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On forgetting and development

by Dilip D'souza 

Now that the tamasha of the elections in Gujarat is over, here’s a thought I’ve had all through the campaign there.

It’s meaningless to talk of “development” as somehow separate from what happened in Gujarat in 2002. Let me say that again: meaningless.

This is addressed to those who praise Gujarat’s “development” in the last five years, yes. But it is also addressed to those who say something like: “Yes, 2002 was horrible. But Gujarat has made such great strides in development since then, so let’s vote for the party that has been in power.” I realize many people voted for this reason, or perhaps for other reasons that were camouflaged as this one. I realize that they will scoff at what they read in this space. I realize that such men as Varun Gandhi offered voters this thought while campaigning for the BJP in Gujarat: “killing of hundreds of people in post-Godhra riots was condemnable, but [please] forget the past and concentrate on development.

Yet it has to be said. Development founded on “forgetting” great crimes, were that even possible, is no development. Development without justice is no development. Every society that has tried to walk that road has learned that lesson by crumbling away. The USSR and South Africa under apartheid are just two examples.

Fundamentally, “development” means making lives better. You don’t make lives better by sweeping great crimes under the carpet, or by pretending they never happened, or by forgetting. Instead, you make lives better by addressing everything that eats away at them.

If unemployment, dirt, inconveniences and shortages qualify there, so too does slaughter.


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