From State Violence to Transformative Justice We need to look at the violence from the eyes of the survivors for actual healing to begin
19, Mar 2022 | Nandhana Sajeev
Violence is traumatising. This is overlooked in the sterile language, and often combative attitude, in political scholarship, in jurisprudence, in healthcare, and in media. Even advocates may forget; we’re often so totally involved in the fight against injustice that sitting with what that injustice has caused can feel like an impossible task.
Consider the words of one survivor of the Gujarat pogrom, who describes her experience as a witness in the judicial system.
Being a witness is a surreal act because all those who raped you, murdered people close to you, walk normally around you. The rapist looks you in the eye and jokes with the policeman sent to protect you. Justice is the battle of memory against indifference. You pick up the courage to file a first information report (FIR) and it becomes an act of torture. You have to file your affidavits in two languages, tell the world how you were raped in two dialects. Lower courts demand two languages whereas higher courts are content with one. As you work hard with telling your story, you realise citizenship is a skill, a form of literacy you never practised. You rebuild yourself by finding yourself. In constructing yourself, you construct a community. Witnesses demand company and we women learn to be witnesses together. You realise that everydayness after a riot is a form of courage. The policeman, the clerk, the majority treat you as a joke. A witness, especially a woman asking for justice is like a Dalit wearing a full three-piece suit. You become an object of laughter, of contempt, merely for being or wanting to be a human. Justice is a claim to dignity that society cannot understand.”
(In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference)
This survivor describes a horrifying experience, in which she is no longer someone who has lived through unspeakable trauma, but as a witness who must endure the political reality and judicial procedures. She encounters her rapist joking with the police officer meant to protect her, and has to relive her trauma multiple times in order to file a First Information Report (FIR), to be heard in court. This process is dehumanising, is disrespectful, and certainly not conducive to the survivor’s recovery and health. I could not begin to comprehend the mental and emotional fortitude it must take to do any of these acts the survivor has done, let alone to do it for years. Consider the sheer mental and emotional endurance necessary to pursue a case. That’s not even considering the economic, social, and political capital it might require to take on such a long battle. But then again, for some survivors, it may not feel like a choice.
CJP has been fighting for justice alongside the survivors of the Gujarat 2002 carnage for 20 years. The legal battle has moved back and forth between the trial courts and the Supreme Court. We have taken up, in all, as many 68 cases from the Magistrate Court upwards to the Supreme Court, and ensured 172 convictions at the first stage, with 124 being to life imprisonment. Though some of these have been overturned in appeal, CJP’s unique legal journey has pioneered criminal justice reform whether it is the right of Survivors/Victims to participate in criminal trials or Witness Protection. CJP is committed to continuing its quest for exemplary justice, so that the healing process can begin. To support us, please Donate Now.
I question whether pushing for justice, especially through the state’s procedures is enough, if even in the best-case scenario it would give survivors what they need and want. One survivor offers us a particularly poignant perspective of what justice might even mean.
For 10 years my people have been talking of justice. Many talk as if sentencing one man would deliver justice. One man cannot atone for genocide. One man sounds too puny to embody all the colours of evil unleashed then. Others think that obtaining justice is like repairing a machine. Justice literally summons the plumber to repair the leaks of life. Others see justice as a balance, where one bad deed triggers another. Godhra led to Gulberg and people think or feel that revenge is a form of justice. Maybe. For others, especially clerks, justice is procedure, a strange occult ritual, where rules must be followed correctly to create an effect. I might be illiterate but procedures guarantee fairness not justice.”
