Ordeal by Fire in the Killing Fields of Gujarat
Editors Guild of India Fact-Finding Mission Report
Competition for ratings and circulation can sometimes be negative media drivers with trivia, with titillation and sensation crowding out more studied reportage and analysis. The need for political and economic reform in India has been amply debated, even if action on the ground has been disappointing; but can the same be said of social reform and analysis of deeper societal changes?
Gujarat has suffered a terrible tragedy. India too. The dead are gone; ravaged homes and work places will be restored even if rehabilitation takes time. What next ? Can one dare accept the partitioning of minds into “we” and “they” and the growing ghettoisation of Gujarat’s cities within fortified “borders” following every one of its periodic bloody riots? With Government and governance losing relevance, are fearful communities (Hindus included) now left with no option than to enthrone new and more ruthless Godfathers?
How is it that Gujarat’s famed entrepreneurship has spawned upwardly mobile classes so devoid of anything other than gross consumerist values that they turn to loot and acquiesce in arson to “create” real estate? This despite vocalised recognition of the economic interdependence of the two major communities. Where are the liberal voices? The Gandhians have been marginalised. The trade unions have been emasculated with the decline of the textile industry and new cohorts of white collar workers on the take. Religious leaders have been largely silent or afraid, though religiosity is rampant and evident in city skylines. The intellectual and cultural community is isolated. The adivasis are being stirred up by interested groups. Where is the political leadership? This is a portrait of a depraved and intolerant society that has displaced Gandhi and Sardar Patel’s Gujarat. Yet there are many striving to restore lost values. All is not lost.
The media will and must continue to turn the searchlight on Gujarat. But there is that underlying story waiting to be probed and told - if Gujarat and India are not to burn again.