New Delhi: The story
of Gujarat is more about the triumph of politics of hatred,
symbolised by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, than the development
indicators he talks about, says social activist and National
Advisory Council member Harsh Mander, who runs an NGO that helps
survivors of the 2002 carnage.
"The story of Gujarat is more a tale of triumph of politics of
hatred symbolised by Chief Minister Narendra Modi than the
development indicators he talks about," Mander told IANS in an
"The debate, whether the state's responsibility is to deliver
growth or to protect people, is being played out very dramatically
Mander said the carnage "looked planned" as well as the "systemmatic
subversion of justice" that followed it. He was then country head
of NGO Action Aid on deputation to the state. He quit the Indian
Administrative Service in March 2002 "to fight for the idea of
"I wanted to defend the secular-democratic values which have been
victorious for a long time...this could be done only outside the
service," said Mander whose NGO, Centre for Equity Studies, helps
the survivors of Gujarat riots.
The activist said when he visited the historically prosperous
state in western India shortly after the riots to provide
humanitarian assistance to the survivors, he realised "the
violence was state sponsored".
"Just like the violence, subversion of the legal process too
appeared to be planned. It showed in the way FIRs were written and
cases were filed," Mander told IANS.
"I could see an open role played by the state in enabling and
facilitating the pogrom."
The riots followed the day after the burning of the Sabarmati
Express coach at Godhra Feb 27, 2002 in which 58 kar sevaks, or
Hindu activists, returning from Ayodhya were killed. Over 1,000
people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the communal riots in its
Mander said as a result of state apathy around half of the 200,000
violence affected people have still not been able to return to
their roots and around 30,000 continue to live in relief camps
while several others face socio-economic boycott.
Observing that "justice for the survivors seems distant", the
former bureaucrat expressed hope that civil society's "systematic
resistance" to "subversion of justice" in the past decade has
ensured that the "system in Gujarat" is being made answerable.
"More than the final victory, the process of resistance is
important...it is going to be a long battle," said Mander.
"Riots divided the communities", Mander said, adding "the past ten
years have witnessed the culmination of an alternative vision of
cultural subordination of the minorities."
"This is unacceptable," said Mander.
He said that Modi risked his entire political career by refusing
to accept that the state failed to explore possibilities of
reconciliation in the past decade.
Explaining his point, Mander said that instead of acknowledging
the "state's role in the riots, expressing remorse, pursuing
reparation and ensuring justice," the Modi administration "denied
responsibility, showed pride, boycotted a particular community and
subverted the justice system".
"Most Hindus and Muslims do not accept the politics of
communalism," he added.
(Amit Agnihotri can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)