Sadbhavana Mission to India
September 6-24, 2002
Non-Resident Indians for
A Secular & Harmonious India
Reflections From Our Trip to Gujarat,
Delhi, and Other State Capitals
(* With apologies to Swami Vivekananda, whose spirited
and unabashed defense of Hinduism from yesteryear is
being wilfully distorted by some into a hate campaign
against the minorities of India.)
are a delegation of NRIs, representing various organizations
from the U.S., who went to India on a non-partisan humanitarian
mission, to see for ourselves the aftermath of the Gujarat
carnage. We went there to listen, and to learn about
what we can do to support initiatives for communal harmony.
We met a wide cross section of civil society, including
the victims of the unprecedented violence; NGOs who
have been caring for them; and other citizen's groups,
businessmen, religious leaders, politicians and the
As ruling party officials
in Gujarat and New Delhi declined to meet with us, we
could only meet with the opposition parties. We conveyed
to them our views on the desperate humanitarian situation
in Gujarat, and challenged them on how they would rule
differently should they return to power. We presented
our observations and recommendations in a memorandum
to the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, at
the Rashtrapathi Bhavan on September 12. We met
the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr. Chandrababu
Naidu, on September 23, and urged him to use his influence
in New Delhi to bring some hope to those who are still
being victimized in Gujarat.
Children of Shahpur Camp #26
of us are now back in the U.S. to share our experiences
with others; to raise awareness in the NRI community
about the dangers of continued silence about the break-down
of the rule of law in Gujarat; and to raise funds for
the rehabilitation of the victims. Some of us plan to
spend more time in India to pursue individual actions
in support of communal harmony and/or to work against
the politics of hate.
have prepared this write-up for our friends, and others
who care about what is happening in India, to give them
a sense of what we saw and heard. Our observations are
based on notes and recollections by some of us, and
do not necessarily represent the collective view of
this diverse delegation. Where possible, we have included
a Q & A format, representing the general thrust
of our conversations with our hosts (not direct quotes).
"Five crore Gujaratis have been
affected by the violence," declared our leader in a press conference
in Ahmedabad. Some of the journalists were incredulous--they
were quite sure that he had his numbers wrong. He hastened
to explain: "Yes, we think that every Gujarati--Muslim,
Hindu, and Christian--is a victim today."
Shri Poddar with Camp Residents
had heard of the severe strains that the economy of
Gujarat was going through--especially in foreign direct
investment, the hospitality sector, transportation,
and small businesses. We had heard of increasing unemployment,
especially among youth--for example, thousands of Rabari
youth losing their jobs as a result of over a thousand
Muslim-owned restaurants being burnt down. But more
than all the economic losses, we could sense the fear
in the air in cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara, beneath
a veneer of normalcy. People seemed genuinely baffled
that the Muslim community, which had been demonized
for so long, had kept its peace, in spite of the scale
of brutality inflicted upon them. There was apprehension
everywhere that this wasn't going to last long, especially
in light of constant provocations by the likes of Modi,
Singhal and Togadia. Some even speculated that the troika's
inflammatory rhetoric was designed to elicit some sort
of violent reaction from the victims, which could then
be used to justify further violence.
They may have been right. The reaction
came just a few days after we departed Gujarat
Akshardham. Was the deplorable terrorist attack
on the Swaminarayan temple the kind of response they
were dreading? Are there more to come? Is the good sense
that prevailed in Gujarat after Akshardham a
harbinger of peace? Or is there a risk that continuing
communal killings in places like Vadodara will be exploited
once again by ruthless politicians?
Women Who Bore the Brunt
had tried to seek our own answers to such troubling
questions during our week of travel in Gujarat, during
which we spoke to numerous victims and camp organizers
to understand the ground reality. We visited Gulberg
Society, Naroda Patiya, Juhapura and Sanklit Nagar,
and several chalis and unofficial camps in Ahmedabad.
