Tuesday, December 11, 2007



10th December 2007
Dear Friends,
We are on the eve of  Elections here in Gujarat....However, one is aware that there are thousands of people who still do not have their Election Photo Identity Card (EPIC) or have these cards with totally wrong information / spelling, etc.
However, Election Commission sources have informed all eligible voters through the media that one will still be allowed to exercise one's franchise with the help of alternative documents.
The Election Commission has validated fourteen  documents ( photo identity ), which will permit one to exercise one's vote in the absence of an EPIC.  These are :
 i)    Passport
ii)   Driving licence
iii)  PAN card
iv)   Identity card of State Government, Central Government, PSU and Pvt. Ltd. Companies
v)    Bank passbook
vi)   Student I-card
vii)  Registered deed of property
viii) ST, SC and OBC certificate
ix)   Pension book
x)    Widow pension book
xi)   Freedom Fighter ID card
xii)  Weapon's licence
xiii) NREGS job card
xiv)  ESI card
All this, obviously, if one's name is on the Electoral Rolls and if it corroborates with the name on  the above mentioned

Persons with faulty EPICs whose names are on the Electoral Rolls but who are able to furnish one of the above mentioned I-Cards are also eligible to vote.
Kindly encourage as many as possible to exercise their franchise.  It is always better that one casts one's ballot as early as possible, to prevent bogus voting later on during the day.
Any complaints of fraudulent / bogus voting, etc. should be brought immediately to the notice of :
Ø  The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), 
     Election Commission, General Administration Department, 
     Block No. 7,     II Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar 382 010
     [ Tel.:  (079) 23250316 / 23250318   Fax:  (079) 23250317 ]
ceo_gujarat@eci.gov.in     www.ceogujarat.nic.in
Let's hope and pray that we have  free and fair elections in Gujarat !
Yours sincerely,
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

Thursday, December 06, 2007


The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)  today celebrates the Birth centenary of Fr. Pedro  Arrupe who was born in Bilbao Spain on November 14th, 1907. 
Fr. Arrupe was in the midst of his medical studies (where he was faring brilliantly) to join the Jesuits in order to commit himself in service to God and to people.  He spent forty years of his life in Japan where he mastered the Japanese language and culture. 
The defining moment of his stay in Japan was on August 6, 1945 when the world's first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  Fr. Arrupe was in the midst of this tragedy.  He made his Jesuit residence into a make shift hospital administering to those who were badly wounded.  For days on he selflessly catered to the dying and the wounded using his medical skills to the maximum.  For several years later Pedro Arrupe would recall the horror and tragedy of the atomic explosions, encouraging people, across the globe, to do everything possible to halt nuclear warfare. 
In 1965, he was elected Superior General of the Jesuits and during his tenure he emphasized the importance of Jesuits being deeply rooted in God  and at the same time, taking the side of justice in whatever they did.  In 1980, he founded the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) which has been selflessly serving, thousands of refugees in different parts of the world  for more than twenty-five years now.  He also insisted that Jesuit education should form men and women in the service of others. 
In 1981, he suffered a stroke from which he did not recover.  He died on 5th February 1991, at the age of 84 years, leaving behind a very rich legacy of being deeply rooted in God and at the same time fighting for the rights of the poor, the marginalized and the displaced.
The Jesuits in Gujarat (and in several parts of India) today run well-known institutions like those of the Xavier's family which are committed to the cause of education and to the service of the poor and the marginalized.  In celebrating the memory of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, they continue the rich legacy he has left them. 

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
14th November 2007



Ms. Teesta Setalvad, Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), addressed a packed Press Conference on Monday 19th November 2007 at PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.  She told the media in her characteristic blunt style,  how the Citizens for Justice and Peace had  visited several villages in  the Panchmahal and Dahod Districts and also several parts of Ahmedabad city, to get a grassroot level feedback on issues related to security, justice and reparation to the victim survivors of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 and of the way the people there still suffer.
Ms. Setalvad provided hard facts with concrete evidence of how the Gujarat Government
has simply ignored the condition of the riot victims.  In Citizens Nagar for example, the residents face the perennial problem of acute unhygienic conditions; unclean water, with a high degree of salinity, no sewerage, no health facilities and no schooling.  A similar condition is evident in Faizal Park, Vatwa and Siddiquibad, Juhapura.  Ms. Setalvad shared with the media a representation which CJP had made to the Collector of Ahmedabad that day. 
Several of the victim survivors were also present at the Conference.  These included Rehana Banu, the mother of 13 year old Riaz Musafar Beig who lost his life in Citizens Nagar ten days ago, due to kidney failure which was caused by prolonged consumption of highly saline water "what can I do"  she lamented.  "There are absolutely no facilities which have been provided to us.  The water is totally contaminated, there are no clinics or hospitals where we live, and not even a medical shop.  The doctors in another hospital said that I would need more than 1.5 lacs to treat my son and I just could not afford that.". 
It is almost six years since the Gujarat Carnage and even as another election draws near,  the victim survivors have literally nowhere to go as the collective conscience of the State continues to be in a denial mode with a complete lack of remorse.  However, Citizens for Justice and Peace continues its relentless struggle to focus on the truth and to ensure justice for the victim survivors.
For Citizens for Justice and Peace
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

20th November 2007



We condemn the senseless terror attacks and the wanton destruction of life and property which took place in various parts of Uttar Pradesh yesterday, 23rd November 2007.
We extend our sympathy and solidarity to the families of the deceased and to all those who have been affected in any way, by these ghastly acts.
We call upon the Governments of Uttar Pradesh and at the Centre to adequately compensate the victims and their families in the interest of justice and to bring to book expeditiously, all those involved in these heinous acts.
Finally, we pray that good sense may prevail and that every form of violence is eschewed by all sections of society and that the Governments everywhere respond to the legitimate demands of the people.
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
24th November 2007



Media reports alleging that Narendra Modi has justified the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in a fake encounter, must come as a  great shock to all in civil society. 
The Chief Executive of a State has been entrusted with safeguarding the Constitutional rights and freedoms of every single citizen in the State.  The fact that such "fake encounters" are given a legitimacy,  speaks volumes of the depths to which divisive communal politics has plunged into.
We call upon the Election Commission to take immediate cognizance and action on these communal utterances and hope that civil society will see the long term consequences of such irresponsible statements and exercise its right through the ballot box to vote out these communal and divisive elements
Fr. Cedric Prakash

5th December 2007

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


It is the Right and the Duty of every citizen above the age of 18 years to exercise his/her vote. Here are some pointers which may be helpful :


Ø if you are above 18 years and a citizen of India, you must have your name on the Electoral Roll (ER).

Ø it is a basic identity for an adult citizen of India

Ø check immediately whether your name is on the ER (at your Taluka Office / Collector's Office / the local branch Office of a National political party).

Ø for inclusion of ones name on the ER, you will have to fill Form 6.

Ø ask the concerned officer on what date you should return to check whether your name is in the ER or not.

Ø for any objection on inclusion of name / s, you will have to fill Form 7.

Ø for correction of entries in the Electoral Rolls you will have to fill Form 8.

Ø please feel free to write your complaints to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Gujarat and to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Delhi

Ø always retain copies of your application / letters, signed by the receiving officer, for further reference.

Ø ensure that you have the Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC). (For the present, you may be required to provide your own Passport Photos in order to receive an EPIC).


Ø get involved in mainstream politics.

Ø encourage / support political parties which focus on governance and on issues related to transparency, human rights, justice and peace.

Ø check out about the candidates, the parties wish to nominate for a particular seat.

Ø organize public debates / dialogues with them and assess their views / opinions / promises

Ø study their Election Manifesto of the previous elections and, based on this manifesto, check out whether the ruling party / sitting candidate has fulfilled the promises made.

Ø assess their views on vulnerable groups like the tribals, dalits, women, minorities and also on critical subjects like water, education, food, security, environment, employment, agriculture, health and globalization.


Ø cast your vote.

Ø encourage all others to cast their votes too.

Ø vote for a party / individual that is not corrupt, criminal, casteist and / or communal

Ø if you notice any bogus voting, rigging or booth capturing, bring it to the notice of the police / election officers immediately and preferably in writing.


