Is Gujarat a turning point for India?
The events at Godhra and the ensuing communal carnage in Gujarat, like the Babri Masjid demolition and the 1984 massacres, constitute an ugly chapter of our contemporary history. For the sheer brutality, persistence and widespread nature of the violence, especially against women and children, the complicity of the State, the ghettoization of communities, and the indifference of civil society, Gujarat has surpassed anything we have experienced in recent times. That this happened in one of India's most 'well off' and 'progressive' states, the home of the Mahatma, is all the more alarming.
This book is intended to be a permanent public archive of the tragedy that is Gujarat. Drawing upon eyewitness reports from the English, Hindi and regional media, citizens' and official fact-finding commissions - and articles by leading public figures and intellectuals - it provides a chilling account of how and why the state was allowed to burn.
With an overview by the editor, the reader covers the circumstances leading up to Godhra and the violence in Ahmedabad, Baroda and rural Gujarat. Separate sections deal with the role of the police, bureaucracy, Sangh Parivar, media and the tribals, the economic and international implications of the violence, the problems of relief and rehabilitation of the victims, and, above all, their quest for justice. The picture that emerges is deeply disturbing, for Gujarat has exposed the ease with which the rights of citizens, and especially minorities, can be violated with official sanction. The lessons of the violence ought to be heeded and acted upon by the public. For, in the absence of this, can another Gujarat be prevented from happening elsewhere?
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Siddharth Varadarajan is deputy chief of the national bureau of the Times of India. He has reported on several important political events, from Kashmir and the royal palace massacre in Nepal, to Pakistan, the weapons-inspection crisis in Iraq, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Before his current assignment, he was an editorial writer for the same newspaper.
Among his academic writings are the articles 'The Ink Link: Media, Communalism and the Evasion of Politics,' in K.N. Panikkar, The Concerned Indian's Guide to Communalism (Viking 1999), and 'The International Dynamics of a Nuclear India,' in D.R. Sardesai and Raju G.C. Thomas, Nuclear India in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave, 2002). He studied at the London School of Economics and Columbia University and taught economics at New York University before turning to journalism in 1995.
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