Archive for July, 2013

So many riots in India, Why Is Modi Singled out?

29 July 2013
Yesterday someone sent me a two part article by H N Bali that was published by Boloji Website. Part-I was called “Many Faces of Falsehood”, while second went by the name, “Damn the Facts: Just Beat the Drum”. Bali has meticulously put together data on many of the past riots of which some were far more devastating than what happened in Gujarat of 2002. Just for this effort, the article is worth careful reading. Our memories are short, younger generations have no community memories of what happened in their infancy or before; and therefore, such documenting has an important place in public discourse. The author has fallen prey to excessive embellishments through generous dose of quotes of well-known figures such as Goebbels/ Auden/ Dostoyevsky/ Lenin/ Mundaka Upnishad/ Lincoln/, which somehow mars what otherwise would have been a valuable source for information on riots.
Human Rights Activists, it looks like, are an anathema to Bali, so much so that to traduce whom he even “equates” Congress Ministers Kapil Sibal and Digvijay Singh with them. This is taking “artistic license” too far. “Undoubtedly, the grim defining quality of Indian ‘secularism’ in the last decade is the self-righteous loud chest-thumping by India’s left-leaning human rights activists in the name of safeguarding Muslim rights in Gujarat. Perhaps no exercise since Independence has been more laughably self-defeating than this. And all this, despite the incessant chanting of its two high priests – Digvijay Singh and Kapil Sibal”. Bali who is out to destroy “falsehoods” has created one by calling Singh/Sibal the high priests of “left leaning” human rights activists. Are human rights the concern only of the left? And if the “loud chest-thumping” is “laughably self-defeating”, then why take the trouble to write two parts with promise of more?
In the din of Pro-Modi and Anti-Modi lobbies logic and reason seem to have lost the way. Granted that what happened in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in October/November of 1984 was unparalleled after the trauma suffered by the nation due to partition. That too it happened in the National Capital, a highly guarded place, where maximum concentration of security forces and intelligence agencies was and is present. I was an eyewitness to the Anti-Sikh pogrom and I have seen first-hand mindless, planned violence let loose by Congress leaders and the mobs they unleashed with assurance of police apathy.
Yet, H K L Bhagat (long dead), Lalit Maken (assassinated by Sikh extremists), Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, et al, who were alleged to have led violent mobs, went scot free all these years. If “Godhra coach burning and deaths of “alleged kar sevaks**” are used as pretext to justify post Godhra riots and killings (यह क्रिया प्रतीक्रीयाकी शृंखला चल रही है नरेंद्र मोदी), then pretext was also used to justify the killings of thousands of Sikhs in the nation’s capital (जब बरगदका पेड गिरता है, धरती हील जाती हैराजीव गांधी). Modi apologists find it very hard to stomach that Congress got away with “murder” while Modi may get skewered for what in comparison looks to them a “minor scuffle”. This disproportionate response to Modi’s alleged transgressions makes their bile rise with extreme bitterness towards what they call “left leaning human rights activists”, “pseudo-secularists”, and towards Congress opportunists like Singh/ Sibal. If one were to consider dispassionately the facts of numerous riots including post-Godhra riots, then their bitterness does not look without reasons, but there remedy looks. Modi supporters are barking up the wrong tree for the woes of Modi, and so is the remedy they conjure- Modi should be let scot-free just like his Congress predecessors went scot-free. No one is discussing the real reasons why Gujarat Riots are meted out a much different treatment than past riots.
Modi’s misfortunes are due to higher judiciary directed and often supervised investigations and consequent filing of FIRs and charge-sheets. Courts acted when they were moved by the petitioners, who came from families of either riot victims or encounter victims. These petitioners got help from human rights activists in some instances and from able lawyers.  Such petitions were moved in some cases in the past too, but then they did not get much traction, attention and awareness that is necessary to goad courts into first initiating action and then sustaining the pressure on investigators till charge-sheets are delivered. What has made the difference?
