Warning that there has been no let up in attempts to radicalise the youth, home minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday said a new phenomenon of “saffron terrorism” involved in many bomb blasts has been uncovered.
Inaugurating a conference of chiefs of police forces of the country, Chidambaram also expressed concern over the situation in Kashmir Valley and hoped that in the next few days, a “starting point” would be found to reach out to the protestors and restart the process of a dialogue.
“There is no let up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India
. Besides, there is recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past,” he said
As Gujarat chief ministerNarendra Modi
begins his three-day fast on Saturday for “peace, unity and harmony” in his state, an unpublished letter addressed to him almost nine years ago by then Prime MinisterAtal Bihari Vajpayee
may come back to haunt him.The letter dated June 1, 2002, reveals Vajpayee’s concern for the fragile communal situation in the state and reflects his doubts over whether the interests of the riot-hit were being properly looked after. The letter was sent three months after the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra riots. It came two months after Vajpayee’s advice to Modi that as CM, he must adhere to “Raj dharma
” and not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion.
The letter, obtained through an RTI application, shows that a PM who seldom relied on detailed correspondence with CMs had thought it necessary to interfere in the affairs of Gujarat. Its tenor makes it clear that Vajpayee was concerned if enough was being done for relief and if a sense of assurance and security was being really conveyed to those who had fled and taken shelter in makeshift camps.
In the letter, Vajpayee brought to the notice of Modi that there had been “gross under-assessment of damages” to the victims’ homes. “It is possible that, for various reasons, the teams involved in work have assessed the damages on the lower side. In the interest of justice and fair play, it will be expedient to conduct test checks in selected areas. If the test checks do confirm under-assessment, the state government will reassess the damages in areas with large-scale complaints,” he wrote. He even went to the extent of assuring Modi that there would be a greater flow of funds from the Centre to help meet additional expenses.
Vajpayee further said, “I have also been informed that in a large number of cases, the relatives of the dead are yet to be paid the ex gratia because bodies are yet to be identified and, also, applications regarding missing persons are yet to be disposed of. The inordinate delay in the disbursement of ex gratia payments is a matter of concern.” The then PM argued that taking DNA samples and thereby establishing identities would be a time-consuming process, “leading to further unacceptable delay”.
He also wrote to Modi on the widespread feeling of insecurity. He said, “It is natural that the residents of the worst-affected areas may be reluctant to return to their original places of residence and demand relocation in safer areas. Ideally, an atmosphere should be created whereby these people gain enough confidence to resettle at the original place of residence.” He even told the chief minister that in case relocation could not be avoided, “particularly in worst-hit areas like Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad and Lunawada in Panchamahal, active government support during their relocation will only protect them from unscrupulous elements”. He added, “Needless to say that undue influence by such elements will only exacerbate the already complicated situation.”
It is more than clear that the letter was penned by a PM who was dissatisfied with the state government’s steps and had carefully studied the shortcomings. Vajpayee wanted to see improvements on the ground and, therefore, did what was very unlike him, interfered in the functioning of a state by offering direct advice on how to manage relief and rehabilitation. TheGujarat riots had bothered Vajpayee immensely and this letter is a proof of the anxiety he experienced for a major part of 2002.
Will Rahul Gandhi be Prime Minister in 2014? Unlikely, for three reasons.
First, he may not want to be. (Rahul at every public opportunity – the last being his zero-hour intervention in parliament on August 26 – has displayed both lack of appetite and talent for the top job.) Second, the Congress may well lose the next general election so Rahul may have to settle for being leader of the Opposition till 2019. And third, India is beginning to move beyond dynastic politics.
But is dynasty all that bad? It surely can’t be if we’ve voted members of the same family into the prime ministership for 38 years (Jawaharlal 17 years, Indira 16, Rajiv 5) and elected to office the same party (the Congress) for 52 out of our 64 post-independence years?
Feudalism still runs deep in Indian society. But all good (and bad) things come to an end – eventually. Rahul is sharp enough to know this – even though the glib sycophants in the Congress who treat dynasty as a political livelihood don’t. India – especially young India – rightly regards dynastic politics with growing disfavour.
