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EDITORIAL: 1-15 March 2002

Saffron pogrom

The dance macabre in Ahmadabad, Surat, Godhra, Rajkot, Baroda and elsewhere in Gujarat and beyond since 27 February, has exposed that there is no government in New Delhi or Gandhinagar. Thousands (official tally is about to cross 700) have either been roasted alive by the self-styled bhakts, who never forget to shout slogans like Ram ka nam; ho gaya kam after every act of bravery against their hapless Muslim victims with, at best, official inaction if not active connivance. Businesses, shops and houses are still being selectively looted and burnt as we go to press on 9 March. Apparently there is still a great deal of kam left for the bhakts to accomplish. 

All this mayhem is presided over by a latter-day Nero, Narendra Modi, who was out of the blue foisted on Gujarat as chief minister, apparently to unleash the next phase in the self-professed 'laboratory of Hindu rashtra' which seeks to create an ‘exemplary’ Ramraj in Gujarat.

This pracharak (preacher) of the RSS, who has no administrative experience, has to his credit assisting another great Rambhakt LK Advani during his infamous rath yatra which culminated in the demolition of Babri Masjid and killings of thousands of people in the process.

When Ahmadabad and all other cities were aflame, this man was claiming on top of his voice that ‘the situation is totally under control. There is no threat to any life. Everything is functioning normally’ - words uttered when the whole world was privy to the gory events of Gujarat.

The man, whose studied inaction has left the state amidst still rotting dead bodies, cold-bloodedly proclaimed that ‘the people of Gujarat have shown great restraint’. He even cited 'Newton's third law' to bring home to the illiterate disbelievers that there is ‘reaction to every action.’ In yet another statement Modi tried to justify the thugs who invariably belong to his umpteen family outfits by describing their deeds as only ‘an expression of anger’.  

Instead of discharging his constitutional responsibility to bring criminals to justice, hold law and order, protect human lives without discrimination, this man, if that is the right word for this creature, was openly hand in glove with the criminals.

His mentor, the super bhakt, back in the capital, who is entrusted with the security of the nation and regards himself to be true prime ministerial material despite Jain Hawala and Babri demolition, exhibited similar behaviour. During the early stages he resisted the deployment of the army until there was a national and internal outcry, and even when finally the army was thinly deployed it remained under local civilian charge. He belatedly visited the state only to hurriedly give clean chit to the criminals just as he did earlier in the wake of previous outrages by his parivar outfits. He even tried to prove that the riots in Gujarat were the result of the Godhra train tragedy. 

The reports trickling from the still-locked Godhra offer a different angle altogether. The Godhra incident is utterly condemnable and its perpetrators must be punished after an impartial judicial enquiry. This is the responsibility of the police and the judicial system in any civilised society. Giving licence to hoodlums to exact revenge is a crime in itself since here a state is shirking its constitutional responsibility and allowing criminals to usurp its authority. 

The Godhra incident, according to reliable accounts, was a spontaneous reaction against the outrageous attitude of these thugs. Reportedly the local administration had asked the vendors, in view of the recurrent hooliganism by the karsewaks passing through Godhra railway station, to shut shops whenever the Sabarmati Express reached the station. Deputy superintendent of police, to whom the Washington Post correspondent spoke (report on p.4) did not totally rule out that the fire might have been caused by the Rambhakts themselves. Police's attitude while this was taking place also points out as to what extent they have been under the influence of the the BJP government. The police had turned a blind eye to the misdeeds of these thugs, while at times it even sided with them. Revoking an old order, the Gujarat BJP government had issued an order two years back that the state government employees, including policemen, can register as RSS members. There are indications that the lower rung in the police force has totally been saffronized in Gujarat. If this was not enough, there are indications that all the while when the state was burning, police officials were under strict orders not to make any move against the marauders. What is most amazing here is the deafening silence of some diehard socialists and secularists. They started waking up a week later while details of the gory events in Gujarat were talk of the world all this while. 

Several NDA parties and even non-NDA outfits, like BSP and AIDMK, have kept quiet. Secular parties like TDP and DMK, have looked the other way. This demonstrates to what extent political expediency can blind people from taking a strong and principled stand on issues of such magnitude. George Fernandes rushed to Ahmadabad and played a marked role in controlling the riots, yet he failed to utter a single word against either Modi, Advani or Vajpayee or even against the marauders on Gujarat streets. After being himself attacked by a rampaging mob in Ahmadabad, he said that there are no tall men around but he himself failed miserably to take the high moral ground. On the other hand, a female leader of his own party went out of her way defending Modi, his government and the marauders. Secularism, rule of law and decency lie injured in the land of the Mahatma. There is no hope to revive them while the saffron brigade holds the reins of power in Delhi with the help of umpteen secular parties which have lost their way in quest for power at any cost. Gujarat has simply demonstrated that BJP is not fit to govern Bharat.

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