Pitted against a state that was hostile to their right to security during the violence then, and that is just as hostile to their right to reparation and justice now, the survivors to this day eke out a precarious existence, funneled into relief colonies, boycotted socially and economically, and often harassed and rounded up by the police without any regard for due process. Mander shows, in the absence of proper state support, that the cause of relief work has been embraced mainly by Muslim organisations, some with their own agendas, thus further entrenching the factionalism of a communalised polity. Reading his book, we understand how, firstly, what began in Gujarat in 2002 is in a way still current, and secondly, how an orgy of state-sponsored violence may radicalise an entire generation of perpetrators and victims both.
Mandar is just as keen to address the implications of the position, still widely aired in middle-class drawing-rooms around the country, that the Muslims of Gujarat “deserved it” or “had it coming”, either for the alleged role of some Muslims in the Godhra train-burning incident, or more generally for the invasion of India and forced conversion of Hindus by Muslim rulers further back in history. It is striking, he points out, that this idea of collective and vicarious responsibility “seems apportioned only to minorities”. Further, if people are to use this logic of group identity to argue that “they” had it coming, then tomorrow upper-caste Hindus might be a similar “they” for Dalits, and all men might be punished for the bondage of women throughout history. All too often this “they” is merely a projection, and a displacement, of the beast within us.