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Year 2002, No 2
My lost country
The plight of Kashmir, Kashmiris and Kashmiriyat
By Muzamil Jaleel
Trade in Human Misery
By Jeremy Seabrook
Pakistan's time of reckoning
By Aijaz Ahmad
These Ten Years:
Sangh Parivar has been busy redefining the nation
By Nalini Taneja
Blazing Gujarat: The Image of India's Future?
By Radhika Desai
After the expose
The Tehelka story
By Tarun J Tejpal
Did the media ransack shops, take lives, Mr Modi?
By Rajdeep Sardesai
Saffronisation and Imperialism in Indian Education
An interview with Prabhat Patnaik
Cry, the beloved country
By Harsh Mander
Hindu Rashtra in action
By Nalini Taneja
A Report on Gujarat
The agony of Gujarat
By KN Panikkar
Callousness...after the carnage
By Manas Dasgupta
Crime and no punishment
By Anjali Mody
Callousness...after the carnage

Their hotels, factories, garages and showrooms lie shattered. The once well-off are virtually penniless. It is more than a month since the riots broke out, but Gujarat's Muslims are still awaiting succour. Baba Harsoliya, who owned a huge showroom in Himmatnagar, has lost all his money and is not sure when he will get insurance clearance to start his business again, if at all.

Muslims in transferable jobs have already started looking for postings elsewhere.

The traders who can afford it are planning to shift their business away from the atmosphere of distrust and hate. Those employed in Hindu-dominated areas are still not reporting for duty, and daily wage earners have lost their income.

Why, even police officers and members of the judiciary belonging to the minority community are feeling threatened, and in some cases have also been attacked.

What has happened and is happening in Gujarat in the aftermath of the Godhra train carnage give a clear indication that if the torching of the Sabarmati Express was "pre-planned" as claimed by the BJP leaders, the post-Godhra violence was no less "organised and well executed".

The way the minority properties were systematically targeted, the way the police were kept out of the scene, and the way the Government deliberately delayed calling out the Army, all point to one conclusion: the Government wanted to whip up communal sentiment to create a Hindu vote bank.

It is precisely for political gains that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, showed no inclination to stop the violence. The least the people can expect from a Government in such a volatile situation is an honest effort to restore peace at the earliest but even the routine methods of formation of peace committees have not been initiated in four weeks.

As some senior bureaucrats, who said they felt "ashamed" to be part of the "partisan" State administration, pointed out, the speed and alacrity with which the minority establishments were singled out and attacked could not have been possible without meticulous preparation.

It was possible that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had been making the preparations keeping in mind March 15 when trouble was apprehended during the "Shila Pujan" in Ayodhya, but the Godhra carnage a fortnight earlier came in handy to implement its "Muslim Hatao" programme.

It sounds plausible because the bloody "Gujarat Bandh" began with the destruction of the business establishments of the minorities before turning to the desecration of mosques and "blood for blood". The idea was to deal a crippling blow to the minority economy to force them to flee Gujarat. It was further strengthened through the subsequent surreptitious campaign calling upon the Hindus to launch an "economic boycott" of the minorities and severe all their business relations with the Muslims.

It could not have escaped even the most inexperienced of administrations that preventive measures were called for on the eve of a bandh call given to protest against the Godhra carnage.

As a senior retired police officer commented, "the sky is the limit for taking preventive measures". The Government could have rounded up known anti-social elements, could have combed the sensitive areas and seized arms and ammunitions, could have imposed curfew in the sensitive areas in anticipation, could have alerted the Army in advance to be ready to move in at the first sign of trouble, or at the least could have appealed to the people to maintain peace. But nothing of the kind was done by the administration in the 24 hours it had at its disposal between Godhra and the bandh.