Ø find out the details of your elected representative (name, address, telephone / fax nos., email, etc.

Ø arrange that organizations, villages / groups invite the person to share his / her views about the area for the next five years.

Ø ensure that you keep in touch with him / her constantly.

Ø remember that they have budgetary allocations for their constituency; find out for what programmes the money is being utilized.

Ø insist that your views / concerns are voiced in the assembly / parliament.

Ø remind the representative that as a voter you have a right to recall, or to ask for his / her resignation.


Ø any concern / complaint in the context of the electoral rolls must be sent in writing (registered post / courier) immediately to : The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Election Commission, General Administration Department, Block No. 7, II Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar 382 010
[ Tel.: (079) 23250316 / 23250318 Fax: (079) 23250317 ]
email: ceo_gujarat@eci.gov.in ; www.ceogujarat.nic.in

Ø serious concerns like the disenfranchisement of a whole community / village must also be brought to the notice of : The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001
[ Tel.: (011) 23717391 - 98 Fax : (011) 23713412 email : feedback@eci.gov.in ]

Ø the above two may also be informed about any irregularities regarding the elections.

Ø The Election Commission of India also has a website : www.eci.gov.in Please visit it very specially "A GUIDE FOR VOTERS"

Ø use "The Right to Information Act" – to get essential information.

Ø contact "PRASHANT" for further information / assistance.

Issued by :

PRASHANT (Centre for Human Right, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad 380 052
Tel.: (079) 66522333 / 27455913
Fax : (079) 27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com

(September 2007)

(This is used in Public Interest to promote and safeguard our Constitutional Rights and Obligations. Kindly circulate this as widely as possible)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


The decision by the Gujarat Governor, Shri Nawal Kishore Sharma, to return "The Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Bill 2006", is welcomed.

The Bill is violative of the Constitutional Rights of a citizen and is very divisive in nature.

On the one hand, the Bill in a highly manipulative way, gives a "blanket" permission for a Catholic to become a Protestant and vice versa, and a Shia to become a Sunni and vice versa, without understanding the significance of these denominations within their respective faiths, or if actually changing to another denomination could be regarded as "conversion"; on the other hand, regarding Jains and Buddhists as denominations of the Hindu Religion, has brought much flak from the followers of Jainism and Buddhism.

The point to note is that, the Bill in its original form, was passed on March 26, 2003. The questions the Gujarat Government needs to answer are :

→ why did they take more than three years to usher in an amendment ?

→ why did they not frame the bye-laws to ensure implementation of the law from March 26, 2003 onwards ?

→ are they able to produce a single instance of "forced" conversion in Gujarat since the past many years ?

→ what is the breakup of the population of Gujarat, according to the last Census 2001 ?

→ By what percentage have the Minority Religions increased / decreased ?

The Government of Gujarat is fully aware that such a draconian law will not pass legal scrutiny. They have to stop indulging in cheap political gimmicks and lies like raising the bogey of "conversions", which is clearly a diversionary tactic, from the real issues that plague the poor and marginalized of Gujarat today.

Article 25 of the Constitution and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, guarantee every single individual, the right to preach, propagate and practice one's religion and to choose the religion of one's choice / conscience.

The Gujarat Government has no alternative but to withdraw this unconstitutional law immediately.

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

1st August 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Ahmedabad , September 1-2, 2007

It is apparent to one and all that the issue of  terrorism is no more
a problem that can be ignored or wished away. The post 9/11 world, is
one in which, terror has become a dominant part of the socio-political
discourse in countries across the world, in a manner that most of us
could never have imagined. We know that Bush's Global War on Terror
(GWoT) is nothing but a euphemism for unleashing wars for Global
domination and control over resources. The wars in Iraq and
Afghanistan today stand exposed in the eyes of the world
Ordinary Indians from across all religious communities have fallen
prey to terror and these attacks have occurred in Mandirs, Masjids,
trains, buses and public places. This climate of suspicion and fear is
fuelling communal divisions and hatred. At the same time our country
is on the terror radar and our security services have repeatedly
failed to protect the people, whilst managing to protect politicians
through regular encounters. We are now experiencing a daily barrage of
emails, telephone calls, faxes etc, threatening temples, mosques,
airlines, prominent commercial buildings, political leaders and what
have you. Terrorist attacks and encounter deaths have become the norm.
Counter to the general perception, actually terror bomb blasts have
replaced communal riots as a strategy of the State to divide people.
Not a single terror attack either in a Mandir or Masjid has led to
communal riots. They are not meant to!! Terror attacks achieve the
same aim without blood stains on the hands of the politicians, police
or bureaucracy.
The people are undoubtedly fearful and confused and this anger then
transforms itself into an anti-Muslim Islamophobia.  The general
climate of violence and wars, is also fuelling the growth of religious
extremism across all sections and all these factors are a threat to
Indian democracy and secularism.
The necessity of the National Conference was also felt in view of the
growing tendency of the State to use violence  against innocent
citizens under the guise of "fighting terrorism".
We appeal to all those who have undertaken fact finding regarding the
fake encounters and fake acts of terrorism and also of RSS
involvements in such activities to send us their reports.   Our plan
is to compile a dossier of all the fact finding reports and you are
all requested to email us the same as soon as possible.
For the first ever time at the National Conference, we will discuss
and present the facts as they have been recorded by the people
regarding the  terror attacks ranging from the Parliament,
Godhra-Sabarmati Express, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Mumbai, Hyderabad
Mecca Mosque, Nagpur, Malegaon, Nanded and the encounters in
Chittisinghpora, Ansal Plaza, Sohrabuddin, Ishrat Jahan, Khwaja Yunus
We will also discuss the international terror networks and the
linkages between the Al Qaeda and the CIA-MOSSAD.  The 9/11 WTC attack
itself will be dealt with, since it is the centre piece of the GWoT.
We deconstruct and expose the lies of the WTC terror attack and the
rest of the lies all falls apart like a pack of cards.
The issues are complex but we need to start a process at the national
level and all the reports that we garner and all the discussions that
we record, will be compiled, since an effort of this sort has never
been undertaken in India.
We need to free our minds and liberate it from the propaganda of the
corporate controlled print and electronic media and as we clear the
veil of lies, we will take the truth to the people.
We thus request all concerned activists and people to attend.
Participants are requested to confirm their  participation by email or
call at:
Mukul Sinha (Gujarat):98252-55790 / 
Suresh Khairnar (Nagpur): 0712-2512875
Feroze Mithiborwala (Mumbai): 98208-97517 / 
Zakia Johar (Ahmedabad): 98200-16549
Amrish Patel (Ahmedabad): 98252-70025
Kishore Jagtap (Mumbai):93221-08219 / 
Maulana Azahari (Malegaon):98237-13950
Firoz Khan: (Nanded):98900-64272
Vijayan MJ(Delhi): 98681-65471 / 
Joe Athialy (Delhi): 98681-14470 /  ajoe@gmx.net
Saeed Khan (Hyderabad): 98482-55166
(National Organizing Committee)

Monday, May 21, 2007


We, condemn the bomb blast which shook the crowded Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad near the historic Char Minar this afternoon. Such henious attacks aimed at terrorizing people have absolutely no place in civil society.
We sympathize with all those who have lost a loved one and we pray that those families who are affected in any way will be provided with the necessary solace and relief.
Attacks on places of worship are particularly despicable, since they deeply hurt the religious sentiments of people and will only widen the communal divide.
We, call upon the Central Government and the Government of Andhra Pradesh to act expeditiously and impartially and to bring to book all those involved in this heinous act.
We also urge political parties from across the spectrum, to immediately stop indulging in petty politicking and desist from activities that are bound to endanger the secular fabric of our country. Working unitedly and objectively on the more important issues of security and peace should be the priority of all parties and peace loving citizens.
Finally, we urge the Central and the State Governments and all our fellow-citizens, to join hands to ensure that there is justice for all and that every citizen in our country is able to live in security, in harmony and in peace.
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Friday, 18th May 2007

