On 15 January, Kafila published an open letter to MADHU PURNIMA KISHWAR by ZAHIR JANMOHAMED. Three months later, Kishwar has sent us a response. Given below her response are comments by Zahir Janmohamed.
My apologies for the delay in responding to your “Open Letter” addressed to me through Kafila on January 11 2013.
Unlike most of those upset at my articles on Gujarat, you have been remarkably measured in your tone and tenor and also respectful in questioning my observations. However, the content of your letter annoyed me no end. I kept postponing my response in the hope that my annoyance at the absurdity of your chargesheet would subside over time. I honestly did not want to give you an angry or discourteous response so that the dialogic mode you established remained undisturbed.
To mine the detritus of the Gujarat pogrom for positive stories may seem like sacrilege. But when memories are dredged up to mark a decade of the horrors of 2002, a little blasphemy could help balance the account books.
Mostly what we recount of Gujarat 2002 is deaths. Yet, more than the murder and mayhem, the pogrom stood out for an unprecedented scale of sexual violence that Muslim women were subjected to. George Fernandese in his capacity as the Union defence minister had explained to the Parliament after a quick tour of Gujarat that women raped or molested during riots was not surprising or exceptional. I will not go here into the polemics of why violating women’s sexuality is considered a means of dishonouring a community,
There’s an untold story about how the community handled sexual violence. If the dominant community legitimised rape driven by its insecurities and politics that stemmed from history and identity issues, it was perhaps for the first time that the persecuted community reacted to rape in a progressive way.
Rape is double-edged sword, first leading to physical violation and second to social ostracisation in most societies. Which is common to mask the identity of rape victims for fear of social stigma. Strangely, during the 2002 riots, Muslim women, some of them burqa clad and most of them from tightly-knit rural communities never betrayed the kind of shame or guilt that rape victims are expected to show. What was their fault? Why should the victim feel shame and guilt? And so it was that many of them did not cloak their identities, and instead chose to come out publicly to demand justice. Continue reading Three Stories of Resilience from Gujarat: Ayesha Khan→