Killing is killing. Life is life: very very precious, irrecoverable, inalienable, and sacred. Hence I wrote a piece earlier this week standing in solidarity with my Sikh brethren.
But for those amongst the Hindutva votaries that sought justification - or at least absolution - for the Gujarat genocide, citing the earlier pogrom - here are a few distinctions. You may like to add more.
- In the former, the rulers were not involved in the killing personally. At least their previous and subsequent conduct did not portray such dislike for the victim community. Indeed, Indira was killed precisely because she refused to remove her Sikh bodyguards
- Indira's assassination occurred after Operation Blue Star, which in turn followed a long, bloody and very polarizing demand by the Sikhs for a separate homeland [Khalistan]. Without going into the merits of this demand, it can be argued that a large number of Hindus in general and nationalists of all hues in particular, carried a degree of animosity towards Sikhs in general. The feeling was akin to what may have prevailed during the partition days in 1947 between Hindus and Muslims
- Godhra [Sabarmati] tragedy [as yet to be conclusively and impartially deciphered] resulted from an unarguable misconduct of the Kar Sevaks returning from an unarguably communal mission, viz, kar seva at the disputed structure at Ayodhya. The resulting squabble led to a ghastly tragedy without demonstrable intent to kill.
- Gujarat 2002 lasted for months, even after a free reign to anarchy for three days, albeit in lowered intensity, almost until the elections were held in Dec 2002, to be able to reap the fruits of polarization.
- the latter was manifestly an orchestrated campaign based on vote gathering, in the wake of the impending elections.
- the chief minister of Gujarat was not killed, nor was any other popular leader touched. Indira on the other hand, thanks to BD liberation and ruthless suppression of the Khalistan movement, had become the darling of the masses.
- in the latter case, arguably, the state including the police, the lower and middle judiciary, and the political class played a completely partisan role even in the matter of rehabilitation, justice provision etc [thousands of court cases were summarily closed, of which, on the intervention of the Supreme Court as many as 2500 were reopened. It is these that are now seeing some convictions]
- the state of information access, TV coverage, mobile accessibility, the governmental accountability, general awakening of human rights consciousness, fear of law, et al had drastically improved during these 18 years. Obviously the prosecutable evidence in the latter case was overwhelmingly more solid, and irrefutable, contributing to effective prosecution.
- while the "when the big tree falls" comment of Rajiv may be equalled by Modi's "reaction for action", Rajiv did not follow up with myriad insults and provocations like "hum paanch, hamare pachchees" blah blah.
- while the Congress tried to atone for its sins of omission and commission, in many ways including anointing a person of the victim's community - a Sikh gentleman - as the nation's PM, not once but, despite reservations, for a second time [which may have cost it the third term] in the latter case, no victim placating was even attempted. Indeed, the culprits were widely honoured wherever they could get away from the clutches of the courts, with the chief supervisor rising to the pinnacle of the nation's reigns, now to be offered to us as a visionary.
People like you and me feel equally sorry for the loss of every innocent life, and hope that this scourge of communalism is permanently erased from our minds and ethos forever. That will not happen until the right wingers genuinely feel ashamed of and guilty for the barbarism of the latter tragedy.