(This long article of 2013 was published in the form of a booklet in 2014. The same is reissued here for the benefit of new readers. Even those who have read it earlier may find some relevance in the present political context.)
The supporters of Narendra Modi have been insisting for some time now that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 should be forgotten; the Gujarat massacre should not be referred to in connection with Modi; what has happened in the past (2002) should be left there and we should look forward; Modi was not at fault in the matter; it is just a plot to defame him; we have found an able leader in the person of Modi who should be made the prime minister of the country and so on. The speed and inventiveness with which this group is working in favour of Modi is unrivalled even in the RSS. It is definitely not as strong in the BJP. Those who count themselves within the ranks of Modi’s supporters include not just his PR Team and the blind neo-liberals. These also include journalists, intellectuals, editors and political commentators in large numbers who are generally not considered to be communal and who sometimes can be found talking about the Constitution and the poor masses. Even at the time of the February-March 2002 massacre, a number of ‘moderate Hindus’ had already started covertly defending Modi. At his first anti-corruption demonstration at Jantar-Mantar, the so-called Gandhian social worker Anna Hazare started by praising Narendra Modi. Whether the select journalists, writers, people movements’ activists and political workers in his team are supporters of Modi is a matter of personal opinion. Recently at the demise of Bal Thackeray, many important personalities, including artists and industrialists, sang dirges; the same people would not shy away from heaping praises upon Modi.
Modi’s glorification has been carried out in a very precise and systematic fashion by his clever use of the social and mainstream media. Television, print media, magazines, blogs, twitter and face book have been full of Modi’s praises for some time now. Modi’s virtues have been exalted endlessly in public forums and at numerous formal and informal gatherings. The voices of Modi’s critics were soon drowned in this din and his supporters assumed center-stage. The widespread condemnation audible at the time of the 2002 massacre has been replaced now by extensive praise. It isn’t that there are no detractors from the above norm. Certainly there are intellectuals and activists who still oppose Modi, but they are not taken seriously any more. Modi’s admirers now outweigh them.
Modi’s admirers can be asked if, as they say, he was in the right all along, and he has been defamed, then why the need to talk about forgetting? They should support Modi without mentioning the need to forget the past. If Modi has been defamed by ‘vested interests’ as his party leaders and his supporters claim, then they should neither care about these people nor about the infamy brought about by such people. Evidently, those who advocate ‘forgetting’ cannot overlook the facts and evidences which Modi has not been able to destroy despite misusing his power to the hilt. The Supreme Court intervened in the Gujarat massacre due to public petitions in 2004 but only in a limited manner. However, for the communal fascists the High Court and the Supreme Court have little relevance. The act of demolishing the Babri Masjid was carried out even the then BJP government of Uttar Pradesh had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court to prevent the Masjid from being damaged. Meanwhile, the admirers of Modi can at least be requested to concede that before we forget, it might be proper to remember that what exactly we are trying to forget.
The articles written by me in various newspapers/magazines about the Gujarat massacre (in Godhra on 27th February 2002 and in other parts of Gujarat in the following weeks) were published later in the booklet titled ‘Gujarat ke Sabak’ (2004, reprint 2009). I have not offered something special on this subject after that. Even here I am not presenting a new argument. This is just an attempt to understand the phenomena of Modi’s support in the context of some old and new incidents so as to really understand the fantasy of those who see in him the next prime minister.
Narendra Modi wasn’t very well known outside the RSS before the state sponsored massacre of 2002, carried out under his leadership. His image there was that of a fanatic, this was mentioned by Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2001 when it was decided by the party that he would be made the chief minister of Gujarat. It is to Modi’s ‘credit’ that he transformed to the fanatic line whatever was left of the ‘liberal’ line within the Sangh Parivar in the post Ram Mandir movement and Babri Masjid demolition phase. An experiment of Hindutva has been conducted in Gujarat for a long time. On 27th February 2002, when the Sabarmati Express halted at the Godhra station, ran half kilometer and then stopped again only for the 58 karsevaks to be burnt alive in the compartment S6, Modi waved the green flag to fanaticism. The value of secularism inscribed in the Constitution burnt to ashes in the Gujarat laboratory of Hindutva.
If this was only “Kriya ki pratikriya” (reaction to an action), as was stated by Modi at the time, then it should have stopped at the killing of only 58 Muslims. The laws of nature do not transcend its boundaries. But this was not the case. Taking advantage of the numbers on their side and of the patronage of the state, the Hindus in Gujarat, including the educated middle class and the adivasis, openly and publicly butchered thousands of Muslims including children, elderly and women, and looted their belongings. Twenty thousand houses and shops were looted and burned. Three hundred and sixty prayer-houses were destroyed. More than one and a half lac people had to take refuge in camps. Modi himself along with his favorite leaders, some policemen and officers watched transfixed in appreciation.
The massacre of Godhra much politicized. Whether it was pre-meditated or a result of a situation getting out of hand or it was an accident, this has been became the subject of the report by Justice D.S. Tevatia and his colleagues, the report by Justice G.T. Nanavati commission formed by the Gujarat government, the decision taken by the Fast Track Court Judge P.R. Patel, the report by Justice U.C. Bannerjee commission formed by the Central government (the formation of this commission was declared illegal by the Court) and the Concerned Citizens Tribunal’s (CCT) report prepared by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer, Justice P.B. Samant, Justice H. Suresh, civil rights advocate K.G. Kannabiran, social worker Aruna Roy, scholars Tanika Sarkar, Ghanshyam Shah and K.S. Subramaniyam. All these reports make different claims and come to different conclusions. Thirty-one people have been convicted in this matter. Sixty-three accused have been released by the Court. All the accused who have been convicted are Muslims. It is clear that the court has accepted that the fire was set to the compartment by the Muslims.
