Waiting for remorse
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Martha Nussbaum's article 'When is forgiveness right?' (IE, October 9) was excellent. As a victim of the 2002 Gujarat tragedy, I have struggled with the dilemma of forgiveness for over a decade. Godhra and the post-Godhra riots will prove to be defining moments in India's evolution as a democratic, secular, progressive state. But it will take time. The process has been most traumatic for the thousands who suffered. The best way to heal, as laid down by Gandhi himself, would have been introspection and remorse by the larger Gujarati Hindu community. This could have led to a genuine forgiveness by the victims, which in turn could have led to communal reconciliation and true peace in Gujarat. But this was not possible for many reasons.
For one, political factors made introspection and apology impossible. The Narendra Modi of 2012 is very different from the Modi of 2002. Prior to the Godhra train burning, he was politically weak. He had barely scraped through in the assembly by-elections held just before the incidents. Keshubhai Patel was the real power centre in the party and within the RSS in Gujarat. It is believed Modi tilted the scales the other way by allegedly giving the VHP and Bajrang Dal cadres a free hand during the riots. The police and bureaucrats, it is alleged, were instructed to let these cadres run amok.
The political benefit to Modi of the events of 2002 was huge. Suddenly, he became the darling of the saffron forces, not just in Gujarat but all over India. He emerged as the hero of Gujarati NRIs settled abroad. He won the December 2002 assembly elections with ease.
No wonder there was hardly anyone around to introspect and express remorse. Even Sabarmati Ashram locked up its gates to prevent peace marchers from entering. Shockingly, this was done by old Gandhians who administered the ashram. Yet we tried repeatedly to reach out to intellectuals, the media, industrialists and finally godmen, who flourish in Gujarat. In my own case, after the complete destruction of my house, I asked for a residential quarter in the university where I worked. I was assigned an apartment in a block of four. All the other apartments were occupied when I moved in. But soon, the occupants of all three left. In spite of a housing shortage at the time, no one was willing to move into my block. I stayed alone for three full years.