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Modi’s Cyber Chicanery
By P. Radhakrishnan

That despite an upright, upfront, no-nonsense Chief Election Commissioner, backed by a well-oiled election machinery, determined to ensure that the December 12 Assembly elections in Gujarat are held free and fair, the Election Commission is still no match to the BJP buccaneers is stating the obvious.

For, if the Commission’s directive was not to make the Godhra incident an election issue, the BJP is doing precisely that as the main poll issue, and projecting it more aggressively through the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

On his part, while repeatedly referring to Godhra, Gujarat’s caretaker Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has dared the Congress (I) to do so, and asked insidiously “is the Congress ‘scared’ to talk about Godhra because it is involved in the carnage”.

On its part, the VHP is already busy, among other things, distributing (a) “one lakh T-Shirts” emblazoned with the slogan “we will not allow our area to be converted into Godhra”; and (b) thousands of cassets of the speeches of the VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia, and of yet another communally vitriolic and virulent character, Acharya Dharmendra denouncing the Godhra carnage and calling upon the Hindus to “protect their interests”.

That the “post-Godhra” genocide of Muslims hardly figures in the BJP’s election campaign was expected. What was probably not expected was a CD, with “A Government of Gujarat Presentation” printed on top, alongside Modi as its icon. The CD was distributed free even in far flung places like Chennai.

If the T-Shirts convey only what is printed on them, the CD goes well beyond as yet another totem pole of the rise of Hindutva. The high-tech input that has gone into its making with enough witches’ brew for the BJP’s election campaign is Hindutva’s pride and nation’s shame.

The CD’s subtitle, “2 Minutes to the Truth”, is in the genre of Winston Churchill’s “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. For, while the browsing of the CD took not just two, but 90 minutes, it is dense with half-truths, untruths and contradictory assertions peddled as The Truth, laced with Modi’s hype and hoopla through highfaluting commentary and make-believe visuals of a great Gujarat under his governance.

Four catchy phrases - Determined, Progressive, Modern, and Resilient - move back and forth as the CD’s backdrop. Focussing on Modi in many poses, moods, avatars and so on - as for instance, Modi hobnobbing with A.B. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, offering namaskar to an aggrieved old woman in a public gallery, administering polio drops to a child, bowing before an aged, pushing a wheel-chair of a physically handicapped - Modi’s spin-doctor has captured in the CD Modi’s many histrionics so well that after seeing it one might wonder if he really is the man of Gujarat, who every discerning Indian would love to see subjected to a Nuremberg type Trial.

The term FACT [throughout in capital letters], probably a misnomer for the blatant lies conjured up as The Truth, appears at least 25 times in the introduction itself. Each FACT is followed by Gujarat’s purported achievements along with an over-dose of statistics.

However, knowing Modi for what he is, this introductory on Modi is reminiscent of Jane Wagner observation that “The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool”. In Modi’s case this is a lethal combination of what Benjamin Disraeli characterised as three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

In what follows in the CD after the introduction two issues under the title “Crisis Management”, are of utmost importance to the present elections.

The first, “From Tears to Smiles: A 500 day saga of rebuilding change”, is about the Bhuj earthquake. Much is made of the Modi government’s efforts, with elaborate visuals and extensive text; while the seamy side of this “rebuilding change” which denied succour to the suffering minority victims through deliberate discrimination - the seemingly inconvenient side - is swept under the carpet.

The second, “Trial by Fire”, on the Godhra incident and the riots after it is cyber chicanery at its worst. The burning train which the CD shows has a make-believe effect on the viewers, buttressed by the following text: “Godhra, 27/2/2002, 7 43 am: Over a 1000 strong mob rioters without conscience, men without souls descended upon Sabarmati Express at Godhra Station, the first train ever to be attacked in such a ghastly manner since partition”.

It is important to compare this text with the observations in the report on Gujarat carnage, “Crime Against Humanity”, prepared by a panel of retired Supreme Court Judges. Going by the panel members, the Godhra incident itself was spontaneous; the coach in which people were burnt alive did not come from outside. It was caused from within, but who set it on fire is still a mystery.

While the CD’s treatment of the Godhra incident is in elaborate visual mode, that of the riots after it is in difficult-to-decipher audio-mode. Besides, the CD uses many tacks of prevarication and hedging to justify the genocide: communal riots in Gujarat date back to 1410 AD, during 1969, 1985, and 1992 Gujarat witnessed a great deal of communal violence; more than the riots themselves rumour mongering, “factual misreporting”, and half-truths cause most damage and trauma, rumour writes faster than truth erases, a rumour without a leg to stand on will get around some other way, and so go these tacks in which the media gets much of the battering. This again is followed by lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Predictably, it is the observations of the panel of judges, which throw light on the post-Godhra riots. As the panel members would have, Modi has been principally responsible for the deliberate, state-facilitated, assisted violence “post-Godhra”; the pattern of violence after Godhra was planned six months ahead, fits the definition of genocide; the carnage of violence at Godhra was “spontaneous”, but the violence across Gujarat was “allowed to happen”, because, as the Godhra District Collector said in his deposition, “Mr. Modi decided to shift the bodies of all those burnt beyond recognition to Ahmedabad for mass burial”; thus, the problem which could have been contained at Godhra was taken to the rest of Gujarat.

With Modi’s mentor, and the Prime Minister in waiting of the fast evolving Hindu Rashtra, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, in his election campaign lavishing all praise on Modi as the “most popular, competent, and successful” Chief Minister, and given the political arithmetic now at work in Gujarat, one can only hope and wait with trepidation what Modi would do in his next political avatar. Given this scenario, Justice P.B. Sawant’s salient statement that in the absence of any law in the country against genocide, it would be difficult to have Modi prosecuted in any international court can at best be a wishful thinking. That India is a democracy without such a law is again a national shame. q

(08 Dec. 2002)

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