Gujarat Update April 4, 2002

Reality What we saw

Teesta Setalvad Fr Cedric Prakash Wilfred D’Costa

The carnage continues a full almost 37 days after it first began belying the statement of the Chief Minister that everything was brought under control within 72 hours. The dictum of Goebbels, "tell a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth", does not always work! The situation in the Muslim pockets of Gomtipur namely Chhotalal ni Chali, Mariam Bibi ni Chali, Matrubhavan ni Chali, Khetar Ali Baba ni Chali and the area around Jhulta Minar yesterday and previous day, had a look straight of a totally battle-scarred field. Stones and brickbats, home made bombs and acid bulbs could easily be seen in the midst of charred remains of rooms that once contained families. For two consecutive days and nights huge mobs descended on the unsuspecting people and literally destroyed the fragile containers of their existence. To top it all, the so called guardians of the law, the police went on a rampage beating up people at will (including women and children) firing indiscriminately, breaking down doors to arrest young men and unleashing a reign of terror among these helpless people. Press reporters who arrived on the scene were subjected to police brutality. By 5.00 p.m. on the 3rd evening, more than 8000 people from the various Chalis had sought shelter in St. Mary’s Nursing Home, a tiny institution in their midst run by the Dominican Sisters. One had only to see the way the people were beaten up and brutalised to understand what State repression could lead to; one could only look into the eyes of any person to realise what fear and hopelessness symbolised. Through various efforts and with the promise that BSF forces would be deployed in the area, the people slowly went back in fear and trembling, to their aboard, in the early hours of morning. However, as we write this several of these people are either leaving the State or fleeing to relief camps …. The horrors of Nazi, Germany are revisited in Modi’s Gujarat today. The Shah Alam relief camp has, in less than 48 hours seen a total transformation. Thanks to the visit of the Prime Minister. The reality is hidden and a cosmetically appealing stage-managed set up is being shown. The fun is bound to end after the PM departs and the poor victims will have to continue to eke out a survival. Swami Agnivesh and his inter-religious team were given a dose of "intolerance medicine"…they were very clearly told by members of the Sangh fraternity that Muslims would not be able to stay in the Gandhi Ashram along with the other members of their delegation. They had to succumb to these dictates in an environment, which is becoming more and more hostile. The INSAF fact-finding team after visiting several of the affected areas of the tribal belt have returned with gory and brutal tales.