Massacres recede into history. But their memory haunts us. A strain of music, a candle light in the wilderness or a sad face re-enacts the tragedies once again. If concrete evidence emerges, it leaves us forlorn and helpless.
Two instances this week have brought back before me the killings in Gujarat and Delhi. Nadeem Saiyed, a key witness, was murdered in a street at Ahmedabad. Some thousands held a candle light vigil at India Gate to commemorate the memory of the 3,000 Sikhs killed in Delhi alone. Both are disconnected, but in a way they are not because both tell a sordid story of government’s hand in the killings of Muslims in Gujarat and the Sikhs in Delhi.
Not only that, every trace of official involvement has been erased. Records have been destroyed, FIRs burnt and till today the government continues to support the perpetrators of loot, murder and rape. On the other hand, the government has been hard on whistleblowers. Nadeem was killed because he refused to fall in line. He feared his murder and asked for more security but did not get it.
Another witness, Sanjeev Rajendra Bhatt, a senior police officer, also wants more security for his family and himself but there is no response. Bhatt had the courage to say in the open that he was present at the official meeting where Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi said to let the Hindus “vent out their anger” during the clashes and that he wanted Muslims to be “taught a lesson.” Hats off to Gujarat IPS Association for standing by Bhatt.
The question that has been posed again and again is that even after the intervention by the SC, the guilty have remained unpunished since 2002 when the pogrom was completed. The irony is that LK Advani’s rath was in Gujarat when Nadeem was murdered.
When I was at the candle light vigil, I came face to face with Nirpreet Kaur. She was 16 years on November 2, 1984, when the mob came for her father, Nirmal Singh. The gurdwara next to their house in Delhi’s Raj Nagar had been set ablaze and a mob of about 450 was looking for more Sikhs to butcher. The Sikhs of Raj Nagar decided to confront the mob.
An hour later, Nirpreet recalled, a Youth Congress leader came to her father requesting him to “settle the matter.” A day earlier, when violence against Sikhs broke out following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikhs bodyguards, the youth leader had sworn to the Sikhs that they would be protected from violence. The youth leader handed Nirmal Singh over.
Nirpreet unthinkingly joined the Khalistan movement to avenge the brutal killing of her father. Nirpreet married a militant in November 1985. Twelve days after her wedding, the Delhi Police picked up her husband. He was never heard of again. Nirpreet then pregnant with her son was declared an absconder. She went into hiding. In December 1986, Nirpreet’s mother, Sampooran Kaur, was sentenced to three years in Delhi’s high-security Tihar jail for “sheltering a terrorist.” She didn’t even have an inkling of what her daughter was up to when they arrested her.
Nirpreet’s tale of woes is not different from what has happened to Mrs Zakia Jafri whose husband was cut into pieces at their residence in Ahmedabad and burnt in a bonfire. He was a former Congress MP. Even his contacts and calls to New Delhi when a Hindu mob was surrounding his residence brought him no help. Many people from the area had taken refuge at Jafri’s house. They too were burnt alive.
The SChas sent her case to the trial court for disposal. This is not fair. The court could have said something on the role of the chief minister. At least, Bhatt’s affidavit against Modi required some comment because he remains suspended from service. The SIT had given some report and so had amicus curie. The SC should have taken notice of them because both were its creatures. And then there are numerous cases which remain without being pursued even though they are many years old.
The story of Malegaon blasts is tragic. It once again shows the bias of authorities against Muslims whenever a bomb blast takes place. None of the suspects were released after they were wrongly jailed. A special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act last week granted bail to all the nine accused. It was only after the former RSS activist Swami Aseemanand’s confession about the alleged involvement of Hindu fundamentalists in the blast was leaked did the line of investigation change. Justice demands that all the nine are compensated for illegal detention. After all, a wrong case was framed against them and they carried a tag of terrorism.
Indeed, India is a pluralistic society. But it has a long way to go before it can be considered “secular”, a word written within the preamble of the constitution. At present the government seems to be faltering.
The writer is a senior Indian journalist.