The Case of Gujarat: An extract from Khushwant Singh's "The End of India"

07 April 2014
Manish Swarup / AP Photo
Manish Swarup / AP Photo

There are days when speeches made by our netas and so-called sants distress me so much that a voice within me screams, “Let all of them go to jahannum (hell). I’ll get on with my life as best as I can.” When I get over the depression, a wave of anger surges within me and I say to myself: “This is my homeland, I will not let these medieval-minded fanatics get away with wasting precious years squabbling over where exactly a temple should have its foundation-stone laid. I will shout my protest from the roof-tops.”

Then comes the ghastly carnage in Gujarat.

Much has been written and said about the riots of 2002. But not enough. I would like to quote from a document from another time. Summing up his report for the Maharashtra government after the riots in Bhiwandi and Jalgaon in 1970, Judge Madon wrote: It was a lonely, arduous and weary journey through a land of hatred and violence, of prejudice and perjury. The encounters on the way were with men without compassion, lusting for the blood of their fellow men, with politicians who trafficked in communal hatred and religious fanaticism, with local leaders who sought power by sowing disunity and bitterness, with police officers and policemen who were unworthy of their uniform, with investigating officers without honour and without scruples, with men committed to falsehood and wedded to fraud and with dealers in mayhem and murder.

He could have been writing about Narendra Modi’s Gujarat. But at least the Maharashtra government under SB Chavan accepted Judge Madon’s damning report with all its recommendations. Modi’s government dismissed the report of the National Human Rights Commission as incorrect and biased. The Central government’s attitude was no different. Cabinet ministers like Arun Jaitley shamelessly supported Modi’s stand. To them it was mere propaganda by the ‘pseudo-secularists’.

What can one expect from an administration that has openly sided with murderers? It is clear that the attack on the train at Godhra was pre-planned. Far from putting the perpetrators down with an iron hand, the government colluded with the mischief-makers as its police and its chief minister were imbued with the spirit of badla—revenge. It is also clear that the revenge was so vicious and effective because it was also pre-planned. There have been credible reports that within hours of the Godhra massacre, armed mobs were out in different parts of Gujarat with detailed lists of Muslim homes and establishments. Several hundred Muslims were hacked to death or burnt alive, women raped, homes and shops looted and burnt down.

Khushwant Singh Khushwant Singh was a prominent Indian novelist and journalist, and the author of Train to Pakistan, I Shall Not Hear the Nightingale, Delhi, The Company of Women and Burial at Sea.

Keywords: Gujarat Khushwant Singh communalism