(In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference)
This survivor has eloquently pointed out that there are as many definitions and conceptualisations of justice as there are people. She seems unsatisfied with the idea that one person could be responsible for the “genocide”. The pogrom was of course widespread and pervasive; police officers, politicians, neighbours, even healthcare professionals played integral roles in this brutality. Imprisoning one person, or even dozens, would not address why or how the pogrom occurred, nor could it possibly satisfy the largeness of justice. This survivor, rather astutely, points out that justice, as dictated by the courts, is a procedure that in the best scenario, would only guarantee fairness, not justice. After 18 years, how would fairness, which in itself is highly contested, give survivors what they need? How can we even know what they need, if instead of asking what they want or desire, the courts prioritize a procedure that may not benefit them at all?
Violence, especially state-sanctioned/complicit violence, dehumanises its victims. We see this in the brutality of violence itself to the justifying rhetoric of its architects. The victims are no longer people who suffered immensely, but rather as part of a political project in which they are seen as threats, outsiders, and otherwise deserving of the violence upon their bodies and psyche.
When we consider the integrity of human beings…, we understand the deep severity of violence. Any act of violence constitutes the denial of the identity of its object and as a consequence involves the breaking down of the sufferer. Any violent act entails a depersonalization of the victim, who becomes, suddenly, an object without dignity.
Likewise, any violent act implies the degradation of he who performs it. When in common parlance we apply the label ‘inhumane’ to perpetrators of cruel and treach- erous acts, we are placing the aggressors outside humanity, presupposing that their crimes prove an absence of those sensibilities that distinguish us from animals, known as ‘empathy’ and ‘solidarity.’”
Febres confirms this; violence degrades the integrity of the human, so much so that the person is seen as an object without dignity. It becomes easy then to project fear, hatred, distrust onto an object instead of a human who grieves and loves as much as any of us do. Interestingly, Febres also notes that perpetrators are also dehumanised by their acts. We forget, or maybe it is easier, to think of perpetrators as animals rather than understanding that their violence has an origin, and in some cases, part of a political project.
If violence is dehumanising, then it must be the work of justice to rehumanise victims, their communities, and even the abusers. It must be the work of justice to challenge the basis of the violence and transform the relationships between people in order to move towards a society that can provide the healing and reconciliation that the people need.
I am suggesting that justice must involve healing and healing cannot be fully practiced after state violence if society itself is not transformed. If the systems of oppressions and dehumanisations, the conditions that allowed the pogrom in the first place, still exist, even after unprecedented court rulings, then how can we expect survivors to heal? Thus, instead of depending on the rulings of the court, I am leveraging a survivor-centered approach, one in which the survivor’s self-determination and agency dictates the path towards reconciliation and healing.
Agency and Public-Telling
In 1991 in Vancouver Canada, Indigenous elders held a traditional ceremony to mourn and demand justice for the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, trans and Two-Spirit people (MMIWG2S). Since then, Indigenous communities in both Canada and the United States have organised every year on February 14 with marches and traditional ceremonies to address the crisis impacting Indigenous women, girls, trans and Two-Spirit people.
This horrific pattern targeting a particularly vulnerable population is in part due to the state’s complicity and apathy. Settler colonial violence manifests in the lack of data collection, detective work, unfair judicial practices, budget cuts for organisations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada which had been documenting cases, societal erasure and more. In the essay, “From Breaking silence to Community Control,” Audrey Huntley discusses how public mourning and ceremony resists this pervasive repression.
Public mourning is a powerful act of flies in the face of societal indifference that have surrounded MMIWG2S for too long. The power of these marches and ceremonies lies in the reclamation and practice of public ceremony in grief, breaking through the shroud of silence surrounding these murders…The love for community expressed in the drums, songs, and sharing of medicine resonates with all who enter the space and reverberates far beyond it…we have a commitment to our sisters on the other side to show up every February 14th whether there are fifteen or fifteen hundred of us. We will never stop, and they will always be waiting to join us.”
