Why Delhi 1984 is not the same as Gujarat 2002

The Sikh pogrom of 1984 in Delhi with the Congress in charge is a ready excuse on the lips of those inclined to look the other way on the Muslim pogrom of 2002 in Gujarat with the BJP in charge. And doubtless, in years to come, the events of Nandigram 2007 with the Communists in charge will attain similar iconic status. But what kind of a society seeks cover and takes pride in “even-handedness” in the elimination of men, women and children?

Ramaswamy R. Iyer writes in The Hindu today:

“Undoubtedly, both Gujarat 2002 and Delhi 1984 were deeply horrifying events and profoundly disturbing in their implications. In both cases, what might have started as mob frenzy became an organised pogrom targeting a particular community. In both, the police and the State machinery in general either failed to perform their duties or were actively complicit in the violence. In both, the guilty remain at large. In scale, duration, and the number of people killed, Delhi 1984 was possibly worse than Gujarat 2002.

“However, in comparing the two events and trying to be “fair” and “even-handed,” we fail to note two points. First, it is meaningless to compare the two horrors; abhorrence, grief, and shame are the appropriate responses in both cases. One horror does not mitigate the other. Secondly, while some politicians and groups might have been actively involved in Delhi 1984, the Hindus of Delhi as a whole were not complicit in the anti-Sikh violence, nor did they condone it. Of course, the state was complicit, and ipso facto the citizens could be said to be indirectly complicit too, but we cannot say that the madness of those few days had social sanction.

“In Gujarat, one fears that the horrors of 2002 had, apart from direct participation by some, widespread social acquiescence among Hindus. In Germany, the people renounced the Nazi madness, undertook severe self-criticism and experienced remorse. One is not aware of any similar development in Gujarat; perhaps it will happen in due course. On the other hand, there is anger at “Gujarat bashing.”

Read the full article here: Gujarat elections: some reflections