25 February, 2012



Hasan Jowher

Ten years after the barbaric plundering of the Muslim community of Gujarat no minister, no commissioner, much less the much-touted CEO of Gujarat has been punished. As years go by utter frustration has led the community to accept second grade citizenship gleefully. Some of this was on display at Modi’s sadbhavna show recently. The comparison of Gujarati Muslims with Bengali Muslims is naïve. Their comparison with Gujarati Hindus shows the reality. No Ambanis, Adanis, Mehtas, Modis, Patels emerged amongst Muslims. Their localities are still the least developed by comparison.

In any other civilized democracy the CEO must have gone to the gallows, if not hung up. Ours has instead acquired a halo that has the potential to catapult him to India’s premiership. He is yet to appear before a court of law and the Nanavati Commission. Not once has he even been cross examined under oath.

There is no evidence against Modi, Supreme Court appointed SIT, is alleged to have said. Whether or not its Chairman Raghavan has been influenced by Modi through the Tatas, courtesy Nano, there undoubtedly exists a huge conspiracy to protect this Chief Minister. And, for that reason, to protect those whose conviction might lead to him. This criminal inter-dependence has worked best in Gujarat. Even the mobs that destroyed Muslim colonies have been blackmailed into voting for the BJP en-bloc lest the Congress reopens investigation leading to their conviction. That no credible evidence has yet been produced establishing Muslim conspiracy behind the Sabarmati train carnage doesn’t matter to Gujarati Hindus.

It defies common sense that such compelling evidence as Tehelka sting tapes proved of no avail. The self-confessed murderer, Babu Bajarangi, claims on video that Modi not only felicitated him but effectively shielded him from police in official premises for several months. Painful that no court took suo moto notice of this massive piece of investigative journalism.

Several fake encounters now clearly lead the trail of investigations to Modi. In the infamous Sohrabuddin encounter his home minister, Amit Shah, is temporarily exiled from Gujarat. Over 2500 closed riot cases had to be reopened on Supreme Court‘s intervention and some are now receiving conviction. Scores of cases were ordered to be tried outside the state and several have been handed over to the CBI. But all this causes no dent in the image makeover of Modi.

I have always maintained that Gujarat suffers from Moditva, the mentality that paints Muslims as evil and the source of all ills of Gujarat. There are tens of thousands of mini-Modis here. And Narendra merely exploited this latent, long-nurtured hatred. How else does one explain the 1992 ethnic cleansing of Ahmedabad city when Muslims were ‘swept off’ western regions?

If the harassed cop, Sanjiv Bhatt, and the slain home minister and Modi’s bête noire, Haren Pandya, did not lie about the infamous 27th Feb 2002 meeting, where Modi is said to have urged police to let Hindus loose to avenge Sabarmati killings, then the rest of the 30 odd police and administrative officers are clearly both liars and cowards. They neither objected to Modi saying such a thing, nor have ever since condemned it.

Why does Moditva click in Gujarat? For one the Muslims of Gujarat have made no significant contribution to the lives of Gujaratis, and had effectively become dispensable over the years.

The Mehmud Ghazni’s plunder of Somnath was successfully used to flood Gujarati folklore and TV with images of Muslim villainy. The decade long misdeeds of a Muslim goon, Latif, at Ahmedabad, often blocking the traffic arteries of the old city, was ripe in Hindu memory, clamouring for revenge. The Patel-Nehru rift in which inexplicably Nehru and Gandhi came to be regarded pro-Muslim, had enabled BJP to skillfully sideline the Congress. The absence of a strong leftist-reformist movement from Gujarat also contributed to the birth of right-wing ideology. This allowed the Hindutva brigade to use the annual Jagannauth Rathyatras to provoke mini-riots for several years. That there are no riots now actually proves this point.

Undoubtedly an able administrator, a meticulous organizer, an industrious, focused achiever, Modi combines great cunning and manipulation. He delivers well and markets it even better. If Gujarat is developing so is every other state of India. Indeed, some are doing better. Nitish Kumar’s magnificent turnaround of Bihar and Mamata Banerjee’s remarkable charisma in Bengal pale before the eyes of the Gujarati Hindu. For some Modi has become God incarnate.

Effectively today no alternative exists to Modi. Politically neutralizing him seems impossible. With the higher judiciary appearing as the only savior, all eyes are set on the Supreme Court. The Gujarat High Court has also now become more sensitive to demands of justice. Will this decennial reminder sensitize some more to stand up for truth and justice remains to be seen.

Meanwhile the adolescents of 2002 carrying brutal memories of plunder, rape and murder must have grown into young men now. This writer always fears that unless justice is delivered – and is seen to be delivered – jungle justice may return to haunt Gujarat.

Jowher works with a NGO, SPRAT, that works to promote rationality

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