February 27th marked 15 years since the infamous Godhra incident. The draconian face of humanity engulfed Gujarat across its length and breadth. State machinery remained paralysed for numerous days and the nation watched the murders and rapes in pin drop silence. The riot which brutally killed thousands of people (mostly Muslims), displaced them permanently and destroyed their livelihood was a much celebrated event in the state of Gujarat by the then Chief Minister and his party.
Like all the other cases, this case of 2002 is still in court. However, a few people like Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi have been convicted and sentenced by the special court for their roles in the Naroda Patiya riots. The irony of the situation is that, Maya is roaming freely and Bajrangi has been released on bail multiple times.
15 years down the line, the state of Gujarat has changed for the on-lookers but not for the minorities of Muslims. Harsh Mander, an activist, opines in an interview with Hindustan times, “15 years after the Gujarat riots, there is the new normalcy of Gujarat, in which Muslims have learnt to live separately, much like Dalits have been forced to exist for centuries… I feel an intense unrest and foreboding thinking about how fundamentally the idea of India and its practice is changing so rapidly today and how the politics of hate has so profoundly polarised and divided us.”
Today, Muslims in Gujarat have stopped revealing even their names to anyone in order to protect themselves from another communal feud. They have stopped showcasing any external symbolic representation of their religion. The displaced Muslims have not been able to return to their homes after the 2002 massacre. Many villages have banned Muslims and have proudly proclaimed to be a “Muslim free village.” While those villages who did allow their residency, have a set of stringent rules to be followed.
The “Gujarat model” which received laurels from the Country for its business-friendly administration over investment in social sectors, did not represent the entire state of Gujarat. The less recognised part of this model was systematic reduction of the minority religion to second-class citizens. These second-class citizens comprise of not only Muslims but also Christians, Dalit and tribal communities of Gujarat.
Even after receiving flak, the communal violence in the country has only been increasing with campaigns such as ‘ghar wapsi’, ‘love jihad’ and ‘beef lynching’. India’s constitution calls it as a ‘Secular state’ however, in the wake of these incidents, the idea of being secular as a Nation-state is in question.