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EDITORIAL: 1-15 April 2002

Newton Modi and Sardar Poto

A month after Gujarat was put to torch, the state still simmers. Large areas in a number of towns including Ahmedabad and Vadodra are again under curfew and killings, burnings to death and stabbings are still taking place on a daily basis. Muslim homes and businesses are still being looted and burnt. Under ‘Newton’ Modi the saffron mob is so emboldened as to gherao even the National Human Rights Commission’s chairman. About two hundred thousand Muslims (about 65,000 in Ahmedabad alone) remain in temporary shelters like schools and dargahs with little hope to go ‘home’ since many have no homes to return to and others are too terrified to go back where they were murderously attacked with official connivance if not active support. Muslim businesses are in ruins and many cannot even think of rebuilding their lives since they, under misguidance about the permissibility of insurance policies, did not believe in taking insurance cover. 

Gujarat was a watershed, a new experiment in ethnic cleansing and economic destruction. Like Bosnia, rape, burning alive and economic destruction were used as weapons to bring a whole people to their knees. Details are pouring in daily about how Modi administration gave the goondas 48 hours to do their job before the army moved in; how ministers coordinated attacks from police control room, how shots were fired from the official residence of the home minister who happens to be a VHP pointman. Yet our union home minister has given clean chit to the mobsters and his partymen keep repeating ad nauseum the Godhra incident which, they claim was not sufficiently condemned otherwise the situation would be different. So the new rule is that if a certain crime is not sufficiently condemned the goondas will come to the streets to teach lessons to just about anyone who happens to be around. The huge law and order machinery and the judicial system should be disbanded to spare some extra cash for this secret army which seems to have come into existence thanks to the official patronage it has enjoyed from their ruling brothers. 

Godhra was the work of an infuriated mob which was reacting against insulting and non-paying customers who had even abducted a Muslim young woman from the station platform. This has emerged from umpteen reports including internationally reputed newspapers like the Washington Post and the London Independent. Mr BK Nanavati, Godhra’s deputy superintendent of Police has been quoted by the media as saying: "It was not preplanned, it was a sudden, provocative incident." 

The Godhra crime should have been punished by the law and order machinery after an unbiased judicial enquiry like any civilised society would do. But what followed next day was a planned violence by the keepers of law and Constitution. There is a great difference between ordinary illiterate men on the streets and the chief minister and ministers who take solemn oaths to safeguard the Constitution of the country. 

A thorough and impartial enquiry should be made into both the Godhra incident and the violence let loose in its aftermath and which still continues. The attacks were very well-planned. The mobs had lists of Muslim residents and businesses and these alone were targeted. The attackers were being directed through mobile phones. A ‘minister’ even reportedly suggested to send bangles to his hoodlums in a certain area when they could not accomplish their targets and two ministers sat in the police control room in Ahmedabad to coordinate the carnage. 

It is clear that no impartial enquiry is possible while ‘Newton’ Modi and Sardar Poto remain in their respective seats. The whirlwind ‘Newton’ has harvested in the lab of the Hindu rashtra was in fact sown by Sardar Poto over a decade and a half ago when he discovered the temple issue as a shortcut to power, and his rath and Mandir sprang to ride roughshod over all issues of development in the country. That very rath yatra caused the deaths of about three thousand innocent people but no bali is too much for the saffron ilk in its blind quest for power. Though Sardar failed to become prime minister yet his grasp of the home ministry for the last three years has given him great leverage to implement the saffron agenda of divide-and-rule. Everything is being done to drive a wedge between the two communities in the name of security. Totally unfounded allegations are made day in and day out about madrasahs in order to instill fear in the hearts of both the majority and minority, and this facilitates the misuse of the law and order machinery to crack down on a particular community. Sardar Poto and the huge machinery at his beck and call has failed to this day to pinpoint a single madrasah out of the official tally of over thirty one thousand madrasahs in the country which, in his view, is teaching terrorism or where terrorist activities are taking place or which is an ISI base... Until and unless he is forthcoming to part with such secret information what he says about the madrasahs is libel against a whole community and an attempt to deprive the poor of this community of its only chance to get almost free education which these institutions traditionally provide with the community’s financial contribution. 

An unwilling country is being bludgeoned to accept POTO by a party which has clearly lost popular support. Every trick is being employed in order to pass this dubious ‘law’ which, like its predecessor, will be used more in violation of human rights than in their protection. If TADA had a conviction rate of only two percent, how POTO will be different? How the 98 percent victims of TADA, who spent years behind bars for no crime under our own laws, are going to be compensated? If TADA was almost exclusively used against Muslims and in states, like Gujarat and Maharashtra, which did not suffer from terrorism, how POTO will be different? In fact POTO will come in very handy as a convenient tool after the environment the Sardar and his ilk have meticulously engineered over the years to criminalise a whole community. It will complement what the Sangh goondas accomplished in Gujarat and warned to repeat it elsewhere, as one of their stalwarts threatened to turn the whole country into ‘Ayodhya’... This threat was almost put into action by making plans to take the ashes of the Godhra victims to all over the country. Due to an outcry, this mischief has been nipped in the bud. But the saffron crowd has been so emboldened under BJP rule that it will manufacture many such excuses to repeat elsewhere what it accomplished with finesse in Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace. India has to decide: does it want to be the Bharat of Mahatma or the living hell of Godse. The whole world is waiting for a reply. This reply will decide our place under the sun and will show if we are going to live in the twenty first century AD or the twenty first century BC.

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