In the Panchmahals, we visited the Godhra relief camp,
Kalol camp, the village of Boru, Halol camp, and the
village of Dehrol.
A Muslim Home in Ghasiram Chali
visits lead us to the unfortunate and inescapable conclusion
that there is an officially sanctioned and orchestrated
campaign in Gujarat to harass and punish the victims
of the carnage, through every available means available
to the state. The objective seems to be to drive them
to desperation, force them to permanently forsake their
land and homes, and perhaps even leave the state altogether.
In many cases, Hindu neighbors are setting humiliating
conditions, including dropping of criminal charges against
the killers amongst them, before allowing their Muslim
neighbors back. But there are also instances of Hindu
neighbors welcoming back their former neighbors. (But
for the interference and connivance by politicians and
the police, we are sure that there would have been many
more such healing initiatives by both communities.)
Here is a picture of what we termed
in our memorandum to the President as the 'Third
Carnage' underway in Gujarat:
all the camps are officially closed, when many people
still do not have a home to go to or feel safe enough
to return. This is clearly designed to put pressure
on the victims and their relatives, who are exhausting
their own meager savings.
85,000 high school students are in a limbo after their
exams were deliberately disrupted. Most can't afford
private tuition. Many youth are reported to be absconding.
comparison to the Rs. 2,000-4,000 crores in estimated
damages (10,000 homes and 18,000 properties) only Rs.
250 crores of aid is in the pipeline, including Rs.
150 crores from the PM's Relief Fund.
the average, victims have received less than 10% of
their losses in compensation--and it's not unusual to
see checks amounting to less than 1% of the reported
loss (e.g. Rs. 500 and Rs. 2,000 for properties worth
Rs. 1 lakh!)
the death compensation of Rs. 1.5 lakhs, a significant
portion is in Narmada Bonds! Also, there is no hope
of compensation for the large number of missing persons,
unless relatives can produce the equivalent of Rs. 4.5
lakhs in collateral (this is under review, we were told).
legal system is loaded with public prosecutors who are
often acting more like defense attorneys for the accused
murderers, and as prosecutors of their own clients.
Some of them are also known to be office-bearers of
FIRs have been doctored with, or superceded by cyclostyled
'omnibus' FIRs, which replace the names of the accused
people with terms like 'unruly mobs,' ensuring that
there will never be any prosecutions. (In one instance,
our guide was personally at a police station with a
victim to inquire about the status of her FIR. "The
accused is absconding," the police asserted,
even as the accused man was seated right next to them!)
grim statistics make the point loud and clear: The
elected government of Gujarat was happy to collude,
encourage, or stand on the sidelines as mad men and
women systematically destroyed human lives and property.
But it WILL NOT take any responsibility to rebuild people's
lives, shifting that impossible burden to already over-stretched
NGOs and private citizens.
spite of these insurmountable odds, however, we were
amazed at the fortitude of the people affected. For
example, we found Muslim legal assistance groups to
be more optimistic about prosecutions than other legal
aid groups, who were quite sure that there would never
be any convictions. (Q: Is this because the minority
community doesn't have the luxury of being cynical?)
Wherever possible, people in urban areas are trying
their best to return to their homes and businesses,
notwithstanding hostile neighbors. When asked why they
don't leave the state to go to places like Bangalore
or Hyderabad or Mumbai, victims in one camp responded
unanimously: "Why should we? This is where the
Beneficiaries of EKTA/CAC/AIF Funds
a week of heart-wrenching visit to Gujarat, we left
behind thousands of victims, Hindus and Muslims, carrying
a few indelible impressions with us:
leaders fighting an impossible battle on multiple fronts--relief
supplies, compensation, housing, rebuilding businesses,
legal remedies, etc., while worrying endlessly about
their children's education, and the possibility of their
turning to violence.
of Naroda Patiya, who point to the unscathed Hindu temple
and Hindu Houses in their midst as symbols of communal
amity that had existed, even as they live patiently
on the streets for their modest homes to be rebuilt.
