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In Ahmedabad, don't mention the R-word

March 1, 2007
Reportage: Sheela Bhatt

"Why have you come back? Don't write a word on the riots. Not even on Godhra. Please go back," fumed Dinesh Vakil, a real estate investor in Ahmedabad.

He was arguing that in the last five years, the media and the secular activists have derived "sadistic pleasure" in writing about the Godhra train carnage.

"You are digging into our wounds," Vakil continued. "You people don't want that our wounds should heal. Secular leaders and the Congress want to keep HM alive for the sake of extracting political mileage."

'HM,' in Gujarat, means the divide between Hindus and Muslims.

"People get huge funds to fight cases against Hindus accused of rioting," Vakil continued. "The secular people are responsible for perpetuating the divide between Hindus and Muslims of Gujarat."

His anger vented, he turned away with a look of disgust.

Like Vakil, the majority of Gujaratis are in denial mode. It is easy to see why Parzania was not screened in the state.

When we spoke to political leaders, Congress voters, women and Dalits in different parts of Ahmedabad, their reaction was uniform: "Why talk about the riots?"

Five years on, Godhra truth still elusive

For Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, silence is the best move of his political game -- not to review, not to contemplate, not to reflect, and, certainly, not to regret.

Many Gujaratis have no problem in reminding you about the chronicle of communal riots since Independence in which, according to their estimation, 'Hindus suffered.'

But they want you to completely forget the 2002 riots. Many people in urban Gujarat claim the 2002 riots were necessary for restoring the 'balance' of distribution of social, cultural and political power in the state between the minority and majority communities.

Another aspect one notices after five years of the riots is that the sizable middle-class Hindus have a closed mind when it comes to the life of the minority community and the issues affecting the life of Muslims.

Ahmedabadis have, generally speaking, refused to accept the reality of violence and its consequences -- though they played out on the streets right within their mohallas.

Photographs: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images
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