THE GUJARAT CARNAGE 2002 AND THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE

Gujarat carnage 2002 in Ahmedabad.

AHMEDADBAD, (Cedric Prakash SJ) — The days beginning February 27th 2002 will go down in the annals of Indian history, as one of its darkest and bloodiest chapters! This period, normally referred to as the ‘Gujarat Genocide or Carnage’, will make any conscientious person squirm, even if one were at a great distance!

The burning of a train car (S6 of the Sabarmati Express from  Faizabad to Ahmedabad) on February 27th was the apparent trigger. 59 persons were killed in this gory and tragic incident. It was referred to as “an accident” by the then Home Minister Advani and the Prime Minister Vajapaye.  Since many of those who died were “kar sevaks” (helping in the rebuilding of the Ayodhya temple) this incident was condemned by several across the spectrum. The actual cause of this incident has not yet been fully established but after many years of rigorous imprisonment, many of the “accused” (Muslims of course) have been acquitted.

Nothing untoward as “reprisal” or “response” happened anywhere in Gujaratfor the next 24 hours.  In fact, nothing ever happened in Madhya Pradesh (just across the border from Godhra) or in Maharashtraor in Rajasthan, (all neighbouring States of Gujarat).  But from the afternoon, of February 28th, after “maha-aartis” were performed in several cities ofGujarat, all hell broke loose!  Muslims in the State were singled out, killed in the most horrendous manners, women were raped, their establishments were looted and destroyed, houses and other property burnt to cinders.  It was truly a well-orchestrated and meticulous attack by any standards.

The violence continued literally unabated for three months. When the fires finally cooled down, more than 2000 Muslims were killed, several hundreds missing, thousands of them could not return to the place which they once called their own and of course, most of the victim-survivors had lost all their possessions.

Volumes have been written about this carnage.  There have been Supreme Court pronouncements on the matter and even as recently as February 2012, the High Court of Gujarat in two separate judgements has come down heavily on the Gujarat Government.  Fact-finding teams and human rights organizations, (both national and international), through sheer grit and determination, have provided the world at large with irrefutable information and evidence of the why and the how of this carnage.

Whatever the final judgement, many are convinced that the Chief Minister ofGujaratand his Government did not do enough to protect the life and property of the minority community. His own words and his acts of omission are enough indication to prove his culpability. The police have gone on record that they had no orders to save and protect the Muslims. Bureaucracy inGujaratis still very muted about the facts of this carnage, since fear rules the roost.

Today, ten years down the road, inspite of the best efforts of the Gujarat Government to sweep the reality under the carpet, and flaunt a so-called ‘vibrant model of development’ the fact is, most minorities in the State, particularly the Muslims, are treated as second-class citizens. The victim-survivors of the carnage, continue relentlessly in their pursuit for truth and justice. Human rights groups continue demanding that the full truth emerge.  A good section of the media do not allow this horror chapter to be forgotten.

It is note-worthy indeed that several Christians, individuals and organizations, inGujaratand elsewhere took and continue to take a stand against this carnage.  The reality though is that, this “Christian response” has been left to a select few!

It is also symbolic that the tenth anniversary of the carnage coincides with the very first week of the Lenten season. As Christians, we are challenged by the Pope’s Message for Lent 2012, when he says, “Christ himself commands us to admonish a brother who is committing a sin (cf. Mt 18:15). The verb used to express fraternal correction – elenchein – is the same used to indicate the prophetic mission of Christians to speak out against a generation indulging in evil (cf. Eph 5:11). The Church’s tradition has included “admonishing sinners” among the spiritual works of mercy. It is important to recover this dimension of Christian charity. We must not remain silent before evil”

Yes, as Christians, we must speak out and take a stand against evils, like theGujaratcarnage, and ensure that those immortal words (as an aftermath of the Nazi era) “NEVER AGAIN!”, became a reality for all! [21st February, 2012]

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.) Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall,Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad – 380052, Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333, Fax:  79 27489018, Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in

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