Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Why the Gujarati diaspora cannot let Modi get to Delhi

Panchavati, situated at 7, Race Course Road in New Delhi, is the official residence of the Prime Minister of India. It is nowhere near as well-known as London's 10 Downing Street, but is nevertheless apt for India's head of government. Set amidst a beautiful 12 acre site, Panchavati offers a tranquil setting in a plush area of New Delhi for the PM to contemplate and repose.  And it is here where Gujarat's Chief Minister, Narendra Modi's focus now appears to lie.



Where Narendra Modi wants to be: Panchavati, 7 Race Course Road, New Delhi


Yes, recent chat in the international media seems to suggest, rather alarmingly, that Modi has his eyes firmly set on New Delhi in respect of the 2014 Indian elections. Put simply, this cannot happen.

I should state at the outset that I am not entitled to vote in Indian politics, do not live in India, have no vested interests (economic or social) in India and do not advocate any of the multiple organised religious groups that seem to dominate modern day India's political stage.  However, I belong to the wider Gujarati diaspora, and am a descendant of immigrants that left Gujarat over a century ago to find greener pastures abroad.  It is under that capacity that I write here to urge fellow diaspora members to start thinking carefully of what they are endorsing.

Not long before he died in 1964, Jawaharlal Nehru said:


"The danger to India, mark you, is not communism. It is Hindu right-wing communalism".
He was terribly prescient. If Modi makes it to New Delhi, then it is certain that the current right-wing Hindutva hegemony that has so far enjoyed unmitigated success in Gujarat will spread across India.  That is deeply disturbing.  A religiously communalised Gujarat represents, as Radhika Desai, professor at the Department of Political Studies, University of Manitoba in Canada and author of "Slouching Towards Ayodhya: From Congress to Hindutva in Indian Politics", puts it, "the deeply problematic face of India's future".


Modi's political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the "BJP"), has held Gujarat for over a decade. He is the longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat and has undoubtedly brought about immense economic and industrial progress to transform this once destitute region of India into a regional hub for trade and commerce.  In 2011, the Economist noted that Gujarat's infrastructure was capable of competing with Guangdong, China's  economic engine. Gujarat enjoys one of India's highest levels of private sector and foreign direct investment, largely originating from the diaspora and thanks to Modi's pro-liberalisation economic policies.

But amidst all the celebratory discourses surrounding  the economy of "Vibrant Gujarat", the diaspora has inadvertently let Gujarat, under Modi's watch, turn into what can simply be called a laboratory of hate. With the BJP's strong ties with its umbrella organisation, Sangh Parivar, which itself is inspired by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (the "RSS"), a "social and cultural organisation"  which, according to the independent Human Rights Watch (HRW), is a known fascist pedigree with a Hindu majoritarian political agenda, it is unsurprising that the majority Hindu state of Gujarat is a gold mine for the increasingly dominant political party.

The point here is that Modi's affiliations with the RSS and the rest of the Sangh Parivar make him a dangerous candidate for the premiership of what  has always been, was conceived to be, and is, a secular nation. The re-election of Modi will place under direct threat Nehru's and Gandhi's generous vision of India as a nation embracing all layers of religious and racial groupings, and their notion of a non-sectarian, secular, democratic India.

We cannot simply overlook all the evidence from the international community and the NGOs which conclusively points to the participation of the Modi-administered state and police in the 2002 Gujarat violence. HRW's April 2002 report, "WE HAVE NO ORDERS TO SAVE YOU - State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat" is an eye-opener for the diaspora.  The report is available to read here.  

That HRW report accepts that the 2002 Gujarat violence was fuelled, ostensibly, by revenge. The carnage was triggered after a Muslim mob’s torching of two train coaches on the Sabarmati Express at the Ghodra train station in February 2002. Fifty-eight passengers, including Sangh Parivar activists returning from Ayodhya, were killed in the horrific attack. The immediate and impulsive reaction of Narendra Modi was to claim that the massacre had been engineered by Pakistan's ISI (Inter Services Intelligence). No evidence has been given for this highly inflammatory revelation. The situation was further provoked by his decision to publicly parade the charred bodies in an emotive and provocative public procession from Godhra to Ahmedabad.  According to the HRW report, many victims testified that the police led the violent mobs directly to their homes and places of business. Emergency calls to the police went unheeded or were met with responses such as: “We don’t have any orders to save you”;We cannot help you, we have orders from above”. The HRW report concludes that the attacks were clearly part of a “meticulously planned pogrom”against the Muslim community. Witnesses testify that the mob specifically targeted Muslims and their businesses. Computer printouts of Muslim voter lists and business addresses, reportedly obtained by Sangh Parivar "volunteers" from the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, were, as the HRW report found, an integral part of the carnage.

