Saturday, November 10, 2007

No less than mass murder

No less than mass murder
A pogrom does not lessen in brutality if it is hidden from the nation
by Kuldip Nayar, November 9, 2007

SOME serious-minded secular persons are heatedly arguing that the sting operation showing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s foot soldiers boasting about carrying out the killings with state support should not have been publicised.

The point made is that all this would polarise society and help consolidate the Hindu vote in his favour. It is not understandable how gloating over the killing of innocent Muslims will increase Modi’s votes.

Assuming this is true, should the crime be suppressed? It would be like a cover-up of murders 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 admission by the killers came after the announcement of elections. Would the publicity have been justified if the killers had spoken earlier?

We have seen on TV screens, the perpetrators of crime telling “how execution squads were formed, composed of the dedicated cadre of Hindu organisations — 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”.

A pogrom does not lessen in brutality if it is hidden from the nation. The exposure of crime is not linked to the strategy of election but to a value system. The day a person sees an act of injustice and keeps quiet is the day when he begins to die. The Congress is not coming out openly because its approach is political.

It is not sure how the Gujarati Hindus would react. The party would have reacted differently if it had realised that murder was murder, whatever the fallout of its exposure.

The BJP is only hoodwinking the people because it knows that both Modi and the party have been thoroughly exposed. The complicity of the Congress in the killing of 3,000 Sikhs in Delhi does not condone the Gujarat killings. In both cases, those who committed the crime should have been punished.

The Gujaratis are facing a test. I do not think that the state’s economic growth, which is due to their own enterprise and hard work, will make them soft towards Modi’s crimes which are now being viewed in black and white. The Gujaratis cannot afford state peace to be built on the skulls of the innocent. Hitler, too, gave peace for 15 years.

But we know at what price and how the state of Germany crumbled when the truth was known. No citizen can forget or forgive killing on the ground that the status quo may be disturbed.

Gujarat is a fractured society today and it is divided vertically. This must be bothering 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 not having seen through what Hitler did in the name of purity of the German race. Some time, if not today, the Gujaratis will also realise that Modi misled them by converting his communal approach into the Gujaratis’ self-respect. Those killed were also Gujaratis.

When Modi is accused of planning and executing all that happened in the wake of the Godhra train burning, he plays on the sentiments of the Gujaratis and argues that in reality they are being run down. This is how he has got away with the murders.

The Gujaratis do not deserve a chief minister who builds up his reputation at their cost and polarises society to escape its wrath.

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 has felt so humiliated that he has kept his distance from the BJP, the party he served for decades, because it has put up Modi as the next chief minister.

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 its inquiry has been going on and on for the last five years. It looks as if the judges are extending their job after retirement.

The commission is turning out to be another Liberhan inquiry committee which was set up in the wake of the Babri mosque demolition in 1992. The committee has had as many as 84 extensions, costing nearly Rs80m. It has not yet submitted even an interim report in the last 15 years.

The chief justice of India should look into the working of such inquiry committees because the ways in which some extend their tenure bring a bad name to the judiciary. There should be a timeframe and no inquiry committee should last beyond three years.

Modi’s defence by the BJP spokesman is not surprising. The party, because of L.K. Advani’s increasing influence and Vajpayee’s waning say, is most vociferously communal when it projects Modi. The BJP’s thinking is that if it loses the assembly election in Gujarat, it would lose in the general election. It might even otherwise do so if it continues to back Modi.

True, the process of election has begun in the state and it cannot be stopped until the polls. 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 are all 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 communal bias would go away with the departure of the British who divided us in order to rule, has not turned out to be correct.

The communalism which took root in almost two centuries of British rule needs to be fought relentlessly. The Congress, which ruled the country for the first 45 years, did very little to change the parochial attitude of 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 breed communalism. Books written were either too superficial or too sophisticated and went over the heads of the children.

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, not improving.

The writer is a senior columnist based in New Delhi.
Labels: commission of enquiry, communal violence, Gujarat 2002 riots, Tehelka expose

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