#Gujarat- Memorial to a Genocide: Citizenship of Junk #NarendraModi


We built a monument here, to the witness as storyteller, to the activist as historian. And to the spectator as a citizen who will not be allowed to forget

Shiv Visvanathan

I’ll begin personally. I’m a sociologist and I have served as a kind of assistant munshi to Teesta Setalvad and RB Sreekumar (former Director General of Police, Gujarat) during the 10 years during which these riots were studied. I want to begin very practically. Romila Thapar put it beautifully. Genocide — and here I want to distort it a bit — like Hinduism, is a way of life. And when it’s a way of life, how does the
survivor remember?

This question came in a very pragmatic way when I was tailing the photographer who shot many of the pictures that you see here today: Binita Desai. And the first question she asked was, What are we building?

It cannot be a monument, because, we felt, and she agreed, that a monument is a tribute to forgetting. We want to remember. She said it can’t be a museum because a museum is a tribute to erasure and we need to remember. Mukul Mangalik said it beautifully (when he asked), How is philosophy possible after the genocide?

I think comedy is possible after a genocide because the most tragic comic figure in Gujarat is Narendra Modi. And if I had to build a museum today I would do a Madame Tussaud’s on Narendra Modi… It is very interesting that Modi’s range of colours are a semiotic delight. He uses speech because he somehow thinks speech can exonerate a genocide.

The other point that I want to emphasise is how to remember when a society is desperate to forget and when a society thinks development is the art of forgetting? When these photographs were being shot, an old man came to us just as we were moving out to the car; he stopped and he said, I want to just tell you a story. He said, My son was arrested at the age of 15, he is 25 today. They put him in jail in Calcutta. I don’t have the money to go and see him. Can you send him a message?

I think comedy is possible after a genocide because the most tragic comic figure in Gujarat is Narendra Modi. And if I had to build a museum today I would do a Madame Tussaud’s on Narendra Modi

It is this struggle of memory against erasure that we want to capture here. Because what we want to build here is a memorial… because what we watched after the riot was how a citizenship of memory was constructed between a group of activists and a group of survivors. It’s an invitation to story-telling and why  storytelling is important?

The biggest monument that Narendra Modi as a fascist administrator built to the riots was a waste dump. When the riots began it was exactly two-and-a-half feet high. Today, it’s seven storeys high, higher than Humayun’s Tomb and it is a tribute to the survivor. Because today the survivor realises he is treated by the Gujarat government as a piece of junk and junk needs to remember. Junk refuses to be erased, junk demands that its role in history be told and retold.

And this memorial is the tribute to the survivor, to the witness. And I want to just begin with one last story which captures for me the craftiness of this whole process. One of the journalists who went to Godhra came back and said the BJP is moving towards an electoral plan for Godhra — the social contract they offered captures what I call the evil of this project. Because they went to each of the Muslim families and said, If you vote for us we might release some of the sons arrested over the last 10 years. That is the kind of evil we have to confront and to do that we built a monument here, to the witness as storyteller, to the activist as historian. And to the spectator as a citizen who will not be allowed to forget.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist and commentator.

From the  Hardnews :

NOVEMBER 2012

#Gujarat -Memorial to a Genocide: Insist on justice #NarendraModi


Would those who encouraged the victimisers to kill in Gujarat be willing to apologise or make a conciliatory gesture to the victims? That would be a confession of guilt and guilt is what Narendra Modi is constantly denying

Romila Thapar

In 1947, Partition was accompanied by massacres so gruesome that many said they would not allow this to happen again. But we have been through three genocides since then and the perpetrators of the violence continue to be powerful members of our society. The three I am referring to are the anti-Sikh genocide in Delhi in 1984, the anti-Muslim in Gujarat in 2002, and more recently, the anti-Christian Dalit in Orissa. Genocide seems to follow a pattern in India post-1947. In each case it is the majority Hindu community that targets and kills those of a minority community of a specific and different religion, and in numbers far larger than are killed in communal riots. The justification for the killings is said to be some action on the part of the non-Hindus that is said to have angered the Hindus who then seek revenge. But, apart from the accusation being true or not, does any such action justify genocide? The actual motive often lies in the politics of the region. Religious antagonism or conciliation is what gets discussed in the aftermath, while the political and economic motives get brushed aside.

This raises many questions. These are not irrelevant and we need to have clear answers.

Does this have to do with religion or with the way religion is mobilised politically with religious organisations becoming the agencies of political ideologies? Are Hindus by nature more given to killing, despite all the hype about belonging to a non-violent and tolerant culture? Or, why is it that the agencies of law and order — the police and administration — seem not to protect those attacked when they are members of a religious minority, or Dalits or women? Are they so infiltrated by religious extremist influence — Hindus in the main — that they do not bother to defend those attacked?

Or, does nationalism define ‘Indian’ now to mean ‘Hindu’, and therefore the Hindu has primacy as citizen? Does this make non-Hindus dispensable? One wonders what has happened to the earlier concept of being Indian, a category inclusive of all communities; a concept that my generation of Indians stood by? If the violence is spontaneous, and in the name of a religion, then it is a blot on the religion of the community that perpetrates the violence, be it Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. If it is orchestrated by the State, then a State resorting to genocide can hardly claim to be a well-administered State. Only an incompetent government is unable to control what turns into genocide. This negates claims of good governance.