The Tehelka sting operation, revealed just prior to the Gujarat state elections of December 2007, compounded the allegations of NGOs after the Gujarat riots of 2002. This time, however, the testimony came from the perpetrators themselves. Several members of the Sangh Parivar were caught on tape admitting their role and that of Modi's state government in the Gujarat genocide. Based on the evidence obtained from covert spycam footage, the case alleging Sangh Parivar collusion with the government of Gujarat in the riots of 2002 is overwhelming.  This link provides a chilling reminder of the ground-breaking Tehelka sting operation and of what was said about Modi at the time, most of which, as is evident from Modi's re-election, we all seem to have forgotten now!




A campaign of hate against the Gujarat state’s minority communities began years before the 2002 attacks. A 1999 Human Rights Watch report documented the August 1998 distribution of fliers by RSS and Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), an offshoot of the Sangh Parivar, in Dangs district in southeastern Gujarat, site of a ten-day spate of violent and premeditated attacks on Christian communities and institutions during the 1998 Christmas holidays. 

The fact about Modi, whether we choose to accept it or not, is that his campaign is and will forever be haunted by the ghosts of the 2002 violence. One cannot forget that his ideologies come from the pre-independence fascist views of the Sangh Parivar organisations.  It is well known that for Modi, the first and most important of these organisations - the one that did the most to shape him and his worldview, and to advance his political ambitions - was the RSS.  To determine the RSS's founding principles, you need not look beyond the published 1938 writings of Madhav Golwalkar, the force behind today's Sangh Parivar.  It is clear from Golwalkar's writings that he was vehemently opposed to the concept of a secular Indian state which would not discriminate against its non-Hindu citizens. In "We, or Our Nation defined" (1938), he stated:
"The non-Hindu people of Hindustan must either adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture ... in a word they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizens' rights."
If this abhorrent Hindutva ideology was to be propagated by Modi to the federal level, it would mean that India's Shah Rukh Khans, Sania Mirzas and Shabana Azmis and the millions of less-known others with “foreign” names would belong to another culture, even another race. They would never be “assimilated” by “Hindustan” although they know no world but India as it is today! In other words, these “foreigners” would be enemies until proven innocent by a jury made up of Golwalkar’s descendants i.e. Modi and his government minions.


We, the educated members of the Gujarati diaspora, need to think very carefully of how we invest in Gujarat and what affiliations we might, directly or indirectly, have with the Sangh Parivar.  Clearly, one would not want to be implicated in the generation of India's Frankenstein's monster. 


3 comments:

  1. Paras, if there is one person who can control the far right of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, It is Narendra Modi. No other leader in India has guts to break down Hindu temples standing in middle of road and tell people to get off his back because he is doing the job for them. No other leader in India has guts to call the bluff of thousands of fraud saints and babas famous in India. I would want you to research more on RSS and Modi affiliation. And you will be surprised to discover that if there is anyone which is hell bent on stopping rise of Modi as PM, it is RSS. Modi is arch-enemy of Sangh Parivar's Vishwa Hindu Parishad Chairman Dr Togadia. Modi doesn't go well with many popular Hindu saints of Gujarat because he said state will not fund spiritual activity at cost of hunger of millions. Gujarat 2002 were not the first riot in history of Gujarat. But they were LAST riot in history of Gujarat. At least in a decade or so. Ahmedabad was the most communal and dangerous place to live in before Modi took charge. Gujarat has a very long history of Hindu Muslim violence and even more deadlier than what happened in 2002. You should do good to study Hindu Muslim conflicts of Gujarat. Modi has kept all the fringe extremist elements from Hindus and Muslims under his thumb. He is no nonsense, freedom of speech and expression supporter leader. A very rare in Indian politics. He was the one who supported cause of M F Hussain when Hindu right wing bogey went against him. Modi has been made a monster but you need to study many narratives before you build an opinion on this best leader that India has as of now. Indian politics is in grave danger. It has no leader but Modi. And Modi enjoys humongous support in American, Canadian NRI community. Modi has not fiddled with the process of 2002 justice. more than 150 people have been convicted and sentenced. Two of them were ministers in Modi government and it was his government which filed petition against them. Contrast this to no justice in India to 1984 Sikh victims who were ruthlessly burnt at one call of Rajiv Gandhi. Contrast this with no justice to people of Bhopal till date because certain Rajiv Gandhi found it fit to settle down on 80% of damages.