No one tried to understand that if, whatever happened in Gujarat was a reaction to Godhra, then what happened in Godhra can also be deemed as a reaction to what was happening in the rest of Gujarat. My opinion about Godhra, the same as it was at the time of the incident, is that it should not be treated as an action which is unbiased and without reason, but as a reflection of the reaction to the Sangh Parivar’s countrywide communal campaign. During the fifteen years prior to the Godhra incident, the leaders of the Sangh Parivar had been busy insulting the minorities, especially the Muslims, by brazenly using abusive language in speeches, cassettes, pamphlets, books and even various discussions on the electronic media in the name of the Ram Mandir movement. This long drawn out communal campaign led by the Sangh Paivar poisoned the fabric of social harmony in the country. Babri Masjid was demolished in 1992 and there were riots on a massive scale in which thousands of people were killed and destroyed. This trend continued and as a result, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the Prime Minister then and Lal Krishan Advani who was then the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister vitiated the atmosphere through a systematic deluge of provocative statements. Gujarat was made the epicenter of the Hindutva experiment.
A story about the Godhra incident, reported by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, published in the 6th March 2002 edition of the American newspaper ‘Washington Post’ appeared in the Indian English daily ‘Times of India’ on 7th of March 2002. According to the ‘Washington Post’, the train tragedy in Gujarat which saw 58 people being burnt alive was not caused by Muslim young men lying in wait to attack. This tragedy was incited by Hindutva activists who got into a fight which went out of hand. Writes the ‘Post’: “For two days, as the Sabarmati Express snaked across northern India, some activists in cars S-5 and S-6 carried on like hooligans. They exposed themselves to other passengers. They pulled head scarves of women. They evicted a family of four in the middle of the night for refusing to join in chants. They failed to pay for tea and snacks they consumed at each stop …” the ‘Post’ reported that on 27th February when the train stopped at Godhra, the knowledge of the shenanigans of the hooligans was already known. According to the statements given by the passengers, the witnesses, the police and railway officers, it seems that the fire which engulfed the compartment was not a case of arson by Muslims lying in wait.
The ‘Post’ stated quoting a police officer from Godhra, “Both sides were at fault. The provocation was there and the reaction was strong. But no one had imagined all this would turn into such a big tragedy.” According to the ‘Post’, “B.K. Nanavati, the Deputy Police Superintendent of Godhra, has also said the investigation does not support the contention by Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, that assault on the train was a ‘terrorist’ attack. It was not pre-planned. It was a sudden, provocative incident.” Thus, the ‘Post’ further writes, the reputation of the rowdiest passengers had travelled before the train which was late by several hours largely because of the activists’ behaviour. The vendors at Godhra station had decided that they were not going to let themselves become the victims of hooligans. The VHP activists, on the other side, were also ‘ready for action’. The compartment carrying them was found stockpiled with stones. When the Hindus refused to pay for the tea and snacks, some Muslim youths jumped inside the train as it was pulling out of the station and pulled the emergency brake half a mile away from Godhra station, right in the midst of a Muslim neighborhood. The altercation began with rock throwing from both sides and hundreds of people from around the area gathered. According to the ‘Post’, the police and railway officers said that they did not know who started throwing stones first.
However, the authorities think that after 10 minutes apparently one or more Muslims poured some inflammable material on a mattress, threw it between the S-5 and S-6 compartments and set fire to it. After a few minutes a fire was noticed on the other side of the S-5 compartment as well. In a few moments the compartments were engulfed with fire not allowing the passengers to run. Police authorities say that they did not exactly know how the other fire started. Nanavati said that it is possible that the Muslims had started the other fire, or; the Hindus, in a bid to reply fire with fire, set fire to their own compartment without realizing that it was filled with cooking gas and kerosene carried by the passengers. According to him ‘it could have been an accident’.
The supporters of Modi can very well say that this is a report published in a foreign newspaper and hence cannot be trusted. But these very supporters of Modi have pasted his praises, published in the international media, on the blog ‘The World Lauds Narendra Modi: Excerpts from Time, Brooking and Economist’. By doing this, they must hope that America would soon accept Modi just as England has finally done. Why wouldn’t America, which has sustained and encouraged many dictatorial regimes in the world, welcome Modi with open arms when the right moment comes? Though inconsequential due to its personal nature, the TIME’s report that Modi had married but forsaken his wife was carefully edited in this blog possibly his supporters wanted to project a wholly positive portrait.
The entire Sangh Parivar, including the then BJP led government at the Centre, was bent upon proving that the Muslims, who are perceived as terrorists, and the secularists, who did not criticize the Godhra incident, were responsible for the riots. The National Human Rights Commission and the National Minority Commission did bring the chief minister and the government in the dock on charges of massacre but the ‘liberal’ Atal Bihari Vajpayee did not care about any dissenting opinions. Rather than removing Modi he was praised to the skies. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who initially advised Modi to adhere to the ‘rajdharm’, in a conference of BJP at Panji city of Goa confined his concern to the elements those carried out the Godhra massacre and put the complete blame on the Muslims. He flatly stated that if Godhra would not have happened then Gujarat would not have happened. The country’s Prime Minister, like others, did not think it necessary to ponder over or investigate the question of why Godhra happened. As stated above, chief minister Narendra Modi declared the Godhra massacre to be a pre-meditated act of Muslim terrorists. Even after the criminals have been identified and sentenced, he continues to promote the same idea. It is true that Pakistan based organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba and ISI are spreading their web. The Akshardham temple in Gandhi Nagar was hit by a terrorist attack after the Gujarat massacre. A plot to target Narendra Modi and Praveen Togadia was uncovered. There have been numerous terrorist attacks before and after the Godhra incident. But the responsibility to deal with this problem falls on all political parties along with the BJP. If the BJP and its leaders continue to practice communal politics in these times of violence, prevalent internationally, then all the citizens of the country including the Hindus and Muslims will continue to remain unsafe.
In the case of the post-Godhra massacre, two arguments are forwarded by the supporters of Modi: first, that the entire responsibility of the massacre falls on the ‘criminals’ of Godhra; the second argument is that similar conditions have arisen in many other Congress-led states and at the Center; during the previous Congress rule riots have flared up even in Gujarat; then why is only Modi being defamed and dissuaded from aspiring for the prime minister’s office. In Modi’s illogical defense, the 1984 Sikh Riots are most often quoted. The supporters of Modi can however be credited for their support to help the same Rajiv Gandhi win with unprecedented majority in the elections after the riots. They had no consideration for the pain suffered by the Sikh community which is a minority smaller than the Muslims. The RSS openly supported Rajiv Gandhi in the said elections. The reason was clear – Rajiv Gandhi’s victory reflected not just the victory of the Hindutva pride but also promised to pave the way for the American dream. Rajiv Gandhi did not disappoint them. Modi is a full-fledged Hindutvite, Rajiv Gandhi, someone who has worked day and night to earn the American certificate of approval.