(We were pained to hear that many of these people had
to rush back to safe havens within hours of Akshardham,
in anticipation of more violence which, mercifully,
women, who would rather get on with their lives than
pursue cases of indescribable violence against them
(perhaps, to the consternation of women's groups).
man who keeps a vigil in front of the locked home of
Kausar Bano, the pregnant woman whose stomach was cut
open, and the fetus pulled out and torched. "Arent
you going to visit the spot?" he asks. We just
don't have the energy.
Hindu volunteer in the Sanklit Nagar camp, who had to
take off her bindhi for a few days so that she
didnt scare the already traumatized children in
villagers in Panchmahal, whose minds have been so poisoned
that our attempt to dialogue with one Sarpanch leads
to a not-so-veiled threat against our lives.
and other poor Hindus, who may be slowly realizing that
they too were manipulated by the politicians to turn
against their neighbors and friends. (Some of them may
have had the dubious distinction of being participants
in the violence as well as its victims: When we toured
Naroda Patiya, we could see that the mob hadn't been
able to make distinctions between Dalit and Muslim homes,
which often shared a common wall. Many of these homes
are now being rebuilt by the Islami Relief Committee,
with support from secular NGOs.)
class Hindus, who are facing the fear of violence every
day, and may be beginning to understand the scale of
brutality that had occurred right under their noses.
(The recent apology from a section of the Jain community
may be one such indicator.)
who have been conditioned into believing that anyone
who speaks up for a secular India is anti-Hindu, and
found it hard to believe that we were ready and willing
to meet with relatives of the Godhra train victims.
verdict is near-unanimous: the Indian media had, by
and large, done an exemplary job of covering the Gujarat
violence and its aftermath--not just the ugly side,
but also the humanitarian side, i.e. citizens from all
communities reaching out to help one another. The exception
to the rule, we had been told, was the Gujarati press,
Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar in particular.
We had very much wanted to meet with those editors,
and we finally got a chance to do so
Samachar. (Sandesh refused to meet with us.)
We also met with Gujarat Today, which caters
primarily to the Muslim community, and had taken a lead
role in relief work through its various charities. In
Hyderabad, we got a chance to talk at length with the
publishers of The Siasat Daily, the largest Urdu
daily in the city, which has the reputation of being
a progressive voice within the Muslim community. In
addition, we were also able to hold press conferences
in Ahmedabad, Vadodara, New Delhi and Hyderabad; and
we were able to meet several veteran journalists in
Najama Sultana Speaking to Reporters
are some impressions from these encounters:
We are quite nervous as we are ushered into the publisher's
office, after an on-again, off-again appointment. Shri
Shreyans Shah and his brother Bahubali are immaculately
dressed. The office smells of sweet incense and is decorated
with Hindu icons. We nervously exchange pleasantries.
Our leader is quick to state our purpose: "We
have read reports of incitement and mis-reporting by
your paper in the days following Godhra. We are here
to talk to you and find out the truth for ourselves."
That opening remark elicits a barrage of comments from the
duo: "What is the basis of your accusation? Where is your evidence? If
we are anti-Muslim, would we dare step out of this office,
which is in a Muslim-dominated area? We have always
been critical of the establishment, including Modi.
This is not a question of Hindu Vs Muslim, but a nexus
between politicians and criminals. The central problem
is our judiciary, which is anti-Hindu--Why do they need
years to reach a verdict on Ram Janambhoomi? English
papers are totally biased. They deliberately reported
that Ahsan Jafri's daughter was raped. They print such
lies and never retract them
Before they go any further, we introduce
them to Nishrin Hussain, daughter of ex-M.P. Ahsan Jafri,
who has joined our delegation from Delaware. (Ahsan
saab was brutally murdered by mobs in front of his home
in Gulberg Society on February 28.) The Shahs are taken
aback for a moment...but continue their tirade. Nishrin
asks them what they had done to defend her father's
work on communal harmony, instead of maligning him after
his murder. (The Editor's Guild had reported that Gujarat
Samachar had published an article after the Gulberg
massacre implying that Ahsan Jafri 'deserved it.') Shri
Bahubali can't contain himself: "Did your father
ever write about Kashmir? What about Pakistani terrorism?
