Gujarat’s History of Violence

After 90 years of grave struggle against the oppression and tyranny we gained independence. In addition to all the fight back, violent and non violent and sacrifice of numerous lives there was an ultimate price which we had to pay for our independence i.e. partition and the sad news of partition did not come alone, but along came riots.

The massacre which followed the partition was the first and one of the most tragic instances of independent Bharat. Lacs lost their lives and uncounted were left homeless. As the time went by, people started settling down and 6 decades down the line we hardly remember the atrocities of those riots. But the story of riots did not end there. In fact it was just the beginning of a phenomenon of riots which we witnesses more often than not.

What happened in Gujarat in 2002 was a dark phase our country went through. The train carnage and what followed it; both were dreadful instances in themselves. People correctly condemn the violence that broke-out and claimed some 2700 human lives. They very rightly calls for justice for the victims, so that guilty can be punished. They are not at all wrong when they say that communal riots are a crime against humanity and not any particular religion. But why is it that they see all these things only in case of Gujarat? Why only Gujarat riots are considered to be crime against humanity? Why we are only concerned about the atrocities of 2002? Why no Teesta Seetalwad comes forward for the victims of 1984 or 1992?

No one says anything about 1984 Sikh riots, where it is confirmed that senior Congress politicians, including Union ministers, were actually present on the streets, allegedly leading the mobs in 1984. More than 3000 Sikhs were killed in those riots and that too in the heart of national capital. 23 years have passed and only 13 convictions, but in Gujarat there are already 15.

2002 was not the first time when riots took place in Bharat, Ramnad riots of 1957, Sikh riots of 1984, Bhagalpur riots of 1989, Mumbai riots of 1992 are just a few to name and they all say the same thing, Bharat’s History of Violence. Gujarat alone has witnessed them a number of times. Besides smaller incidents there have been several major flare-ups, the first being in 1969 which claimed around 660 lives, followed by 1981, 1985, 1990, 1992-93 and then in 2002 and several others in between. Modi was state’s chief minister on just one occasion and still we call him the ‘Hatred Hero’.

There can be a few explanations to this. First of all the riots of 2002 were the first major instance after the rise of uncountable private news channels. The 24 hour coverage and that too for a long time which they got from the riots ensured that the whole country got a very stringent opinion about them. The live mayhem which all the news channels showed moved each and every soul in the country.

Moreover this was the time when the human riots activists has just started gathering and gearing up. They made sure that these riots do not go unnoticed. The huge amount of fuel which the activists got from the riots, took the riots a long way and for a long time.

But no matter how hard we may try, what explanation we give, no force on this earth can justify the two tragic mishaps which rocked the whole country in 2002.

I recently read a series of articles on ‘Rediff’, titled “In Ahmadabad don’t mention the ‘R’ (Riot) Word”. The primary focus of the stories was on the fact that people in Gujarat, do not want to talk about the riots, and it concluded that there Modi has sell the Hindutva agenda in such a manner, that people are not ready to listen to anything. It claimed that the feeling of hatred has been deeply infused into the masses by the ‘Hatred Hero’ and that too so brilliantly, that they will again vote him in power. In addition to these articles there were some 300 comments of the readers and all of them, except a few were not at all happy with the way the article projected Gujarat and Guajarati’s.

The way media, especially English, has perceived Gujarat and Guajarati people and their opinion about the riots is very biased. They presume that Modi has made people’s view a lot skewed about the riots. They have labelled the state as ‘Hindutva Laboratory’ and that too just because the C.M is all set to return to power. Why they think that one of the most successful business community, not only of Bharat but of the whole world, is so naive that anyone can make them believe whatever they want to?

No doubt that people of Gujarat have different opinion about the riots and they voted for Modi then and will do it again, who is a ‘Hatred Hero’ in eyes of the media. But this does not imply that the media will think of them as inexperienced people who have so readily bought Modi’s version of story. Here we need to understand the basis of repeated communal violence occurring in Gujarat. We should look for the reasons as to why the majority of Modi in Gujarat will increase if the ‘Tehelka Sting’ factor comes into play? The question here is not, whether the riots occurred in retaliation to Godhra or not? But the question is why something like Godhra happened in Gujarat only and not anywhere else?

At the time of partition the Hindu-Muslim relations which used to be cordial once, got adversely affected. In the bordering states mass migration took place and people from both the sides moved. But if we look at Gujarat, then no such major migration of people occurred there and everyone remained where they were. However the feeling of hatred which swept the whole country also affected Gujarat. The riots which followed moved each and every human soul and the anger of the people was almost lost after seeing the human causalities and barbarism. But again Gujarat at that time did not witness any major violence and hence people’s anger and hatred remained there. It is this anger which keeps on erupting again and again.

In addition to this, Gujarat is a prosperous state. Survival is not that big issue there, as it is in some other parts of country. People are happy and well-off. When the struggle for food is not a subject, it is then the people start thinking about religious issues. The religious sentiments of people definitely get heightened when they do not have other usual problems to worry about.

Moreover in this state of traders any left movement or any movement by lower castes never occurred. The socialist movement was also very weak and no social reform movement took place. These movements act as a kryptonite of communal feelings as people become more liberal.

The above factors might sound to be very trivial, but they explain the fact why a large number of princes, of the princely states of Gujarat, joined the Jansangh and Swatantra Party post independence.

On analyzing these reasons, one thing which we can easily infer about Gujarat is that, it is a place where religious sentiments of people are very high. We need to understand that not same type of issues and factors are responsible of what is happening in each state. Every where there are different forces acting and if without understanding them we will keep on drawing our conclusions then this will lead us to nowhere.

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