Public mourning is a resounding opposition to settler colonialism’s violence, an unacceptance of the system’s apathetic attitude towards the murders and disappearances of vulnerable members of the indigenous communities. It is powerful because it is a public act of love and grief that cannot be denied by on-lookers, one that is rooted in traditional practices. It is also important to note that the central objective may not be to stir sympathy from the colonial government, though it certainly led to government action like the creation of the National Inquiry into the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2016. Instead, Hutley notes that the commitment is instead to the sisters who have passed on. The commitment to justice then isn’t just demanding accountability from the State, which has a practice of being silent and complicit if not explicitly dangerous, but an act of community and solidarity with community, both alive and spirit.
I am struck by the largeness of this compassion and intention; to be in community and seek justice with the people who have been murdered by settler colonialism’s shifting violence. I am struck by how the targeted community organised, and determined how this mourning would be; its publicness, its traditional ceremonies, its location in front of the police station. The act of justice is so far beyond a courtroom. It is, as Huntley says, “an assertion of sovereignty,” a reclamation of narrative and power. This self-determination and agency show a level of camaraderie and strength that is genuinely for and by the people most impacted by this targeted violence. This route to justice healing and liberation is intentionally centered on Indigenous cultural practice.
A courtroom, especially a courtroom founded on the laws of government that has persecuted the Indigenous people, feels astonishingly narrow in comparison. What could justice by a government born on the land it stole from you and your people possibly offer? In her essay, Hunteley describes a powerful gathering of community. She speaks of the invaluable connections she built with Indigenous people who lost loved ones; some of whom were able to find peace in Hunteley’s investigations and documentary work. They say that they “discovered there was a huge need for people to share their stories. They were already traumatized by loss, and it was compounded by societal indifference to their stories and people’s lack of interest and care.” Thus, this power of community with the living and spirit, public mourning, assertion of sovereignty directly defied the detached police work. What Huntley shares is so beyond the procedural fairness a courtroom might be able to impart.
Sharmin Hossain of Equality Labs, an Ambedkarite South Asian progressive power building organisation, speaks of the significance of jatras, a traditional form of public theater, in Alliance of South Asians Taking Action’s webinar on being Co-conspirators in Black Liberation. Hossain suggests that because Bangladesh had experienced genocide at the hands of the Pakistani military and political repression, many Bangladeshi communities strongly valued being able to tell their own stories. Thus, jatras were used to talk about the dynamics of economic, caste, and domestic violence and more through storytelling. Hossain notes that jatras were critical because it “claimed public space” in order to have a community-led forum on the violences they themselves were experiencing.
Again, I am struck by the public-ness, the inward-conversation, the boldness of community members to engage in difficult and nuanced justice-work through traditional artform. This too is a sharing of story, similar to Indigenous peoples’ public ceremonies. It is not so concerned with finding and punishing a perpetrator as it is with connecting with fellow community members about how systems of violence manifest in their homes. It’s a conversation meant for their community, and their community only. It is a bold act because storytelling humanizes the violence. It is bold because its publicness disrupts the ways that silence and isolation perpetuate cycles of harm and abuse. It is bold because it is holding the complexity and reality of violence rather than flattening.
In comparison, consider our Gujarat survivor’s experience of testifying as a witness.
The court gave many of us security as witnesses. But that made us spectacles, targets of questioning. We were asked repeatedly why we insisted on pursuing the cases. Every ‘why’ hardened us, made us realise that the battle would be a long one, that the first affidavit was the end of innocence, of naïveté. I realise that pursuing justice is a tiring act. It hardens you. Yet let me tell you that the cliché, justice delayed is justice denied, is only partly true. What is truer is that justice waylaid is justice denied. Waiting can still be liveable but watching justice being mimicked cynically is painful.”
(In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference)
Instead of feeling empowered, at peace, or at least on the road to healing, this survivor once again felt objectified, like a spectacle. She was something to be questioned, interrogated. Instead of being treated with compassion, this survivor feels hardened, exhausted, and cynical over the prospects and scope of justice. Our judicial systems as they stand do not treat survivors with nearly the measure of generosity and care that they deserve. This is probably due to the fact that a survivor is not yet a survivor in the court until the court has decided. Its priorities and goals vary greatly from the Indigenous and Bangladeshi examples above.
