[Reader-list] Martha C. Nussbaum on the Genocide in Gujarat

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at mnet.fr
Wed Aug 13 15:35:55 IST 2003

Summer 2003

Genocide in Gujarat
The International Community Looks Away
by Martha C. Nussbaum

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of
Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago

On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati express train arrived in the station of
Godhra, in the state of Gujarat, bearing a large group of Hindu pilgrims who
were returning from the alleged birthplace of the god Rama at Ayodhya (where
some years earlier, angry Hindu mobs had destroyed the Babri mosque, which
they claim is on top of the remains of Rama's birthplace). The pilgrimage,
like many others in recent times, aimed at forcibly constructing a temple
over the disputed site, and the mood of the returning passengers, frustrated
in their aims by the government and the courts, was angrily emotional. When
the train stopped at the station, passengers got into arguments with Muslim
vendors and passengers. At least one Muslim vendor was beaten up when he
refused to say "Jai Sri Ram" ("Hail Ram"), and a young Muslim girl narrowly
escaped forcible abduction. As the train left the station, stones were
thrown at it, apparently by Muslims.

Fifteen minutes later, one car of the train erupted in flames. Fifty-eight
men, women, and children died in the fire. Most were Hindus. Attempts to
determine what really happened by reconstructing the event have shown only
that a large amount of a flammable substance must have been thrown from
inside the train. We will never know who threw it. Because the area adjacent
to the tracks contained Muslim dwellings, and because a Muslim mob had
gathered in the region to protest the treatment of Muslims on the train
platform, blame was immediately put on Muslims. (One former chief minister
of Gujarat, Amarsinh Chaudhary, argued that the blaze was set by Hindu
nationalists. Many others agree, especially in light of later evidence that
the subsequent rioting had been elaborately prepared.) No evidence has been
found linking alleged Muslim perpetrators to any organized movement or

In the days that followed, wave upon wave of violence swept through the
state. The attackers were Hindus, many of them highly politicized, shouting
Hindu-right slogans, such as "Jai Sri Ram" and "Jai Hanuman" (an aggressive
monkey god), along with "Kill!" "Destroy!" "Slaughter!" There is copious
evidence that the violence was planned before the precipitating event. The
victims were almost all Muslims (with an occasional Christian or Parsi
thrown in). There was no connection between victims and the alleged
perpetrators; attacks took place, for the most part, far from the original
site. Many families of the original dead implored the mobs to stop the
violence. Nonetheless, more than two thousand Muslims were killed in a few
days, many by being burned alive in or near their homes. Nobody was spared:
young children were immolated along with their families.

Particularly striking were the mass rapes and mutilations of women.
Typically, a woman would be raped or gang-raped, often with gruesome
tortures, and then set on fire and killed. Historian Tanika Sarkar, who
played a leading role in investigating the events, has argued that the
evident preoccupation with destroying women's sexual organs reveals "a dark
sexual obsession about allegedly ultra-virile Muslim male bodies and
overfertile Muslim female ones, that inspire[s] and sustain[s] the figures
of paranoia and revenge." This sexual obsession is evident in the hate
literature circulated during the carnage, of which the following "poem" is a
typical example:

Narendra Modi [chief minister of Gujarat] you have fucked the mother of
The volcano which was inactive for years has erupted
It has burnt the arse of [Muslims] and made them dance nude
We have untied the penises which were tied till now
Without castor oil in the arse we have made them cry . . . .
Wake up Hindus, there are still [Muslims] alive around you
Learn from Panvad village where their mother was fucked
She was fucked standing while she kept shouting
She enjoyed the uncircumcised penis
With a Hindu government the Hindus have the power to annihilate [Muslims]
Kick them in the arse to drive them out of not only villages and
Cities but also the country. [The word rendered "Muslims" (miyas) is a word
meaning "mister" that is standardly used to refer to Muslims.]

As Sarkar says, the incitement to violence is suffused with anxiety about
virility, and the treatment of women seems to enact a fantasy of sexual
sadism far darker than mere revenge.