What about the Pandits?" Nishrin snaps back,
"Sir, my father was a Gujarati first and a patriot.
He worked here in this state and wrote about his environs.
Why should he carry any special burden to write about
The Shahs claim that they have written in the past in support
of their 'friend' Jafri saab. They attack the Editor's
Guild as biased, and claim that they have received a
written apology from them. We get the feeling that they
resent being clubbed with Sandesh, which had
clearly broken all norms of decency in its reporting.
(We understand that competition between the two
papers is fierce, which could partly explain their race
for sensationalism--throughout our conversation, they
kept emphasizing their circulation figures.) We aren't
quite prepared with original research in Gujarati to
confront them with specifics of their provocative reporting,
as we hadn't really expected to meet them! So we ask,
"If you are so sure about the nexus between
politicians and criminals, then why didnt you
publish those details [instead of blaming the minorities]?"
Their response: "We cant publish such
things without 100% proof!"
As we continue our exchange, there is less tension in the air,
and we seem to be getting across to each other at some
level. They offer to print an article by Nishrin, unedited.
They offer their library to us, should we choose to
do our research and bring to their attention specifics
of mis-reporting. We readily accept their offer. But
do we have the bandwidth to follow up?
The discussion veers to America and their perception of our
double standards: "You allow America to destroy
another country because of 9/11, and you complain about
what happened in Gujarat?" We assure them that
most of us do not support American foreign policy in
Asia. But, we point out, Bush had addressed the nation
within days of the 9/11, flanked by Muslim Americans,
to proclaim that we shouldn't equate Islam with terrorism:
"How come none of our leaders here did something
similar to stop the carnage in Gujarat?" Shri
Shah is visibly angry at what he perceives as our staunch
defence of President Bush.
We decide to take their leave while we are still 'ahead.' But,
somehow, we get the feeling that both sides had come
out of the meeting with a slight change in perception
of each other. Nonetheless, a human gesture on their
part to condole Nishrin for her tragic personal loss
might have helped their cause with us much more. But
that was never to come.
though we didn't get a chance to meet the editors of
Sandesh, we got a chance to recall an article
they had published sometime prior to Godhra, accusing
Muslims of 'deceptively' naming their establishments
with Hindu names. One of the reports we received in
Ahmedabad contained a list of restaurants destroyed
(a classic example of prior incitement by Sandesh).
Our curiosity was aroused, and we read on: Citycorner,
Sanflower, Signor, Supreme, Central, Tasty, Way Wait,
Appicurian, A-one, Kabir, Alpha, Lakeview, Topaz, Sarvoday,
etc. Some Hindu names!
Gujarat Today seems to be more than just a newspaper--it represents
a proactive movement for education and health among
the poor, especially Muslims. Their office is quite
a contrast to that of Gujarat Samachar--just
one big warehouse, with a modest office in the corner.
Mr. Tirmizi, the Publisher, is very focussed on relief
and rehabilitation efforts, in which they have been
quite active from day one, through their holding charities,
Lok-Hit Prakashan Sarvajanik Trust, Shah-e-Alam
and Al-Ameen Lok Hit Charitable Trust. He also talks
about their support for ongoing legal work on behalf
of the victims. As we narrate our Gujarat Samachar
visit, he says with a smile: "They are my friends."
We find that he is not in such a charitable mood when
it comes to Sandesh.
The Editor's Guild report had acknowledged this paper's balanced
and wide coverage of the Gujarat violence. After meeting
the editorial staff, we too can sense their professionalism.