In both the case of jatras and ceremonies done in remembrance of MMIWGT2S, theater and ceremony are done publicly to combat silencing and erasure. It is to be in community with your people. It is culturally significant. It is public and outside of the state. State mechanisms don’t make room for people, survivors or not, to tell their stories for the sake of being heard, let alone, as a means combating repression and apathy. Rather, testimonies are given on a stand, meant to be torn apart and inspected in the pursuit of fairness. The personal is no longer personal but rather a piece of evidence. In these examples of public mourning and theater, the personal builds towards the sharing of communal grief, injustice, and healing.
I am done carrying. Pushing for accountability, alone or in small numbers, with my own dignity at stake, has been another burden. This article calls on each of you, readers, to help me carry this weight. Will you accept my invitation?…Help me, this is complicated, hold this with me.”
(Beyond Firing, Amanda Aguilar Shank, Beyond Survival)
Violence is oppressive. It is complicated. It is silencing. It is dehumanising. It is traumatic. Particularly, it is isolating. If the ultimate goal is healing, then we must consider the dynamics and impacts of isolation. Many who survived the pogrom live in camps and have not been able to return back to their communities because there is no community, no sense of safety. Instead, they have partitioned off to the side, given little to no resources or recourse. The following are excerpts from the article, “Forgotten Worlds: A Tale of Transit Camps” in Sabrang’s February 2012 issue, describing the living condition of Gujarat survivors in Ekta Nagar, ten years after the pogrom.
“As funds run out, even the NGOs leave. Located miles away from the main road, these camps are soon forgotten. They seem to operate in a different space and time.”
“Men talk of mythical cheques they have tried to obtain. They claim that the clerks seek to swallow (hajam) cheques belonging to survivors. The municipality creates a labyrinth of problems the survivor talks about with awe, talking of paper chases and xerox trails which lead nowhere. For the survivor, the municipality is a form of power which demonstrates their powerlessness.”
“These groups are twice cursed. When the riots came, they targeted the lowest strata of Muslim society. Their lives were unfortunate before the riots, their lives are miserable after the riots.” It is as if poverty conspired with the carnage to create a vulnerability that leaves little hope. Ten years, and almost nothing has happened in these areas.”___ Rafiquebhai, a guide
“Survival becomes difficult. They see no romance to it. They feel like a forgotten fragment. No one comes here. No netas [politicians] visit the camp. The government is of no help.”
In these excerpts, we can see that survivors have been deserted by politicians, NGOS, and supposed guaranteed government support. Driven out of their homes, these survivors feel forgotten, powerless, and abandoned, which only amplifies the trauma of the pogrom. As the guide points out, poverty, trauma, and neglect have compounded these survivors’ isolation and marginalisation.
Blyth Barnow, in their essay “Isolation Cannot Heal Isolation”, discusses their navigation of justice and healing after surviving sexual violence. Barnow is not experiencing a state-sanctioned/complicit violence, at least not one that is similar to the Gujarat pogrom. However, their reflections on healing illuminates some of the nuance and difficulty of surviving violence that is dehumanizing and isolating
“In the end, that was most damaging. Doing it alone. Believing it was all my responsibility. Not the assault. But the healing. The justice…Because what I needed, maybe more than his apology, was a community of people who could help me hold and honor all the stories that led to this one, who could help me uproot the layers of silence learned through too much violence. I needed to be asked what I wanted and what I was hoping for. I needed someone to help me craft those letters, someone to remind me that I could list expectations. I needed someone who was going to sit with me through the fallout…I needed someone beside me to reflect the ways my own trauma, old and new, was informing the process. I needed someone who could show me love that was deeper and more nuanced than just hating him.”