During the violence, many Muslim cities and villages were burned to the
ground. Muslims of all social classes fled for their lives. One former chief
justice of the Rajasthani High Court, living in retirement in Gujarat, fled,
later commenting to an investigative tribunal that there was "a deliberate
conspiracy to stifle criminal law."

What this witness meant was that the carnage was aided and abetted both by
the police and by local politicians. Police egged on the inciters, either
passively, by failing to respond to calls for help or, in some cases, more
actively. It is now clear that police received orders not to intervene in
the carnage, and that those who disobeyed these orders were punished by
demotions and transfers. After the fact, police made it virtually impossible
to register criminal complaints. Meetings were held between police and local
government leaders, at which Hindus were called "we" and Muslims "them," and
pleas of some officers to take action against rioters were rejected.
Meanwhile, local leaders of the Hindu-right were seen shouting slogans and
inciting the mob to further violence.

Particularly upsetting was the active participation of tribal and lower
caste Hindus, adivasis and dalits, in the violence against equally poor
Muslims. The Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata (BJP), has succeeded
all too well in its strategy of getting many lower caste Hindus to put
religion ahead of caste and class and to fear as their enemies not the
wealthy and upper caste Hindus who have long oppressed them, but the Muslims
who in most cases share their economic misery.

Ideological Background of Hindu Nationalism
The events of March 2002 emerged from a long history of deliberate
construction of hate. For some time, a lot of money (whose sources I shall
discuss later) has been poured into the creation of camps for young Hindu
men, where they are taught hatred and fear of Muslims and partisan fervor is
cultivated. For older folks, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the cultural
wing of the Hindu nationalist movement, organizes pilgrimages to Ayodyha,
which invariably stir up sectarian emotion.

But the history of the episode goes back much further. We need to consider
the origins of the BJP (the political arm of Hindu nationalism) and its
allied organizations, the umbrella Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the
Bajrang Dal (paramilitary), and the VHP (cultural). When we examine this
history, we see that the tensions between Hindus and Muslims expressed here
are not "ancient" or even indigenous hatreds. They result from a borrowed
fascist ideology of purity, which has gradually been imposed, transforming a
Hinduism that in its origins is plural, diverse, and tolerant.

The ideologue whose views were central in the formation of the RSS and BJP,
M. Golwalkar, derived many of his views from German romantic nationalism,
and especially from its National Socialist formation. In his 1939 tract We,
or Our Nationhood Defined, Golwalkar argues that only Hindus are true
Indians, and that Muslims, Christians, Parsis, and Jews are all foreigners,
who should stay in the territory only on terms set by the Hindus.

[T]he foreign races in Hindusthan must either adopt the Hindu culture and
language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must
entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and
culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to
merge in the Hindu race, or [they] may stay in the country, wholly
subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges,
far less any preferential treatment-not even citizen's rights.

Golwalkar portrays the Muslims, particularly, as outsiders and "despoilers"
who must now finally be "shake[n] off." Expressing his sympathy with the
Nazi program, he writes:

To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world
by her purging the country of the Semitic Races-the Jews. Race pride at its
highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh
impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the
root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in
Hindusthan to learn and profit by.

As late as 1966, Golwalkar repeated the same views, calling Jews and Parsis
"guests," and Muslims and Christians "invaders." And he explicitly attacked
the Indian Constitution (drafted in 1950) for its pluralism and secularism:
"Unfortunately in our country our Constitution has equated the children of
the soil with the aggressor, and given equal rights to everybody."

Such attitudes have nothing to do with the history of the Hindu religion or
with any religious doctrines dating from before the 1930s. Hinduism, rather
like ancient Greek religion, has traditionally been plural, loosely
organized, regional, and highly varied. The very idea that Rama is the one
central god in the Hindu pantheon is itself a BJP political construct. In
some regions Rama was important, in others not, and in some he was not even
thought of as an admirable deity. Hindus and Muslims have traditionally
borrowed a lot from one another, and it is futile to inquire into the
origins of a given practice. Most salient differences that studies of human
well-being measure (for example, differences regarding the status of women)
are regional rather than religious; that is, Hindus and Muslims in a given
region have similar practices in many important matters. Over the years,
however, the BJP has worked very successfully to create the public
perception that Hinduism really is what the BJP says it is, and that Islam
is very different, dedicated to violence and subversion and to the
oppression of women. Through highly effective use of mass media, and,
lately, through linking its propaganda to international anxieties about
Islam, it has achieved a wide success.

