By TEESTA SETALVAD
SHOCK, PAIN and grief were visible on the faces of survivors and family members, be it at the VS Hospital, the Civil Hospital or the LG Hospital in Ahmedabad. The bewilderment at the mindless acts of terror, especially the two bomb blasts at the hospitals that targeted the injured and the doctors, was palpable. Exhaustion of the determined band of doctors, paramedics and nurses attending to the injured in the blasts that claimed over 50 lives, was visible. Yet they greeted each visitor with patience, detailing aspects of the terror and their response.
Five days after 18 bomb blasts tore Ahmedabad's fragile social fabric, a tenuous peace reigns over the city. There has been some hardening of hearts but no overt expressions of hatred, yet, on the streets. Violence leading to grief and loss, especially of the kind witnessed by Ahmedabad last Saturday, can often lead to mindless acts of revenge against imagined perpetrators who simply bear the identity badge of a community. Such feelings were stoked to perfection in Gujarat in 2002. Thankfully, they were starkly missing after bomb terror hit the commercial hub of Gujarat last week.
As the nation rallied around to praise the resilience of Gujaratis, we saw, for the first time, that serious efforts were made by the political class (the whacky press conference by Sushma Swaraj apart) not to politicise the issue of bomb terrorism, avoid the usual blame-game and mend the cheap divides.
Ironically, it was the master of political manipulation, Chief Minister Narendra Modi — a man who had never failed to attack the Opposition on cleverly constructed slogans like "Mia Musharraf" and "Sohrabuddin, the terrorist''— who emerged as the beneficiary of a decent national response.
Since the devastating riots of 2002, all of us who hail from the soil of Gujarat have pointed at its forbearing past, towards the poetry of Narmada and the welcoming soil that gave Wali Dakhani a home and final resting place. Just a year before the riots of 2002, Gujarat saw similar moments of glory in the aftermath of the Kutch earthquakes which claimed many lives. All Gujaratis — cutting across communities — chipped in bravely to rebuild homes and hearts. In fact, a victim of 2002 riots, unable to fathom the reason behind the pogrom, told Justices Krishna Iyer and Sawant that the violence was aimed at destroying the harmony and bonhomie between the Hindus and the Muslims.
The land of Gandhi that has abandoned his values needs to rebuild itself on acknowledgement, justice, remorse and forgiveness. Gandhiji was also a victim of a terrorist's bullets. The birthplace of an icon of forbearance and non-violence stands scarred by deep schisms. Gandhiji was killed because he spoke the language of peace and toleration.
The fragile peace prevalent even after the bomb blasts, hopefully, will help Gujarat and Gujaratis see the inherent values of a lasting and comfortable peace.