Narendra Modi is being projected by a large section of Indians as the modern Moses, the messiah who will lead the beleaguered and despondent Indian people into a land of milk and honey, the man who is best suited to be the next Indian prime minister. And it is not just the BJP and the RSS which are saying this in the Kumbh Mela. A large section of the so-called educated class, including a section of our 'educated' youth, who have been carried away by Modi’s propaganda, are saying this.
I was flying from Delhi to Bhopal recently. Sitting beside me was a Gujarati businessman. I asked him his opinion of Modi. He was all praise for him. I interjected and asked him about the killings of over 2,000 Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. He replied that Muslims were always creating problems in Gujarat, but after 2002, they have been put in their place and there has been peace. I told him it was the peace of the graveyard, and peace can never last long unless it was coupled with justice. At this remark, he took offence and changed his seat on the plane.
The truth is that Muslims in Gujarat fear that if they speak out against the horrors of 2002, they may be attacked andvictimised. In the whole of India Muslims (who are over 200 million of the people of India) are solidly against Modi (though there are a handful of Muslims who for some reason disagree).
It is claimed by Modi’s supporters that what happened in Gujarat was only a 'spontaneous' reaction of Hindus to the killings of 59 Hindus in a train in Godhra. I do not buy this story. Firstly, there is still mystery attached to what exactly happened in Godhra, and who was responsible for the killings. Secondly, the persons who were responsible for the Godhra killings should certainly be identified and given harsh punishment, but how does this justify the attack on the entire Muslim community in Gujarat? Muslims are only nine per cent of the total population of Gujarat, the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2002, Muslims were massacred, their homes burnt and other horrible crimes committed against them.
To call the killings of Muslims as a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community there was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalised, etc. after a German diplomat in Paris was shot by a Jewish youngster whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. The Nazis claimed that this was a 'spontaneous' reaction, but, in fact, it was planned and executed by the authorities using fanatic mobs.
I have written in my article, “What is India?” (my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in, as well as on the video on the website kgfindia.com) that India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and consequently, is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence, the only policy, which can hold it together and take it on the path of progress, is secularism and equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our founding fathers (Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues), who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy, India will not be able to survive because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc.
India, therefore, does not belong to Hindus alone; it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains, etc. Also, it is not that only Hindus can live in India as first rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first rate citizens here. The killings of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities committed against them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Modi in this connection.
Modi’s supporters say that he had no hand in the killings of Muslims in 2002, and it is also said that he has not been found guilty by any court of law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Modi had no hand in the 2002 events. He was the chief minister of Gujarat at that time, and the horrible events happened on a large scale in Gujarat. Can it be believed that he had no hand in the events of 2002? At least I find it impossible to believe it.
Let me give just one example. Ehsan Jafri was a respected, elderly former member of parliament living in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad. His house was in the Gulbarga Housing Society, where mostly Muslims lived. According to the recorded version of his elderly wife Zakia, on February 28, 2002, a mob of fanatics blew up the security wall of the housing society using gas cylinders, dragged Jafri out of his house, stripped him, chopped off his limbs with swords, etc. and burnt him alive. Many other Muslims were also killed and their houses burnt. Chamanpura is barely a kilometre from the nearby police station and less than two kilometres from the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner's office. Is it conceivable that the chief minister did not know what was going on? Since then, Zakia has been running from pillar to post to get justice for her husband who was so brutally murdered. Her criminal case against Modi was thrown out by the district court (since the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court found no evidence against Modi), and it is only now after a gap of over 10 years since the incident that the Supreme Court set aside the order of the trial court and directed that her protest petition be considered. I am not going into this matter any further since it is still sub judice.
Modi has claimed that he has developed Gujarat. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the meaning of 'development'. Development can have only one meaning, and that is, raising the standard of living of the masses. Giving concessions to big industrial houses and offering them cheap land and electricity can hardly be called development if it does not raise the standard of living of the masses.
Today, 48 per cent of Gujarati children are malnourished, which is a higher rate of malnourishment than the national average. There is a high infant mortality rate, high women's maternity death rate and a poverty rate 57 per cent in tribal areas and among the scheduled/backward castes. As stated by Ramchandra Guha in his article in The Hindu (February 8), environmental degradation in Gujarat is rising, educational standards are falling and malnutrition among children is abnormally high. Over a third of adult men have a body mass index of less than 18.5 — the seventh worst in India. A 2010 UNDP report has placed Gujarat after eight other Indian states in multiple dimensions of development e.g. health, education, income levels, etc. (see Hindustan Times, December 16, 2012).
Mr Guha further states in his article: “As a sociologist who treats the aggregate data of economists with scepticism, I myself do not believe that Gujarat is the best developed state in the country. Shortly after Modi was sworn in for his third term, I travelled through Saurashtra, whose polluted and arid lands spoke of a hard grind for survival. In the towns, water, sewage, road and transport facilities were in a pathetic state; in the countryside, the scarcity of natural resources was apparent, as pastoralists walked miles and miles in search of stubble for their goats. In terms of social and economic development, Gujarat is better than average, but not among the best. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the three states, which provide a dignified life to a decent percentage of their population.”
Business leaders no doubt claim that Modi has created a business-friendly environment in Gujarat, but are businessmen the only people in India?
To those who talk of the development of Gujarat under Modi, I ask this question: should the malnourished children of Gujarat eat the roads, electricity and factories, which Modi has created? I appeal to Indians to consider all this if they are really concerned about the nation’s future; otherwise, they may make the same mistake that the Germans made in 1933.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2013.