BJP leaders sometimes try to distance themselves from Golwalkar and his
somewhat more polite fellow ideologue V. D. Savarkar, but there should be no
doubt what the program really is. The recent rewriting of textbooks under
the auspices of M. Joshi, current minister for education, has led to
systematic falsification of the history of Hindu-Muslim interactions, with
Hindus portrayed as virtuous victims and Muslims as bloodthirsty aggressors.
(A part of this effort has been a vicious campaign, in both India and the
United States, to smear the reputation of Romila Thapar, a distinguished
historian of ancient India, now holding a prestigious chair at our Library
of Congress, who has courageously insisted on the truth about past events.)
The pluralism and syncretism that have always characterized Hinduism is also
effaced, and the absolutely clear fact (clear from the Vedas themselves)
that Hindus once ate beef may not be mentioned. The new literature textbook
contains sentences such as, "Kabir is a nice boy, even though he is a
Muslim." In history texts the Nazi regime is described admiringly. The
official Gujarat high school textbook on social studies for Class IX makes
the blatantly false claim that in most states Hindus are in a minority and
that Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs are in the majority-even though Hindus
are approximately 85 percent of the population and Muslims less than 10
percent. In short, the agenda of the BJP, clean it up as they may for
electoral purposes, would deny to minorities, especially Muslims and
Christians, full equality under the Constitution. In the service of this
agenda, appeals to fear of minorities and incitement to threatening and
sometimes violent actions against them are absolutely central.

Violence from the RSS is a daily threat in many parts of the nation. In
Lucknow, a city with a history of warm cooperation and syncretism between
Hindus and Muslims, saffron-clad youth brigades now parade around the
university campus and threaten young women who wear blue jeans or celebrate
Valentine's Day, practices that they deem Western and Christian. Five years
ago, the female acting vice chancellor of the University, Roop Rekha Verma,
a philosopher and a courageous activist for women's rights and minority
rights, found her office occupied by three hundred such youths. She managed
to get them to disperse peacefully. This is the way things are in areas
where the BJP is strong: a general atmosphere of threat prevails, and
essential civil liberties are fragile. In many regions, economic boycotts
directed at Muslim businesses have had a major impact.

Gujarat has been unusually prone to outbreaks of both anti-Christian and
anti-Muslim violence, and its elected BJP officials ran on a strong
Hinduization platform. Why should tensions run high in Gujarat, the state
that gave birth to Gandhi's campaign of nonviolence, the state that saw the
birth of Ela Bhatt's now world-famous movement to organize female workers?
One plausible conjecture is that the Muslims of Gujarat play a somewhat
different role in society than Muslims elsewhere in India. Elsewhere,
Muslims are on average poor, ill-educated, downtrodden. In Gujarat, although
most Muslims are very poor, a significant number have been a merchant class,
well off and socially prominent. They can thus be compared to the Jews in
Europe: as successful people they more easily arouse fear and resentment.
Still, before the advent of the BJP and RSS, Hindus and Muslims for the most
part lived side by side in amity.

Reactions and Aftermath
As I have said, the mass killings and rapes of innocent Muslims were aided
and abetted by the police and leading politicians. Let us look more closely
at the reactions of people higher up.

The main response of BJP officials was to deploy a logic of action and
reaction: yes, these things are tragic, but what do you expect? Once someone
starts it, events take their inevitable course. In other words, once a small
number of Hindus are allegedly killed by a small number of Muslims, it is
inevitable that Hindus will riot and murder lots of innocent Muslims and
nothing will be done about that. BJP chief minister Narendra Modi during the
events, stated, "What is happening is a chain of action and reaction."
Shortly after that, he said, "It is natural that what happened in Godhra the
day before yesterday, where forty women and children were burnt alive, has
shocked the country and the world. The people in that part of Godhra have
had criminal tendencies. . . .And now they have done this terrible crime for
which a reaction is going on." Modi's statements not only justified the
violence as a response to an alleged long history of "criminal tendencies,"
they also portrayed it as unstoppable, more like a natural cataclysm than a
set of blameworthy human acts. Local VHP leader Ashok Singhal took this
"Newtonian logic," as it was called in the press, one step further: the
rioting was "a matter of pride," "a befitting reply to what has been
perpetrated on the Hindus in the last 1000 years. Gujarat has shown the way
and our journey of victory will begin and end on the same path."

