Gujarat Update March 17, 2002

March 15th has come and gone...thanks to the decision of the Supreme Court on the "puja" in Ayodhya, the fall-out/ backlash was contained. In Gujarat, however, it was on expected lines, as followers of the Sangh Parivar took to the streets on the afternoon of the 15th and a so-called "sacred ritual" was in reality acts against the Muslims. Murder, arson and loot reigned supreme in Ahmedabad, Baroda, Godhra and several other parts of Gujarat. An interesting phenomenon during this current communal carnage is the very manipulative use of Dalits and Tribals against the Muslims. The proponents of the Sangh ideology have effectively used a social discord to their advantage, with a communal colour. The tribals, literally for the first time indulged in large scale arson, loot and burning of the properties of the Muslims. A point to note is that the gangs of tribals usually came from outside and in some cases even burnt down the huts of their own tribal brothers and sisters. According to media reports, the "saffronisation" of the tribals has been a very carefully planned act going back to atleast 3 years. The big concern these past few days is the rampant and illegal detention of Muslim youth. In several cases the police just go to the house of a Muslim and without any reason haul up the men who are around. In several instances Muslim youth have been arrested even from their hospital beds. Many members of Gujarat civil society are expressing their outrage over these draconian measures adopted by the police. The question of rehabilitation is uppermost in everyone’s mind. The security of every individual in intrinsically linked to this. In the Chartoda Kabrastan last morning we met several families who had made a brave effort to go back to their burnt down houses, the previous evening. They had just begun to go to sleep there when terrifying shouts and slogans rent the air in the middle of the night. They had no alternative but to rush back to the security of a relief camp. The media now focuses less and less on the Gujarat genocide. The TV headlines this evening is on the death of a socialite: Is it suicide or murder? This surely will be the lead story in the coming days. The greatest tragedy will be when the pain and suffering of the victims of this genocide is consigned to history. Public memory is short indeed!