Books by Usha Alexander

  • A lone woman travels fearlessly into the jungle to confront the enemy. She holds the fate of an entire world in her hands.

  • When Craig Olsen returns to Idaho to say goodbye to his dying uncle, who raised him, he comes face to face with matters he can no longer evade.

  • "A suspenseful narrative weaves the stories and secrets of two generations into one seamless drama ... a worthy literary journey." —Kirkus Discoveries

Namit Arora's Photography

Selected Videos


  • StatCounter

« Meat Porn | Main | Homosexuality in India »

July 26, 2008



How short and selective you memory is - remember 1984 in Delhi? Or Nandigram a few months back? So, what is your criteria of zeroing in on "the Worst communal riots"?

Just for your information, if sheer numbers were the criteria (numbing ones humanistic tendencies for a moment) then these are the figures:

1984 Sikh killings*: 2733 dead (all Sikhs)
Gujarat Killings: (figures as per Union Minister of State for Home Shriprakash Jaiswal (Congress) as told to Indian Parliament May, 11 2005: 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus killed, 2548 people injured and 223 people missing
Nandigram: No official figures and no one from any news source seems to have made any credible estimation either. if you have the figures, do me a favor and please publish them here in the comments.

* now 1984 Sikh massacres have been called "Hindu-Sikh riots" or Anti-Sikh riots, to me they were not RIOTS.. but massacres. I was there in Delhi and witnessed myself... the slum dwellers hired by Congress do all that so it was a hired job.

I am truly intrigued what was YOUR basis for the conclusion??

What Nandy writes about Gujarat and its Urban middle class could easily have been said about Bengals Leftist cadres as well.

I am not saying that Modi is "dudh ka dhula".. but I am amused at your self-righteous and selectively amnesic characterization.

You can either be truthful or be selective you cannot do both.


Btw, that figure of 2733 for Sikhs killed (as per Ahuja Commission) was ONLY in Delhi. We all know that the killings were far and beyond Delhi too.

First, don't be too intrigued. If you read carefully, I wrote "one of the worst." That remains true by all usual metrics for Indian riots.

Second, it is telling that you would rather believe government figures, not those by people counting dead bodies on the ground. According to the widely reported Human Rights Watch (HRW) data, the number of deaths was closer to 2000.

Third, the particular horror and shame of this communal riot springs from the fact that it was systematically planned and aided by Modi's fascist government (see the kind of pamphlets they circulated in preparation), still popular and in power. From the HRW report:

Between February 28 and March 2 the attackers descended with militia-like precision on Ahmedabad by the thousands, arriving in trucks and clad in saffron scarves and khaki shorts, the signature uniform of Hindu nationalist-Hindutva-groups. Chanting slogans of incitement to kill, they came armed with swords, trishuls (three-pronged spears associated with Hindu mythology), sophisticated explosives, and gas cylinders. They were guided by computer printouts listing the addresses of Muslim families and their properties, information obtained from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation among other sources, and embarked on a murderous rampage confident that the police was with them. In many cases, the police led the charge, using gunfire to kill Muslims who got in the mobs' way. A key BJP state minister is reported to have taken over police control rooms in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing orders to disregard pleas for assistance from Muslims. Portions of the Gujarati language press meanwhile printed fabricated stories and statements openly calling on Hindus to avenge the Godhra attacks.

In almost all of the incidents documented by Human Rights Watch the police were directly implicated in the attacks. At best they were passive observers, and at worse they acted in concert with murderous mobs and participated directly in the burning and looting of Muslim shops and homes and the killing and mutilation of Muslims. In many cases, under the guise of offering assistance, the police led the victims directly into the hands of their killers. Many of the attacks on Muslim homes and places of business also took place in close proximity to police posts. Panicked phone calls made to the police, fire brigades, and even ambulance services generally proved futile. Many witnesses testified that their calls either went unanswered or that they were met with responses such as: "We don't have any orders to save you"; "We cannot help you, we have orders from above"; "If you wish to live in Hindustan, learn to protect yourself"; "How come you are alive? You should have died too"; "Whose house is on fire? Hindus' or Muslims'?" In some cases phone lines were eventually cut to make it impossible to call for help.

Oh, thank god you are not claiming Modi to be "dudh ka dhula".* I was beginning to spot illiberal leanings in you. Silly me!

[* literally, "washed in milk"; morally pristine]


I am citing figures from those who have heaped scorn on Modi anyways! So, if there was a "credible" figure then this should have been it.

As for the NGOs' figures - I have seen quite a few NGOs in my life and interacted with their honchos as well (am an alumni of IRMA and know a bit or two about that sector) - to believe in their "non-partisanship" or so-called objectivity.

I have personally led teams to look at the entire NGO sector for a BPR of CAPART (the largest donor in the country) and a large one-of-its-kind study on socio-economic situation of Minorities of UP (Muslims) [visited >60 villages personally for the study}

Further, (your 3rd point) are you suggesting that 1984 Sikh killings or Nandigram wasn't planned and executed with the support of the Government machinery???

