An open reply to Modi's open letter

Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat wrote an open letter to citizens of India on 13 September 2011, in it he resolved to fast for three days from, Saturday, the 17th September 2011, starting a movement of "Sadbhavana Mission." Here is a reply to it from a well-wisher of Gujarat.

Dear Mr. Modi,

You open your letter thus – “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. For the past ten years, it has become fashionable to defame me and the state of Gujarat. These elements who could not tolerate any positive development of Gujarat have not left any stone unturned to defame Gujarat.

Your attempt to conflate the government and the state of Gujarat with yourself is apparent. The opprobrium due to the government and its chief minister in respective measure in their deplorable reaction to the carnage in Gujarat cannot be escaped. The “state” of Gujarat, that presumably refers to fellow Indians belonging there, also have to answer to their collective and individual conscience in so far they have chosen you as their chief minister despite knowledge of your record in the carnage. Therefore, there is no escaping accountability of the three – the state, its government and you – in the Gujarat carnage, misrepresented in the media as “riots”.

The government of Gujarat is to be arraigned for its supine obedience to illegal directions that it restricted its damage control responses after the Godhra incident, the antecedents of which have been willfully misrepresented. The administration and the police required to react with professional zeal. This would have been possible had they had the moral fiber to disregard the directions allowing certain sections to vent their spleen. The second reason for the government’s culpability is in complicity of sections of it in suppressing evidence, propagating false accounts and pursuing justice selectively. These cannot be obscured by pointing to a development record.

The state of Gujarat, that is interpreted here as its citizens, bears the onus of not disciplining you at the elections. The one manner of expressing its displeasure at the events in their home state would have been to exercise their franchise bearing in mind the inadmissibility of the manner of your stewardship of the state during the crisis. Even if the details of your culpability were not as well known then as is now known, the fact that carnage was allowed to be perpetrated and its perpetrators continue in their midst is something that the society needed to have dwelt on while exercising their democratic prerogative. That they did not do so is apparent in their giving you a reprieve and allowing you to chalk up a development record to help paper over your earlier demonstration of incapacity and ill will.

Democracy requires an alert citizenry, one that is sensitive to manipulation attempts. The voters in Gujarat have to answer as to why they have allowed themselves to be misled. This is not to deny their democratic right to cast their vote to who they wish, but to remind them that it is a responsibility they owe themselves and their fellow citizens to cast the vote with due discrimination. 

This brings one to your record. That you were in charge of the state when these events were allowed to occur rightly should have led to your tendering your resignation taking moral responsibility. That you did not do so indicates your continuing need to be in a position to address the aftermath, to manipulate evidence. As is well known, you were saved from dismissal since the Centre was being run then by your own party and you had a well wisher as the Union home minister.

As for the development record, questioning its under-gridding drivers is in order. Firstly, Gujarat has been uniquely poised to benefit from the liberalization that has been ongoing for two decades now by its location, its entrepreneurial citizenry and its pre-existing economic base. This would have happened despite your presence or leadership. In fact, the development record stands blemished by the blot on Gujarat that you were principally instrumental in placing on its fair name. Secondly, any cohesion and administrative capacity it reflects owes in part to apprehension in the state apparatus and society.

Watching the carnage and the blatant manner you have got away with accountability for it, would no doubt inform the common man’s attitudes and output. After all, did not someone as important as Tata once remark that in the Emergency trains ran on time. Evaluating means is important to assessing ends. Lastly, the record on development is to be judged independently of your record during the carnage. The “forgive and forget” formula that your letter purveys is trifle self-serving on this score.

The timing of your letter also bears reflection. It bespeaks of a strategic move to move centerstage. The BJP central leadership in disarray and the Congress on the defensive makes it an opportune juncture to make the move. With the next Gujarat elections behind you, you would be in a position to stake a claim for a national profile. While there is no gainsaying that Gujaratis will have to take their own decisions, your attempt at acquiring a national role means that it would require to be purposefully combated.

You are democratically empowered to take a try. But this nation cannot afford to allow people to take charge of its destiny who have not paid a price for their past actions of omission or commission. That it has done so earlier such as in case of Mr. Advani, is no reason for it to err a second time. In his case, it was a mosque that was demolished for which he owed primary responsibility. To say that crowds he mobilised went out of control is only self-exculpatory. Likewise, the mobs that went wild in Gujarat were yours to control. The allegation you need to face up to is that you not merely failed to control them, but set them about their task by restraining the only force that could have prevented this, the police. They exacted a price of Gujaratis in lives. This is clearly greater a case for accountability than that of Mr. Advani.

Your references to the “nation” testify that the battle set to culminate in 2014 has been kicked off by you. Be mindful that India’s voters have proven far more sensible than their politicians give them credit for. They will surely teach you a lesson that your supporters in Gujarat have so far prevented you from receiving. That is, in case the courts do not do so earlier. After all, the case in the sessions court has only just begun; despite your obfuscation in giving the impression of closure at beginning your letter.

As the popular line goes: ‘picture abhi baki hai mere dost’. You will no doubt find, quite as you tweeted, that indeed, “God is Great!”


A friend of Gujarat

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