Narendra Modi may have got a clean chit from the sit in the Gulberg society case but this is a small peg on which the case for and against Modi rests. By itself this peg means very little. So what can he do to redeem himself? Can he outlive his past? Narendra Modi should do what Pakistan’s deputy attorney general, Muhammad Khurshid Khan, did as penance. On his visit to India, Khan spent hours cleaning and shining devotees’ shoes at a Delhi gurudwara as penance, so upset was he by the killing of a Sikh man by a Taliban group in Pakistan two years ago. Modi needs to make a gesture of spectacular repentance and apology for 2002.
To some extent, there has been an apology for the Sikh riots from the Congress party. Manmohan Singh is the prime minister partly because of this. Modi can in fact learn from the Gandhis. The Gandhi dynasty, after the Sikh riots, has ensured great security for itself by apologising for the violence, because they know and understand the transience of power. They know that desperate people cannot be stopped by security. So they have shown humility and bought their security.
If I was Narendra Modi’s psychotherapist, I would have told him: my dear friend, if you wish to play a larger role in national politics, you need to reflect. You cannot go directly from the chief minister’s office in Gujarat to the prime minister’s office in New Delhi. Buy peace in the interregnum. He should go to a dargah. Go to Ajmer Sharif and apologise. The Khwaja is supposed to be benevolent and very forgiving.
But politically it is a different kind of game. Even if Modi wins all the cases and goes scot-free, the stigma of the riots will not go. The stigma will remain. Neither these cases, nor his internet presence, or being on the cover of Time, will matter in the long run. In Modi’s case, even without analysing his personality, one can say that his chances of being a major presence in national politics in India are doomed by his past. He can make space for it only by a very abject apology and by really, truly giving a public demonstration of his ability to renounce and disown his past self. By that I mean not only an apology but also making a special effort to build bridges with the Muslim community in Gujarat. He can do that by taking special remedial measures for the families affected by the riots.
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were larger than the Gujarat riots, but they were not televised. There too justice came very late, actually much later than it is coming in Gujarat now. But because it was not televised, perhaps because people did not see the riots themselves but only read about it, there was some distance. In the case of the Gujarat riots, that distance is not there. So, unlike Maliana or Meerut or the Sikh riots, or any massacre for that matter, the Gujarat riots, are etched in the minds of a very large number of people. And every person who has seen that considers themselves a witness to that riot.
Yet, Modi is seen as a tough, no-nonsense leader and celebrated by Corporate India. In that context, does he have a future? Personally, if you ask me, an occasional slip is alright to indicate your abject sycophancy to a successful political administrator, but this dream of the Tatas and Ambanis of emerging as India’s Krupps will be shattered. (The Krupps in Germany were a 400-year-old dynasty and the largest company in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century; they were later prosecuted for war crimes and complicity with the Nazis, their companies were dismantled after WWII). This dream will not go very far because regimes always change and what you gain in Gujarat by playing footsie with Narendra Modi, you lose in other parts of the country.
Even in the BJP, Modi has many detractors who think that on the basis of that one riot he has become the heartthrob of Hindu nationalists. You may ask, if Modi is not entirely acceptable in the BJP, is there any other acceptable face in the party, like Atal Behari Vajpayee? Vajpayee was a different kettle of fish; he was an inclusive man. To run an inclusive society, you first have to be an inclusive person yourself. You cannot be one of those highly-placed professionals living an isolated life and then pretend to be inclusive. You become an inclusive person because you have traversed the trajectory of life in a particular way; you have been exposed to particular experiences; you have had some empathetic and compassionate understanding of people you have met in your life. It is almost an accident to have a person like Vajpayee as PM. I consider him one of the great prime ministers of India.
But the BJP is basically a democratic party because it is not bound to any particular dynasty. It is bound to formations like the RSS and the VHP and I doubt whether they can dare to flout their wishes very much. Yet, unlike the Congress and other parties, they are more open. The BJP can produce a new crop of leaders. In the Congress, the future is open except the top post and the top post is flopping. Yet nobody has any doubt about whom the top post ultimately belongs to in the Congress—as in the RJD or DMK or AIADMK.
Modi fits the description of the cult of the ‘dictatorial democratic’ leader. In politics, masks do work. If you wear a mask long enough in politics, it becomes your face. But I am afraid that Narendra Modi has not even worn the right mask. I may applaud his administrative skills but I cannot applaud his intelligence and his long-term vision. I say this because riots have been engineered by many politicians. Riots primarily are a professional job, professionally handled by politicians. But all politicians, when promoting riots, take certain precautions. They do not as blatantly use the riot as a campaigning device to win elections, then gloat over the killings and create a whole atmosphere of hysteria which then can be beamed to the whole country and seen by millions.
After Gujarat, riots have become politically very expensive in India. And now you will see a decline of riots not because of better ethics or because Indian politicians have suddenly become saintly or because Indian laws have become strict. I do not believe that this Communal Violence Bill that activists advocate will make any difference. Or the Jan Lokpal bill. India has no shortage of laws. I am following the legal cases against Modi and the riot cases because I want to see where they go as that gives an inkling of how much the system is complicit and how much it is not.
