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Sunday, December 29, 2013

After the exoneration: Modi's vision of India

By Swapan Dasgupta

Any judicial verdict, including one where investigations had been closely monitored by the Supreme Court, leaves some people disappointed.

So it was with the Ahmedabad trial court judgement that exonerated Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the grave charge of conspiracy in the horrible riots that gripped the State in March 2002.  In this case the disappointment was particularly pronounced because the attempt to rule Modi out of active politics through a judicial pronouncement had the fulsome backing of some of the most powerful and influential individuals throughout the world.

Modi may have secured the categorical endorsement of the people of Gujarat for three consecutive Assembly elections, but to those who set themselves up as moral guardians of Indian politics, he was forever the “mass murderer” who had to be prevented from assuming higher office at any cost. The trouble with Modi, as they saw it, was that far from limiting the question of culpability to an individual, he had enlarged the number of accused to include the six crore Gujaratis for whom he claimed to speak. In that sense, last week’s judgement didn’t merely exonerate the Chief Minister who was at the helm in 2002, it liberated the entire State of Gujarat from a heartless taint.

 The people of Gujarat, barring a small number of extremely motivated activists, had maintained a discernible silence for the past 12 years or so. This wasn’t because they were in a state of denial — a little probing reveals that the traumatic events that began with the arson attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra haven’t exactly been forgotten. Yet, the reason why rekindling memories of that horrible week wasn’t appreciated — and let us not forget that even the Opposition Congress in the State stopped using the 2002 riots as a campaign theme — was because of an earnest desire to look ahead and rebuild the State after two back-to-back tragedies: the earthquake of January 26, 2001 and the riots of March 2002.

This was something that Modi understood and acted upon. Even the Chief Minister’s worst detractors will not deny that the post-Godhra riots have not been repeated. For a State where communal rioting was endemic throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and where daily life was all about water shortages, power cuts and incessant curfews, a riot-free 12 years has been a stupendous achievement. What is more, this social harmony has been brought about by a new form of politics — one where the State did not tailor its priorities to suit religious communities.

Contrast this unwillingness to view compartmentalise the province into religious units with States where the thrust of the administration is to shower particular communities with exceptional favours. Gujarat has not had a communal riot since 2002 but such riots have been endemic in Uttar Pradesh where Akhilesh Yadav practices the most perverse variant of secular-communalism. Contrast the prevailing social equilibrium in Gujarat with the simmering tensions that are being observed in States such as Assam, West Bengal and Bihar.

To the critics of Modi, the Chief Minister is said to be viscerally anti-Muslim. They have pointed to his opposition to special scholarships for Muslims and the fact that the term Muslim does not appear in the blog that appeared last Friday and even managed to temporarily overshadow the English-language media’s gush-gush coverage of everything to do with the Aam Aadmi Party — the flavour of the festive season.

I am heartened by this omission. This is not because there isn’t many Muslim self-identities. There is and a religious identity should be respected. However, there is a big difference between a socio-religious Muslim identity and its use as a political football. This would be as true of a Hindu identity or a Christian identity — a possible reason why the more menacingly vocal representatives of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad view Modi with deep suspicion, and even hostility. Modi has incurred the displeasure of the certifying authorities of Indian secularism precisely because he has shunned religious characterisation. In a normal place this would have made him too secular; by the logic of the Nehruvian consensus he is labelled majoritarian and, by implication, communal.

The great thing about these labels of abuse is that they are born of expediency. Arvind Kejriwal wasn’t debunked as a Hindu bigot for not including a Muslim and Sikh representative in his Cabinet. Nor has anyone with common sense questioned his use of aam aadmi because it does not accord a separate place to the religious minorities.

Of course, such intellectual generosity would be unimaginable when applied to Modi. When the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate writes in his blog that “my emphasis has always been on developing and emphasising a spirit of unity”, he is attacked for failing to highlight India’s social mosaic. This mosaic is, needless to say, a reality. The point of contention is whether politics involves disentangling each separate strand or positing the commonality of interests of all India. By suggesting a “vote for India” in the coming general elections, Modi is challenging the principle of divisive politics. He is also debunking the construction of aggrieved victimhood which formed the basis of the unrelenting onslaught against him for the past 12 years.

