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Gujarat’s Agony And Gandhi’s Talisman

Op-Ed

Gujarat’s Agony And Gandhi’s Talisman

Chatterjee, Ashoke

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Ahmedabad, March 29 Today is Holi, and elsewhere Indians are welcoming Spring with color and revelry. Here, riots of the real kind are keeping citizens behind closed doors. Yesterday, the death count rose to 732. Police and army patrols are out on streets scarred by the worst violence in independent India, exactly four weeks after a group of Muslims torched 58 Hindus returning from a temple-building campaign in the north. Careful forethought was evident in that attack at Godhra station, and in the anti-Muslim pogrom that followed immediately. Democracy’s basic tool, voter lists, was converted into hit lists.  But who could possibly have benefited, on either side? Targeting Muslims as the source of the evil comes easily.  One event after another is traced to Islamic elements.  Guilt by association is simple here, where the Islamic minority is large enough to make India the second largest Muslim nation in the world. The Hindu 'holy volunteers' attacked at Godhra were innocent victims of a dreadful, pre-planned outrage. Yet there was nothing innocent in their mission to Ayodhya, or in the leaders who encouraged them to go there. They were returning from the site of a small mosque (the Babri Masjid) that lay abandoned not too long ago.  Claims that it was built on the birth spot of the Hindu god Ram by early Islamic conquerors to insult Hindu sensitivity had little impact on the pilgrim city of Ayodhya, where the worship of Ram and other deities is a daily event in countless shrines. But if his birthplace is beyond proof, Ram’s presence in the Indian...

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