Saturday, September 1, 2012

Is this the man UMNO wants to make PM? Smart answers please

Narendra Modi’s alleged culpability in the post-Godhra riots was in the news again (albeit indirectly) yesterday when the special court pronounced Dr Maya Kodnani – a former minister of the BJP government in Gujarat – guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy. Those of us who lived in Gujarat at the time of the Godhra riots always knew of the complicity of the Gujarat government in fanning the riots. With every new judgment, that fact is getting established ever more clearly. Supporters of Modi call him a decisive man….on that fateful day, he had perhaps decided how it would end. Now this man wants to be the PM of India. Now he wants the cauldron of hatred and venom that he has brewed to flow over to the rest of the country.
Datuk Seri Najib Razak today accused Pakatan Rakyat (PR) of attempting to replace the national flag and warned of many more undesirable changes, including to the royal institution, should the opposition bloc gain control of Putrajaya.
The prime minister was weighing in on the uproar over the appearance of several alternative flag designs sporting the familiar crescent moon and 14-pointed star during the countdown to the country’s 55th National Day at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur last Thursday night.
“They want to change everything... they even want to change our flag.
“There are many things they want to do but cannot because control of Putrajaya is in our hands,” said Najib (picture), who heads the Barisan Nasional (BN) ruling coalition, alluding to his political foes.
However, PKR — one of the three parties that make up the PR pact — has denied having a hand behind any bid to replace the Jalur Gemilang, and denounced the attempt as an “irresponsible” act.
“Whatever actions that try to give impressions that are not positive, we will certainly not give any encouragement, and strongly reject,” the opposition party’s deputy president Azmin Ali told reporters earlier this morning.
Najib also castigated the PR-led Selangor government for shutting out the state Ruler from its official National Day celebrations at Dataran Shah Alam last Thursday, suggesting that it placed greater importance on its economic adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim than the monarch.
Kelantan Umno chairman Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed today warned of a possible attempt by certain quarters to turn Malaysia into a republic. 
“Certain quarters seem to be a little too extreme, to the extent of wanting to amend the Federal Constitution and the national flag,” he said.  
“This shows that they may want to turn Malaysia into a republic,” Mustapa(picture) said at the opening the Pengkalan Chepa Umno division delegates meeting and the Aidilfitri open house of the Pengkalan Chepa parliamentary constituency here.
The meeting was opened by Home Minister and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
Mustapa called on the people to defend the essence of independence achieved 55 years ago to ensure that the country remained stable.
This was necessary when there existed elements in the country trying to destroy the prevailing harmony, he said. 
Mustapa, who is the international trade and industry minister, called on Malaysians to reject a “fatwa” (edict) issued by certain politicians allowing religion to be set aside in garnering political support.  
“Their edict says participation in demonstrations is obligatory. That is wrong. Just imagine if there is bloodshed during an illegal gathering. What will happen?” he asked. 

“The question of disrespecting the Selangor Sultan does not surprise us... they show more respect to their economic adviser who has no locus standi,” he said, pouring scorn on his political nemesis’ specially-created position within the state government.
“His Royal Highness is the symbol to the state that we must respect,” he said, adding that the Selangor Sultan was a symbol of the state’s sovereignty and unity and should be accorded the highest level of respect.
Najib said his BN coalition will ensure it retains power at the next general election.
“We will ensure Putrajaya remains BN’s,” he said.
Najib had earlier today told Umno members at a conference in Putrajaya to set up a political wall and blunt the opposition’s juggernaut in the 13th general election that must be called by next April when the BN’s mandate expires.
Political rivalry between the BN and PR blocs has intensified in recent days as the window for the next polls narrows in a race that could see a regime change in Malaysia for the first time in 55 years.

of all victims of Muslim terrorism are Muslims.

