June 05, 2016

India: Beyond Gulbarg massacre: Lumpens’ patrons remain unrebuked (Editorial, The Tribune)

The Tribune - 3 June 2016

Beyond Gulbarg massacre: Lumpens’ patrons remain unrebuked

Fourteen years after a Hindu mob felt emboldened enough to set afire an entire Muslim neighbourhood, called Gulbarg Society, in Ahmedabad, some kind of justice has been promised by a court. Reports suggest that at least 24 persons stand convicted and will be punished. Among the victims of the mob’s murderous fury was Ehsan Jafri, a former member of Parliament. Against heavy odds and with remarkable fortitude and courage, his widow, Zakia Jafri, persisted all these years in seeking punishment for those who were responsible for the mayhem and murder. Her dogged fight tested the Indian judicial system and its commitment to ensure that the lawful order would not be allowed to be trifled with, whatever be the provocation and whosoever be the perpetrator. Her fight became a cause célèbre for every law-abiding citizen. The Thursday verdict would be a very small consolation to the victims but it could go some way towards restoring the primacy of the law.

The court has rejected the argument that the massacre was the result of a conspiracy. For three days many areas in Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat were hosting their murderous dramas. Mob violence has its own laws of momentum. This is what had happened during the recent Jat agitation in Haryana.

If at all there was a conspiracy, it can only be located in the politically-driven decision to let the mobs rule the streets. And, the armed lumpens were indeed allowed to roam the streets of Ahmedabad, unchecked, unchallenged and unrestrained, as they zeroed in on the hapless minority community. The Gujarat government, then headed by Narendra Modi, simply failed to perform its rajdharma to provide safety and security of life to all citizens, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The then Union Home Minister, L.K.Advani, a self-styled later day avatar of Sardar Patel, could never demand — leave alone, enforce — accountability from the state government in Gandhinagar for its failure to live up to its constitutional responsibilities. Neither Nitish Kumar nor Mamata Banerjee nor Omar Abdullah felt sufficiently agitated to walk out of the Vajpayee Cabinet. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee allowed calculations of party interests to override his own conscience. The Gulbarg massacre and other horrible tales of horrible violence were used to create a new politics of intimidation and polarisation.