of frightening emotions. The chronicle of Kathua demands a different narrative to comprehend the folklore of hate underlying it.

One senses Bettleheim’s consternation and perplexity in the writings of journalists covering events such as riots, lynch mobs or gang-rapes in India. There is indignation, shock and professionalism in the detailing of events and excesses, yet despite some stark reporting of brutality, the story of hatred is inconclusive and incomplete.

To describe hate, one also needs to be a ­botanist of emotions, reading hate like a special species of inhumanity.

Hatred, as a social scientist told me, demands to be a thrice-told narrative. Firstly, one needs an ethnography of detail, which has to go beyond the mimicry of a self-styled Guinness Book of Excess. Secondly, one needs a theory providing insights and even requiring a sense of new possibilities. Yet theory cannot restrict itself to the bureaucratic and the political. One has to return to the moral foundations of the society and confront hatred with the nomos, the axiomatic requirements of a good society. The task is difficult because hatred has a mundanity and an epic character to it, an anecdotal feel and yet an enormity of intensity and scale, which makes it incomprehensible. How does one describe hate? One needs to be both a philosopher and botanist of emotions, reading hate like a special species of inhumanity.

Recently, I was reading Martin Buber’s great classic about the wonders of a face-to-face relationship, where the great philosopher develops the contrast between the reverence, the aesthetics of the I-Thou relationship and the indifference of the I-It relationship. Hate is that no man’s land and every man’s land between the borders of reverence and the boundaries of indifference. Even Buber, for all his eloquence, was not able to comprehend the distance between Jew and Arab, caught in the ethnocentricity of valorising a settler’s mentality over a nomadic community.
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Hatred is one emotion where the self cannot do without the other. It is almost as if an exaggerated ontology, a being of the other, is needed to construct the self, no matter how impoverished. One has to deconstruct it like a detective novel, connecting attitudes, motivation and the acts of violence, where Kathua is text, pretext and context for an analysis of hate.

Holocaust

Adolf Eichmann
Photograph by Getty Images

Kathua shows that hate always needs a penumbra of other emotions—of contempt, suspicion, misunderstanding and hyperbolic insecurity—to thrive. In that sense, for all its single-minded focus, hate is a many-layered emotion, needing a thesaurus of feelings to articulate it. It has an alchemy of its own, an attitude embodying violence embodied in stereotypes (ethnic), ideologies (class enemies) and institutional rituals like lynching or jehad. It is an attitude to a stranger, the unwelcome other—a response to a real or imagined threat that can be a mere construct. For example, in Rwanda, the difference between Hutu and Tutsi was marginal, but minor differences were exaggerated by a hyperbolic memory, which triggered genocidal violence, eliminating almost a million people. It confirmed the Shakespearean dictum in Macbeth—“the nearer in blood, the nearer bloody.”

Hate is both belief and ritual, a framework of categories for distancing and stigmatising the other, and “rituals” that channelise violence, stoking hatred like a perpetual fire. Yet for all its exaggerated power, there is a banalisation of categories needed to sustain the everydayness of violence—the everyday emotions of suspicion, distrust, envy, without which hate is powerless. The language at a social level is mundane, regardless of the personal intensity of individual emotions. Secondly, the emotions can be ersatz. For example, studies of Partition chronicle a strange difference between the feelings of original victims and the attitudes of the second generation. First-generation victims are more complex. They feel injustice, regret and loss, and a lost love for a home. When a visitor came from Karachi, the original survivor would rush to enquire about his home or his favourite sweet shop. It is the second generation, which consumes Partition without experiencing it, that feels hate in an abs­tract, ideological and genocidal sense. In fact, it is this category that supplies the willing perpetrators of the RSS, the BJP and the VHP—the real practitioners of sustained hate.

In the case of Kathua, one sees an articulation of border fears, an exaggerated fear spread by BJP propaganda about the fertile Muslim des­troying the demographic balance today. It is the Hindu fear of Malthusianism directed against the Muslim, who is also nomadic, pastoral and not quite fitting the civics of development, creating a double alienation, where the other is both alien and unfit to be a neighbour. What looks like a powerful labyrinth of stereotypes becomes a magnet for the vilest emotions, like lust, rape, torture—a distance from the other that feels no guilt, that eliminates all responsibility and, in fact, becomes an example of a machismo of violence that seeks to displace or eliminate the other, in this case, Bakarwal pastoralists who are also non-sedentary and Muslims.

In a double sense, hate both depersonalises and demonises. Yet it is the economy of hate that is critical. Hate always needs redundancy and exc­ess. It is a need that is perpetually unsatiated, where a notion of limit is an unacceptable taboo. It is both surprising in the new brutality it inv­ents, and yet a sense of stereotype and herd int­ensity makes the perpetrators appear more like Pavlovian dogs, salivating predictably and gleefully at every signal. By stigmatising the other as victim, the perpetrator has already exonerated himself from guilt and doubt, combining a sense of being both agency and vehicle, visualising ind­iscriminate violence as a pedagogic act, where the other has to be brought in line with the ­imagined self. A woman has to be disciplined for her dress, a Dalit warned about imitating dominant castes, and an ethnic group taught to recognise its­elf as a lesser order of being. The pomposity and righteousness that follow acts of hate violence alm­ost assure the perpetrator that society sees him as a hero, a warrior for a cause. Lawyers tried to block the filing of charges. The mob in Jaipur raised hosannas to Afrazul’s murderers, which made them sound as if they were honouring a hero.

When society, politics and bureaucracy connive in such an act, we induce a death of conscience sandwiched between alienation and anomie (normlessness). These murders won’t produce Shakespearean soliloquies of doubt or the need for redemption, but just messages of self-congratulation. Every official governmental response promises a return to law and order, but rarely a moral order. Governments, whether Modi or Mufti, app­ear like a Rip van Winkle uttering clichés bef­ore returning to a clerical passivity. When Modi speaks, there seems to be no difference between the language of moral order and a promise of higher productivity. The rhetoric of development and the violence of the current state become more a paradigm for sanitising or ideologising hate than a search for the moral order of a good society.