The professional tribe of ambulance chasers who propped up the distressed widow of a former Congress MP who was killed in the 2002 riots weren’t interested in securing the punishment of the real perpetrators of communal violence. They were in the business of creating resentful citizens. That project hasn’t succeeded but the larger challenge to the emotional balkanisation of India remains.

Sunday Pioneer, December 29, 2013


Anonymous said...

India's influence in the world is not commensurate w/ its size and ability because India has paid a lot for the powerful chasing their narrow interests instead of India's.
This has gone on for too long because they have managed to gain control over most of the main stream media.
Modi is spot on in bringing his " India First " spirit. It is the need of the times.
India needs him more and the desperation of the powerful elite to prevent him a chance is the proof of if it. They have used all they could to prevent him. No opposition leader has been attacked and no could have withstood it better.
Like always Swapan's writing is both convincing, enjoyable and for a better India.

Bhagwat said...

According to me, modi is only the most true secular politician in the current scenario.There is something special behind that man.Nice article sir.Glad that journalists like you are supporting modi.Keep writing..

Anonymous said...

a good read .. thanks for writing

Prasanna S said...

I am really keen to know the identities of "some of the most powerful and influential individuals throughout the world" that are interested in keeping NaMo away from Delhi. Please provide some hints, at least, in your upcoming blogs.

Going by the way the AAP is being propped up from 2011 onward, I can take an educated guess that the US is involved big time in this exercise. Anyone who has even a moderate interest in geopolitics is expected to be aware of the dirty tricks of CIA. I am not saying that Mr. Kejriwal himself is a part of this plan, but only that he is being used as a pawn to ensure NaMo's growth is inhibited- at least in the latter's strongholds of youth and urban voters.

Even during "India Against Corruption" times, I was surprised by the detailed coverage the "movement" got in the western media. It is becoming increasingly apparent that this whole AAP thing is nothing but a willful intrusion of foreign hands into Indian politics.

It is the younger generation of ~18-24 year olds that can be easily brainwashed with slogans of anti-corruption crusade, cheap gimmicks and sloganeering. I hope they will awaken in time to realize the trap they are being set up into.

Andrew Pereira said...

An interesting article. I was and am a detractor of the Namo brand of politics.
There is no denying the fact that he still harbours a little abhorrence towards the Muslim community. One, he has almost never mentioned the word muslim and almost always brags about building temples, temples and temples everywhere. Why cant he, just for a change, talk about building mosques or churches.

The fact remains, however much he may try to hide it, at heart he is a hindu nationalist!

Anonymous said...

////There is no denying the fact that he still harbours a little abhorrence towards the Muslim community. One, he has almost never mentioned the word muslim and almost always brags about building temples, temples and temples everywhere. Why cant he, just for a change, talk about building mosques or churches///

Outrageously wrong obervations.

Sri.Narendra Modi refreshingly is the non fanatic Hindu. One section among hindus view him with resentment for having demolished lots of unauthorized "temples".

Existing ancient Temples are in a serious state of neglect & disrepair. India does NOT need construction of more temples , mosques & churches. And Narendra Modi is one such SANE level headed person who has long understood this simple truth.

Anonymous said...

Mr pereira, havent you heard the same ultra communal modi say "pehle souchalay phir devalay".and how many churches more do you need?most of your gigantic churches spread all over goa,bombay,mangalore,kerala etc were built on saraswath temples by your portuguese godfathers after,forcibly converting your forefathers and dont forget the inquisition propogated by your pious so called st francis xavier..who didnt hav the courage to preach anywhere in central asia or around who was the cause innocent people had to endure the worsf pain in their before you point fingers towards modi,VHP or any of us sanghis please recall the atrocities your propogators of world peace bestowed on native americans,mexicans,goans,africans,filipinos all this hasnt been forgotten.
instead of bygones be bygones you are raking up old events therby inciting us to remind your good self about the achievements of ur proselytisers.your missionaries dont hav the guts to preach in the mineral oil rich part of the earth where you will be minced.
forget modi even if he doesnt bcome the prime ministed in future..hindutva will survive and go from strength to strength.
with best regards.