PUCL Bulletin, November 2002

Press release:
Violence in Gujarat:

An appeal by PUCL

Gujarat has been in the grip of violence for the past eight or nine months., When violence becomes endemic the question of violence, counter violence or the question who started it first becomes irrelevant. The violence unleashed by the so called defenders of Hindu faith towards the end of Feb and March this year and the violence unleashed on the Hindu population trapped inside the temple by the slain terrorists are acts of madness which call for condemnation.

But to stop at that would be a culpable ritualistic response. Sanity has to steer clear of Hindu Fundamentalists and Islamic bigotry. In a state where law and the Constitution have become totally irrelevant talking to them of the penal consequences of their actions will make no sense. Appeals to rein in the government's fundamentalist aggressiveness have fallen on deaf years and the intimidation of the Muslim community was continuing till the terrorist attack on the Hindus took place in the premises of Aksharadham temple in Gandhinagar.

Terrorists are an anonymous lot and there appears to be no way to appeal to them for making attempts to make them introspect over their foul deeds excepting through the media. Both the fundamentalisms, if allowed to grow, spell disaster to the plural character of Indian society, which has enriched all the faiths flourishing in our subcontinent. It is to this plural character of our polity that we owe our democratic practices despite the goverments' authoritarian practices of refusing to recognize our polity's plural character. When the state was killing militant political activists we were repeatedly pointing out that physical liquidation of militants could never lead to liquidation of their politics.

We suppose this stand holds good even for religious violence This position of ours is articulated well by Saadat Hassan Manto in one of his short stories about communal violence, where he points out that of large number of killings of Hindus and Muslims on either side will neither diminish Hinduism nor Islam as religions and their moral tenets have timeless validity: "Don't say one lakh Hindus and one lakh Muslims died; say that two lakhs human beings died. That two lakhs human beings died is not such a great tragedy after all; the tragedy in truth is that those who killed and those who were killed both have nothing to show for it. After killing a lakh of Hindus, the Muslims may have thought that they had finished off Hinduism. But it lives, and it will live on. Like wise, after killing a lakh of Muslims the Hindus would have exulted that this will have killed Islam. ...Those who think that religions can be killed by guns are foolish. Mazhab, deen imaan, dharm, faith, belief - all these are found in our soul, not in our body.. How can they be annihilated by butchers' cleavers, knives bullets?"

Leaders who claim to represent the politics of faith have nothing to with the respective faiths Neither Narendra Modi nor the terrorist outfit which sends young men as suicide squads to death have any such representative capacity In the context "War on terrorism" can only be a communal political slogan and at best may rally some communal support at the election time, but ultimately what is bound to succeed is cultural renaissance which will bring about inter religious understanding and we should strive for that. We owe this to posterity.

K G Kannabiran
27 Sept. '02

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