The purpose of this discussion is to reiterate the fact that the country needs to be ruled with complete faith in the Constitution of the country. There is no alternative to this in a civilized society. But the chief minister of Gujarat did not remember this. That some other politicians also did not do this before him cannot be accepted as a good enough argument. Hence, there is no justification to talk about ‘forgetting’ both the massacres in Gujarat – Godhra and post-Godhra. Ideally there should be no objection in ‘forgetting’ a person’s mistakes if there is heart-felt repentance. However, ‘mistake’ by an individual and a political leader cannot be viewed as one and the same matter. The truth of the affliction of those who died or suffered in the massacre apart, Modi’s offense against the Constitution should definitely be registered. The right to plead in favour of such ‘forgetting’ cannot be claimed by the supporters of Modi who, in fact, are being irresponsible with respect to the Constitution.
The Gujarat tragedy resulted in heavy loss of lives, property and immolation of innocent people. That includes gang rapes at a heinously large scale. A women’s panel from the Citizen’s Initiative, Ahmedabad issued a report on the subject. This report is a collection of the testimonials of the rape victims and female witnesses. Parts of this report ─ three testimonials ─ were published in the Hindustan Times on 18th April 2002 under the title ‘My Daughter was like a Flower.’ The three testimonials published in the ‘Hindustan Times’ were as follows:
WITNESSING MASS RAPE (INCLUDING MINOR GIRLS)
NARODA PATIA, AHMEDABAD, FEBRUARY 28, 2002
The mob started chasing us with burning tyres after we were forced to leave Gangotri society. It was then that they raped many girls. We saw about 8-10 rapes. We saw them strip 16-year-old Mehrunissa. They were stripping themselves and beckoning to the girls. Then they raped them right there on the road. We saw a girl’s vagina being slit open. Then they were burnt. Now there is no evidence.
Source: Kulsum Bibi, Shah e Alam Camp, March 27, 2002
I saw Farzana being raped by Guddu Chara. Farzana was about 13 years old. She was a resident of Hussain Nagar. They put a saria (rod) in Farzana stomach. She was later burnt. 12 year old Noorjahan was also raped. The rapists were Guddu, Suresh and Naresh Chara and Haria. I also saw Bhawani Singh, who works in the State Transport Department kill 5 men and a boy.
Source: Azharuddin, 13 years. He witnessed the rapes while hiding on the terrace of Gangotri Society. The Chara basti is located just behind Jawan Nagar.
The mob, which came from Chara Nagar and Kuber Nagar, started burning people at around 6 in the evening. The mob stripped all the girls of the locality, including my 22-year-old daughter, and raped them. My daughter was engaged to be married. 7 members of my family were burnt including my wife (aged 40), my sons (aged 18, 14 and 7) and my daughters (aged 2, 4 and 22). My eldest daughter, who later died in the civil hospital, told me that those who raped her were wearing shorts. They hit her on the head and then burnt her. She died of 80% burn injuries.
Source: Abdul Usman, Testimony recorded by Citizens Initiative
SULTANI, A RAPE SURVIVER, SPEAKS
VILLAGE ERAL, KALOL TALUKA, PANCHMAHALS DISTRICT, FEBRUARY 28th, 2002
On the afternoon of February 28th to escape the violent mob, about 40 of us got on to a tempo, wanting to escape to Kalol. My husband Feroze was driving the tempo. Just outside Kalol a Maruti car was blocking the road. A mob was lying in wait. Feroze had to swerve. The tempo overturned. As we got out they started attacking us. People started running in all directions. Some of us ran towards the river. I fell behind as I was carrying my son, Faizan. The men caught me from behind and threw me on the ground. Faizan fell from my arms and started crying. My clothes were stripped off by the men and I was left stark naked. One by one the men raped me. All the while I could hear my son crying. I lost count after 3. They then cut my foot with a sharp weapon and left me there in that state.
Source: Sultani, Kalol Camp, Panchmahals District, March 30, 2002
Additional facts about the case:
We had heard about Sultani case from her relatives in Kalol camp. The details and sequence of events of both testimonies matched.
Sultani has not undergone a medical examination. Her leg had been swollen for three weeks as a result of the injury inflicted by a sharp weapon, but it is healing now.
No FIR has been filed though a written statement has been submitted to the DSP. In her statement she names some men from the mob (Jitu Shah, PDS Shop owner of Delol village; Ashok Patel alias Don Dadhi of Ramnath village)
When we spoke with her and her sister-in-law they both said they were feeling numb and lost, as they did not know where to go from the Camp. She categorically stated that they could not go back to her village. She was terribly worried about the future especially her children’s. Sultani has still not been told that her husband had died in the attack. She believes he is missing.
A MOTHER’S ACCOUNT OF HER DAUGHTER’S RAPE
VILLAGE ERAL, KALOL TALUKA, PANCHMAHALS DISTRICT. MARCH 3, 2002
My father-in-law, a retired school teacher, refused to leave the village with the other Muslim families who fled to Kalol on February 28th. He believed no one would harm us. From the 28th about 13 members of my family sought refuge in various people’s houses and the fields. On Sunday afternoon (March 3rd) the hut we were hiding in was attacked. We ran in different directions and hid in the field. But the mob found some of us and started attacking. I could hear various members of my family shouting for mercy as they were attacked. I recognized two people from my village – Gano Baria and Sunil – pulling away my daughter Shabana. She screamed, telling the men to get off her and leave her alone. The screams and cries of Ruqaiya, Suhana, Shabana, begging for their izzat could clearly be heard. My mind was seething with fear and fury. I could do nothing to help my daughter from being assaulted sexually and tortured to death. My daughter was like a flower, still to experience life. Why did they have to do this to her? What kind of men are these? The monsters tore my beloved daughter to pieces. After a while, the mob was saying ‘cut them to pieces, leave no evidence.’ I saw fires being lit. After some time the mob started leaving. And it became quiet.
