Mahesh Trivedi | India Tomorrow
AHMEDABAD—But for an engrossing webinar organised by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), the 19th anniversary of the bloody communal riots in Gujarat in 2002 passed off unnoticed on Saturday with no mention even in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state’s mainstream media.
As many as 19 years have gone by since some 2,000 men, women and children, mostly Muslims, were killed and about 200,000 people were rendered homeless in the savage clashes that also saw destruction of 302 dargahs, 209 mosques and 13 madrasas, not to mention loss of property worth Rs 2.44 billion for the minority community, all this under the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is now the Prime Minister.
While the BJP-controlled Gujarat government has not stirred a finger to frame even a rehabilitation policy for the riot-ravaged people, JIH, through NGOs like the Islamic Relief Committee Gujarat, has played a major role in their re-establishment, spending almost Rs 40 million for victims of the riots, building 1,321 new homes and repairing 4,946 damaged ones.
No wonder, JIH spared a thought for the 3,500 dirt-poor, displaced families living in subhuman conditions in tumbledown temporary shelters at 83 ill-equipped relief colonies, by dreaming up a webinar and inviting true-blue rights activists and well-wishers of the community to brainstorm on the plight of not only the riot-hit but all the six million Muslims in Modi’s homeland.
The 90-minute, gripping webinar, titled “Let’s struggle for peace, justice and communal harmony”, was brilliantly hosted by Vaseef Hussain, secretary, National and Community Affairs, JIH Gujarat.
Muhammad Shafi Madni, JIH national secretary, said that fact-finding reports on the riots had exposed the ‘real, political motive behind triggering the communal clashes, alleging that the state government, instead of lending a helping hand to those affected by the wanton violence, sympathised with the predators, and also created hurdles in the path of the do-gooders engaged in relief work.
“Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and many other voluntary organisations strained their every nerve to establish and maintain peace and brotherhood but those who are responsible for law and order are out to shatter communal amity,” he asserted.
Muhammad Sharif Malik, co-convener of Alpasankhyak Adhikar Manch (Minority Rights Forum), revealed that even after 2002 riots, communal incidents have not stopped but their nature and pattern have changed with the result that only the Constitution can offer protection to Muslims.
He said the Manch’s fact-finding missions have revealed that while the 2002 riots were on a large scale in terms of their geographical expanse and losses in terms of property and lives, subsequent riots had been sub-radar on a smaller scale, adding that the recurrence of “small-scale riots” had led to “rapid polarisation of society along religious lines.
Human rights lawyer Govind Parmar felt that these were dangerous times and hence more and more programmes focussing on communal amity were the need of the hour to establish a secular society.
Laying stress on united efforts to establish peace, Mujahid Nafees, convener of Minority Coordination Committee Gujarat, opined that the ruling party was responsible for maintaining peace and harmony but, unfortunately, the same people were adept at fishing in troubled waters.
Said senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anand Yagnik: “I am ready to fight the cases of the riot-affected people. Being a Hindu, I apologise to the Muslims who went through hell during the 2002 riots. However, riots have not stopped but continue in the form of attacks on institutions who work by strictly abiding by the Constitution.”
Giving an example of harassment of even judges, he said that Karnataka High Court’s Justice Jayant Patel, under whose supervision the CBI had filed a chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan case, claiming that top Intelligence Bureau and Gujarat Police officials were involved, was sidelined and had to resign in a huff.
He also said that Justice Akil Kureshi who had in 2010 sent Union Home Minister Amit Shah to police custody for two days in the Sohrabuddin case, was also never promoted.
Tanveer Jafri, son of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed by Hindu rioters during the 2002 riots, said that India had remained secular because of its educated citizens who were also secular-minded, adding that time was ripe for the Muslim community to launch an education movement.
He held out a warning that if education was neglected, Muslims in Gujarat would face the same fate as that of Myanmar’s Rohingyas.