Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat

Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat

Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat

Kites over the Mango Tree: Restoring Harmony between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat


Hindu nationalists in the west Indian state of Gujarat repudiate the pluralist vision of Gandhi and Nehru and foment state-sponsored violence and ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Christians. In 2002, the burning to death of 59 rightwing Hindu militants in a train in Gujarat set off waves of state-condoned communal riots in which as many as 2,000 predominantly Muslim Gujaratis were murdered and 200,000 made homeless. In the wake of these atrocities, secular peace-building organizations have redoubled their efforts to heal the rift between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. A certified mediator, Janet Powers bases her book on interviews with workers in twenty of these peace-building NGOs and grassroots peace organizations, which are locked in struggle with politicized Hindu religious organizations largely funded by money raised in the United States. This is the first book to examine Hindu-Muslim relations in Gujarat in the frame of ongoing peace and conflict resolution efforts.

Gujarat is the state of origin of most of the entrepreneurial Indians who own motels, convenience stores, and gas stations in the United States and United Kingdom. Much of the funding for the rightwing Hindu parties that foment extremist violence, ethnic cleansing, and re-conversion campaigns against the Muslim and Christian minorities in Gujarat comes from Gujarati expatriates in the U.S. and UK. Gujarat is the home of Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1948 by an agent of the RSS, a violently anti-Muslim Hindu nationalist organization that flourishes today in Gujarat in virulent association with the ruling BJP and VHP parties. Equally dangerous to the peace of Gujarat are violent Wahhabist organizations based in Pakistan but operating in India. Powers assesses the prospects for long-term healing in Gujarat based on historical precedents, and she applies the lessons of Gujarati grassroots peace-building organizations in Gujarat to zones of state-sponsored religious conflict in other parts of the world.


The Gujarat Carnage of 2002 will certainly rank among the most horrendous of civil conflicts in post-independence India. The manner in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed, women were raped, houses and commercial establishments looted and set ablaze, will certainly nauseate anyone who cherishes the democratic ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Many in civil society did feel bad about what happened; but few dared to act because of the involvement of the government of Gujarat and other powerful and vested interests.

Today, more than six years after this terrible blot on Indian civilization, those responsible for the carnage still roam the streets with impunity and, having been elected to high positions, also enjoy the arrogance of immunity. There are instances in which the Judiciary and apex bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission have played their respective roles with objectivity and dignity; but the stark reality is that most of the victims are still denied justice. The Muslims in Gujarat today are confined to a marginalized existence in ghettos. All this is packaged in a lie called “Vibrant Gujarat.”

The Gujarat Carnage of 2002 was not something spontaneous (which it was made out to be), nor something that is easily forgotten. Its roots are embedded in the deep history of the Indian subcontinent, beginning with colonial occupation and the emergence of right-wing Hindu nationalism.

Janet Powers provides the reader all this and more, in her analysis of Indian history and very specially of the significant period between 1992 and 2002, which saw the gradual and ultimately final polarization of Hindus and Muslims, in several parts of Gujarat State.

But Powers’ book does not stop at that. Through painstaking research and interactions with several stakeholders across the board, she very effectively . . .

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