September 18, 2020
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'Only Shows His Culpability'

Joining issue with the Gujarat Chief Minister's missive, an open letter in response to the President APJ Abdul Kalam.

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'Only Shows His Culpability'
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Dear Mr President,

A few days ago, Mr. Narender Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, in his open letter asked you to research and compile India’s record on dealing with the cases of riots and terrorism since independence. Mr. Modi hopes that such a study will shed light on our past failures in dealing with this issue and help exonerate him and his government in the Gujarat violence of 2002, in which the role of his administration has come under severe national and international criticism.

There is no question that we have a history of failing to combat communalism in India and also a history of failing to provide justice to the riot victims. And all such cases where justice has been denied ought to be similarly treated. But using that as an excuse to perpetrate further violence, continuing to divide our communities further on communal lines, taking advantage of that division, and denying justice to the innocent victims of such violence, is not just against the tenets of any civilized society, but is downright evil.

The appeal from Mr. Modi to dig up the data on our past failures of controlling the communal riots in the country, in order to justify the present riots and related terrorism in Gujarat, only shows his culpability in the violence. It also shows his intentions and the pre-planning that has gone into staging that violence. Several lines of defense seem to have been meticulously prepared in advance of the riots. This line of defense is just a part of that planning.

Allow me to present to you some of his other and earlier lines of defense:

According to the Concerned Citizen's report, headed by Justice Krishna Iyer, Mr. Modi had called a meeting of several of his cabinet colleagues, party workers and top police officials on February 27, 2002 in the aftermath of Godhra incident. He had instructed them not to interfere with the activities of the mob during Gujarat Bandh announced for the following day by the VHP and other outfits. This gave the rioters a complete free hand in carrying out the violence and brutalizing innocent people. More than 2000 people, including young women and children were brutalized, gang raped, massacred and burnt alive in Gujarat. Mr. Modi tried to justify that violence based on the Newtonian dynamics, calling it a "reaction to the action in Godhra".

That line of defense got widely criticized by the media at large. As the administration’s inaction, or ill actions, during riots came under sharper focus, Mr. Modi advanced the second line of defense that his administration controlled the riots within a record 72 hours, a feat never achieved in India during earlier riots. But based on the ground reality, that claim, though clever, also seemed immature and thus failed to silence his critics.

Meanwhile, as the criticism of his government continued to mount, the business and investment climate in Gujarat continued to weaken, the pressure from the national and international human rights organizations against his administration continued to build- all of this because his actions were speaking louder than his words- Mr. Modi raised the issue of pride of Gujarat to silence his critics. Yet the criticism did not stop. Under the circumstances, Mr. Modi had little choice but to act on the last line of his defense planning- that is to dig up our past records of failures in order to justify his own administration’s intentional failure in controlling the violence.

Mr. President as you ponder over Mr. Modi’s plea, allow me to present before you some of the facts about Mr. Modi’s actions during and since the Gujarat violence. His communal bias and willful discrimination against Muslims, which is totally unworthy of a secular government, is only far too numerous and too obvious to ignore.

Mr. Modi declared Rs 2 lakh towards compensation to the Godhra victims who were mostly Hindus, and Rs 1 lakh to those who were killed in the aftermath of Godhra, mostly Muslims. He refused to support the relief camps where more than one hundred thousand helpless victims of the riots who had lost everything were given shelter and relief. Under pressure when he was forced to provide the relief, he prematurely closed many of those facilities without due regard to victim’s rehabilitation saying "the baby producing factories need to be closed". Many of those victims have still not found shelter leave alone their lost livelihoods. They continue to languish in pain and miseries and suffer the hardships in their own state. All this has been very well documented through media coverage and independent reports. The National Human Rights Commission, the National Minorities Commission and the National Women's Commission have unanimously blamed the Narendra Modi government for serious acts of discrimination and communal bias.

Mr. Modi has locked up hundreds of suspects under POTA for Godhra and Akshardham attacks but got those suspected of massacre in the rest of Gujarat released either on bail, or through deliberate omission or commission. Best Bakery case, where all 21 accused of killing 14 innocent people in Vadodra were released, was the 37th trial where no suspect was found guilty of violence and murder. The process of justice is subverted in the state through a series of tactics that include altering FIRs, modifying and ignoring witness statements, threatening and terrorizing the witnesses to retract their testimonies and appointing justices who are known to have the right leaning.

Mr. Modi deliberately and misleadingly invoked the excuse of Muslim terrorism in Gujarat to feed on the fears of innocent people of the state. He denigrated the Muslim community via his obscene and divisive remark, "ham paanch hamare pachchees". He did everything to effect and then take advantage of the communal division to return to power.

But his return to power failed to stop the criticism of his government and prevent his national and international isolation. He is therefore calling your high office to intervene. Mr. Modi’s call to save the pride of Gujarat is in fact only a desperate attempt to bail him out of the troubles he finds himself in. The pride of Gujarat was never in question and it never will be, because everyone knows that Gujaratis are some of the best, intelligent, tolerant, compassionate, and kind people in the world. Despite his best efforts to communally polarize the people of Gujarat, he failed to get more than 25% of the total support, which is a testimony to Gujarat’s pride, sense of communal balance and religious tolerance. The pride of Gujarat is not under any threat. Modi’s personal pride is.

However, while Mr. Modi continues to be in power, the issue of human rights and justice for all in Gujarat is in danger. Under pressure, the police and the judiciary are both showing signs of communal bias in their functioning. While police have routinely falsified FIRs and released the perpetrators of the violence, out of dozens of law-suit that were filed in the Gujarat High Court by the violence victims, the court had admitted only one petition from Karuna Foundation challenging the validity of NHRC report.

Communally divisive utterances and reprehensible actions of Mr. Modi are also on records. He is on records calling the CEC Mr. Lyngdoh a man of low integrity, he is on records accusing Justice Krishna Iyer who indicted Gujarat government in "Crime Against Humanity" as an agent of Congress, he is on records calling NHRC team as Congress appeasers and BJP haters.

He is also on record telling the former Member of Parliament and my father-in-law Ahsan Jafri, "Jafri, you are on your own. Save yourself if you can". In a desperate effort to save his life on February 28, 2002, Jafri had called the Chief Minister among dozens others including police commissioner P.C. Pandey, pleading them to provide him and his family protection from the violent mob. He received no help and was brutalized, killed and burnt in his own house along with 89 others from the Gulberg Society, mostly women and children, who had gathered in his house also seeking protection from the mob.

While I welcome Mr. Modi’s suggestion that your high office must get involved in dealing with the Gujarat issue, that involvement should not be as Mr. Modi directs - to justify his intentional and willful failure to combat communalism in Gujarat.

Mr. President we know your love for the country and your resolve of taking India to the highest levels of progress, prosperity and pride. But this can only happen when we first eliminate the customs and political culture that are dividing our communities. Mr. Modi has made the job of communal integration deliberately difficult. Please do ensure that the seeds of communal division and hatred that have been sown in Gujarat are destroyed, that the justice is served, that the minorities in Gujarat don’t have to live in fear and insecurity. That alone will help India move forward towards your dream and vision. 

Thank you, Sir,

Sincerely,

Najid Hussain


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