India Rights & Wrongs
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Teesta Setalvad Award Acceptance Speech
Setalvad, joint editor of Communalism Combat was awarded the
Rajiv Gandhi Sadhbhavana Award, 2002 along with Harsh Mander, Action
humbly accepting the honour being conferred upon me, my heart and
thoughts reach out to the hundreds of thousands of displaced
persons, six months without home or hearth, 35,000 children who have
lost one or both parents and borne witness to debased levels of
violence, women who have borne the brunt of their gender and
community identities, men and boys who feel shellshocked even now at
the conspiracy unleashed –in Gujarat.
violence, perpetrated with single minded and cynical design and
state connivance represents a milestone in the subcontinent’s bitter
record of inter-community bloodshed. For, while there are the
hapless and forgotten Kashmiri Pandits also displaced and bitterly
abandoned in Jammu and Delhi camps, they have been innocent victims
of foreign-bred mercenaries not home grown terror bands; terror
bands who moreover speak of a narrow sense of Indian patriotism and
those who seek to drastically alter the notion and idea of India, an
India painfully carved out in 1947, an India wedded out of deep
pragmatism and principle to the ideals of equity, parity and
non-discrimination, occupy high office in the nation’s capital and
in that state. They seek to use constitutional office for blatantly
unconstitutional designs. Mass murder is lightly excused and those
who masterminded the carnage are sought to be exonerated instead of
being morally quarantined. It is a measure of the deep erosion of
morality and principle in Indian public and political life that
offices like that of the prime minister and his deputy are used for
such narrow, divisive and sectarian gain.
The challenge before one and all of us,
party and non party, government and non government is to genuine
forge a united front against the forces of division, of facism, that
threaten the basic tenor and fabric of lived India, village India,
urban India. For that to happen, mistakes of the past need to be
corrected, a genuine commitment to secularism re-affirmed. It
behoves on the single largest opposition party in India to take the
lead in this, millions expect it of you. Gujarat first and India
too, offers a unique opportunity for mistakes to be acknowledged,
then corrected. There can be no compromise on the fundamental
principles of non-sectarian governance and non-violence. If there
have been serious deviations, and there have been some, a whole
nation’s future and unity cries that they are seriously addressed.
Rehabilitation, emotional and physical, of those affected in
Gujarat could provide a unique opportunity for building a healthy
committed cadre in that state. Those in Delhi and Gandhinagar who
are making a crude push for polls to reap a harvest from the hatred
that they have unleashed, I know and believe are crying wolf. A free
and fair election in Gujarat, an election not controlled and
manipulated by those who masterminded carnage, a poll where the
intelligence and poll machinery is left to it’s constitutional
conscience, will not bring back mass murderers to power.
Gujaratis, one and all, I am convinced will reject the politics of
hatred and division if the poll is free and fair.
this opportunity to thank in spirit, if not by individual name, each
and every woman and man of conscience in Gujarat, comrades-in-arms
working tirelessly for succour and sanity. A tribute to each one of
them. At this moment, especially, I think of you and the deep
anguish shared in past months. Many thoughts and warm gratitude for
the entire Sabrang team and my own comrade-in-arms, Javed Anand
without whom my work would not be possible.
Jawaharlal Nehruji, India’s first prime minister showed deep insight
when he predicted that “Facism in India can only come in the garb of
a Hindu rashtra.” We have seen to our horror and disgust what
proponents of that narrow brand of Indian nationhood mean by that
concept –in Gujarat. He also said, “If any person raises his hand to
strike down another on the ground of religion, I shall fight him
till the last breath of my life.”
Gandhiji, Nehru’s guru, that man in
simple loin cloth who won the heart of millions of Indians was a
Gujarati. His deep moral force and commitment to non-sectarian
Indian nationhood and genuine toleration resulted in his brutal
assassination by a fanatic representative of sectarian nationhood.
Gandhiji and his own concept of Ramrajya have bene misused by the
heirs of his assassins but here is what he had to say on his own
concept. Gandhiji said and wrote on February 26, 1947, "Let no one
commit the mistake of thinking that Ramrajya means a rule of Hindus.
My Ram is another name for Khuda or God. I want Khuda Raj which is
the same thing as the Kingdom of God on Earth."
Gandhiji, who spoke for the poor and the
disadvantaged, and his pupil Nehru, the darling
of millions, saw in their great vision
that only a composite nationhood could hold India together and get
the problems of poverty, starvation, drought, dowry burning, bonded
labour addressed. The tragedy of this country is that with the
dominance of the ideology of Hindu rashtra in public life, with
proponents of it gaining power, every real issue that we need to
tackle has got sidelined. India’s image lies brutally tarnished in
the eyes of the world.
time that the cobwebs created by a manipulation in public discourse
get swept away. It is time that politics and public life begins to
reflect the morality and commitment that was envisioned by those
who fought for, and won us, our freedom.
time that we, all of us dedicate ourselves, seriously, to redeem the
idea of India.
Acceptance speech by Teesta Setalvad, Rajiv Gandhi Sadhbhavna Award,