In recent times, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi seems to be taking great pains to provide frequent clarifications about the 2002 riots in his state, which, judging from his eight years of near silence, seems quite intriguing. The latest ones, "Modi Himself Has Opposed The Riots And Still Does", and "Canards Have Been Spread Against Me" make for interesting reading.
For the last eight years, critics have accused Mr Modi of masterminding the Gujarat massacre of 2002. In eight years, he had little to say to them about charges levelled against him, with any amount of specificity. His responses have been generally vague and loaded with distractions. That does not seem changed even today. Here is an example.
In his article of March 22, Mr. Modi claims he feels “constrained” to write about the alleged “canards” spread against him. “Truth cannot be suppressed”, asserts Mr. Modi, “It is now my duty to place before you the facts that brings out the importance of understanding what the truth really is.”
That was enough to get the attention of his critics who are still hopeful that the moment of truth has perhaps arrived. Their long wait finally will come to an end.
“It is a matter of grave concern and needs investigation as to why and who started spreading lies that SIT summons Narendra Modi on March 21, 2010”, wrote Mr Modi. He went on to correct, ‘SIT only sent a notice not a summons’, and ‘the date was not March 21st but March 27th’. End of clarification.
That’s all? End of clarification on eight years of alleged ‘canards’! In just two recent so called media “lies” -- neither relevant nor important -- with a conclusion that critics are trying to malign him! Wow! As they say: khodaa pahaaR niklaa chuuhaa! [Dug a mountain, found a mouse]
Either Mr Modi does not understand the charges levelled against him, or is simply hoping that he can succeed in hood-winking us and our legal system, with distractions over non-issues, long enough to make the cases against him get cold, his critics get old, and his acts of omissions and commissions of human rights violations get sold to the pages of history, just like the past massacres and human rights violations in our country. It's a clever strategy.
There was yet another clever strategy of a “72 hour riot” in the planning of the massacre of 2002. In the days after the massacre, Mr Modi publicly declared that the Gujarat riots of 2002 were controlled in a record time – 72 hours – which he claimed had never happened in the history of India in cases of major rioting. That statement was echoed repeatedly by his administration and other supporters, many a times where that clarification was not even needed. Mr Modi even requested the then president of India, Honourable APJ Abdul Kalam, to compile a list of past riots in India and show how long it took for authorities to control them. The idea being that such statistics from the President will show no major Indian riots of the past had been controlled within 72 hours, which will exonerate Mr Modi, and his administration of the charge of dereliction of duty in controlling the riots.
Too bad that President Kalam ignored his request. Or maybe, he saw the clever motive hidden behind the request.
Former Defense Minister George Fernandes, during his visit to Gujarat in the aftermath of the riots, also admired the “three day control”. He also confirmed that such control was unprecedented in our history of rioting. Though in his momentum, he got slightly carried away to assert there was nothing new in killing children, raping women, extracting foetuses and tossing them in fire during Gujarat massacre. He said, we Indians have done all of this before.
The ground soldiers of 2002 massacre – Babu Bajrangi, Haresh Bhatt and their other team mates – also talked about the three day rule. They were hardly exaggerating before Ashish Khetan of Tehelka (Tehelka, November 5, 2007) when they said, “Narendrabhai gave us three days to do whatever we wanted”. They further added, “Narendrabhai’s only condition was the riots must stop in three days”.
Besides, over-defending an allegation often indicates guilt. The three-day-mantra is a pattern written across the board of 2002 massacre – amongst the planners as well as the executioners – prompting us to look beneath the surface.
Exploiting the weakness of our justice system was also a part of the planning. That weakness was seen as the best insurance and the most potent defence tool. The riot planners were certain that our justice system, and those charged to enforce it, will see the Gujarat administration’s riot control admirable and will not treat them differently compared to those of the past who also had committed similar crimes against humanity and had escaped accountability.
Many massacres of the past had lasted for days, even weeks, essentially because they were unplanned and more often than not, ran out of control. Gujarat riots, on the other hand, were meticulously planned with a strict three day rule to be enforced. Modi administration's oft-repeated mantra could well be seen as a corroboration of what Babu Bajrangi, Haresh Bhatt et al boasted. If anything, it should be used against the administration.
Mr Modi has already become the first Chief Minister in the history of our country to be summoned and questioned about the role his administration played in the massacre, by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India to investigate Gujarat riots. Our justice system is already treading the path that will lead us to the ultimate truth about the Gujarat massacre of 2002. Mr Modi can now choose to give the truth himself, or our legal system will deduce it based on the testimonies, and other evidence.
A strong leader is characterized by a noble ideology, admirable vision, and a matching character to boldly take the country where no one has taken it before. In that pursuit, he (or she) can not be weak-hearted to act, can not be afraid to speak the truth, and always ready to pay the price if and when needed. Otherwise, he is not a strong leader. If you can’t face the music, you shouldn’t lead the band.
Our history is replete with strong leaders. Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Bhagat Singh, Vallabhbhai Patel … who chose jail, even death, for their cause, but did not lie, or hide the truth. In their foot-steps, Mr Modi also can choose to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Besides, it is not leadership to sacrifice your foot soldiers for saving your skin by dissociating yourself from the cause. Captains don’t abandon sinking ships if there are others on-boad!
Mr Modi can greatly benefit from the film A Few Good Men. Colonel Nathan Jessep (played by Jack Nicholson) could be an inspiration. Having illegally ordered operation “code red” (death) on one of his soldiers, Col. Jessep under intense legal questioning by Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) authoritatively roars, “You want the truth? You can't handle the truth!" But the colonel does not lie. He takes the responsibility and speaks the truth.
Mr Modi also writes about the oft repeated claim that a majority of Gujaratis support him and see anything said against him as hurting ‘the pride of Gujarat’. That claim is simply inaccurate, even absurd. True, Mr Modi has won state elections two times after the massacre, but he did not receive even 50% of the total electorate.
A hateful ideology unites its followers despite their other differences. Result: they often vote as a block. Secular minded people on the other hand have lesser unity among themselves because they have many other issues they care about and so never vote as a block. Despite a net minority support, extremists can, and do, win elections and come to power. But that win is not a mandate on the nature of a majority of voters, or their support to extremism.
Gujaratis are some of the best people our nation has produced. Many are working diligently to bring the current atmosphere of hate and communal discrimination in Gujarat to an end. They are not the supporters of extremism. The pride of Gujarat does not come from ideologues of hate. It is the ideology of Bapu, which guides us in Gujarat and beyond.
Bapu’s teachings of love and brotherhood will live on. His appeals of communal harmony will live on. His dream of one powerful India will live on. Extremism will not. That is the pride of Gujarat.
This is no canard. It’s the truth.
Najid Hussain directs an environmental laboratory in Delaware (USA). He is also the son-in-law of former MP Ahsan Jafri and Zakia Jafri. The latter's complaint finally resulted in Mr Modi being questioned by the Special Investigation Team
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