Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10 years since Godhra --- Emergence of Modi phenomenon

Ten years since the Godhra train inferno and the subsequent anti-Muslim carnage of 2002, Gujarat has attained its developmental success stories. Yet, it remains a ‘Hindutva laboratory’ , the reputation is not altogether deserved, may be. Narendra Modi wants to see himself as an architect of change. But he does not quite want the Hindutva poster-boy image to be erased completely. He only wants to sell the development card to his voters and the rest of the world. The 2002 riots is too strong and powerful influence in Gujarat graph that it can be erased by a decade of development model as is pursued relentlessly by the state chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, undoubtedly the principal protagonist in Gujarat polity and also in this book. In 2002, the English media in particular in the country and also the western countries like the European Union and the US made their intention clear about their assessment about Gujarat, and more particularly perhaps on the people of Gujarat. My assessment as I recorded in my first book ‘Godhra- A Journey to Mayhem’ published in 2004 by Samskriti Publication, was that such merciless killings of a battered community – the Muslims - could take place only on a soil “fertile” with religious “prejudices”. There was truly a climax situation as hardliner communalism had assumed ominous spectre in a state, which otherwise took pride in a growth rate equaling that of China. Unlike scientific inventions, in social science, there are hardly any drastically new and original ideas. Therefore, this book owes in more ways than one its credit to a plethora of studies, media reports, analysis by political commentators and of course the interviews I had with people including from both sides of the political divide. The Human Development Report by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2011 deals about the debate that economic growth is no criterion of human development or a happy nation state. In Gujarat, the multi-pronged developments have come; but the social prosperity is not accompanied by human development or the moral order. In another report, ‘India Human Development Report’ released by the Planning Commission and the government of India, it was stated that despite impressive growth, Gujarat has not been able to reduce malnourishment levels, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two known most backward hubs in the country, have done better in improving the lot of their marginalized Dalits and tribals. Many say, the moral order as was understood traditionally and cherished in folktales is increasingly vanishing under the pressure of survival and challenges associated with so called modernization and materialistic comforts. This is no doubt a national and also a global experience. But in Gujarat, the core values are perhaps vanishing faster, I say this with no intention to hurt the sentiments of the locals and with all respect for the highly enterprising skills of the people of Gujarat. The joint families are breaking into nuclear ones sometime by design sometime by deceiving the simpleton and traditional parents. With modern education, what is expected is that legalistic moral codes would prevail. But the 2002 arson and loot carried on by the middle class displaying the baser human instincts only proved that there was complete collapse of social leadership. It was a case of virtual decay of the social values. When middleclass women including pregnant ones and youngsters in jeans took to looting of malls, the transformation was telling. The intelligentsia has also perhaps failed to appeal to the commoners especially on issues bordering religious belief. And under Modi, it’s largely alleged that there has been hardly any attempt from the state to introduce any coherent moral order. In fact, not only Modi, the vices like saffronisation of the village home guard and state police was near complete even under Modi’s illustrious predecessor Keshubhai Patel and the late Haren Pandya, whose murder is a keenly seen legal battle today. The BJP insiders say, the real reason for the cold war that existed between Pandya and Modi was this uncompromising commitment to Hindutva of the two leaders and who will really steal the limelight of the legacy. Moditva is definitely a shining feature of this very legacy one is talking about. Post-Godhra ‘handling’ had enhanced Modi’s image as much it overshadowed the late Haren Pandya, who was also Minister of State for Home under Keshubhai Patel. $ The social reforms could not come to Gujarat even in the 19th and the 20th centuries. When new societies like Brahmo Samaj set their face against what they considered extravagant, the people reviled them as “pro-Christian and anti-national”, according to a local historian Vijay Singh Chavda. And once VHP and other Sangh Parivar elements got the upper hand, the voice of tolerance, accommodation and respect for other religious believers vanished. “The intelligentsia were either threatened or suppressed” and only the likes of Pravin Togadia were at liberty to propagate their viewpoints. Like developments everywhere, in Gujarat too, the ‘development model’ of Modi has its share of gainers and losers. For obvious reasons, the Modi detractors are pinning down on the losses and negativity. Losers are generally from lower strata of the society – the landless and displaced. I will take a closer look at the issue of displacement. The affected belonging to poorer background economically and backward castes have been in the process also got marginalized and isolated in some pockets. On the contrary, the gainers are from upper echelons of the society – Patidars and those with certain assets and skill and education to capitalize on. We take a close look at these issues too. The loss of community also means reinforcing tendencies towards factionalism along with complete collapse of collective responsibility and welfare. More the modern day’s development, each man becomes an island of his self creation. These compartmentalized living also result in ‘ghetoization’ of cities. Like Mumbai, a city with overwhelming Gujaratis, major Gujarat cities like Ahmedabad and Baroda are gradually getting ghettoized with ‘mini Pakistan’ name given to Muslim-dominated old city area very conveniently. The good old saying, the glass is half-full or half-empty applies to all dynamic human conditions. The beauty of the thing lies in the beholder’s eyes. There are those who see positive flashpoints in a situation and consider them as adequate justification for lauding what happened. I belong to neither side; though the anti-Muslim carnage is something I disapprove of with all my sincerity as I firmly believe if Godhra train inferno was wrong the riots too were equally unjustified. Two wrongs do not make it right. BJP and Narendra Modi, therefore, would do well to keep in mind that they should not underestimate the voters’ intellect. Any attempt especially to monopolize information or bank singularly on own trumpet or propaganda has boomeranged on every such regimes. Lately, this has happened in the left-citadel West Bengal. The communists globally have got the feel of it after Soviet Union. Closer home in India, the Congress party experienced it after emergency and also aftermath Bofors scam controversy. The Congress thought Bofors will be like any other issue, but the party with 400 plus strength in the Lok Sabha was ousted and more so the family of Nehru-Indira legacy from 7 RCR, the official Prime Minister’s residence for over 20 years. So did BJP. The saffron party strategists and their Sangh Parivar sympathizers thought Gujarat riots will be bygone case under the hyped campaign of ‘India Shining’. They lost power in 2004. ends

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