    Modi is not perfect. Nobody is. Nobody can be. But an India marred with superstition, feudal politics, dynastic democracy, needless socialism, there is no other hope than Modi. Modi has often mocked the fraud saints and babas of Hindus and told his state people to not follow them. No wonder whole of temple-saint group is against him. Modi is Hindutva's true translator to action. Hindutva is egalitarian, capitalistic philosophy built on liberal principles of India of Chanakya and Ashoka.

    In India "secularism" is the most abused words. Nehru and his family and his party have abused it the most. Nehru may have a truly socialist secular leader but his family is certainly not. Moreover, which country doesn't have a right wing., a pro free market, pro capitalist party? Every country does. If rise of Modi is stopped, India will be left with lousy lohiaite and congressi socialists. You can already see what they have done to India in last 8 years of their rule. India need a strong centre-right wing. If Modi's rise is stopped, India will be back to its Pre-90s days. Indian PM recently recounted 2012 as equal to 1992 situation when Gold was pledged because India was in heavy debt. Moving forward with same bunch of people in 2014-2019..India is sure to hit a road of no recovery.

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  2. And I will not leave debate without talking for minorities. They are part and parcel of India. For years Hinduism and Islam have influenced in India in a very good way. I come from Punjab, the land of Sufis, where Hindus easily go to Peer Dargahs maintained by muslims. Surely, India is an amazing mix of a country where minorities have so much impact on the majority and vice versa too. The nation of India can not be built by keeping its Muslim or other minorities poor. But then they cannot be made to progress just by using them as 'vote banks' in time of elections. You need to listen statements of SP, Congress leaders. BJP has recently won elections in heavily muslims populated areas of Gujarat and Bihar and Jharkhand and Karnataka. Those Muslim who have called bluff of the SP, Congress type thugs in India, do vote for BJP. Every nation's right or left wing is born through Extremism. From French revolution to rise of BJP in India. But they evolve, adjust to needs of society, change their philosophies. BJP is now very much a centre-right fractions. Their leading spokesperson is a Muslim - Shahnawaz Hussain.

    And with regard to Modi's position towards Muslims, I would just say that there have been no incidence of violence against Muslims since 2002. The monster that he has been made out to be, you think a single Muslim will survive in Gujarat? Gujarat is on hot bed of communalism like many other states and places of India. And just want to apprise you of the fact that people who burnt the 58 Kar sewaks , 5 of them were Congress party MLAs, they have been convicted and sentenced too. My point is in Indian politics no one is saint. But only few have risen above caste, religion politic in India. Listen to all speeches that Modi is making these days for November elections of Gujarat, and do tell me how many times he used the word 'Muslim' or 'Hindu' while addressing to Gujaratis? Zero times. Only few leaders have managed to win elections on the plank of development, economics, liberty, water sanitation etc. issues in India. Compare it to "secular" politics of Uttar Pradesh of India where gandhi pariwar, congress and their cronies have ruled since Independence. The state is a mess, riots are daily scence. Ahmedabad is the safest city for women in India. It has been voted so by Hindu Muslim women alike. Compare it to Noida- women getting raped in daylight. Paras, I urge you to refer multiple sources before you make an opinion on Modi. Go through court judgments, SIT investigation report by Supreme Court of India, how amicus curiae see role of Modi in controlling riots. No major riots in India are localised. Especially those like post-Godhra of 2002. But they were heavily contained in Gujarat 2002,with not spreading majorly in other districts.

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  3. Paras, this is a truly different perspective by an affluent Indian residing abroad. A rare perspective on development, fundamentalism and a laudable one.

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