The trial court also said that the whole anti-Muslim pogrom was orchestrated by the BJP and its sister outfits. The party of course claims that it was a “spontaneous” reaction of the public and it had nothing to do with it. But then isn’t this the same claim the party made during and after the Babri masjid demolition? Even then, the facts showed otherwise. There was Advani right there provoking the people to take action. There were so many others directly egging on their people to bring the structure down. What spontaneous reaction does the BJP talk about? Even in Ahmedabad, Baba Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal has been boasting that he felt like Rana Pratap…..what a dastardly thing to say after massacring innocents. Rana Pratap fought 500 years ago in a different world. And he never massacred innocents.
No riots can happen on the scale seen in Gujarat unless the police and the government are complicit. In spite of the terrible – and much larger scale – communal conflict in Assam, and in spite of a not-too-convincing handling of the situation by the CM there, the death toll is less than 100. That’s the difference between a government that tries to control a situation and one that encourages it to flare up. The genocide in Naroda Patiya went on for several hours before the police finally arrived. The police was apparently too stretched. Doing what? Fiddling? Drinking tea and smoking beedis? Because Naroda is not some far flung district of Gujarat. Naroda is virtually inside Ahmedabad city. Naroda is where all the industries are located. Had the CM had any interest in controlling the situation, he could have done so in no time. But perhaps, his interests were different.
All of the BJP’s politics is about spreading communal hatred against the Muslims and other minorities. In the common man’s minds, the party stands for “hindu majoritism”. The Hindus themselves are a secure and secular lot. They don’t fear the minorities. It is the BJP that is insecure and unsecular. It is the BJP’s voluntary choice to position itself as a Hindu party as distinct from what almost all other parties position themselves as – secular.
But it is Narendra Modi in particular who is the fount of such communal thinking in his party. Lets not forget… was after the post-Godhra riots that Modi “rewarded” Maya Kodnani with ministership. How strange then that his defenders are now saying that she was not a minister when the riots happened. Of course she wasn’t. But she became one immediately after the riots….
Communal hatred is hardly the only thing that Modi specializes in. Modi loves to lie about his state’s progress, when in reality that progress predates him (Read my post of September 17th last year on this: Modi’s growth story is a sham…..). Read also the article in the TOI of October 6th last year by Dipankar Gupta on the same subject. Modi is aware of the albatross of communalism that hangs on his head; that is why he’s keen to deflect the attention towards his state’s economic clout. Gujarat has always been an economically strong state; and Modi has nothing to crow about for it.
But today we found one other attribute of this great man who wishes to be PM one day. On a day when his former minister was convicted – Modi disowned her. In the past also, we have seen BJP leaders in Gujarat disown several ordinary folks who they had goaded into “action” after the Godhra incident. The poor souls had been trapped; realizing their folly only after the court’s verdict. Dr. Maya Kodnani realized it yesterday too. Unfortunately for her, her boss is not there to support her. What kind of a spine does Modi have, deserting close associates in times of crisis? Is this the character you expect from senior leaders who aspire to be PM?
But that’s not all. Modi is known to be extremely dictatorial. When his sadbhavna farce (sorry fast) was going on in Ahmedabad, the Congress MLAs were denied permission to protest against him elsewhere. When Congress MLAs marched in protest against Modi in Gandhinagar, they were lathi charged. But Modi’s PR machinery works with such anticipation and preemptiveness, such stories never get publicized the way his “success” stories do.
The “decisiveness” of Modi is nothing but “dictatorship”. The problem with dictatorships is that they eventually and invariably turn on their own people. That’s what we saw in Libya with Gaddafi (an eminently popular leader in his earlier days) and Egypt with Mubarak (ditto). Modi turned against the Muslims the day he came to power. How much longer before he turns against the rest of the people?
What is the fall-out of this verdict going to be on Modi? Believe it or not, in Gujarat, this will work like magic for Modi. Read my post of July 27th, 2012: Newton’s third law of motion and Narendra Modi….and it will be clear why Modi will benefit from this verdict. The Hindus of Gujarat – those who have tutored in school to become fanatics – will re-unite and re-vote for Modi in ever larger numbers. Modi will romp home with an even larger majority this time around. But outside Gujarat, Modi’s become a bit of a joke now. Modi’s PM ambitions will suffer enormously. Is that one reason why the BJP top brass has quietly decided not to defend him?
Modi other “brilliant” characteristic is that he is quite happy to emasculate the judiciary and other constitutional watchdogs. The Sohrabuddin murder case history is well known. The SC is considering shifting the hearing out of Gujarat just like so many other post-Godhra cases have been shifted. And Modi’s stonewalling of the appointment of a Lok Ayukta in his state for 8 long years is well known.
The Congress was rightly panned for the anti-Sikh riots in 1982. But at very least – albeit with a lot of resistance – the political careers of the main accused – Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar have pretty much ended. The Congress can never be forgiven for those riots. But the party apologized. It even made a Sikh the PM (irrelevant point in a normal situation; but relevant in this post’s context). Will the BJP put the curtains on Modi’s career? Will the party apologize to the Muslims? Will the BJP propose a Muslim as its PM candidate? In my mind, the sun may some day rise in the West….but the BJP can never apologize to the Muslims.
The real truth is that Modi must take responsibility for the post-Godhra riots. He must come forward and make amends. Otherwise he should simply forget about stepping out of Gujarat. Unfortunately for the BJP, where there is Karnataka as a shining example of its corruption, there is also Gujarat as one of its communal ideology…
..Naroda Patia verdict: Sanjiv Bhatt writes scathing letter to Modi
 A day after the Naroda Patiacase verdict, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatthas written a scathing letter to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Bhatt in his open letter to the CM has questioned the timing of Modi's Google+ Hangout chat and alleged that Modi had distanced himself from the Naroda Patiamassacre verdict.

