Gujarat Muslim Massacre: Anniversary 2012
It was 27th Feb afternoon that I got to know from my sales executives about the burning down of S-6 bogie of Sabarmati express at Godra. A day before only, I had returned from that place and my executives had planned a visit to that place for New Dealer appointment, that afternoon only. By evening, the news became public and there was a general overall confusion in the city. I stay in a Working Men’s hostel at Thaltej (a Km away from my office) along with IIMB’s own kiddo-T. Shyam Sunder. It is located at a very secluded place and has just one residential society besides. Two of the people in the Sabarmati express stayed in those flats and were missing.
Jagjit Singh’s gazal show was scheduled for the night but the roads had already the started wearing a deserted look. Jagjit ji was rendering the beautiful song ‘Apne hoton par sajana chahta hun’ from his album Insearch and we could feel the organizers trying to figure out the future course of action. Though the show went off well, there were already rumours of strong retaliation from various parts of the city. The next day (28th) was a “Bandh” but we still went to the office as we had our Sales-Closing. We had hardly started work and suddenly someone amongst us spotted smoke coming out from the near-by Tata-Tele services office. We could easily see a mob of around 200 people rushing towards our office. The sales-closing exercise turned into Office-closing one, at a much faster rate. Everybody was out in 10 min. (we are located on 8th floor) and the whole complex was empty within minutes. I was to move in the direction of the mob and so I waited for a moment. Another mob had reached the “Landmark Showroom-CITY HONDA cars” (just opp. my office), had broken the gates and was well on the way of doing what mobs are best known for. when we came back to that place later in the evening, 36 city Honda cars were reduced to ashes and the beautiful showroom looked nothing more than a – I can’t find a appropriate word.
To reach hostel, I had to take the highway route and hardly had I reached the square to take a right turn to my hostel, an incident took place that really shook me off my feet and shattered my faith in everything good. A group of 4 people (though very fragile-looking but armed with rods) came in front from nowhere, stopped me by holding the back-guard of my bike and stood in front of me as if I was responsible for everything happening around. One of them (who seemed to be the unofficial leader) first asked me to take-off my Helmet and then asked the other person to question me. The other one asked me,”Bahen c—d, kya jaat ka hai be tu (religion he meant-though technically, jaat means caste, not religion), kya naam hai tera? Then one of them came forward, got hold of my shirt collars, separated them and started checking with his hand if I was wearing anything. Suddenly he came to the conclusion saying, “Hindu hi hai”. The other one still insisted on my name. I gathered all the courage only to question why they were asking me this (though I knew well). It was then their leader shouted,” Saale pe time waste mat karo, jaane do isko”. I was really left shocked. How can someone ask me such questions!
We spent the whole day playing cricket in our hostel, though it was only the next day when I could stop thinking of the incident. By that night, about 300 houses belonging to the minority community had been burnt. In my boss’s locality, u could find every alternate building burning.
The next day (1st Mar) was declared All India Bandh and we were hoping for things to settle down, but nothing close to it. We ventured out on our bikes that evening and to our surprise (not exactly), the many places that had come to represent Ahmedabad were no more there. If u have some idea of Ahmedabad, u would understand well. Tasty restaurant near swastika square, Kabir rest near drive-in, Sun flower rest at Vastrapur, Navjivan rest at Vijay square, Hotel Signor and many other establishments were burnt down. Pantaloons showroom and Zodiac showroom were looted (this
crowd consisted 60% women). Some 100 houses in Naroda-patia area, Jamalpura Etc were charred.
That night, we got some threatening calls and rumours of large mobs moving towards our area. The people of the neighbouring society asked us to be ready with whatever we can. Though at first we wondered why but soon realized that one of the owners of our hostel was a person belonging to minority community. The 25 odd people of our hostel gathered, arranged for sticks, rods, bricks, stones and whatever else we could get, kept all of this on our terrace and remained awake for the whole night. We had to keep everyone in good spirit, as many were just 1st year Engg. Students and were crying incessantly. One of us was always holding a steel plate and a stick so that he can make noise as soon as he becomes aware of something fishy. You could resist but there is a limit to it. U can stop a crowd of as large as 15-20 people but when they start throwing petrol bombs and torched sticks, there is very less that u can do, we realized this well. This fear was eating all of us and everybody was equally determined to face such an eventuality knowing well that our religion is not going to save us. This is because, when a group of people becomes a Mob, they cease to belong to any particular religion and the weapon they make use of, FIRE, is known to be all-secular when causing destruction.
