Modi Approaching His Waterloo

DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI considers Narendra Modi’s glorification of the killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh to be contempt of court, voices concern on the inertia and inaction the Congress-led government at the Centre is displaying in nabbing Modi,

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DR. S. AUSAF SAIED VASFI considers Narendra Modi’s glorification of the killing of Sohrabuddin Shaikh to be contempt of court, voices concern on the inertia and inaction the Congress-led government at the Centre is displaying in nabbing Modi,

By the time these lines appear in print, the Supreme Court as well as the Election Commission would have responded to what the Gujarat Chief Minister challengingly said in Mangrol on December 4. We feel so because his flamboyant boast and glorification of the killing of Sohrabuddin amount to contempt of the apex court in addition to inciting public to violence, when the state Assembly elections are just a few days away.
Reacting to Modi’s fulminations, none other than a Senior Advocate K.T.S. Tulsi representing Gujarat on the issue, decided to withdraw from the matter and succinctly explained his position: “On the one hand, the Gujarat government has filed a number of affidavits in the Supreme Court, saying that it’s a cold-blooded murder and it has filed a charge-sheet against its own police officers and is prosecuting them for murder. And now the Chief Minister says that the murder is justified. In this situation, the stand of the government and the Chief Minister is completely contradictory…. I cannot defend such a case. I cannot accept that any police officer has a right to murder anyone. It’s a mockery of law.”
It is fair to recall that the Gujarat police initially claimed to have killed Sohrabuddin in a joint operation in 2005. But after Rubabuddin, Sohrabuddin’s brother, moved the court, the Gujarat police had no alternative but to admit Mr. Sohrabuddin had been killed in a fake encounter. The government had also made a delayed confession on the disappearance of Kausar Bi, wife of Sohrabuddin. During a hearing on April 30, it confirmed that she was also killed and her body burnt.
Note the manner in which Narendra Modi thumbed his nose to the Supreme Court in the light of the fact that four months after Sohrabuddin had been killed, he had been described by Chief Minister on March 20, 2006 “as an accused wanted in an unspecified murder case, also wanted for the offences under the Arms Act.” These ‘facts’ were stated in a written reply tabled in the State Assembly in response to a question by an opposition Congress MLA, Mukesh Gandhvi.
What, in a bid to consolidate the already polarised vote, Modi has said, was only recently re-confirmed by the Tehelka expose, in which his foot-soldiers had, unknowingly, admitted on camera their “conquests” against the Muslim minority in 2002 Gujarat massacre?
The significance of Modi’s boast-cum-confession lies in the only fact that now he can be stopped in the tracks by the long arm of law that he, thanks to the Congress’ un-willingness rather impotence, has been deftly evading.
Having allegedly spent Rs 750 crore over the Gujarat elections, Modi perhaps found that his “development” plank was not attracting the electorate as much as he wanted. Therefore he played the old, time-tested Saffron card. To quote him exactly: “I am thumping my chest and declaring that Sohrabuddin’s encounter took place on the   “dharti” of Gujarat. If I have done something wrong, hang me. But these people, next they will offer a “chadar” at Sohrabuddin’s grave.”
The Times of India (December 7) has rightly reminded Mr. Modi: The rule of law is central to democracy. A mob might refuse to accept the conditions and process laid down by law. But a public official, or for that matter any individual citizen, can’t afford to be swayed by the mob to violate the law. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s remarks on the custodial killing of Sohrabuddin should be seen in this light. Here is an elected representative of the people, holding the constitutional office of chief minister of a state, approving the murder of a citizen. This is after the Gujarat government admitted in the Supreme Court that Sohrabuddin’s murder was extra legal.
Mr. Modi’s line of argument indicates that poll results over there would serve as a barometer, measuring the strength of secularism in plural Bharat. And most probably these results would also determine the date and direction of wind of the general elections.
Expectation of expression of remorse from the authors of the periodic communal upheavals including that of Gujarat in 2002 is, perhaps too much to expect. Regret for crime is not in their grain. What reaction this inexplicable but unhuman and inhuman social attitude would create in the victims and sufferers can be well understood by the Modis and their apologists.
It is a matter of great satisfaction to the minorities, who have been, as a rule at the receiving end, that the judiciary has, till date, stoutly held to its ground. So have done, perhaps all the autonomous bodies like the Election Commission, which has asked Mr. Modi to explain his hate speech. To quote the Commission, “It has come to the notice of the Commission, through media reports, and further, a complaint dated December 5 has also been filed by Teesta Setalvad (a social activist), alleging that the said speech amounted to an open exhortation to violence and misuse of religion for political ends, and so violative of the Model Code of Conduct apart from being violation of the Rule of Law.”
Mr. Rubabuddin’s key argument is: “Mr. Modi’s speech flies in the face of the rule of law in a civilised democracy and is a gross interference in the administration of justice. “It shows that the State, on Mr. Modi’s instructions, was giving an impression to the court that it proposes to diligently pursue the prosecution of those involved in the fake encounter, but is doing all it can to quietly but surely subjugate it.”
