Starving national self respect to feed individual vanity is like a desperate disease requiring a dangerous remedy.
Thus it is that a political game unfolding on the chessboard of a city in Gujarat is seeking to dim the sheen of the 2014 mandate that put Narendra Modi and the BJP in command with a clear majority in Parliament. And with unpleasant international ramifications.
Why else are the ethnic fires being stoked in Vadodara city of Gujarat just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had embarked on his historic visit to US, a country which refused to give him a visa until he assumed charge of India?
This is a question that many people are asking here. There clearly are wheels within wheels, and many are up with their old, tired, and still-lethal games. That includes some in the Sangh Parivar as well.
The ghosts of the 2002 communal riots that followed the Godhra train carnage could take some rest for now. More so because, Modi is on a visit that is very important for the country. It constitutes a personal landmark for him as well. A mighty nation in constant denial was forced to bow before a national mandate and give him the honour due to the Prime Minister of a strong, sovereign democratic republic.
Is it then that some elements in his own state seek to mar the show with a stained reminder?
There is merit in such a line of thought. The sequence of events point to a design in the happenings in Vadodara. The nine nights Navratri celebrations attendant with its garba and popular revelry may be an important Hindu occasion, but all and sundry irrespective of caste, creed and religion take part in it with equal fervor. That has been the case and tradition from time immemorial.
The bonhomie witnessed in Gujarat on the occasion is a matter of national pride. True, there may be an Imam Mehdi Hasan who makes an irresponsible remark but there is also Malek Nazir Mohammed whose sound systems are in high demand in Vadodara in every Navratri and who begins work every year by seeking Lord Hanuman’s blessings. There are countless others of all faiths who work to make the larges-scale navratri celebrations in Gujarat a great success. Fair enough, if the VHP wants the Imam arrested for hurting Hindu sentiments but does it go out to fete those of other faiths who reach out to make it a success? What about Imam Mehndi Hasan, a religious leader in Mahuva town who donated five bighas (around12,000 sq metres) of land for a Hindu temple? What about Anees Quereshi, the Muslim butcher and his wife and three children who install Ganesha idol in their home at Shivrajpur in Panchamahal district and perform aarti during the 10-day long festival?
Myriad such examples of communal amity exist for those who have the eyes to see India’s splendid multi-cultural heritage. None of these mattered when the VHP queered the pitch for banning the entry of Muslims at the garba venues in Gujarat. Where was the VHP for the last over a decade when Narendra Modi ruled over Gujarat with an iron fist? Why did it not make the demand to check individual identity cards at garba venues for all these years?
After Modi took over as the chief minister of Gujarat the Navratri celebrations in the state were flagged off with a high profile official event attended by the chief minister, foreign dignitaries and the top names from a cross-section of society. As a journalist who attended these events, this scribe saw numerous VHP leaders attending. No one ever told Modi that they would post VHP volunteers to check identities.
Except for mild murmurs in quiet asides, the VHP did not unleash a public protest when the Modi government led a drive to demolish all the illegal roadside temples in the state capital of Gandhinagar. This was quite simply because they dared not. A state level VHP office bearer spent an extended time behind bars when the Modi government slapped charges of sedition on him for sending out SMSs against CM Modi on the issue of L.K. Advani’s pro-Jinnah comments during his Pakistan visit .
Fact is, the communal temperature in Gujarat in general, and Vadodara in particular, was sought to be raised in a planned manner. Love Jihad pamphlets were pumped into Vadodara prior to the recent by-elections to the Lok Sabha seat vacated by Modi, warning of a ‘minority conspiracy’. Then came the provocative VHP diktat not to allow Muslims at garba venues. There were feeble denials about the parentage of the pamphlets which carried names of VHP office bearers but nothing more than that, while a Hindu Janjagruti Samiti came to the forefront in Ahmedabad.
It fell on the lot of the Prime Minister to state that the Indian Muslim will live and die for India and the Anandiben Patel government to issue a notification against discriminating garba revellers on religious grounds. It was the VHP which challenged Additional Chief Secretary (Home) S.K. Nanda’s authority to issue the notification on garba and restrictions on loudspeakers at midnight. If Nanda does not have the authority to ensure the rule of law, should the power to engineer civil strife be handed over to the VHP?
Whether related or not, but the trouble in Vadodara was sparked off when the image of a Hindu goddess was superimposed on that of another religion. Again, when a semblance of order was restored, it was the stabbing of a boy belonging to a minority community that re-ignited it. The implications are obvious. However the million dollar questions is, why is the spectre of communal trouble in Gujarat sought to be recreated at a time when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is touring the US?
One such communal conflagration has dogged him no end and the timing of this engineered trouble (yes, it was engineered) done with dubious intentions, hides a raging internecine war within the saffron outfits. Who does not know of the all- hate-no love relationship between Modi and VHP head honcho Dr Pravin Togadia?
Adding to the complexity are three other factors:
- The political contribution of those within the fold who would not mind if Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s image is dented
- The contribution of those within the bureaucracy, conspiring to overtake S.K. Nanda, the present home department chief first in line of seniority for the chief secretary’s post and
- Of those who don’t want the new police commissioner of Vadodara, E.Radhakrishnan to succeed. The extension period of the present chief secretary ends this month.
It is all-round machination season in Gujarat now.