GUJARAT : GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER.....??? by Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
In the small hours of November 26th 2005, in a fairly isolated area on the outskirts of Ahmedabad city, near the Vishala Tolnaka, Sohrabuddin Sheikh was gunned down in a fake police encounter. The Gujarat police in a matter-of-fact statement, the next day asserted that Sohrabuddin was a member of the militant organization Lashkar-e-Toiba and was on a terrorist mission to kill the Gujarat CM Narendra Modi.
All would have been well and become part of the institutionalized violence in Gujarat State (particularly against minorities and other vulnerable groups), were it not for a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India demanding that the apex court of the country order an independent probe of atleast twenty-one police encounter deaths which have taken place in Gujarat State since 2002. Very strangely, all those killed, happen to be those belonging to the Muslim community.
The story about Sohrabuddin is stranger than fiction. Apparently, in his native Rajasthan, he had a criminal past, but all these cases were related to extortion, murder and kidnapping. None of them related to any kind of terrorist activity.
According to the facts which have been unfolding, on the night of November 22nd, 2005, he and his wife Kauserbi, were traveling by a bus from Hyderabad to Sangli. Sometime in the middle of the night, a Qualis Jeep overtook the bus and made it stop. Some men, claiming to be police officers entered the bus, made a quick search and took Sohrabuddin, Kauserbi and a third person off the bus. (This third person is suspected to be one, Tulsiram Prajapati, an associate of Sohrabuddin but also an alleged police informer who tipped the police about Sohrabuddin's whereabouts). Sohrabuddin was then brought to Ahmedabad and in a fake encounter, on November 26th, was gunned down by the police .
The whereabouts of his wife Kauserbi are still unknown, but according to news trickling in at this moment, from various media sources, since she was an eye witness, she too has been killed. One reputed paper, in a front-page article on April 28th, even suspects that she might be buried below the house of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, D G Vanzara. Vanzara has built recently, a huge red-coloured three-storeyed bungalow, conspicuous by its size and opulence in village Ilol in Sabarkantha District. Even as this piece is being written, journalists who went to visit Ilol, were attacked by henchmen of Vanzara and his whole house is being doubly barricaded to prevent snooping journalists and other unauthorized visitors.
The Supreme Court, after receiving the writ petition, demanded from the Gujarat Government the status of these encounter deaths, and very particularly, the one of Sohrabuddin. The Counsel for the Gujarat Government admitted that the case of Sohrabuddin was indeed was indeed a fake encounter and sought four weeks to provide the Apex Court with a detailed report.
However, in a surprise move, the Gujarat Government, on April 24th, arrested three IPS Officers Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian a Supdt. of Police (Intelligence) and Dineshkumar, a Supdt. of Police from Alwar, Rajasthan and charged them with murder for the fake encounter in which Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed.
Whilst at this juncture, the hearings continue in the Supreme Court, what is bound to happen in the next few weeks is that several skeletons from the cupboard are bound to tumble.
It is universal knowledge that police forces consistently take recourse to third degree methods in order to extract truth from alleged criminals. However, from a position of human rights, such methods are not acceptable. What makes the matter even more serious is when police kill alleged criminals in encounters with total impunity and immunity.
The story the police dish out is absolutely naïve; a third rate thriller plotted and written by people who have blood on their hands and who think that any fiction foisted on the public will just be swallowed by them, hook, line and sinker ! The plot is thus : a lonely isolated spot, the alleged criminal suddenly appears (or he is brought to a particular spot to reconstruct a previous crime); in the spur of a moment, he apparently begins attacking the police, and in self-defense, the police have no option but to kill him. Then ofcourse, his links with the underworld, with militant terrorist organizations are brought to the fore. They try to show the good that they have done to society by alienating someone who deserved to be killed....!!! Even a moron can see through such plots !
In less than three years, the Gujarat police have gunned down not one but twenty-one persons....their own people....the citizens of India. The questions which the Gujarat Government now has to answer are the following :
1. Why is it that they permitted the arrest of two of its Senior IPS Officers ? Why at this juncture ? Could they not have done it immediately after the "encounter" took place ? Or have these officers been arrested to thwart a CBI enquiry from taking place ?
2. What about the twenty other (perhaps more) encounters that have taken place recently ?
3. Who is behind these fake encounters ? Is it only the work of the police ? Are the political bosses of these police behind them ?
4. Why are those killed in these police encounters mainly from the minority community ?
5. How is it that encounter specialists like Vanzara have huge financial and material resources at their disposal and are able to flaunt their wealth ? ( According to media reports, Vanzara, it is estimated, has amassed asserts worth more than Rs. 150 crores ! )

From the way the Gujarat Government has been dealing with its citizens, very specially the poor and vulnerable, the marginalized like the dalits, the adivasis and minorities, it is amply clear that indulging in terror activities : harassing, intimidating and killing its citizens. Its track record since 2002, on all fronts, makes it amply evident that it is the Rule of Draco that prevails.
The fake encounter resulting in the killing of Sohrabuddin is very definitely the tip of the iceberg. The Gujarat Government has blood on its hands. The judiciary and civil society from all over the country must wake up immediately must not allow the Gujarat Government to get away with murder.

Fr. Cedric Prakash is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.

28th April 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Thursday, March 1st 2007 - 11.00 am to 4.00 pm.
Heerak Mahotsav Hall, Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad 380 014
February 2002 - March 2007

Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) & Communalism Combat, Mumbai

Victim survivors of over 2,500 persons who were brutally slaughtered and communities of at least 25,000 persons whose homes and properties were destroyed assembled at Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad. They spoke of their struggle for a life of acknowledgement and dignity under a hostile administration for five years. Survivors who have stood firm in their struggle for truth and justice cannot enter their homes in Ode, Anand district, Shaikh Mohalla, Sardarpura, Gulbarg Society, Naroda Gaon and Patiya.

Eighty four Godhra accused have been jailed under POTA for four years without bail whereas accused in other mass carnage cases roam their respective areas. The State of Gujarat calls them 'absconding' before the court, and some like Babu Bajrangi actually govern Gujarat State! Properties of Godhra accused have been attached by the State, but properties of the post Godhra carnage accused have been left untouched!

The expression showcased the long and demanding struggle for Justice --where to date witnesses are being intimidated and pressured into turning hostile-- and demand that the austere and distant ears of India's courts remain alive for the quick deliverance of justice.

The State has made a farce of awarding Compensation--by lying on oath before different fora about amounts doled out to families. Extensive data on compensation was released. Over 9,000 Gujarati citizens live like refugees in their own State, denied basic civil and political rights --access to BPL cards, drinking water access to schools and even the political right to vote.

Five Years of Low Intensity Terror

Since 2002 when the mass carnage took place in Gujarat that was in fact a State sponsored genocide, victim survivors live as destitute refugees in their own land.

The deep rooted State complicity in the carnage of citizens in 2002 and the blatant efforts to shield its perpetrators have been exposed. Various writ petitions, trials and civil suits have attempted to bring this out. Apart from the issue of punishing the guilty in the major massacres, the issue of fair compensation / reparation by the State is also pending before the Gujarat High Court {Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) are the petitioners}.

Following the detailed scheme worked out in this petition, the Central Government announced a compensation package of Rs 7 lakh each for the deceased but no details have been formulated. There is no mention of a better scheme for destroyed homes and property. This expression of survivors urges and demands that the central Government immediately activate the scheme not just with related to lives lost but homes destroyed, properties burnt and vandalized and for victims of sexual violence. Rs 50,000 per home destroyed was a paltry scheme in itself but according to detailed research done by CJP even this amount has not been paid to over 80 per cent of the survivors. The scheme should be operationalized along with citizens organizations working with victims and not through the State Government.

Gujarat a Government’s Shameful Conduct

Severe social and economic boycott, ghettoization are faced by the minority community today. Issues of admission of children to schools so that there is a mixed classroom, jobs where communities intermingle is also one that needs to be examined carefully. Police officers who stood by the Indian Constitution are isolated by the State and those who failed to protect life and property are the ones promoted and patronized.

Besides this, all the victim survivors of the Gulbarg Society massacre have filed civil suits of compensation against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Zakia Jaffri, widow of the late former parliamentarian, Ahsan Jaffri, has filed an FIR (First Information Report) under Section 154 of the CrPC against Modi and 67 others (including present and former ministers and IPS and IAS officials) alleging criminal conspiracy at the highest level.

