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  • Remember Each Howl: Gujarat 2002

    KAUSER BANO’S story has become a familiar one by now. It has been talked about time and again in various reports and accounts about the Gujarat pogrom and has come to represent the worst face of the evil that’s become commonplace in the state.

    Kauser Bano, was nine months pregnant that day. Her belly was torn open and her foetus wrenched out, held aloft on the tip of a sword, then dashed to the ground and flung into a fire. Bajrangi recounts how he ripped apart “ek woh pregnant… b*******d sala”; how he showed Muslims the meaning of wrath—“If you harm us, we can respond — we’re no khichdi-kadhi lot”.
    ~ From the Tehelka report on Gujarat 2002

    Babu Bajrangi, her killer, was arrested in 2002 but is out on bail and is hastily trying to amend the statements made in such bravado.

    No amount of writing or talking about the horrific sexual violence unleashed on Muslim women during the Gujarat pogrom will ever be enough. We will never fully understand, never really empathise, never be entirely sure that it will not happen again. Because the scale of the horror is such. It defies imagination. It leaves us gasping for words that suddenly seem small in the mouth and meaningless.

    What makes it more horrifying is that these were not stray incidents of barbarism. The rapes were pre-planned, deliberate and systematic, an integral part of the battle. According to this report, groups of women were herded into fields by men who instructed each other to “not let a single one remain untouched”. On the streets, fourteen-year-old girls were raped by Hindu men shouting ‘Har Har Mahadev’ through the hideous act.

    Wherever one looks, there is evidence of depravity. A Citizen’s Initiative report on sexual violence during the Gujarat massacre runs into many pages. Significantly, it points out the strange silence of the media at the time about the heinous crimes that were being committed against women.

    We find that, yet again Muslim women are being victimized twice over. They have suffered the most unimaginable forms of sexual abuse during the Gujarat carnage. And yet, there is no one willing to tell their stories to the world. Women’s bodies have been employed as weapons in this war – either through grotesque image-making or as the site through which to dishonour men, and yet women are being asked to bear all this silently. Women do not want more communal violence. But peace cannot be bought at the expense of the truth, or at the expense of women’s right to tell the world what they have suffered in Gujarat.

    This older article talks about how, sickeningly, rape became both a feather in the cap of the rapists and a method of keeping victims in line before and after the assembly elections of 2002.

    Before and after the assembly election of 2002, rapists swaggered about and threatened their victims with the repetition of their act. They do it to this day. The act itself is seen as one which brought glory to them, and obscene songs are sung to keep its memory alive. Even the police, staunch defenders of a law perverted beyond recognition, use the threat as a means of keeping Gujarat’s Muslims cowed and silent.

    Elsewhere, the Gujarat genocide has been compared to the ethnic cleansing carried out against Muslims in Bosnia in terms of the murder of men and the rape of their women.

    According to this UNFPA paper on Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath, sexual violence during times of conflict takes place because of multiple reasons — as a random by-product of the collapse in social and moral order, to destroy community bonds, to instill fear or for ethnic cleansing. In the case of Gujarat, all these motives came into play.

    The report also points out that:

    In a world where sex crimes are too often regarded as misdemeanors during times of law and order, surely rape will not be perceived as a high crime during war, when all the rules of human interaction are turned on their heads, and heinous acts regularly earn their perpetrators commendation…. The rules of war can never really change as long as violent aggression against women is tolerated in everyday life. In a world where thousands of women suffer sexual violence committed with impunity in the context of conflict, the message needs to be made clear: A single rape constitutes a war crime.

    After a point, the horrors of the Gujarat genocide can get too much to fathom. The individual voices melt to one shriek. The faces blur into one entity. Too often, words like pogrom and genocide cloud the true meaning of things, make them digestible little pieces of information to be consumed with the morning chai. But the women raped and killed in Gujarat were not a homogenous mass, a category of victimhood or a clever academic term. They were individuals like you and me. Raped, shamed, tortured and slit, cut or broken where it hurt most. Women who laughed, cooked, sang, played with their children, knitted, read. Girls with soft voices or loud laughs, large smiles or small hands, who dreamed of love, freedom and success. Sisters who giggled under the covers after lights out. Daughters who sometimes pouted when they didn’t get their way. Mother. Wives. Friends.

    Not only do the perpetrators of the Gujarat violence need to be brought to book, they need to be charged with the individual crimes they have committed. They need to be punished for every single rape that they have so proudly recounted — each one a separate crime.

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    10 Responses

    1. […] writes about the sexual violence unleashed during the Gujarat pogram. Not only do the perpetrators of the Gujarat violence need to be brought to book, they need to be […]

    2. I was following the Tehelka expose on the riots and in the comments from the public, one particularly vipuretative male lashed out at Teesta Setalvad, calling her that “dirty female”. To me, it seemed as if “female” was equated to a curse word, and insulted me twice over, as a woman and human being. I guess supporters like this guy is what makes pogroms like Gujarat possible. I hope I’m not being over-sensitive, but it was something that struck me and my mind doesn’t seem to let go of it.

