|We, The Murderers
Does Gujarat have the resources to come to terms with its moral responsibility?
“Many things were then said and done among us; but of these it is better that there remain no memory.” —Primo Levi
IT WAS as if a burden had been lifted. I reacted to the news of the Supreme Court directive to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the role of the Chief Minister, his cabinet colleagues, members of the BJP, VHP, the Bajrang Dal and senior members of the bureaucracy and the police during the violence of 2002, with almost gleeful joy. There was finally a possibility of justice; victims, friends and NGOs fighting for justice stood vindicated.
The list of those who shall be investigated reads like the who’s who of Gujarat. The Chief Minister, the present Speaker of the assembly, the Minister of State for Home, the former Chief Secretary, the former Home Secretary, the former Additional Chief Secretary, the then Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, two former DGPs; the list of sixty-three persons from the ministry, the legislature, the bureaucracy, the police and the Sangh Parivar makes for scary reading.
As the initial sense of vindication passed, a new responsibility came to haunt. For all these years I had refrained from using that morally poignant word coined by the jurist Raphael Lemkin in 1944. I had spoken of it in private conversations, almost in a whisper, perhaps not wanting to own up to the moral responsibility that utterance would invite. Genocide. I write this with personal shame, with hazy awareness of what it means for us in Gujarat. Genocide is mass murder, deliberately planned and carried out by individuals working with the complicity of the State. Each individual is responsible, whether he (and she, in the case of Gujarat) made the plan, gave the order or carried out the killings. Genocide is made up of these individual acts, the individual chooses to participate in it. Even routine, mundane, banal, bureaucratic acts are acts of choices made. Hannah Arendt would insist that genocide is most ruthlessly effective when it is bureaucratised, made banal and hence routine. An act as routine as closing a relief camp is genocide, where a closure of a file snuffs out lives. It was RB Sreekumar, IPS of the 1971 batch, who through his meticulous records submitted before the Justices Nanavati- Shah (now Mehta) commission brought out the complicity and collaboration of the high functionaries of the police and the civil administration in bringing about what sociologist Shiv Visvanthan has called ‘normalisation’ of the genocide.
In the last seven years Gujarat has used every available means to prove that the state is normal and that what happened was not a genocide but a ‘Newtonian’ reaction to the burning of the Kar Sevaks at Godhra. We questioned the statistics and tried to minimise the loss of lives and the scale of displacement, we claimed that the processes that were unleashed were out of control of the state and the party in power, we blamed the victims, attacked and sullied the motivations of the truth-seekers, justified denial in favour of greater economic interests and claimed that moving forward, being pragmatic was more important than blaming people.
It is technically and legally premature to state that all those under investigation are guilty in the court of law. But never before in the history of modern India has the role of the state, the police and the bureaucracy come under interrogation at this scale. It is not a case of mere ‘highjacking’ of the state by the party in power; it is not a case of a sole, supplicant bureaucrat pleasing the all-powerful political master. What is under investigation is active and wilful participation and abetment of the functionaries of the state in an act of mass murder.
This order of the Supreme Court also brings under question the premature and hasty exoneration of the chief minister, his council of ministers and police officials by the Justices Nanavati-Mehta commission of enquiry. The order is also an indirect indictment of the judicial processes in Gujarat where hundreds of cases were declared as closed by the courts by granting a plea of summary for lack of evidence or non-availability of the accused. What this indicates is a large scale systemic failure of both the criminal investigation and justice delivery system, cognisance of which must be taken. The process of criminal investigation and trial of the accused will take its due course. It might result in punishment of some as well. But justice is not merely a legal, technical term. It is a moral universe, which sometimes eludes codified law.
THE QUESTION is: how does one act in the face of genocide? How does a society come to terms with its moral responsibility? The first is acknowledgement. We must acknowledge that some of us participated in this act, some of us condoned it, many of us became willing spectators. But acknowledgement is primarily an act of memory. We must keep alive the memory of the act and the dead alive. It is not a memorial that one seeks. An act of memory is an act of bearing witness. One can bear witness only to truth. Let us remind ourselves that testament and testimony bear the same root. As individuals and members of the society we must bear witness to truth and realise that no act of genocide is possible without a large section of the society seeking to have selfwilled amnesia about it. Only then can we move towards truth and reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both atonement and forgiveness. It is one act that binds both the victim and his aggressor in a moral universe. This requires that we as societies have the capacity to recognise pain, have the language of compassion and justice and are capable of atonement. It requires penance that leads to self-purification and recovery.