Mass Carnage Cases: On September 1, 2003 when the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) approached the Supreme Court demanding retrial and transfer in the Best Bakery case, the statutory body also filed a transfer petition asking for reinvestigation and transfer of major carnage cases, including the Godhra train torching case, the Gulbarg Society and the Naroda Patiya incidents. NHRC’s transfer petition was a logical corollary to its own fact-finding report on the Gujarat killings (May-July 2002). The report had strongly recommended transfer of investigation and setting up of special courts for the trial of the mass carnage cases.

CJP intervened in the case and filed over 65 affidavits for victim survivors of these massacres. It pleaded that the Naroda Gaon, Ode and Sardarpura massacres also needed to be reinvestigated and transferred for trial as they too had figured in the NHRC’s 2002 report. Following CJP’s arguments, on November 21, 2003 the Supreme Court stayed the Godhra, Gulbarg, Naroda Gaon, Patiya, Ode and Sardarpura trials. Since then, detailed hearings have taken place during which CJP placed voluminous details on record.

After an inordinate delay – due largely to the turnaround of witness Zahira Sheikh in November 2004 — the Supreme Court, on July 11, 2006, resumed hearing the matter. Since the matter has been heard and adjourned half a dozen times and now, hopefully comes up for hearing on March 20, 2007. The meeting of the survivors on March 1 will sign an appeal for the quick deliverance of justice.

State Complicity:

Complicity at the highest level in the appointment of Public Prosecutors (PPs) by the State of Gujarat was thoroughly exposed in the Best Bakery case. Lawyers who had appeared for the accused were appointed as Public Prosecutors, exposing a transparent conflict of interest. Worse, many who were appointed were clearly linked, ideologically and organizationally, with the VHP, BJP and Bajrang Dal, the very outfits that had proudly claimed credit for the post-Godhra violence.

Even in the Supreme Court, the Gujarat Government appointed Vinod D. Gajjar, as its lawyer. Gajjar holds a brief for 23 accused in the Gulbarg Society (Meghaninagar) massacre.

Double Standards of the Gujarat Government

Even after November 21, 2003 when the Supreme Court stayed the trials, the Gujarat Government has persisted with its double standards evident in the way it has pursued investigations in the Godhra train fire incident and in the post-Godhra massacres. In the former case, the Gujarat administration and police have aggressively persisted with their faulty and mala fide investigations. In sharp contrast, despite numerous and repeated complaints by victim survivors, the police doggedly refused to take any corrective action as regards investigation in the Gulbarg, Sardarpura, Ode, Naroda Gaon and Patiya massacres. All this is now on record before the Supreme Court.

Despite three rigorous years in court, the Modi Government is completely silent on why it did not undertake any further investigation following applications for reinvestigation made by witnesses. It is similarly silent on arresting those actually named as accused. They are, in effect, allowing those accused named to go scot-free without even a minimum investigation.

Babu Bajrangi, accused no 1 in Naroda Patiya roams free on bail and decides whether “ Parzania ”can be screened there or not. Who rules Gujarat? Lawless groups protected by Shri Modi ? Whither the Constitution of India? Whither the rule of law?

Pathetic Rehabilitation

Over 10,00 victims of the mass carnage of 2002 live in pathetic hovels, without sanitation and water in various locales in Gujarat. The nation needs to pay attention to these internally displaced persons and make sure that at these locations proper civic facilities are provided and also that sound and aggressive livelihood schemes are conceived for the refugees. Some of these are:

Ahmedabad (Rehabilitation Camps)

Islamic Relief Committee (IRC)- Houses rehabilitated 2002

1. Allama Ali Takiya 60 houses

2. Khanwadi Mitthan Shahid 156 houses

3. Ekta Nagar Vatwa 108 houses

4. Naroda Pattiya 125 houses

5. Ekta Complex Juhapura 37 houses

6. Javed Park Juhapura 14 houses

7. Millat Colony Gupta Nagar 317 houses

8. Mohalatwad Paldi 22 houses

9. Viramgam 82 houses

10. Mandal 4 houses

11. IRCG colony Asim Park 35 houses

Gujarat Sarvojanik Relief Committee

1. Sidhikabad Juhapura 180 houses

2. Vandvad (Vatwa) 84 houses

3. Satnagar Nr. Ambica Mill Kakarakia 240 houses

4. Parmandant Patel ki chawl 79 houses

5. Arsh Colony (Vatwa) 50 houses

6. Viramgam 112 houses

Gandhinagar District

1. Adalaj 11 houses

2. Nardipur 17 houses

3. Por 12 houses

Mehsana District Taluka Kadi Rehab Camps

1. Satnagar (Taluja Vijapur) 20 houses

1. Nandasan 35 houses

2. Abolgaon 82 houses 49 houses

Vadodara District

1. Halol 50 houses

Kheda District

1. Shewala 14 houses

Panchmahal District

1. Shahra 50 houses

2. Della 60 houses

Sabarkantha District

1. Vadali 61 houses

2. Modasa 68 houses

3. Tajpur Camp (Prantij) 21 houses

4. Chhanapur 15 houses

5. Dolapur (Malpur) 22 houses)

6. Himmatnagar 25houses

Panchmahal District

1. Pandharwada (Khanpur) 100 houses

2. Vanjiakhunt (Santrampur) 5 houses

3. Eral and Malav (Kalol) 34 houses

4. Halol 53 houses

Dahod District

1. Sanjeli (Jhalod) 18 houses

2. Sukhsar (Fatepura) 39 houses

3. Piplod (Devgadhbaria) 3 houses

Anand District

1. Ode 25 houses

Kheda District

1. Gothaj (Kapadvanj) 13 houses

2. Kheda Anand Relief Committee build 34 houses in Anand

3. Anjumanetamiremillat build 20 houses

4. Majlisedavatwatulhouqe build 20 houses

As far as rehabilitation is concerned, the fact is that survivors and eyewitnesses of the Sardarpura massacre cannot return to Shaikh Mohalla in their native village and are still living as refugees at Satnagar in a neighbouring district. Survivors of the Gulbarg massacre cannot return to their middle class housing colony. Survivors of the Ode massacre cannot return to their village. Well over four years after the carnage, only a few victim survivors of Naroda Gaon and Patiya have returned to their locality. Even after Supreme Court orders have been issued, the security provided to witnesses is inadequate and threats continue.

And while the property of those accused in the Godhra massacre has been attached by the authorities, the property of those granted anticipatory bail in the post-Godhra carnages has not been attached.

Intimidation of Witnesses : Police officers continue to intimidate witnesses who are struggling for justice.

No protection to witnesses : Though cluster protection was ordered by the Supreme Court for eye witnesses and other witnesses , the State’s SRP continues to make a mockery of protection. It is as if one section of Gujarat’s citizens are not citizens at all.

Clubbing of FIRs, Subverting of Investigations : Be it Naroda Gaon or Patiya, Gulbarg Society massacre, Sardarpura or Ode, the deliberate designs of the police in clubbing of FIRs (dropping names of accused), courts in granting anticipatory bail and bail, and police in not conducting investigations properly is a sordid reality

The Pandharwada mass graves scandal highlighted the attitude of the State of Gujarat on the question of missing persons bodies. For the State of Gujarat these are not human beings whose lives have been lost but mere remains to be disposed of in a crude manner. Of 428 missing persons, by the State’s own admissions, 213 are still missing. Modi’s Government is not interested in expressing remorse or regret. It is interested in slapping cases on victim survivors and human rights defenders and hounding them.

The entire motive and attitude of the State of Gujarat has been to tell untruths about the Godhra incident, deny the role of the CM downwards in planning and executing the State sponsored genocide and protect the hoodlums responsible for mass rape and killing. The depositions and affidavits of IPS officers Rahul Sharma (today SP in the CBI) and RB Sreekumar, Additional Director General, State of Gujarat are testimony to the designs of the State of Gujarat’s chief functionaries in protecting the guilty and even telling untruths before the court.

Internal Displacement : A detailed report, ‘Gujarat –Five Years Later’ is currently being compiled by Communalism Combat. Our preliminary investigations reveal that on a rough estimate about 61,000 persons continue to be internally displaced within the State. Included among them are key witnesses of the major massacres, who even today cannot go back to their villages or localities simply because they have chosen to fight for justice. Many are both victims of the massacre and key eye-witnesses.

