The Tribune - Spectrum

, August 11, 2002

Ravages of hate chronicled
J. S. Yadav

Harvest of Hate: Gujarat Under Siege
by Swami Agnivesh & Valson Thampu. Rupa.
Pages 140. Rs 150

Harvest of Hate: Gujarat Under SiegeFOR the past about five years, Swami Agnivesh in collaboration with Rev. Valson Thampu has been writing articles on religious, spiritual and social themes in general and concerning the communal situation obtaining in the country in particular. The Gujarat carnage obviously could not have escaped their sensitivity. Moreover, the Swami led a multi-religious group to Gujarat for an on-the-spot study and "on a mission of compassion." Out of their sensitivity, several articles appeared in various newspapers over a period of two months. These 20 articles, fortified with two by Arundhati Roy and Harsh Mandar, who resigned from a cosy bureaucratic position in protest, comprise the book Harvest of Hate: Gujarat Under Siege.

Former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, in a befitting foreword, has summed up the substance of the book in his opening sentence, "A perusal of this anthology of articles may disturb the readers, since their contents are heart-rending." In a nutshell, the authors have successfully attempted to record in detail the plight of minorities at the hands of raging Sangh Parivar goons during the Gujarat carnage, which started a few months ago and has not abated as yet.


Horrible things, which no human being should condone, happened. The image of a Muslim youth, his clothes blood-stained, his hands folded in a ringing appeal for mercy and his eyes melting in terrified helplessness, will contrive to haunt the posterity. A four-year-old boy, who had seen his parents and all his siblings butchered in front of him, had lost his speech. A 22-year-old mother, the lone survivor from a family of 17 members, including her two-year-old son, gang-raped and her one leg and one arm broken with lathis; the abdomen of an eight-month pregnant woman ripped open and the foetus from her womb cut into pieces and thrown into fire, are only a few examples that might have melted even a stone.

The authors, although emotionally surcharged, do not loose their sense of proportion. They go into the reasons, the psychology and philosophy of true dharma and the possible outcome of the mayhem. In the opening article, they plead, "Let us use and build together the temple of India where God delights to dwell as love." The erosion of kinship and decline of compassion have been the major causes for the decay of societies and civilisations, they assert. Keenness to erode faith in public institutions, especially the judiciary and the state, is yet another factor. However, "what is absolutely new is the complicity of the state in eroding its own credibility."

The authors feel let down by the doublespeak of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee—his statement at the Shah Alam camp, Gujarat, and the other one in Goa. When the Prime Minister in him ought to speak, the poet in him takes over. In addition to the Sangh Parivar and Narendra Modi, the authors also hold Chandra Babu Naidu, George Fernandes, Mamata Banerjee, Farooq Abdullah and other National Democratic Alliance partners guilty of complicity. The Opposition parties and Muslim leaders are also not spared, and so is the policy of globalisation as well as the electoral compulsions of the Bharatiya Janata Party. They feel an urgent need for a national debate on religion, a higher harmony among religions and a second look at religion and culture. They exude optimism, for they foresee the sunset of communal politics and that the game is up for the Sangh Parivar.

Part II of the book carries guest articles by Arundhati Roy and Harsh Mandar. Roy’s article, which first appeared in Outlook, deals extensively with various facets of its origin—"whipping up communal hatred is part of the mandate of the Sangh Parivar." The pain in her heart oozes out when she finds that every ‘democratic’ institution in this country has shown itself to be unaccountable and inaccessible to the ordinary citizen, either unwilling or incapable of acting in the interests of genuine social justice.

Harsh Mandar had the courage of conviction to resign from the Indian Administrative Services in protest. He describes the modus operandi of the planned massacre, the pogrom. He is sorry that none came forward to help the victims and even the gates of Sabarmati Ashram were closed to protect the properties.

Giving Manu’s dictum "Satyam Bruyat, Priyam Baruyat" the go-by, the Swami has written the bitter truth and has made himself vulnerable to the lumpens of the Sangh Parivar. Gujral also means to convey the same. In its 140 pages, the book has raised several important issues, which must be discussed and debated at large for the benefit of society and the nation. I add my voice to the authors’ hope that this volume will continue to speak to the readers even after the mayhem in Gujarat is forgotten.