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January 17, 2011

Is Modi India’s future?


January 17, 2011

He is an agent of change. He is the best thing to have happened to India in decades. He is the only one who could banish poverty from India. He is the leader India has been waiting for all these years. He is the hope and future of the emerging world leader that is India. Who’s he though? Rahul Gandhi? Nah! It’s vibrant Gujarat’s vibrant leader Shri Narendra Modiji.
The biennial event that Gujarat has been hosting to promote the state as the world’s favoured investment destination over the past ten years has become a Modi love fest with captains of the Indian industry and virtual who’s who of big business, singing paeans to the great leader that Gujarat chief minister clearly is for them.
Ratan Tata of Tata Group regales the audience with his first person account of how Modi gets things done in a jiffy and always delivers on his promises. Anil Ambani of the Reliance sees in him “a catalyst for change.” Gujarat is to India, he argues, what India is to the world, the beacon of hope for the future. His elder brother, the richest Indian and the chairman of the powerful Reliance Group, Mukesh Ambani, addresses him with utmost reverence, almost as if the chief minister was Lord Ram himself, saying only he could banish poverty from Gujarat and deliver India itself. And of course all the Ambanis, Tatas, Mahindras and Mittals promised to invest thousands of crores of rupees more in Gujarat.
Am I really that clueless? Or is Modi indeed the mahatma India has been waiting for decades? How can the Tatas and Ambanis of this world forget so fast that this visionary presided over the dance of death in February 2002 that killed at least two thousand people? This is the very same man whose gangs went on a rampage, raping and killing women before their loved ones. They didn’t even spare unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs.
This is not my fevered imagination talking. This is something that has been documented and proven by independent media, rights

groups, witnesses and cops and officials who were on duty during those few weeks when Gujarat turned into something straight from Dante’s Inferno. At least, three inquiry commissions have probed the carnage that went on for nearly two months with Neroes in Delhi fiddling while Gujarat burnt. It didn’t take them long to discover the truth.
Indeed, there was little to probe. Everyone who read newspapers and watched the television knew what happened in Gujarat and who executed it with a cool, dispassionate ruthlessness that would have made the Nazis proud. Newsmagazine Tehelka even caught the killers on tape for the benefit of everyone. Yet Modi not just remains in power and roams free, India’s richest and mightiest are shamelessly grovelling before him, praising him to the skies. The media that long ago brushed everything that has happened in Gujarat under the carpet remains hopelessly in love with him. Even those whose sleepy conscience goads them once in a while bring out their kid gloves when dealing with Mahatma Modi!
This is but just one example of the mindset that is at work not just in the media but in the entire establishment that has been hijacked by the ideology that rules Gujarat today. Even after the recent revelations and first person account of senior RSS leader Swami Aseemanand, exposing the direct role of the Hindutva organisations in numerous terror attacks across the country, the media continues to treat it as though it was some minor traffic offence we are dealing with.
Remember at least 68 people were killed in the 2007 blast targeting Samjhauta Express that links India and Pakistan. Thirty-eight people died in the terror attack that hit a Malegaon mosque in 2006. The explosion at the Friday prayers in Hyderabad’s historical Mecca Masjid claimed 14 worshippers in 2007. Even the Sufi shrine in Ajmer Shareef that attracts followers of all religions wasn’t spared.
All these attacks had been of course blamed on the “Muslim terrorists” and Pakistani agents that apparently lurk in the ranks of India’s 200-million strong Muslim population. Thousands of young Muslims – and old – were randomly picked up from across the country, especially from Muslim majority cities like Hyderabad, and thrown behind the bars without any recourse to justice.
For years they were put through some of the worst methods of torture known to man. I personally know many such unfortunate men whose lives have been totally wrecked because of someone else’s sins. Those faceless men, forgotten by a callous, Kafkaesque system, are still languishing in prisons, paying for crimes they haven’t committed. CNN-IBN TV has done a series of courageous and eye-popping stories on many such men and some of them are available on YouTube.
However, for much of the Indian media and establishment, including the bureaucracy and police, Muslims remain the usual suspects, no matter what Swami Aseemanand’s sworn testimony says. Or the facts and ground realities suggest. Innocent Muslims are still rounded up as the guilty whenever and wherever a bomb goes off.
The RSS, BJP and their many affiliates with the help of their powerful friends in high places have started protesting and fighting back with a vehemence and conviction that only they could muster. BJP chief Gadkari condemns the stunning disclosures and detailed reports in publications like Tehelka as a Congress conspiracy against the RSS and the Hindus.
Sangh apologists like Swapandas Gupta bend over backwards to defend the indefensible, trying to explain what is nothing but pure, old-fashioned terrorism as “retributive violence.” The governing Congress, ever preoccupied with its fine electoral calculations, goes to great lengths to warn against tagging “any religion with terrorism.” A classic case of living in denial!
As Pratap Bhanu Mehta wrote in Indian Express this week, “our response to this challenge has been, at best, an embarrassed denial. In the process we have put on display our double standards. We could not even get ourselves to admit that anyone claiming the appellation Hindu could be terrorists. This is more a symptom of our prejudice than a fact. This also seemed to blindside investigative agencies enough that they kept on pursuing the wrong leads and targeting the wrong groups.”
Will this ever change? When will India wake up to the clear and present danger it faces in Hindu extremism? All these years the Sangh fanatics have been dismissed as a lunatic, but totally harmless, fringe by the establishment. The fringe, however, is not a fringe any more. It has taken control of the silent majority. More important, as Aseemanand’s testimony reveals, it is armed and dangerous. Which has been borne out by the numerous attacks in the past few years. Extremism is extremism, whether it’s that of Muslims or Hindus. It eats into the vitals of a vibrant society, as cancer gnaws its way into a healthy body. However, as Nehru warned half a century ago, majority extremism is more dangerous because it always masquerades as nationalism. India has to stop this rot before it’s too late. Living in denial wouldn’t get us anywhere.
As I’ve repeatedly said, the Hindu majority is essentially reasonable, peace-loving and amazingly tolerant. India is what it is today because of them. But Hindutva extremism is also a stark reality and a challenge that India has to confront sooner or later. Men like Modi may bring investors but their kind of politics won’t work for long. You can’t build a beautiful utopia on the foundations of injustice and murder. Your sins catch up with you sooner or later. Our friends next door in Pakistan are realising to their horror what extremism and politics of hate could do to a large, populous and diverse nation. We mustn’t go down that road.
The writer is a Dubai-based writer who has written extensively on the Middle East and South Asia.Email: [email protected]

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