The "best-practice" (borrowing from the corporate lingo) of using the polling records to track down people of a certain community was invented in 1984 Sikh killings in Delhi by the likes of Tytler, HKL Bhagat and Ajay Maken. One of these (Tytler) was on the Union Cabinet of the current Government - did you make any noise about it? No? Why not? Will you be so quiet if Modi joins the Union Cabinet?? Does Selective Amnesia NOW ring a bell?

You dont have to answer those questions - just ask yourself.

As I said earlier, I am not defending Modi (can't), but I am not willing to take a DECIDEDLY one-sided nonsense so easily!

So, quit acting cute and start discussing stuff seriously for we all - as bloggers with a voice - have a responsibility to think on our own.

Of course, we also have a choice to numb our minds and just dish "inspired" analysis (a la Anu Malik's inspirations) to the public.

-desh (

Any reader not blinded by his agendas would agree that my post is about Nandy and the drama around his essay. The mention of Gujarat riots as one of the worst is to set the context of who he was dealing with, not to analyze and classify all Indian riots.

But it's telling how you, Desh, see this and choose to react: there was another riot(s) worse that Gujarat's, so no mention of it is appropriate without also mentioning the other riot(s). (Is this an example of "the complete perspective" you claim to offer on your site?)

You're free to disagree but I urge you to raise the bar a bit. I owe myself and my readers a higher quality conversation.

In a country where the "intellectuals" make a mockery of a serious issue (i.e.; political intolerance) by taking sides and where the commentators like you seem to potray their selective and short-sighted debates as potent... it is indeed telling that we continue with that pain forever.

Modi or Rajiv Gandhi or Buddhadeb are not the real disease.. the disease is elsewhere. But who cares.. in this game of sound-bytes.

Anyways, I guess your readers do indeed deserve you in that case!


Whenever someone criticizes the BJP or the people of Gujarat for their role in aiding, abetting the riots and then for becoming complicit in the whole affiar by repeatedly re-electing Narendra Modi, someone else always brings up the Anti-Sikh riots as proof that the Gujarat massacres weren't really that bad simply because they haven't been a unique occurrence.

I never get that argument. Yes the 1984 Riots were terrible...Sajjan Kumar, HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and other instigators should have been punished for them in the most punitive way possible. Similarly the Gujarat Massacres were a blot on Indian society and democracy. Specially since they weren't riots. They were clearly well organized and orchestrated and was really just one community (that I belong to) systematically targeting a minority. Its not enough to say that Narendra Modi is not dudh ka dhula(!) - the guy is really a murderer just as Hitler and his minions were...just thankfully on a much smaller scale till now. Narendra Modi should truly be behind bars today - but Ashish Nandy is correct that the people of Gujarat cannot escape blame...just as the Germans didn't.

The fact is that Hindu Gujaratis have shown that they really couldn't care less about the crimes committed against their Muslim neighbours. Not only did they re-elect Modi twice with massive majorities but also actively boycotted Muslim businesses in the post-riot phase in many cities and villages and in general made them feel unwelcome. For that reason they cannot escape the taint that would otherwise have stained only the BJP and Modi. Just as Germans as a whole were held responsible for the atrocities committed by Hitler and just as the Congress as a whole is even today tainted by its role in the 1984 riots.

Debating whether the Sikh riots or the Gujarat riots were worse is to miss the point altogether. When these things happen you'd hope everyone could set aside their individual political opinions and demand that the guilty politicians be brought to book - not just asked to resign but actually serve out sentences - capital or otherwise.

Just because one historical wrong has not been corrected doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to correct a second one.

I agree with Namit's point that Gujarat riots are mentioned to set the context -- If I am not mistaken Desh has taken issue with the general trend among "intellectuals" to make Modi their favorite punching bag, when in reality there have been several such events over the years which are conveniently forgotten. It is easy to read your post and come to conclusion that you are following the same trend even if it might be to set things in context (Before any of you jump all over me -- I am not defending any of this communal violence myself!)

Thankfully, Mr. Nandy mentions in his article, "The national leadership of the party does not have the courage to confront Modi over 2002, given its abominable record of 1984." (he makes no mention of Nandigram :-)

As for the post above referring to Modi's re-election twice. I think it has a lot to do with lack of a credible alternative or as Mr. Nandi says, "Forty years of dedicated propaganda does pay dividends, electorally and socially". Didn't the great US of A elect George Bush twice?

p.s: Btw, the Frontline link does not work.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

Primary Editors

Books by Namit Arora

  • “Namit Arora does for Silicon Valley what Tom Wolfe did for Wall Street in The Bonfire of the Vanities: with keen eye and sharp wit, he captures the culture and mores of the place. But Arora is funnier. And sweeter.” —S. Abbas Raza, Editor, 3QD.

  • The Lottery of Birth reveals Namit Arora to be one of our finest critics. In a raucous public sphere marked by blame and recrimination, these essays announce a bracing sensibility, as compassionate as it is curious, intelligent and nuanced.” —Pankaj Mishra

Shunya Website

Namit wins 3QD Arts & Literature Prize 2011

Namit Arora's India Photo Archive