There are moments of distraction or diversion in the narrative that we must be wary of. The brutalisation of Asifa occurred in a temple and often before engaging in the sheer redundancy of rape, the perpetrators would engage in rituals placating some god. It was as if a modicum of prayer added to the legitimacy of rape. Not all these acts should be confused with occult rituals because occult was an attempt to challenge the secular consciousness with a rereading of the relation between magic, science and religion. Such superstition as in Kathua is almost promoted to a tantric legitimacy. Yet the very idea of such possibilities opens one out to the relation between hate and evil, because occult as a pre-Freudian consciousness captured this canvas of evil, as hate gets ritualised. Language thus becomes a critical form of understanding hatred, but language too can be deceptive. Hate can be a flat land of distances or a valley of specific differences. One has to learn to decode it. I am reminded of a story that I read in an essay by the psychologist Carl Jung.

Jung recounts a visit by the great Irish writer, the wonderfully inventive James Joyce. The aut­hor of Ulysses brought his son along and talked excitedly about latter’s command of language. Jung listened patiently and then told Joyce that while his writing revealed the power of language and its perpetual inventiveness, his son’s vocabulary was symptomatic of schizophrenia. Kathua captures this schizophrenia of hatred. Hate, for all its demonic power, lacks convincing poetics. All it can contain is the corrosive power of violence and stereotype. In fact, as one replays the conversations of the perpetrators or even the language of lawyers hysterical about defending them, all one sees is a mediocrity, a overblown pettiness, where vice as a habit is ordained as virtue. One wishes media reports were more fine-tuned to the mediocrity of language in hate, without confusing it with the intensity of animosity and hatred.

Yet when we think of an alternative, we must rea­lise that tolerance and secularism as antidotes will not do. Tolerance is too passive and secularism almost empty today. One needs a pluralism that is dialogic and a language that can challenge the stereotypes of the procrustean frames of modern state, racism, ideology and nationalism, many of them 19th-century consolidations that need 21st-century exorcism.

Holocaust

Jews being rounded up by the Nazi SS in Warsaw, Poland, 1943
Photograph by Alamy

The analyst needs to heal his own professionalism before he steps in. In fact, one has to add that politics and bureaucracy add little in terms of moral responsibility, though they might add to a regulatory frame. One needs to create a Dur­kheimian frame, where hate is read as a social fact permeating the individual, as a symbolic order of reality that imprisons the other in perpetual otherness. One needs a holism that goes beyond itemisation or a symptomology. One needs the moral risks of a dialogue that dissolves borders and distances to capture the truth of difference, separating genuine doubts and fears from an ­epidemic of virulence.

Democracy is still a long way from inventing these experiments. Maybe it’s not social science or clinical psychology that we need, but a rethinking of moral and ethical foundations. What we are confronting is the battle of hate against democracy’s moral emptiness. One has to find wisdom not in social science, but in folklore, the cosmology of people, and search for a thorough-minded resolution, which has to be reworked repeatedly.

Mecca Masjid Dargah acquittals point to a disturbing trend - Editorial, The Times of India

The Times of India

Mecca Masjid Dargah acquittals point to a disturbing trend

April 17, 2018, 11:58 am IST in TOI Editorials | India | TOI
The acquittal of Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast due to lack of evidence has highlighted the ineffective role of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in cases related to terror attacks targeting Muslims. The five acquitted are associated with a right-wing organisation Abhinav Bharat which has been linked with similar cases like 2006, 2008 Malegaon bombing, 2007 Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Sharif Dargah blasts.
Aseemanand has already been acquitted in the Ajmer Sharif Dargah blast case last year due to lack of evidence. The acquittal follows a disturbing pattern where key witnesses have turned hostile in related cases and NIA has chosen to remain a mute spectator.
NIA seems to have done a complete turnaround in pursuing these cases after the BJP led NDA government came to power. The premier agency has not been able to arrest any of the absconding accused in these cases since 2014. They didn’t even challenge the court’s bail order to two accused – Devender Gupta and Lokesh Sharma – in the Mecca Masjid Dargah case earlier. NIA’s defence is they haven’t been able to recover any material evidence related to the case.
This raises a bigger question mark on the efficacy of our investigation agencies where they have not been able to gather any concrete evidence for the prosecution in such cases. So far NIA has not been able to find clinching evidence against anyone guilty of orchestrating the Mecca Masjid Dargah blast. A government that cannot bring perpetrators of terror to justice doesn’t augur well for any democracy.
 

India: Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha on Communalisation of Politics in West Bengal

The Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 53, Issue No. 16, 21 Apr, 2018

Communalisation of Politics in West Bengal

Religion and the Public Sphere
 
Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha (anindya.purakayastha[at]knu.ac.in) teaches at Kazi Nazrul University, West Bengal.

