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Periscope
Gujarat sandwiched between sanity and insanity
By Saeed Suhrawardy

I am sorry that I did not mark the date on the cutting from ‘Caveat’ a column by C.R. Irani, Editor, Statesman, although I preserved it carefully. It observes, “ A new sun has risen over Rashtrapati Bhavan. President Kalam’s eve of Independence Day broadcast bears the stamp of man of high integrity, formidable intellect and overwhelming concern for his country. He is also not afraid to leave the beaten path. Listen to his words:
‘I sat for a while in the Ashram (Sabarmati) and remembered the life of Gandhiji. One dominant thought came to my mind. If we can go above our own personal hardships and work for a larger cause, then there is natural elevation of our minds. When we are lax in this, then our level of thinking goes down. I felt confident that all of us can be elevated to the level of noble minds, if we just decide to understand others and to practise tolerance.

Then follows a masterly summary.
‘Non-violence, tolerance, acceptance of all religions and different ways of life, search for truth and fearlessness are the values the Mahatma taught and they are the corner-stone of our civilisational heritage and therefore of Indian polity.

Finally, the warning.
‘And any act by anyone anywhere that runs counter to these values would pose a threat to the fabric of a free Indian nation.’ Simple words but they spring from sincerity, and devotion of a very high kind to the country’s cause.”
President Kalam has not disappointed those who expected such qualities from him.

Here is another side of the picture:
A person, in his worst hour of arrogance has adopted a posture that he is above the Constitution of the country. He has negated the words of wisdom delivered with great passion and compassion.
Vishwa Hindu Parishad international working president Ashok Singhal termed Gujarat as a successful experiment and warned that it would be repeated all over India.
Singhal was in Amritsar to inaugurate a physiotherapy centre at the Shivala Bhajan temple. He said, Godhara happened on February 27, the next day 50 lakh Hindus were on the streets. We were successful in our experiment of raising Hindu consciousness, which will be repeated all over the country now. Singhal also spoke glowingly of how whole villages have been “ emptied of Islam’ and how whole communities of Muslims had been dispatched to refugee camps. That was a victory of Hindu society; he added a first for religion. People say, "I praise Gujarat. “Yes I do,” He told an appreciative but modest audience.” (Indian Express, Delhi, September 4, 2002)

Firstly that is confession of the criminal conduct of Sangh Parivar. It provides incriminating evidence in support of the allegations made by official and non-official bodies including the Chief Election Commissioner.

Secondly Ashok Singhal has spoken as if he has already been nominated or elected head of Hindu Rashtra, with powers to dictate policies and programmes for the whole country.

That indicates that he is suffering from hallucination. That is symptom of a major mental disorder, known as ‘schizophrenia’. The disease is characterized by bizarre behviour, delusions, hallucinations etc.

That is Gujarat sandwiched between sanity and insanity. If Ashok Singhal is a sane person his provocative threats invite action under POTA. If someone has a soft corner for him for his age and possible senility, action is possible under relevant provisions of Indian Penal Code. If he is insane, he should be sent to lunatic asylum. A person who has declared his intentions for repeating the pogrom, outside Gujarat should not be allowed to roam about fanning communal hatred and passion.

What is to be noted that Amritsar is a part of Punjab, under Congress regime. Law and order is the responsibility of the state government. So far there is no report available that the Congress regime has taken cognizance of the provocative threats of VHP leader, which attract several provisions of POTA or Indian Penal Code. We may well understand the indifference and inactivity on the part of NDA Union Government, because that is under the effective of control of Sangh Parivar. But the acquiescence of Congress Government of Punjab is shocking.

In my previous column I observed, “It is possible that the contending political parties may not seriously take up the issue: secularism versus communalism. As for the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party, it has no qualms of conscience in playing its favourite “Hindutva” card. It is not yet clear how their rivals will face it. How far, they shall go without risking loss of majority votes.”

The picture is no longer hazy. The campaign for election to the next Gujarat Assembly has started. It does not matter when elections to the State Assembly shall be held. One thing is clear that the turf for the contesting political parties shall be the familiar ground of Hindutva. In Gujarat Indian National Congress is the only serious political rival of Bhartiya Janata Party. The posture adopted by the Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela clearly indicates that the battle is likely between ‘aggressive Hindutva’ and ‘less aggressive Hindutva’.

According to a latest report, ‘A little-known village called Tarnetar is the latest setting for a potential showdown between Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee president Shankarsinh Vaghela. Both have been named as Chief Guests at the village fair on September 11: Vaghela, by the District Panchayat, Gram Panchayat and the Taluka Panchayat: Modi by the BJP and the district administration.

And once again Vaghela is trying to beat Narendra Modi at his game: mahants will hoist a 52-yard dhwaj in honour of Lord Shiva, Modi will come to offer prayers.

Vaghela is not promising good governance or promotion of secularism, among the planks of his election strategy. He is very clear about his intentions. “ Vote for me and I will see that not a single slaughter house comes up,” he told followers of Bhathiji who according to legend laid down his life to protect cows. (Indian Express, dated September 4, 2002)

Vaghela has tried to convey to the voters that he is a better Gau-bhakt (Protector of cows) than Narendra Modi. So as things are taking shape, protection of cows rather than promotion of secularism and economic development is likely to be a major political issue in the election campaign for Gujarat Assembly.

Gujarat was never the cesspool of inhuman, brutal, irrational, communal criminality for which Ashok Singhal and his cohorts claim credit with audacity.

Writing with nostalgia, Mr. Sujan Chinoy, Consul-General of India in Shanghai, under the caption,” The Spirit of Gujarat” recalls:” Over the centuries, Hindus ad Muslims of all ilks have together made Gujarat their home and contributed to its development. Hindus and Muslims alike share the language, much of the cuisine and the extraordinary gift of entrepreneurship.

Gujaratiyat, if one could coin such a term, truly transcends both religion and caste. Gujaratis among Indians in Gandhiji’s South Africa and today’s thriving NRI community across the world, represent this indivisibility.” (The Hindu, Delhi, September 6, 2002)

That might have been correct, once upon of a time. Communalization of Gujarat has not been confined to the state only. The virus has moved abroad. A substantial amount of the funding of Sangh Parivar and its plethora of outfits, comes from the wealthy NRIs, who are conservative, orthodox and very liberal while contributing to any cause related to religion. For them the talk about ‘Hindutva’ has great attraction. They do not realize that their contribution is misdirected in wrong channels. Their money adversely affects communal harmony, solidarity and stability of the country.

It shall be relevant to turn to words of sanity, President Abdul Kalam delivered on a different occasion. 

Inaugurating the National Judicial Academy at Bhopal, he observed, “All of us have to work hard and do everything to make our behaviour civilized and to protect the rights of every individual. This forms the very foundation of the democratic values that happen to be the soul of our nation.

The judiciary was the guardian of civilized life and could not be a mute witness to all that threaten the nation’s civilisational heritage and democratic values. 

The members of the judiciary should, therefore, become inviolable role models, and the perfect incorruptible ideals of civilized society. It is this that we have to strive for, attain and sustain.

Law and judiciary must play a balancing role, so that technological growth could continue in a manner beneficial to the people and the nation, which should be free from undue practices by any party with vested interests—domestic or foreign. (The Hindu, Sept.6, 2002)

With due respect President Kalam’s advice is misplaced. Judiciary does not need sermons. It has been doing that. It is the executive and their political bosses who are the real obstacles.
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