The large majority of the internally displaced were small minority groups scattered across many of Gujarat’s 18,000 villages. They have had to surrender their homes and petty landholdings in return for a life of penury-struck refugees. This is the stark and shameful reality of Gujarat, where even the political Opposition has stopped addressing issues arising out of a State-sponsored pogrom and where the perpetrators continue in seats of power and influence.

Eye-witnesses who are also victims include survivors of the Gulbarg massacre (February 28, 2002) where 68 persons were slaughtered including former MP Ahsan Jaffri and 10-15 girls and women subjected to brutal sexual violence; Naroda Gaon and Patiya (February 28, 2002) where over 120 persons were similarly ravaged while a complicit police and elected representatives watched and led mobs respectively; Sardarpura (March 1-3, 2002) where 33 persons were brutally killed in one incident while 14 were burnt alive in the second); and the Ode killings in Anand district (March 1-3, 2002) in which a total of 27 persons were killed. All of them continue to suffer and sacrifice for their decision to struggle for justice. Many eye-witnesses, like a key witness from Naroda Gaon and his family members, have been penalised three or four times with false criminal cases being slapped against them. The attempt is clearly to intimidate all those who stand for the struggle for justice. Recent reports highlighting attempts to target citizens and human rights defenders who support the struggle only underline the State of affairs in Gujarat today.

If there is one thing that the onerous struggle for justice has shown, it is this: For justice to be finally ensured at least in case of the major incidents of carnage let alone the hundreds of crimes that took place in Gujarat in 2002, the struggle for justice needs strong support from State agencies. But in reality, three years after the horrors in which they lost their near and dear ones, key witnesses of the major incidents of violence cannot even step into their villages or localities simply because they have chosen the path of justice.

Kidiad and Pandharwada Massacres : Kidiad and Pandharwada Massacres: The Kidiad massacre (where 61 persons were burnt alive in two tempos at Limbadiya Chowki in Sabarkantha district), and Pandharwada killings (where over 45 persons were massacred in two separate incidents in a village in Panchmahal district) on March 1 and 2, 2002, saw acquittals with the first six months. CJP has filed an SLP in the Kidiad massacre case which is pending before the Supreme Court.

The Pandharwada mass graves case has emerged as the latest in the long list of scandals related to the Gujarat genocide. One of the major instances of carnage took place in the village of Pandharwada in Panchmahals district where over 70 persons were killed on March 1-2, 2002. For over two years the families of those killed had been hunting for the remains of their lost ones, with no help from the police. On December 27, 2005, in the fourth such search off the ravines of the Paanam river near Lunawada village, in the presence of CJP's field coordinator, Rais Khan, remains of what appears to have been 21 bodies from this massacre were found.

Prompt action by CJP led the Gujarat High Court to pass an order giving the CBI jurisdiction to supervise the DNA sampling of the remains since the survivors had lost all faith in the Gujarat police. A stung Gujarat State retaliated by filing an FIR against both the victims’ kin and CJP members. Anticipatory bail had again to be sought. We continue to battle it out in the Gujarat High Court as we have unearthed records to show that it was not a burial, simply a callous dumping of bodies (unlike what the State makes out). The Gujarat police and administration have to explain why the victims of violence were denied a dignified burial inside the kabrastan (cemetry) in Lunawada. They also need to explain why they turned a deaf ear to repeated pleas by the kin of the deceased to help them locate their ‘missing’ ones.

Radhanpur Case : This matter that involves a sitting MLA of the ruling party, Shankarsingh Choudhary in Radhanpur is also a story of State complicity in protecting the guilty. The matter I subject to a petition for CBI investigation in the Gujarat HC and also an SLP in the Supreme Court.

Vadodara Violence- 2005 : A 38 year old young man, Rafik Abdul Ghani Vohra, set upon by a mob that was led by Ashok Thakur and other well known VHP activists and burnt to death in his car, at Ajwa Road, while he was returning from Gujarat refineries, late night on Tuesday.

The mob (total mob strength was over 1,000) had been gathering at Ajwa Road, unstopped by the police, during curfew, for two hours or so before the attack took place. Despite repeated calls by his family and neighbours to the police control and Commissioner of Police, a callous administration did not respond. Some family members of the dead boy have told the national media and television channels that when they did connect with the police, they were told ‘to go to Pakistan.’

Local social activists have experienced that the response from the Commissioner of Police [CP] Vadodara, Deepak Swaroop, the chief minister’s office and the State home secretary’s office from May 1, 2002 onwards as worse than even 2002. The CP Vadodara simply kept disconnecting his mobile according to agitated residents and social activists who made over 200 calls while the mob was building up. This implies clearly that but for the pressure exercised by the Government at the centre, the Gujarat State, its executive and its administration would not have been compelled to act immediately, without fear or favour.

The trouble began in Vadodara on May 1, with the demolition launched by the Vadodara municipal administration, aided by the police, in violation of the ‘compromise’ formula worked between the administration and minorities that two and a half feet of the shrine were to be ‘sacrificed’ for ‘development.’. The durgah in question is the Durgah Hazrat Rashiuddin, a target of communal forces since 1969. At least 385 years old, it’s existence is recorded in the first city survey carried out by Sayaji Rao Maharaj in 1912.

On the morning of May 1, the police and corporation demolished the shrine and by afternoon in a swift military-like action had even paved a road over it. Ghastly memories of 2002 were invoked when over 270 minority shrines had been devastated and destroyed in just the first 6 days of post-Godhra premeditated violence, including the Wali Dakhani’s mazhar just outside the Commissioner of Police’s office at Shahi Baug in Ahmedabad on March 1, 2002. Ustad Faiz Khan’s tomb in Vadodara also had it’s façade destroyed then. All signs of the remains of Wali Dakhani’s tomb in Ahmedabad had been removed by the wee hours of the next morning, again by politicians aided by the administration -- a tar road was paved over the spot. Four years later, in Vadodara, BJP leaders who are also VHP and Bajrang Dal office bearers, assisted the administration in paving a road over the destroyed shrine. No distinction points if citizens discern a continuing pattern.

Durgahs, on the mazhars [graves] of Sufi saints are visited across the subcontinent by worshippers belong to different communities and the mujawar (caretaker) are often Hindu, the colourful and different forms of worship being a natural way that men and women of different communities worship, intermingle, live. Durgahs, are and have been for decades a threat to the narrow sectarian worldview of Hindu communalists (In this, the fast growing Muslim communal worldview also dislikes durgahs because they affect the ‘purity’ of Islam’!).

Police Fires to Kill –Kabrastan related violence : In June and August 2006 in separate incidents, the State’s desire in Gujarat to inflame minority sentiments by trying to capture graveyard lands burst into violence as citizens resisted. Tragically however 3 persons were killed in Radhanpur. The CJP wrote memoranda to the NHRC and other authorities that is annexed hereto as Annexure 2.

Curtailing the Shah Nanavati Commission : Though the proceedings of the Nanavati Shah Commission continue, it’s functioning has been seriously curtailed because of non cooperation from the Gujarat Government. Except for a few senior officers who have both filed affidavits and deposed before the commission, the present chief secretary is recorded to have ‘advised’ top policemen and administrators ‘not’ to depose and thereby in fact violate section 6 of the Commission of Inquiry act and section 186 of the IPC that enjoins on every public servant to perform his public duty. A unique example of a State Government subverting a quasi judicial effort, appointed in the public interest, to get to the root of the carnage of 2002.

The State of affairs in Gujarat five years down, given the same dispensation in power-- as this tracking of the justice process shows—is a far cry from constitutional governance. For victim survivors, rights groups and minority groups the struggle against the shameful breakdown of Constitutional machinery in Gujarat has been contained to a rigorous and hotly contested legal battle.


Over 220 persons are officially, by Gujarat State Government records recognized as missing after the 2002 carnage in which 2,500 persons belonging to one community were massacred. Rights groups place the figure of missing persons closer to 500.