The growing saffronisation of the Bengali public sphere, evident from the violent celebrations of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti in West Bengal, has raised the possibility of a murky manoeuvring of communal politics before the 2019 general elections. With the left and liberal public spaces having failed at addressing crucial socio-religious questions and the far right misappropriating and usurping these spaces, comprehensive critical engagement with the growing presence of religion in the public sphere is necessary.
Of late, West Bengal, along with Bihar, has been in the news for communal flare-ups in some districts where different communities have been living in relative harmony for long. With the left being a pale shadow of its former self in the state, the political void, caused by the virtual decimation of the “Left Hemisphere” (Keucheyan 2013), has been hijacked by shrill and belligerent voices on the right, hell-bent on hegemonising the Bengali “mindset” by using new icons of religious nationalism and a politics of the majoritarian culture.
Consequently, one can see the growing saffronisation of the Bengali public sphere with Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti celebrations being organised amidst violent political fanfare across different districts. This was seldom witnessed earlier in the state. This phenomenon of rabid politicisation of popular mytho-religious figures and symbols by the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began as a calculated electoral strategy in 2017 to galvanise the Hindu vote in West Bengal. This year’s Ram Navami celebration turned into a completely political arena where political parties vied with each other to claim greater allegiance to lord Ram.
Under the 34 years of the Left Front’s rule, the state had been turned into a red bastion where official participation in religious matters was completely discouraged. While the present ruling regime has been accused of resorting to “soft Hindutva” and “appeasement politics,” the overall ambience has so far been relatively calm and religiously peaceful. In spite of the communal riots in Bengal during the partition of 1947 and sporadic community feuds in some areas, West Bengal has not witnessed large-scale incidents of engineered religious hate-mongering. The overall general opinion in the country still holds that, for the Bengali bhadralok, it is culturally difficult to embrace any form of bellicose saffronisation as a form of politics. Nurtured as the bhadralok is in Tagorean and other traditions of syncretic liberalism, religious fascism, it is popularly perceived, would be culturally and politically repugnant to the average Bengali. To see children walking in a religious procession with swords, sticks, trishuls, and daggers in their hands in the name of Ram had been hitherto a totally unfamiliar sight.
For social observers, civil society stakeholders, political pundits, and academicians, it is indeed a challenge to decipher this growing saffronisation in Bengal’s public culture. What does it imply for the future of politics in Bengal? Has the bhadralok civil society tradition collapsed or is it slowly on the wane? Is religious nationalism a global trend that affects every corner of the globe (Bengal, therefore, is no exception), throwing serious challenges to the normative tropes of left–liberal–secular ideology? These are crucial questions for the future of postcolonial governance and citizenship rights.
In the wake of the BJP’s win in Tripura, according to a political commentator, the Bengali bhadralok would perhaps now gradually warm up to the right wing and the state would replicate the electoral trends as witnessed in Tripura in the next general elections in 2019. Notwithstanding the rhetorical posturing of its state leadership, even die-hard BJP supporters would take such political prophecies with a pinch of salt. However, for the advocates of progressive politics, there should not be any room for complacency and there is no denying that even if the much venerated argumentative Bengali public space continues to retain some of its liberal and syncretic moorings, there is yet something seriously rotten coexisting in the state, as the recent climate of religious vitiation has resulted in large-scale incidents of communal violence in the Asansol Raniganj region of the state, areas that are known for their industrial set-up, cosmopolitan culture and communal harmony.
The far right’s strategy of religious polarisation started in 2017 when communal tensions were incited in Kharagpur, Barasat and in Dhulagarh, regions of West Bengal which have a sizeable Muslim population. In Barasat, fake videos were circulated by right-wing groups to foment communal animosity. In both Barasat and Dhulagarh, the state government acted quickly and steps were taken to pre-empt further trouble. In 2017, Ram Navami celebrations were weaponised in Bengal for the first time by BJP members who were seen brandishing weapons, which was justified on the grounds that weapons and sticks were waved in Muharram processions. The ruling Trinamool Congress party in the state organised parallel Ram Navami rallies to foreground its own non-saffronised version of Hinduism, a move that has been widely criticised because such attempts of soft or counter Hindutva have proved to be dangerously counterproductive. The entire Bengali public space became polarised and religiously charged due to this competitive cultural populism. Subsequently, sporadic clashes were sparked off in various districts, resulting in a huge loss of lives and property, leaving behind a deep sense of a communal divide.
These events have also raised the possibility of a murky manoeuvring of communal politics before the 2019 general elections. What hitherto seemed a routine affair in places like Uttar Pradesh or Gujarat, seems to be taking root in West Bengal now.
One could offer a narrative account of how, over the years, the normative dynamics of the Bengali public sphere has been eclipsed and how this erosion of the civic–political space aided by a 24 × 7 commercialised media culture and nationwide normalisation of xenophobia has led to the gradual collapse of the remnants of the progressive left–liberal space that kept communalism at bay in Bengal for so long. However, it is heartening that prominent intellectuals in the state took out a rally in Kolkata on 8 April to express the message of brotherhood and communal amity in the aftermath of the Asansol communal carnage. Such rallies restore faith in the unique characteristics of Bengali culture, which usually shies away from all kinds of crude religious fanaticism. But, notwithstanding such laudable attempts, the canker of communal hostility has already set in. I would argue that comprehensive critical engagement with the growing presence of religion in the public sphere is necessary. Recent incidents of communal violence in Bengal clearly testify to how the left, during its long rule in the state, failed to effectively address the socius in its programmatic drive to attain political hegemony. [. . . ]

FULL TEXT AT: http://www.epw.in/journal/2018/16/commentary/communalisation-politics-west-bengal.html

April 22, 2018

India: “Saffron Inclination was Always There … But Not So In The Face As It Is Today” - Naseeruddin Shah

The Caravan

 “Saffron Inclination was Always There … But Not So In The Face As It Is Today”: Naseeruddin Shah Discusses Urdu and Saffronisation in Bollywood

By Rana Siddiqui Zaman | 22 April 2018
The veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah recently introduced a show, “Ghalib, Begum Umrao Ki Nazar Se,” conceptualised and directed by the renowned vocalist Iqbal Ahmad Khan, at the Siri Fort auditorium in New Delhi. The show, which told the story of the  iconic poet Mirza Ghalib through the eyes of his wife Begum Umrao, was an amalgamation of two Urdu storytelling traditions—dastangoi and ghazal gayaki. Before it began, Shah had a brief but candid conversation with Rana Siddiqui Zaman, a senior film and art critic, about the resurgence of the art of dastangoi, the usage of Urdu in recent Bollywood films, and the growing presence of saffronisation in the film industry. Shah observed that there was a palpable influence of saffron politics in the Bollywood industry, but emphasised that “no negative forces can ever dare to snatch my identity from me.” He added, “I am a proud musalmaan and a proud Indian.”