(As told to Saba Naqvi and Prarthna Gahilote)
It was refreshing to see a realistic appraisal of Narendra Modi (Out, Damned Spot!, Apr 23). How 24/7 TV contributed to his demonisation has been brought out.
P.N.R. Krishnan, on e-mail
Unique in Nandy’s analysis of Modi’s psyche is the simplicity of expression and a roadmap for redemption.
Najid Hussain, Bear, US
Gujarat’s riots have been an easy stick for activists to beat Modi with. How come these guys don’t utter a word about the Srikrishna Commission?
Dipal Paresh, Ahmedabad
Modi will have to remain content with the ‘Most likely PM aspirant if he were not the best riot administrator’ tag.
Santosh John Samuel, Kochi
The horror of the riots aside, all-knowing Nandy smiles like a Cheshire cat.
A. Nathan, Dindigul
How about a separate mag for Modi-bashing?
Achutha Bhat, Bangalore
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
>> Sikh Massacre vs Gujarat Massacre
Brijesh Kalappa managed to squeeze in lot of lies and absurdities in a small article.
No wonder our resident jehadi loves him.
Sikh Massacre vs Gujarat Massacre
On October 31, 1984, her body guards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh shot Indira Gandhi ....The very same night on October 31, 1984, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi addressed the nation calling for peace by saying “Nothing would hurt the soul of our beloved Indira Gandhi more than the occurrence of violence in any part of the country.” Doordarshan transmitted live an unending queue of mourners near the body of Mrs. Gandhi which was kept in state on November 1, 1984 - TV grabs show a furious Rajiv Gandhi dressing down Congress workers for chanting this slogan- ‘khoon ka badla khoon’.
On February 27, 2002 fire engulfed the train at Godhra resulting in the death of 59 persons. The chief of police intelligence RB Sreekumar, a devout Hindu, records in his affidavits to the Nanavati Commission that the bodies of those killed were not handed over to the next of kin as would have been done in any tragedy. Instead the charred remains were handed over to the Bajrang Dal and VHP Cadre by the state. These bodies were then taken around in procession in the streets to incite the mobs. Worse, Sreekumar records that the administration was strictly instructed to remain ‘immobilized’ for a specified three day period of time.
>>What’s the worse that could happen?
What worse could happen is that we may have to suffer more of your thoughtless and endless opinions.
>>Re Panchayati justice – if the court came out and said ‘we are allocating ownership of the land is this way because of public order’ then it would be straightforward.
If the court came out and said ‘we are allocating ownership of the land this way because of an itch in our posterior’ then that would be straightforward too. When a panchayat rules that the rapist and a victim should marry because they had sex, it is also straightforward but it is still panchayati judgment. Normally 5th graders have better logic to their arguments. How old are you Zafar?
>>It’s when the court wants to allocate ownership of land a certain way because of public order, but finds a bunch of other reasons to do what it wants, that it becomes Panchayati justice.
Till today you have not been able to establish ‘public order’ reasoning yet you shamelessly peddle it as gospel. Do you have an exclusive hotline to those judges’ minds?
>>Sort of like the discouragement of cow slaughter in our Constitution
Blah, blah bhah. You haven’t been able to defend your Ayodhya analogy and now you have created a new road to the directive principles of our Constitution. Are we going to get another fifty posts involving more mindless rants from you?
>>Lol! RSM, all that huffing and puffing and now you’re frightened of putting anything in case you might turn out to be wrong?
And you displayed a lot of courage when you chose to keep silent till the time the article was in the most read/commented section and decided to respond when it was moved out?
Dear Zafar, when somebody has been repeatedly saying that the answer is available in his earlier posts, he doesn’t do it because he fears things will turn out wrong! Please don’t project your cluelessness on everybody. The reason he chooses not to give the answer outright because he does not want to give that luxury to the person who seems to be downright lazy yet extremely opinionated, who tends to believe that it’s the job of others to provide answers while his only duty is to fill this forum with nothing but methane gas.
Rules for logical argument: When somebody says the judgment is based on XXX, the burden of proof is on him to prove that the judgment is based on XXX.
>>Disappointing, Sir. We’ve been disagreeing with each other for at least ten years here and there – take a chance and actually put something down.
Well, let’s see what I have put down so far.
1) Punctured the falsehood that the judgment was based on faith.
2) Refuted your belief that the judgment ruled on exact place where Ram was born.
3) Disproved your claim that parties to a dispute should be as old as the dispute itself!
4) Punctured your baseless assertion that bringing down of the dispute structure was not a prosecutable offence.
5) Smashed your claim that government attached land and that’s why Waqf’s case became time barred after six years.
After all this, you have the nerve to ask me to put something down? Zafar dear, can you at least pretend to be honest?
OTOH, you haven’t put anything down as yet. In fact whatever you contributed so far doesn’t even have enough weight to stay down, instead slowly rises in the air.
>>So you tell me: was Bilkis Bano raped because she was retaliating? Was Ehsan Jafri retaliating, when he was murdered? What about the people at Best Bakery – were they burned to death because they had retaliated against someone?
Your question would make sense if you Saurabh had said that in all these cases there was retaliation. Otherwise it is a pathetic case of creating a straw man.
>>Your points make zero sense when you take them from the abstract and try to apply them to actual events.
Your points make no sense period!
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