• After the bullets, the ballot

    Chief Minister Narendra Modi is a man in a hurry—to cash in on the hate at the hustings. Will it pay?

    DIONNE BUNSHA

    It was politics that incited a mob to loot and burn her house. But politics is the last thing on Asiabibi Sayeed Ansari’s mind. Still living in the Bakar Shah Roja relief camp in Ahmedabad, Asiabibi is not even certain where her next meal will come from. The government has de-listed and stopped supplies to the camp she stays in, although it houses around 650 people. On July 20th, the camp organisers said they would not be able to cook for the refugees anymore. “They gave us rations and told us to prepare our own food. But we don’t even have vessels to cook in,” says Asiabibi. Her house is being re-constructed by a Muslim charity. “The government gave us only Rs 2,000. That will not even pay for the door,” she says. “They should first make sure that everyone has got back their homes and jobs, then think about elections,” Asiabibi adds.

    But chief minister Narendra Modi isn’t bothered about Asiabibi or the estimated 25,000 refugees in Gujarat’s relief camps. His only priority is to hold elections as soon as possible, to count his votes over their losses. Over 1,000 people were killed in the state-supported communal violence and more than 1.5 lakh people were made homeless. Eager to cashing in on what he perceives to be a ‘pro-Hindutva’ wave (but others call ‘fear’ and ‘terror’), Mr Modi dissolved the Gujarat assembly on July 19th, immediately after the presidential elections. He asked for early polls, much before the scheduled elections in early 2003. This led to chaos in Parliament. Both Houses of Parliament were adjourned on July 22nd with the opposition protesting against Modi’s move. They called for his dismissal and for President’s rule in the state. But the BJP was in no mood to listen. Deputy prime minister L.K. Advani said Modi had handled the riots better than any other chief minister in the last 50 years.
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  • The Gujarati press: Rumour or news?

    Frontline,
    The regional press had no small role in fanning the flames. Goebbels in Gujarat?

    DIONNE BUNSHA

    “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.”
    – Joseph Goebbels, Minister for Propaganda in Nazi Germany.
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  • Chariots of Fear

    The Jagannath rath yatra passes without incident, but for Gujarat’s Muslims it is life on the edge, for the fifth month running.

    DIONNE BUNSHA
    in Ahmedabad

    A festival in a ghost town. Welcome to Ahmedabad’s 125th Jagannath Rath Yatra. While some people in the city celebrated, others abandoned their homes, ran for their lives and hid in fear.
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  • Godhra probe: A foregone conclusion?

    Investigations into the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27 seem to be directed to prove that it was a pre-planned terrorist act in line with the official script.

    DIONNE BUNSHA

    “It (burning of the Sabarmati Express) was a pre-planned attack. The charred bodies which I saw at Godhra railway station testified to the black deed of terrorism.”
    – Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, 28th February 2002. (quoted in Rediff.com)

    On the day that the Sabarmati Express in Godhra was burned, killing 59 passengers, chief minister Narendra Modi and his Sangh Parivar brotherhood had already concluded that it was a pre-planned ‘terrorist’ conspiracy. Since then, investigations into the case have been directed towards proving their theory. But more than four months after the incident, a number of questions remain unanswered. The chargesheet filed by the CID (Crime) is vague about how the S/6 coach was set on fire on the morning of February 27th. It mentions that a mob of Muslims from Godhra burned the train. Details of how it was ignited are not mentioned. But, when contacted, police officials were unwilling to give any further explanations.
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  • Go home. Gujarat is back to normal

    Frontline,
    The government wants the camps closed. Chased away, refugees are even living under trees.

    DIONNE BUNSHA

    When Vadodara’s government officials forced all the relief camps to close down and crammed all the refugees into one camp, Zubeidabibi Mansoori was one of those persuaded to go back home. But two days later, she had to come running back to the camp. “They sent us back from the camp, even though our house hasn’t been repaired since it was ransacked and looted. After two days, a fight broke out in the neighbourhood, and we had to leave once again,” she says. When they returned, the camp was too crowded to accommodate Zubeidabibi’s family and others from her neighbourhood. But luckily, a builder stepped in and offered to let them stay at one of his sites.
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  • Back to Abnormal

    It’s a long road back home when there’s no home to go back to. With the monsoon approaching, people may be stranded in relief camps for longer than they imagined.

    DIONNE BUNSHA
    in Ahmedabad, Panchmahal and Vadodara

    The violence may have died down. But peace is yet to return to Gujarat.
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  • Refugees bounce back the cheques

    Disgusted by the pittance being handed out, riot victims reject the government’s token compensation.

    DIONNE BUNSHA
    in Ahmedabad

    Noorbanu Sheikh is in a peculiar dilemma today. After waiting two months for compensation for her broken home, she doesn’t know whether she should encash the cheque or return it to the government. Her house was totally destroyed when a mob went on a rampage in Bismillah nagar at Vatva in Ahmedabad. But all she got was Rs 500 to reconstruct her broken home, a mere 0.5 per cent of all she has lost. “In a month, the monsoon will start. How will we stay in the relief camp then? We want to rebuild our home, but the government hasn’t given us enough to even buy a tin sheet,” says Noobanu. “We left with nothing but the clothes on our backs. No one will even give us a loan.” After Noorbanu and others in the Jehangir nagar relief camp at Vatva received paltry sums as housing compensation, refugees refused government cheques the next time they were being distributed. Of the 300-odd families here, only 23 have received housing compensation.
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  • More hate, more votes

    Keep the Godhra Ghost alive. Keep the hate going till the elections.

    DIONNE BUNSHA
    in Ahmedabad

    * After unleashing mayhem in Gujarat, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad is now cashing in on its campaign of hate. A fund-raising pamphlet published by the VHP’s State treasurer, Chinubhai Patel, exhorts the people to “save our country by boycotting Muslims economically and socially”. The pamphlet, being circulated in Ahmedabad’s middle class colonies, elaborates: “Those who talk of Hindu-Muslim unity are only maligning their own religion. There can be no equality between Hindus and Muslims.” Playing on the fear and insecurity that the VHP has created through engineered violence over the past two months, the pamphlet goes on: “What is your security even in the most decent and secure locality in spite of having security guards? Traitors and terrorists are coming by the truckloads. They will kill your security guards and enter your bungalows. They will murder you in your drawing rooms and bedrooms.” Finally, after raising the level of hysteria sufficiently, the VHP’s pamphlet gets to the bottom line – the moolah. “We must organise ourselves, join Hindu organisations and make financial contributions… After Godhra, cases against several VHP members and Hindus have been registered and many of them are in prison now… It is our duty to protect their families and keep them from starving… You will only be following your dharma by doing so… Contribute to the VHP and avail of 50 per cent tax saving.”
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