Gujarat-Carnage Haunts Modi, As Police Defy Him!

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD:  Irrespective of the legal turns and time that the case of suspended police officer Sanjeev Bhatt takes, related developments have once again brought several crucial issues to the forefront. The most important of these is the role of politicians and police during the 2002 Gujarat-carnage. Bhatt was arrested last month (September 30) for apparently daring to accuse Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the carnage that is viewed as a dark page in Indian history of secularism. Bhatt has been accused of allegedly forcing his junior, a police constable, K.D. Pant to file a false affidavit in support of his claim that he attended the February 2002 meeting, during which Modi allegedly asked the police to go slow against the rioters. This meeting was held on February 27, 2002 just hours after burning of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra.

Bhatt is not the first police officer to have taken a stand against Modi government’s role during the 2002-phase, when Muslims were brutally targeted by right-winged, extremist elements. Several officers, who took a similar stand earlier, were transferred and/or suspended and adverse entries were made in their annual confidential reports. The state government suspended Bhatt on August 8 on charges of misconduct and for going on leave without official sanction. The hard truth, however, is that Bhatt claimed this year in April that he was present at the meeting (February 27, 2002) when police had been asked to be “soft” towards rioters by Modi. Bhatt apparently is being taken to task by state government for raising his voice against the role of Modi and his associates in 2002.

Without deliberating on role of Modi government during Gujarat-carnage, which has never been a closely guarded secret, Bhatt’s arrest demands focus on the role of policemen. Bhatt’s arrest and shunting of few other police officers who have tried to dutifully live up to their responsibilities and respect for the Indian Constitution raises the question:–  Do politicians such as Modi expect the state police to be guided by what they dictate? In such cases, what happens to their commitment towards the Constitution, the security of the people and spirit of Indian secularism?

Legally, the state government and police are expected to provide security to the people. Had they really showed some respect towards their official commitment, the Gujarat-carnage may have never taken place. This also implies that the role of Modi, his government, saffron brigade and the police, who followed the former’s command during the Gujarat-carnage was equivalent to violating the country’s constitutional spirit and the legal system. By taking law into their own hands, they virtually violated and abused the law, by letting rioters target the Muslims.

Against this backdrop, if Bhatt is trying his hand at seeking legal help against those responsible for inciting Gujarat-carnage, he certainly cannot be accused of committing any crime. Even if Bhatt was not a police officer, as an Indian citizen, he has the right to seek legal help, to ensure action against those allegedly responsible for inciting and encouraging communal violence against Muslims. But his arrest suggests that state government is still bent on abusing the legal system.

Sadly, the Modi government and all police officers are not as conscientious about their legal duties and responsibilities as Bhatt, several activists and others give the impression of being. It still cannot be forgotten that in 2002, quite a number of policemen posted in Gujarat chose to act at the apparent command of Modi government. They remained mute, turned their backs and symbolically kept their eyes closed as extremists brutally targeted Muslims. This definitely demands paying greater attention to negligence shown by the state government and the police in 2002. By going “slow” and being “soft” towards rioters, as allegedly commanded by Modi, the police remained passive supporters of communal elements indulging in riotous behavior.

Against this backdrop, some attention must be paid to tension having gripped India last year in September. There prevailed the apprehension that a judicial decision over Ayodhya-case may provoke communal fire in the nation. However, the governments at the center and states, particularly Uttar Pradesh played a responsible role in not allowing any communal tension to simmer. Equal credit must be given to police for keeping a strict watch and prevent any tension from taking form of communal violence. They played the role they are constitutionally bound to.

Certainly, had similar responsibility been displayed in Gujarat, the communal carnage could have been avoided. However, as is well known, the political intention behind the gruesome tragedy was to provoke the same. Officers like Bhatt are playing their part in revealing the facts they apparently are aware of.  Bhatt’s decision followed by his arrest has also made his colleagues question the action taken against him by the Modi government. The Gujarat Police Officers’ Association has expressed its support for Bhatt. In an emergency meeting, held earlier this month, 35 members of this association passed a resolution to support Bhatt. Three members visited Bhatt’s residence and conveyed their support to his wife. This move is viewed as first one to be taken in defiance of actions taken by Modi against police officers who have raised their voice, legally, against his government’s role in Gujarat-carnage. Clearly, the police officers are against being used as pawns by the likes of Modi.  It is hoped that the move taken by Bhatt and his supporters will prove to be an effective warning and prevent further abuse of the country’s law and order system.

