February 29, 2012


In 2002, not long after violence erupted across Gujarat, I joined a group of people on a trip through that state, what some of them thought was a journey of compassion. While I believe in compassion, I was admittedly cynical about it applying among people who had done a series of unspeakable things. I went thinking of myself as an observer -- both of what had happened, as well as what kind of reception this idea of compassion would get.

We started in Godhra, and went on to Baroda and Ahmedabad, with plenty of stops at smaller villages and towns on the way, and several visits to camps for the victims of the violence. It was a raw, disturbing, nerve-wracking and soul-deadening trip, among the most depressing several days of my life.

To remember, ten years on, here are some notes from my diary of those days when I travelled through a massacre-wracked Gujarat. (As @DeathEndsFun, I tweeted these using the tag #DDGujDiary. They are here as they appeared on Twitter, except for expanding any abbreviation necessitated by the 140 character limit).


* In Dehlol, we pass a trishul which has an unexpected object fluttering from it: a bra.

* Huge hoarding in Godhra, with a portrait of Narendra Modi and these words -- "Gujarat measures 9.9 on the recovery scale."

* Met a man called Siraj Patel who had watched three people being killed on the road that runs from Limkheda to Baria to Antala (sp? Can't tell). One of them was his 10th standard son.

* Inside the carriage -- that carriage -- at the railway station in Godhra, of all things I notice grains of rice strewn all over the floor.

* Also seen on the floor of the carriage in Godhra: shoes, jeans, socks, bottles, twisted metal, pictures of the filmstar Govinda, a metal cup.

* The inside of the carriage looks like the barracks in Auschwitz or Dachau. There and here, how could anyone hope to survive?

* (Picked up a small handful of ashes in that carriage. They're on my lap now, wrapped in plastic. Ten years on, ashes fly in the breeze).

* A half-burnt kid's exercise book at my feet inside the carriage. Its first legible page has these pencilled Hindi words in a careful schoolkid hand: "baal kaan haath gaal naak maathi". Who wrote all that?

* Also found in the carriage: several booklets called "Ayodhya", with a picture on the back of the Babri Masjid with people on top of its domes.

* Also found in the carriage: Several books printed in Hindi, carrying this title in English: "Ayodhya Guide."

* Man in Gurgaon whom I speak to a few days later on the phone, his eldest brother and wife (kids too? I can't tell) died in the fire. "I'm afraid to come to Gujarat", he tells me.

* Among the people in our band is a theatre group from Delhi called "Nishant". At the carriage in Godhra, they gather outside and sing.

* In a camp in Godhra, Yusufbhai from Kuwajar village says the mob that drove him and several others from his home was shouting "Maro, kaapo, maal loot lo" (kill, cut, steal).

* Yusufbhai says the police did nothing to stop the mob. Instead, they told Yusufbhai and the others with him, "save yourself and run".

* In a village near Dahod, 70 houses were burned down. In the camp, I met a man from there, his wife and their four kids. They had to run from the village, they stayed in the "jungle" for 3 days without food and water.

* He also says 14 members of his family were raped and/or killed.

* In the same camp is a 20 year-old girl from Kesharpur. She had a 2 year-old child who was killed. She doesn't know where her husband is.

* Salambhai's house in Kuwajar village was burned by a mob. "What is the fault of us villagers," he asks me, "in what happened in Godhra?"

* Met two teachers in the camp. One says "We believe in this sarva dharma sambhav; but the people who watched their kids being burned, how will they believe?"

* A woman in Godhra camp says the police told her: "You had better run away, or the swords will be used on you!"

* Siraj (another Siraj? can't tell) watched three men he knew being burned alive. He tells me how it was done: "They tied branches on them and set them on fire."

* Amina's son was "made into 3 pieces" (what I was told was, "unka teen tukde banaye"). A man with him was shot dead. Another man with him was tied up and burned alive.

* A ten year-old girl shows me a gash on her back from a sword. She saw her father being attacked and ran to save him; that's when someone slashed at her. She is alive. He is alive.

* She tells me about another ten year-old who told the mob "Kill me, but spare my sisters!" Her father was killed with a blow to his head.


Gautam Ghosh said...

Let us not *ever forget* as they say for Mumbai blasts and other acts of terrorism.

Anonymous said...

Quite funny actually, 5 centuries ago Hindus must have heard words like kill cut steal, cut in 3 pieces. Mmm ...what is that saying...what goes around comes around.

snehal said...

shame on hate driven acts of violence. human beings are human beings, kids are kids - everybody hurts the same, everybody bleeds the same..I wonder what must be on the mad minds to do such heinous acts..

Slogan Murugan said...

Gujarat. 10-years-after.