At the national level, the government followed a similar rhetorical
strategy, a little more deviously. Although some BJP leaders, as well as the
opposition, called for Modi's resignation (which the national party could
require), other influential leaders defended his conduct. Among his most
ardent defenders was Arun Jaitley, minister of law. (Jaitley, a smooth
Westernized man who goes down well with the Indian American community, was
briefly shifted to a party post, but now he is back in the Law Ministry.)
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who is usually considered a moderate,
the "decent" face of the Hindu right, showed his true colors in a speech
given to a party congress at Goa, on March 3, 2002, in which he said:

What happened in Gujarat? If a conspiracy had not been hatched to burn alive
the innocent passengers of the Sabarmati Express, then the subsequent
tragedy in Gujarat could have been averted. But this did not happen. People
were torched alive. Who were those culprits? The government is investigating
into this. Intelligence agencies are collecting all the information. But we
should not forget how the tragedy of Gujarat started. The subsequent
developments were no doubt condemnable, but who lit the fire? How did the
fire spread? . . . .Wherever Muslims live, they don't like to live in
co-existence with others, they don't like to mingle with others; and instead
of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their
faith by resorting to terror and threats. The world has become alert to this

Although other parts of Vajpayee's speech appear to defend the concept of a
pluralistic, tolerant India, here he adopts Modi's logic of action and
reaction and fails to condemn either the actions of the Hindu perpetrators
or the inaction of the police. The government's official inquiry into the
events is plodding on, and is unlikely to deliver or to act on the truth.

The opposition Congress Party did condemn the events but not very strongly.
In contesting the subsequent election in Gujarat, it chose a course of
moderate Hinduization, trying to capture votes by moving to the center (a
familiar tactic!), rather than rejecting the Hindu-nationalist program and
defending pluralism and equal rights. It thus lost all moral credibility, as
well as the election.

Who behaved well? Although the Gujarati press systematically concealed the
real nature of the events (apart from the one Muslim newspaper), the
national press on the whole covered events admirably and dissected the
statements of leading politicians with suitable skepticism. The national
Electoral Commission also played a good role, postponing new elections until
the rule of law could be reestablished and at least some Muslim refugees
were able to return home. (Of course, in many cases they had neither homes
nor jobs to return to. The government was quick to build roads and temples
over the ruins of Muslim homes. Relief and reconstruction are still
virtually nonexistent.) Several investigative groups did heroic work, going
to the refugee camps to collect data. Most important was the independent
Concerned Citizens' Tribunal, chaired by former chief justice Krishna Iyer,
one of the most distinguished jurists in India's history. This commission,
which included lawyers, judges, and academics, produced as complete a record
of the events as we are ever likely to get, collecting 2,094 oral and
written testimonials, interviewing hundreds of witnesses, gathering
pamphlets and other texts, and identifying culpable individuals. Now we know
who should be charged with various offenses, even if it is unlikely that
charges will ever be brought.

In the course of its work, the commission found chinks in the BJP's armor.
One leading minister testified at length under condition of anonymity. And
there were numerous prominent Hindus from Gujarat who came forward to
deplore the events and to give what information they could. A particular
favorite of mine is Piyush Desai, CEO of the Gujarat Tea Processors and
Packers Limited, which produces the popular Wagh Bakri brand of tea.
Mentioning that his business was started a hundred and ten years ago through
the help of a Muslim who gave his grandfather a large loan, he spoke
eloquently of the history of cooperation between the religions in Gujarat,
deplored the crimes, and said of the help he had received from Muslims,
"However can we repay such a debt?" The commissioners comment, "This witness
was a fresh and welcome ray of hope for the Tribunal." They mention that he
paid for tea for all the refugee camps out of his own pocket, "along with
paper cups that are hygienic."

