Ordeal by Fire in the Killing Fields of Gujarat
Editors Guild of India Fact-Finding Mission Report
Other Gujarati Papers
There are a large number of Gujarati papers, 32 large and small vernacular publications in Ahmedabad alone. Fulchab, in Rajkot, was characteristically the first to take out a peace rally immediately after Godhra. In Ahmedabad we met editors of three other dailies, Sambhav (four editions), Prabhat (Ahmedabad and Mehsana) and Gujarat Today (which has a Muslim ownership). All three are seen to have been moderate and balanced in approach.
Sambhav’s CMD, Mr Kiran Vadodaaria, avoided publishing pictures of corpses. The paper received an anonymous threat on April 1 because it had carried a column by M.J. Akbar, the Asian Age Editor. The Editor told us that though no curfew passes were distributed to his staff, they were able to move about quite freely with their formal press cards which were honoured.
Prabhat’s Director, Mr Ashish Kothari, spoke of swords and liquor being distributed on February 27. Its Editor felt that TV had played a very positive role by exposing the machinations of those behind the rioting mobs. Mr Aziz Tankarvi is Editor of Gujarat Today, the only daily newspaper owned and run by Muslims in Gujarat. He told us that his paper had carried more editorials on the developments in Gujarat than any other published in the State. His endeavour, he said, was to cool tempers. Independent observers confirmed that Gujarat Today generally carried balanced reports – an assessment that VHP officials whom we met strongly contested. Like Prabhat, Gujarat Today too did not receive Mr Narendra Modi’s letter of commendation. Senior administrative and police officers in Anand told the Guild team that local newspapers incited violence through irresponsible reporting. One paper, Madhyantrar, edited by Mr Jashwant Rawal, was specifically named. The paper’s April 3 edition, shown to us, alleged that a Muslim police officer was behind the local riots. An eight-column commentary on the front page was headlined: “Muslims will have to prove that they are full Indians”.
The Kutch Mitra ran a statement by a prominent Moulvi on its front page for several days condemning Godhra and expressing regret over what had happened. The Saurashtra Samachar, Bhavnagar, of March 2 carried a special supplement devoted to religious harmony.
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