Rana Siddiqui Zaman: Dastangoi has more viewers today than ordinary plays. What do you think is the reason behind the revival of dastangoi and the fact that it has been widely accepted and appreciated by the audiences?
Naseeruddin Shah:
Dastangoi is the oldest form of theatre and is also close to my heart. Its impact was always powerful, so it had to come back. And see how it is faring on the Indian and global stage! Dastangoi is a good narration, not a mechanical joke. I don’t believe in technical magic and marvels on the stage. Simple camera angles, content-driven, text-oriented stories by the able playwright, powerful dialogues, flawless adakari [acting] do wonders on stage—not technically-produced grandeur. I get annoyed off by artificially-created lies on stage.
RSZ: How would you rate our musical plays?
NS:
Musical plays? Are there any?  Our so-called musical dramas are nothing but a fusion of stupidities. They make one singer hop from one place to the other, and sing. They insert a cabaret dancer in a corner and make her do vulgarity on the stage. They have no sense of dialogues to be delivered by the characters, which does not even match the actor’s voice, which also sings! They use backdrops of technical marvels, which says nothing of their own expertise of creativity in stage design. They don’t deserve to be called musical plays.
RSZ: There appears to be a sudden attention towards Urdu in recent days, with emerging festivals reinforcing the beauty of the language, increasingly frequent evenings of ghazals, and the revival of the dastangoi. What do you think is the reason for this?
NS:
Fascination for Urdu is not a bad idea. But one must be very clear about this thing—especially those who say that Urdu zabaan mar gayi hai; zaban to zinda hai aur rahegi [that Urdu language is dead; it is alive and will always be]—but it is not the property of Muslims. No one has a haq [right] over the language. Zaban ka mazhab se nahi, ilaqe se vabastgi hoti hai [A language is not associated with religion, but with the region]. Urdu will remain forever because it has that delicacy, that humility and that warmth, which enriches a language without anyone having to support it. It is a self-sustainable language. Issey hamdardi ki zaroorat nahi [It doesn’t need sympathy.]
RSZ: What is lacking in our Urdu plays?
NS:
There are barely any Urdu plays happening. [smiles] Our Urdu knowing playwrights now should write new plays in Urdu-Hindi mixed or Hindustani, instead of digging old graves.
RSZ: The few songs that use Urdu words today seem to do so without knowing its proper usage.
NS:
Yes, the fact is, Hindi films have done much harm to the language, especially for the past few decades. Where do we find words like baad-e-saba [the morning breeze], zulf [long hair], ghata [clouds] in today’s lyrics? Urdu se unki door tak ki koi vabastgi nahi hai [They seem to have no connection with Urdu]. Earlier, the censor board certificates used to have Urdu and Hindi both—now it is vanishing, Film titles, as shown in film posters and screens, used to be in Urdu too.
RSZ:  Several actors, directors and producers have told me, off record, that there is a sudden restlessness in the film industry, because of a visible divide due to the saffronisation in the country. Is Bollywood feeling the effect of saffronisation?
NS
: A polarisation out of a saffron inclination was always there. We always knew about it—boo toh aati hi thi [The stench was present]. But not so in the face as it is today—and it is far more dangerous. It is creating a feeling of restlessness among buddies in the industry. I would any day prefer a person who makes his saffron intentions clear to me, rather than keep on breaking my heart by subtle ways of expressing it—bas dilon par vaar na karey. But yes, I do feel it in the surroundings, much more than earlier, and among people we have lived and worked with.
RSZ: Does it anger you?
NS:
Of course. Bohot si baton par bohot ghussa aata hai [A lot of things make me very angry]. This is my country and I am proud of it. Let them [saffron forces] change what they want. They are already changing history, institutions of art, culture and literature, attacking the language, making films a useless and silly vehicle of propaganda, and what not. Do I care? Two hoots. Instead, I laugh it off. I don’t want to be seen or understood as a victimised Muslim. I am not. I can never be. No negative forces can ever dare to snatch my identity from me. I have absolutely no identity crisis.  I am a proud musalmaan and a proud Indian. No one can dare try to tell me who I am, or where I should have been. If anyone dares, he will have to fight with me first—main ladoonga. No one in the film industry, or otherwise, dares to show his saffron colour to me and compare it with me and my beliefs.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Rana Siddiqui Zaman is Delhi-based senior film and art critic.

India: Harsh Mander on Kathua rape case, solidarity with the minorities, and on becoming a society that is 'intoxicated'

Outlook Magazine

‘Not Sick, We’re Intoxicated, It Is Like A Heroin High Of Hatred’

Social activist Harsh Mander on Kathua rape case, solidarity with the minorities, and on becoming a society that is 'intoxicated'.
‘Not Sick, We’re Intoxicated, It  Is Like A Heroin High Of Hatred’
Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Harsh Mander, social activist and former bureaucrat, started the Karwan-e-Moha­bbat last September to reach out to victims of hate crimes. In an interview with Pragya Singh, he says if India doesn’t have leaders like Mahatma Gandhi we will have to find courage to foster love and fraternity ourselves. Edited excerpts.
Why does the Karwan-e-Mohabbat exist? What does it aim to do?
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The Karwan was a call to solidarity and atonement against the mounting sense of fear among minorities and our lack of response to it. Muslims in particular are experiencing a high degree of fear and marginalisation. Muslim mothers are telling sons not to say ‘salam aleikum’, grow a beard or get into a fight, such is their insecurity. Hate speech is being normalised, as is prejudice against Dalits and there are attacks in tribal areas against Christians. I felt that we have to reach out to our brothers and sisters to tell them that they are not alone, that we care and seek forgiveness, for we are collectively responsible but unable to prevent this.
In Kathua, a young Muslim girl has been raped and murdered and criminal proceedings are mired in the language of hatred. What explains this?
I hope the Kathua case is a turning point. It’s distressing that it required something like this horror before we outraged. Overall, the silence of the majority needs to be questioned.
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What explains the silence?
First, people are frightened to speak; and there never has been this kind of fear of speaking out in dissent. Secondly, people don’t care: ‘I am not Muslim or Dalit so how does it affect me?’ The most frightening reason is that people share these sentiments of hate, so they have actually outsourced to the mob the work of acting out their hate.
The degree of hatred is unprecedented. Why is this so?

“The majority is silent also because many share sentiments of hate, and have outsourced to the mob the work of acting out their hatred.”
I had never thought a day would come when I would compare us unfavourably with, say, the American people. Yet, Trump came to power and within a week passed an order against people from seven Muslim countries. Within hours, people gathered in airports, put up posters saying everybody is welcome, that ‘we are all Muslim’ and so on. Young lawyers set up legal aid centres, ordinary people visited Muslim neighbours in support; actors, professionals, spoke out. I don’t see us collectively expressing this kind of sustained outrage and opposition.
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Could the outrage of a few have prevented the crime in Kathua?
Hate is not a problem only of the victim. We are all affected, more so those who watch but don’t act. Take Afrazul’s killing in Rajsamand. The Karwan went to the killer’s (Shambhulal Regar’s) house to und­erstand what motivated him. He turned out to be a young man who had a small business which collapsed after dem­onetisation. Thereafter, he sat at home and watched hate videos, getting primed (for the crime). He wanted to kill some people only because they were Muslim. Even this little girl in Kathua—her only crime was that she was Muslim. I was struck by how in Rajsamand nob­ody responded to Afrazul’s killing. The Karwan called a public meeting with the Hindu community, asked people if they at least worried about a boy of 14 (a Hindu) who calmly filmed a man being hacked and set on fire. So the hatred is enormous.
And how did people answer that  pointed question?
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There was a slight stirring, but overall I have found in our journeys—we have been to ten states now—a kind of abs­ence of any conscience or compassion in the majority community. The kind of outrage I would expect of humans has dried up. Earlier, people would reach out after riots. Today, the poison that has been injected into the veins of our society is toxic, heady and addictive. Hum log ek tarah ke nashe mein hain—we are intoxicated with hate. It is a crisis of huge proportions that we are not ack­­no­­wledging.
Have we become a society that is in some ways sick?
Yes. More than sick, the metaphor is ‘into­xicated’. We are on a heroin high of hate. Illness or intoxication, both can be resolved if we recognise them. To find our capacities to love again is our biggest battle.
Right now, who is afraid of whom—Hindus of Muslims or Muslims  of Hindus?
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I am convinced that this is not a battle of Hindus and Muslims. The battle is between the minority—those who use religion for divisive hatred—and the maj­ority, who respect all faiths. But as time passes I keep worrying if we are still the majority or becoming a minority. We have to remain the majority or we lose everything.
And one manifestation of hate is the kind of violence perpetrated on the girl in Kathua?

