How clean is SIT’s clean chit to Modi

“Hitler is essentially a moderate and decent person”, “the Times” described him despite repeated attacks on his political adversaries and jews. Most newspapers were prepared to give Hitler a chance, implying that he might settle down into a strong but conventional head of the government, once the initial crisis had been overcome. Germany was seen as the best hope of preventing the spread of Bolshevism. However objectionable it might be in some respects, Nazism they claimed, was preferable to communism ……… and, the rest is history.

This is not to suggest that Modi will start waging war on other nations once he become prime minister. I do realize that we live in a different world today, and this is just to emphasize that how conviniently people can downplay the genuine concerns, completely disregarding the dangers that might be coming along their choice.

No discussion on Modi is complete without a mention of 2002 communal violence. For a person who doesn’t have a basic decency to keep a hand over some of the victims in a gesture of sympathy, can not really fault his critics for raking it up again and again, specially when he is aspiring to become prime minister of the nation.

Unfortunately, much of the debate on Modi’s role has been centered around a meeting where he has allegedly told officials “to let Hindus vent their anger”. As if the only way to prove Modi’s guilt is to prove that he said so. In my earlier blog, I started with an example of Wali Gujrati tomb, which was razed, leveled and tarred during the violence. The work went on for hours, right in front of Ahmedabad Police Commissioner’s office and not a single constable was held accountable. There are a dozen other examples of rampage taking place just a throw away from police stations, again no accountability fixed. I could have easily quoted any of the fact-finding/commission report with a victim/witness account but these examples are so glaring in your face about the state complicity to be ignored. Unless, of course, if Modi had acted against these police officials, which never really happened. On the contrary, those who acted against the violence or deposed before the government appointed commission were penalized and are hounded till date.

Rahul Sharma, who averted a major attack, which easily could have been the worst attack of 2002 communal violence, was transferred with in 24 hours following a spat with local BJP leaders demanding release of 21 rioters. Later in 2011, he was chargesheeted for submitting CDRs to governement appointment Nanavati commission. Its important to emphasize here that law prohibits action against officials appearing before statutory bodies. Similarly, RB Sreekumar was targetetd and denied promotion for his report on the subversion of criminal justice system in Gujrat to the Election commission. A case, he eventually won at CAT. Interstingly, Raghavan in his article in Frontline in May 2005, described Sreekumar as an upright official with strong sense of values. Later for the SIT chief, Sreekumar becomes “unreliable”. Similar has been the fate of several other officials who chose to act and uphold the rule of law. Those, who were complicit or didn’t act were rewarded, PC Pande and Chakravarty are two examples, who, in SIT’s own words, “can’t be trusted because they were rewarded with post-retirement benefits”. Needless to say, a nation, which can not stand with its honest and upright officials would be left with corrupt and pliant officials.

Manoj Mitta, in his recent book “The fiction of fact-finding”, comes out with several anomalies in SIT’s investigation. On 27th March 2010, SIT interrogated Narendra Modi for his alleged complicity in 2002 violence. Since SIT’s closure report exonerating him relied implicitly on Modi’s own testimony, its important to note that SIT didn’t bother to come up with any follow up question despite the contradictions in his replies. Looking closely at its investigation, SIT would find it hard to explain its own contradiction and attitude.

SIT, in its final report said that the decision on the bodies(Godhra) had been taken “unanimously” at a meeting held by the chief minister himself. But, when it comes to fixing accountability, the letter authorizing the custody of bodies to Jaydeep Patel (General Secretary, VHP), was entirely the work of mamlatdar himself. As per the law, the custody of the dead body should not be given to anyone other than the legal heir or guardian of the deceased person. While SIT has been successful in securing a few convictions in terms of numbers, the heat never went up to the key players.

Despite alarming updates from Inspector KG Erda on the attack on Gulberg society, MK Tandon returned to the place when the massacre was already over. SIT conceded in one of its report to Supreme Court that PB Gondia “virtually ran away from Naroda Patiya, when the situation was very serious”. In SIT’s own view, both were guilty of “professional misconduct” requiring “departmental action” absolving them of any criminality. It seems like a mockery of our criminal justice system that hundreds die because of your deliberate inaction and what you are guilty of is “professional misconduct”, not criminal negligence. The incongruity of its reasoning and the latitude extended to police raises questions over SIT’s own impartiality, notes Mitta in his book.

