It has been sometime since the enterprise to ‘anoint’ Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister in waiting had kicked off. The biggest hurdle on the way was of course the fact that owing to his complicity in the Gujarat 2002 massacre of Muslims, one of the worst pogroms this country has ever seen, Modi is a deeply reviled figure whom even BJPs coalition partners are weary to be seen with. Naturally, ways and means had to be found to make him ‘acceptable’. People had to be persuaded that at the most, what happened in 2002 were aberrations Modi wasn’t responsible for. That even the Muslims of Gujarat had moved on, grateful for the ‘development’ and ‘prosperity’ Modi has brought them. Hence, Gujarat is Vibrant and the rest of India is straining at the leash to partake in that prosperity.
Those who have assumed this onerous responsibility to lead us to eternal prosperity through Modi’s leadership, would have us believe that anybody who has any brains in this country and actually puts them to any use, has pronounced their judgement – Narendra Modi is God’s chosen one. Wait, one gentleman of erstwhile PMO fame, actually thinks he is God. (he even tweeted: God has a name. He is called NaMo).
Being a self-confessed ‘infidel’, ‘sinner’, ‘ignorant’, ‘bigot’ (in which ever order you prefer) or even a ‘secular’ (this indeed can be the worst of the epithets) for not having seen deliverance in such enlightenment, my usual response to these have been – C’est la vie !!! (Some of the believers have found my utter stupidity so bothersome that they have even resorted to spreading awareness in twitter not to get infected by the disease I am supposed to be suffering from)
But when someone as widely held in respect as Mr. B. Raman joins that chorus, I find it more than a little unsettling. (Mr. B. Raman retired as Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, after a long and distinguished career in the country’s intelligence service and is presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre for China Studies)
In his blogpost on April 15, 2011 titled “Assertion of Youth Power in Support of Narendra Modi” Mr. B. Raman contends that Narendra Modi is India’s only hope if we are to fulfill our aspiration to be a powerful and prosperous nation outstripping China, and it is patently unfair that the ‘so called secularists’ should prevent him from fulfilling our destiny just because of some insignificant lapses on the part of his government during the ‘initial hours’ of the Gujarat Riots of 2002 and it is the bounden duty of India’s youth to ensure that the ‘so called secularists’ don’t come in the way of Narendra Modi in his march to fulfill our destiny.
Mr. Raman is entitled to his opinion. He is not entitled, however, to bend the truth to suit his argument.
Mr. Raman wrote:
There has been a perception—not unjustified—that Modi did not, in the initial stages, deal with the explosive situation vigorously in order to protect the members of the Muslim community from brutal and beastly reprisal attacks by the Hindus. The fact that the Police subsequently took vigorous action to protect the Muslims —as evidenced by the large number of Hindus killed in police-firing— would not mitigate from the fact that in the initial hours after the news of the Godhra massacre spread across the State, the administration dragged its feet in protecting the Muslims, thereby wittingly or unwittingly giving a free run to frenzied Hindu mobs. It was a horrible episode of which all of us have to be ashamed. (emphasis in bold, mine)
Is it a mere ‘perception’ that Modi did not act to protect Muslims, Mr. Raman? And was his inaction just confined to the ‘initial stages’? When exactly did the Police subsequently take vigorous action?
NOT EVEN AFTER 72 HOURS OF NON STOP GRUESOME CARNAGE OF MUSLIMS !!!!
The violence continued for weeks.
I reproduce below excerpts from what the National Human Rights Commission had to say in respect to the ‘situation’ in Gujarat, even as early as May 31, 2002 in its proceedings on this matter:
(paragraph 9) In its Preliminary Comments of 1 April 2002 the Commission had observed that the first question that arises is whether the State has discharged its primary and inescapable responsibility to protect the rights to life, liberty, equality and dignity of all of those who constitute it. Given the history of communal violence in Gujarat, a history vividly recalled in the report dated 28 March 2002 of the State Government itself, the Commission had raised the question whether the principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ (‘the affair speaking for itself’) should not apply in this case in assessing the degree of State responsibility in the failure to protect the rights of the people of Gujarat. It observed that the responsibility of the State extended not only to the acts of its own agents, but also to those of non-State players within its jurisdiction and to any action that may cause or facilitate the violation of human rights. The Commission added that, unless rebutted by the State Government, the adverse inference arising against it would render it accountable. The burden of proof was therefore on the State Government to rebut this presumption.
(paragraph 10) Nothing in the reports received in response to the Proceedings of 1 April 2002 rebuts the presumption. The violence in the State, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time. Despite the measures reportedly taken by the State Government, which are recounted in its report of 12 April 2002, that report itself testifies to the increasing numbers who died or were injured or deprived of their liberty and compelled to seek shelter in relief camps. That report also testifies to the assault on the dignity and worth of the human person, particularly of women and children, through acts of rape and other humiliating crimes of violence and cruelty. The report further makes clear that many were deprived of their livelihood and capacity to sustain themselves with dignity. The facts, thus, speak for themselves, even as recounted in the 12 April 2002 report of the State Government itself. The Commission has therefore reached the definite conclusion that the principle of ‘res ipsa loquitur’ applies in this case and that there was a comprehensive failure of the State to protect the Constitutional rights of the people of Gujarat, starting with the tragedy in Godhra on 27 February 2002 and continuing with the violence that ensued in the weeks that followed.
There is a mass of evidence, but this would suffice to illustrate that what Mr. Raman presents us as facts aren’t exactly so.
Mr. Raman also wrote:
After the frenzy of the initial hours, the State Administration did move in vigorously to bring the situation under control. The fact that no effective action was taken in the initial hours has left a scar in the minds and hearts of Muslims. This scar is likely to take a long time to heal. The cases registered in connection with the brutal attacks on the Muslim community are under investigation or prosecution. The investigation made so far has not produced any evidence of complicity by Modi. (emphasis in bold, mine)
Really Mr. Raman?
