SIGNS OF THE TIMES
TWO pogroms in the recent history of the country – the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and the North East Delhi pogrom of 2020 – took place around this time of the year, the supposed Spring time.
Leaving back hundreds perished in every sense of the term. And what compounds the tragedy is the fact that the survivors are still awaiting justice, as many of the culprits are moving about freely, untouched and unbothered. And what could be termed as just too shocking (though, as I have been writing all along, nothing really shocks one in these fascist times!) is the fact in several cases it is the victims who are paraded as crime-doers. Even a medical practitioner working with a hospital in North East Delhi, who had helped saves lives, tending to the injured and dying, found his name in the police charge sheet!
If one were to focus on the Gujarat pogrom, it would be naïve to expect that the communal violence against the Muslims had spread out all too suddenly. On the contrary, it gets rather too obvious that it was allowed, if not encouraged, to accelerate, along the set Right-Wing agenda.
The first whistle blower cop of the Gujarat cadre, R. B. Sreekumar, in an interview given to me, detailed. “I was additional DGP (Intelligence) of Gujarat from April to September 2002. I’d been reporting the Sangh Parivar’s and Modi government’s role in that carnage. My reports to the government were submitted in four affidavits of 600 pages. Later, I submitted two more affidavits. I did so in keeping with my duty as a civil servant and my oath to uphold the Constitution of India.” In fact, Sreekumar focused on the most significant aspect to the pogrom: The political rulers and the machinery under their control did not want the pogrom to subside. If the State wants it can curb and control any communal rioting within a couple of hours.
And soon after the Gujarat pogrom, I visited the New Delhi situated Institute of Social Sciences and was introduced to a former mayor of Ahmedabad, Aneesa Mirza. And as soon I’d asked her about the conditions in her home state, she shut her eyes as though in deep anguish and pleaded that I don’t bring up the topic as she falls ill. “Though I’ve witnessed many communal killings, but nothing so gruesome as those killings in Gujarat in 2002. The political mafia killed and destroyed and burnt. I saw live human forms burnt to death!”
Gujarat based Christian and Muslims and Hindu activists recounted that the local police stations in the State had started resembling mini-mandirs! Why should religious motifs of any given religion or faith or belief be displayed and flaunted in government set-ups? Why should any jail or prison or police station look like a masjid or mandir or church?
Startling disclosures were made at a public meet in New Delhi where at least one political figure spoke out rather too directly of the build-ups to the 2002 pogrom. It was D.P. Tripathi of the NCP, who told the audience that way back in the mid-80s, the then chief minister of Gujarat, Madhav Singh Solanki, had told Tripathi that there are “international forces” working in the State to whip up communal frenzy and strengthen Hindutva brigades.
Politicians from the so called secular parties had travelled to Ahmedabad even as the pogrom was peaking and had got in touch with the top political brass to ask the ‘why’ to those mass killings of the Muslims! They had to hear words along the strain:“ Inn logon ko sabak sikhana tha …aesaa sabak jo woh zindagi bhar yaad rakhegain !” (wanted to teach these people a lesson …such a lesson they’ll remember all their lives!) In fact, a political figure who had flown from New Delhi to Ahmedabad with two other well- known personalities as soon as he got the news of the communal carnage, had commented: “The then Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad could not be contacted the entire day and night. Not even in the Police Headquarters.”
Why the targeted killings and carnage went on, un-controlled? What was the role of the police force? Also, a related question — why the administrators could not see the disparities and discriminations, even at the basic recruitment level? Even 12 years back this stark fact stood out — the near absence of men and women from the minority community in the State police force. To quote from academic Omar Khalidi’s book ‘Khaki and the Ethnic Violence in India’ (Published in 2010, by Three Essays Collective ),“ Consonant with the general pattern nationwide, there are only few Muslims in the Gujarat Police, 6.2 per cent of the total according to V.N. Rai. It is estimated that out of the several hundred state police officers a mere 65 are Muslims. Only one such officer R.K. Qadiri became an Assistant Commissioner of Police in Ahmedabad. Of the 136 IPS officers, a mere five are Muslim, according to the National Police Academy.”
And if one were to focus on the North East Delhi pogrom of 2020, what hit was the blatant targeted killings of Muslims. And as the pogrom peaked, so did the killings and destruction of homes and shops and even religious places. Strangely, in the midst of the communal carnage, the hate-speech givers and the Right-Wing goons backed by the political mafia were not arrested. This, when there was sufficient evidence to expose the Hindutva politicians who had come up with provocative communal speeches.
Even to this day there lurks fear and apprehensions in those lanes and by-lanes.
With such dark realities, there’s no Spring time!
Humra Quraishi is a Delhi-based writer-columnist-journalist. She is also the author of several books including Kashmir: The Untold Story. The views expressed here are author’s personal.