Being a survivor, witness, and your own advocate is far too heavy a burden to carry. Barnow speaks of the responsibility she felt like she had to carry alone, the responsibility towards justice and healing. Barnow’s needs were a community committed to her healing, not just of the sexual violence itself, but a lifetime of violence. Barnow needed people who prioritized Barnow’s well-being and processing over anything else.
Barnow’s want for their past and present traumas to be heard is profound. What would healing and justice for survivors of the Gujarat pogrom would look like, if the boundaries of justice became that much more expansive, especially since this kind of violence takes years to build up and that many survivors still live in isolated and abandoned transit camps. In what ways can we center healing and needs and of survivors if we begin as a community that listens and is committed to such a process? How would shifting the justice’s priority from judicial procedure to care and community dramatically change the criminal justice system? Barnow’s trauma and isolation extended to not just the aftermath of the violence but to how she navigated justice. A community committed to her needs as a survivor would have ensured her a similar safer, more humanised, and less lonely journey towards healing. Febres also emphasises the need for community.
Human dignity, inherent to all people, is not fulfilled in the experience of isolated individuals but through the bonds linking them to others, their fellow human beings, who grant them recognition. Notions such as freedom, self-realization and esteem only become meaningful as elements of our radical humanity, in view of our relationships with others.”
Febres reminds us that our inherent dignity as humans cannot be fulfilled via isolation. Our relationships are integral to validating each other’s humanity. If violence strives to dehumanise, to objectify, to brutalize, then our relationships are the key to recognizing and uplifting our dignities, our humanness.
I then return to Amanda Aguilar Shank’s quote at the beginning of this section; “I am done carrying. Pushing for accountability, alone or in small numbers, with my own dignity at stake, has been another burden. This article calls on each of you, readers, to help me carry this weight. Will you accept my invitation?…Help me, this is complicated, hold this with me.”
The work of CJP, several esteemed advocates, and of course the undeniable courage of survivors themselves can never be discounted. As Advocate Yusuf Shaikh says, “Organisations like CJP have made it possible for victims to learn how to reach the doors of the court and make themselves heard, and this in the face of various communal and political forces who’ve constantly tried to overwhelm them and derail this process.” Thus, the act of community takes place in the search for justice, breaking isolation and oppressive silence. The support systems between survivors and advocates are fighting an uphill battle, to ensure that survivors are heard. In what ways this fight can be expanded, to enlarge the community, and lighten the survivors’ burden of witnessing and advocating. In what ways, do we center survivors’ healing? In what ways do we adhere to their specific wants, needs, and expectations?
Not every survivor’s needs can be fulfilled by the justice system. Not every survivor wants or needs the same thing. As K Agbebiyi, a macro social worker and organizer, says, survivorship is not a monolith. I question whether the narrowness and “procedural fairness” of the court could ever provide survivors with the relationships necessary to break violence’s isolation and move towards healing.
I return to the survivor in “In Search of Justice,” who once again provides on-lookers and concerned samaritans, an especially critical perspective.
For us, justice became a need to rebuild place, our homes, the little cosmos we call neighbourhoods that kept us going. For us, justice was a search for guarantees, a search that this never happens again, to us or to anyone. We claim no copyright on suffering, no patent on torture. Tortured families might look alike but each individual being suffers pain in his singular way.”
(In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference)
Here too, the survivor notes that surviving is not a monolith, but an expansive experience. She goes on to say that justice is the rebuilding of home, of neighborhoods, of community. It is a promise of “never again.”
The basis of transformative justice is that justice cannot be achieved if the conditions that brought the violence remain unchanged.
For example, transformative justice would say that a case of thieving would not end with the thief’s imprisonment or fine. Transformative justice would ask what brought the harmdoer towards stealing in the first place. Thus, a just society requires that everyone’s needs are met.
This is certainly not done with criminal justice systems whose focus is narrowed to simply the perpetrator and the victim in question. It does not consider nuance or context and therefore could not fully consider the impacts of Hindutva nationalist rhetoric and political power.