“Avenge blood with blood” screamed front page of Gujrati newspaper “Sandesh” on 28th Feb 2002. Another story made the baseless claim that fifteen Hindu girls had been dragged out of Sabarmati Express and the breasts of two of them had been cut-off. “Sandesh” followed this up with an equally false story next day that the bodies of two Hindu girls had been recovered after they had been raped and burnt. “Sandesh” and fifteen other Gujrati newspapers recieved letters of appreciation from Modi on 18th March 2002. Needless to add, those which actually maintained moderation were excluded from such commendation. There could be hundreds of examples where he openly displayed whom he supported and not one genuine attempt to reach out to victims. But, we will not question Modi because SIT gave him a clean chit. Isn’t it?

“We can not permit merchants of death to roam freely in Gujrat” thundered Modi in his infamous Becharaji speech, six months after the 2002 violence. “Merchants of death” here, was not used for Hindutva goons who massacred thousands, but for Muslims. “James Michael Lyngdoh” indicating Chief Election Commissioner’s religion for not giving report of Modi’s liking, “Hum panch humare pachees”, “child producing centres” refering to relief camps were some of the other utterances made by him in the speech. The very idea of coming out with “gaurav yatra” (honour procession) and berating Muslims when they were still struggling to recover from the trauma and loss is a reflection of his perverse and deeply communal mindset. Seriously, is this the man a significant section of our youth so passionately supporting?

Both, Modi-supporters and Modi-critics know, why they support or oppose him. What is needed is a little honesty on why we do so. While Modi and his supporters are right in questioning Congress over the riots that took place under its rule. But that can not be used as the justification of Modi’s own handling of the 2002. In fact, he took it to another unprecedented level, given he was the chief minister of the state and was openly and shamelessly taking credit for it.

“Godhra incident was a terror attack” declared Modi, the same day of 27th Feb 2002. There were twenty two women and eight children amongst the 59 died in the arson. Given the enormity and inhumanity of the attack, it asked for a swift investigation and perpetrators of the crime be punished. But, what really followed was politicization and communal orgy. Look at the classic examples of Maulvi Umarji and Kalota. While Umarji was targeted for embarrassing Modi during Vajpayee’s visit to Godhra, Kalota’s arrest was milked by BJP in the elections as he was Godhra’s Municipal commissioner affiliated to Congress. Needless to add, both were later acquited by the court. That, investigating officer was acting on his own is again difficult to believe here. Seriousness of the investigation can be gauged from the fact that the said coach, where the arson took place was left unguarded in the yard and stray people were entering at will. Also, it took over a month for first team of forensic experts to reach the scene of crime. “Protection of scene of crime” and its evidenciary value is very basic to any investigation of a criminal incident. Those who question that why no one talks about Godhra, should ask Modi instead. And Modi, who derived so much political mileage from their tragedy owe an explaination to them as well. Unless, of course, if we believe in Modi’s way of justice.

Coming to his fascist side, Modi is known to be an authoritarian. While politicians do manipulate the system, hounding cops and officials in Gujrat, who tried to uphold rule of law is again unmatched to any other state. Important to note that a few of Modi’s own favourites are in jail/out on bail in a series of fake encounters. In addition, activists were not spared either, most notable is the case of Teesta Setalvad, where a series a cases were slapped against her only to return empty handed from courts. Not long back, many of his supporters were holding “paid media” banners abusing every other journnalists but he himself doesn’t like dissent and criticism. Sumit Galhotra in his article “Modi’s rise does not bode well for Indian prees freedom” lists several journalists who lost their job for criticizing him, while several others admitted of being pressurized not to criticize him. Shehzad Poonawala being the latest victim whose article was pulled down recently by DNA. The man is not yet the prime minister and he is doing everything to muzzle all the dissenting voices. Borned in the free India, we don’t seem to realize the value of freedom and other democratic values. Not to forget his “zero-convictions” fast-track courts, that Supreme court had to step in and transfer a few cases outside Gujrat. To think that his rise will not compromise the fairness of other institutions of governance will be fooling ourselves. We must be kidding ourselves, if we think he will not do what he has been doing all along. More than a decade ago, when Modi was small time Sangh pracharak only, Ashis Nandy declared him a “classic textbook case of a fascist”, after interviewing him. And we, after having seen all the traits of it, do not seem to care or perhaps, like Modi for being a fascist. We tend to forget that it always comes back to us, thats the nature of such politics.