“Along with police, there is pressure on victims from within the community. Muslims say fight for justice will bring more persecution.”
In lynching after lynching, the hatred is extreme. Even in Asansol, the imam’s 16-year-old boy was not just killed but his body was returned with nails pulled out, eyes gouged, with multiple stab wounds and partly burned. In Nagaon, people said that two young boys were cow thieves and the mob lynched them. Again, the bodies were returned with ears cut off, mutilated. In Bengal, three lynched boys’ genitals had been crushed. Kathua is an illustration of what kind of hate this is. We are outraged by the ministers and lawyers, but it is not the first instance. In Akhlaque’s case, a central minister draped one of the alleged killers in the national flag.
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Who is responsible for spreading hate? Are we re-enacting pre-existing animosities or is this something new?
We are seeing a hate fostered, generated and legitimised from the highest levels. India Spend, in a survey of cow-related violence after 2010, found that 97 per cent of attacks had happened after Mr (Narendra) Modi came to power and 86 per cent of them are against Muslims, eight per cent against Dalits. With leaders like Trump, Modi and others, their politics and personalities represent hugely divided societies but they also reflect, legitimise and amplify prejudice and hatred in their politics, public utt­erances and in their selective silences. These leaders didn’t create that hatred but they have legitimised it and given us the freedom to act it out. It means that deep in our souls we were carrying this hatred and these leaders have dug a deep tube-well that allows it to spout out. Communal organisations like the RSS and its associates have created this hatred over generations and we have not fought back as a society.

Photograph by Jitender Gupta
Why is it important to fight this?
If we go on like this, future generations will ask what happened to us as a people, why we remained silent. My German friend told me that her 12-year-old has a school project to find Jews killed in his area and do a report. We have also been through Partition, in which a million people died. Have we dealt with what hatred did up to that time? We have not. Hatred has been allowed to fester. The so-called secular political parties are culpable too. The Congress is selectively silent on this mounting hate. Parties which claim to be sympathetic to Muslims, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, believe that app­easing clerics and giving Hajj support to imams is supporting the community. It is not. Media is extremely culpable too. They are part of this collective silence and the legitimising of hatred without resistance. Our education system, which is preparing us for the market but not worrying about us as human beings, is also responsible.
What role are the administrators of justice playing?
The police, prosecution and judiciary at lower levels are acting in unison to withhold justice. It is a very effective, systematic process. The Karwan has visited over 100 families and we find victims being criminalised in almost every cow vigilante case. Pehlu Khan’s sons are running around seeking anticipatory bail, while the Alwar SP said they are cow smugglers. These are very loose words. The law req­uires you to get a permit when transporting an animal for slaughter. It is undisputed that Pehlu was carrying milk-giving cows, with calves, which you would be crazy to slaughter—not that any cow smuggler deserves to be lynched. The police act like lynch mobs in many encounter cases.
Once a victim is cut off from justice, what happens then?
After lynchings, Muslims are not even reaching out to the police now. They say sabar kar lenge—we will endure. This is the one big difference between attacks on Muslims and on Dalits. The Dalit is fighting back and that gives us so much hope. There is anger, assertion, you hear ‘Jai Bhim’, see mass conversion to Buddhism; they fight their cases. They still believe this is their country and they have the right to fight back. To Muslims what is being communicated is that you are here under sufferance and are second-class citizens so cannot make claims for justice. Hence, ‘sabar karna zaroori hai’.
Recently, in Jharkhand, a lynching case was brought to speedy trial but when the accused came to court hundreds of supporters shouted slogans in his favour. Is justice worthwhile if it polarises people?
This is the dilemma for victims; this idea that we give up our claims for justice so that we can live together in peace is a false dichotomy. Domestic violence victims are often told this too, but we are not looking just for peace but for a just, authentic peace. Peace without justice is surrender.
Yet, how do you look upon cases where polarisation grows after victims seek justice?
In Jharkhand, the victim’s family, des­pite fear, was not intimidated and we had the enormous fortune of a fair-minded judge and got the first conviction in a lynching case. Despite a really gruesome crime, Mariam, the victim’s widow, said she wanted justice, not capital punishment. You also hear the imam in Asansol and Ankit Saxena’s fat­her—these are people who represent an India which is still humane.
Why do Muslims fear seeking justice?