What is justice if it cannot transform the environment or conditions of the violence? If its scope is not large enough to recognize the systems that cause it?
The Indian Supreme Court made an unprecedented move by moving some cases out of the Gujarat courts, because they did not trust impartiality from the state’s judiciary. This is an exception, albeit incredibly powerful move, and not the rule. Even in this bold exception, what was the result? Was justice achieved? The court system is based on guaranteeing fairness and objectivity but what does that mean when survivors have lost family? When they are being hounded by Hindu nationalists? When they see their rapists joking with police officers inside the courthouse? When they cannot return home and have lost rights to their property? When they are dealing with the horror they managed to survive on top of economic constraints? Transformative justice demands that we change the relationships within society in order to address these questions that are still part of the Gujarat pogrom’s violence.
Nathan Shara, in their essay”Facing Shame” offers us a definition of transformative accountability, a sort of compass towards transforming our relationships and society.
Transformative accountability means that when we apologize, there is congruence between words, and actions. We’re not just saying the words, but we can also name what it is that we’re sorry for- recognizing the harm we’ve caused and being able to acknowledge its impacts. Feeling remorse. Taking action towards repair and restitution and demonstrating a commitment to stopping the harm into changing.”
Gautum Patel would seem to agree, in his own remarks regarding the pogrom and justice, in 2012.
For there to be reconciliation, there needs first to be an acceptance of remorse, of wrongdoing, even if not outright culpability in the legal sense of the word. If this doesn’t happen or isn’t offered, the other side cannot “forgive and forget”, since no forgiveness has been sought. This is precisely why, unlike what happened in South Africa, places like Sri Lanka and Kashmir still suffer from the same lack of closure which is plaguing Gujarat today.”
Could this happen in our judicial systems? Do we have a process where perpetrators can begin to explicitly acknowledge the harm they are responsible for, and its impacts? Are they given a chance to redeem themselves by working towards repair and restitution?
Febres explains that taking part in violence is dehumanising to everyone involved, and transformative accountability paves the way for perpetrators to rehumanize themselves as well as dramatically transform their relationships to the violence, to the survivors, and to themselves. It is not a simple process and demands much more of everyone involved. The courts may be able to define guiltiness, which in itself is a compromised concept, but they do not seem able to construct a process for restitution, recovery, accountability, communal healing.
The courts are critical, there is no denying this. It is especially important in creating legal precedent to ensure protections and accountability. “There is a lesson to be learnt from this. If, god forbid, such a situation ever arises again, we have to try and ensure right from the start that the law isn’t shackled by, or under the purview of, the state; the centre needs to step in and demand accountability immediately,” says Advocate Sadik Shaikh.
However, I argue that justice is a long process, requiring community, healing, humanization. The judiciary is simply one starting point, among many, towards justice.
Ultimately, the criminal justice system, as it stands, may not be able to materially transform the relationships and power dynamics that led to the violence in the first place. Senior Supreme Court Advocate Kamini Jaiswal speaks to the pervasiveness of this atmosphere; “Violence and discrimination appear to be ingrained into the workings of the state machinery and for the minority groups living in the region and the people representing them, it is an extremely hostile atmosphere to live and work in on a daily basis. The powers-that-be have targeted these groups in the past and theirs is a factious regimewhich is not conducive to maintaining or forging syncretic relationships between communities.”
In “Normalizing Violence: Transitional Justice and the Gujarat Riots,” Dr. Kapur questions the role of the criminal justice system in cases of large-scale traumas instigated by a socialized and normalized violent discursive practice. She problematizes the role and scene of institutional justice systems because,
“It tends to draw clear straight lines between guilt and innocence, leaving a sense that the very state responsible for the violent ruptures is able to reincarnate and bring about reconciliation and repair. It achieves this by interpreting “suffering, violence, and moral violation” through a clear set of moral or legal rules in a way that enables “the identification and punishment of specific-individual or collective-perpetrators, while simultaneously protecting oneself against any implication in the violation.” (2006).
