TWO decades have passed since the bloody Gujarat riots, one of the worst spasms of anti-Muslim violence witnessed in post-independence India, and the Sangh Parivar continues to flaunt that shameful episode as a badge of honour. On Friday, speaking at an election rally in Gujarat, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah proudly boasted that “they tried to create a problem for Narendra Bhai … [but] he taught them … a lesson”. ‘They’ here can safely be assumed to be a reference to Muslims, and the ‘lesson’ most likely refers to the orgy of rape, murder and violence the Muslims of Gujarat endured after frenzied Hindu mobs went on a rampage throughout the state Narendra Modi then ruled as chief minister. The incident was preceded by the Godhra train-burning incident, in which around 60 Hindu passengers perished. The Sangh blamed the tragedy on Muslims — though there are conflicting official narratives casting doubt on the deliberate arson claim — and what followed was a horrific pogrom in which Muslims were raped, hacked to pieces and set on fire. By the time the dust settled, at least 1,000 people had been killed, the vast majority of them Muslims.
In the aftermath of the Gujarat atrocities many in the West kept Mr Modi at arm’s length, refusing to deal with him due to his lack of effort to stop the violence. This changed when he became prime minister in 2014 and the West reopened channels apparently out of geopolitical expediency, as India was a convenient cat’s paw to contain a rising China. Yet it’s reprehensible that the Sangh Parivar, and Mr Modi’s own lieutenants, continue to uphold the bloodstained legacy of Gujarat as a feather in the PM’s cap. In the aftermath of Gujarat, even more extreme characters have emerged from the Hindutva stable, such as the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Hindutva trolls may uphold the Gujarat massacre as a brutal triumph over India’s Muslims, but people of conscience everywhere will not forget this moment of shame.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2022