Remembering 15 years since Gujarat riots
Ghazanfar Abbas, IndiaTomorrow.net,
New Delhi, Feb 28: This February 15 years ago, the state-wide communal violence in Gujarat after the Godhra train carnage shook the nation and changed the landscape of the state for ever.
To recall the journey of 15 years since the Gujarat riots 2002, victims, civil rights activists and community leaders gathered at the Constitution Club here on Tuesday.
Speaking on the occasion, Nishrin Jafri, daughter of slain former parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, recalled not just the 2002 riots but also the 1969 riots when she was an infant.
"I remember that railway track where my father was running taking me in his lap. It was a dark night. My mother says fire broke out so fast that she could not take a single picture of her marriage," said Nishrin.
His father rebuilt the home only to be attacked and destroyed again by rioters in 2002.
"My father again came on the same place to make home. Then again our home was attacked and burned down. I can't forget what happened on that day. Whenever I go to my home, I try to recall those days with my father. I can't tell you where he was beheaded and his hands were cut. My father called all but got no help. Nobody was spared. In each house, girls were raped and at least 2-3 were killed," said Nishrin recalling the Gulbarg Society massacre in Ahmedabad where dozens of people including his father were brutally killed by rioters in 2002.
"They want Gujarat riot should be forgotten but they have not built a single home even though thousands of homes were burned down," she said.
Prof. Manoj Jha, Shabnam Hashmi, Nishreen Jafri, Teesta Setalvad, Prof. Apoorvanand at Constitution Club in New Delhi on 28 Feb 2017. (Photo - IndiaTomorrow.net)
"Whenever elections come, I feel scary that somewhere innocents will be killed. Does this happen in a democracy?"
Her mother Zakia Jafri was also present at the event.
Former Gujarat IAS officer Harsh Mander, Prof. Manoj Jha, Prof. Apoorvanand, civil rights activists Shabnam Hashmi and Teesta Setalvad also spoke on the occasion. Navaid Hamid, President, All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat, was also present on the occasion.
Harsh Mander said that if government wants riot can be controlled in hours. The Gujarat riots continued for weeks.
"Any riots can be controlled within 2 hours if government wants to do so. This was a heinous crime on government side. 2002 is still painful," he said.
When the riots took place in Gujarat, Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state and remained on the post till May 2014 when he won the Lok Sabha election and his party BJP got thumping majority in the elections. He became prime minister of the country.
He and other speakers also expressed their concern on the growing intolerance in the country in the past few years.
"It is evident from the website and literature of RSS that they want to make this country a Hindu Rashtra where non Hindus can live but as secondary citizens. They want Dalit-isation of Muslims as they oppressed dalits for centuries," said Mander.
A section of audience at an event on Gujarat riot anniversary at Constitution Club in New Delhi on 28 Feb 2017.
"When the country is being changed against Constitution and human values we need to stand together," he said.
Eminent civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad, who fought cases of several victims of Gujarat riots, said: "I was born in a Hindu family and am truly ashamed of what happened in 2002 in Gujarat."
"Such worst examples are a threat for all society not just Muslims. Still people are waiting for justice. They have faith in justice system if the country," she said.
"When I went to Gujarat especially where violence took place on women, people told that before Godhra incident, tridents, gas cylinder and explosives were reached there," said Shabnam Hashmi.
"The urgency to intervene in defence of democracy, secularism and justice has never been more pressing than in the conditions prevailing in the country today...The prejudices against marginalised communities are widely shared as a result of motivated and sustained propaganda. In the face of concerted social mobilization mounted by communal organizations by invoking religious symbols and sentiments, liberal civil society has come under a siege. Nevertheless the need for sustained and constructive action for strengthening secularism and democracy and for realising justice and peace is evident," said the organizers in a statement.