The Congress-led UPA Government – this fact deserves repeated mention – refused to budge from its stony position. The Asian Age (December 7) editorially bemoans: “The Centre is also under pressure to invoke the law, and take action against a public figure for inciting violence publicly. The silence is bewildering, as clearly, Mr. Modi is managing to make the threat of violence work to his advantage. The Indian state is far more powerful, and the government is now required to demonstrate this to uphold the principles of secularism enshrined in the Constitution. The remarks cannot be ignored, nor can be these denied, as Mr. Modi spoke before the national media and has been captured on tape. Gujarat has become a state in itself, virtually isolated from the rest of the nation, and where no law except those sanctioned by the Modi government seems to apply. The Congress cannot hope to improve its position in the elections until and unless it challenges this, and ensures that the law of the land is applied to Mr. Modi.
 The truth is no party can beat the Congress in inertia and inaction. It has set and broken its own records for fondness of status quo. To begin with, what the Congressmen like the late Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao argue in private is: “The law and order is a state subject.” The Saffron-planted Congress Prime Minister, Mr. Rao continued musing on the subject till the 500-year old Babri Masjid was razed, brick by brick and column by column, to the ground. Also lamented by the Congress is that nobody filed any FIR at the proper time. We say: True, law and order is a state subject. Does genocide also fall under the definition of law and order?
And if the Congress feels so helpless on the centre-state relations, why it does not introduce a comprehensive Bill to enable it to discipline the irresponsible and erring States? Since the partition – the Union Home Ministry will provide correct data – how the major minority has suffered at the hands of its antagonists and how the culprits, including those in uniform, have been let off, even promoted – lest punishment should demoralise them.
It looks as if, like the Saffron, the Congress too has double standards. Everybody was happy when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed unqualified regret and sought forgiveness for the role the Congress had played in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, which gobbled-up around 3,000 innocent lives. But in the case of Gujarat violence, involving Muslims, the plural nation found him a lame duck.
In a similar fashion the Congress behaved in Nandigram. Why? Was the pain of Nandigram in Gujarat and West Bengal different from Delhi?
The basic point, to the sufferers is: Has Dr. Manmohan Singh not been blessed with the spine? Has the Congress no backbone? Or it lacks in the political will, commitment and determination to uphold the basic structure of the Constitution.
The last election in Gujarat was won by the BJP – nay Modi – with little resistance from the Congress. This time the party has accommodated the BJP – nay Mr. Modi’s – dissidents with open arms. This is, say the cynics, an “improvement”.
Mr. Vidya Subramanium recalls in the The Hindu, October 9: “It is a sad state of affairs in a party that the late 1970s crafted the ingenious KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi, Muslim) formula. KHAM brought the depressed, marginalised classes on one platform and delivered stunning results for the Gujarat Congress. In 1980, it won 141 out of the 182 Assembly seats, and in 1985 it bettered the record with 149 seats. The Congress achieved its majorities – far larger than what Mr. Modi secured in 2002 by mobilising the lowest in the social order. KHAM was more than an electoral strategy. It was a daring effort to empower the historically subjugated classes.
We ask: Why dismantling of the KHAM was allowed by the Congress?
The Congress line of subdued argument seems to have been: An aggressive Congress approach would strengthen Mr. Modi; it is in the national interest of the party that Mr. Modi remains confined to Gujarat; some of the Congress allies are involved in the 2002 violence. Yes, this last point is the operative part of the Congress argument. Now it has been made public that Congressmen also killed and looted Muslims in the 2002 Gujarat riots! How is it, we ask, that instead of taking disciplinary and penal action against its criminal cadre, the Congress decided to sweep the communal dirt under the secular carpet?
In fairness, let the Congress now admit it has lost faith in its ideology and programmes. It has no vision for its and the country’s future. And it should also admit that the Mahatma’s vision of communal harmony and removal of untouchability is, to today’s Congress, out of date. He had the ability and capacity to atone and repent. Today’s Congressmen do not believe in self-criticism, self-examination and have no moral courage. Accountable and moral politics is foreign to them.
If so, what is the basic difference between the Congress and the Saffron? Today Mr. Modi is a less-than-refined incarnation of Mr. Sanjay Gandhi, as he wants to perpetuate civil war and communal disharmony.
How would you explain the disenfranchisement of about 2,000 Gujarat riot victims, living in Votra and the surrounding areas? Their names don’t appear in the final electoral list. The People’s Democracy, the mouthpiece of the CPI-M, in its latest issue, sheds light from another angle: the victims of the carnage continue to languish and the perpetrators, in many cases, continue to roam around scot-free, around 21,800 of the one-and-a-half lakh people rendered homeless continue to live as internal refugees, unable to return their homes.
What is, literarily speaking, the ground reality in Gujarat as far as Muslims are concerned? In Vadodra, Profesor Ganesh Devy, literary critic, activist and director of the Tribal Academy at Tejgadh took an eminent political commentator on a tour of Tandalja and Vasna Road, two parallel streets only six metres apart. The first was a mostly Muslim area, the second housed Hindus. The contrast wrenched the heart. Mounds of rotting garbage, dark, damp, crowded homes and desolate young men standing in groups made the Muslim part instantly recognisable. The brightness of Vasna Road equally identified it as a Hindu area. The divide is as much physical as mental – and as much in Vadodra as in other Gujarat cities. It is a symbol of complete, absolute Muslim isolation in a Sate that Mr. Modi claims is “number one in Asia”.
Gujarat is a fractured, vertically divided society today. It is so because justice is not in sight. You cannot usher in tranquillity on dead bodies. The Gujaratis’ or for that matter anybody’s self-respect and pride does not lie in injustice. For “Vibrant Gujarat” justice is a “must”.