Saturday, March 28, 2009

My days in Gujarat - 1

I have been travelling through Gujarat for the last 1 1/2 years. The only exposure I had had to Gujarat before was a brief stopover at Shahibaug area in Ahmedabad when I got abandoned by a tourbus en-route to Mumbai. My impression, then, was frankly unfavourable - the place seemed filthy.

Then Godhra happened, and then the post-Godhra riots. I was as appalled by what the English media portrayed was happening in Gujarat as you may have been. However, a small voice kept nagging me. NDTV had shown a report on TV the day the train burnt, where they had mentioned a Mrs Deshpande, a daily commuter, who was one of the victims. The report had also mentioned women and children getting killed. Suddenly, these reports never appeared anymore and the story that came out was about the coach being full of kar sevaks and their provoking local muslims etc - almost painting a picture that "they had it coming" . I was also hearing the same story from members of the NGO that I used to work with, who had come from Gujarat then. Little did I know that the truth was, in fact, this:

The scale of the conspiracy to malign Gujarat and its leadership is mindboggling, and everyone is involved - the Western Press, our friends across the border, our media, the grand old party...everyone. ....and think of those 58 poor souls who got burnt to a crisp - 27 of them were women, at least one of whom was 82 years old, and 10 were children. Think also of the 750 muslims and 250 Hindus that got killed in the vicious broth of violence brewed by the anti-national conspirators merely to "fix" their nationalist opponents in power.

It was when I started working in Gujarat and travelling all over the place when I realised that every one, EVERY ONE of the stories that came out in the english media, particularly TV, from 2002 to today was either exaggerated or was an outright lie.

Gujarat could not be more different from what you expect based on the stories that the media feeds you. I found Gujarat to be warm, prosperous and modern, showing no signs of the medieval communalism that the papers and TV characterised the state as having. I also found near-unanimous support for its Chief Minister cutting across communities and classes, and this in what was then the "weakest" area for the CM, Junagadh in Saurashtra. I actually saw people from all communities come to the streets and urge their neighbours to go vote - when I asked them why, they said that if people went and voted, the CM would win!!!

Amazingly, a friend whom I met recently in Delhi shared the exact same story with me, he and his family had been independently touring the state on holiday and came up with a palette of stories that completely reinforced what I learnt.

Folks, Gujarat is the standing proof of the sheer malicious strategy that is being foisted upon us by the current political-media complex. Please visit the state, talk to its people and learn the truth. Then form your own judgement.

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