The Siasat Daily:
We had called Mr. Jahid Ali Khan, publisher of The Daily
Siasat, an Urdu paper in Hyderabad, barely 48 hours
before our visit. So we are pleasantly surprised that
he has arranged a private dinner, interviews with his
reporters, and a well-attended public meeting at the
Siasat offices. His entire household has become
vegetarian for the evening, as he openly discusses a
wide range of issues affecting the Muslim community,
and its relation with the majority: dearth of enlightened
leadership, education, women's role, cow slaughter,
uniform civil code, police-citizen relations, etc. Nothing
seems off limits. A strong proponent of the Urdu language,
he chides the community for clinging to the notion that
they should send their children only to Urdu medium
schools, which according to him are ill-equipped, ill-maintained
and ill-staffed. "We should be pragmatic,"
he says. "What's wrong in sending our children
to Telugu medium schools and benefiting from it, with
Urdu still as the second language?"
A Public Meeting at The Daily Siasat
He is proud of the strong tradition of communal harmony in
Hyderabad, and the role his paper plays in the community.
Like everyone in Hyderabad, he is elated that the just
concluded Ganpathi Visarjan celebrations had
gone off without any violence, for the first time. But
how? He tells us how some Muslim neighborhoods had welcomed
the processions, and had even offered water to the Hindus;
how the Hindus had invited the Iranian ambassador to
officiate at one ceremony; and how the entire law and
order bandobast for the day had been lead by
the second man in command of the police--a Muslim!
Did all of these represent a change in mindset and tactics
by the Hyderabadis to maintain harmony? Or did they
represent good governance, something sadly missing in
many states? Almost everyone we spoke to thinks that
the two went hand-in-hand. And they applaud their CM
for taking care of the needs of all the communities
and for maintaining harmony, in spite of the pressures
he must face from NDA and from local units of BJP.
Muslims here do empathize strongly with the minorities in Gujarat,
and have been providing a lot of succor to the victims,
both financial and emotional. The Daily Siasat
alone had raised over Rs. 6 crores, we are told, which
is being disbursed through Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind.
We get a chance to speak to many of these donors and
supporters of Siasat at a public meeting. Among
other themes, Najma, an NRI-SAHI delegate and a native
of the city, talks eloquently about the need for her
community to look inwards into issues of education and
women. Satinath, another NRI-SAHI delegate, focuses
on the coming Gujarat elections, and talks about why
it is important for every state in India to send contingents
to Gujarat to defeat communal politics.
Notwithstanding their strong feelings about Gujarat, many Hyderabadi
Muslims seem willing to 'forgive' Naidu for not making
good on his threat to walk out of NDA. Why? In their
scheme of things, retaining Naidu as their CM seems
to be a very high priority.
Many of us in the NRI-SAHI delegation are novices when it comes
to the press corps, but we did all right in the four
press conferences that we hosted. Attendance was quite
good at all the venues, thanks to our coordinators,
who had done a lot of groundwork in a very short time.
We received extensive coverage in the print media, in
English, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu and Telugu. Nishrin and
Shrikumarji were on Star TV with Rajdeep Sardesai.
And Aaaj Tak featured the entire Delhi press
Aditi Desai at the Vadodara Press Conference
Why so much interest in this 'not-so-high-powered' NRI delegation,
seven months after Godhra? After all, we had brought
no joint venture business proposals, no checks to be
presented to politicians at public functions, and we
did not represent any bilateral aid agencies or human
rights organizations. The only plausible answer we could
think of was that this was the first time ever that
an NRI delegation had come to India on a peace mission.
For the most part, the press corps was very supportive. At
times, the Delhi conference felt like a memorial service
for Ahsan Jafri. But there were also many questions
about the role of NRIs in funding right wing Hindu organizations
in India. The conferences in Ahmedabad and Vadodara,
however, were quite tension-filled. The questions were
dominated by a few hard-liners, whose line of questioning,
not surprisingly, went thus:
Q: "Why are you coming seven months later? What about Godhra? Did
you visit the Godhra victims? Where is the proof that
Modi declined to meet with you? What about terrorism
in Kashmir? Did you do anything for the pandits?"
