By Arastu Zakia:
A lot has been said about Indian urban Youth, their priorities, the things that influenceÂ them, the mediums that appeal to them, their identity or lack of it and so on. Owing to theÂ conditioning they are subjected to and the things that influence them since birth, not many
Youth today are expected to have an in-depth understanding of socio-political issues fromÂ diverse perspectives. However, if one were to analyse the various perspectives of GujaratiÂ Youth (and perhaps even their elders) on the infamous happenings of 2002, a majority ofÂ views are by and large similar and can easily be classified into sections, something I do notÂ like to do otherwise.
“2002? What!”: A few days ago, a documentary was being shot on the 10 years thatÂ have passed since 2002. A student of a prominent college was asked: “WhatÂ happened in 2002?”, his reply — “India defeated England”. Quite a number of Gujarati Youth are unaware about the term ‘2002’ and any of what happened thatÂ year, the decades of history prior to it and the events that followed. In differentÂ interactions with them, I also discovered that the fact that a few lakh people wereÂ forcibly displaced from their homes and had to live in inhuman conditions in reliefÂ camps is absolutely unknown to so many Youth in the ‘New City’.
“Ya I know about 2002 but it happened so long ago. Everything is fine now”: In aÂ friendly debate that I was once having with an old friend of mine, he went to theÂ extent of saying — “If by killing people, development happens, then I am fine with it”.Â Very often in capitalistic times, priorities are dictated by the pursuit of money,Â errr.…..“happiness”. Call it either indifference or misguided priorities, to a majorÂ section of Youth, lives today are governed by pay packages, mark sheets and ofÂ course the customary opposite sex obsession. To such a branch of thought, a mall orÂ a flyover as a display of wealth or progress would be reason enough to “move on”.Â “Reconciliation” or “moving on” are human choices and anyone is free to make theirÂ own choice and stick to it. But in the case of 2002, they should apply only if theÂ people who were affected by the violence make these choices.
“Events like 2002 were long due and actions have consequences”: Gujarat is knownÂ to have a communal history and 2002 was not the first and possibly not the lastÂ visible climax of a conditioned mindset of hate. There is a section of Youth who haveÂ inherited the hate and they exist on both sides. Looking at 2002 as a “reaction toÂ Godhra” or references to manipulated facts about “religious conversions”, “cowÂ slaughter” and so on are very common to a Gujarati ear.
“2002 should not be repeated and there is no peace without justice”: There is alwaysÂ a small group of people who either work in NGOs, law, police, judiciary andÂ otherwise and hold a humanist orientation. Yes, some of these unpardonably look at events such as 2002 as opportunities for glory and business. But there is no doubtÂ that the rest have been unfailingly fighting for justice and human rights in the last 10Â years and will continue to do so even in the future. Youth belonging to this branch ofÂ thought are remarkably branded by names such as “pseudo-secularist”, “traitor” andÂ so on an alarmingly high number of times.
Edward R. Murrow once said “No one can terrorise a whole nation, unless we are all hisÂ accomplices”. Blaming one man or one political party for what happened in Gujarat in 2002Â would be equivalent to targeting one of the symptoms and conveniently excusing ourselvesÂ from the blame. No amount of propaganda can result in such a brutal outcome if theÂ propaganda was not on the lines of what we as a population already felt or perhaps wanted.Â Statements such as “2002 Gujarat happened because of 2002 Godhra” are like saying “I willÂ go and slap a girl today because another girl had slapped me yesterday”. Violence isÂ unacceptable irrespective of what religion or group of people or nation is affected and suchÂ justifications by us only imply the truth of what we conceal within.
‘Sad-bhavna’ or not, it is a fact that property in Gujarat is still not sold or rented out toÂ people with Muslim names. Dietary preferences, clothing, visual appearances, geographicalÂ areas and major social issues are still classified on the lines of religion. I am not willing toÂ accept that one man or one party are solely responsible for such attitudes and events suchÂ as 2002 and as long as we do not understand this and claim responsibility and makeÂ amends, ‘2002’ will be succeeded by several such man-made tragedies.
Arastu is a columnist at Youth Ki Awaaz and Founder ofÂ The Difference.Â ‘The Difference’ is a unique youth led and youth focused effort that uses interactive and innovative methods such as debates, forums, on the ground action, presentations, audio, films, theatre, games and so on to empower youth with a range of values, skills and tools to become better citizens.