By D. P. Bhattacharya in Gandhinagar
UNDERLINING the stark contrast between its claims and deeds, the Narendra Modi government on Sunday launched a vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters, comprising the victims of the 2002 riots and human rights activists, when they gathered for a demonstration at Naroda Patiya. Ironically, the lathicharge and subsequent detention of the restful agitators came about on the second day of the Gujarat chief minister’s fast proclaiming the so- called sadbhavna ( harmony and goodwill). The police, citing the unavailability of security personnel as the reason, had initially denied permission to the demonstrators.
However, when the protesters went ahead with their programme, the police swooped down and detained lawyer- activist Dr Mukul Sinha — besides danseuse- activist Mallika Sarabhai, riot victim and activist Noorjahan Diwan and many others — and forcibly dispersed the gathering.
Around 20 persons, including Sinha and Sarabhai, were detained in the Naroda Patiya locality — which saw one of the most brutal killings during the 2002 riots in the state — even before they could start protesting against the chief minister’s fast. Since early in the day, the police had formed a khaki ring around Naroda Patiya.
Salim Mahammad Sheikh, a riot victim and witness against Modi’s former cabinet colleague Maya Kodnani, said the administration dispatched 500 cops at short notice to break up the demonstrators even though it had earlier claimed not having enough police strength.
“ We had called the sadbhavna Mission a sham and they have proved us correct,” Sheikh added.
Mocking the government for using force on peaceful protesters, Sinha called himself “ the first beneficiary of Modi’s sadbhavna ”. He added that the use of force on the victims “ exposes the real face” of Modi’s goodwill facade.
“ All we had asked for was justice,” Diwan said, adding that Sarabhai was detained along with her supporters only because she had come to pledge her support to the cause of the 2002 riot victims. “ They pushed us into a van and unleashed lathis on the crowd to disperse it per force,” she added.
Sarabhai said the police gave her no reason while taking her away. “ We had planned a silent and peaceful protest. I have no idea what I am being charged with,” she added.
In another blow to Modi, Darul Uloom Deoband’s sacked V- C Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi termed Modi’s fast “ a political gimmick”. He said: “ It is just a pretence… a political gimmick for the assembly polls.”