Tehelka Expose and the Conspiracy of Secularist Silence

SOROOR AHMED analyses how the so-called secular, non-BJP politicians  save and except Lalu Prasad  chose to keep silence or express some feeble voices on the Tehelka expose, and exposes their love for Soft Hindutva.

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SOROOR AHMED analyses how the so-called secular, non-BJP politicians  save and except Lalu Prasad  chose to keep silence or express some feeble voices on the Tehelka expose, and exposes their love for Soft Hindutva.

No non-BJP politician, except one, came out so strongly against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, after the Tehelka expose. And that is none else, but the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad. This notwithstanding the fact that there is no parliamentary, assembly or even local body election due in Bihar. For Rashtriya Janata Dal there is absolutely no immediate political compulsion to make such a demand.
The state which is going to poll is, Gujarat, where the Congress is the main opposition player. Yet barring a few meek voices none from the party chose to speak out against Modi. Though the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, while kicking off her election rally in Anand on November 3, was critical of the BJP and riots she did not dare to take the name of Narendra Modi.
Seeking the arrest of a serving chief minister may be too much – though none else but Lalu in July 1997 was forced to quit and subsequently arrested after the fodder scam was unearthed – but can’t any political party at least vociferously demand action against men like Bajrangi or those who boasted of killing, maiming and outraging the modesty of unarmed and helpless Muslims. If Tehelka string operation is nothing but a fraud as BJP and Jaya Jaitley of Janata Dal (United) want us to believe then why is it that Bangaru Laxman was removed from the Hindutva party’s presidentship and George Fernandes had to give up his defence ministry after the similar expose carried out by the same news-portal in March 2001.
Why then are the Congressmen and women not coming out more openly? Maybe, they think that Modi will be electorally benefited if demand is made to arrest men like Bajrangi. But the big question is: Should we not impose the law of the land and send criminals to jail just because we would lose electorally? After all Lalu was a popularly elected chief minister in 1997 when he was sent to jail on the alleged charge of acquiring disproportionate asset worth Rs 42 lakh – he was finally acquitted by the CBI court on December 18 last. Though the opposition parties could not electorally encash his arrest as Lalu’s wife continued to rule Bihar till 2005 yet for the sake of law he was sent to jail. Why not then Modi or at least his men be put behind bars by strict action from the central agencies? Can we send a chief minister to jail on the alleged charge of misappropriation of fund, but not criminals who indulge in killing and looting people and dishonouring the chastity of women?
The Congress is often charged with adopting the policy of soft-Hindutva and it seems that it had hardly learned anything from the past mistakes. Not to speak of Gujarat even in the case of Bombay riots of 1992-93 the Congress government of Maharashtra is yet to take any firm decision, notwithstanding the Sri Krishna Commission Report which indicts Shiv Sena top brass and other Sangh Parivar people.
Apart from Congress the other secular parties, which have nothing at stake, are also keeping tight-lipped or speaking little. Though some Left-leaning social activists did play a good role in the post-riots Gujarat, the traditional Communist parties only raised weak voices to demand action against the men who boasted before the camera of massacring Muslims in 2002. Perhaps they have yet to come out of the West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura syndrome.
There is another set of secularists in our country. They are the one who, under political compulsion, joined hands with the BJP at the Centre to form the National Democratic Alliance. In past some of them like Telugu Desam did speak against the Gujarat riots. But then the party continued to back the BJP. Similar was the compulsion of Mamata Banerjee who had to remain glued to power but with some uneasiness. Today these leaders are free to speak on this issue yet they chose to look the other way round.
Ram Bilas Paswan, another secularist, enjoyed his place in the Vajpayee cabinet throughout the two months of rioting. However, when Mayawati in May 2002 joined hands with the BJP to form government in Uttar Pradesh, Paswan resigned in protest. However, much later he started saying that he quit the Vajpayee government because of the Gujarat riots.
