20 March, 2010

Abnormal Normalcy

When people say that Gujarat is normal I get bewildered; either they are lying or they can't see. Yes things are normal, if it is normal for hooligans to destroy your house, kill your relatives, rob your sisters of their dignity and walk the streets scot-free. If there is nothing alarming about potential terrorists prowling our streets, then things are certainly normal.
A year to date, the marauders and murderers of Gujarati gaurav move about freely. Even the star criminals remain to be apprehended [See Table]. NGOs and private probe panels estimated that over 2,000 Indians were killed and many more grievously injured, with thousands of houses and commercial establishments destroyed. Scores of such innocent victims remain to be rehabilitated. Moreover, the resulting polarization has created deeper chasms in the society seriously and permanently affecting livelihood of lakhs of people.

The 72-Hour Anarchy
Major Killings During 28 Feb - 3 Mar, 02
Chamanpura, Ahmedabad 70
Best Bakery, Baroda 14
Naroda Patia, Ahmedabad 200
Panchmahals 115
Mehsana 54
[Source: Concerned Citizen's Tribunal Report by Justice Krishna Iyer and 7 others]

Historically, injustice - perceived or real - has been one of the principal influences on human conduct. This is why developed societies provide for emphatic and speedy redressal against injustice. Unsatisfied need for justice leads the aggrieved to resort to revenge - justice in its primitive, brutal form.

Most recent terrorists were those who suffered a deep sense of injustice, not mercenaries killing for profit. These are men who plunged straight into death so as to kill or harm large numbers of people perceived as belonging to or supporting an unjust system.

While a modicum of relief was provided by the Government, much of rehabilitation, to the extent it was given, came from religious institutions. By way of prosecuting the guilty virtually nothing was done. Those who care, know it well that the establishment is protecting the star criminals in myriad ways. Some of them even sit in judgment. In several serious cases the police have already wound up investigation. Contrast this with the Godhra criminals and you have democracy, Gujarat style. Hindutva has delivered the ordinary Muslims to the clergy and will later blame it for fundamentalism.

The climate is rife for the aggrieved young to be misled by India's enemies into terrorism in the name of justice. The victims will inevitably be innocents like you and me and your children and my children. This author reckons that dozens of young boys and girls are prowling our mohallas with a deep-seated anger against brutal crimes they suffered from.

Combined with easy access to destruction technology and designs of our enemies, both within and outside our borders, this anger should worry every Indian. It will be na?ve of us to mistake the apparent calm as enduring harmony. In any case, what does it take to disrupt it? One suicide bomber in a place of worship. But then how can we, the people, help the situation? Here are some things that citizens committed to harmony and justice can do:

1. Question every rumor, prejudice, accusation and label we are handed. Evaluate the accuser's credentials and objectively assess to whom the benefits of increased hostility would accrue.
2. Commit one hour a day to promote harmony, justice and peace actively in our neighborhood, at workplace and in travel.
3. Seek facts from credible sources. If this means some inconvenience, well, peace has a price. Buy, read and distribute eye-opening booklets produced by nationalists like Ram Puniyani of IIT Mumbai, former Navy Chief Vishnu Bhagwat etc.
4. Demand at every possible forum that all criminals of Godhra and post Godhra violence must be tried publicly and speedily. If we don't provide justice we cannot complain of retaliation. Also demand that all investigations relating to Godhra and elsewhere in Gujarat be handed over to CBI as directed by the NHRC and other probe panels and that special courts be set up to try these cases speedily. Justice needs to be done and be seen to be done.
5. Identify innocent fellow Indians who fell prey to communal hatred and suffered loss of relatives, limbs, property or livelihood - and reach out to them, both with financial help and emotional solidarity. Show our patriotism and dharma through positive action.

There is a tendency in Gujarat to proclaim normalcy. The CM claimed restoring it in 72 hours. To be sure, the cinema shows, the bazaars, the melas.. all provide an illusion of normalcy on a cursory observation. But probe deeper and you get aghast this society is living by so much animosity.

In the midst of this insensitivity, the heroism and sacrifices of some ordinary men and women and certain NGOs came as saving grace. To these keepers of the nation's conscience we all owe salaam. But this is too little to heal the wounds.

While the establishment can foolishly lull itself to complacence, the investors think otherwise. Who would invest in such a land? Would you buy a house in a troubled neighbourhood? No wonder, CII leaders questioned Modi. That some local industrialists have taken umbrage to this shows their bigotry and selfishness. Their dictum: committing crimes is alright, talking about it anathema. These men did next to nothing to check the violence, to rehabilitate the victims and thereby to restore normalcy.

There can be no real peace until every serious victim is rehabilitated and every serious criminal is apprehended. Justice holds the key to peace and normalcy.

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