Gujarat Update March 26, 02

Reality What we saw

Teesta Setalvad Fr Cedric Prakash Wilfred D’Costa

Muharram or the "sacred month" marks the beginning of the Muslim year. The month however is primarily associated with the period of mourning, the Shi’as observe in commemoration of martyrdom of Mohammed’s Grandson Hussain. His martyrdom took place on the tenth day of Muharram and in several Shi’a dominated areas. Tazia (replications made in wood and paper of Hussain’s mausoleum) processions are taken out as an expression of mourning.

In the past, Ahmedabad witnessed many of these colourful processions-this, inspite of the tension that these processions could generate. This year, however, it was a totally different scenario. The Muslim leadership had decided to call out all their Tazia processions in Ahmedabad and in several parts of Gujarat. So yesterday the day of Muharram, it was truly a day of mourning for most Muslims. They were either holed up in relief camps all over or in areas in which strict curfew was maintained. As we drove in some parts of the Muslim dominated areas of the city last afternoon, we were shocked to see how effective the police patrols were to keep the Muslims indoors. Several of the police station jurisdiction on the other side of the city were under curfew.

However, with almost a month now over since violence in its ugliest forms hit the State, the situation is far from normal. Violence today has spread in several of the rural areas with reports of deaths and stabbing coming in everyday.

The National Human Rights Commission, which spent more than three days in Gujarat has severely indicted the Gujarat Government. Another fact finding team headed by the well-known journalist Kuldip Nayar and a Former Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India Zafar Saifullah, literally lambasted the role of the Government in this carnage and has even demanded a CBI enquiry. Several other fact finding teams are doing the rounds of the State and the observations/ conclusions of each of these groups are indeed very similar in nature.

Gujarat seems to have disappeared from the front pages of most newspapers and also from the headlines of the Idiot Box. The tragedy is that the situation today is perhaps even worse than February 28th.