Given the scale and type of violence, there is little doubt that in Gujarat the police and administration were ineffective, to say the least. These are agencies which, now, all over the country, see themselves not as those whose duty it is to protect citizens, but rather as primarily having to be subservient to political authority, their function being to carry out the orders of those governing. There are a few, but unfortunately too few, who still see themselves as protectors of citizens and defenders of the rights of citizens. Among these few, there have been some police officers and administrators who have suggested that the violence in Gujarat was orchestrated by those governing. Their views cannot be easily dismissed.

If the administration in Gujarat is as efficient as is projected by Modi and his supporters, then some questions still remain to be answered. Even on the specific issues linked to the genocide, there are gross inefficiencies. 

The assault on women is particularly vicious. Women are the most devastated victims because the attack on them cuts both ways 

Of those accused of setting fire to the coaches at Godhra, I am told that 84 are still awaiting judgement. Ten years is a long time for there to be no judgement on what is held to be a simple case of arson. Is it a simple case of arson? Why is it that almost 50 per cent of the persons said to be missing — over 200 persons — cannot be traced, and records are missing? As is usual in such incidents, the paying of full compensation has been delayed. This smacks of normal corruption in the administration from which the Gujarat administration is obviously not free.

Going beyond 2002, there is a need to understand why there was a genocide, particularly in Gujarat. The anti-Sikh and anti-Christian Dalit killings were concentrated in limited areas, but, in Gujarat, the killings were widespread. If Gujarat is a well-administered, prosperous state, where was the need for the killings?

The patedars lived off the rich income from their lands, there was money pouring in from Gujarati NRIs living in the West, and the corporates were investing in Gujarat. What is it that the rich Hindus feared and fear? Is it that there would be a loss of subordinated Muslim labour, employed by thepatedars, if the standard of living of the labourer improves? The import of unskilled labour from UP and Bihar seems to point to a problem with local labour. Is there a competition for employment, making it necessary to destroy skilled Muslim artisans? Is there a fear of the upward mobility of Muslim OBCs and Dalits, also asking for quotas? Why is the Gujarat government unable to bring water to parched areas to relieve the desperation of farmers?

From the print issue of Hardnews :

NOVEMBER 2012

 

Citizens’ Statement Against Prime Minister’s Malicious Comment on Koodankulam Struggle


February 27, 2012

Who is under the foreign hand?

We strongly deplore the PM’s recent statement that the people’s struggle against Koodankulam nuclear power plant is instigated by foreign agencies and funds. We cannot accept our PM to stoop to such low levels.

This allegation is a clear hint from him that the Indian people who could think on their own to elect the Congress-led UPA in the last general election, have suddenly lost the capacity to think ‘correctly about their safety and energy security. Eminent Indian intellectuals like historian Romila Thapar, economist Amit Bhaduri, diplomat Nirupam Sen, scientist PM BHargava, and the Indian Institute of Science director P.Balaram have strongly opposed this nuclearisation of India. They surely represent the ‘thinking component’ of India that Dr. Singh cited.

In reality, it is the Manmohan Singh-led government that is pushing the interests of foreign corporate from Russia, USA and France etc. by giving blanket allocation of Indian territories to them for setting up dangerous nuclear power parks. Similar was the case with the Indo-US nuclear deal, when the government repeatedly tried to bypass the Parliament under pressure from these ‘foreign hand’.

Let Indians not lose their hard-earned freedom of independent thoughts and expression to this sold-out government, and condemn the very people who give them the credibility to govern.

In the light of the worldwide shift in public opinion and government policies against nuclear energy, it is only China and India that have significant expansion plans. At the very least it is expected in the light of this global reality that the Indian government which claims to be democratic should establish a complete moratorium on the further development of nuclear energy. It must encourage the widest possible debate on nuclear energy and show respect for the growing voices of democratic dissent, instead of resorting to the cheapest forms of chauvinism and maligning its own people.

Justice BG Kolse-Patil, Mumbai

Prashant Bhushan, New Delhi

PM Bhargava, Scientist, Hyderabad

Admiral L. Ramdas, Alibag

Lalita Ramdas, Alibag

Meher Engineer, Kolkata

Rohan D’Souza, Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Asit Das, Researcher and Activist, New Delhi

P K Sundaram, Researcher, New Delhi

Sunil, Samajwadi Jan Parishad, MP

Vaishali Patil, Activist, Konkan (Maharashtra)

Praful Bidwai, Journalist, New Delhi

Achin Vanaik, New Delhi

Sumit Chakravarthy, Editor, Mainstream Weekly

Anil Chaudhary, Indian National Social Action Forum (INSAF)

Neeraj Jain, Lokayat, Pune

Soumya Dutta, Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha

Nagraj Adve, Delhi Platform, New Delhi

Vijayan MJ, Delhi Forum, New Delhi

Vinuta Gopal, Greenpeace India, Bangalore

Karuna Raina, Greenpeace India, New Delhi

Bauddhaditya, Delhi University

Priyanka Singh, Samata, New Delhi

Yashwir Arya, Azadi Bachao Andolan,

Harsh Kapoor, South Asia Citizen’s Web

Rajendra Sharma, Hisar, Haryana

Ankur Jaisawal, Journalist, New Delhi

Joe Athilay, New Delhi

Arun Bidani, Delhi Platform, New Delhi

Bhupendra Singh Raut, NAPM

Amit Tharayath Vergese, Delhi Forum,New Delhi

Seela M Mahapatra, Delhi Solidarity Group, New Delhi

Tarini Manchanda, New Delhi

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