Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gujarat Day -- Some Personal Musings

Even few years back, I never thought May 1, the Gujarat Day could excite me. The Journalism had fascinated me from the very beginning. One obvious reason for that was my intuition to know and study more about the unknowns. Meet the unknowns and travel to unknown places. The Gujarat and Narendra Modi phenomenon in my life --- both the riots of 2002 and the ‘development model, Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ --- is part of that adventure. I ought to be grateful to the profession of journalism for giving me the opportunity to work in and on Gujarat. Revisiting the state today and its socio-political history in the contemporary setting is thus very personal --- collecton of both good and bad memories. My first hand experience on Gujarat came rather in its unfortunate hours of 2002 mayhem. I bow down in gratitude before all those friends, police officials, social workers and netas of all hues – with whom I interacted during the turbulent period. Spl mention about those who helped me discharge my professional duty and later pen the book 'Godhra - A Journey to Mayhem'. My friends Anosh, Binu and Thomas Kutty Abraham --- all were always forthcoming. So was a initial reluctantly shy Basant Rawat. 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. 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. The real challenge today lies in understanding and explaining well this paradox. Like any complex society, Gujarat poses special problems for a journalist not only while reporting communal violence, as was in 2002, but also when one is sitting miles away and years after that pogrom thinking about the state,its people, its political class and the 'development' under the vilified chief minister Narendra Modi. Unlike scientific inventions, in social science, there are hardly any drastically new and original ideas. Therefore, in more ways than one I base my observations on Gujarat to a plethora of studies, media reports, analysis by political commentators and of course the interviews I have from time to time with people including from both sides of the political divide. Gujarat is truly a proof of the statement that prosperity alone does not lead to idealism of secular values or modernization, tolerance and accommodation. The Human Development Report by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2011 says 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. According to some, developments would have come under any chief minister; and some others say like 'development'is visible in Delhi; it is not as much reflected in physical terms/infrastructures in Ahmedabad or other cities. 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 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. The affected belonging to poorer background economically and backward castes have been in the process also got marginalized and isolated in some pockets. (lets c the feedback, I could continue this further .....)

1 comment:

  1. Gujarat is a case of justice denied. But it's not just Modi or the fanatic Hindu ideologues that are to blame. About Modi and Gujarat, many folks have one thing to tell you: "economic growth". Top Indian businesspersons have praised Modi and have publicly stated he's the ideal prime minister candidate.

    What Modi did is the past. How people respond to that past is, however, our present.