“The difference between attacks on Muslims and Dalits is that the Dalit is fighting back, giving us hope. They believe in the right to fight back.”
Along with what the police are doing, there is pressure on victims from within their community. One victim told us that the Muslim sarpanch of her village asked her to get her sons to rescind their testimonies for the sake of bhaichara, brotherhood. She said, ‘I don’t want bhaichara, I want insaaf—justice.’ Mus­lims tell us that if they fight for justice they will only be persecuted more. We are seeing this in the Kathua case—the family pursues justice and there is intimidation by lawyers, the local community. I believe that as a society we can only live with justice and and rebuilding relationships on the basis of equality. Mahatma Gandhi had said that if a cat attacks a mouse and at that moment the mouse says ‘I forgive you’, that is not forgiveness, the mouse had no choice. In Mariam’s case, I think she has found spaces for forgiveness after justice and that is where we can begin.
Are you more hopeful or despairing seven months after starting the Kar­­wan-­­e-­­Mohabbat?
The degree of horror and violence, the absence of remorse, the celebration of hate, the videotaping of attacks remind me of lynchings of Black Americans. Those, too, had become sites of public entertainment. The victims’ famlies do not understand why this is happening. Somehow, Kathua has woken up people, but we are passing through a very critical moment in our history.
After the Ankit Saxena case, there is an accusation against activists that you are soft on violence perpetrated by the Muslims.
People ask me this all the time and this is part of the reason why parties like the Congress are silent. Who else are you going to stand with if not the victims, and why be defensive about it? Gandhiji was told he is ‘Muslim-parast’ and he responded, yes I am, and when I go to Pakstan I will be Hindu-parast. In Ankit Saxena’s case, when the BJP chief tried to drive a communal rift, Yashpal Saxena, the father, resisted. The imam in Asansol showed exactly the same instinct, saying it would be a greater tragedy if a single Hindu is attacked. Yashpal likens the imam to his brother. In all the despair these people help us believe there is hope.
Is the Karwan effective in your view?
The Karwan is entirely crowd-funded. Mostly, Hindus contribute. It has tou­ched many people but it has meant a huge amount to Muslims. Writers, photographers, film-makers, through telling and retelling their stories, have broken at least some of the collective silences. At first people used to say that these are a few stray incidents which vested interests are blowing up. Now, they recognise that this is a pattern across India, that hundreds of cases go unreported. The Kat­­hua girl is being mourned by thousands as if she was our own daughter. This is the kind of fraternity we have to foster. I will continue to do this as long as I don’t feel that as a society we are not fighting back.
What are the solutions for hatred?
Love has become probably the most revolutionary idea of our times. This idea that we can foster love in the climate of hate has become the most important battle.
Will eventually something like South Africa’s truth and reconciliation be necessary in India?
Through truth and reconciliation, South Africa’s society tried to come to terms with its histories of violence, something we have not done. We should have had a truth and reconciliation after Partition, after 1984 and a range of other episodes—Gujarat, Kandhamal, the collective atr­o­cities against Dalits. We haven’t dealt as a society with the injustices we have perpetrated. We have to recognise that it is not something happening out there, that we are culpable with our silent endorsements, our lack of resistance. We have to enter into our souls and discover how much hatred there is in each of us. We encounter levels of prejudice we never dreamed existed among family, friends, colleagues and cannot afford to push it back under the carpet.
Who will have this dialogue?
In 1948, a million people had died in Hindu-Muslim riots, a country had been carved out on the basis of religion, amidst bloodshed, lakhs of angry refugees had landed in Delhi. They had occupied the Connaught Place mosque, converted dargahs into temples and were throwing Muslims out of their homes. In the middle of this Mahatma Gandhi said that this country belongs equally to all. His last battle was to res­tore mosques and dargahs to Muslims. It is that courage we will have to find and if we are not going to have leaders like him, then we have to do it ourselves. We have nowhere else to look.