But we are voted in to power, protest young dynasts from various parties who, following in the Congress’s large footsteps, have flourished all across India: the Karunanidhis, the Pawars, the Hoodas, the Abdullahs, the Reddys, the Yadavs. If being elected gives politicians absolute legitimacy, Narendra Modi – elected thrice over by voters in Gujarat and virtually certain to be elected a fourth time in 2012 – should be the most legitimate and credible politician in India.
In an evolving democracy, voters can be shortchanged in several ways by politicians with malintent.
1. The Poverty Card: The country ranks 119th on the Human Development Index (HDI) 2011. India’s GDP would have been double today’s $1.5 trillion (Rs. 70 lakh crore) had Indira Gandhi not asphyxiated the economy with the Licence Raj through the 1960s and 1970s. Poverty deepened as a result.
Impoverished voters in India, however, can no longer be taken for granted. In the face of brazen corruption, as Karunanidhi’s DMK learned the hard way in Tamil Nadu, votes cannot be bought. What was true of Tamil Nadu in May 2011 could well be true of India in May 2014.
2. The Caste Card: This has been played by regional parties to good electoral effect. The caste factor has been mercilessly exploited by Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh but it is abused in several other states as well.
3. The Communal Card: Out of the 28.55% national voteshare the Congress won in the May 2009 Lok Sabha election, over 11% came from the lock it has on the 13.50% Muslim vote. Without the Muslim vote, the Congress would be in permanent Opposition. Only around 17% of the 83% Hindu vote now goes to it – most from the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid (hence Sonia Gandhi’s emphasis on MNREGA and other social sector schemes which help tighten its grip on this narrowing slice of the downtrodden electorate).
Can the Congress buy itself out of its electoral trap? Examine its finances: the party’s audited balance sheet for 2008-09 shows it collected Rs. 496.88 crore, most of it from the sale of “coupons” to benevolent (and mostly anonymous) donors. The BJP’s audited income for 2008-09 was Rs. 220.02 crore. (Astonishingly, the audited balance sheets for 2009-10 of these parties are not yet available for public scrutiny.) Election Commission officials say privately that the real income of parties like the Congress and the BJP is at least 10 times their declared income. Most large parties are funded by corporate donors, creating a quid pro quo nexus. The result: kickbacks from myriad scams find their way into parties’ treasuries as undeclared income. It is this black money that funds most MPs’ election campaigns, including those with criminal records.
This represents a classical feudocracy: rich politicians, poor voters. In an evolved democracy, it is the other way around.
For dynastic parties like the Congress, it’s now a race against time. A worried Rahul, for example, knows that every percentage point increase in Indian literacy levels could shave half-a-percentage point off the Congress’s national voteshare of 28%. The more educated the voter, the more empowered she is. In no democracy globally, where education and literacy levels are high, is dynasty in power. Development is the enemy of dynasty. As India develops economically and socially, dynastic politics will inevitably wither. Then questions like Rahul vs. Modi for PM in 2014 will sound faintly embarrassing.
How long will this process of de-dynastisation – to use a neologism – take? Ten years? Five? Somewhere in between would be good bet. By 2020, dynasts like the Bhuttos in Pakistan may still be around. But India would have outgrown them.
Is there no limit to the hypocrisy and double standards of India’s political parties?
The Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological ally Shiv Sena brought down the house on Friday over Home Minister Chidambaram’s innocuous remarks cautioning the nation against the phenomenon of “saffron terrorism.” (Saffron is a color associated with Hinduism).
Interestingly, in his speech, made at a conference of top police and intelligence officials this week, the minister had also talked of “jehadi terrorists.” The Hindutva parties, of course, had no issues with that. True to their rabble-rousing style, the BJP and Sena not just managed to ground Parliament proceedings, they put the government on the mat by demanding the minister’s head and an apology for insulting all Hindus.
So much so the governing Congress, ever fearful of hurting the sensitivities of the majority community, had to field its spokesperson to water down Chidambaram’s “saffron terror” remarks. Terror has no color, was more or less the thrust of his hypothesis.
Of course, no faith, race or country has a monopoly over terrorism. This is why we are opposed to all convenient and misguided labeling and stereotyping of any particular group or community. Terror is terror and crime is crime, no matter who the perpetrators or victims are. This, however, does not mean there’s no substance in Chidambaram’s caveat on the Hindu militancy threat facing the world’s largest democracy.
