An article I wrote three years back, marking 10 years of the riots in Godhra, Gujarat
“By 10 am on the 28th February 2011, the Ahmedabad sky was lit up with flaring lights while dark clouds of smoke were billowing up in every corner. You could virtually tell Muslim ownership by the fire and arson,” says Mr. M.H Jowher, President of Society for Promoting Rationality, an NGO that works for the upliftment of the minority in Gujarat. The riots left a deep impact on the people of the state. Trishla Jhaveri, a student of Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (UG) Pune and a resident of Ahmedabad recalls, “I was 10 years old when the unfortunate incident happened. All I remember is that people were fighting. Shops were burnt, houses plundered. However, we did not know the reason behind it.”
Ten years ago, Gujarat witnessed a massacre. The birthplace of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the father of our nation who famously practiced non-violence had become a site of violent attacks. Smoke blew across parts of Gujarat, as marauding mobs ran across cities yearning for blood, and looting the innocent citizens of the state.
The days following the Godhra train catastrophe due to which many lost lives due to an accidental fire shook the state completely. Although the forces behind the massacre remain a topic of debate, there remains a huge speculation about the involvement of the government of the state in the pogrom that followed the fire in the coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express. However, no leader of Gujarat could produce a justification for the riots that continued for the days after. It is an utter shame that living in a secular establishment, the citizens of the country had to face genocide in the 21st century, 54 years after independence.
As a Muslim and a victim of the riots that followed the tragedy of the burning coach-6 of Sabarmati express on 27th February 2002 in Godhra, Mr. Jowher elaborates, “Life in Gujarat for the Muslims was never the same again. Gone with the smoke and fire was their trust in the state, their faith in the society at large and alas, their self-confidence.”
There were innumerable killings that succeeded the ghastly tragedy of 27th February 2002. People were burnt, tortured, and killed. “The Chief Minister of the state not only gave the murderers a green flag, but also felicitated them and offered them police protection,”adds Mr. Jowher.
In 2011, the then Deputy Inspector General of Police Mr Sanjeev Bhatt submitted an affidavit to the court in which he revealed that Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi instructed the police officials to “let Hindus vent out their anger against Muslims following the Sabarmati Express train burning incident in Godhra on February 27.” Following this revelation, Bhatt was suspended.
Parts of Gujarat continued to burn for three consecutive days. “Heaps of broken bangles belonging to the women who were raped and killed lay on the ground. Religious fanaticism ran loose; slogans of religious communities could be heard all over the state,” laments M.H. Jowher.
Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad was one of the main sites of the genocide. As per Tehelka’s stinging expose, a Bajrang Dal leader of the state, Babu Bajrangi, was the main conspirator of the massacre in these areas. Bajrangi claimed on tape to have buried over a hundred innocent people in the well. He also happens to have claimed that Mr. Modi shielded him from police for months. Yet Babu Bajrangi is still out in the open. The tragic and infamous picture of Qutubuddin Ansari, a common man and a victim of the riots joining hands, begging for mercy showed the plight of the entire community in Gujarat. What remains a major cause of concern is the looming danger of reprisal by an exasperated gang of young victims who survived the tragedy but surveyed their dear ones being done to death.
It is imperative for the entire nation, and all its four pillars to act swiftly against this critical case of injustice. All that the victims of Gujarat demanded was justice. And justice is what seems to have been denied to them along with respect. Of, by and for the people seems to be futile without the inclusion of ‘people’ in it. With the completion of ten years of this incident, this is a silent prayer for all those who suffered and a tribute to all those who survived.
Today, we celebrate Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister of our country. Long live justice, long live India.