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A 2004 study first said how 2002 Gujarat riots spread communalism to rural areas

By Rajiv Shah
Recently, I did a story on a Gujarat NGO report by Buniyad, which said it had noticed a new trend: Especially since 2014, communal violence, it insisted, spread to new rural areas. While I did cover Gujarat riots of 2002, I must admit, as I was based in Gandhinagar, and my main job was to cover the state government, I did fewer spot stories compared many of my journalist colleagues of the “Times of India” and “Indian Express” based in Ahmedabad, who did surely an excellent job.
It’s another things, though, that the stories of these colleagues, who covered Gujarat riots in 2002 on a day-to-day basis, covering every bit of it, are rarely remembered. Those who are based in big metropolitan centres Delhi or Mumbai are quoted more often, even if they would have made flying visits during the riots. A few of them even wrote books, as posing themselves as know-all. Some even tried “digging out” known facts posing as undercover agents!
Be that as it may, what the Buniyad report tries to observe as a “new trend”, I think, had already begun in 2002. If at all, what Buniyad appears to observe is an extension of the 2002 trend. Before I came to Gujarat in April 1993, those who had closely observed previous Gujarat riots – especially those that took place in 1969, in mid-1980s, and in 1992-93 – told me how violence kept expanding to new areas with every new riot. While riots in 1969 and mid-1980s were confined to Ahmedabad’s walled city, the so-called Ayodhya movement of 1992 for the first time saw communalism moving out of the walled city, to posh city localities outside.
It was the 2002 carnage which saw communalism spreading to even newer areas – to smaller towns and villages. This hadn't happen earlier. Rural areas and small town communities for the first time saw very sharp divisions. I could see this happen both during my visit to several areas of North Gujarat during the riots, which continued for three long months post-Godhra train burning incident on February 27, 2002, as also while covering the December 2002 elections, which put Narendra Modi firmly in the saddle. The polls saw Modi posing himself as Hindu hriday samrat, a defender of Hindus, of Gujarat’s pride, supposedly hurt by those seeking to “defame” him.
The Buniyad report also led me to recall a research study I had gone through more than a decade ago. To my surprise, it remains unpublished to this day. Called “Geography of Gujarat Riots”, it has been authored by my long-time friend Biswaroop Das, who recently retired from the Centre for Social Studies, Surat, and Lancy Lobo, who headed a research institute he had founded near Vadodara. Completed in 2004, the study is based on spot interviews in several villages of Central Gujarat, where the two visited in order to ascertain the intensity of communal divide.
The Buniyad report
Searching through my online and offline sources, I could finally locate draft of this study. In about 80 pages it points to how certain effluent rural communities for the first time became very aggressive during the 2002 riots and how this aggressive posture had refused to subside two years later. It also points to how the riots spread to the areas where the BJP was still weak, like Central Gujarat, bringing about sharp divisions in social fabric, helping the party win in regions considered Congress strongholds till then. The study collects and collates facts and figures, though without qualifying it a new riots Gujarat trend.
The Buniyad report, at best, appeared to me to be an extension of what was noticed by Das and Lobo way back in 2004, or noticed but never jotted down by my journalist colleagues. The study unfortunately remains out of reach for those studying Gujarat riots, including perhaps the Buniyad team. While there is nothing to dispute in what the Buniyad report says, it does weave together available facts following the year Modi went to Delhi (2014) on how Gujarat has emerged an even more divided society than what it was post-2002 riots. Essentially a denial of those seeking to make out that there have been virtually no rioting in Gujarat after the 2002 carnage, the NGO report is mostly based on observations and impressions. It appeared lack insights of the study by Das and Lobo. I wonder if the two could be combined, and brought out as a comprehensive volume. 

Comments

Unknown said…
"Geography of Riots" has been published in an edited volume, "Communal violence and minorities" by Lancy Lobo and Biswaroop Das in the year 2006 by Rawat Publications.Since our report was short we invited some other relevant papers and prepared an edited volume.
Lancy Lobo

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