|HOME | NEWS | COLUMNISTS | AMBERISH K DIWANJI|
|March 4, 2002||
Amberish K Diwanji
Anger is no excuse to kill innocentsSecularists are damned and their credentials questioned if they do not condemn the murder of a Hindu as they do that of a Muslim or a Christian. Such secularists (here I mean people who profess the concept of secularism in its broad sense as separating politics from religion and making no distinction between different denominations) are called anti-Hindu, and Ishwar knows what else.
So now there is the current pummelling by the cohorts of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Shiv Sena: when Graham Staines and his two children were burnt, there was an outcry; when 58 Hindu men, women, and children were burnt, why is there no similar outrage? Even respected journalists like Vir Sanghvi have fallen prey to this canard and asked 'secularists' to shout out.
Let me see if I can set the record straight, a difficult task when prejudices run deep and the warring parties have, apparently, already formed their opinions. Writing now is perhaps akin to banging one's head against the wall.
First, the violence is condemned. The fact is that a mob of Muslims perpetuated one of the worst criminal acts after Partition. Reports say a 2,000-strong mob burnt a train coach filled with Hindu passengers, mostly, but not all, karsevaks returning from Ayodhya. It was a cruel, most inhumane act. How the mob gathered so fast with weapons is still to be known, but at this stage it is clear that the mob consisted of Muslims.
No secularist is condoning the violence. Hang the culprits, who are Muslims, after establishing their guilt. Justice demands that the culprits be booked and handed down the severest punishment due. Crime knows no faith.
Justice also demands that the cowardly policemen who simply stood by and did nothing to prevent the massacre be jailed for their inaction, which is closer to complicity. It appears the cops were Hindus, but then, crime knows no faith.
But let us also look at the events that followed.
Rampaging mobs in Ahmedabad and Baroda have killed dozens of people, burning down entire families -- men, women, and children. That is also a criminal act of the worst kind. These mobs of Hindus too need to be caught and punished severely. But will they be?
It is clear the so-called nationalist BJP government, in typical BJP fashion that has never discouraged communal violence, is allowing Hindus to retaliate. The BJP government has promised action against the Godhra criminals, but not said a word about the culprits in Ahmedabad and elsewhere.
And I want to make the exact point that some ministers in Gujarat are making. That anger is no excuse to kill innocents. Muslims in Ahmedabad are not responsible for what some lunatics did in Godhra.
The Muslim mob in Godhra had no right to burn a train even if the people inside were hurling abuses at them, let alone just shouting slogans. No provocation, short of an armed attack, can justify what the Muslim mob did at Godhra. Likewise, regardless of how angry one is at what happened, it gives no Hindu mob the right to kill Muslims in Ahmedabad.
The law sees both as murder. A grave provocation may lessen the intent, but does not forgive the crime itself. And secularists -- and I make no apologies for considering myself as such, even if some consider it a dirty word today -- condemn the crime and the criminals.
Strangely, the Muslims in Godhra who perpetuated the horrendous massacre are known to reside in a specific locality. Surely it was not too difficult for the police to go in and find them? Yet the BJP government took four days to arrest the alleged instigator of those who attacked the train, after much blood had been spilled all over the state.
Instead the BJP has been wasting its time asking "secularists" to condemn the Godhra violence! Please note, it has not asked the "secularists" to condemn the Ahmedabad violence, which too is reprehensible. It is this horrendous bias of theirs that gives them no right to speak out.
Secularists do not condone Muslim violence and condemn Hindu violence, a lie that people love to believe, but have never been able to prove. Secularists condemn all violence (but not all people) and demand equal justice for criminal acts. Hang the Muslims who burnt the train in Godhra, and hang the Hindus who burnt a family in Ahmedabad, but do not kill innocent people in retaliation.
And it is because such evenhanded justice is so rare that secularists are often heard shouting on behalf of the Muslims. Take this simple statistic: in virtually all the major communal riots that broke out after Independence, more Muslims were killed, and ironically, more Muslims have been jailed so far.
More important, the secularists may not be perfect, but we certainly don't need to be told by the likes of the BJP, VHP, and Shiv Sena -- outfits responsible for some of the worst crimes India has witnessed -- what to do and who to condemn.
On a different note, a couple of points need to be mentioned.
First, Gujarat is ruled by the pro-Hindu BJP. How come no one is asking what on earth this allegedly pro-Hindu government was doing when it allowed the worst killing of Hindus in a single incident after Partition? If being pro-Hindu puts Hindus at such grave risk, then Hindus are better off without the BJP.
And let us never forget that if the State abdicates its responsibility to look after its citizens, regardless of their background, then the people will take the law into their own hands. And this can only lead to acts of violence and retaliation. If the police in Godhra had shown some initiative and courage, then we may well have been spared this latest conflagration.
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