He has written "You must have been apprised about the punishment meted out to your loyal lieutenants Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, as well as the misguided foot-soldiers of misconceived Hindutva, who have now been condemned to spend a life in prison. Was it perchance that you smartly distanced yourself from all these unfortunate people at an opportune moment?"

Bhatt has asked Modi that has he "spared a thought for the innocent family members of the accused who have been sentenced to a lifetime behind bars?" "It is believed that you were once a married man. At some point in your life, like all normal humans, you might have been touched by the magic of love, even thought of having children starting a family, perhaps! Have you even once thought about the plight of the wives and children of your onetime adulators who have been condemned for life?"

Bhatt has asked Modi that has he ever looked at his image beyond his designer dresses. The letter goes saying, "Have you ever looked at the reflection of the real face behind the mask? Have you ever introspected about your true-self concealed behind the meticulous imagery created by your media managers? Have you even once thought whether it is really worth it to sustain power, even if it requires sacrificing fellow human beings at the altar of expediency?"
Pointing at the killing during 2002 post-Godhra riots, the letter says, "Have you ever considered, even once, whether it is alright to facilitate or connive in the killing of another human being just because he does not conform to your beliefs? Is it really worthwhile to deceive your own self.... or, is it only a small price to pay for your political ambitions?"

Bhatt ends the letter saying "I hope and pray to God that you get the time, wisdom and opportunity to find honest and truthful answers to some of these questions during this lifetime."

A special court in Ahmedabad has churned things up in a way inconceivable till now. Following its recent convictions, the court has delivered yet another stinging verdict. Under it, Maya Kodnani, BJP MLA, will spend the next 28 years of her life behind bars; and Babu Bajrangi will remain incarcerated for the rest of his life. The charges on which they have been tried and found guilty couldn't be any more severe than they already are.
After more than a decade of dramatic twists and turns in judicial hearings, Kodnani and Bajrangi have been found guilty of being involved in the planned mass killings in Naroda Patiya. This is the site where nearly a hundred Muslim men, women and children were brutally murdered by armed mobs during the 2002 riots.

