When hate makes neighbours turn on neighbours 

The Anatomy of Hate is about three Hindu men, who actively participated in the sectarian riots of Gujarat in 2002

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Saurav Datta

It took independent journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul 10 years to persuade three of the scores of perpetrators of the Gujarat genocide in 2002 to speak to her and explain what prompted them to take part in arson, loot and murder.

“If I do not reach out to the other side- the perpetrators, but “other” them as they ‘otherised’ the Muslims, then how am I a liberal,” exclaimed Laul at the book’s launch in Delhi. Her aim in writing the book, she explained, was to explore the ‘personal’ history of the perpetrators and try and understand how the ‘personal’ influences a person’s political journey and action.

The Anatomy of Hate tells the story of the life and thinking of three of the perpetrators, Suresh, Dungad and Pranav (names changed), and explores their childhood and formative years and what prompted them to do what they did.

Suresh had ripped open the belly of a woman with a sword and burnt her to death. He also raped women and killed children. Dungad, a VHP foot-soldier, took part in arson and looted the shops and houses of Muslims in his village. Pranav, a university student, also joined a mob in ransacking shops owned by Muslims.

Sixteen years later, Suresh lives with the trauma. His Muslim wife Farzana has left him for good. Dungad has emerged as an influential leader in the locality and takes active part in elections. And Pranav works for an NGO, which works to rehabilitate Muslims affected by the riots.

Author and Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor said he found the book’s perspective unusual and lauded the book for showing perpetrators not just as instruments of the Hindu Right

At the discussion that followed the book launch, Farah Naqvi admitted that she was initially wary of reading the book but once she got down to it, she found an entire, new world opening up. How and why do neighbours turn on each other? The sheer ordinariness of violence and hate shook her.

Present on the occasion was Farzana, the estranged wife of Suresh. She had eloped when she was still a minor. She left him after she realised that he had married her in the first place as an act of revenge for his sister eloping with a Muslim earlier. It became impossible to live and love a man who had committed barbaric acts but also because he incessantly insulted her because of the faith she was born in.

Author and Parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor said he found the book’s perspective unusual and lauded the book for showing perpetrators not just as instruments of the Hindu Right.

Recounting his days at the United Nations, Tharoor recalled a Muslim man in Sarajevo (a part of former Yugoslavia which witnessed a genocide) telling him how his dearest neighbour had sexually assaulted his wife and daughter. He also spoke about Rwanda where a particular radio station was complicit by disseminating vicious propaganda. Hate gives many a sense of purpose, and this is what the Sangh Parivar feeds on, Tharoor quipped.

The author failed to get any organisational funding for her project when she, as NDTV correspondent for Gujarat in 2003, ran into Suresh and wanted to delve further into the subject, she recalled.

Laul repeated what she said in an interview to HuffPost India:

“We all live in the company of stories that validate us. But there are no stories that describe the guilt and fear of having been part of a crime. So where does the middle-class that isn’t proud of what they’ve done go? To the politics that says it’s okay to forget, it’s okay to pretend everything is fine. And we aren’t allowing for any other conversations either.”

This article first appeared in the National Herald on Sunday.

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Published: 1 Jan 2019, 5:24 PM