Indeed, the Hindutva brigade’s clamorous protests and their claim that there’s no such thing as saffron terrorism are simply breathtaking. It’s the same parties that have for years shouted from the rooftops about the threat of “Muslim terrorists and Islamic terrorism” stigmatizing an entire community. Now they have suddenly developed a distaste for labels.
But they cannot suppress the truth forever. And the truth about the Hindutva terror and the dangerous games fascist organizations such as RSS and its numerous avatars and fronts that include BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal have long played is finally coming out.
Over the past several months, the Central Bureau of Investigation and security agencies have made some sensational arrests that include top RSS and VHP functionaries, who have been involved in numerous terror attacks across India. It is now established beyond doubt that Hindu extremists were behind the 2007 terror strikes on the historical Makkah Masjid in Hyderabad and the famous Ajmer shrine. Their hand has also been found in the serial blasts targeting Malegaon in Maharashtra in 2008 that killed scores of Muslims and attacks in scenic Goa in 2009. Even the terror strike on the cross-border Samjhota Express in 2007 that killed 68 people is now suspected to have been carried out by the same forces.
Interestingly, all these attacks were initially blamed on “Muslim terrorists” and Pakistan-based groups, leading to hundreds of innocent young Muslim men being picked up from cities like Hyderabad and tortured for months. In fact, many innocent Muslims such as Ishrat Jahan and her four friends were killed in cold blood as terrorists. Painstaking investigations over the past couple of years have found the hand of a dangerous labyrinth of Hindutva groups such as Abhinav Bharat, Rashtriya Jagran Manch, and Sanatan Sanstha behind the attacks. Cleverly exploiting the prejudice against Muslims in India’s security establishment, these outfits plotted against the “usual suspects” as well as the nation that they claim to love.
This is why it is rather rich for BJP and Shiv Sena to protest Chidambaram’s measured words. India cannot fight the challenges it faces on this front without calling a spade a spade. This does not mean there can be no terrorists in Muslim ranks or that the community can lower its guard against the threat of extremism in its midst.If India remains a vibrant democracy with infinite tolerance for diversity, the credit largely goes to the all-embracing Hindu majority. This is why if extremist forces are preying on the community, it should come as a wake-up call to everyone.
doubt about the accuracy of their information, and refrain from immediately pointing fingers at one Muslim group or another. Despite the fact that barely anyone adequately knows what IM is and how it came about, after the July attack several Muslims were arrested as terrorists. Second, because Muslims are blamed, arrested, tortured, and killed (by the police) after each terror attack, with little or no evidence, such measures might end up creating the danger the Indian state claims to fight.
Third, I contend that the Indian media’s role in “reporting” terrorism is prejudiced.
What is Indian Mujahideen?
After the blast, the police arrested many people from Mumbai’s “sensitive” (read Muslim) neighbourhoods, a practice the residents of such neighbourhoods have grown accustomed to in the last decade. One suspect, Faiz Usmani, died in police custody. The police claimed that his death was caused by “hypertension”; his family believes that he was tortured. Usmani was the brother of Afzal Usmani, in jail for his alleged involvement in the 2008 Ahmadabad blast. Both brothers are reported to be IM members.
Riaz Bhatkal, described as India’s “most wanted terrorist”, is regarded as IM’s founder. He became close with SIMI in the early 1990s when it began to radicalise. Born in 1976, Bhatkal went to an English-medium school and later studied engineering at a Mumbai college. But beyond that, much of IM’s history remains unclear. It’s not even known whether Bhatkal is alive or dead. After the July 13 blast, the ATS attempted to nab him. This is surprising, because early this year the media reported that Bhatkal was killed in Karachi by Chhota Rajan, Mumbai’s underworld don.
The media provides differing accounts of IM’s formation and, in fact, is sometimes inconsistent even within a single version. For example, Animesh Roul, the director of the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict in Delhi, claimed that IM was “conceived at a terrorist conclave attended by top leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jehadi Islami (HuJI) in Pakistani-administered Kashmir in May 2008”. He did not find it contradictory when in the next paragraph he wrote, “IM came into the open for the first time in November 2007”. In Asian Policy, Christine Fair indicated two dates of its formation: 2001 and an ambiguous date of “much later”. According to The Times of India, IM was formed in 2005. To Namrata Goswami of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis in Delhi, “key SIMI members …started supporting the idea of the formation of the IM as early as December 2007”.