The recent court verdict is an affirmation of what already many believed and knew to be true. Barring the blind and the faithful among Narendra Modi's supporters, few doubted the guilt of Kodnani and Bajrangi. Earlier, sting operations had made stunning revelations in the media, reinforcing dark suspicions and confirming the participation of specific persons in the Naroda Patiya massacre. But like many other bigwigs in Gujarat's top political and administrative posts, Kodnani and Bajrangi had managed to get away. Till now.

Could this be an ominous sign for BJP supremo Narendra Modi? Could the day of final judgment, the epiphany that should have happened long time ago, now unfold before the public? All this while Modi has swung from practicing aggressive Hindutva and nationalistic politics to undertaking sadhbhavana fasts; from focusing exclusively on a Hindu electorate to clumsily reaching out to Muslims. With his party's rank and file rallying solidly behind him, Modi has grown bolder and reached out for the ultimate pinnacle of glory in the life of a politician – the prime minister's chair. As Ashis Nandy observed on a TV programme once about Modi: "if you wear a mask long enough, it might become your face."

But he donned that mask too late and without any grace. No sincere apology has come from him in all these years, accounting for his "failure" to prevent the orgy of killings that took place on his watch. Every adverse court verdict was met with brazen alibis from his colleagues, damning the human rights activists and civil society groups.

Even now, after the landmark conviction and the jailing of Kodnani, Modi's lieutenants continue to be unapologetic. Party spokespersons have made the convictions out to be a result of Modi's fairness, his even handed dealing with his adversaries! The truth is that but for the Supreme Court and the much disparaged 'jholawala' activists, and human rights crusaders, the truth would have remained buried under heaps of lies and subterfuge. The Gujarat police had already disregarded the testimonies of Naroda Patiya's witnesses, attesting to Kodnani leading the mobs. Had the Supreme Court not directed the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT), matters wouldn't have moved an inch.

Even worse, Modi appointed Kodnani a minister in his cabinet in 2007, in sheer defiance of the telling evidence against her. Kodnani even disappeared underground as minister when the SIT had moved against her, to avoid arrest. How much murkier can it really get? Yet the urban middle classes seem willing to wish away any possible complicity in Gujarat's mass murders. In a recent survey conducted across 28 cities Narendra Modi has emerged as the favourite of the electorate, ahead of Rahul Gandhi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. He has secured 42% of votes as against Rahul Gandhi's 29 % and Nitish Kumar's 19%.

But there's a larger issue here. The tragedy of the Indian political class is that the domain of communal, caste and gender violence has been inhabited in equal measure by all powerful parties, particularly the ruling Congress and the Opposition BJP. When it comes to pointing fingers at each other for casting the first stone, lighting the first match, or firing the first shot, the Congress and the BJP take cover in mutual mud-slinging and acrimony. There's little else they can do because the record on both sides is sordid and guilt-ridden.

The onus therefore is never one of proving innocence against the core charge of having abetted and incited or sponsored violence. It is always about the degree and scale of violence done by one party in comparison to its adversary. The questions raised around that emotive subject are endless. Did more people die in the 1984 Delhi riots? Or was the body count more in the 2002 Gujarat riots? Were the guilty of the Hashimpura and Maliana and Nellie massacres ever brought to book? And what about the innumerable sites of violence against dalits and tribals?