Source: Medina Mustafa Ismail Sheikh, Kalol camp, Panchmahals district, March 30, 2002
It is true that no individual or society should become slaves to its past. It is impossible to live in the present if we remain chained to our past. Those who attempt to live like this become abnormal. But we should not forget this shame primarily to insure that it does not get repeated again in the future. If the perpetuators of this shame acquire power it will enable them to distort and damage the structures of humane society/civilization. It is only right to draw inspiration and lessons from the past to live in the present, and step into the future. Those who preach ‘forgetting’ the state sponsored massacre led by Modi, should give this sordid fact an ample and prolonged thought.
Gujarati ‘Pride’ – a tool to incitement
It is the proof of Modi’s success that he has upheld the negative connotation of Gujarati ‘pride’ in the years following the massacre. It is because of this idea that the whole state of Gujarat is dancing to his tune. This aura of Gujarati pride is Modi’s creation and also his captive. He has packaged the Hindutva pride as Gujarati pride. He has mesmerized the people of Gujarat into believing that if they do not support him, they will automatically be placed in the opposite camp and shall be branded as murderers, rapists and robbers. Let’s discuss this phenomena in the larger context.
Modi won the Legislative Assembly elections ten months after the massacre. “Jo aag mere seene mein jal rahi hai, vahi tumhare seene mein bhi jali hui hai” – slogans like these have kept up the fire of anti-Muslim sentiments burning and won him the second and then the third elections. While visiting Gujarat on three-four occasions in the past years I, like most visitors from other parts of India, experienced that most people in Gujarat are arrogantly supportive of Modi’s persecution of Muslims and feel proud about it. But the matter does not end there; sheer arrogance would have subsided by now.
From the Godhra carnage till the decision of Naroda Patiya, evidences have surfaced, one after the other, which point at Modi’s scheming involvement. It is worth noting that all the interviews and statements that Modi has given in this regard have been addressed to Gujaratis. The message inherent in his interviews and statements is that since Modi is innocent of all the allegations, similarly the Gujaratis who indulged in murder, looting and rape are automatically innocent. Modi is contained in all Gujaratis and all Gujaratis are contained in Modi. It was Modi speaking through babu bajrangis in the magazine Tehelka.
Modi’s supporters are not wrong in pointing out that in other states also innumerable fake encounters take place. However, in Gujarat the police officers and politicians who carried out the fake encounters, special reference to the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case and the Isharat Jahan case, did so on Modi’s direction. If it were not for Modi, people like Babu Bajrangi would not have been able to advertise such heinous crimes against humanity with such audacity. Police officers like D. G. Vanjara and politicians like Amit Shah would not have flaunted what they did. Another case in point is, despite the fact that she was accused of murdering ninety-seven Muslims including thirty-six women and thirty-five children on 28th February 2002 in Naroda Patiya and was sentenced for twenty-eight years ten years after the incident, Mayaben Kodnani was made Women and Child Development Minister.
There is another point which calls for attention. In celebrating the carnage and its pride, Modi and his ‘proud’ Gujaratis have also berated Gandhi. Gandhi’s thought and work is centered in non-violence and Hindu-Muslim unity. By violating these two, they have appropriated Gandhi in their project of Gujarati pride. The same treatment has been meted out to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. When Gandhi was killed, Patel placed the blame on the RSS and banned it. Modi and his proud Gujaratis have appropriated the same Sardar Patel in their ranks. In a similar manner, the industrialist Ambani has equated Modi with Gandhi and Patel in the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ consortium organized by Modi.
The political immaturity of Modi’ supporters is worth watching. They seem to be unaware that Modi is running the government without any advice or dialogue. Neither does he have any friends or advisors whom he truly respects. The rule of Narendra Modi can be summarized as a blend of communal fascism along with as much dictatorship as he can manage. Modi does not want political collaborators but cronies and yes-men. He has forced the senior politicians of Gujarat into exile. At the time of the death of Hiren Pandya, his wife, suspecting Modi’s hand in the murder, asked Modi to leave the house when he reached her house to express his grief. Modi considers even slight resistance and disagreement as opposition. Do his supporters truly believe that the country can be run on similar lines on which he has been ruling Gujarat for the last ten years?
The supporters of Modi do not ask for forgiveness for him; neither has Modi presented any such sentiments. The idea that he and his supporters wish to project above all considerations is mirage that he will turn the country into prosperous and well-governed machinery like he did with Gujarat. This ability they think is unique to Modi. Amidst all this hard selling of dreams, there is one question which has been raised by people – why doesn’t Modi apologize or express regret? It is a known fact that in politics, there is no concept of a genuine apology. It is only used for the sake of votes. A case in point is Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh apologizing to the Sikh community for the 1984 carnage twenty-five years after the incident. But this apology came with the rejoinder that the incident should be forgotten. This sort of apology neither reduces the pain of the victims nor puts an end to fanaticism. In politics, apologies are often offered only after the river of time has completed its course and merged into the sea. This was apparent also when the Queen of England apologized to the Indians recently for the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh. Contrition, repentance and apology play a very important role in life, making man’s life better and wiser. But in the arena of politics, such tear-shedding is just a prelude to further depravity. Such apology is of no consequence for the people who have suffered.
Modi’s strategy to not apologize is also linked with his Gujarat pride politics. If he apologized, his war-cry of Gujarati pride would get dimmed. He needs to keep that connection alive till he reaches Delhi. The apology he offered after winning the third election was only perfunctory and even then it was not addressed to the Muslims. He offered an apology to 6 crore Gujaratis saying if he had hurt someone or made any mistake at any point of time. If it was only about hurting a couple of people or making a small mistake, why apologize to six crore people? It is obvious that he wants to keep the blaze of Gujarati pride alive. Although it is possible that after the long duration of ten years, Modi has himself become a slave to the idea. Leave aside the dream of Prime Minister Post, it’s quite possible that outside Gujarat no one might be bothered about him. It is also, equally likely, that his own party might keep him bound in the chains of Gujarati pride till he convulses and chokes to his death of it!