A: "We condemn terrorism of all sorts, anywhere. In
fact, we are ready to meet the relatives of the Godhra
killings, but no one even had a list of the victims
until just two weeks back. Some of us will be happy
to return to Gujarat to meet them. As for Kashmir, yes,
we have condemned terrorism there as well, but one must
recognize that the Gujarat carnage was a clear case
of state-supported terrorism, and the incitement is
still going at the highest levels
One reporter persists even after the end of the press conference:
"Have you ever tried to enter Dariapur?"
His view of Dariapur as a dangerous place (a mini-Pakistan
as some call it) appears to be shared by many otherwise
reasonable Ahmedabadis. So we pop the question later
to several people. One of them refers us to a Washington
Post investigative report, which is supposed to have
debunked the myth of Dariapur. Others, some of whom
are visibly orthodox Hindus, say that they walk around
in Dariapur all the time and had never felt threatened
in any way.
Perhaps the reality is somewhere in-between. Perhaps, communities
like Dariapur are well prepared to defend themselves,
which might explain why they were largely left alone
in the carnage. (The planners seem to have mainly targeted
areas where Muslims were a minority.) On the other hand,
bad legends and paranoia have a way of taking hold in
people's imaginations (like the demonization of Palestinian
villages in the Jewish psyche). In our view, only vigorous
efforts by civil society to promote a dialogue between
the communities can possibly exorcise the 'ghost of
Veteran Journalists and Jurists:
We met several seasoned journalists and former judges during
our visit with I.K. Gujral, former Prime Minister of
India. There seems to be a genuine sense of alarm among
many of them that we are at a critical crossroad in
our nation's history: a choice between an explosive
combination of fascism and religiosity OR a secular,
if imperfect, democracy. "If we
lose Gujarat, that's the end of secular India,"
we heard some of them say. While agreeing with the
feeling that the nation is indeed at a critical juncture,
Mr. Gujral gently chided the 'all or nothing' viewpoint.
He reiterated his abiding confidence in the good sense
of the people of India and described how, after Gujarat,
many Islamic groups had come forward to him with positions
that would have hitherto been unthinkable. He also reminded
everyone about how the people of India had surprised
the world by defeating Indira Gandhi's rule.
Q: What are veteran Indian journalists doing about the new wave of Internet
journalism by apologists for the Sangh Parivar, who
seem to have become darlings of the right wing NRIs--e.g.
writers like Rajeev Srinivasan and Varsha Bhosle?
A: Rajeev who?
Clearly, some of them are out of touch with the NRI Internet
scene. Others agree that it is important to prevail
upon portals like Rediff to present a wider spectrum
Gulberg Society (Chamanpura):
end this narrative with our solemn pilgrimage to the
Gulberg Society compound in Chamanpura, where ex-Congress
M.P. Ahsan Jafri, and over 70 other men, women and children
seeking shelter at his home, were brutally hacked or
burned to death by a mob on February 28. (Over 10 women
were gang raped and then burnt alive, according to eyewitnesses.)
The so-called mob was lead by people whom the victims
knew well--neighbors, friends, and political partisans
of the neighborhood. Ahsan saab had made over 200 desperate
phone calls for help to the police and to politicians
in Gujarat and Delhi. But no help came to save the man
who had worked all his life for communal harmony; only
cruel comments at the other end of the phone such as,
"Is he still alive?"
to the Jafri Home
is the first time Nishrin is setting foot in her grotesquely
charred home. She takes off her shoes, for she knows
not where her abba lies. As she tries to come
to terms with tell-tale signs of indescribable brutality
at her childhood home, and surveys the kitchen where
her mom had cooked and fed them, we see traces of chemicals
all over the walls and ceiling. We see the destruction
wrought by their own propane cylinders, which the mob
had systematically exploded. We are told that the compound
was littered with hundreds of vials of mysterious chemicals,
some of which have been sent to labs for analysis. There
is also speculation that the 'mob' had used chemicals
donated by other countries following the 2001 earthquake,
to help 'melt' concrete and steel to reach survivors.