It is morally a large task. Do we have the cultural and moral resources for it? And it is this question that makes me immensely sad. A few weeks ago one of Gujarat’s foremost poets and cultural activists, Saroop Dhruv published a book, Umeed Hogi Koi, on the memories of 2002. She chose to write it in Hindi. One suspects that she felt that the Gujarati language had lost its capacity to bear witness to truth, to capture pain and pleas for justice. We are a society where Gandhi has become a burden that we would rather shed. We wear masks given to us, not because they allow us to hide who we are, but because the mask allows us to express those parts of ourselves that remain inarticulate and repressed. The mask is us.
And yet, one knows that every society is capable of virtue, without which no society can be. Each of us is capable of being moral, just and compassionate, no matter how frayed the societal possibility of it. And it is through individual acts of testimony that we shall move on the long path of self-recovery.
Suhrud, author of Writing Life, is a social scientist based in Ahmedabad.
Posts Tagged ‘Tehelka’
A running thread of deep saffron
Posted: Jan 29, 2009 at 1107 hrs IST
The people behind the Malegaon terrorist attack fell into three categories — Sangh parivar cadres, army men and old Savarkarites. The first person to be arrested by the police, Pragya Singh, was a sadhvi and former ABVP leader. A second group of the accused comprised army men, retired or not, related to the Bhonsle Military School (BMS). Major Ramesh Upadhyay, a former defence services officer was arrested first, but the key figure was Lt Col Prasad Purohit, who had approached Upadhyay when he was posted at Nasik as liaison officer. Purohit and Upadhyay imparted military training to young activists — including bomb making — and were instrumental in getting arms and explosives.
Most of the training camps took place in the BMS, which had been directed by Rtd Major P.B. Kulkarni between 1973 and 1988, andwho had been associated with the RSS since 1935. In fact, the Bajrang Dal organised training camps in the BMS (Nagpur) as early as 2001. The five accused mentioned above were all members of Abhinav Bharat, a Pune-based movement initiated by Purohit in June 2006, whose working president was Ramesh Upadhyaya but whose president was none other than Himani Savarkar, V.D. Savarkar’s daughter in law, who also headed the Hindu Mahasabha.
The people, the places and the modus operandi are revealing of the continuity that underlines the Hindu tradition of terror, harking back to V.D. Savarkar. The young, revolutionary Savarkar had created the first Abhinav Bharat Society in 1905. The movement drew its name and its inspiration from Mazzini’s ‘Young Italy’, but was also influenced by Frost Thomas’s Secret Societies of the European Revolution, a book dealing mostly with the Russian nihilists. The movement was dissolved in 1952, but ten years back, just before finishing his term as Hindu Mahasabha president, Savarkar had created the Hindu Rashtra Dal, another militia whose mission was to impart military training to the Hindus in order to fight the Muslims, Gandhi’s followers and the Mahatma himself. This movement cashed in on the work of the same institution — the Bhonsle Military School, started in 1935 by B.S. Moonje, another Nagpur-based Savarkarite, after a European tour which had exposed him to Mussolini’s Balilla movement.
Like the Abhinav Bharat of today, the Hindu Rashtra Dal attracted Hindutva-minded Maharashtrian Brahmins — especially from Poona — who found the RSS insufficiently active. Some of them also had connections to the British Army.
Nathuram Godse and N.D. Apte, the two main architects of Gandhi’s assassination, are cases in point. Godse thought that RSS strategy contented itself with “organisation for the sake of organisation”. The Hindu Rashtra Dal, by contrast, organised training camps where volunteers learnt how to manufacture bombs and use guns from bicycles and cars. The key instructor was N.D. Apte who had served the army as Assistant Technical Recruiting Officer. In this capacity, he could use the War Service Exhibitions — which were intended to attract young Indians to the army — to initiate Hindu Rashtra Dal members into the art of modern arms.