The attitude of the Gujarat State headed by chief minister Narendra Modi who was re-elected by 51 per cent of the Gujarati electorate in December 2002, nine months after masterminding the pogrom, has been understood and absorbed nationwide. What escapes public attention is the realization that even four years later there is absolutely no remorse or regret for what had been orchestrated in February/March-May 2002. If Modi is relatively silent today, it is only because of the legal battles in which his State is embroiled despite his best efforts.

At the ground level his brigands carry on unashamed. At Desar village of Vadodara district on April 10, 2005, as hundreds of villagers watched in the presence of BJP MP Jayaben Thakkar, local MLA Upendrasinh Gohil and VHP leaders, two Swaminarayan sadhus unveiled the bust of Vakhatsinh Ramansinh Parmar. The inscription on the marble plaque under the bust read: "This memorial is to honour Ram Sevak Vakhatsinh Ramansinh Parmar who laid down his life in the attacks in retaliation to the killing of 58 karsevaks on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra on February 27, 2002. Parmar was killed in police firing on March 1, 2002, third Friday, Vikram Samvat, 2058". Parmar was, according to police records, part of a mob that torched Muslim properties and attacked the police when the police was trying to save properties from being torched. He was named as an accused in the case. This is the first time that a riot accused has been publicly felicitated in Gujarat albeit posthumously. The function was organized by the VHP. The local MLA and MP did not find anything wrong in erecting a memorial for a mob leader in a village where Muslims form 30 per cent of the population. "This is a fitting tribute to the youth for his sacrifices for the cause of Hindutva," Thakkar told The Deccan Herald. Asked about the incident, minister of State for Home Amit Shah said: "One is always innocent till he is convicted."

An apt illustration of the perversion of values within the political class in Gujarat.

Political campaign

If justice is to prevail, a necessary condition for this must be created through the dismissal of the Modi Government under Article 356 of the Constitution, say constitutional experts like Shanti Bhushan.

There is legitimate apprehension among many about the use of Article 356, lest it set a precedent for the Centre to get rid of Governments in Opposition-ruled States. But the Gujarat case is an exceptional one in so much as the State Government has been seriously implicated by the NHRC and even the Supreme Court, in what are perhaps the most inhuman, horrendous and unconstitutional acts in the history of post-Independence India. In the past few months, courageous Statements by serving police officers have echoed the outrage earlier expressed by these apex institutions and hundreds of groups and individuals. Statements by serving policemen that have been made public clearly show that orders were issued by none less than the present chief minister Narendra Modi that minorities who resist or protest be exterminated. Put together, the imposition of Article 356 in Gujarat is warranted not only on grounds of humanity and constitutional propriety, but also for the maintenance of the country’s unity, integrity and secular fabric.

Citizens for Justice and Peace and Communalism Combat,Mumbai

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


By Fr Cedric Prakash sj

Parzania is an ordinary story told in an extraordinary way.....

It is the story of Parzan, a ten year old who constantly escapes into his dream world filled with mountains of ice-cream and plenty of cricket; a world in which every one is happy and smiling and loving each other....Where all are at peace....Where hate and pain do not exist. To this dream world, he constantly transports himself and his eight year old sister Dilshad. It is in Parzania that the joy, beauty and innocence of childhood blossoms into feelings that touch ones heart. It is in Parzania that Parzan and Dilshad would always want to live and remain......until one day that world comes crashing down.

Parzania is a story about the Gujarat Carnage of 2002. Literally nothing unreal, utopian or make-belief. As one sees fanatical Hindutvadis roaming the streets and baying for blood. No-one is spared. Not even the women and children. The merciless butchering of innocent people very systematically orchestrated by the very powers (the Government and the Police) that are meant to protect lives and safeguard property.

Parzania is no fairytale but the sad story of a tragedy that destroyed not just one family but in fact the lives of thousands of people.

The essence of this story centers around a Parsi family living in Ahmedabad. Cyrus

(Naseeruddin Shah) is a film projectionist in a local theatre. He is married to Shernaz (Sarika). With their two little children Parzan (Parzan Dastur) and Dilshad (Pearl Barsiwala), they constitute a typical happy middle-class family: warm, sheltering, religious minded yet able to transcend the narrow confines of religion and bigotedness. Their friends are both Muslims and Hindus. Their problems are not about religion but about the simple, ordinary things of daily life. Friendship and bonding take place in the most natural way; in the gossipy confines of one’s kitchen or over a bottle of liquor clandestinely bought !

Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec) is a young American Scholar busy trying to research on Gandhi and on Indian Philosophy. Disillusionment seems to take its toll on the young scholar as he fritters away his time aimlessly; but his world is rudely shaken as he witnesses a women being burnt alive on the hood of his car by a fanatical mob. For him, the only escape is his typewriter as he hammers out page after page, telling the world of what is taking place in Gujarat. His role is of the typical commentator, a Social Activist, who just knows that what is happening is wrong and has to take a stand about it.

Parzania weaves into the lives of people, some building bridges, others destroying them. Some trying to build fortifications, others trying to surmount them.

When I saw Parzania at a special screening in Delhi on December 18th 2006, I was literally transported to the days of the violence that ruled Gujarat for so many weeks and months. It was no longer a film but a reliving of events that literally destroyed the foundation of all our beliefs and of our faith in humanity. The cries of help were not the cries of five years ago but the cries of hundreds and thousands of people who still live a marginalized life on the fringes of society without access to what they rightly deserve, as citizens of a secular and democratic country. It is the cry of thousands of people who still long for justice from a society which arrogates on itself the adjective “Vibrant”.

After seeing the film, I spent a long evening with Rahul Dholakia, the brilliant Film-maker who has directed Parzania. My first question to him was “What prompted you to make such a film?”. His answer was clear. The family concerned (the Modys – Dara, Rupa, Azhar and Binaifer), were his personal friends. When Azhar disappeared in the wake of the Gujarat Carnage from the Gulbarg Society, and when he had realized the tremendous hate and violence that was rampant all over, his conscience did not permit him to keep silent. He wanted to do something; to find where Azhar was and to tell the story of the Gujarat Carnage so that the terrible tragedy which has visited the Mody family and several others, would not visit anyone, anytime, anywhere. To make the film, Rahul Dholakia needed plenty of courage, very specially in facing the hostility of several, even from within his own family and circle of friends. However, after careful research and roping in some of the best in the field, Dholakia has been able to give the world a masterpiece which will surely be acclaimed by many while raising the hackles of some.

But those who object to the film MUST first listen to Rupa Mody.....the cries of a mother who lost her only son, in the Gujarat Carnage. She still does not know whether he is dead or alive. All that she can do, in pain, to wait in hope, really hoping that one day her Azhar will come back to her, to that very world which the lost boy Parzan creates in Parzania. Having known Rupa Mody in a personal way, one cannot but take a stand on the side of a mother who is still knocking at every possible door for her son’s return.

Parzania may never make it to the “Oscars”...that is not important....it is a story of our reality: you and me. There are the fantasies, the world we would like to live in. There are the pains where are hopes are belied and our dreams are shattered. There is the brute reminder that like Parzan, hundreds and thousands are literally shut off into oblivion, thanks to the hate, callousness and violence that exist in our society.

Parzania is about taking a stand. Taking a stand for truth and justice. It is about exposing those who were responsible for killing innocent people. It is above all, taking a stand so that the Gujarat Carnage is never ever repeated.

Parzania is a MUST SEE for all who intend doing something about what is happening to the secular and democratic fabric of our country. It is a MUST SEE so that we can change, so that Parzania is no longer the fantasy of a little boy, but a reality which is built on justice, compassion and peace....!

This film will be released in several theatres across the country on January 26th 2007. Don’t miss Parzania !


Raja Sen | December 16, 2005 18:06 IST (Rediff)

Filmmaking is about telling a story, but every now and then, the story is so strong that the telling isn't as important anymore.

Rahul Dholakia's Parzania is a wake-up call, a powerful eye-opener to the world so close to us, a pointer to the bloodlust lurking beneath the semblance of calm.

It is, quite simply, a film that should be seen.