How did they have access to such potent chemicals, which
may have been used to 'melt' human beings? Are we seriously
expected to believe that all this was the result of
spontaneous popular rage?
takes us back to the open stairwell at the back of the
house, which leads to the first floor. She points to
the piles of bricks and stones still lying on the stairs:
"They were being stoned from the back to prevent
them from going upstairs to relative safety." Mrs.
Jafri and many other neighbors were hiding in terror
upstairs, but many others couldn't join them. Had they
known what was in store for them downstairs, would they
have minded a few bricks to save their own lives? We
talk to Shareifbhai, Mr. Jafri's neighbor, who was among
those fighting a losing battle with the surging mob
outside, while his entire family was being hacked and
burnt to death inside Jafri saab's house--wife and daughters
Shareifbhai Narrating the Horror of Feb
narrates the fate of and each and every resident of
the compound to Nishrin--who made it, who didn't, who
ran away, and so on. He points to the mound of earth
in her backyard, where they had buried whatever remains
they could find. Nishrin winces every so often, but
keeps her composure. She is especially pained at the
fate of her neighbor, Khan uncle, who had bravely stepped
out of his home in the middle of the mayhem to put out
a fire. They never saw him again. No body
hence frozen bank accounts
no financial support whatsoever for the family. (Nishrin
had just bought the family some cooking utensils and
other household items.)
swell up in Shareifbhai's eyes as he admits that this
is the first time he is about to breakdown. Teesta tells
us that he is getting ready to start rebuilding the
homes in the compound, and is already restocking his
adjoining electronics/furniture store, which had been
destroyed by arsonists thrice in the last few years!
What makes people Shareifbhai go on?
Q: Why are you still clinging to this
A: xxxbhai and others, who lead
the massacre, were my friends. They are now going around
the neighborhood whispering that they really should
have 'taken care' of people like me. What have I got
to loose at this point, except my life? Isn't it more
important that we carry on Ahsan saab's dream of proving
that Hindus and Muslims can coexist?
we get ready to depart, someone opens the lid to the
underground water tank in the middle of the courtyard.
We peer in disbelief at remnants of humanity at the
bottom of the clear water. The tank, we are told, was
full of body parts on February 28th, before the mobs
returned to torch the evidence. We are reluctant to
draw the rest of the group's attention to this horrific
we contemplate the charred skeleton of the Ashoka tree
in front of Nishrin's home, a mute spectator to the
massacres, now bearing a little sign with a verse from
the Quran. But wait! We also see fresh green
shoots emerging from the ground. A symbol of hope, perhaps,
and Gujarat's capacity to overcome?
in the day, Nishrin had bombarded Shri Shankarsinh Vaghela
with tough questions about the Congress party's inability
to prevent the carnage in their own back yard, and to
save her father. (There are reports that Congress party
workers too were involved in the violence, which he
doesnt deny.) He promises that he would go to
Gulberg Society on October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanthi,
to pay his homage to Ahsan Jafri: "I will do
that for my friend, even if
" He doesn't
quite say it, but we can sense the politician's antenna
going up to the possibility of being labeled pro-Muslim.
are glad to be here at Gulberg, with Nishrin, Shareifbhai,
and other survivors of the carnage, to draw inspiration
from their courage and strength to go on. Together
we must, and we shall, fight the monster in our midst.
We understand that Mr. Vaghela kept his promise to Nishrin.
On October 2nd, Gandhi Jayanthi, he joined 300 other
people at Gulberg Society to pay homage to Ahsan Jafri
and all the other innocent men, women and children,
who gave their lives for the future of our nation.]
Part 2 Coming Up:
Our Meetings with NGOs, Politicians,
and Religious Leaders.