The Hindu Rashtra Dal’s terrorist agenda culminated in the assassination of Gandhi, who had already been a Savarkarite target before — in 1934, they threw a bomb in Poona Municipal Town Hall where Gandhi was making a speech against untouchability.
While today’s Abhinav Bharat belongs to an old tradition harking back to Savarkar and even Tilak, the new element here lies in the implication of one serving officer of the Indian army. Certainly, any institution can have a black sheep. But was he that isolated? He has already named other officers who would have been his more or less passive accomplices and his colleague, Upadhyay, who once headed the Mumbai unit of the BJP’s ex-servicemen cell. The BJP, indeed, inducted ex-army men in large numbers since the 1990s. After the BJP came to power in 1998, two dozens ex-servicemen more joined the party. This inflow of ex-army men may reflect the increasingly communal atmosphere of the institution. In December 2003, a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies for Tehelka, one of the first among army men — and probably the most comprehensive — showed that 19 per cent of the soldiers interviewed felt that the army practised some religious discrimination — and 24 per cent of the Muslims among them shared this view.
Instead of distancing itself from the Hindu terrorists, as it had done in the 1940s, this time the Sangh Parivar has decided to support the Malegaon accused. Bajrang Dal chief Prakash Sharma declared that “policy makers should be worried if the Hindus were taking to arms because of the government’s skewed approach to war on terror” and admitted that the Bajrang Dal was running training camps too “to boost their morale [the Bajrang Dal’s members]. The country wouldn’t get its Abhinav Bindras if there were no armed training for the youth”.
In a way, the RSS, with the Bajrang Dal, has created a buffer organisation to handle the dirty work that the Sangh was earlier obliged to do itself — work similar to that of the Savarkarite organisations, whether they are called Hindu Rashtra Dal or Abhinav Bharat.
The writer is a political scientist and South Asia specialist at CERI, Paris
Thursday, September 18, 2008
The fall of the house of cards
Delhi bomb blasts have completely destroyed the elaborate fiction line that police, investigating agencies, media and politicians all together, deliberately or inadvertently (take your pick) had been dutifully following after each bombing incident all over India. This time around the people were somehow got tired of the old line of blaming SIMI, which seems to have acquired nine lives, now that even two of its masterminds, as declared by ATS, are behind bars and still there is no let up in the bombings.
A big change in people’s thinking was brought about by Ajay Sahni’s meticulous investigative articles in Tehelka that exposed the fake demonisation of a ‘chosen’ enemy, as a convenient ploy to cover up the real culprits that were beyond of pale of law, due to apparent political consideration.
The disarray started in the UPA camp itself, when three prominent coalition party leaders, publicly expressed the doubt in SIMI could have been involved in all these series of bombing.
By the time of Delhi bombings, the storm blew up in the face of the Home Minister, Shiv Raj Patil, who is widely believed to have soft corner for an opposition party, that is most suspected of being involved.
The media took the hint of the adverse winds, and started concentrating on the real job of investigative reporting.
Following is just one example of how the hints are out, that ‘Indian Mujahideen’ could be an invention of some non-Muslim organisation, out to defame and demonise Muslims and prepare grounds to foment communal riots.
Ghulam Muhammed, Mumbai
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Terror mail writers may not be madrassa products
Handwriting analysis shows they are urban-bred and may not know Urdu
Aditya Kaul. New Delhi
The emails sent before the serial blasts of Delhi, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Uttar Pradesh have been signed by three individuals, but one of them was only trying to copy the signature of the group leader just before Jaipur blasts, according to one of India’s leading graphologists.
The graphologist, who has helped the police in several investigations, believes that all the signatories are urban bred, English-speaking individuals, who may have had almost no madrassa education, if they are Muslims. It is quite possible that the three persons who have signed the documents do not know Urdu language. And that’s because the strokes in the signature of a person who knows how to write and read Urdu are distinctively different. There is no reason to conclude that all of them are Muslims, he said.
These people are well educated men and have been born and brought up in metros. They have sound family backgrounds and have been brought up in families with a modern outlook, the handwriting expert said.
DNA had over the past two days consulted with some of India’s leading psychologists and handwriting experts to try and figure out the men, and women, if any, who could be playing a key role in the terror groups that are wreaking havoc across Indian cities. Yesterday, DNA carried detailed psychological profiles of the writers of the five terror mails, in which the psychologists surmised that the writers were in the age group of 20-50 and suffered from anti-social personality disorder. They were highly educated.
