New Delhi, Oct 9: Activists and intellectuals here Tuesday unanimously expressed the opinion that the riots in Gujarat in 2002 were an assault on Indian secularism and a lot remained to be done to secure justice for the victims.
The activists were speaking at a seminar at the M.F. Husain Art Gallery in the capital’s Jamia Millia Islamia.
Well-known leftist historian Romila Thapar delivered the keynote address. In her speech, Thapar noted that Gujarat 2002 was ‘a genocide and no ordinary riot’.
“In the ten years since the riots, the Modi administration has made repeated attempts to portray Gujarat as a progressive and well-administered state. If that is the case, why is it that most of those made accused in the Godhra case are still behind bars? Why has compensation not been paid properly? And what of those listed as missing,” Thapar asked.
“The Gujarat of Narendra Modi is not at all a secular state. Its system of governance negates the most fundamental principles of the Indian constitution,” Thapar said.
Other speakers emphasized on why Gujarat 2002 should never be forgotten by Indian society. “Memory is a moral responsibility for every society. And how you carry out this particular responsibility depends on what future you envision for your society,” said author and academic Purushottam Agarwal.
“This tragedy must never be forgotten. It should be remembered and understood so that justice can be done. It was an assault on secularism, democracy and modern republicanism,” said activist Mukul Manglik.
“They say Gujarat is developed. The term ‘development’ is a synonym used by Gujarat’s rulers for ‘forgetting’. We want to capture the struggle of memory against erasure,” said sociologist Shiv Vishvanathan.
Filmmaker and Jamia alumna Anusha Rizvi dwelt on the social aspects of communal riots in modern India. “There are three important aspects of communal riots today. First, they are a largely urban phenomenon. Second, they are usually instigated by secular issues like eve-teasing, land-grabbing and political assassination. And third, communal riots are the only secular activity that politicians across the board indulge in,” Rizvi noted.
Among the attendees at the seminar was R.B. Sreekumar, former Gujarat DGP and Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad, who has spear-headed the fight for survivors of the Gujarat riots.
The seminar is the first in a series organised jointly by Jamia and NGO ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ to commemorate 10 years of the 2002 massacres in Gujarat. The programmes will include a photo retrospective, statistics, missing person’s wall, acknowledgements and survivor’s conversations among other things. It will end Oct 13.