The incitement of Guajarati pride may be further explored. Modi and his staunch supporters occasionally drop hints that if they wanted no Muslim would have been alive. In an interview to ‘Nai Duniya,’ while refuting allegations about his instructions passed on to officers to let Hindus vent their anger, Modi counter questioned the interviewer whether he was aware of the number of Muslims saved. If the killings would have been that systematic, he argued, how many of them would have survived? On being asked if India, Pakistan and Bangladesh should unite into a single nation, he responded by saying that interviewer’s mouth is watering at the prospect of Muslims from all the three countries coming together and creating an atmosphere of tension in India.
India is home to people of many religions. But, they are all Indian citizens – this should be considered first and foremost, especially by politicians. Modi does not have this perception. Despite all this, his supporters wish to proclaim him as the unequivocal choice for the post of prime minister. Obviously, they consider only the economically sound middle class, who have risen particularly in the last three decades of neo-liberal regime, to be the real country. To make the middle class even more affluent, they need Modi. Some segments of the society will have to surrender its space when the middle class expands and becomes more powerful. From the Red Indians to the Jews, modern civilization has seen many such instances. Manmohan Singh is a staunch neo-liberal, yet he has been able to lead only about 3 lakh farmers to commit suicide. At this rate, it would take a long time to achieve the required space for the privileged class, when more swiftness is required. When Modi comes to power, he will take care of the Muslims in one stroke!
Even though the Indian middle class has achieved literacy and prosperity, they have not been able to transcend their shallowness. It is habitual for them to pass snide comments, especially about women who are somewhat independent and well turned out. During the Legislative Assembly elections of Himachal Pradesh, Modi passed disgraceful remarks about Shashi Tharoor’s wife in Mandi. There was no occasion for it except venting out his frustrations. But those who promote him as the next prime minister do not see anything wrong in this.
Such people don’t fare very well – they get irked but also need to become sycophants. Modi is the chief minister right now and he is drunk on the power of Gujarati pride. He is basking under the glory of compliments showered on him by the industrialists. Till the time he does the bidding of the industrialists that is till the time he is in power the industrialists will keep on flattering him. The day he exists the corridors of power, he will be plain forgotten.
There can be excesses and politics in blaming Modi; his detractors may lack credibility – they might be Congressmen, regional supremos or people who run NGOs; but the campaign of Modi’s supporters shies away from the facts and is misleading. It is true that the financial sources of NGOs are dubious and controversial. But the supporters of Modi are not in a moral position to call them to question. When you accept neo-liberalism, then NGOs are an irreplaceable part of this machinery. Modi’s supporters cannot be expected to support socialism; but even while following Modi blindly, can they ignore the Constitution, democracy and secularism? At an even more elementary level, do they believe in basic citizen values and mores? If they do, then how can they still be Modi’s admirers? A state’s government can be run on duplicitous scheming and murders for some time but the prime minister’s office cannot be run solely on underhanded trickery. The industrialists and bureaucrats would be the first ones to raise objections. One cannot appease everyone by giving benefits to everyone because everyone cannot be benefitted. It is a matter of surprise and disappointment that the person who sees a section of the citizens of his country with discrimination is being overzealously hailed as a desirable candidate for handling the reigns of the country.
The enthusiasm of Modi’s supporters is worth watching and it is estimated to remain just as strong even in the future. There are definite reasons for this. The basic reason is that the future will see the formation of an India dreamt by Manmohan-Modi rather than the one that was envisioned by Gandhi. The path for this has been decisively paved in the past three decades or so. The young supporters of Modi are a product of the same neo-liberal era. The mainstream and social media is dominated by such supporters. It is because of this that the existence and voice of the youth power, which has been largely excluded in this scheme, has not become effective. No political party in the country is concerned about this youth power. Their labour is bought cheap and so is their vote. Modi will be forced on them by his supporters. The second important and evident reason for Modi’s support is the decline of secular and socialist politics in the country. As a result, the politics of the country is not driven by the Directive Principles of the Constitution but the dictates of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and multinational companies. The third immediate reason is the anti-corruption movement which evolved in the last two years, which, even though it would not achieve anything concrete to overcome corruption, managed to spread Modi’s praises far and wide through the speeches of its champions. (For a detailed discussion of the same, please refer to my book to be published soon: ‘Bhrashtachaar Virodh: Vibhram Aur Yatharth’, which is a collection of about twelve essays on this subject.) People like Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Kiran Bedi, Chetan Bhagat, Aravind Kejriwal and others who deal in the business of NGO and religion, delivered a dream to the youth that they will help to bring a corruption-free neo-liberal India for them. This comes with the implied guarantee that it will retain its Hindu, upper caste and masculine supremacy.
The fourth reason is linked with the third. Whereas the need of the hour is to decisively and collectively oppose Modi/communalism, many Marxist-Socialist-Gandhian leaders, intellectuals, journalists and peoples’ movement activists are neither here nor there while trying to posit their ‘new leaders’ against Modi/communalism. Some of them have joined the political party ‘born out of the ashes of the anti-corruption movement’ and busy breaking the forces opposing neo-liberalism. Their ‘new politics’ is a means to carve out a space in the mainstream politics which serves neo-liberalism, one also can call it corporate capitalism and neo-imperialism. It is evident that their ideological and financial sources are rooted in neo-liberalism. It does not make any difference if some of Kejriwal’s followers term it as ‘neo-socialism’. Such wizards in the copy-paste art call the Congress and Rahul Gandhi sometimes leftist, sometimes socialist and at other times Gandhian. If this ‘new politics’ does not fare well in the market, then they might be forced to make a retreat altogether. But this will not dampen the enthusiasm of Modi’s admirers.
