By Brinda Karat
In defence of the insulting and repugnant ‘puppy’ analogy he used when asked in an interview about the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat, Narendra Moditweeted “In our culture every form of life is valued and worshipped.” Except, he could have added, if you are a Muslim or a Christian.
From another angle, his concern for puppies is as touching as was Hitler’s love for his dog. In 1933, the German government enacted one of the most comprehensive animal protection rights legislations in the world, as a first step in a series of laws to protect animals – ranging from anaesthetising fish before they were cut up, to ensuring that lobsters were killed swiftly rather than having to experience the pain of being slowly boiled, before being served up as special delicacies to those accustomed to fine dining.
In the moral hierarchies born and bred in Nazi minds, there was no conflict between care for animals and genocide of Jews, since, in the Nazi reading, Jews were subhuman beings lower than most animal species, comparable to vermin.
Similarly, the Gujarat chief minister, brought up in schools of thought that preach hatred towards the minorities in theory and in practice, can find it easy to express sadness for a puppy run over accidentally, but cannot bring himself to directly express sympathy for the thousands of Muslims, including women and children, who were butchered under his watch in 2002.
The analogy is inappropriate for another reason too. There was nothing accidental about the carnage. Incontrovertible evidence is now available in the voluminous records of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to show the culpability of the state. It is this SIT set up by the Supreme Court, and headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan, that gave Modi the ‘clean chit’ he now flaunts.
The records were inexplicably kept secret by the SIT and have come into the public domain only recently, through the Zakia Jafri petition in the Gulbarg Society case. The petition is to reject the SIT’s clean chit to Modi and has been admitted by a court in Ahmedabad where arguments are being heard.
A reading of the material would lend support to the legitimacy of such a petition. Details of the post-Godhra transcripts of frantic police messages to headquarters provide a blow-by-blow account of the build-up to the massacres and the role of various players like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Modi himself.
They reflect the puzzlement of the police why no action was taken on their reports. Why did the government not act in time in spite of warnings? Nor was it a question of being temporarily overwhelmed by unforeseen circumstances. The transcripts of state intelligence reports prior to the kar sevaks leaving for Ayodhya, from a week before the horrific Godhra crime, also describe the highly communal public slogans that were given by their leaders.
Was it good governance not to take any preventive steps? Was it good governance to allow the post-mortem of the Godhra victims on a railway platform in full public view, as Modi did? According to SIT records, he was present at the Godhra station at the time. Was it good governance to then hand over the bodies to precisely those organisations like the VHP, who the police warned, were out to create a communal conflagration?
Or were these the actions of a self-described Hindu nationalist whose very idea of India has more in common with Hitler’s Germany than Ambedkar’s Cons-titution? Or is this an example of the decisiveness that Modi boasted of as a sterling quality for his claim to leadership in the same controversial interview?
The question to be asked is decisiveness in whose interest. Certainly not in the interests of justice. Only recently Modi decided to send to UP as his proxy Amit Shah, a man chargesheeted in a fake encounter case, while defending others involved in the cold-blooded murder of Ishrat Jahan. And here it is not only a question of taking swift decisions against justice for the minorities, although that is the paramount issue in the context of the Gujarat model.
It is the lack of concern in decision-making for justice to the poor, the undernourished, those deprived of the right to literacy. As analysts of the Gujarat model have convincingly shown, the indicators of social inequalities remain very high in Gujarat, even as corporates have benefited enormously from the quick decisions taken by Modi. Decisiveness without a moral compass is of little use to India’s working masses.
Those who have experienced the sorrow of an untimely death of a loved one know only too well the importance of moving on, of finding some kind of closure, essential for the process of healing the wounds of grief. But for loss inflicted by deliberate policy, by design, by the illegal use of power, closure only comes when those responsible are held accountable and punished.
Modi was at the wheel when Gujarat burnt. In the face of his recent defiant justification, the wounds bleed afresh and force us once again to remember the horror of 2002. And to ask the question, is this the model that India needs?
The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and politburo member of the CPM.