And then there were triumvirate of George Fernandes, Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar, who in the past never failed to boast their secular credentials. But since they cannot ally with ‘the corrupt Congress’, they are with the communal BJP. The first named was the defence minister of the country at the time of the riots and he did not feel ashamed in stating that the rapes and killing in Gujarat were not the first such incident to take place in such violence in the country.
The next is Sharad Yadav, also a secular-socialist like George. During his earlier years he was strongly committed to these causes but the lure of power compelled him to cross over and join the saffron rath. On Gujarat he either chose to remain silent or raise some feeble voices. Though by the time the Gujarat riots took place in 2002, the BJP became more corrupt than Congress – one of the reasons for preferring the Hindutva outfit over Sonia’s party was lost. It was in March 2001 that Bangaru Laxman was caught in camera while accepting bribe.
The third person in this trio is certainly, Nitish Kumar, the present chief minister of Bihar. Of late he is certainly trying to woo some Muslim leaders to his side. But Nitish has a distinction. He is one of the rare non-BJP-Shiv Sena leaders in the NDA who is yet to publicly condemn Narendra Modi, even meekly. One way or the other he would simply deflect the issue.
So when his bete-noire, Lalu Prasad, taunted him and asked him to explain his position on Narendra Modi after the recent Tehelka expose he raised the issue of communal riots in Bhagalpur and Sitamarhi fully knowing that Bhagalpur communal riots took place in October 1989 when Lalu was not in power.
If Lalu earned the goodwill of Muslims it was just because of the good work he did to bring about communal harmony after the infamous Bhagalpur anti-Muslim pogrom. True, some officials and local politicians involved in the riots could not be punished but the fact is that it is for the first time in the country’s history that over 300 people involved in the rioting were punished. Out of these over 100 got life term. More than 600 got compensation. This notwithstanding stiff opposition from the BJP and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which moved high court and Supreme Court to stall the constitution of the commission to probe the matter.
The Bhagalpur Riots Commission Report was the first such report to be tabled in the state assembly and debated in the legislative council in the country. Yet Nitish charges Lalu that the riots report has not yet been submitted and that nobody has been paid compensation. In no anti-Muslim communal riots in the country had compensation been paid to so many members of the victims’ family and so many people punished as in Bhagalpur. True, weak Lalu is now in power with the Congress which allowed Bhagalpur to happen, but isn’t it the fact that Nitish had in his cabinet the BJP ministers who were directly responsible for the riots?
Anyway raising Bhagalpur at the time of Gujarat is mere absurdity. Isn’t it the fact that the burning of Sabarmati Express in Godhra was the first instance in the history of Indian Railways in which Commissioner Railway Safety (CRS), did not probe the accident? True, the CRS is not a railway official but belongs to Civil Aviation ministry – this portfolio was then held by Shahnawaz Husain of the BJP – the railways had to give some very important answers after the burning of the Sabarmati Express as it happened just a few furlongs away from the Godhra station. But with Nitish at the helm of affairs every thing was swiftly swept under the carpet. No inquiry was done and what we know is a totally one-sided version of the burning of the train.
Since there are many unanswered questions, Nitish would never speak on the entire Gujarat riots. There is no dearth of arm-chair Muslim opinion-makers who would say that by speaking too much on Godhra Lalu is polarising the atmosphere in favour of Modi. This is the most bizarre way of justifying silence – as if by remaining silent everything is good in that state. In February 2005 this correspondent had the opportunity to meet some Muslims of Godhra, who did not feel shy in stating that the only secular politician in India on whom they have some faith left is none else but Lalu Prasad; though they hastened to add that they have politically absolutely nothing to do with him. Nor could they do anything for him.
They blamed all the mainstream secularist parties of indulging in conspiracy of silence when the fact is that family members of many Muslim POTA victims had to spend as high as half a million rupees in fighting cases, meeting them in jail – a heavy bribe is charged by police each time – and in sending food and other material to the prison for them.
All this is the price of secularist silence.