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'We'll uphold India's secular image'

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth and blood for blood! Is this the spirit we are growing up with as we, students in the universities, are getting ready to enter today's world? The Gujarat chapter is fast teaching us what not to pass on, writes Priyanka Raizada in From the Varsity.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2004 13:27 IST

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth and blood for blood! Is this the spirit we are growing up with as we, students in the universities, are getting ready to enter today's world? The tragedy of 9/11 happened, but it was followed by America's attack on Afghanistan and Iraq, criticised by a large section of the global community. Similarly, the Gujarat riots last year have had an impact on every Indian mind, be they grown-ups or the youth. We, the Indian students here, debated about it in the past.

But, the recent visit to the UK by the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, once again brought to fore the memories of last year's carnage. It is a chapter in Indian history which evokes intense passion amongst my peers, studying in universities here.

Abhay Baluja, a student of Masters in Finance at the University of Essex, reacted emotionally and said: "Narendra Modi had taken the oath to look after all individuals, Hindus and Muslims, majority and minority. But he allegedly did nothing concrete to stop the carnage when the riots flared up." His feelings are not simply reactionary to the particular tragedy. He said: "The riots have provided a base to other incidences which could lead to something bigger and more dangerous."

While it has been a year on, yet each time the subject of the riots has come up amongst my friends, each has shown strong opinion which they made sure to express. Saumya Gautam, a Masters student in Media Communications at the University of Leeds, said: "Riots and revenge are no solution to any problem. The repercussions of the Gujarat riots will be suffered by generations to come.

"One has to develop more tolerance in today's literate world. Gujarat is where Mahatma Gandhi came from. His policy of non-violence is what earned us our freedom from the British rule. It is clear no violence is justified, be it the war in Iraq or the riots in Gujarat."

She stresses that at a time when politicians are corrupt "and are not being seen to do anything concrete, the people should do something about it."

A Business Management student at the University of Greenwich, Alankar Sharma, believes "the 'blood-for-blood' attitude will lead to the extinction of the human race. The riots in Gujarat may not have harmed Modi's career but it has affected our generation. Neither Muslims nor Hindus should adopt the approach of revenge."

Though most of the friends that I spoke to are not from Gujarat and have been away from home for some time, yet they remain Indians at heart. Like me, their emotions and passions are stirred by every event that takes place in India, our home.

Kanika Chopra, studying for a Masters degree in Psychology, at the University of Essex, said: "Even though we are not physically present in Gujarat to suffer the consequences, we are still suffering. It has scarred our conscience.

"I do not say that anyone is promoting a world of complete peace. There will be violence. But there has to be more tolerence amongst humans."

Another business management graduate, orginally from Gujarat, has seen a change in Gujarat since the riots. A regular visitor to the state, he said: "Earlier Ahmedabad used to be an extremely safe city, but following the riots, people are now afraid to leave their homes in the evenings. Sadly, the freedom of people has been snatched away."

Amid rumours that Modi is being hailed as a future Prime Minister of India, there are continuing media reports that the police and the state machinary did nothing to halt the riots. The riots are a reality we are all trying to deal with. While the Latur earthquake was a natural tragedy which evoked compassion, the Gujarat carnage has set alight intense feelings. But may be the only good it has probably managed to bring about is the realisation of the importance of non-violence.

I find it extremely reassuring to find my mates and friends, across the board, have condemned the events of last year in Gujarat. None, not even the Hindus, talk of the riots without a look of shame in their eyes.

It makes me think. Out of such carnage and ruthless cruelty where man turns into beast, may be we have learnt a bitter lesson. Gandhiji may no longer be with us. But it definitely looks like, we, the youth, have imbibed his belief of non-violence, without realising it. India is a secular and non-violent country and I believe, my generation will do all they can to keep it that way.

There have been concerns expressed by analysts that fanaticism of such kind as seen during the riots could fracture the secular frame of India. But as a youngster, who still has a lot to give to the world and my country I am indeed, increasingly convinced that, my generation has its feet firmly on the ground. Our politicians may be corrupt, our system may have failed us at times, but we are determined to ring in changes. It is extremely clear that we, as a generation, despise violence.

The Gujarat chapter of our history is fast teaching us what not to pass on to our next generation - violence and hatred. We all say Long live the spirit of non-violence!

(Final Year Law Student at Essex University)

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 11:57 IST