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Gujarat Campaign “Fast” Lane

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

location_map_of_GujaratNEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: The three-day fast of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, which concluded this Monday (September 19), has raised many eyebrows as well as questions. It is difficult for secular observers and critics to accept reasons given by Modi for his Sadbhavna (goodwill) fast, aimed towards “peace, unity and harmony.” Modi apparently has taken this step with the hope that its political importance and media coverage will help change his own image from that of a communal, extremist to a secular Indian who believes in development of all. In his words: “Every chief minister has a national role. My work is to do something good on Earth. It is for others to give it words.”

Dismissing “news” about this fast being a reflection of ambition to become the country’s prime minister, Modi said: “I want to tell the world that sabka saath, sabka vikas (cooperation of all, development of all) is the way of development. Gujarat has got a name in development. I have worked for development of all. I have given this an ideological base.”

The three-day fast has certainly helped Modi gain substantial media-coverage and socio-political attention. Yet, except for his own political colleagues, the others are not willing to believe Modi’s claims about development of “all.” Besides, three days, even three decades, are not sufficient to forget the 2002 Gujarat-carnage, when the state government failed to provide adequate security to Muslims who were targeted by right-winged elements linked with saffron brigade, with which Modi is also strongly associated. The wounds of Muslim sufferers have not healed yet and will never heal for those who lost their near and dear ones and possessions. The sufferers have not yet received any compensation. There has been no news of Gujarat government having played even a minor role in rehabilitating the troubled Muslims. The criminals have not yet received adequate punishment. In other words, justice and prospects of a better future in Gujarat still remain dismal for Muslims who faced the 2002-carnage. 

Despite Modi having begun his fast on his birthday (September 17), he claimed: “I have never celebrated my birthday. This is the only day of the year I don’t meet anyone, I don’t talk to anyone, I don’t celebrate my birthday. But because Saturday and Sunday was convenient, that’s why I chose this day, this has got nothing to do with my birthday.”

Modi is not unaware of the fact that Gujarat-carnage is projected as a dark chapter in history of India and his political image. Amazingly, the very politician who at one time justified and also allegedly played a prominent role in fuelling the communal carnage now talks in a totally different tone. Refusing to take any responsibility, Modi said: “What moral responsibility for riots am I being asked to take? My government did its best.” He even said: “I have suffered in my heart for those who suffered and were victims of the 2002 riots. We acted with power and toughness to get life back in order.”
Indicating that Gujarat will not witness the 2002-carnage again, Modi said: “I want to assure the country and all communities that we will not go below the parameters of humanity. Every second of my life is devoted to the people of the country.”

Around 30-40 years ago, “there was complete communal disharmony” provoking “violence and curfew” on even small discords leading to, as Modi said: “When a child was born he/she learnt the word curfew before learning mummy and papa.” Now, Modi claimed: “There is no sign of disharmony. Gujarat has realized the strength of brotherhood. And this learning has not come through any preaching or advice, but through the fruits of development. Our growth has assured us that unity is our strength.”

While Modi may have accepted and started saying that “communal politicking” is not his political agenda, his opponents, including political rivals, riot victims and social activists still refuse to accept his rhetoric. Several civil rights activists, a group called Jan Sangarsh Manch (JSM) and a large number of riot victims gathered near a mosque at Narodia Patia to protest against Modi’s Sadbhavana-fast. They called their demonstration Sachi Sadbhavna (True Goodwill). However, even before the event began, the policemen trooped in and detained more than 50 activists for several hours on the ground that they did not have the administration’s permission to protest (September 18).

Not willing to be outdone by Modi, Congress leaders in Gujarat began their fast an hour earlier than him. They also strongly criticized Modi for wasting taxpayers’ by holding a “five-star” fast. “If there is a justifiable cause for fast by the chief minister, we can understand it. He is saying this fast is for sadbhavna, but his fast is based on farce, falsehood and corruption,” Shankersinh Vaghela said.

While Modi held his fast in an air-conditioned hall, Vaghela and Arjun Modhwadia held theirs called, Satyagrah (for truth against misdeeds of Modi government) on a footpath in front of Sabarmati Ashram. Describing Modi’s fast as “corruption,” Vaghela said: “What was the necessity to spend several millions of public money? If he (Modi) wanted to fast, he could have done that at home also.” Modi’s fast was a tamasha (show), Vaghela said.

Questioning Modi’s claims of development, Vaghela listed several allegations of corruption against Gujarat government. Besides, he said: “The state public debt has mounted to billions, about which the people of Gujarat are not aware. This is the kind of development he is talking about.” “We want to show to the people that this is a corrupt government,” Vaghela said.

Referring to Gujarat-carnage, Vaghela said: “Now, Modi wants to project himself as a messiah of the minorities by undertaking such a fast and wants to show that he is their protector.”

Irrespective of what their actual intentions are, with Gujarat to go for assembly polls in 2012, clearly both the parties- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have begun their campaigns by making lots of voice about their “fasts.”

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