·        First private television channel started in Indian in 1992. After the first baby steps, slowly the momentum picked up with content catching up with the demands of the industry. Entertainment channels soon had competition from news channels. News channels grew into 24×7 services. This explosive growth was hungry for “eyeballs” (read advertising revenues) and “private news” went ballistic with sensationalism and “breaking news” syndrome. Scandals, corruption, terrorist acts, riots soon became staple “consumption news” on fiercely competing channels, most of whom are still bleeding red. Gujarat 2002 riot is “victim” of this saturation coverage, which not only riveted public attention but even came to close scrutiny of international audience. Riots anywhere now moved virtually right into the homes of tens of millions. Even Courts couldn’t escape the incessant glare of cameras and hyper-excited anchors.
·        Cell phones have become ubiquitous, and were used conveniently but “carelessly” to coordinate and direct violence in 2002. This created evidence trail. (When a Dy SP of state police was killed in UP recently allegedly at the behest of a बाहुबली MLA and minister in ruling SP government, the killers had apparently kept their mobile phones far away from the crime scene and in active service including someone making calls from them on their behalf to REVERSE ENGINEER evidence of INNOCENCE). In 2002, this “expertise” and “knowledge”, which were developed thanks to benefit of hindsight, were not available.
·        Cameras too have proliferated, especially riding piggy back on cell phones. Capturing images and even video clips has become accessible to masses. Such “visual evidence” can have powerful impact on public psyche as was recently evident in video clips of police looting a shop during Malegaon riots that went viral.
·        Technology has provided tools to secretly capture audio-video evidence into the hands ordinary persons. The costs of such खुपिया गैजेट्स have plummeted, and journalists and activists have taken to them avidly. Print and visual media made it their business to unearth the truth through carefully planned exposes. This played a crucial role too.
·        Lastly, Modi has been his own liability too. He is adamant and inflexible. He did not even pretend remorse over what happened, even if he was not responsible for it, personally or otherwise. In this respect he is loyal to his convictions unlike the opportunistic Congressmen. He draws incessant attention because he has assiduously projected larger than his party and life image. In this sense he has fashioned himself in the mould of Indira Gandhi. Does one remember India is Indira, and Indira is India slogan of Devkant Barua? Think of Gujarat today and Modi comes into focus. Do we know any other BJP minister or leader from Gujarat? Did we care who Indira’s colleagues were?
·        Society too has evolved and has somewhat better understanding of what fundamental human rights are, why these are important to us, and why therefore they need to be defended. The courts to have evolved and have become more sensitive to their transgressions.
Had these factors been alive and present when the riots listed by Bali had occurred, then we would have seen totally different outcomes. I have no doubts over this in my mind. What do you say?
**alleged kar sevaks”: I used this phrase because senior journalist, Rajinder Puri, had said in his post, The Real Godhra Cover Up:
The Forensic Science Laboratory which assisted the probe proved that the rail carriage was set afire from inside while the outside doors of the burnt carriage were locked. The arsonists could therefore have entered only through the corridor from the adjoining carriage which was occupied by Kar Sevaks. The obvious puzzle was how a Muslim mob could pass through a carriage of Kar Sevaks to set the occupants in the adjoining carriage afire. But the most damaging aspect of this unsolved crime relates to the identity of the victims who were burnt to death.
Circumstantial evidence suggests that they were not Kar Sevaks but migrant labour allowed to occupy seats reserved for the Kar Sevaks. Even six months after the Godhra fire the identity of the victims was not established. Only four of the 58 victims of the Godhra fire were reserved passengers. Who were the rest? Nineteen bodies remained unidentified. Therefore the remaining 35 charred bodies of unreserved passengers were “identified” by the police. Even six months after the train fire the surviving reserved passengers had not been questioned by police. Why? Why and how were they not in the carriage when it was set afire?
It might be recalled that Miss Mamata Banerjee as Railway Minister had claimed that she had seen the forensic report. She accused her predecessor in office Mr. Nitish Kumar of holding back the reserved passenger list in order to protect the BJP. Mr. Nitish Kumar responded by claiming in parliament that only subsequently did the investigators ask his ministry for the reserved passenger list. Do not both leaders owe the nation and the cause of truth to reveal all they knew about the event?”.
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