IM first hit the headlines after a series of explosions in November 2007. In an email to the media and police, IM claimed responsibility for the blasts. As the email explained, the aim of those attacks was to protest against “the pathetic conditions of Muslims in India that idol worshippers can kill our brothers, sisters, children and outrage dignity of our sisters at any place and at any time and we can’t resist them”. Then, in 2008, minutes before the blasts in Ahmadabad, IM sent an email (entitled “The Rise of Jihad, Revenge of Gujarat”) to the media saying: “We hereby declare an ultimatum to all the state governments of India … to stop harassing the Muslims and keep a check on their killing, expulsion, and encounters.”
The messages are a sign that IM’s aim is to protest against and avenge the killings and humiliation of Muslims at the hands of Hindu nationalists and the state administration. The destruction of the Babri mosque by Hindu nationalists in 1992 is important to IM’s ideological repertoire – hence its description by the media and the terrorism experts as a “home-grown”, “domestic” terror outfit. Since the media regard the Babri mosque as a domestic issue (unlike Kashmir, which is international) and the IM invokes the Babri mosque to rationalise its attacks, the IM is thus considered a domestic outfit.
However, many Indian security experts hold that IM is a tool of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) used to destabilise India. In these accounts, IM is a means to advance ISI’s agenda of destabilising India and at the same time to exonerate Pakistan of any allegations made by India and the West of promoting terrorism. The logic of the security experts is that the word “Indian” in IM points to India’s domestic groups, rather than Pakistani groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, through which the ISI has been operating in Kashmir. On the other hand, experts like B Raman allege that IM and SIMI’s reach extends beyond South Asia, characterising the groups as a part of a global network of Islamic radicals without furnishing adequate evidence.
India’s Guantanamo Bays
The media invariably base their stories on the sources of the state. An apt example is Praveen Swami, a terrorism expert cited by everyone writing about the IM. Swami is to print media what Arnab Goswami (of Times Now) is to Indian TV: Their views are rabidly nationalist, some might even say Islamophobic. Swami reproduces the police version (e.g. see his writings in CTC Sentinel, May 2010; The Hindu, Edit-Page, March 22, 2010; and Frontline, June 2-15, 2007) without giving the other side of the story, namely: the viewpoints of the alleged terrorists, their family members, or the Muslim community. It is well-known that the Indian police are biased against Muslims and have been complicit in killing them, as was evident in the state-mediated 2002 Gujarat violence, in which 1,000 Muslims were killed.
Given that the Indian media is uninterested in reporting “facts” and multiple views, can an anthropologist like me make sense of the mediatised world of terrorism? Thomas Eriksen holds that a concept like globalisation has “no meaning to an anthropologist unless it can be studied through actual persons, their relationship to each other and to a larger surrounding world”. I thus agree with Peter Van der Veer that “behind the growing visibility [of media] is a growing invisibility”.
What is rarely visible in the Indian media, however, are the brutal, illegal methods used against suspected terrorists: torture cells, illegal detention, unlawful killings in “police encounters”; elimination of evidence against the illegal actions of the law-enforcing agencies; and rampant harassment of Muslims. In July 2009, The Week reported on the existence of at least 15 secret torture chambers meant to extract information from the detainees. The methods to extract information include attaching electrodes to a detainee’s genitals as well as the use of pethidine injections. To quote The Week, these chambers are “our own little Guantanamo Bays or Gitmos”, which a top policeman called “precious assets”.
In May 2008, a Muslim boy aged 14 was abducted by the Gujarat police. He was dragged to the police car at gunpoint and taken to a detention centre where he was tortured. He returned home ten days later when the court ordered his release following his mother’s petition. The police subsequently threatened the boy’s family with dire consequences if they pursued the case in court. The police harassment becomes even more acute in light of the fact that most lawyers often hesitate to take up the cases of “terrorists”. As a disempowered community – as the government-appointed Sachar Committee report (of 2006) minutely demonstrates – Muslims themselves don’t have adequate and qualified lawyers to pursue such cases. Muslims’ marginalisation thus renders their voice invisible in the media too.