The Mirage of Development
Modi’s PR team has made Gujarat’s progress the main basis for support and admiration. The success in calling Tata for the Nano production plant in Gujarat in 2008 has been hailed as his greatest achievement in the annals of progress. It is evident that in the neo-liberal campaign for the progress of the rich, Modi is an important ally of Manmohan Singh. It is a known fact that Gujarat as a state was a forerunner in the fields of industry and trade even before Modi became the chief minister. It has been said that during Modi’s tenure, the maximum growth rate was 12 percent whereas in 1992-93 it was 16.75 percent. In the era of neo-liberalism, the corporate houses are allowed a free regime to loot so that the upper and middle classes become more affluent. In such a scenario, the cost has to be paid by the farmers, tribal population, dalits, labourers, artisans, small traders/entrepreneurs, shopkeepers and their children, and it is indeed being paid. Higher growth rate does not ensure the reduction of malnutrition, illiteracy and unemployment. The same situation persists in Gujarat too.
Modi confused the malnutrition of women as instances of dieting but are the children of Gujarat with malnutrition also dieting? In the 2011 human development report, it was revealed that in Gujarat the problem of hunger and malnutrition is more serious as compared to the other big states. About 45 percent of the children in Gujarat are suffering from malnutrition. A higher number of kids in Gujarat sleep on an empty stomach in comparison to Uttar Pradesh. During Modi’s rule, the mother and infant mortality rate in Gujarat is higher than in other states. The life expectancy in Gujarat (66 years) is lower than the national average by two years. In 2001, when Modi assumed the governance of the state, Gujarat ranked seventeenth in literacy but has now slipped to the eighteenth place.
During Modi’s rule, the claim regarding the development of the Muslims is also propagated. The implementation of fifteen schemes for the Muslims offered by the Center was rejected by Modi claiming that they would disrupt the social fabric of the country. Modi has refused to implement about fifty-three thousand scholarships offered by the Central government. As per the parameters of hunger, poverty, education and employment, the Muslims of Gujarat have not got the benefit of the growth rate. The Sachar Committee report has stated that the social, economic and educational position of Muslims in Gujarat is less than the national average. Urban poverty in Gujarat is 18 percent compared to the 21 percent national average but of these (among urban poor) Muslims are 42.4 percent in Gujarat. On the national level, this figure is 39.9 percent. In the recently held Gujarat Vidhan Sabha elections, many reports and articles on the basis of facts and figures have stated that development of Gujarat is a myth which has been propagated by Modi and his PR team in a planned manner. They have launched a campaign of Modi’s support based on this myth. Modi’s admirers are doing all this intentionally. They are neither concerned with the Constitution nor with the future. They want to see a ‘developed India’ and do not find anything wrong in achieving that goal through communalism. Subconsciously they might bear the view that if development is not possible then there would be ‘cleansing’. Suicide isn’t the effective way; this can be achieved by obliterating the Muslims. Sachar Committee has already reiterated that the Muslims are more backward than the dalits. The kind of hatred that has arisen out of the Hindutva experiment would be implemented by Modi all over India!
In fact in India, development is a mirage which the poorest and the richest are always hankering after but is never attained. Modi had assembled the national and international capitalists in Gujarat in recent times. Investors showered praises on him. Modi and the media projected the assemblage as though the mandate which they got was a reward bringing the capitalists together and recording their praises. The clear message projected by the assemblage was that the capitalists only have to serve the public and whichever leader can congregate more capitalists is a better public servant. The Congress promptly accepted the challenge and warned the corporate world, through Hitler’s reference, not to flirt with the right wing politicians. The Congress has also maintained foreign investment as the yardstick of comparison and has stated that Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are ahead of Gujarat in the arena of investment.
If the yardstick of the rat-race is foreign investment then tomorrow Gujarat may race ahead because Modi has no qualms about the path and model of capitalist development. Other backward leaders hesitate at some point or the other. The new paradigm of the social engineering is that a leader of poor and backward background also swears by neo-liberalism. This has been brought about not just through the training he got in RSS but also through the engagement with neo-liberal veterans for three decades. He has learnt the art of substituting commercial capitalism with corporate capitalism from the Rajiv Gandhis-Manmohan Singhs and the intellectuals who blindly follow neo-liberalism. ‘Vikas Purush’ Narendra Modi has been a favourite of Manmohan Singh since the very beginning.
In the recent Vidhan Sabha elections, he (Manmohan Singh) claimed in his speech that the minorities in Gujarat are completely safe. How his brain functions is a subject fit for writing a thesis. Is he trying to imply that the Gujarat of 2002 that was inherited by Modi was undeveloped and that is why so many Muslims were killed? Is he trying to suggest that now that Gujarat has developed on the model of neo-liberalism there would be no massacres or riots? Is he expressing the belief that the middle class, which murdered and looted the Muslims in 2002 and has now fattened up, will not do so now? Does Manmohan Singh imply that the Muslims killed were the inevitable price paid for development like the suicides of farmers and killings of people, protesting for their land, forests and water, in police firings are the price of development? It is important to present the reference to this statement by Manmohan Singh, in order to show that he and Modi are sailing in one and the same boat.
Even the Hindu dalits could root for Narendra Modi because he will naturally and decisively oppose reservation for Muslim and Christian dalits and will support reservations for dalits in the private sector. Only Mayawati showed ‘courage’ favouring and accompanying Modi in the Gujarat election held ten months after the Gujarat carnage. She seems not very inclined to promote and expand the BSP too much in Gujarat. Modi, like the other leaders, is very keen to hand over Gujarat to the corporate houses; he is also committed to further strengthening the economically strong middle class; he has intoxicated dalits and tribals, who are destined to be doomed by the neo-liberalism, with the cocktail of Hindutva; they also might begin to say, “Mere Paas Modi Hai!” He is the only backward leader who has done this. Mayawati has always seen her golden future in the Hindutva politics. She is truly a leader with foresight!