Far from moving in vigorously to control the situation, the State Administration did everything to prevent upright police officers from intervening or swiftly penalized those who did intervene, refusing to toe the ‘silent spectator’ role Modi dictated them to adopt.
It is true that the cases registered in connection with the brutal attacks on the Muslim community are under investigation or prosecution. But does Mr. Raman explain to us what took so long for this to happen?
In his hurry to get us onto the Modi bandwagon, Mr. Raman forgets to inform us that the investigation and prosecution of even the worst cases during the carnage could come about only after tortuous legal battles and intervention of the Supreme Court of India, which ‘innocent’ Mr. Modi sought to obstruct or subvert by every possible means.
In light of what I have stated above, would Mr. Raman care to explain which investigation has so far not produced any evidence of complicity by Mr. Modi?
Isn’t it telling enough that the Supreme Court had to entertain a Special Leave Petition and finding the prima facie evidence compelling enough, constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and supervised its investigations just to ascertain Mr. Modi’s complicity? The last I heard, neither the investigation nor the Supreme Court has exonerated Mr. Modi.
Wouldn’t it have been closer to truth if Mr. Raman had said that Mr. Modi remains under grave suspicion and yet to be exonerated for his complicity? That of course wouldn’t have sounded so good, would it have?
Let us look at just one instance.
105 defenceless men, women and children were butchered and burnt to death (many of the women raped) in the locality of Naroda Patia just Kilometers away from the Ahmedabad Police HQ in a carnage that lasted for several hours on February 28, 2002. When the National Human Rights Commission team led by Chairperson Justice J. S. Verma visited Gujarat from March 19-22, 2002, they also visited the Shah-e-Alam Relief Camp where many of the Naroda Patia survivors were in refuge, each having a horrible tale of suffering to narrate. Victims specifically named the perpetrators of the mayhem, like then Naroda MLA Dr. Mayaben Kodnani and VHP leader Dr. Jayadev Patil. These were on record in the NHRC report. Yet, when the Gujarat Police finally filed chargesheets, none of them even figured and even the charges were diluted against many who couldn’t be left out. This was one of the 9 horrific riot cases the Supreme Court of India ordered to re-investigate in March 2008, 6 years after the riot and massacre and after a protracted legal battle by the victims and activists.
As a result, Dr. Mayaben Kodnani, whose name figured not only in the FIRs but the report of the NHRC, but against whom Gujarat Police didn’t find any evidence at all, was finally arrested and put behind bars in 2009. The evidences, particularly records of her cell-phone usage which clearly showed her presence in Naroda Patia during the carnage and constant contact with senior police officials, were damning. It must also be noted that these cell-phone records were handed over to the Gujarat Police Crime Branch by then DCP (Control Room) Rahul Sharma in 2002 which then curiously disappeared. It was just fortunate that the upright officer retained copies and handed them over to the SIT.
Refusing her anticipatory bail and quashing one granted to her illegally by a lower court, Justice DH Waghela of Gujarat HC said,
“If in the name of religion, people are killed, that is absolutely a slur and blot on society…religious fanatics really do not belong to any religion. They are no better than terrorists, who kill innocent people for no rhyme or reason…”.
How did Modi reward Dr. Mayaben Kodnani for her role in the riot ? By making her a minister. During the riots in 2002, Dr. Mayaben Kodnani was only an MLA. By the time she was arrested and charged with mass murder 7 years later, she was a Minister-of-State in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Ironically, the portfolio she held was that of Women’s Development and Child Welfare.
And how did Narendra Modi reward IPS officer Rahul Sharma for assisting the SIT by handing over crucial evidence? By immediately issuing him a showcause notice for doing so.
Would Mr. Raman care to explain why is Narendra Modi so afraid to be investigated if there wasn’t any complicity?
But Mr. Raman does clarify,
I have been a strong critic of Modi the Hindutva ideologue and a strong supporter of Modi, the administrator.
What kind of an administration does Narendra Modi run where vital evidences such as wireless records of the Police Control Room during the riots are destroyed when he himself holds the Cabinet portfolio for Home which gives direct control of the Gujarat Police?
What kind of an administration, in which his hand picked police officers in collusion with his Minister-of-State for Home runs a criminal empire of extortion and murder? That they have to land in jail on being investigated and charged by CBI on directions from the Supreme Court of India?
Would Mr. Raman care to explain?
And this is the man Mr. Raman wants us to reward with a “National Role”? (What that “National Role” could be leaves little to imagination)
Have we become so morally depraved as a nation?
Have we become so impotent that we hope not to find leaders of character and ability among men to lead the nation who would deserve our respect as well as trust?
On February 27, 1947, Sardar Patel, who chaired the Advisory Committee of the Constituent Assembly on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribals and Excluded Areas, reacting to malicious claims that the minorities in India wouldn’t find justice at the hands of the majority community, boldly asserted:
“It is for us to prove that it is a bogus claim, a false claim, and that nobody can be more interested than us, in India, in the protection of our minorities. Our mission is to satisfy every one of them…..Let us prove (that) we can rule ourselves and we have no ambition to rule others.”
So it is that the Constitution of India guarantees Fundamental Rights of all who dwell in this country, on a non-discriminatory basis, regardless of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
It was this very basis of our rights that Narendra Modi violated and continues to do so by standing in the way of justice.
His wisdom and long service to the nation notwithstanding, Mr. Raman seems to have somehow forgotten that a great nation cannot be built on the foundation of injustice, violating the very basis the nation draws its inspiration and strength from. It gives me no pleasure, however, to remind him so.