March-April  2002 

Who does Gujarat belong to?

Your famous poet and social historian Narmadashankar Lalshankar (who died in 1886) is remembered for his great poem ‘Jay Jay Garvi Gujarat’, in which he celebrated all those cultural icons which provided a sense of identity to all who lived in Gujarat. In asking "who does Gujarat belong to?" he listed all the castes, communities, religions, sects; then says, not just these, because Gujarat does not belong to any particular group; he continues, that Gujarat belongs to all those who speak Gujarati; and then, not satisfied, goes on to say that Gujarat also belongs to non–Hindus, the Parsis, Muslims and the non "sa–varna" communities. Narmad believed passionately that, around such a cultural imagination – truly secular in spirit – a sense of belonging could be forged for the Gujarati people. Narmad followed a great Jain tradition of compassion and tolerance; and Gandhi followed Narmad, converting a whole nation to espouse the idea of "ahimsa." So what has brought this great tradition, in this great State, to a point where a recent documentary title sums up the present situation; "Genocide in the land of Gandhi?" It may be best, though distasteful, to confront certain facts directly. The more openly we speak about these, the more likely we are to be able to deal with them:

Ř The horrific incident at Godhra was a crime against humanity and it is to be utterly condemned. Its culprits need to be found, tried and dealt with in the most severe way that our laws provide, including if necessary with the death penalty. In the words of Professor Bandukwala "whoever committed that crime was surely one of the worst enemies of the Muslims."

Ř The civil disorder in Ahmedabad, as it escalated into a combination of looting, arson and attacks on people, quickly revealed one clear pattern: that the maximum number of atrocities were committed against Muslims and Dalits.

Ř The vernacular press in Gujarat played a highly regrettable role in the run up to, and during, the disturbances. Many Muslim establishments bearing non-Muslim names, were specifically listed by these papers; and all of these were subsequently torched to cinders.

Ř An amazing de–humanisation could be seen in the behaviour of those on the streets. Most were young in age – in their twenties or less. To hear 12 and 15 year old boys screaming for rape and murder, reflects a brutalisation that is difficult to comprehend in a land that was the breeding ground of "ahimsa." A new and disturbing trend is now to hear women also expressing themselves in support of brutal retribution.

Ř As the genocide spread from Ahmedabad to other cities and the countryside, a systematic attempt could be seen to target and destroy the economic base of the Muslim community."
Cyrus Guzder, CMD Air Freight, Is Secularism Good for Business? Speaking at CII, Ahmedabad.

What is a government elected for? If they can’t protect innocent lives... then they should go. Which kind of government allows the killing of women and children? With due respect, I think the home minister and even the Prime Minister should take their share of blame. It’s a national failure. Riots have damaged India’s reputation more in the international forum than what is happening in Pakistan. Do we need to always sabotage our own chances of growth and international goodwill?

Indian corporates must come out in re-building Gujarat. The way we have done after the Bhuj earthquake. We can open community centres, (re)build burnt-down houses and educate children who have been orphaned. We at HDFC will certainly do our bit."
Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC.

Gujarat’s image as a progressive state has taken a beating because of the recent communal riots. Don’t underestimate the homework that multination companies (MNCs) do on their potential investment destinations, especially in terms of the city risk. They will not set up operations in Ahmedabad or Gujarat because the risk is too high."
Azim Premji, WIPRO chief, at IIM Ahmedabad.

Are we ostriches burying our heads in the sand? We frown upon inter-religious marriages but rape women; talk of vegetarianism and don’t even spare children. Such barbaric acts by a few destroy the country’s image. What’s more frightening is educated people justifying violence.’’
 Anu Aga, chairperson, Thermax Ltd. and chairperson, CII, Western Region .


[ Subscribe | Contact Us | Archives | Khoj | Aman ]
[ Letter to editor  ]
Copyrights © 2001, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.