Modi’s admirers are not prepared to listen to any logic definitely not that of socialism and secularism contained in the Constitution. They are completely enamored of the fact that the country is run by the market and not by the Constitution. They believe we are already lagging behind and India should make no further delay in becoming the carriage bearer of market. They have accepted that communalism has a role to play in it. That is why they want Modi after or with Manmohan Singh. We implore Modi’s admirers to show more courage – they should disown the Constitution. Manmohan Singh has reiterated lately that it is futile to talk about an old ideology like socialism. Manmohan Singh is most specialized in corporate capitalism. Modi is dear to him but is still amateur in comparison. Modi’s first specialization is communal fascism. His admirers should now press for the suggestion that Manmohan Singh i.e. Congress and Modi i.e. BJP should jointly propose to establish capitalism in the Preamble to the Constitution and corporate houses should be given the major responsibility to attain this. There should not be any constitutional hurdle in achieving this goal by mixing communalism, casteism and language-regionalism. Modi’s admirers should not use double standards. Whatever they want, they should speak in a forthright manner. Then no one will counter-question them.
There are two clear reasons for not being able to fight Modi. First being the tendency of all political parties, apart from the BJP, to consider the Muslims as vote-bank and the second, the mainstream politics which is infected by capitalism. If communal fascism has to be curbed in India, then neo-liberalism has to be checked. For this to happen, the leaders need to have constitutional and principled commitment. General tendencies like communalism, secularism, liberalism etc. that prevail in society are supposed to be the average of its people and institutions. If the role of the secularist people and organizations is guided by short-term thinking and goal then long-term gains cannot be hoped for. There are many examples starting from leaders to intellectuals, peoples’ movement activists and civil society activists who are driven by short-term thinking and outlook. Most of the full-timers of secularism are not only NGO activists, they also sit in the parlour of the Congress. Narendra Modi had cautioned Anna Hazare when the latter praised him by saying that those out to malign him (Modi) will try to mislead him (Anna Hazare). Anna Hazare had neither then nor now has commented on the Gujarat carnage. His praise of Modi has indicated that he is with Modi still as he was then. His comrade Baba Ramdev went all the way to Gujarat and praised Modi. We have not mentioned these gentlemen because we have any hopes for secularism from them. We have mentioned them because on the chess board of Arvind Kejriwal, several flag bearers of secularism have brought about more than one ‘revolutions’ under their wings!
One might say that Modi is being discussed but RSS has not been attacked adequately. The ‘scientific’ secularists who consider the liberal stream of religion also as nurturing communalism, will feel that it is a grave injustice. Let us talk about the Sangh for a while. As is the case with every organization, the Sangh too has its own internal politics. In its political wing, the BJP, this internal politics is more prominent. If the competition is for the post of the prime minister then the internal conflicts are bound to be present. Narendra Modi’s opponents are constantly upset by his ‘rise’ and are moving heaven and earth to discipline him. Even if in the eyes of his admirers, he is a world leader, for the BJP high-command he is not a national leader. If the regional satraps harbour dreams of becoming national leaders then where will the national leaders go? Though Kalyan Singh bears the crown of demolishing the Babri Masjid but when he tried to go national wearing this ‘jewel,’ he did not remain even regional.
Neo-liberalism has been very lucky for the RSS. Otherwise, the situation had become such that the boys and girls in the families of Sangh Parivar were not ready to wear knickers themselves or felt happy to see their fathers wear them every day. Neo-liberalism has gifted them a whole generation which studies nothing but technology and management. Or it is already informed and knows everything that the media tells it. With the infusion of this new energy, the RSS leadership is weighing its options. If there is any resistance to Modi from the NDA constituents, they can push forward Advani and if the voice of the admirers of Modi roars higher, then they can bet on Modi. Notwithstanding its own interventions in the organizational matters of the BJP, the RSS might definitely nurse the anxiety that Modi will damage the internal democratic structure of the BJP. This will be a big and long-term loss for the Sangh-BJP.
Even though to some extent it is a fault of all of us who are in some measure active in politics that Modi’s name is being bandied about majorly for the prime minister post but the Congress too is directly to blame for this. The insistence on making Rahul Gandhi prime minister will benefit Modi. Despite all the expenditure and persuasion, Rahul Gandhi is not liked by the youth in the country. Those who like him are either sycophants or hired. They cannot match up to even Gadhkari. Congressmen are obliged to flatter Rahul Gandhi to ensure their piece of cake in the power distribution but the country is not bound by any such compulsions. It would be better if Sonia Gandhi makes him Congress president and nominates someone else for the post of the prime minister in the coming general election. By sending Pranab Mukherjee to Raisina Hill, Sonia Gandhi has left the playing field open for Narendra Modi.
Now that the politics of socialism and secularism is not only facing roadblocks but appears exhaust too, should we then implore RSS to allow the ‘liberal’ line of Vajpayee over the fanatic line of Modi? Should it make up a still liberal face than Vajpayee, like Advani tried to depict during the last days? If Modi, born from the fanatic core of the Sangh, becomes its first choice then it will not bode well for the country and the society.
However successful Modi’s admirers be, many Indians, because they put the secular values of the Constitution before everything else, will continue to struggle so that communalism does not overpower the Constitution.
26th January 2013
It has been about three months since this article was written. It would therefore, be pertinent to add a postscript. The Indian mainstream media has a tendency to create a hype around any person or movement which works towards strengthening corporate capitalism whether in a latent or an evident manner. It does not matter if, in the process, they end up encouraging communalism, casteism, nepotism, dynasty politics, and regionalism or disseminate obscurantism and misguided ideas about culture. This characteristic of the Indian media, blossomed in the past decade, it had its genesis in the 1990s when in utter disregard of the Constitution the country’s economy was opened up and left prey to the evils of corporate capitalism. We can witness this role of the media in its coverage of the anti-corruption movement and its evident support of Modi. One of the chief proponents of the anti-corruption movement, Baba Ramdev, openly advised the BJP leadership to promote Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate. The people of this country have seen in the last two years that despite the tussle among them for supremacy, Ramdev, Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal, all belong to the same family. During the anti-corruption movement, they were all inseparable but even after the culmination of the movement, they are still connected in many ways. It was witnessed by all that Modi won the election in Gujarat for the third time easily but none of them had uttered even a syllable in protest. These three are very dear to the Indian media.
