Why can’t the ghosts of 2002 be buried soon enough

I do not really watch much TV. I prefer reading over listening to reports of how we are lucky that aliens did not attack us yesterday. If they (the TV channels) had their way, they would even say that it was their correspondent who saved the world. However, YouTube allowed me to see a news debate following Mr. Modi’s speech at the prestigious Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) recently. I was startled to notice that the panel representing the youth consisted of a young entrepreneur from Bangalore, a suit-clad student from SRCC, and a girl who had openly questioned, and subsequently upset a CM currently in power. There were obviously the riots of 2002 which were to be discussed, that is quite inescapable. Surprisingly, there was not one student from the Muslim community. Perhaps all muslim students are only thought to be associated with terrorist organisations, and do not deserve a place when the supposed young population is to assemble and discuss their issues? When coming to the question of the tainted figure of Mr. Modi, our representatives of the youth in the debate asked us to move on, and bury the past. They asked us to look at the Gujarat model of development – trust me my friend, we have never stopped looking.

There was a huge protest amidst the arrival of Mr. Modi at SRCC. The protesting youth was then beaten up, attacked and molested by the police and the hooligans from youth parties, ready to counter-attack them with slogans of anti-patriotism. So, if you do not believe in the idea of ‘Hindutva’, you have automatically reserved a place for yourself in the train to Pakistan – for you no longer belong here. I saw media clips of protesters breaking barricades and trying to attack the convoy of Mr. Modi – at least that’s what the headlines said. It added that all the people in the protest are mainly from the communist parties, so even if that were true, they perhaps had not much legitimacy in their protests. Thanks to online blogs and social networking sites, I could find out exactly what happened from eye-witness accounts of people whose stories were not good enough for these TV channels. Unless all of them were apparently maoists or had links with terrorist organisations in Pakistan, they seemed quite believable.

I earlier had seen the video of Mr. Modi’s speech (if the youth from the debate are to be believed, was extremely impressive, considering he did not speak from a piece of paper). There was nothing much in it, except he spoke like one of those self-help books – saying he saw the glass more than half full – also comprising of air and glass. How does this help development discourses, I am not sure. How does this address existing conflicts in the country, I am still unsure – except that it is a language used by management pundits when they speak about maximization of resources. Had India been a multi-billion corporate, I would have been impressed with the idea. But contrary to the expectations of a lot of people – it is still a country with living people – with lives, cultures, and traditions. How do I sit in awe over such generic management mantras and treat such people as worthy of being statesmen able to handle the complexities of running a county – I am again unsure.

The debate on the news channel moved from a range of issues. Aspects of ‘development’ were brought out. Poor human development indices of Gujarat were shown. The girl seemed to agree and said that you cannot ignore human rights of minority communities and need to look at ‘development for whom and at what cost’ . The rest of youth shook their head in disappointment, they said all states have problems, but if you go and see Gujarat, muslims are more happy than ever. They now have their own colony with all modern amenities, and they have a strong society of their own. Thankfully we had someone enlightened enough in the panel to point out that it was a ghetto outside the main city he was referring to – and it brought a strange sense of hope to my friend’s face, who was watching the debate along with me. Perhaps we are a different kind of youth – who fail to fit in the news channel’s definitions of a young India. Perhaps people who study society, economics, politics and development are not good enough to discuss these as the issues of the youth. Perhaps there is a need for people like us to go through a rigorous training for accepting mainstream ideas to qualify as the youth in the county. Perhaps we need to learn to clap at every speech made by Mr. Modi to become the youth.

Everytime there is talk of the 2002 genocide in Gujarat, which keeps surfacing again and again ever since Mr. Modi’s Prime Ministerial ambitions have been openly highlighted, there is an increasingly impatient audience who does not fail to remind anyone and everyone talking about Gujarat that even if you do not accept the pogrom of 2002 as a ‘response’ to Godhra – justice has yet not been done for the 1984 anti-sikh riots, or the mass exodus of Kashmiri pundits in 1990 cannot be forgotten. Hence, to continuously harp on the Gujarat riots is not correct. We have to move ahead. True, neither 1984 nor 1990 can be forgotten! And it is not in the best interest to let the guilty go unpunished as well. And we truly have to move on. But you cannot move on when wounds are still fresh. You cannot adore perpetrators for what they have done, that is not called moving on. And you cannot collect a bunch of wide-eyed people, running after the latest cars and gadgets as their sole motive in life, as representative of the youth in this country. I refuse to be a part of such a ‘rising youth’. And the youth needs today needs to see more clearly the complexities of the society before they claim themselves to be the rightful heirs of the land.

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3 thoughts on “Why can’t the ghosts of 2002 be buried soon enough

  1. I have typed this comment and deleted it multiple times now. I cant begin to explain all the problems I have with the adoration for Modi. But my biggest problem is the assumptions with Gujarat. Somehow the media or the people have the ability to portray the rest of India in shambles and Gujarat in shining light.

    I read this post on Twitter a while ago: “Everyone keeps asking us to move on from Gujarat 2002. But god forbid that we could ever forget that a temple was razed to build babri masjid”. 🙂

  2. A unified nation state is only possible if the citizens (well, most of them, well, the ones who matter) buy into the mythos of the need to essentialise, to bury differences (especially if they make the rulers uncomfortable) and to forge on ahead. Modi, his administration and his supporters from the corporate, public and media spheres have made an art of convincing people to do just this. Let us hear from the devil’s advocate for a bit: “Certainly, Modi and his administration have done a great job since the fiasco in 2002. Yes, he made a mistake, a grave one, and everybody should note that he has suffered enough punishment for it. His penance was to do all that he has done for Gujarat ever since. Look: has a 2002-like scenario ever happened again, since that time? Gujarat has moved on, and everybody else should too, for the greater good of the nation.”

    I disagree. We should categorically not ‘move on’. Or if we do, we should move on to a better kind of leadership. One that does not put forth a skewed picture of ‘development’ as an ersatz apologia for the leaders’ role in what was perhaps akin to genocide. There is a debate that has begun among certain sections of the youth in urban India; a debate about whether or not persons accused/convicted of crimes against women should be permitted to wield any political power at all. Perhaps it is time for the old debate to be renewed, then. Should someone – anyone – accused/convicted of mass murder be permitted to take the helm of the nation and ‘lead’ from there?

  3. I agree to all you say Sudeep. This debate needs to definitely happen. However, the problems reamins in the fact that any attempt to do such a things ends up being an accusation of knit-picking. Has the youth today grown much more insensitive – leading to an essentiailisation that whatever is outside their own life domains, should be treated as an abject realities?! And that the only thing that matters is the indvidual. This is a dangerous precedence that has followed in a lot of elitiist circles – and is slowly dominating mainstream political discourses. This state of apathy deserves nothing but intellectual wrath – whatever that means! 🙂

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