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Modi's Gujaratis

By Nasiruddin Haider Khan

17 December, 2007

Who is a Gujarati?

What kind of a question is this? Gujarati is anyone who lives in Gujarat. That's what I assumed whenever Narendra Modi spoke of 5 crore Gujarati's pride (asmita). I thought, he meant all people living in Gujarat. But I always had little bit of doubt, has Modi had a change of heart? How is it that he speaking about every citizens of Gujarat. Then I thought, It is not proper to doubt his every statement and safe to assume that at least on the record he is talking about all the people living in Gujarat.

But alas I was wrong, even on the record Mr. Modi was speaking from his heart. On a recent trip to Gujarat, I took an auto-rickshaw from Judges Bunglow road to go to Sabarmati Ashram. It was a journey of 25-30 minutes and as usual I started talking to the driver. My usual questions- who are you? Where are you from? How is Mr. Modi and what will happen in the election?

"I am Gujarati," he said.

"That I can guess from your language."

The he said his name was Raju and said, "all Gujaratis are with Mr. Modi."


"Except for "them"."

"Them!, who?"

"Them!, didn't you understand?" and he laughs.

His laugh gave me the answer what he meant by "them," but I wanted to hear from his mouth. Then he said, "Muslims are not with BJP."

"Aren't Muslims Gujaratis?"

"What are you talking about?, Muslims are not Gujaratis. Hindus are Gujaratis. How can they be Gujarati?"

Aha, I came to my senses, when Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Bhai Modi talks about Gujaratis, it includes everyone except "them."

Finally a lower middle class auto-rickshaw driver helped me understand the rhetoric of Mr. Modi.

While I was still in the midst of this confusion of who is a Gujarati and who is not, I recalled an interview by a Gujarati Lord Meghnad Desai. An economist and social activist Lord Desai said in the interview that for last one and a half decade Sangh Parivar have been actively promoting this thinking among the Hindus that only they are Gujarati and others are "them." This new thinking have been accepted by the middle class, this is the same class that is active in the online world and you can see effect of this thinking in blogs and comments on various sites. This middle class serves as the ideological courier of the Parivar. Now you can easily understand that whenever there is a mention of 5 crore Gujaratis, who is being left out.

Now, I am again in dilemma, what will happen to the father of Dakkani Urdu, Wali Gujarati. Wali Gujarati who is buried in the soil of Gujarat, is not a Gujarati (whose grave was demolished in 2002 and a road built over it)? What will you call Rajab Ali who along with his friend Vasant Rao gave up his life to maintain communal harmony in Ahmedabad. What about Ehsan Jafri, who was burned in the fire of Gujarat and spread in the air of Gujarat.

What will we call Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, who put Gujarat on the painting map of the world. What about Bandukwala? What name will be given to garba music of Ismail Darbar? Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Saira, Rashida, Niazben where will they fit? Are they Gujarati or just "them" in Modi's Gujarat?

If you want to read this piece and other Gujarat special in Hindi, please visit at

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