– by Subhash Gatade
Hotelier Mustafa Patel from Gujarat- owner of Jyoti Hotel – is a very sad these days. His famous hotel– which used to lie on Viramgam highway, merely ninety minute drive from Ahmedabad, is now closed. Anyone who has travelled on that road would vouch about its quality preparations, all the employees who worked with him are in search of another job.
Undoubtedly, for Mr. Mustafa it was a very painful decision to close it, but there was no other option. It is being alleged that he was receiving threats from anti-social elements – many of whom had covert links with the ruling dispensation in the state- and despite court orders police refused to provide him protection. The only option for him was to get ready to face bullets or concede to their demand. He preferred the latter option, perhaps with a view that it will at least help save few innocent’s blood. His petition to the National Commission on Minorities makes it clear how the issue unfolded and how the police reacted to the developments.
Mustafa Patel’s case is not an exception. It includes several others who were similarly forced to go out of business within last one month. It includes Kasim Ahmed (scrap dealer), Ahmed Airf (minerals), Farooq Bhai (power production unit), Yakub Mohammad (mineral production), Saifudin Ali (power production), Ahmed Khoka (power), Shabir Bhai (mineral production), Majid Khan (power) and Harun Abdul Malajher (mines).
One learns that recently the NCM wrote to the Gujarat government where business people/traders belonging to the minority community are intimidated/coerced to close their business. And the response by the state government was on expected lines. A senior minister in Ms. Anandiben Patel’s cabinet completely refuted the allegations and charged the complainants themselves.
In fact, it is not for the first time that the Commission had received complaints from traders belonging to minority community in Gujarat. Earlier it had received complaints from nine traders of Chota Udepur, Gujarat, wherein the complainants had provided details about the unholy nexus between communal elements at the grass-root level and the administration. A classic case was of Irfan Abdul Ghani who owned and managed luxury transport business in the area. His competitor – who also happened to be a Sarpanch of the village Baroj – Jayanti Rathwa, supposedly engineered a riot in the area to take away his business and was nearly successful. One also witnessed a communal clash in the region after a minor altercation between Adivasis and Muslims, minority industries were attacked in a concerted manner, police went there, FIRs were filed but nobody has been arrested till date.
One can say that any close watcher of the unfolding situation in Gujarat could have had a ‘premonition’ that ‘something of this nature’ would happen when the state government promised to look favourably towards the demands raised by Jain monks regarding Palitana. Palitana, near Bhavnagar, is considered a sacred place by the Jains, witnessed an agitation by them in July. The monks launched a hunger strike – threatening to fast unto death – demanding that non-vegetarian food – in which they include eggs as well – should not be permitted for sale or storage anywhere in Palitana. They also called for a ban on the ritual slaughter of animals and closing of an estimated 260 butchers’ shops.
Commenting on this issue Abdul Hafiz Lakhani reports how “Muslims are not allowed to do meat business and egg business in Palitana about 100 KM. from Bhavnagar” when “western diplomats and investors are making a beeline to seek favours from Gujarat, ”
It is difficult to say what will happen next?
Whether Mustafa Patel would be able to reopen his hotel? Whether the people in power would look into the complaints by traders and would direct police officials to nab the culprits?
It was only last month that Mr. Modi, talked of 10 year moratorium on communal and caste violence in his independence speech from Red Fort. Even if one limits oneself to Gujarat – his home state – one can gather the great hiatus between what he says and what the foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade are doing on the ground. There are reports that Gujarat has of late witnessed many communal flareups with the change of power at the centre.
Subhash Gatade is the author of Pahad Se Uncha Aadmi (2010), Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India,(2011) and The Saffron Condition: The Politics of Repression and Exclusion in Neoliberal India (2011). He is also the Convener of New Socialist Initiative.