Even if I was a regular writer I would have found it very hard to compress my thoughts in 600 words but in the age of bytes and 20 second advertisement I am sure this task can be accomplished.
The journey that began in March 2002 left me totally shattered and it changed our lives forever. There are images that still haunt me; there are stories that I have never shared with anyone. Memories, of travelling to small villages, meeting brutalized women, smell of burning bodies and suffocation, still come back. I understood for the first time Diary of Anne Frank in 2002, a book that I read at the age of 13.
In 2002 we thought the biggest crime was the killing of innocents, raping of hundreds of women and brutalising their bodies. As we looked deeper we realised there are much bigger crimes that have been committed. To rob a whole generation of the right to dissent, the right to achieve its full intellectual potential, forcing one person's views on people at large, to create fear psychosis in the society and to project oneself as the only savior of one community and not allow any opposition are much bigger crime than killing of people.
As it was expected the bubble of Vibrant Gujarat finally burst as the surface area could take any more pumping in of the pompous air. The figures coming out are alarming, since there are hundreds of articles on the net exposing the myth of vibrant Gujarat I won’t dwell on it here.
Over the past ten years Anhad has actively engaged with young people and over 25,000 youth have attended Anhad's training camps. We have tried to introduce the concepts of an equal society, democracy, communal harmony, equality and justice as enshrined in the Indian constitution. Anhad volunteers have travelled to remote villages across Gujarat introducing the legacy of the freedom movement.
Our present campaign 'Bole Gujarat' was launched in August 2012 with the release of a music video 'Where is Democracy?' based on the song Kolaveri. Bolegujarat channel on YouTube has been blocked twice and three days ago our website www.bolegujarat.com was hacked. Despite experts working on it we have not been able to restore it fully.
Bole Gujarat is a platform for unheard voices, voices that have been suppressed in the cacophony of eulogistic speeches. Bole Gujarat has produced 35 videos available on YouTube as part of our social media campaign, organised small meeting and women and youth conventions across Gujarat, produced and distributed leaflets, organized cultural events celebrating diversity, trained street theatre groups, campaigned in cities among middle classes.
On the eve of the Gandhi Jayanti thousands of young people gathered at Porbandar at the launch of the campaign 'Fari Shodhiye Gandhi' (Rediscovering Gandhi). As opposed to being the 'silent spectators', young volunteers from 15 districts were part of the launch and are now actively participated in spreading the teachings of Gandhi by carrying especially designed posters and the pamphlets to the remotest part of Gujarat. By engaging actively with Gandhi we hope that the youth will be able to traverse a much larger distance and will undertake the journey within from the hate, apathy to love and harmony and will come closer to the ideas of non-violence, truth and justice.
'All through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it, always.'--Mahatma Gandhi
(The writer is a leading social and human rights activist working for victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat. The views expressed are personal.)