Don't miss: Rediff pick: Parzania

Based on a true story, Parzania revolves around a Parsi family in Ahmedabad. Cyrus (Naseeruddin Shah) is the local film projectionist married to Shernaz (Sarika). Their kids, Parzan, 10, (Parzan Dastur) and Dilshad, 8, (Pearl Barsiwala) are an imaginative pair, and, as they cavort around the breakfast table, they are a credibly happy household.

Allan Webbings (Corin Nemec) is a disillusioned American, comfortably late with his dissertation and not giving a damn about most things. His tragic back-story is skillfully told, as he casually narrates it over glasses of cheap alcohol to Cyrus while he hangs his hand-washed laundry out to dry. Fascinated by an neighbour's Gandhian preachings (an old bald man with glasses, mind you), Allan is more than content drinking hooch and reading philosophy without necessarily having to believe in it.

And then there is an explosion. Heard only on the radio, it sounds very far away, but the repercussions are felt. Hard.

Godhra leads to bloodthirsty mobs rampaging indiscriminately for unreasonable revenge, the fanatical fire fuelled by a selfish government.

The tale is a painfully simple one. The Parsi family is caught in the midst of the religious madness, and suffers. Shernaz manages to heroically flee with Dilshad, but Parzan is nowhere to be found. Cyrus and the family are relatively unharmed, and Allan offers them room in his own ransacked house.

The American has witnessed a woman being burnt alive on the hood of his car even as he is trying frantically to back away from the scene, and the events in Gujarat open his eyes wider than he had ever expected.

The family waits for Parzan. For any news, because the uncertainty is heartbreaking. But there is no respite. Every lead is a false alarm, every day is an unending trial of their patience, of their resilience. The film is titled Parzania because that's what the jaunty Parzan had christened his world, his imaginary utopia with mountains of ice creams and nothing but cricket -- a world where everyone is happy.

But that is not the real world. The real world is what Allan is hammering out on his typewriter, through a diatribe fuelled by alcohol and loathing, disgust and defiance. The American, more profane than profound, describes the Gujarat riots with angry text, going far enough to make censor-pushing statements like: 'The Parishad is this country's equivalent of the KKK [Ku Klux Klan]'.

Which is why it is hard to believe Parzania will get a wide theatrical release, and which is what justifies the film being in English. While it is obviously unreal to see pillaging hordes saying 'Get off!' instead of something in the vernacular, this is a film that never expected to make it to Indian theatres, and the English is well suited to the narrative.

The fact that Allan is making the politically charged statements that Parzania believes in is a directorial masterstroke, because any Indian character in his place would face inevitable allegations of bias. Also, his expletive-laced speech helps in getting the point across.

The performances in the film are superlative. Sarika is amazing in the role of a lifetime, playing a mother pushed to the extreme. She is believable even when leaping balconies in self-preservation, and her soliloquy at the end is the clincher for the entire film.

Her warm chemistry with Naseer (who too, predictably, turns in a class performance) at the start of the film is great, as is her support to him when he is breaking down at the end.

The children (we've seen Parzan in commercials a million times, but Pearl is a fresh face) are real finds, as is Sheeba Chaddha, who plays Nikhat, a neighbour, with restrained magnificence. Corin Nemec, with a face like Heath Ledger, does quite well.

What Parzania has to be really applauded for is the fact that it strongly believes in itself, and is extremely direct in condemning the State-sponsored violence in Gujarat. The message is simple, angry, and sincere – and deserves to be heard.

As a film, there might be moments you don't agree with the way the film is made, or technically locate flaws in the director's approach, but Parzania wisely holds on tight to the reins of the story, and that automatically makes it a noble effort.

The film ends with a photograph of Azhar, a real boy still missing since the Gujarat riots, in the hope that the film may help his parents, the director's friends, get some news of him.

Parzania is a commendable film, one that needs to be talked about, discussed, recommended and watched.

It is also a film very hard to leave behind.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


1 JANUARY 2007


1. At the beginning of the new year, I wish to extend prayerful good wishes for peace to Governments, leaders of nations and all men and women of good will. In a special way, I invoke peace upon all those experiencing pain and suffering, those living under the threat of violence and armed aggression, and those who await their human and social emancipation, having had their dignity trampled upon. I invoke peace upon children, who by their innocence enrich humanity with goodness and hope, and by their sufferings compel us all to work for justice and peace. Out of concern for children, especially those whose future is compromised by exploitation and the malice of unscrupulous adults, I wish on this World Day of Peace to encourage everyone to reflect on the theme: The Human Person, the Heart of Peace. I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is prepared for coming generations.

The human person and peace: gift and task

2. Sacred Scripture affirms that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others. At the same time, each person is called, by grace, to a covenant with the Creator, called to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his place(1). From this supernatural perspective, one can understand the task entrusted to human beings to mature in the ability to love and to contribute to the progress of the world, renewing it in justice and in peace. In a striking synthesis, Saint Augustine teaches that “God created us without our aid; but he did not choose to save us without our aid(2).” Consequently all human beings have the duty to cultivate an awareness of this twofold aspect of gift and task.

3. Likewise, peace is both gift and task. If it is true that peace between individuals and peoples—the ability to live together and to build relationships of justice and solidarity—calls for unfailing commitment on our part, it is also true, and indeed more so, that peace is a gift from God. Peace is an aspect of God's activity, made manifest both in the creation of an orderly and harmonious universe and also in the redemption of humanity that needs to be rescued from the disorder of sin. Creation and Redemption thus provide a key that helps us begin to understand the meaning of our life on earth. My venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on 5 October 1995, stated that “we do not live in an irrational or meaningless world... there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples(3) .” The transcendent “grammar”, that is to say the body of rules for individual action and the reciprocal relationships of persons in accordance with justice and solidarity, is inscribed on human consciences, in which the wise plan of God is reflected. As I recently had occasion to reaffirm: “we believe that at the beginning of everything is the Eternal Word, Reason and not Unreason(4).” Peace is thus also a task demanding of everyone a personal response consistent with God's plan. The criterion inspiring this response can only be respect for the “grammar” written on human hearts by the divine Creator.

From this standpoint, the norms of the natural law should not be viewed as externally imposed decrees, as restraints upon human freedom. Rather, they should be welcomed as a call to carry out faithfully the universal divine plan inscribed in the nature of human beings. Guided by these norms, all peoples —within their respective cultures—can draw near to the greatest mystery, which is the mystery of God. Today too, recognition and respect for natural law represents the foundation for a dialogue between the followers of the different religions and between believers and non-believers. As a great point of convergence, this is also a fundamental presupposition for authentic peace.

The right to life and to religious freedom

4. The duty to respect the dignity of each human being, in whose nature the image of the Creator is reflected, means in consequence that the person can not be disposed of at will. Those with greater political, technical, or economic power may not use that power to violate the rights of others who are less fortunate. Peace is based on respect for the rights of all. Conscious of this, the Church champions the fundamental rights of each person. In particular she promotes and defends respect for the life and the religious freedom of everyone. Respect for the right to life at every stage firmly establishes a principle of decisive importance: life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of the subject. Similarly, the affirmation of the right to religious freedom places the human being in a relationship with a transcendent principle which withdraws him from human caprice. The right to life and to the free expression of personal faith in God is not subject to the power of man. Peace requires the establishment of a clear boundary between what is at man's disposal and what is not: in this way unacceptable intrusions into the patrimony of specifically human values will be avoided.

5. As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia. How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace. As far as the free expression of personal faith is concerned, another disturbing symptom of lack of peace in the world is represented by the difficulties that both Christians and the followers of other religions frequently encounter in publicly and freely professing their religious convictions. Speaking of Christians in particular, I must point out with pain that not only are they at times prevented from doing so; in some States they are actually persecuted, and even recently tragic cases of ferocious violence have been recorded. There are regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone, while secular regimes often lead not so much to violent persecution as to systematic cultural denigration of religious beliefs. In both instances, a fundamental human right is not being respected, with serious repercussions for peaceful coexistence. This can only promote a mentality and culture that is not conducive to peace.

The natural equality of all persons

6. At the origin of many tensions that threaten peace are surely the many unjust inequalities still tragically present in our world. Particularly insidious among these are, on the one hand, inequality in access to essential goods like food, water, shelter, health; on the other hand, there are persistent inequalities between men and women in the exercise of basic human rights.

