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From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 4, Issue 45, Dated Nov 24, 2007

My Gujarat

ALTHOUGH MY FAMILY is from Andhra Pradesh, Ahmedabad is my hometown — we have been living there for the last 35 years and so, in that respect, I should consider Gujarat my home state. However, in the period after the 2002 riots, I have seen a sea change in the attitudes of educated, normal, decent (the list of good adjectives could go on) Gujaratis. I am referring to friends and colleagues with whom I’ve spent a considerable amount of time. I distinctly remember a conversation at my office in Ahmedabad after the riots. I told my Gujarati colleagues that what had happened was shameful. I wasn’t prepared for the response I got. One said, "Is baar shuruat unhone ki thi... aur hum chup baithne waale nahi thhe (this time they incited the violence, and we were not going to keep quiet)”. And I just blurted out: What do you mean by "them"? Aren’t Muslims citizens of India, and, under our great Constitution, provided the same basic rights as any ordinary Indian? But, as you can see, it was pretty clear, the "educated, normal, decent" Gujju was lost. I guess there was always an undercurrent of hatred for Muslims within the "Right"-ful majority of Gujarati Hindus.

Over the years, I have seen moral standards in Gujarat decline with the passing of every year. Each day, it has become routine to see strident demonstrations of so-called Gujarati Pride. My mother was once subjected to Gujju Pride rhetoric: "Gujarat mein ho to Gujarati ban kar raho (if you want to live in Gujarat, be like a Gujarati).” I haven’t seen such hatred for our Muslim brethren anywhere else in India. The division between Hindus and Muslims here runs deep, and I feel it cannot be addressed or understood by someone outside the state. The problem will have to be resolved from within the state. Right now however, the ordinary, honest Gujarati lives under a cloud of mistrust and suspicion. And Modi, sadly, holds the pulse of the man on the Gujarat street.

Prashant Rao, by e-mail

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 4, Issue 45, Dated Nov 24, 2007

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