In December 2002, Modi won reelection by a landslide, playing the cards of
hate and fear. Muslim businesses in many areas of Gujarat have been taken
over by Hindus, as their owners have fled, and so the condition of Muslims
in the state is worse than ever. The continuing economic boycott deprives
even those who remain of much of their livelihood. Indiscriminate arrests of
Muslims continue, often under the screen of the national Prevention of
Terrorism Act, a favorite BJP piece of legislation. There is one ray of
hope: the BJP, trying to use this same hate politics in other recent state
elections, has not prevailed. In particular, in Himachal Pradesh, the party
went down to a solid defeat last winter. So the implications of the carnage
for national politics are as yet unclear, and one may still hope for a
multireligious democracy in India.

Genocide and Law
How should concerned citizens of the world think about these terrible
events? I suggest that six features are especially relevant.

1.	Genocide. It is an undisputed fact about Gujarat that there were mass
killings and rapes on grounds of religion. Muslims were sought out not
because of any even imagined complicity in the precipitating event at
Godhra, but simply because they were Muslims. Slogans shouted by the mob
indicate that their intent was to assert Hindu superiority, to exterminate
Muslims, and to destroy Muslim society: for example, "Kill them all, destroy
their society." "Finish off all Muslims; our people were not spared by them,
don't have mercy."

In light of these facts, it seems beyond dispute that the violence in
Gujarat meets the definition of genocide offered in the UN Convention on

Article 2. In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following
acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national,
ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the
group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing
measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly
transferring children of the group to another group.

Indeed, given the centrality of rape in the events that took place, usually
rape followed by murder, we can say that the intent to destroy the group is
enacted in all the ways the Convention specifies-with the exception of the
removal of children to another group, since children were murdered here
along with their parents.

Moreover, the evidence of long and deliberate construction of hatred
undermines any claim that these events were just the acts of a mob that got
out of control.

2.	Abrogation of the Rule of Law. To most commentators on the events, the
most disturbing feature was the complicity of officers of the law at all
levels. Modi and other government officials actively egged on the violence.
The prime minister failed to show concern for the violation of the
fundamental rights of Indian citizens. The national BJP government has made
no effort to conduct a serious investigation into the crimes and has
repeatedly refused calls for Modi's resignation.

In all these ways, Gujarat signals a fundamental breakdown of the rule of
law. This was not simply mob violence but rather the infiltration and
cooption of the law itself by the engines of hate and fear. The very
existence and meaning of India's pluralistic democracy are deeply
compromised by these events, which show that some citizens can count on the
law's coming to their aid and others cannot. The Concerned Citizens'
Tribunal presented a series of recommendations for trial and punishment of
the main offenders, but there is no sign that these recommendations are
being taken seriously by law enforcement officials.

Sarkar argues compellingly that these events highlight a difficulty for some
fashionable versions of the politics of difference. Insofar as proponents of
identity politics neglect the importance of traditional notions of
citizenship, equality, and rights, they undercut "the only ground on which
cultural difference can be sustained and asserted. We reject this truth . .
. as an old and therefore unusable brand in the marketplace of ideas at our
peril. The only opposite term to equal citizenship rights is unequal
citizenship or the denial of citizenship. That is precisely what happened in

3.	No Genuine Security Issue. Repeatedly, Vajpayee and other Hindu
fundamentalist leaders tried to link the Muslims who allegedly attacked the
train to both Pakistan and international terrorism. The current world
atmosphere, especially the indiscriminate use of the terrorism card by the
United States, has made it easier for them to get away with this. There is
no evidence that either of these links has any reality. Muslims in India are
a highly diverse group, but it is obvious that one thing they have in common
is that they did not go to Pakistan. One cannot always infer choice from
such facts, but one certainly cannot infer Pakistani sympathies either, far
less complicity in alleged Pakistani plots against India. As the political
philosopher Pratap Mehta has written, Indian Muslims are perhaps the largest
Muslim community in the world that has never produced either a massive
fundamentalist movement or a rush to join terrorists. Moreover, because
Indian Muslims are mostly poor (in good part because of the persistent
discrimination they have encountered), the attempt to portray them as a
dangerous social force sowing dissent from within is unrealistic-even though
in Gujarat such threats derive more surface credibility from the relative
prosperity of Gujarati Muslims.