It is believed that after SIMI was banned, soon after 9/11, its radical members formed IM. During my fieldwork (2001-2004) on Jamaat-e-Islami and SIMI I did not hear anything about IM. SIMI activists and other Muslims I met felt terrorised themselves. It is worth noting that since 2001 far more people have been arrested as “SIMI terrorists” than the actual number of SIMI members, which in 1996 was 413 (when founded in 1976, SIMI’s members numbered 132). Until today, the Indian government has still not legally proved its rationale for banning SIMI.
The story untold
In the fight against terrorism, evidence and the rule of law are subservient to prejudice. As of this writing, the Indian government has not yet tracked the perpetrators of the July 13 attack. However, only two days after the attack, Subramanian Swamy, a prominent politician and former minister (with a doctorate from Harvard University) wrote an article called “How to Wipe Out Islamic Terror”. Without any evidence, he blamed Muslims for the attack, in the same way that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Sun suspected Muslim involvement in the Norway shooting nine days later.
What Swamy did is standard practice in Indian media. In September 2006, a blast killed 35 people at a Muslim graveyard in Malegaon (in the state of Karnataka). The media blamed Muslims. Likewise, in 2007, after a blast killed 10 Muslims praying in Hyderabad’s Mecca mosque, Praveen Swami freely wrote about the Muslim terrorists he believed caused it and about what he perceived to be the “Islamist threat to India’s cities”. However, investigations later showed that Hindu nationalists carried out the Malegaon and Mecca mosque terror attacks.
Returning to Subramanian Swamy, Swami wrote: “We need a collective mindset as Hindus to stand against the Islamic terrorist. The Muslims of India can join us if they genuinely feel for the Hindus. That they do I will not believe unless they acknowledge with pride that though they may be Muslims, their ancestors were Hindus”. Those refusing to acknowledge this, Swamy advocated, “should not have voting rights”. He proposed declaring India “a Hindu Rashtra [state]”.
Stories of Muslim terrorists abound in both the Indian and Western media. Since the July 13, 2011 Mumbai bombings, vitriolic pieces like Subramanian Swamy’s have appeared frequently in the media. These pieces subtly influence the analyses of many liberal intellectuals.
By contrast, stories portraying Muslims as the terrorised remain fairly sparse. One wonders if, and how, such stories will be told.
Replying to Modi’s letter, top cop Sanjiv Bhatt said that the CM has completely misconstrued the SC judgement & criticized him for misleading the ‘six crore Gujaratis.’
New Delhi: Senior IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt says there is nothing in the Supreme Court order in the Gulbarg Society case that should give chief minister Narendra Modi reason to celebrate. Bhatt made this remark in an open letter to the chief minister on Wednesday; the open letter was in response to the open letter written by Modi on Tuesday to “six crore Gujaratis”.
Terming Modi’s plans for a three-day fast for peace, harmony and unity in Gujarat as “completely misleading”, the suspended police officer said: “It seems you (CM) have completely misconstrued the judgement and order passed by the honourable Supreme Court of India and it is very likely that your chosen advisors have once again misled you and have in turn, made you mislead the ‘six crore Gujaratis’ who look up to you as their elected leader.”
Bhatt had earlier accused Modi of wanting to teach Muslims a “lesson” after the Godhra train-burning incident in 2002. He had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court accusing Modi and also casting doubts about the functioning of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the riots that followed the incident. He had said that after the Godhra incident he was summoned along with other senior officers and told to lie low as emotions were running high among Hindus. Bhatt was suspended by the Modi government in August this year for not reporting to work for nearly 10 months.
Full text of Sanjiv Bhatt’s open letter to Narendra Modi:
Sanjiv Rajendra Bhatt
Indian Police Service
Dear Shri. Modi,
I am glad you chose to write an open letter to the ‘Six crore Gujaratis’. This has not only afforded me a window to your mind but has also given me an opportunity to write to you through the same medium.
My dear brother, it seems you have completely misconstrued the judgement and order passed by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in Criminal Appeal No. 1765 of 2011 arising out of S.L.P. (CRL.) No. 1088 of 2008 viz. Jakia Nasim Ahesan & Anr. Versus State of Gujarat & Ors. It is very likely that your chosen advisors have once again misled you and have in turn, made you mislead the ‘Six crore Gujaratis’ who look up to you as their elected leader.