Narendra Modi is naturally excited about the tremendous media hype. The hype is accentuated when Europe and America try to see another Manmohan Singh in him. He meets and eats with the bureaucrats of the European Union. The media presents the whole incident in a manner as if they have come to meet the future prime minister of India. The fact that the meeting is sponsored by Modi and his supporters is kept hidden from the public. Some intellectuals feel shocked that the America and European Union which preach democracy, secularism, human rights, rule of law and equal rights to the world support someone like Modi. Brought up in the traditions of Western knowledge and science, these intellectuals are still not prepared to believe that the concerns raised by the US and European Union are hollow in this respect. To preserve their supremacy and profits, they keep on supporting despots and murderers one after the other. The only condition is that their economic and military supremacy go unchallenged. If anybody dares to challenge this, they are destroyed completely.
Most of the third world countries including India have stopped giving any thought to their own predicament and future. All our fates are decided in the US and Europe. In India, we can only live by our religion, our caste and our region; and we live or die within those decisions. It is clear why the Indian industrialists and Europe-America support Modi – so that all the states in India might develop in the same way as the ‘Gujarat model’ relegating the Constitution to the backseat and keeping the corporate houses and European-American multinational companies in the forefront. They get one more benefit out of this. With the increase of corporate capitalism, violent resistance will also increase. (This is because the NGOs and civil society activists born out of corporate capitalism do not let actual political resistance take root. They have now gone ahead and formed a political party in the name of ‘aam admi’.) To curb violent resistance, foreign companies will promptly step in and increase their profits in supplying specialisation, technology, equipment and weapons to security forces and intelligence agencies.
It does not even need to be stated that the Gujarat model of development has been carved out in the Hindutva laboratory. When the Gujarat model becomes common, so will the fanaticism. To deal with that, the governments in India will need to arm themselves with equipment and weapons. The extremists will also need equipment and weapons. Neo-liberal kingpins will be happy to supply these on the quick. Extremists have been made such slaves to weapons that they have now begun transforming their own bodies into weapons. The capitalist order functions on two important factors – the market and the weapon. Narendra Modi is dancing like a puppet in front of the corporate houses and the US-Europe leaders in his bid to guarantee both. If Manmohan Singh could be called a robot in the hands of the corporate capitalists then Narendra Modi is emerging in the image of the jester of the corporate capitalism.
I had written for a newspaper some while ago that the RSS might be working according to a well thought out plan. It has given the green signal to Narendra Modi because he might turn out to be the future national leader of Sangh Parivar. The last 20-25 years of liberalism have been very fruitful for the RSS. In the meantime the generation of corporate serving youth which has emerged from its folds are mostly obscurant and communal. They do not have anything to do with the Constitution, the freedom struggle and the legacy/inheritance of co-existence. India should become like America and indeed will soon become so, is their staunch conviction. Narendra Modi is the natural leader for this generation. Manmohan Singh, who has been their leader till now, seems exhausted. These people who talk about the development of the country and about making India a super power consider only themselves to be the country. This implies that they expect everything for themselves first.
It has to be said that the current generation has not become like this on its own. This has been brought about by the environment fostered by Manmohan Singh and his neo-liberalism and the Sangh Parivar with their communalism. One has seen how the erstwhile President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam used to fan their sweet dreams. It is true that the number of Indian youth who are servile to the corporate system is still small in comparison to the country’s total youth population. A large number of youth, especially girls, are those who do not subscribe to obscurantism and communalism. That is why Narendra Modi, far from becoming prime minister of India, cannot even win a Parliament seat outside Gujarat at the moment.
But RSS is confident that its ideology will spread like fire; and then there would be no need of a coalition. At that time, the ‘Aadarsh Hindutvavadi’ Narendra Modi will be their prime minister. To bide the time in between, Lal Krishan Advani, who was considered to be a fanatic during the time of Vajpayee, will be used.
We have seen recently that the Janata Dal (United) leaders in the two-day national council meeting in Delhi displayed their hypocritical attitude towards constitutional values and secularism once again so that the Muslim votes did not fall out of their kitty. They declared that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a staunch swayamsevak and a top leader of the BJP, is thoroughly secular and suggested that the BJP make a leader like him the prime ministerial candidate. It is known to all that within the communal ideology of the Sangh Parivar run fanatic and liberal lines. Thus, Vajpayee’s liberal line is integral to the communal ideology of the RSS under which power is grabbed by defrauding the Constitution.
In the eyes of the JD (U) leaders, Lal Krishan Advani is now a secular leader and they agree to stay within the NDA if the BJP declares him as its prime ministerial candidate. These are the same leaders who, while joining the NDA government at the Centre in 1999, had put the condition that they would have not joined the alliance if the BJP made Advani the prime minister. For them Advani has become liberal when compared to the fanatic Modi. The BJP should not be upset but be thankful to the JD (U) leaders’ direct-indirect references to Modi. The JD (U) leadership has said that they cannot support Modi because he was not prompt enough in dealing with the Gujarat riots. By saying this, the JD (U) leaders have exempted Narendra Modi from the plot of the 2002 state sponsored massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and then concealing it.
While accepting Advani, the charioteer of the Babri Masjid demolition, the JD (U) leaders have also sung saga of their sixteen year old love with the BJP. But they should also say that for just as many years, they have been playing with the interests of the Muslims. It need not be said that all this shenanigans are being done to control the Muslim votes in Bihar. This is the attitude of all the parties and leaders at every state and national level. Everybody expects and hopes to pocket the votes of the Muslims in the elections. This is not just unconstitutional but is an insult to the Muslims as citizens of the country. The few Muslim leaders who enjoy the comforts of power in every secular party are also complicit to maintaining the pathetic state of affairs. BJP takes advantage of this attitude of the secular parties to play the Hindu vote-bank politics and remains the main opposition party.
This vicious circle can be broken only when the Muslims of the country decide firmly not to cast their votes at least once in the general elections and once in the Legislative Assembly elections. There could be a big transformation in Indian politics through this. This ‘Satyagraha’ of the Muslims will force both the contenders of secularism and the flag bearers of communalism to return to the Constitution. And then the Constitution of the country will overpower communalism.
(The writer associated with the socialist movement is a former teacher of Delhi University and a fellow of Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla)