The communal violence of 2002 came with huge human rights violations and implications for healing the civil society of Gujarat. However, even apart from the violence that occurred in 2002, human rights abuses exist in all levels of society and within different vulnerable groups.
To begin with the 2002 violence, the Muslims were killed in a sort of genocide fashion and there were multiple human rights violations are being extremely discriminated against. Moreover, Muslims in Gujarat, to this day, live in fear and wonder when another 2002 violence will occur. Their basic needs are not being met, in terms of access to education, health care and other government services. And in turn, they are forced to live near sewage (or in it) and have no sense of dignity. These abuses go unrecognized daily and, although efforts are being made by NGOs and other humanitarian-based individuals/groups, much still needs to be done.
Another sector that has faced many criticisms and complicates human rights issues is the caste system within Gujarat and parts of India. Although on the surface the caste system is illegal, within Gujarati society it is still accepted and practiced. And because the caste system is still adhered to, the low-caste members still face discrimination in society and in the workplace and still face the brunt of the discrimination when it come to opportunities. This is considered human rights abuses because these members still live in want. They are not given the same rights and privileges as high-caste members, and as a result, they are looked down upon, stigmatized by society and live without dignity.
Then, there is the gay community within Gujarat. Although the gay community in Gujarat, and India as a whole, face a lot of discrimination and violence from society, according to one of our informants they face more violence from within families. Being gay, in Indian society is not accepted and is looked down upon; in most cases, men are often forced to hide their sexuality and pretend that they are straight in order to avoid being stigmatized by the rest society. In fact, our informant told us that 80% of gay men are married to women in India. This is also considered to be a human rights issue because the gay community is is left in want and fear the violence that has been committed against them in the past.
With all these human rights violations that are being committed in Gujarat, concurrently, it is imperative for humanitarian groups and individuals to raise their voice. The people that are facing these human rights violations daily and have no outlet or capacity to voice their concerns are lost. They need those in positions of power or those that are willing to fight and have at least more privilege, to raise awareness on their behalf.
We met individuals who did just this. Malaika, a professional dancer and part of upper-class society, a woman with power and prestige, showed her concern for these human rights abuses. She used her power in the best way possible and faced the repercussions of standing up and making her voice known. She faces daily harassment and her life is more complicated now, more than ever, but she is still fighting for the bigger cause. She is fighting for humanity.
We also met a member of the gay community and member of Laksha in Gujarat, who changed the perception of gays in India. He was also part of a royal family in Rajput and was scared to come out. But he did it for the greater good. He did what most could not do, due to their status or their futures. He took the initiative and is continuing to fight for gay rights. He is aiming to change these human rights abuses within Gujarat, and the greater India.
And last, but certainly not least, we have NGOs like Prashant and other groups, that constantly fight this battle. Their voice is their strength and the strength of those that do not have a voice; but their voice also weakens the institutions that are in place to perpetuate that cycle of discrimination and human rights abuses. Although this is the point, these humanitarian groups are suffering from harassment and complications in all aspects of their lives; their safety and security are in danger. Whether they stand up for these vulnerable groups in the form of naming and shaming at conferences or on radio shows, they are using whatever power they have in order to raise awareness of these violations. They are doing what we have been told to do over and over again. Raise your voice.