The Congress still tries to shield Rajiv Gandhi who was at the helm of affairs when 3000 innocent Sikhs died in the capital. Some party leaders have gone to the extent to transferring the blame squarely on one of their own former prime ministers – Narasimha Rao – who was the home minister in 1984. The war of words between the Congress and the BJP, like on the issue of corruption, on communal riots too, is nothing but a sham.
When I first heard of the conviction of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya case on Wednesday morning, my first reaction was: why is it that the associates of Narendra Modi get nailed every time but he gets off scot-free? I am referring to Modi’s former minister Amit Shah and police officers like DG Vanzara who were close to him and had a free run. Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandyan (another police officer close to him) are languishing in jail; Amit Shah is also facing charges. Today, 31 more have been convicted but Modi (who, of course, was not directly involved in the incident) is going strong. While the Congress and Keshubhai Patel will put up a stiff fight, it is likely that he will be returned for the third time in the elections that will be held four months from now. And using this victory as ‘public approval’ for everything that he may have done or not done in the past, Modi will lambast the secular forces, blaming them for everything conceivable including all the ills that afflict India.
For those who came in late, the Naroda Patiya incident happened on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had given a bandh call and a huge crowd gathered at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad and attacked members of the minority community, killing 91 people. This was the same day when at Gulberg Housing Society, former MP Ehsan Jaffri was killed along with members of the same society even as police made themselves scarce. In fact, the attack on Gulberg Society happened after the additional police commissioner MK Tandon had visited the place and said that there was nothing to fear. His departure had been taken as a signal by rioters to burn down Gulberg Society. This was also the day when rioters and other antisocials had a free run, looting establishments belonging to the minority community and killing them at will. A Muslim high court judge had to run away from his house and take refuge at the house of a colleague for no crime other than being a Muslim. The car of the collector of Gandhinagar was also stoned because the collector was a Muslim. Sitting at the police control room were two ministers of the Modi government doing God knows what and this is when Ahmedabad was literally burning. The police commissioner of Ahmedabad, PC Pande, had gone into hibernation mode that day and director general of police K Chakravarthy was fuming and fretting in private with no guts to lead his men from the front.
Modi’s government should have been dismissed immediately – for failure to control law and order and for the anarchy prevailing on the streets – not only that day but also for the next few days. But there was an NDA government in New Delhi and the home minister was none other than Lal Krishna Advani, widely known as the godfather of Modi and the Prime Minister was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had mastered the art of doublespeak. It was not that they did not know what has happening — although Modi must have purveyed that it was all a “spontaneous reaction” to the Godhra incident and public anger was tremendous. A cabinet minister called George Fernandes who held the defence portfolio had been sent to Gujarat to assess the situation, but he had clearly reported to Vajpayee what was happening. To no avail, of course, other than a small reprimand from Vajapayee that ‘rajdharma’ has to be practised. Modi countered rather rudely that this was what he was doing.
From day one, those not enamoured with Modi have asserted that the role of the chief minister was more than that of being a helpless spectator. In fact, Modi’s revenue minister Haren Pandya (subsequently assassinated) deposed before the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal that Modi had told his ministers in the aftermath of the Godhra incident (on the evening of February 27) that the public reaction that would happen in Ahmedabad should be allowed. IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt (then in the intelligence department), who had attended a meeting of officers with Modi, also said that the latter had wanted that the reaction be allowed to happen. The then home secretary of Gujarat, Ashok Narain, also is on record saying that he had warned that bringing the bodies of the victims of the Godhra train burning incident to Ahmedabad would incite violence but his warning was not heeded and a decision was taken to bring the bodies to the city.
On Wednesday (August 29, 2012), Maya Kodnani (who was an MLA then but was subsequently promoted as a minister; the question remains: if she was in the eye of a storm, why did Modi promote her?) was convicted under more than a dozen sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). Ditto for Babu Bajrangi. For those who do not know who he is, he is a VHP member who saw himself as a ‘social reformer’. Eyewitness accounts on which the court relied to convict Maya Kodnani spoke of how she had incited the mobs to murder.
I do not know what Modi’s reaction is to the convictions in the Naroda Patiya case. He will probably say that it only proves that his government has not tampered with the law and justice machinery in the state. Well that’s not that simple as that because this was a case monitored by the Supreme Court and witnesses protected by central paramilitary forces and legal aid from luminaries. But the question still buzzes in my mind: everything happened when Modi was at the helm of affairs. How is it that he is not being made to take responsibility for what happened in Gujarat in those fateful days. Does merely winning elections absolve him of everything? What sort of system is this where politics decides everything and extinguishes the line between right and wrong?

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