As for al-Qaeda, all one can say is that Vajpayee, like others we know, is
only too ready to use this name as a scare tactic, in the absence of any
evidence at all making the connection. We don't even know how the train was
set on fire, much less who did it, so a fortiori we don't know if any of
these people is connected to al-Qaeda. Given that the background to the
train incident involved violence against Muslims on the platform at Godhra
station, retaliation is a far more likely motive, if indeed the perpetrators
of the torching were Muslims.

In short, the Indian nation faces no serious security threat from within
that might have explained, even if it would not have justified, restrictive
measures against Muslims and a climate of fear and hostility toward them.
Insofar as India does face a serious security threat from Pakistan, the
Gujarat victims are far more distant from the Muslims of Pakistan than most
Japanese Americans were from the Japanese regime at the time of World War
II. For one thing,, fifty-five years had passed since Partition; for
another, the vast majority of Indian Muslims are not immigrants at all, but
native-born Indians.

4.	Massive Funding from U.S. Sources. A very important issue to 
ponder, and
one that Americans may be able to alter, is funding. The Indian community in
America has strong ties to Hindu nationalism. The VHP is highly organized
here and is often regarded as the legitimate voice of the Indian
community-as, for example, when it succeeded in stopping the screening of a
film by Anand Patwardhan at the Museum of Natural History in New York on the
grounds that its (socially radical) portrayal of caste tensions was
offensive to Hindu sensibilities. Americans should be very clear about what
this organization is and what it supports. It does not speak for India or
for Hinduism; it speaks for the politics of Hindu nationalism, including its
hate politics. Highly significant in the funding of the Gujarat violence
were private donations organized through the American VHP and various
charities that it has organized. The connection of these charities to the
funding of hatred has now been amply documented in a report entitled The
Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva that may
be accessed online (IDRF being the acronym of the India Development and
Relief Fund, the chief charity in question).

What this report shows (and other sources have confirmed) is that almost no
money from this allegedly charitable organization goes to fund welfare or
general poverty relief. Funds are targeted, first, at organizations for
Hindus only. Second, the money is largely used for cultural activities that
are highly inflammatory in character, in particular for the camps of the
Bajrang Dal, where young Hindu boys are taught the ideology of Hindutva and
where hatred and fear of Muslims are openly advocated.

Some Americans of Indian descent probably give to this charity in ignorance,
truly believing that it funds general charitable activities. (One cannot get
a tax deduction for contributing directly to a charity in India, so one must
seek out these U.S. conduits.) Some, and these days the larger number, give
to the IDRF because they know exactly what the money will be used for, and
they think these purposes are good. Widespread opposition to congressional
investigation of the funding issue shows fear that the links may be cut. The
American VHP has also taken the lead in the recent attacks on historian
Romila Thapar.

5.	The Importance of the Truth. It is sometimes still fashionable to
denigrate the pursuit of historical truth. No doubt postmodernism has
alerted us to important questions about any attempt to construct a
historical narrative. And yet the events of Gujarat vividly demonstrate the
great importance of historical truth for any state that thinks of itself as
democratic and committed to human freedom and equality. Both the general
attempt to rewrite history in textbooks for the young and the very specific
attempts (through legal delay, failure to investigate, and false reporting)
to conceal the truth about Gujarat, substituting a narrative of terrorism
foiled, show us exactly why the search for truth is so important for us all.
The attempts of members of the Indian American community to conceal the
nature of their "charitable" activities tell the same tale.