      I should also say reading your forum is the ‘most-looked-forward’ part of my daily schedule 🙂

    3. After reading your post i can just say ‘thank you’ for writing it…when i look back in time in june 2002 i am filled with a sense of terror, shock and an intense trauma that i continue to battle with..that was the time i had gone to ahmedabad as an NGO volunteer to assist the survivors of violence in filing their FIRs…stories of mass violence and sexual assault of women were the most gruesome i had ever heard…it was a time when any feeling of association with one’s religion became a seering pain for a lifetime…for me justice delayed is justice completely denied, its been almost 5 years and there is no sign of any legal action against the perpetrators for the mass violence they committed…at this pace, the goal for justice seems far fetched…for me the more people continue to talk or write about the gujrat carnage is small yet important steps towards justice…

    4. Well-written. More pertinent point is the strange silence of the media. One would think decades after 1947 things would have changed. What appals me is that even reactions to blogs talking about these subjects range from smirks, to comments of over-reaction and exaggerations and charges of fingerpointing men all the time. Even if one assumes that the bravado is 90% exaggeration and 10% reality it is still heart-wrenching. It does not matter if it is 1 woman or n women.

    5. can’t say enough.can’t do enough.It will take years for Gujaratis to recover from the damage done to the fabric of their society.And you feel it while you live there everyday.

    6. […] from the Feminist Front in Ultra-Violet.And if you disagree with what I have said, because you can feel, then lets come, […]

    7. […] Ultra Violet wants all the ‘women’s bodies (that) have been employed as weapons in this war’ to be accounted for, each howl remembered: After a point, the horrors of the Gujarat genocide can get too much to fathom. The individual voices melt to one shriek. The faces blur into one entity. Too often, words like pogrom and genocide cloud the true meaning of things, make them digestible little pieces of information to be consumed with the morning chai. But the women raped and killed in Gujarat were not a homogenous mass, a category of victimhood or a clever academic term. They were individuals like you and me. Raped, shamed, tortured and slit, cut or broken where it hurt most. Women who laughed, cooked, sang, played with their children, knitted, read. Girls with soft voices or loud laughs, large smiles or small hands, who dreamed of love, freedom and success. Sisters who giggled under the covers after lights out. Daughters who sometimes pouted when they didn’t get their way. Mother. Wives. Friends. […]

    8. Talking about rape, Why have even we feminists are falling into the trap of making rape as more henious than any other violence that a women face. This is not to negate violation of women’s right to bodily integrity. But violation of other rights like mobility and choice are equally heinous.

      By making it as the superior form of violence of women, we are also indirectly contributing to the popular construct that if one needs to disgrace honour of a “family , country, community’s and woman one need to just rape women. This is also reflective of popular construct of women’s sexuality.

    9. One question:

      Why don’t I ever read a discussion on this blog a Hindu woman being raped, either in Gujarat or in Kashmir (lot of them have been raped there, the war cry of the rampaging men was:- “We want kashmir with the kashmiri women and sans the kashmiri men” ….. Those bas****s.

      Actually, I do not intend to ignite any flames or be inflammatory, but this just crossed my mind after reading this blog.

    10. I have been reading several articles on this website and I have to say that the conundrums that are aired here are often the extremely difficult ones to sort out – they are issues not unlike what Bertrand Russell described as “naked power”. Naked power is called that way because of the very nature of the participants of the power transaction – one weaker and one stronger, the structure of the outcome is nearly always linear and nearly always similar. Naked power is one of the most difficult types of power to control, and rape is a pretty good example of such “naked power”. Unfortunately, naked power is often difficult to control, because as with all evolving systems, systems in which naked power is found are usually sculpted by the very forces that inflict naked power on the victims of naked power. The phenomenon of rape around the world will not change in its basic context, unless the very definition of “weak” and “strong” change. The so-called “empowerment of women” has often been a weak argument by certain women against structures which by their design, persecute them owing to their nature. Naturally, this is the very reason that they have been less effective in reality, although the facade of most “developed” societies indicates some kind of abhorrence of such crimes against women.

      It has been thought often that the best defence for feminity is encouraging the equality of men and women. However, since the roles of the two sexes are fundamentally different, this is not a wise way of moving forward. There have been feminist arguments that state that women are capable of all men are capable of, and more and often such claims are unjustified or have weak or differentiated justification, More often than not, such differentiated justifications have only worsened the problems that women have had for millennia.

      The problems of Gujarat (and indeed other parts of India) are deeper than merely law and order. They are connected to the very fabric of our minds, and to the hypocrisy of the Indian mind, its malleability, its corruption, its delusion.

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