Modi & Gujarati Muslims

Ironically, communalism has yet to be defeated in Gujarat and secularism is being put to test here once again, with assembly elections scheduled for later this year. How can communalism be considered as defeated here till ghost of Gujarat carnage 2002 continues to haunt Muslims living in the state? True, ten years have passed and the state has not witnessed the same phase of anti-Muslim communal violence again. But, surely it is wrong to assume that secularism of any level can be judged by Muslims not being subject to communal violence. Too many questions linked with Gujarat carnage cannot be swept aside as a dark chapter in this country’s, and of course the state’s, secular history.  

The tragic irony is that Gujarati Muslims continue to be denied a fair and just trial where 2002 carnage is concerned. All those responsible for those communal riots have not yet been declared as guilty and punished. Muslim victims have not yet received suitable compensation for lives lost and property damages they suffered during that phase. It is indeed a serious matter that not much attention is paid to compensating sufferings faced by Indian Muslims for no fault of theirs. They face the trauma and usually the actual criminals are not even declared guilty. Rather, the underground networking is such that extremist elements responsible for targeting Muslims are actually awarded by right-wing anti-Muslim groups inciting them for the purpose.

 This “networking” is believed to be the primary cause responsible for the gruesome manner in which the 2002 carnage was planned and executed targeting only Muslims. Greater punishment should be given for those responsible for inciting the apparent frenzy with which groups of people deliberately and selectively victimized Gujarati Muslims.  

True, secular Indians, including non-Muslims and Muslims, have repeatedly raised their voice through various means to draw attention to what led to the Gujarat carnage and sufferings undergone there by Muslims. Yet, justice and compensation still elude most Muslim victims and real criminals continue escaping punishment. The latter includes Narendra Modi, who was the state chief minister and still holds the same position.  

Politically, it was the responsibility of Modi and his government to ensure that secularism is practiced in Gujarat, communal orgy is not allowed to prevail and those responsible for violating these principles are punished. Despite holding the reins of Gujarat government, what has prevented Modi from ensuring a just treatment for the state’s Muslims and punishment for the guilty? There is only one answer to this question: Modi apparently has no regrets for Gujarat carnage. How can it be forgotten that not too many years ago, Modi gave the impression of being a strong champion of transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu State. In all probability he still nourishes this ambition and has his eyes set on assuming the power at the Centre for the purpose. That is his vision, which fortunately has limited prospects of being accepted by the rest of the country. And this explains the slight change in his recent political campaign for Gujarat assembly elections.

Modi is making efforts to attract Muslim voters to his party, the BJP. Seriously speaking, considering that Muslims form around 10 percent of the state’s population and there is no district in Gujarat with more than 25 percent of Muslim population, Modi’s political strategy seems to be nothing more than an eyewash, a mere political rhetoric. His attempt to attract Muslim votes may have been viewed as a wise political strategy if several important political parties were in the race for Gujarat assembly elections. The political terrain here is dominated by only BJP and Congress.

Without Modi making virtually any noise about the Gujarat carnage or even displaying any remorse or sense of guilt for what happened 10 years ago; without explaining why hasn’t he taken any action against actual criminals and in helping Muslim victims, what has prompted Modi to give a new importance to their votes?   

 Modi apparently is convinced that these attempts are going to make little impact in convincing secular Gujaratis, Muslims and non-Muslims, about his secular credentials. Yet, he is indulging in this exercise deliberately to at least superficially cleanse his own image of communalism. Political ambition for the prime ministerial chair has prompted Modi to try and don a secular mask and expect the rest of the country to be convinced by his politico-secular appeal.  

Modi has probably forgotten that the Gujarat carnage prompted voters across the country to turn against BJP, pushing this party’s alliance out of power. This led the Congress-led coalition to assume power in the first national elections held after the Gujarat carnage. That electoral verdict carried a significant message. The rest of the country was against the Gujarat carnage and it being repeated elsewhere in India. Modi has also forgotten that BJP’s secular allies have not allowed him to campaign in their state elections of which Bihar is a major example. Whatsoever be the purpose of the secular mask being donned by Modi to woo Gujarat Muslims, it is least likely to help him at the stage of national politics.    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2012 on page no. 11

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