By Kuldip Nayar
06 November, 2007
serious-minded secularists feel that the sting operation showing Gujarat
chief minister Narendra Modi’s foot soldiers boasting about conducting
the Gujarat pogrom with state support should not have been publicised.
The point being made is that this would polarise society and help consolidate
the Hindu vote in Modi’s favour. I do not understand how gloating
about the killing of innocent Muslims will increase Modi’s votes.
Assuming this is true, should the crime be suppressed? That would be
like a cover-up of a murder on the ground that the perpetrator would
be lionised. The issue is not whether the sting operation benefits Modi,
but whether the confession of murder is something to be made public
when it is reconfirmed.
It is a coincidence that
the killers’ admission came after Assembly elections were announced
in Gujarat. Would the publicity have been justified if the killers had
spoken earlier? We have seen on television screens the perpetrators
of the crime describing how "execution squads were formed, composed
of the dedicated cadre of Hindu organisations like the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, the Kisan
Sangh, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata
Party," and how "the idea was to harm as many Muslims as possible,
burn them, kill them."
The brutality of a pogrom
is not lessened if it is hidden from the nation. Exposing a crime is
not linked to electoral strategy, but to the value system. I believe,
a person begins to die the day he sees an act of injustice being committed
but keeps quiet. The Congress is not coming out openly because its approach
is political. It is not sure how the Gujarati Hindus would react to
it. The party would have reacted differently if it had realised that
murder was murder, whatever the fallout of its exposure. As for the
BJP, it is hoodwinking the people because it knows that both Modi and
the party have been thoroughly exposed. The complicity of the Congress
in the death of 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi does not justify the Gujarat killings.
In both cases, those who committed the crime should have been punished.
Also, it is the Gujaratis
who are now being tested. I do not think that the state’s economic
growth which is a result of their own enterprise and hard work can make
them soft towards Modi’s crimes which are now told in black and
white. Peace cannot be built on the dead bodies of innocent people.
Hitler too gave peace to Germany for 15 years. But we know at what price,
we also know how the state of Germany just crumbled when the truth was
known. No citizen can forget or forgive the pogrom because status quo
will be disturbed. Today, Gujarat is a fractured society. It is vertically
divided. This, I am sure, must be bothering the people in the state,
and I have no doubt that they will assert themselves to see that the
guilty are brought to book. Till today the Germans have not forgiven
themselves for overlooking what Hitler did in the name of the purity
of the German race. Sometime later, if not today, Gujaratis will also
realise that Modi misled them by converting his communal approach into
Gujarati self-respect. The people who were killed were also Gujaratis.
Whenever he is accused of planning and executing all that happened in
the wake of the Godhra train burning, Modi plays on Gujarati sentiment
and argues that in reality it is they who are being run down. This is
how he has got away with murder. Gujaratis do not deserve a chief minister
who builds his reputation at their cost and polarises society to escape
Modi even makes a mockery
of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals of pluralism. Modi’s style of
functioning is authoritarian and parochial. So much so, that a revered
state leader like Keshubhai Patel feels humiliated and is maintaining
a distance from the BJP, the party he has served for decades, for it
has put up Modi as the candidate for the chief minister’s post
Had the Nanavati-Shah Commission which was set up to ascertain the truth,
submitted its report, Modi would have probably been exposed by this
time. But even after five years the inquiry committee is still conducting
its investigation. It seems as if the judges are extending their job
after retirement. The commission is turning out to be another Liberhan
Commission which was set up in the wake of the Babri Masjid demolition
in 1992. The committee has had as many as 84 extensions, costing nearly
Rs 8 crores. It has not submitted even an interim report in the last
15 years. I think the Chief Justice of India should look into the working
of such inquiry committees, because the way in which some extend their
tenure, brings a bad name to the judiciary. There should be a time frame
and no inquiry committee should last beyond three years.
Modi’s defence by the
BJP spokesman does not surprise me. The party, because of L.K. Advani’s
increasing influence and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s waning say because
of ill-health, is most vociferously communal when it projects Modi.
The BJP’s thinking is that if it loses the Assembly election in
Gujarat, it will lose in the general election. It might do so even otherwise
if it continues to back Modi. True, the process of election has begun
in the state and it cannot be stopped till the polls take place. But
surely Modi can be hauled up for his crime. The Centre lacks that kind
of courage, not because it cannot muster enough of it to take action,
but because it is afraid of the BJP’s hostile reaction.
To say that we all are to
blame is to rationalise the crime. No doubt, the nation is not as secular
as it should have been after 60 years of independence. But this is because
we have not really worked for a pluralistic society. The belief that
the communal bias will go away with the departure of the British who
divided us to rule, has not turned out to be correct. The communalism
which had taken root in the 150-year-rule of the British needed to be
It is a tragedy that the
Congress which has ruled the country for the first 45 years did very
little to change the parochial attitude of our society. It did not even
punish those whose names were mentioned in the inquiry committees set
up after riots. School and colleges were allowed to be the breeding
ground for communalism. Books written were either too superficial or
too sophisticated and went over children’s heads. Then there was
the growth of some political parties which thrived in misleading the
people in the name of religion and caste. The situation is deteriorating,
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