Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — ‘Main aakhir dam tak insaf ki jiddo-jehad jaree rakhungee, chahe who kitna taqatwar kyun na hoan’. (I will fight for justice till my last breath. He may be all-powerful but I will continue my struggle to bring him to justice) Speaking in the capital, Zakia Jafri, the widow of Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who has shown exceptional courage and determination in taking on the high and mighty involved in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, remains as defiant as ever as she vows to pursue her relentless fight for justice against those responsible for the massacre 15 years ago. Ehsan Jafri was brutally killed by a Hindu mob in Ahmadabad’s Gulbarg Society during the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat and who has been pursuing the case.
Speaking at a remembrance program organized by ANHAD to mark 15 years of Gujarat genocide at the Constitution Club in Delhi, Zakia Jafri said she has not given up her hope about justice for her husband and hundreds of innocents who were massacred on the streets of Gujarat on the watch of the state government. Without naming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then the Chief Minister of Gujarat, she said: “He is one of the accused in the Gulbarg society massacre case and we will continue to fight the case till its logical end”. When asked about threat and intimidation she and her family has been facing, she said she has been provided security by the government and she was not getting threats anymore.
Speaking on the occasion, her daughter Nishrin Jafri, who lives in the United States, said: “Nothing has changed since the communal riots were engineered by the then Gujarat government.” She cited her own example of the communal bias that she was denied a flat in Ahmadabad’s NRI Housing Society.
“I applied for a flat in the NRI society, the promoters asked me about the mode of payment, I told them that I can give it in dollars or check, and the deal was done. However, suddenly they cancelled the deal when they found I was a Muslim.”
Recalling the gory events of 2002 riots, a teary-eyed Nishrin Jafri said that no Hindu friends of her father came forward to rescue him who had always supported them in their hour of need.
The daughter of slain former parliamentarian also recalled the 1969 riots when she was an infant. “I remember that railway track where my father was running taking me in his lap. It was a dark night. My mother says fire broke out so fast that she could not take a single picture of her marriage,” said Nishrin.
His father rebuilt the home only to be attacked and destroyed again by rioters in 2002.
“My father again came to the same place to make home. Then again our home was attacked and burned down. I can’t forget what happened on that day. Whenever I go to my home, I try to recall those days with my father. I can’t tell you where he was beheaded and his hands were cut. My father called all but got no help. Nobody was spared. In each house, girls were raped and at least 2-3 were killed,” said Nishrin recalling the Gulbarg Society massacre in Ahmedabad where dozens of people including his father were brutally killed by rioters in 2002.
She said she was very close to her Abba (father) and knew many of his Hindu friends. She said that after the violence, everything was burnt down to wipe out evidence, especially of crimes like rape and killings. The Gujarat government also tried to erase all evidence including the phone records. She said she persisted with her faith in humanity as the new generation of Indians knows that a grave injustice has been done.
She said it has been a long and tortuous journey for her mother and all those who lost their husband or father or children. They still continue to suffer and wait for justice.
Noted human right activist and journalist Teesta Setalvad described the last 15 years as ‘pain, horror, anger, and some measure of success.’ She said Gujarat provides enough evidence of how the mainstreaming of a communal ideology can play havoc with people’s lives.
Setalvad, who fought cases of several victims of Gujarat riots, said: “I was born in a Hindu family and am truly ashamed of what happened in 2002 in Gujarat.”
She said her group, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has been struggling to get justice for the Gujarat violence victims. It has supported 68 legal initiatives, petitions and interventions over the past 15 years.
“It is very important for genocide survivors and activists to speak of a ‘war against memory’, as the perpetrators tried to destroy material traces of their crimes, and revisionists today seek to deny what happened. Today, the remembrance of 15 years of Gujarat genocide is most crucial to defend India and criminal justice system of the state, which is under attack,” she emphasised.
On this occasion, eminent author and civil rights ctivist Harsh Mander, who resigned as a District Magistrate in Gujarat in protest against the state government’s alleged involvement in the riots, said there is a palpable bias in the criminal justice system in the country wherein the culture of impunity has taken root.
‘I have engaged for many years with survivors of communal violence across India: in Nellie and Kokrajhar in Assam, Bhagalpur in Bihar, Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and in Gujarat but survivors did not get justice because of impunity,” he said.
Mander said that if government wants riot can be controlled in hours. The Gujarat riots continued for weeks.
“Any riots can be controlled within 2 hours if government wants to do so. This was a heinous crime on government side. 2002 is still painful,” he said.
Mander said the so-called Gujarat model is supposed to be about a business-friendly state but it is also a model for how to make minorities as second-class citizens who are suppressed and not even allowed to raise their voice and live with dignity.
When the riots took place in Gujarat, Narendra Modi was chief minister of the state and remained on the post till May 2014 when he won the Lok Sabha election and his party BJP got thumping majority in the elections. He became prime minister of the country.
He and other speakers also expressed their concern on the growing intolerance in the country in the past few years.
“It is evident from the website and literature of RSS that they want to make this country a Hindu Rashtra where non Hindus can live but as secondary citizens. They want Dalit-isation of Muslims as they oppressed Dalits for centuries,” said Mander.
“When the country is being changed against Constitution and human values we need to stand together,” he said.
Other speakers also lambasted political parties for not taking interest in stopping sudden spurt of violence and hate in Indian society, a new notion of nationalism based on fear and siege mentality and a process of exclusion to redefine the boundaries of social structure has corroded the very foundation on which the constitution of the country was based. The processes more pronounced in certain parts than others have immensely disturbed intellectuals, artists, and social activists, they said.
Delhi University professor Apoorvanand said that political parties have no interest in tackling pressing issues. Nobody is bothered about what is happening in Assam, he said.
Prof Manoj Jha said the Ramjas College incidents have busted the majoritarian concept of nationalism being impose on the country by right-wing forces.
“When I went to Gujarat especially where violence took place against women, people told that before Godhra incident, tridents, gas cylinder and explosives were reached there,” said Shabnam Hashmi, convener of ANHAD which hosted the event.
Later in a resolution, the speakers said: “The urgency to intervene in defense of democracy, secularism and justice has never been more pressing than in the conditions prevailing in the country today…The prejudices against marginalised communities are widely shared as a result of motivated and sustained propaganda. In the face of concerted social mobilization mounted by communal organizations by invoking religious symbols and sentiments, liberal civil society has come under a siege. Nevertheless the need for sustained and constructive action for strengthening secularism and democracy and for realizing justice and peace is evident,” said the organizers in a statement.