By Gary Corseri - 19 March, 2007
A review of The Gujarat Genocide. Garda Ghista, Author House, Bloomington, Indiana, U.S.A. 175 pages
Garda Ghista dedicates The Gujarat Genocide to “the innocent victims of fundamentalist and communal violence everywhere.” The fundamentalisms that beset our over-trodden world today take many forms, including corporatism, militant “democracy,” Zionism, Islamic jihadism, Evangelicalism. Ms. Ghista, a long-time resident of India, now in the United States, focuses upon an extremism she has observed closely: that of right-wing Hindus; in particular, her book accounts and analyzes the horrific events of February and March, 2002 when riotous mobs in the state of Gujarat, spurred by leaders of the Sangh Parivar nationalist Hindu party, slaughtered between 2,000 and 5,000 Muslims. An additional 150,000 Muslims were rendered homeless and destitute. “Even after the initial 72 hours, the violence continued with the active support and collaboration of local police,” Ms. Ghista notes. About that time, Arundhati Roy wrote: “We’re sipping from a poisoned chalice—a flawed democracy laced with religious fascism … Gujarat has been the petri dish in which Hindu fascism has been fomenting an elaborate political experiment.”
The massacre was precipitated by the burning of a train in Gujarat returning from the demolished Babri Masjid site where Hindu volunteers had gone to help construct a temple on top of a demolished Muslim mosque. “Fifty-nine men and women perished in the fire,” Ghista writes. It was not known how the fire started, nor by whom. Despite the lack of evidence, within hours, Muslim communities across Gujarat were under assault. The Hindu mobs were well armed with trishuls (tridents), inflammable fuel, gas cylinders and acidic powders, and thoroughly indoctrinated with the xenophobic racism and other-hatred of Sangh Parivar.
How has our "modern" world come to such a fix in which tribal hatreds festering for centuries or millennia explode with virulence upon a canvas of hope and progress? Hope and progress were themes sounded briefly at the end of the Cold War when George H.W. Bush spoke beneficently of a “peace dividend” for the world. Hope and progress are catchwords in articles on India in recent issues of the Financial Times, Time or Newsweek magazines, etc. The Indian miracle is touted daily, second only to the Chinese miracle, but we read little about the dark side of the transformations taking place in both of these ancient, miraculous lands. Ghista’s book is a sensible corrective for restoring a fuller perspective.
And the book will not only better our understanding of Mother India, but help us to put our own struggles into high relief. As Ghista writes, “With the rise of Jewish and Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and Christian fundamentalism in the US, the Gujarat genocide looms large in a scenario of global fundamentalist wars. It is a story that reverberates in every corner of the globe where the wolves of religious fundamentalism howl at the gates of power. How are we to face this juggernaut of religious fascism, presently manifest in all major world religions?” Ghista aims her book at “those who cherish human freedom from dogma and hatred.” It is well-aimed.
Garda Ghista created World Prout Assembly to educate people to fight for economic democracy. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gary Corseri's work has appeared at CounterCurrents, ThomasPaine'sCorner, Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, CommonDreams and elsewhere. He can be contacted at email@example.com.