क्या केवल अंबेडकर के चित्रों पर माल्यार्पण उनका सम्मान करना है? राम पुनियानी

क्या केवल अंबेडकर के चित्रों पर माल्यार्पण
उनका सम्मान करना है?
                                 राम पुनियानी
   गत 14 अप्रैल को पूरे देश में लगभग सभी राजनैतिक दलों और समूहों ने डॉ भीमराव अंबेडकर की 127वीं जयंती जोरशोर से मनाई। परन्तु इस मौके पर भाजपा का उत्साह तो देखते ही बनता था। प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी ने अंबेडकर को श्रद्धांजलि देते हुए कहा कि कांग्रेस, अंबेडकर की विरोधी थी और उसने उन्हें कभी वह सम्मान नहीं दिया, जिसके वे हकदार थे। उन्होंने यह भी कहा कि वर्तमान सरकार ने जितना सम्मान अंबेडकर को दिया है, वैसा किसी और सरकार ने नहीं किया।
जहाँ तक अंबेडकर पर कब्जा करने के अभियान का सम्बन्ध है, भाजपा, कई स्तरों पर काम कर रही है। पहला, वह यह प्रचार कर रही है कि कांग्रेस, अंबेडकर के विरुद्ध थी और दूसरा, कि भाजपा उनके नाम पर भीम जैसे एप जारी कर और पार्टी  के नेता दलितों के साथ उनके घरों में भोजन कर उन्हें सम्मान दे रहे हैं। इन दिनों अंबेडकर को सम्मान देने की होड़ मची हुई है और इस मामले में भाजपा ने सभी को पीछे छोड़ दिया है। परन्तु क्या भाजपा की नीतियाँ सचमुच उन सिद्धांतों के अनुरूप हैं, जो अंबेडकर को प्रिय थे? सम्मान का क्या अर्थ है? क्या किसी महान व्यक्ति की प्रशंसा में गीत गाना उसका सम्मान है या उसके सामाजिक व राजनैतिक योगदान को मान्यता देना?
यह कहने में किसी को कोई संकोच नहीं होना चाहिए कि जहाँ तक विश्वदृष्टि और विचारधारा का प्रश्न है, भाजपा और अंबेडकर में कोई समानता नहीं है। भाजपा दो जुबानों में बोलने में माहिर है। पार्टी के इस दावे में कोई दम नहीं है कि कांग्रेस ने अंबेडकर को सम्मान नहीं दिया। हम सब जानते हैं कि जाति प्रथा की बेड़ियों को काटने के अंबेडकर के संघर्ष से प्रभावित होकर ही महात्मा गांधी ने अपना अछूत प्रथा विरोधी अभियान चलाया था। यह अंबेडकर को सम्मान देने का सही और असली तरीका था। यद्यपि, अंबेडकर कांग्रेस के सदस्य नहीं थे, परंतु फिर भी, उन्हें नेहरू केबिनेट में शामिल किया गया और कानून जैसा महत्वपूर्ण विभाग सौंपा गया। कांग्रेस ने अंबेडकर के सरोकारों को गंभीरता से लिया और उन्हें संविधानसभा की मसविदा समिति का अध्यक्ष नियुक्त किया गया। नेहरू और कांग्रेस, दोनों सामाजिक सुधार के हामी थे और नेहरू के कहने पर ही अंबेडकर ने हिन्दू कोड बिल तैयार किया था, जिसका भाजपा के पितृसंगठन आरएसएस ने जबरदस्त विरोध किया था।
भाजपा का अंबेडकर के प्रति दृष्टिकोण क्या था? सबसे पहले हमें यह समझना होगा कि भाजपा, 1980 में अस्तित्व में आई। उसके पहले उसका पूर्ववर्ती भारतीय जनसंघ (1952) और उसका पितृसंगठन आरएसएस (1925), राजनीति में सक्रिय था। इन तीनों ही संगठनो की मूल विचारधारा हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद की थी। सभी नाजुक मोड़ों पर आरएसएस ने विचारधारा के स्तर पर अंबेडकर का विरोध किया। जब भारतीय संविधान का मसविदा संविधानसभा के समक्ष प्रस्तुत किया गया, उस समय आरएसएस के मुखपत्र आर्गनाईजर‘ (30 नवंबर 1949) ने लिखा, ‘‘भारत के नए संविधान में सबसे बुरी बात यह है कि उसमें कुछ भी भारतीय नहीं है...उसमें भारत की प्राचीन संवैधानिक विधि का एक निशान तक नहीं है। ना ही उसमें प्राचीन भारतीय संस्थाओं, शब्दावली या भाषा के लिए कोई जगह है...उसमें प्राचीन भारत में हुए अनूठे संवैधानिक विकास की तनिक भी चर्चा नहीं है। मनु के नियम, स्पार्टा के लाईकरगस और फारस के सोलन के बहुत पहले लिखे गए थे। आज भी मनु के नियम, जिन्हें मनुस्मृति में प्रतिपादित किया गया है, पूरी दुनिया में प्रशंसा के पात्र हैं और भारत के हिन्दू, स्वतःस्फूर्त ढंग से उनका पालन करते हैं और उनके अनुरूप आचरण करते हैं। परंतु हमारे संवैधानिक पंडितों के लिए इस सबका कोई अर्थ ही नहीं है
इसी तरह जब अंबेडकर ने संसद में हिन्दू कोड बिल प्रस्तुत किया, उसके बाद इन संगठनों ने उन पर अत्यंत कटु हमला बोल दिया। आरएसएस मुखिया एमएस गोलवलकर ने इस बिल की कड़ी आलोचना की। अगस्त 1949 में दिए गए एक भाषण में उन्होंने कहा कि अंबेडकर जिन सुधारों की बात कर रहे हैं ‘‘उनमें कुछ भी भारतीय नहीं है। भारत में विवाह और तलाक आदि से जुड़े मसले, अमरीकी या ब्रिटिश माडल के आधार पर नहीं सुलझाए जा सकते। हिन्दू संस्कृति और विधि के अनुसार, विवाह एक संस्कार है, जिसे मृत्यु भी नहीं बदल सकती। विवाह एक समझौता नहीं है, जिसे किसी भी समय तोड़ा जा सकता है‘‘। उन्होंने आगे कहा, ‘‘यह सही है कि देश के कुछ हिस्सों में हिन्दू समाज की नीची जातियों में तलाक का रिवाज है परंतु इस आचरण को ऐसा आदर्श नहीं माना जा सकता, जिसका पालन सभी को करना चाहिए‘‘ (आर्गनाईजर, सितंबर 6, 1949)
भाजपा, एनडीए गठबंधन के सहारे सन् 1998 में सत्ता में आई। उस समय एनडीए सरकार की केबिनेट के एक महत्वपूर्ण सदस्य अरूण शौरी ने अंबेडकर की अत्यंत तीखी निंदा की थी।  वर्तमान सरकार के मंत्री यद्यपि अंबेडकर की मूर्तियों और चित्रों पर माला चढ़ाते नहीं थक रहे हैं परंतु एक केन्द्रीय मंत्री अनंतकृष्ण हेगड़े ने खुलेआम यह घोषणा की है कि भाजपा, संविधान को बदलना चाहती है। अंबेडकर, धर्मनिरपेक्षता और स्वतंत्रता के जबरदस्त पक्षधर थे परंतु उत्तरप्रदेश के मुख्यमंत्री योगी आदित्यनाथ का कहना है कि धर्मनिरपेक्षता स्वाधीन भारत का सबसे बड़ा झूठ है। भाजपा की रणनीति यही है कि वह एक ओर बाबासाहेब की शान में कसीदे काढ़ती रहे तो दूसरी ओर जाति और लैंगिक समानता के उनके सिद्धांतों को कमजोर करती रहे। बाबासाहेब के विचार क्या थे, यह इसी से स्पष्ट है कि उन्होंने उस मनुस्मृति का दहन किया था, जिस पर संघ परिवार घोर श्रद्धा रखता है। 

अंबेडकर, जाति के उन्मूलन के हामी थे क्योंकि उनकी मान्यता थी कि जाति, सामाजिक न्याय की राह में एक बड़ा रोड़ा है। इसके विपरीत, आरएसएस, जातियों के बीच समरसता की बात करता है और यही कारण है कि उसने दलितों में काम करने के लिए सामाजिक समरसता मंच गठित किए हैं। जहां तक जाति के उन्मूलन का प्रश्न है, उस पर संघ परिवार मौन धारण किए हुए है।
भाजपा की राजनीति के केन्द्र में हैं भगवान राम। अगर भाजपा सचमुच अंबेडकर का सम्मान करती होती तो क्या वह भगवान राम को अपनी राजनीति का मुख्य प्रतीक बनाती? भाजपा ने भगवान राम के नाम का प्रयोग कर आम हिन्दुओं को गोलबंद करने का हर संभव प्रयास किया। उत्तरप्रदेश के मुख्यमंत्री ने अयोध्या में राम की एक विशाल प्रतिमा स्थापित करने की घोषणा की है। आजकल रामनवमी का त्यौहार बहुत उत्साह से मनाया जाने लगा है और इस दौरान हथियारबंद युवा जुलूस निकालते हैं। वे इस बात का विशेष ख्याल रखते हैं कि ये जुलूस मुसलमानों के इलाकों से जरूर गुजरें। अंबेडकर, राम के बारे में क्या सोचते थे? वे अपनी पुस्तक रिडल्स ऑफ़ हिन्दुइज्ममें राम की आलोचना करते हैं। वे कहते हैं कि राम ने शम्बूक को सिर्फ इसलिए मारा क्योंकि वह शुद्र होते हुए भी तपस्या कर रहा था। इसी तरह, राम ने पेड़ के पीछे छुपकर बाली की हत्या की। अंबेडकर, राम की सबसे कटु आलोचना इसलिए करते हैं क्योंकि उन्होंने अपनी गर्भवती पत्नी को घर से निकाल दिया और सालों तक उसकी कोई खोजखबर नहीं ली।
अंबेडकर के चित्रों और उनकी मूर्तियों पर माल्यार्पण करके अंबेडकर को सम्मान नहीं दिया जा सकता। उन्हें सम्मान देने के लिए यह जरूरी है कि हम मनुस्मृति की उनकी आलोचना को स्वीकार करें, भारतीय संविधान के मूल्यों को सम्मान दें और समर्पित भाव से धर्मनिरपेक्षता और सामाजिक न्याय के लिए काम करें। भाजपा की नीतियों ने दलितों के विरूद्ध पूर्वाग्रह में वृद्धि की है और उनके खिलाफ हिंसा भी बढ़ी है। पिछले चार साल इसके गवाह हैं। गांधी, नेहरू और कांग्रेस, अंबेडकर से उनकी मत विभिन्नता के बावजूद अंबेडकर और उनके सरोकारों का सम्मान करते थे।  (अंग्रेजी से हिन्दी रूपांतरण अमरीश हरदेनिया)