DNA has now been given a detailed analysis of the signatures on the documents. Four of the five emails have been signed — two of them have been signed as Guru Al Hindi and Al Arbi, the third has been signed only by Al Arbi. The fourth carries a signature faked by someone else for Guru Al Hindi.
The handwriting expert says there are primarily two people who have signed four of the five emails. These two people — Guru Al Hindi and Al Arbi — are personalities in contrast. One is a confident energetic extrovert individual, while the other is an extremely shy introvert.
The two have received assistance from a third person, or more, in drafting the emails. The third person whose signature is on the email sent just before the Jaipur blasts seems to have tried to copy Guru Al Hindi’s signature and he is only an understudy, if he is part of it.
The original Guru Al Hindi looks like the real executive director of the group. He is calm in the head and that’s his plus point, says the graphologist.
The expert, who studied the email independent of the group of psychologists whom DNA consulted earlier, has agreed with several of their conclusions, including the fact that the emails were prepared by a small group of at least three people. There have been five emails which have credible links to the terrorists — four of them sent just as the explosions were to happen in the Uttar Pradesh courts, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi. The fifth was sent to rubbish the Gujarat police’s claims that Simi was behind the Ahmedabad blasts.
Different strokes in terror mails
Handwriting experts say that al Arbi who signed one of the emails may not be a proper follower of Islam
Aditya Kaul. New Delhi
Guru al Hindi and al Arbi, the two persons who signed the terror emails sent just before some of the recent serial blasts across the country, are very contrasting personalities, according to a leading graphologist.
DNA had got the handwriting expert to analyse the signatures on the PDF formatted emails sent after the blasts. Four of the five emails have been signed — two of them as Guru al Hindi and al Arbi, the third only as al Arbi. The fourth carries a signature faked by someone else for Guru al Hindi.
The expert says Guru al Hindi is a person full of bubbling energy and enthusiastic to achieve something ASAP [as soon as possible]. He is riding high on confidence. And this confidence isn’t over-confidence.
He knows exactly what he is doing. He is sharp. Kind of an upcoming genius and it would be very tough to trap him. With his kind of sharpness and energy, our agencies stand nowhere as of now.
On the other hand, al Arbi is a complete introvert, who is shy of the world and can’t speak out much in the open. He is “definitely” a young male, says the graphologist, who has in the past assisted agencies in investigating sensitive cases. al Arbi’s is the only signature in the email sent out rubbishing the Gujarat police claims on the Ahmedabad bombers. Along with Guru al Hindi he has signed the mails just before the Ahmedabad and Delhi blasts. The email sent before the Uttar Pradesh serial blasts does not contain any signatures.
Al Arbi puts a lot of effort to hide his real self to anyone around him, but at the same time he is fairly literate and likes to read a lot. This youngster is short-tempered but covers up his anger in front of others. A completely emotionally unstable person and, if he continues to be so, the chances are he might just vanish or come out in the open if ignored, says the analyst. Therefore, the best way to catch him is to show that no one is trailing him, the graphologist, who has an enviable record in assisting crime investigation, suggests.
Chances are that al Arbi, a loner by nature, is the only child in his family or the youngest with some elders putting a lot of peer pressure on him. He comes under mental stress easily and yet loves that stage all the time as well.
In an interesting twist to the investigations, the graphologist suggests that this young member of the terror group is working and writes a lot and takes down notes regularly. The person could also be into painting, graphic designing or website designing.
From the emails it is clear that the writers have extensive knowledge of the Indian media scene, and they invariably carry detailed analysis of some newspapers and events in their mails. The sentence construction, the selection of email IDs of news organisations and other factors too point towards the possible media background of some of those involved in writing these mails and bombings. The graphologist does not deny this possibility in his analysis.
The graphologist suggests that al Arbi is dangerously getting into the habit of breaking rules. Probably he is not even a proper follower of Islam, or not even a Muslim in the first place itself.
On the emails, the graphologist said, there is a definite involvement of at least three different people in these documents signed. And there still could be more because the emotions and the tactics to scare and threaten drastically change, which don’t match with the characters of the persons signing them.