In all these cases, however difficult it is to give a philosophically
adequate account of historical truth, we can all see what the truth is not,
and we can also see that the efforts of the tribunal to document what
happened have a profound political importance, the same importance history
has in George Orwell's 1984, as an essential bulwark against tyranny. As
Sarkar eloquently writes:

There can be no political implication, no resource for struggle, if we deny
the truth claims of these histories of sadism, if we . . . denigrate the
search for true facts as mere positivism, a spurious scientism. For the life
and death of our political agenda depend on holding on to the truth claim,
to that difference with VHP histories, to that absolute opposition to their
proclamation that they will make and unmake facts and histories according to
the dictates of conviction . . .

6.	The Silence of the World. The events of Gujarat have led to few
large-scale public statements. The government of Finland did protest at the
time-and was denounced by the Vajpayee government for foreign interference.
Our State Department has included an accurate summary of the events in its
2002 International Religious Freedom Report, but the U.S. government has not
foregrounded these events in its foreign policy; indeed I cannot locate any
major statement made by a member of the current administration condemning
the attacks. The Democrats have also been silent-with the exception of
former president Bill Clinton, who in March 2003 issued a long statement for
a conference sponsored by the journal India Today, in which he condemned the
atrocities and criticized the national government for its failure to stand
against the politics of hate: "To identify and categorize people based on
faith will keep India from becoming the right kind of giant in the 21st
century." He added that efforts to rebuild Gujarat after the 2000
earthquake, for which he helped raise funds, showed him that Hindus and
Muslims can work together in the state.

Clinton always took a particular interest in India, and he knows a great
deal about it, so this does not surprise me. What does surprise me is the
silence of everyone else. Here is a clear case for heavy diplomatic
pressure, and possibly economic sanctions, given the complicity of the
government in the terrible events. But nothing like this has even been

As for the academy, there is naturally a lot of writing about Gujarat by
academics in India; some were members of the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal,
along with judges and lawyers, thus continuing India's honorable tradition
of continuity between scholarship and social activism. Americans who work on
India have no doubt contributed to this literature, although not very
prominently so far as I can see. But I know of no organized efforts by
American academics to express moral outrage: for example, publishing
petitions or advertisements condemning the carnage or organizing movements
to seek economic sanctions against the state of Gujarat, or even divestiture
of university stockholdings in businesses that operate heavily in the state.
Whether these actions would be correct is unclear to me; but we should be
asking what actions are correct and debating the alternatives.

At the very least, concerned citizens of the world, academic and
nonacademic, should be educating themselves about the situation and
expressing their views. One way of doing so, for those of us who have a
close relationship with the Indian American community in the United States,
is to work on producing the facts for, and trying to persuade, those in that
community who are ready to listen. For those who don't have this sort of
relationship, there are many other things that can be done: teach about
these events; invite speakers who talk about them to organizations both
academic and nonacademic; write about them in the course of whatever writing
you do on human rights issues. This educational effort needs to include
getting to know the work of important scholars in India, such as Thapar and
Sarkar, who are not household names in America, but who have put themselves
on the line for justice.

And there are actions that we can all take as citizens (actions that many
more U.S. citizens take with regard to the Middle East). We can write to our
representatives in Congress to urge the full investigation of the alleged
charities that fund hatred. We can write expressing overall concern with a
U.S. policy that is basically silent about this genocide. In short, we can
try to promote knowledge, debate, and the circulation of the truth, knowing
that silence and indifference are the allies of tyranny.

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law
and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in the Philosophy
Department, Law School, and Divinity School. She is an Affiliate of the
Committee on Southern Asian Studies and a Board member of the Human Rights

Most of the information in this article can be found in the "Report of the
Concerned Citizens' Tribunal," which is online at www.sabrang.com. See also
Siddarth Varadajan, ed., Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy (Penguin Books,
2002), an excellent collection of documents and articles to which I am also
indebted. On the funding issue, see "The Foreign Exchange of Hate: IDRF and
the American Funding of Hindutva," also at www.sabrang.com. Tanika Sarkar's
statements are cited from her article "Semiotics of Terror," in Economic and
Political Weekly, July 13, 2002; Pratap Mehta's from his article "Facing
Intolerance," in the Hindu, December 20, 2002. I am grateful to Zoya Hasan
for comments and discussion.

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