June 16, 2009
Now that election fever has abated, it’s time to look at important issues that were sidelined by the polls. The Supreme Court order to probe Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom has restored faith in the secular fabric of the country, even as we watch it being systematically and deliberately destroyed by communal forces.
2002, there has been neither relief nor justice for the victims.
Prakash says, “Muslims have mostly been forced out of the western part of Ahmedabad and from the upmarket areas. Gujarati Hindus will not sell property or houses to them in many places. Even wealthy or middle class Muslims have been forced into ghettos.”
Harsh Mander, who has worked for peace and justice in Gujarat since 2002, observes, “What’s happening in Gujarat is unprecedented. It’s a systematic, continuous process of social and economic boycott of Muslims, which has changed social relations forever between the communities. Gujaratis will not employ Muslims, trade with them or attend their weddings.
It’s worse in the villages. Those who were sent back have to live in submission next to the neighbours who murdered and raped them. They have been allowed back on conditionalities of total silence. There is a settled fear, a settled submission, a settled despair. Without justice there cannot be healing.”
The Supreme Court’s decision, however, has rekindled hope. It is vital that the SIT works swiftly and effectively at this crucial juncture. Will the SIT bring in Justice Iyer and members of the Tribunal as witnesses? The Tribunal comprises human rights defenders with impeccable records. Justice Iyer is revered for his integrity and intelligence. The Tribunal boasts of heavyweights who can provide invaluable information to the SIT. Others who have worked for justice, peace and reconciliation since 2002 include Harsh Mander, Gagan Sethi, Martin Macwan, Mallika Sarabhai, Cedric Prakash and Manjula Pradeep.
Gagan Sethi of Citizen’s Initiative, Ahmedabad, says, “Each commission or fact-finding team that came to Gujarat in 2002, corroborates the reports submitted by the others. So do hundreds of print and television journalistic reports. SIT can ask for a panel of judges known for their exemplary courage and fairness. Precedents have already been set in the past. There are good retired judges who have nothing to gain or lose at this point in their careers. The outcome will depend on this.”
Gujarat is a litmus test for justice for minorities. If Modi and his henchmen get away, quite literally, with murder, Gujarat, as the Hindutva laboratory, will have succeeded. The cancerous doctrine of hate and intolerance will spread. All those who believe in a secular, democratic State are praying that the Supreme Court will ensure that justice, even if delayed, will not be denied.
(Mari Marcel Thekaekara is founder of Accord, an NGO that works with tribals in the Nilgiris)
Source: Hindustan Times, New Delhi