Jamia Millia Islamia and ‘Citizens for Justice and Peace’ are jointly organizing a series of programmes on the 2002 Gujarat genocide titled “Memorial to a Genocide: Gulberg Gujarat 2002-2012” that are being held from October 9 till 13 on campus. The programmes include a Photo Retrospective, Statistics, Missing Person’s Wall, Acknowledgements and Survivor’s Conversations among other things.
On Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2012, a seminar titled “Memorial as Resistance” was inaugurated by Dr. Romila Thapar, author and renowned historian, who was accompanied by a panel consisting of Prof. Shiv Vishwanathan, sociologist and professor at O.P. Jindal Global University; Prof. Purushottam Agarwal, social-activist, author and literary critic; Fr. Francis Gonsalves, Principal of Vidyajyoti College of Theology; Prof. Mukul Manglik, professor at Ramjas College, Delhi University; M.K. Raina, social-activist and actor; and Anusha Rizvi, activist, film-maker and best known as the director of the award-winning movie “Peepli Live.”
The seminar was chaired by Teesta Setalvad, a civil-rights activist, who spear-headed the court case against the perpetrators of the Best Bakery killings in Gujarat 2002.
The programme began with a candle-light vigil for the victims of the genocide where the panelists and the attendees walked out of the M.F. Hussain Art Gallery, where the seminar was being conducted, into the courtyard to light candles and make prayers.
After the candle-light vigil, the panel went on to discuss the tragedy in Gujarat and expressed their opinion on how it was a systematic genocide by a corrupt administration and asked questions as to why this atrocity particularly occurred in Gujarat. Blaming the administration, Thapar went on to say that, “10 years is a long time for there to be no judgment for what is projected as being a simple case of arson”, she asked “Why is that almost 50 percent of the people missing, and that is over 200 people, cannot be traced and their records missing?”
Prof. Manglik drew comparisons on how the Gujarat administration is similar to the German fascists, lead by Hitler. He said, “This could not have come to pass without the deadly focalising role of the Sang Pariwar. Nor could it have happened without the unforgivable criminal complicity of the State. Above all, however, it would be well to remember, and this is what I think makes Gujarat 2002 fascistic and extraordinarily terrifying, the targeted mass killing of Muslims happened due to and amid wide-spread popular acclaim and participation. Manipulated maybe, but mass communal enthusiasm nonetheless.”
Anusha Rizvi talked about the 1984 Sikh riots. She recalled her days as a child living in Jamia Nagar and hearing about the carnage during the riots and witnessing tanks rolling down Zakir Nagar. She said, that “the political class is only involved in one secular activity, and that is communal riots.”
After the seminar was over, students wrote prayers on a piece of paper and tied them to a tree next to the candles that were lit before the start of the seminar.
One of the attendees, Ashi Saif, a student in the Centre for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, who wrote a prayer for the victims said, “We should try that this never happens again. People like Modi just encourage people to do such things. They aren’t of any use, and it kills [us] when we just think of this.” In her prayer she wrote, “Join hands for a noble cause.”
Sadra Khan, also a student in the Centre for Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, tied a prayer to the tree which read, “I pray for peace to everyone there, by heart.”
Nida Haque, a graduate student in the Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics wrote, “May Allah, the supreme, bless those souls and we hope that such traumatic events never take place again.”
After the seminar, a memorial concert titled “Music in Memorium’ was held at the Safdar Hashmi Amphitheatre. There were three performances at the concert by: “Four Minstrels” from Ramjas College; Vidya Shah Rao, a classical singer; and Madan Gopal Singh, an Indian composer and film theorist. In attendance were also the survivors of the Gulberg tragedy who could not hold back their tears as the music paid ode to their fallen family members and friends.
Scenes From the Event:
Watch a 5-minute video of the memorial concert held at the Safdar Hashmi amphitheater here: