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Friday, October 26, 2007

Gujarat 2002: The Tehelka Sting Story

The Tehelka sting on Gujarat: Violence in us.

Gujarat 2002 has been written about and exaggerated on both sides, those who want to scandalize it as well as those who want to justify it. With another election in Gujarat round the corner and in the light of the recent much publicized interview with Narendra Modi by Karan Thapar where Modi prefers to walk out of an interview rather than express any remorse for what happened even if it is just a press interview, the Tehelka sting full of first person accounts of those who were part of the carnage and who have lived to tell the tale, deserves to be read and understood. The questions that are posed by Taruj Tejpal in the expose are worth repeating.
I was prompted by a friend hence had a first look on-line where it was released last night. A special issue will hit the stands later today.

Gujarat has been repeatedly celebrated for its supposed 'development', what is the role of this 'development' in building an environment where such violence can be perpetuated among people who have no precedence of this intensity of violence or of such scale. If despite such violence having been committed, the corporate sector continue to favour this state and the FDI place it highest in their destination is there something with the agenda of the corporate sector and the FDI agents?

Please take time to read through this chilling accounts, as they reflect the spreading of violence and intolerance among people that could be kindled at short notice and given an opportunity and an opponent can result in the worst form of violence possible as humans or otherwise. Many stories here have been reported already by the press, some with great amount of detailing. But, to watch these ordinary looking men, kind of people you will pass by in the day to day life without having to give a second look, talk of violence of this nature as a normal conversation where there were others losing lives, is ghastly.

I don't think this violence in the people's minds is limited to Gujarat, it could be Maharashtra, in Tamilnadu (couple of days back I was meeting with a group of farmers where one of the farmer leaders reported that there is always the looming threat of violence let loose on them as they have to often take position against the ruling political elements) and other places too. I remember reading many years back an economist who wrote that 'when the levels of inequality raises beyond a point, violence is the natural outcome'. To me Gujarat looks like such a case. Recently on a visit to the state, I came face to face with the kind of poverty not seen anywhere else.

We as a civilization have the saying, 'ahimsa paramo dharma', that non-violence is the fundamental dharma / duty / function. The violence on humans in Gujarat is an expression that defeats the spirit of this saying, it is but differently being vent upon the forests, the rivers the farmers, the villages every where,... it is important to realize that the largest perpetuator of such violence is a form of governance that has long since become alien to its people and the people themselves can become victims as well as tools in perpetuating such violence. How could a Modi be re-elected in Gujarat again is a question many have asked, he may be elected again after 5 years is the reality. Something is wrong with the Indian democracy and economy and the way we understand 'development'. Something about it breeds violence that seems to be against the spirit of the people. The Tehelka sting is a time to reflect.

Are we all, finally, only making a reckoning of differences and numbers? Would we all, given the advantage of numbers, and protection from the law, gleefully brutalise anyone who is different, or in disagreement? Today it is the overwhelming question in the mirror. Each of us needs to see it and to answer it. For the violence that bloomed so bloodily amid the Gujarati is also all around us. Every day brings news of a fresh mob attack, a fresh case of vigilante justice. The strong will tame the weak — if only law and order will look the other way for a moment.

Is it possible that contrary to all the hoopla we may have already lived out the high tide of our democracy? Many Indians may get richer and richer but as a people — a deep civilisation — we will now only get poorer and poorer? Is it possible that a country sprung from the vision of giants can now only sustain small men with small concerns? Once a few good men shaped a modern egalitarian nation out of a devastated colony; are there none now to staunch the rot?

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