Gujarat Update March 9, 2002
Teesta Setalvad Father Cedric Prakash Sushobha Barve
Though a week has passed since the brutal violence began in Gujarat, and even the day before yesterday we had mass stabbing in a village of the Muslim minority barely half a kilometre outside Ahmedabad, the State Government has simply refused to take charge of the rehabilitation of 35,000 displaced citizens. Nearly one and a half dozen relief camps in the city are being entirely manned by the community leaders with some help in relief coordination from NGOs. The conditions in these camps is pathetic.
Besides, many of these camps are out in the open without basic amenities and the citizens are experiencing great insecurity after the brutal experience that they have gone through. In the Vatwa camps where one Mahesh Patel of the VHP has been identified as the chief instigator and accused in the violence that occurred on March 1, audio cassettes with cries and howls of ‘maro maro’ are played at night on loudspeakers even now to further shake the already terroised residents.
Hence a group of concerned citizens from Gujarat and the rest of India has come together to appeal to Justice S.P. Bharucha to issue pull up the Gujarat state for first, failing in its primary duty to protect the lives and property of a section of it’s citizens and second, to compound this shameful laxity by not even bothering to manage the efficient dispersal of relief and then, rehabilitation. In failing to perform both primary functions of the State in a democratic society the State of Gujarat is failing in its basic Constitutional Obligations and Laws. (the text of the appeal is attached). The appeal also makes a strong plea for full and complete Army protection to be provided at these relief camps to assuage somewhat, the fear felt by the citizenry.
In another important development, a well-coordinated group of citizens from within and outside Gujarat have decided on coordinated legal action in a series of legal interventions related to the State Sponsored Genocide in Gujarat. At the outset this group has opposed the appointment of the Justice KG Shah Commission of Inquiry on several grounds. The group is demanding the appointment of a panel of diverse and representative sitting judges of the High Court or Supreme Court from outside Gujarat to conduct the official investigation.
The basis for this intervention is fourfold. The argument being made out is that in the genocide that has taken place in the State of Gujarat, there has been widely documented coverage, in the media of Government Complicity and Participation in the violence. Secondly, the physical health of the Judge appointed is precarious. Thirdly, his past judicial record reflects distinct anti-minority bias. Lastly, the concerned citizens group has also pressed for an expansion of the terms of reference of the Commission appointed by government to include:
This group includes Girishbhai Patel, Valjibhai Patel, Gautam Thaker, Fr Cedric Prakash, Sophia Khan, Mihir Desai, Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, Fr. Francis Parmar, Sudhir Ghodke, Dr Hanif Lakdawala, Bhavna Ramrakhiani, Wilfred D’Costa among many others.
Eminent scholar Professror KN Panikkar has been on a visit to Ahmedabad where he has visited relief camps and spoken to the survivors. He addressed a press conference in Ahmedabad today. We enclose the press statement:
The agony that Gujarat has gone through during the last one week raises several questions about the well-being of the society and polity of Gujarat in particular and the nation in general. It needs no emphasis that the government of Gujarat has acted in a manner, which leaves no doubt about its communal character. The politicians belonging to the ruling party and the various arms of the government have openly colluded with communal elements and have acted in an extremely despicable manner. Today the faith of citizens in the impartiality of the government has been shaken. The political system in India has to think seriously whether such a government has any right to continue in office. This is a blot on our democracy and the principles of governance which society can overlook only at great peril.
People from various walks of life have responded to this unprecedented situation in Gujarat in a critical, sympathetic and constructive manner. Even if the government has not come forward to reach succour to the affected people, society has responded in an admirable fashion. This indicates the existence of a sane segment within our society, which requires to be reinforced and space for its activity expanded. That is perhaps the most important task in this hour of crisis. It can be achieved only if all secular and democratic groups and individuals come together on a common platform.
What happened in Ahmedabad and other towns and villages in Gujarat is not a spontaneous action. The methods used for destruction of life and property presupposes a fairly well-organised preparation. It is clear that many incidents during these last ten days could not have happened without such a preparation. In a way it indicates a long-term process of communalisation and brutalisation of society. A major issue which society has to face is the influence of brutality, which appears to have conquered the minds of men. This is the result of the systematic and long-term atrocities of communal organisations and heightened by the irrational and emotional coercion of the people by both the VHP and the RSS. A way out from this pathology of violence is not easy to find. But society cannot survive unless a solution to this is immediately found. That this has happened in the city of Mahatma Gandhi, the laboratory of non-violence and tolerance is a sad occurrence. One hopes that the people of Gujarat would invoke the great ideals of social harmony that Gandhiji has bequeathed to the nation by the example of his life, work and teaching.
Professor K.N. Panikkar
Shree Shankracharya Vidyapeeth,
March 8 2002