It is so strange that the answer to the question which is under hot discussion at the National level, i.e. whether the police (and govt. also?) supported the people so that they can take revenge, is very obvious to the people here. If the Army is brought to the scene after full two and a half days to take charge of the situation, intentions of those in power are definitely doubtful. It was unofficially known that the people have 2 days at their disposal to do whatever they want, or have always wanted to do. U can get to hear 100s of accounts where the police actually assisted people in causing destruction. It is generally said that the higher-class people usually don’t get involved in all this, but this time, there was no class-difference. It was a all-round attack on the minority community- there seemed to be an all-time high motivation to get back to the community and that was strengthened manifolds by the local administration. Unlike previous riots, this was more of a one-sided attack.
It is really very frustrating to see that such obvious things are under discussion for their validity, as if only a TV footage of the ghastly involvement could satisfy people outside of the deep involvement of administration. The policemen making rounds of our area actually tipped us of some establishments belonging to the minority community and asked us to exercise caution in destroying them. Quite obviously, a survey conducted (by Radio mirchi etc) has shown as high as 70-80% of people favouring the destruction and saying that the attacks were justified. This is to be noted that such surveys were carried out at the most happening places (hep areas) in Ahmedabad like C.G. road, Vijay square etc. So, when a final year Engg student of our locality boasts of his achievements by showing off his loot (Reebok shoes, vcd player etc.) and the petrol bombs he has thrown on some buildings and that too by getting a huge reciprocating audience with everyone of them proudly having to tell something equally ghastly that they have done, we really begin to wonder –can education ever wipe off the caste and religion differences in our society?
I know the government (& police) will soon get a clean chit of not showing any bias towards the miscreants but the fact remains–destruction on such a large scale would never have been possible without their sanction.
Yesterday, the curfew was relaxed in Old Ahmedabad and one of my friends (firing continued for 2 hours in front of her house and one tear-gas shell even landed in her kitchen) called me to tell that the situation has drastically improved with only 4 stabbings and burning of just 2 houses for the day. I don’t blame her for the way she has described the present situation, it only goes to show the extent to which things had got deteriorated. I look after the North Gujarat region, which is mostly rural. Now the focus has shifted to rural areas and the places like Mehsana, Himmatnagar, Patan, Palanpur etc are constantly under curfew. This has brought all my work to standstill.
Just a year back, there was this same set of people who went all out of their way to help each other in coping with the aftermath of earthquake. However, they succumbed to the “Human Quake”. I always used to marvel the ability of a Lotus flower to grow in mud and survive with all dirty water around. Life keeps giving instances of such exemplary behaviour so that people don’t lose trust amongst themselves and others. One such instance is the people of “Ram-Rahim Nagar” in Ahmedabad. These are the people who survived these 8 days of tension with perfect tranquillity and without a single untoward incident reported from the area. To come to think of it, this area consists of 20000 people, Hindus and Muslims, being in equal numbers approx. A significant population of this area is of Dalits and they give a wonderful lesson to the high and mighty of the society. This locality has given shelter to all those who have fled their homes and the people here are determined enough not to succumb to this human quake. This has not happened for the first time in this area. Such has always been the unity of people in this area, having survived 3 previous riots. This time the hindu boys of area were given bangles for not attacking the muslim residents of the area but they still survived the situation. One person of the area told that they organized entertainment programs for the people during the curfew days to keep the impressionable minds away from this.
I think all this unnecessary excitement starts when people start discussing such issues, reach some illogical conclusions and then decide on some even more illogical steps to rectify them. As a simple rule, we have decided in the hostel not even to talk of such things, leave aside debating on topics and questions, such as should a temple be built at Ayodhya, should the site be handed to VHP etc. We should realize one thing; we can only discuss such things and make matters worse. These things don’t have a mutually acceptable solution and we should refrain ourselves from this. The people living in “Ram-Rahim Nagar” in Ahmedabad must also be facing these same questions, think how they are still able to cope with them. I have seen their photographs in newspapers; have even met few of them. They don’t look like angels, they don’t have wings. They are as common as any of us. Why can’t we all be like them? Come, let us try, atleast.
Proud to be an Indian,
( This was circulated in IIMA e-group and widely circulated thereafter in form of pamplets, inserts etc in Ahmedabad, becuase of which several threatening calls happened to the author in march 2002)
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