April 21, 2018

India: Can it be that riots guilty are only foot soldiers? Haridner Baweja

Can it be that riots guilty are only foot soldiers?

India has a spectacular record of not delivering basic justice when it comes to brazen riots, carried out in broad daylight, be it Delhi or Ahmedabad.

opinion Updated: Apr 21, 2018 07:49 IST
Haridner Baweja
Relatives of the convicts in 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case in tears outside the court after the pronouncement of sentence in Ahmedabad, in 2012.
Relatives of the convicts in 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre case in tears outside the court after the pronouncement of sentence in Ahmedabad, in 2012.(AP File Photo)


A few weeks before a Supreme Court-led investigation led to the conviction of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator and minister Mayaben Kodnani in 2012, I was in Naroda Patiya, speaking with eyewitnesses who had stood firm for 10 long years. They had been threatened and intimidated for naming the minister.
They gave graphic descriptions of that day in February 2002, when their nondescript neighbourhood in Ahmedabad resembled a gigantic bonfire. Mobs had gathered at Noorani Masjid, located on the main road, and then roamed its labyrinthine bylanes, shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogans and brandishing swords and trishuls (tridents).
Among the 97 Muslims that the fire devoured were Shakeela Bano’s mother, two brothers, a sister-in-law and a young niece and nephew. Bano remembered the children being flung into the blaze. She and many others told the special court about Kodnani’s alleged role; of how she allegedly came to the area and exhorted the crowd to kill Muslims. They claimed she oversaw the distribution of swords and trishuls and assured the crowd that there would be no police enquiries against them.
The Gujarat riots file
A coach of a train, carrying Hindu pilgrims, burns in Gujarat’s Godhra. (REUTERS FILE)
February 27, 2002: A fire guts a coach of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims, returning from Ayodhya, at the Godhra train station in Gujarat; 59 are killed in the blaze.Feb 28–Mar 2: Hindu mobs rampage through Muslim neighbourhoods as communal riots break out in several cities across Gujarat. In three days, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus are killedFeb 28: Hours after Godhra train burning, a thousands-strong mob reaches Naroda Patiya – a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Ahmedabad. The mobs, instigated allegedly by BJP and Bajrang Dal activists, kill 97 people
2002: Gujarat police start investigations, and Maya Kodnani — a state legislator at the time —is not among suspects named in the FIR2003: Kodnani’s name first appears in survivor accounts shared with the Nanavati-Shah commission set up to inquire into the Godhra train burning and subsequent riots. Witnesses also name Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi
2008: Kodnani is named in an investigation that is taken over by a special investigation team on the direction of the SC.August 2012: Kodnani, Bajrangi and 29 others are convicted by special court for the Naroda Patiya killings. Kodnani is given a 28-year prison term and Bajrangi ordered to spend rest of his life in prisonApril 2013: The Gujarat government led by Narendra Modi clears the way for prosecutors to seek the death penalty for Kodnani and others in a higher court, but reverses its stand in SeptemberJuly 2014: Gujarat high court grants Kodnani bail after accepting her plea that she is unwellAugust 2012-2018: Appeals against Kodnani and Bajrangi’s conviction and sentence are filed at the high court. Between 2014 and 2016, seven judges recuse themselves from the hearingApril 2018: High court acquits Kodnani, giving her the benefit of doubt, after noting inconsistencies in testimonies. HC also reduces Bajrangi’s sentence to 21 years
The police didn’t name her as an accused but the apex-court driven Special Investigation Team said it found evidence of her involvement – including call logs of her being in touch with the other Patiya accused.
The victims’ families led wretched lives for 10 years until judge Jyotsana Yagnik delivered her judgment in 2012, convicting Kodnani and sentencing her to 28 years in jail. Detailing the minister’s alleged role, the judgment called her the “kingpin of riots”.

Kodnani has now been exonerated by the Gujarat high court. Survivors such as Bano remain at the mercy of their neighbours, who have continued to threaten them for naming their Hindu neighbours. Patiya’s residents had, in the worst form of betrayal, turned on their own.
“Communal riots are like cancer on constitutional secularism and the incident in Naroda Patiya was a black chapter in the history of the Indian Constitution,” special judge Yagnik had observed. Her words had gone a long way in assuaging the wounds of Patiya’s survivors but today, the high court overturned the conviction, saying the witnesses were unreliable and that none of them had named Kodnani when the case was first registered.
India has a spectacular record of not delivering basic justice when it comes to brazen riots, carried out in broad daylight, be it Delhi or Ahmedabad. Who killed 3,000 people in Delhi and 1,000 in Gujarat? Can it be that the guilty are only petty foot soldiers? Did political exhorters have nothing to do with 1984 or 2002?

source URL: https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/can-it-be-that-riots-guilty-are-only-foot-soldiers/story-7NT6dUVViHZV4EoeGSHsCI.html