J. S. Bandukwala’s article in these columns (‘I forgive, I hope’, IE, May 27) is a cry from the heart. Muslims and the RSS cannot afford to go on hating each other, he pleads. Fine sentiments no doubt! But an outpouring of the heart is not much use when the mind is not in sync. Nor does it help when my good friend keeps changing his mind on remorse and forgiveness time and again. This is not the first time Bandukwala has sent his peace pigeons flying. He did not find many takers among Indian Muslims or the RSS earlier and it’s unlikely to be any different this time.
In an interview to a prominent national daily in September 2004, Bandukwala had said, “If they (Hindus of Gujarat) just said the simple word ‘sorry’ (for 2002), we’d come forward and forgive, and the process of reconciliation would begin”. In December 2007, the former professor seemed to change his mind. Remorse or no remorse, Muslims must forgive the perpetrators of 2002, he suggested. All he got in response were equally sharp comments from secular and community activists. Some castigated his comments as “defeatist” while others rebuked him for “demoralising survivors of the communal carnage who were still struggling for justice”.
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In February 2011, he took yet another sharp turn. Bandukwala lashed out at Gujarat’s Maulana Vastanvi, who soon after being appointed vice-chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband, said some nice things about the then chief minister. “I am conscious that rich and ambitious Muslims are desperate that we should close the chapter on the tragedy of 2002, and welcome Modi,” Bandukwala said. “But can we give up without justice and without a word of remorse and sorrow for what happened to thousands of our women and the poor? Rather, I am convinced that there is no other way to prevent future communal killings of Muslims, than to punish the murderers of 2002”.
Now that “the BJP has become the central force in Indian politics”, Bandukwala has switched lane again. “Most Muslims”, according to him, are today “in a state of panic”. So, it’s time to talk forgiveness again, folks. And this time the forgiving is no longer subject to any “remorse from the Other”; it springs simply out of the “fear of the Other”.
While he has been up and down over the question of remorse and forgiveness, for hundreds of Muslim survivors of Gujarat 2002, the issue has been simple: No justice, no peace. For Zakia Jafri and Rupaben Modi (both survivors of the massacre at Gulberg Society) and for thousands of other survivors, there can be no closure unless the perpetrators and the masterminds are brought to justice. It is thanks to their fearless determination, the consistent legal support provided to them by Citizens for Justice and Peace (disclosure: This writer is among the founder members) and other civil society organisations, and the active intervention of the SC that 126 of the perpetrators of the major carnages of 2002 are serving life sentences.
Expected on June 2 is the verdict of the trial court in the Gulberg Society case. Awaiting hearing in the Gujarat HC is the protest petition of Zakia Jafri wherein she has accused top Gujarat politicians (including then CM Narendra Modi), civil servants and police officers of complicity in the crimes.
The convictions in the Gujarat 2002 cases are unprecedented in India’s history. The verdicts have sent out multiple signals. Perpetrators will be brought to justice and minorities must rest assured that India is not yet a “Hindu state” and the rule of law reigns.
Finally, the future of Indian democracy is not contingent on the mutual hate or love between Muslims and the RSS. Muslims for the Sangh Parivar are a convenient means to an end, but their real target is the Constitution of our secular-democratic republic. The founding ideologues of Hindu Rashtra were fascinated by Hitler and Mussolini because they fantasised (still do) about an authoritarian state under a “strong leader” rooted in a people with tightly regimented minds, where every form of dissent is deemed as “anti-national”, “seditious”.