Let me as a younger brother-Gujarati, help you decipher the Judgement and Order that has led to unequivocal gloating and jubilatory celebrations among some sections of the political spectrum. It has been stated in your letter that “One thing is apparent from the Supreme Court’s judgment. The unhealthy environment created by the unfounded and false allegations made against me and Government of Gujarat, after 2002 riots, has come to an end”. Let me clarify that even by a long shot, the order of the Honourable Supreme Court has nowhere, even remotely, suggested that the allegations contained in the complaint filed by Mrs. Jakia Jafri were unfounded or false. The truth is that the order of the Honourable Supreme Court is in fact, a very major leap in the direction of delivering justice to the hapless victims of the Gujarat pogrom. As you are well aware, Mrs. Jafri had approached the Honorable Gujarat High Court with a prayer for registering her complaint as an FIR. The said petition was disallowed by the Honourable High Court of Gujarat. Mrs. Jafri, therefore, approached the Honourable Supreme Court of India by way of a Special Leave Petition against the order of the High Court. The Honourable Supreme Court directed the SIT to look into her complaint and subsequently also directed the learned Amicus to examine the evidence collected by the SIT. At the end of this long and arduous exercise the Honourable Supreme Court has not only allowed the Appeal of Mrs. Jafri and directed the SIT to virtually treat the complaint of Mrs. Jafrri as an FIR, but has also directed the SIT to file a report under section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C. Let me clarify for your benefit and for the benefit of your Six crore brothers and sisters of Gujarat, that this report under section 173(2) of the Cr.P.C. is colloquially known as Charge-Sheet or Final Report. The honourable Supreme Court of India has also directed the SIT to place all the evidence collected by it, including the reports of the learned Amicus before the magistrate empowered to take cognizance. I am sure you will appreciate that in order to let the law of the land take its due course, this was the best option available to the Honourable Supreme Court as per the scheme of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
What the Honourable Supreme Court of India has given to Mrs. Jafri is much more than what she had originally prayed for. The order over which some of us are gloating in feigned glee, is in fact, a very cleverly worded order that takes the perpetrators and facilitators of the 2002 carnage a few leaps closer to their day of reckoning. The false bravado comes across as a very smart attempt to mislead the gullible people of Gujarat and instil a false sense of confidence in the political rank and file. Please be assured that we will see a very different picture as the actual import of the order starts settling in and takes judicial effect.
As one of the ‘Six Crore Gujaratis’, I feel deeply pained and cheated when the likes of you, consciously or inadvertently, mislead the people of Gujarat for ulterior motives. The theory propounded and practised to perfection by Paul Joseph Goebbels, one of Adolf Hitler’s closest associate and Reich Minister of Propaganda in Nazi Germany, can definitely work with the majority of the populace for some time. But all of us know from historical experience that Goebbelsian Propaganda cannot fool all the people for all the time.
I fully endorse your realization that “Hate is never conquered by hate.” Who would know this better than you, who has served this State for the last one decade; and I, who has served in the Indian Police Service for the last 23 years. I had the misfortune of serving with you during those days of 2002 when the dance of hatred was choreographed and perpetrated at different venues in Gujarat. Albeit this is not the appropriate forum for me to discuss and reveal the details of our respective roles, I am sure that both of us will be getting ample opportunities before appropriately empowered fora to disclose our knowledge about the dynamics of hatred in the realpolitik of Gujarat. I hope you and your cronies, within and without the Government, will not hate me more for this.
I cannot agree more with you when you say that “the credibility of those who have been spreading lies and defaming Gujarat has come to its lowest ebb. The people of this country will not trust such elements anymore”. But my dear brother, you seem to have got it entirely wrong as to who are the ones spreading lies and defaming Gujarat. To my mind, Gujarat has gained infamy not because of the hapless victims who have tirelessly crusading for the cause of justice and truth, but because of the despicable actions of the people who sowed and cultivated hatred to reap political and electoral benefits. Please give it a thought. Introspection can prove to be very revealing at times.