Essentially, the state is guilt of this large-scale violence, yet by narrowing justice through the judiciary systems, individuals are held responsible, the state protects itself. This scope of justice is preoccupied with rights over liberation. Kapur proposes that justice cannot be achieved at all through a system that exclusively prosecutes and possibly offers reparations because it dismisses the operations and entrenched history of the Hindu Right.
This history’s role is to create an understanding and rhetoric that the Muslim as other, foreign, intolerant, suspicious, oppressive and a threat to the Hindu majority and Indian nation (Kapur 2006). I’m reminded of the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in August 2020 in Wisconsin, United States. His sister, Letetra Widman, spoke on the incident and reminds all justice-seekers of the ultimate goal.
I am my brother’s keeper. And when you say the name Jacob Blake, make sure you say father, make sure you say cousin, make sure you say son, make sure you say uncle, but most importantly make sure you say human. Human life. Let it marinate in your mouth, in your minds. A human life. Just like every single one of y’all and everyone around, so we’re human. His life matters. So many people have reached out to me telling me they’re sorry that this happened to my family. Don’t be sorry cause this has been happening to my family for a long time. More than I can account for. It happened to Emmett Till. Emmett Till is my family. Philando, Mike Brown, Sandra, this has been happening to my family, and I’ve shared tears for every single one of these people that it’s happened to. This is nothing new. I’m not sad. I’m not sorry. I’m angry. And I’m tired. I haven’t cried one time. I stopped crying years ago. I am numb. I have been watching police murder people that look like me for years. I’m also a Black history minor. So not only have I been watching it in the thirty years that I’ve been on this planet, but I’ve been watching it for years before we were even alive. I’m not sad, I don’t want your pity. I want change.”
Widman eloquently and powerfully centers the humanity of her brother while also contextualising this violence as not a single incident, but as part of a long history of violence. She envelopes all Black victims of police violence as her family, extending her love and rage and grief to not just the victims of police violence that have occurred in her lifetime but to those who had lived decades and decades ago. She reminds us that above all that justice-seeks fight for change. It is not for the recognition of the state or for sympathies, but for this violence to stop. It is so that we live in a world that has changed irrevocably that violences like the Gujarat Pogrom or the epidemic of police brutality in the United States can never occur again.
I’ll end with words from the survivor in “In Search for Justice,” who continues to offer advocates and allies of every kind such a grounding perspective. I urge readers to consider what a more expansive definition of justice might feel like, what it might accomplish, and what sorts of possibilities and worlds open up, when we allow ourselves to be braver in our commitments to each other.
Justice is always rebuilding, restoring, restitutive, reordering, and repairing. You repair a world which is broken. Justice is the real myth of the eternal return, the dream that you can repair or restore a broken world. Justice is always afterward. (In Search of Justice: The battle of memory against indifference)”
I would like to thank abolitionists and organisations like MariameKaba, K Agbebiyi, Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore, ThenmozhiSoundarajan, Leila Raven, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Rising Majority, Sunrise Movement, Citizens for Justice and Peace and more whose work has not only greatly informed this piece but has continued to challenge and inspire my conceptualizations of justice and a more liberated world.
About the author:
Nandhana Sajeev is an Ezhava Malayalee-American writer, educator, and anti-violence worker. She was born and mostly raised in the United States and is currently living on Paugusset land. She cares deeply about justice and healing and is often thinking about the ways that marginalised communities create safety for themselves. She received a BA in Economics from University of Connecticut in 2017 and a MA in International Relations from the University of Chicago in 2021. In 2020, Nandhana was a Research and Writing intern for Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and worked closely with the organisation to interview survivors of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom and their advocates. These articles are a byproduct of some of what she learned from these conversations.
Other pieces by Nandhana Sajeev: