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'The Finest Administrators...'

Of the many TV shows, documentaries and discussions, the Last Word with Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN stood out, which discussed: Whether Narendra Modi still faces serious questions about his alleged role Is he the best administrator in the country? Or can both coincide?

Excerpts:

Karan Thapar: Does the good administration image wash away his role in 2002 or does it simply reveal that here we have a schizophrenic or Janus-like personality? 

Tridip Suhrud: No, no, no. I think it is perhaps part of the same thing. He is perhaps the finest administrators of riots in the country. So the capacity for administration extends from managing violence, creating violence, perpetrating it, denying justice, to creating industrial growth. So there is actually no split there. I mean, there is an entire spectrum available— it moves from violence to industrial growth. But two points: One, when we say there have been no riots in Gujarat from 2002, we also have to understand that riots as a form of political mobilisation are giving diminishing returns increasingly, and that is being felt across the country. The second point clearly is that when you say that Gujarati society has been criminalized, we have to say that it is a society like Gujarat which throws up Modi and not vice versa. So the potential of violence that Gujarat had, as represented by a person like Narendra Modi, so it is not through interaction of society and politics but it is really the role of the society that needs to be investigated far more if you have to take Swapan Dasgupta seriously, and I think we need to take him seriously on that.

Karan Thapar: In the article that I mentioned Christophe Jaffrelot in the Indian Express yesterday, he says that the more Modi is attacked, the more successful he is in presenting himself as the face and defender of Gujarat and personalising the politics of the state within himself. Do you think the one great strength Modi has is that he has converted the adversity adversity outside the state into a strength within Gujarat's boundaries?

Swapan Dasgupta: I think we got a clear evidence of that from Tridip Suhrud's answer to the preceding question. I think when he said it is the criminalisation of Gujarati society which can only throw up a leader like Narendra Modi. What does it mean? It means that in the eyes of certain intellectuals, a degree of no-confidence in Gujarati...in character of Gujarat, the ethics of Gujarat, the morality of Gujarat. Since, on the other hand, I have heard in the past few days various people suggest that the main reason the activists are persisting with this is to shower the Gujarati people with a sense of guilt over what happened in 2002. If such is the nature of attacks, then it is very understandable that when Modi says that an attack on me is a vilification of Gujarat, he is completely justified in making that assertion. That is why he is drawing a fair amount of support. When Sonia Gandhi spoke about "maut ka saudagar" in the 2007 election, he was making that into: 'Can a Chief Minister of a state who's been duly elected, be called that?' Gujarati society has taken that, has internalised that, and today when we talk about Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, always the story goes back to 2002... as far as the Gujarati society is concerned, 2002 is past, there is a present that is good and there's a future which is far more appealing.

* It should be noted that Tridip Suhrud was making a point that has been made even by many other commentators, recently Ashok Malik, writing in the Hindustan Times, recently once again pointed out:

... First, the degree of popular participation was remarkably high. Religious riots, as any police officer from Malegaon to Maliana will tell you, usually involve a minuscule percentage of the population. In the three days after February 27, Gujarat police officers told this writer in 2002 that — and they were citing FIRs and plain surmise — two million people came out on the streets.

Gujarat had a population of 50 million in 2002: 88% Hindu, 9% Muslim. Of this 32 million were voters and aged above 18. As such 4% of the populace and over 6% of all adults were riot participants. In purely numerical, value-neutral terms, this would constitute a mass movement. The degree of social approbation for the events that followed the Godhra train massacre was significant. It can’t be explained as merely the act of a small core of masterminds.

A point that had separately been made more contentiously by Ashis Nandy in the TOI, way back in 2008 when he wrote:

Gujarat's spectacular development has underwritten the de-civilising process. One of the worst-kept secrets of our times is that dramatic development almost always has an authoritarian tail. Post-World War II Asia too has had its love affair with developmental despotism and the censorship, surveillance and thought control that go with it. The East Asian tigers have all been maneaters most of the time. Gujarat has now chosen to join the pack. Development in the state now justifies amorality, abridgement of freedom, and collapse of social ethics...

Recovering Gujarat from its urban middle class will not be easy. The class has found in militant religious nationalism a new self- respect and a new virtual identity as a martial community, the way Bengali babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims at different times have sought salvation in violence. In Gujarat this class has smelt blood, for it does not have to do the killings but can plan, finance and coordinate them with impunity. The actual killers are the lowest of the low, mostly tribals and Dalits. The middle class controls the media and education, which have become hate factories in recent times. And they receive spirited support from most non-resident Indians who, at a safe distance from India, can afford to be more nationalist, bloodthirsty, and irresponsible.

[Nandy had also spoken to Outlook on this in 2008]

More on CNN-IBN: Rajdeep Sardesai: 'Ground Zero Gujarat' 

Barkha Dutt on NDTV  | Gujarat, 10 years after Godhra: What lessons has India learnt from horrors of 2002? From Gujarat Vidyapith, a university founded by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920

Barkha Dutt on NDTV:

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