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Gujarat 2002 is shorthand for many cataclysmic events. The burning of the train; the 58 dead; the 2,000 that followed. But it is also a reminder of damages beyond the brute horror of that time. A signboard of what can happen when the certitudes of a democracy fail. When an elected leader fans hatred rather than curbs it; when police officers get punished for saving lives and rewarded for looking away; when public prosecutors are selected to help the accused get off; when the judiciary itself becomes blind. When political opposition capitulates. And an entire community is hived off from the fabric of a plural nation and told they can never expect justice. When ‘action and reaction’ come to replace the simple human idea of ‘right and wrong’.
Gujarat 2002 could have taken India to even darker spaces than it already has but for the resolute stand of a few. A tiny band of lawyers, activists, police officers — and a few media houses — have kept the battle going for 10 hard years. Superficially, the yield may look small: few convictions and a cynical chief minister increasingly touted by parts of the national media as a model to be followed.
But the impacts of this resistance run deep and beyond surface utilities. Here, exactly a decade later, in a moment of stock-taking, some of these public warriors introspect about why they stood to fight. And what that has achieved.