Gujarat Riots: The Epitome of Unity in Diversity

By: Yaghika Beniwal

It is rightly said that “Truth is stranger than fiction” and there are quite a few incidents that exemplify this quote. One of them is the Gujarat Riots of 2002.

The burning S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express on 27th February 2002 engulfed within the screams of 59 kar sevaks and India’s secular spirit. The “Godhra kand” that torched the state of Gujarat in the name of communal violence is an example of some of the grossest violations of human rights on both sides of the line. The more are the versions, as many are the tongues, the truth seems to get lost somewhere.  So, let's trace back the events.

It goes back to 1992- the demolition of Babri Mazjid and then the burning of Sabarmati Express on 27th February, 2002. On 28th February, 69 people died in the violence at Gulbarg Society after Hindu extremist mob stormed the society. For four months, gruesome violence entailed these incidents in which multiple men, women and children had to pay the price for something they never were a part of. Women like Bilkis Bano and Zakia Jafri were the few who met with unsolicited loss and suffering..

CAUSES OF THE EVENT

19 years later today, we will attempt to analyse what led the situation to spiral and what its implications were. First, fake news spread across communities to radicalise people and display the other community in a bad light. The only difference today is that fake news spreads faster and in a more targeted manner. Second, inciting violence and encouraging emphasising the ‘pattern of oppression prevalent from many decades.

There are a lot of speculations regarding the reasons behind the Gujarat riots. But those all are only speculations. There are a lot of cities in India with a similar demographic like that of Godhra, which have not seen a single communal violence. So, is there something wrong in the way we are holding people accountable for these incidents?

CHANGING THE PERSPECTIVE OF ANALYSING EVENTS

Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences and Professor of Political Science at Brown University says that studying the cities that were affected by violence is not enough. Let’s take an example, suppose on the basis of commonalities, we find that interethnic economic rivalry (a), segregated neighbourhoods (b) and polarized party politics (c) explain ethnic violence (X). But what if (a), (b), and (c) also exist in peaceful cases (Y)? In such a case, either the intensity of (a), (b) and (c) has caused violence in (X); or there is another underlying factor that results in (X) which was omitted or there is yet another factor (d) which has incited violence in (X) and not (Y). This mystery can only be solved when we study the areas where riots took place as well as the areas which are inherently peaceful.

REPORTS ON THE INCIDENT

  1. Another section of people believe that these were not riots but pogroms (“A mob attack, either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority.” (www.britannica.com)). Presented in 2019, the Nanavati-Mehta commission report exonerated the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi of any accusations for inciting, allowing or ignoring the violence that took place. Another report by Banerjee Commission, presented in 2006, stated that the fire in coach S-6 was accidental but was labelled ‘unconstitutional’ by the Gujarat High Court.

 

IMPLICATIONS OF THE INCIDENT

Now coming to the implications of this violence, it was speculated that this is just the beginning of bigger and worse communal violence. Still, as a matter of fact, this was the only time Gujarat went into a lockdown till the pandemic. Unlike the usual practice, this violence did not spread over to other regions of India and they were relatively peaceful. The USA canceled Narendra Modi’s visa and he was summoned before the US court in light of the events.

What is interesting to note is that Modi came into power yet again in 2002 and 2007 following these riots. Gujarat went on to become one of the highest FDI attracting states in the country. Within a mere 5 years after the violence, Gujarat accounted for 7.6% of India’s GDP and 22% of its exports. Even before the green revolution was introduced in Gujarat, it was making strides through the market route.

In 2014, when PM Narendra Modi was hailed as the next leader of India, people focused more on his economic achievements allowing him to turn the parliament over.

Oscar Wilde said, “Truth is rarely pure and never simple”. This seems especially true when so many people are committed to influence people to fight for their personal gains. The Banerjee report stated that the fire was accidental when the Gujarat high court explicitly stated that the coach’s door was locked from outside. The claim that the police said that they were given no orders to save the dying people when the Nanavati Commission report said they were unable to perform to their full potential due to shortage of weapons and manpower exemplifies how the narrative is twisted to suit some people’s agenda. Today, India again stands at the verge of violence. In the name of farmer’s protests, Khalistan, there is again misinformation, propaganda, and political motivation. It is our duty,  as readers, to ensure that we keep aside our ideologies and read what both sides have to say to get a more objective viewpoint.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4412121?read-now=1&seq=1

  2. https://www.dailyo.in/politics/2002-gujarat-riots-narendra-modi-ehsan-jafri-gulbarg-society-massacre-sit-sanjiv-bhatt-zakia-jafri-supreme-court-godhra-md-deshpande-nagpur-media/story/1/6464.html

  3. https://items.ssrc.org/from-our-archives/understanding-gujarat-violence/

  4. https://www.amarujala.com/education/gujarat-riots-2002-role-of-nanawati-mehta-commission-report-godhra-kand-case-and-pm-modi-clean-chit?pageId=1

  5. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/people/article/3010554/gujarat-riots-they-raped-me-butchered-my-child-because-we-were