What was also missing in the present State police cadre was a few upright officers with the guts to exert the powers given to them under the law. As a retired police officer commented, the excuse of being outnumbered by the hooligans was untenable; they are trained to handle such a situation since at no given time is the number of policemen larger than an organised mob. A few trained policemen can be stronger than thousands of hooligans. But even if senior officers had declined to obey unlawful orders, Mr. Modi could still have had his way. And the blame for it lies in the system introduced nearly three decades ago by the then Congress Government and followed by all subsequent Ministries for their own convenience.

It has become an established practice in the State to appoint field police staff up to the rank of sub-inspector based on the choice of the ruling party MLA of the area. In the BJP administration, the system was taken a step further, packing the police stations in the opposition party constituencies with those convenient for the Sangh Parivar.

The system has resulted in an erosion of authority of the top police brass as the local staff remain more loyal to their political bosses than to senior officers.

In fact, senior officers reportedly at times ask the help of the field staff to exert pressure on the Government for plum postings.

And Mr. Modi by his subsequent actions also demonstrated that he was not bothered about public or media criticism in acting in a partisan manner.

He has unabashedly "punished" all those officials who "dared" to take on the Sangh Parivar outfits. There are not many takers for his claim that the changes were "routine administrative decisions". It was perhaps for the first time in the history of the State that a large-scale reshuffle of senior level police officials was undertaken in the middle of a serious law and order situation and the pattern of the transfers indicated that the entire exercise was carried out with a one-point agenda, to remove all those coming in the way of the Parivar hooligans enjoying a free hand.

The officers who ensured that their areas remain trouble-free or dared to book the local VHP or Bajrang Dal activists for creating disturbances have been packed off to insignificant posts.

The district superintendents of police of Kutch, Banaskantha, Mehsana and several other districts have been made to suffer for their upright stand.

An attempt has also been made to dilute the investigations against BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders named in the police FIRs in connection with heinous crimes.

A senior police official, who was investigating the involvement of the BJP legislator and the party's Ahmedabad unit president, Maya Kodnani, and the State VHP general secretary, Jaideep Patel, in the gruesome Naroda-Patia incident in which more than 90 people were burnt alive, has been shifted to civil defence.

The district police top brass who suspended a police officer for inaction during riots in Banaskantha have been sent to the State control room.

The official inquiring into the Sardarpura incident in Mehsana district in which at least 22 people were burnt alive finds himself sidelined in excise and prohibition.

Almost every one of the 27 transfers was either to "punish" the unwanted or to "reward" the "good boys"; in many cases, the officers have been changed within two months of their last transfers. The transfers have led to a mini-revolt in the police cadre and the Director-General of Police dashed off an angry letter to the Home Secretary but by all accounts the protests may have come a bit too late to salvage the prestige of the force.

Apart from the discriminatory decisions, some of which the Government was forced to rescind later at the instance of the Centre, the personal involvement of a few Ministers or the BJP MLAs in the disturbances show the true colour of the ruling party. One of the Ministers was said to have participated in demolishing a dargah and placing an idol there to "convert" it into a temple. Another had reportedly accepted the responsibility of keeping the police at bay to let the hooligans carry out their job.

A number of BJP and VHP leaders were allegedly involved in instigating the mobs but had not been named in the FIRs by "loyal" police personnel.

It is the duty of the Government to arrest all the guilty, but the alertness with which it arrested the perpetrators of the train carnage was sadly missing in dealing with the post-Godhra incidents.

Though the police have arrested over 9,000 people in connection with the post-Godhra violence, none of the senior leaders of the BJP, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal named in the police FIRs, has yet been called even for questioning.

Despite being involved in heinous crimes, the police have used such soft clauses against the accused that more than 6,500 could secure bail already and the applications of the remaining are being processed.

The indications are that the Godhra carnage did work in favour of the BJP to consolidate the communal vote bank.

Mr. Modi is confident that he cannot be dismissed and is believed to have conveyed to the central leadership that any punitive action against his "Hindu Government" could result in more disturbances.

Alternatively, a change of leadership at this stage would also not be in the interest of the party.

Mr. Modi and the BJP could gain from the communal holocaust, but Gujarat has lost.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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