A fundamental element of building peace is the recognition of the essential equality of human persons springing from their common transcendental dignity. Equality on this level is a good belonging to all, inscribed in that natural “grammar” which is deducible from the divine plan of creation; it is a good that cannot be ignored or scorned without causing serious repercussions which put peace at risk. The extremely grave deprivation afflicting many peoples, especially in Africa, lies at the root of violent reactions and thus inflicts a terrible wound on peace.

7. Similarly, inadequate consideration for the condition of women helps to create instability in the fabric of society. I think of the exploitation of women who are treated as objects, and of the many ways that a lack of respect is shown for their dignity; I also think —in a different context—of the mindset persisting in some cultures, where women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms. There can be no illusion of a secure peace until these forms of discrimination are also overcome, since they injure the personal dignity impressed by the Creator upon every human being(5).

The “ecology of peace”

8. In his Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul II wrote: “Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed(6).” By responding to this charge, entrusted to them by the Creator, men and women can join in bringing about a world of peace. Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a “human” ecology, which in turn demands a “social” ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology. Experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence, and vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God. The poem-prayer of Saint Francis, known as “the Canticle of Brother Sun”, is a wonderful and ever timely example of this multifaceted ecology of peace.

9. The close connection between these two ecologies can be understood from the increasingly serious problem of energy supplies. In recent years, new nations have entered enthusiastically into industrial production, thereby increasing their energy needs. This has led to an unprecedented race for available resources. Meanwhile, some parts of the planet remain backward and development is effectively blocked, partly because of the rise in energy prices. What will happen to those peoples? What kind of development or non-development will be imposed on them by the scarcity of energy supplies? What injustices and conflicts will be provoked by the race for energy sources? And what will be the reaction of those who are excluded from this race? These are questions that show how respect for nature is closely linked to the need to establish, between individuals and between nations, relationships that are attentive to the dignity of the person and capable of satisfying his or her authentic needs. The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development. Indeed, if development were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities.

Reductive visions of man

10. Thus there is an urgent need, even within the framework of current international difficulties and tensions, for a commitment to a human ecology that can favour the growth of the “tree of peace”. For this to happen, we must be guided by a vision of the person untainted by ideological and cultural prejudices or by political and economic interests which can instil hatred and violence. It is understandable that visions of man will vary from culture to culture. Yet what cannot be admitted is the cultivation of anthropological conceptions that contain the seeds of hostility and violence. Equally unacceptable are conceptions of God that would encourage intolerance and recourse to violence against others. This is a point which must be clearly reaffirmed: war in God's name is never acceptable! When a certain notion of God is at the origin of criminal acts, it is a sign that that notion has already become an ideology.

11. Today, however, peace is not only threatened by the conflict between reductive visions of man, in other words, between ideologies. It is also threatened by indifference as to what constitutes man's true nature. Many of our contemporaries actually deny the existence of a specific human nature and thus open the door to the most extravagant interpretations of what essentially constitutes a human being. Here too clarity is necessary: a “weak” vision of the person, which would leave room for every conception, even the most bizarre, only apparently favours peace. In reality, it hinders authentic dialogue and opens the way to authoritarian impositions, ultimately leaving the person defenceless and, as a result, easy prey to oppression and violence.

Human rights and international organizations

12. A true and stable peace presupposes respect for human rights. Yet if these rights are grounded on a weak conception of the person, how can they fail to be themselves weakened? Here we can see how profoundly insufficient is a relativistic conception of the person when it comes to justifying and defending his rights. The difficulty in this case is clear: rights are proposed as absolute, yet the foundation on which they are supposed to rest is merely relative. Can we wonder that, faced with the “inconvenient” demands posed by one right or another, someone will come along to question it or determine that it should be set aside? Only if they are grounded in the objective requirements of the nature bestowed on man by the Creator, can the rights attributed to him be affirmed without fear of contradiction. It goes without saying, moreover, that human rights imply corresponding duties. In this regard, Mahatma Gandhi said wisely: “The Ganges of rights flows from the Himalaya of duties.” Clarity over these basic presuppositions is needed if human rights, nowadays constantly under attack, are to be adequately defended. Without such clarity, the expression “human rights” will end up being predicated of quite different subjects: in some cases, the human person marked by permanent dignity and rights that are valid always, everywhere and for everyone, in other cases a person with changing dignity and constantly negotiable rights, with regard to content, time and place.

13. The protection of human rights is constantly referred to by international bodies and, in particular, the United Nations Organization, which set itself the fundamental task of promoting the human rights indicated in the 1948 Universal Declaration. That Declaration is regarded as a sort of moral commitment assumed by all mankind. There is a profound truth to this, especially if the rights described in the Declaration are held to be based not simply on the decisions of the assembly that approved them, but on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God. Consequently it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights. Were that to happen, the international bodies would end up lacking the necessary authority to carry out their role as defenders of the fundamental rights of the person and of peoples, the chief justification for their very existence and activity.

International humanitarian law and the internal law of States

14. The recognition that there exist inalienable human rights connected to our common human nature has led to the establishment of a body of international humanitarian law which States are committed to respect, even in the case of war. Unfortunately, to say nothing of past cases, this has not been consistently implemented in certain recent situations of war. Such, for example, was the case in the conflict that occurred a few months ago in southern Lebanon, where the duty “to protect and help innocent victims” and to avoid involving the civilian population was largely ignored. The heart-rending situation in Lebanon and the new shape of conflicts, especially since the terrorist threat unleashed completely new forms of violence, demand that the international community reaffirm international humanitarian law, and apply it to all present-day situations of armed conflict, including those not currently provided for by international law. Moreover, the scourge of terrorism demands a profound reflection on the ethical limits restricting the use of modern methods of guaranteeing internal security. Increasingly, wars are not declared, especially when they are initiated by terrorist groups determined to attain their ends by any means available. In the face of the disturbing events of recent years, States cannot fail to recognize the need to establish clearer rules to counter effectively the dramatic decline that we are witnessing. War always represents a failure for the international community and a grave loss for humanity. When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity and the basic values of all civil coexistence must be safeguarded; norms of conduct must be established that limit the damage as far as possible and help to alleviate the suffering of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts(7).

15. Another disturbing issue is the desire recently shown by some States to acquire nuclear weapons. This has heightened even more the widespread climate of uncertainty and fear of a possible atomic catastrophe. We are brought back in time to the profound anxieties of the “cold war” period. When it came to an end, there was hope that the atomic peril had been definitively overcome and that mankind could finally breathe a lasting sigh of relief. How timely, in this regard, is the warning of the Second Vatican Council that “every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation(8).” Unfortunately, threatening clouds continue to gather on humanity's horizon. The way to ensure a future of peace for everyone is found not only in international accords for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also in the determined commitment to seek their reduction and definitive dismantling. May every attempt be made to arrive through negotiation at the attainment of these objectives! The fate of the whole human family is at stake!

The Church as safeguard of the transcendence of the human person

16. Finally, I wish to make an urgent appeal to the People of God: let every Christian be committed to tireless peace-making and strenuous defence of the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights.

With gratitude to the Lord for having called him to belong to his Church, which is “the sign and safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person”(9) in the world, the Christian will tirelessly implore from God the fundamental good of peace, which is of such primary importance in the life of each person. Moreover, he will be proud to serve the cause of peace with generous devotion, offering help to his brothers and sisters, especially those who, in addition to suffering poverty and need, are also deprived of this precious good. Jesus has revealed to us that “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8) and that the highest vocation of every person is love. In Christ we can find the ultimate reason for becoming staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace.

17. Let every believer, then, unfailingly contribute to the advancement of a true integral humanism in accordance with the teachings of the Encyclical Letters Populorum Progressio and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, whose respective fortieth and twentieth anniversaries we prepare to celebrate this year. To the Queen of Peace, the Mother of Jesus Christ “our peace” (Eph 2:14), I entrust my urgent prayer for all humanity at the beginning of the year 2007, to which we look with hearts full of hope, notwithstanding the dangers and difficulties that surround us. May Mary show us, in her Son, the Way of peace, and enlighten our vision, so that we can recognize Christ's face in the face of every human person, the heart of peace!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2006.