The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Paperback Pickings

Why we need to remember

The Gujarat carnage (Orient Longman, Rs 425) edited by Asghar Ali Engineer is an important and useful anthology of essays, editorials, newspaper articles, reports and memoranda on the post-Godhra genocide in Gujarat. Proper documentation of what actually happened in Gujarat has now become an urgent need, given that the judicial proceedings are proving to be far from establishing the facts of the case. With this crisis of evidence in mind, it might be a better idea to actually prepare more fact-finding reports, record witness testimonies (in various media) and put together an archive of primary materials, rather than putting together opinions and analyses from the press, much of which can already be found in other such collections. Most of the writing here is justifiably, and often very eloquently, impassioned. But the last section of reports, prepared by the NHRC, Syeda Hameed’s panel and other individuals, together with the interviews and surveys, is what is needed most.

The faces and other stories (Indialog, Rs 195) by Dibyendu Palit is Santanu Sinha Chaudhuri’s translations of a set of stories, mostly set in Calcutta. Ashish Nandy’s foreword presents Palit as “a chronicler of the passions, pathos, trivialities and extraordinariness of the ordinary”. Palit is “a psychologist of a city”, a city which has not lost touch with “communatarian experiences”, and in which “the slum is only on the other side of the street; you can walk into it as easily as you can walk out of it”. The quality of the translation, particularly the rendering of Bengali syntax into English, is rather erratic.

“A problem from hell”: America and the age of genocide (Flamingo, £ 9.99) by Samantha Power examines the Bosnian’s eradication of non-Serbs, the Ottoman slaughter of the Armenians, the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s terror in Cambodia, Saddam Hussein’s destruction of Kurds in northern Iraq and the Rwandan Hutus’ systematic extermination of the Tutsi minority. Each provided the US with options for meaningful diplomatic, economic, legal or military intervention. But Power concludes that “despite graphic media coverage. American policy-makers, journalists, and citizens are extremely slow to muster the imagination needed to reckon with evil”. It is in the realm of domestic politics that the battle to stop genocide is lost. “No US president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no US president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages.”

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