“As per hunger index, Gujrat ranks 13 among 17 big states. If Gujrat were a country, it would rank below Tanzania and Zimbabwe” tweeted Vinod K Jose over a month back. Whatever may be the claims made by Modi in his high decibel propaganda on developement, while may be good, but doesn’t justify the hype and there is certainly nothing magical about it. Gujrat has always been ahead and is known for its entrepreneurship. What Modi has essentially done is marketing himself by appropriating all the good done by his predecessors and other people. I would hate to defend Congress and every one is entitled to their own political views, but when your choice happens to be Modi, I find that very problematic . While his opposition to Lokayukta is well known, can you name one institutional reform he may have initiated in Gujrat? Tatas, who got over 30,000 crores of benefit or Adanis, whose revenue rose from $ 765 million to $ 8.8 billion all in Modi’s era, may have every reason to sing praises for Modi. But that shouldn’t stop us to question the basis of the much hyped “Gujrat model”. Unfortunately, media which laughed at Kapil Sibal’s “zero-loss theory”, didn’t bother to question Modi on the same CAG’s report on Gujrat highlighting irregularities worth Rs 16707 crores. The real issue is not development or corruption, the real issue is corporates and urban middle class is rooting for Modi’s brand of politics, if not fascism. While decline of Congress and its credibility has certainly helped Modi, but he has far more extreme tendencies of whatever problem we find in congress today, be it on communalism or other anti-democratic tendencies. Even on his economic policies, he is ushuring in a crony capitalism that itself is a recipe for a large scale corruption.

Madhu Kishwar tweets one day that she gets nausea with the mention of word secualrism and Chetan Bhagat said that you need to criticize Hindus to look secular and criticize Modi to look neutral,as if criticizing Muslim extremists is criticizing Muslims. Tavleen Singh came out with an article a year back mentioning that not one youth she met in recent times really cared about secularism. Instead of expressing concerns over shrinking secular space, she chose to justify Modi’s Politics. Tomorrow, MJ Akbar might come out with his own reasoning on why there is nothing wrong in having a mass-murderer as the prime minister. It really takes something to support Modi, isn’t it? A lot of poll surveys have predicted in favour of Modi, I would like to see a survey on what this Modi-wave is bringing along. You don’t have to be on facebook or twitter to see the kind of filth and hatred coming along the support for him. Just look around, some of the people who are not known for it, would speak in a certain language which is not expected from them. And then, it turns out that they have become a Modi-supporter. This so called Modi-wave is certainly not doing anything good to the nation or we, as a society or as individuals.

I have watched a video on youtube three years back, where two boys were killed mercilessly by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan. The same video was circulated by local BJP leader Sangeet Singh Som on social networking sites and CDs in Muzaffarnagar saying this happened in the village in Muzaffarnagar. For once, I would not blame Modi or BJP for it. You keep rewarding them politically for it and they will keep doing it again and again is no rocket science. While one may say, Modi has been talking about development only, Amit Shah, Modi’s trusted lieutenant, was not sent to UP without a reason. Like in Gujrat, he has been doing all the Hindutva work for him in UP. If its all about development, why indulge in communal politics? BJP which rose from 2 to 80 seats in 1990s over temple issue, and Modi who became a “Hindu hriday samrat” for his role in 2002, doesn’t know any other way to gain political support. Though, whatever may be the result of this loksabha elections, we still have to deal with it, I do hope Modi-wave is as much a hype as his developement claims. The fact is, it tends to get exaggerated because of the noisy middle class. But, the very fact that we see nothing wrong in having a prime minister who has built his political career over innocent lives is deeply disturbing and certainly reflects on what have we become. BJP is known for its communal and majoritarian politics and its success would mean the dangerous trends setting in. You reduce the democracy to just “numbers” and we will be left with a majoritarian state.

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