Many of us may recall the terrified face of Qutubuddin Ansari. It was one of the most widely circulated pictures in the days that followed the Gujarat riots of 2002. It showed terror, helplessness, and the obstinate persistence of the survival instinct. Ansari left Gujarat and settled down in West Bengal after the riots.
If Ansari was one of the preys, Ashok Mochi was one of the predators. The picture of the Bajrang Dal activist was as popular as Ansari’s in those days. This picture showed the other face of the riots: the diabolic dimension of fanaticism.
Two days back both Ansari and Mochi shared the same platform in Kerala. The occasion was a seminar on genocide organised in Kannur by certain cultural organisations associated with CPI(M).
|Ashok Mochi, 2002|
Ashok Mochi told the audience that he never voted after the nefarious role he played in the Gujarat riots. He realised the severity of his crimes and repented what he did. He continued to live as a poor man in the same street of Gujarat in spite of the much vaunted development brought to the state by Mr Narendra Modi.
Ansari thanked the people of Kerala for bringing together two persons who would not be allowed to be together in their own home state. He said that Ashok Mochi was also a victim of the riot in the sense that his poverty was exploited by the political manipulators of the riot.
History, memory and religion – these can be mobilised in whichever way a leader wishes. They can be manipulated for nefarious purposes as is done in communal riots. They can also be mobilised for forging better relationships among communities. It all depends on what the leader wants to achieve.
|Mochi & Ansari, 2014|