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.