Some analysts want to explain away Narendra Modi’s victory in Gujarat by saying Gujaratis are a special breed different from the rest of us Indians: that they have been especially communal since the Muslim destructions of the Somnath Temple; that they have shown unforgivable amnesia in not penalising Modi for the mass killings of Muslims in 2002; and that they are a special breed willing to tolerate the quasi-fascism of Modi. Phoeey!
I personally am dismayed that the high political principles of our independence movement have given way to the cynical tolerance and use of violence in politics, with criminals and killers winning elections. But this cancer affects all parties, not the BJP alone.
Before 2002, analysts did not denounce Gujaratis as insufferably communal and quasi-fascist. But when Gujaratis voted for Modi in 2002, and again in 2007, many intellectuals were aghast that voters had opted for a man clearly complicit in the mass killing of Muslims.
Very sad. But the solution cannot be to condemn Gujaratis for ignoring the bidding of their moral superiors. Some intellectuals come close to saying, if I may paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, that the Gujarati people have lost the confidence of intellectuals, and so we must elect a new people.
The post-Godhra killings in 2002 were horrifying. When I heard of a pregnant Muslim girl having her stomach ripped open and her foetus set on fire, I almost vomited. I fully agree with Sonia Gandhi that the BJP perpetrators were “messengers of death”.
But were her own husband and partymen very different? When Indira Gandhi was killed by Sikh security guards in 1984, Congress party cadres went on a killing spree in Delhi, murdering 3,000 Sikhs. The PUCL report showed that many Congress leaders were complicit in the killings, and encouraged instead of curbing murderous mobs, exactly as in Gujarat in 2002.
According to data tabled in Parliament, the 2002 toll in Gujarat was 790 dead Muslims, 254 dead Hindus, and 223 people missing. Far more were killed in Delhi in 1984.
Many critics call Modi a fascist who carries out pogroms. They do not apply the same label to the Congress. Yet, the 1984 data are more suggestive of a pogrom than the 2002 data. The Hindu casualties in 2002 were a quarter of the total, suggesting two-way violence (even though Muslims suffered far more). But no Hindus died in Delhi, so it looks much more like a pogrom.
Around 190 people were killed in police firing in Gujarat, of whom slightly over half were Muslims. This confirms suspicions that the Gujarat police came down very harshly on Muslim rioters while treating Hindu mobs lightly. Yet, in 1984 there was no police firing at all on Hindu mobs. The Congress messengers of death co-opted the police more thoroughly than their imitators in Gujarat.
So, on virtually every parameter you can measure, 1984 was worse than 2002. Why then is Modi called a fascist while the Congress is heralded as a secular saviour? Sitaram Yechury of the CPM points out that the Congress ultimately apologised for the 1984 killings, but the BJP has still not done so for 2002.
That is indeed a difference. Modi needs to make a similar gesture. But have the two Communist parties apologised for the millions murdered by their comrades globally? Stalin killed 3 million kulaks in the Ukranian famine, not allowing food to go in or people to come out. Mao boasted of liquidating 3 million capitalist roaders. Our Marxists fulminate against American imperialism but will not apologise for their life-long support of murder and torture in the Red Empire. They object to murder only when committed by other parties. The people of Nandigram will tell you as much.
Many regional parties are tainted too. The DMK was hand-in-glove with the Tamil Tigers long after their murderous ways became public. Many Akali leaders were closely associated with the Sikh militants in Punjab in 1978-93, and allowed terrorist supremo Bhindranwale to occupy the Golden Temple.
Baba Ranjit Singh, who killed the Nirankari chief, was made head of the Akal Takht because of, not in spite of, that murder. When the courts ordered him jailed in 1997, the “secular” United Front government headed by Inder Gujral granted him an official pardon in the interest of communal peace! If peace can be legitimately bought by condoning a convicted murderer and making him Akal Takht chief, is the condoning of Modi by the Gujarati people so exceptional?
No, Gujaratis are not a bunch of communal fascists. They are no different from the Delhi wallahs who killed far more people in 1984. Rajiv Gandhi’s sins were forgiven/forgotten by voters just two months after the Delhi killings, and he won a landslide victory. Is it so strange for today’s Gujaratis to forgive/forget the sins committed five years ago?
When rivals denounce Modi, they divert attention from their own sins. In effect, they are saying “my murders are better than your murders.” This is not the sort of competition democracy is supposed to encourage.