I am deeply touched by your concern and efforts to “further strengthen Gujarat’s environment of peace, unity and harmony.” Thanks to you and your kinsmen, Gujarat has been free from any large scale eruption of communal violence since 2002. The reasons for this may not be very obvious to our fellow ‘Six Crore Gujaratis”. This is my 24th year in the IPS. I was allotted to the Gujarat cadre during a time when the State was passing through the throes of widespread and sporadic communal violence. Having been baptised by fire, I have been since trying to understand and deal with the likes of you, who deal in the divisive politics of hatred. It is my well founded observation that the polity of Gujarat has now crossed the stage where communal violence can accrue electoral benefits to any political party, as the process of communal polarisation is very nearly complete in Gujarat. The experiments in the divisive politics of hatred have been very successful in the Gujarat Laboratory. You and your likes, in the political arena, have been largely successful in creating divides in the hearts and minds of the “Six Crore Gujaratis”. The need to resort to any further communal violence in Gujarat is already passe.
In a constitutional democracy like ours, it is incumbent upon the State to act in Good faith at all times and under all circumstances. Over the last nine and a half years many friends have fallen prey to the misleading campaign that the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 was a spontaneous reaction to the condemnable action at Godhra on the fateful morning of 27 February 2002. The Newtonian Law was never abused more. You had resorted to your knowledge and understanding of Newtonian physics in March 2002 and had sought to apply it to polity and governance at the peak of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002. But what you might have deliberately missed then, and what many of us seem to be inadvertently missing now; is the universally accepted principle of governance which mandates that in a constitutional democracy, an avowedly secular State cannot be allowed to be partisan. It was the bounden duty of the State to have anticipated and controlled the possible Newtonian reaction, if any; not orchestrate and facilitate systematic targeting of innocent individuals! Be that as it may, as an expression of solidarity with your stated objective of spreading Sadbhavana in the land of the Mahatma, I resolve to join you in your Sadbhavana Mission. What better way to do this than helping the truth to come out and let the spirit of justice and goodwill prevail. As all of us understand, there can be no Sadbhavna or Goodwill without truth and justice. I hereby reaffirm my resolve to contribute my might towards the restoration of Sadbhavana in the administration and polity of Gujarat.
But let me warn you that genuine heartfelt goodwill is something we cannot demand, buy or extort…we can only strive to deserve it. And it is not going to be an easy task. The land of the Mahatma is slowly but surely coming out of its hypnotic state.
As the most powerful person in Gujarat you may think that you do not need to feel accountable to the perceptions of all sections of the community. But believe me, history has proved time and again, that power without genuine goodwill is a path fraught with dangers…it is also a path of no return.
Samabhava is a condition precedent for Sadbhava. Governance by equity and goodwill should not only be the first article of your faith but should also be the last article of your creed.
The truth is more frequently than not, a little bitter and not very easy to swallow. I hope that you will take this letter in the true spirit in which it is written and you or your agents will not indulge in direct or indirect acts of retribution as is your wont.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr. – Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The spirit of the hapless victims who have been struggling for justice in Gujarat may occasionally flag but it will not be supressed by any amount of false Goebbelsian propaganda. The struggle for justice is never easy anywhere in the world…it calls for everlasting patience and unfailing perseverance at all times. The spirit of the crusaders for truth and justice in Gujarat is epitomised in this poem by Bhuchung Sonam, an alumnus of M.S. University, Baroda.
I have principle and no power
You have power and no principle
You being you
And I being I
Compromise is out of the question
So let the battle begin…
I have truth and no force
You have force and no truth
You being you
And I being I
Compromise is out of the question
So let the battle begin…
You may club my skull
I will fight
You may crush my bones
I will fight
You may bury me alive
I will fight
With truth running through me
I will fight
With every ounce of my strength
I will fight
With my last dying breath
I will fight…
I will fight till the
Castle that you built with your lies
Comes tumbling down
Till the devil you worshipped with your lies
Kneels down before my angel of truth.
May the kind God give you the requisite strength to be equitable and benevolent towards one and all!
With best wishes.
Irfan Ahmad is a political anthropologist and a lecturer at Monash University, Australia and author of Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami (Princeton University Press, 2009) which was short-listed for the 2011 International Convention of Asian Scholars Book Prize for the best study in the field of Social Sciences.