Gujarat under Barbarism’s Spell: Modi Must be Sent Packing
Gujarat under Barbarism’s Spell: Modi Must be Sent Packing
Gujarat is an exceptional situation of communalism eating into the state’s vitals writes Praful Bidwai and calls for the type of action envisaged under Article 355 of the Constitution. The barbaric massacres of Muslims should not become an excuse for the Centre to strike a compromise with the VHP on the question of Ayodhya.
Barbarism rules Gujarat. Words can’t convey the bestial passions behind the burning alive and chopping up of people such as former MP Ehsan Jaffrey.
Pictures cannot describe the grief that citizens feel as they suffer unspeakable brutalities at the hands of Hindutva mobs.
And no camera has captured the agony of those whose life has been suddenly reduced to endless humiliation, insecurity and penury.
Gujarat is witnessing a full-scale anti-Muslim pogrom. The official death toll has crossed 550. If the utterly condemnable Godhra incident involved preparation by extremist elements, the ensuing bloodbath could only have been the result of elaborate planning by fanatics AND state complicity.
Nothing else can explain how the VHP’s goons could quickly swing into action with stockpiled firearms, swords and trishuls.
The Gujarat government’s conduct has been brazenly partisan. Its police not only failed to stop the violence; it actively encouraged it. Just as in Bombay in 1992-93, it refused to protect Muslims, knowing this would result in their mass murder.
Worse, it itself participated in looting, arson, armed intimidation and murder. It takes more than mere apathy for the police to passively watch the stoning of the Defence Minister’s car.
Gujarat thus fits into a sordid pattern, witnessed right since Ahmedabad (1969) and Bhiwandi (1970) to Delhi (1984) and Bombay (1992-93). The pattern’s first component is formation of false collectivities (Hindus and Muslims, erasing the distinctions between the tolerant majority and fanatical minority in each community).
A second element is revenge. And the third is active collusion between Hindu-communal groups and the police.
Numerous official inquiry commissions have documented such collusion. Take Justice Ranganath Misra on the 1984 riots: "The riots occurred broadly on account of the total passivity, callousness and indifference of the police" in protecting Sikhs.
Justice B.N. Srikrishna documented the Bombay police’s sick attitude: "‘One Muslim killed [is] one Muslim less’ ... [P]olice officers ... appeared to have an inbuilt bias against the Muslims".
What further distinguishes Gujarat is that the violence there was planned and executed by a political group organically linked to the state. In Gujarat, the VHP merges seamlessly with the BJP and the government.
Chief Minister Modi has been the principal source of the pogrom.
In Bombay, Mr Sudhakarrao Naik watched passively as Mr Bal Thackeray directed the anti-Muslim violence. In Gujarat, Mr Modi himself gives out pro-violence signals.
Witness: "I am fully satisfied with the performance of the police". (This, when the first day’s death-toll crossed 150). Take his March 3 "Newton’s Law" enunciation: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction".
Mr Modi is a past master at violent politics. In 1985-86, he instigated a bloody anti-low caste agitation. In 1992, in Surat, he masterminded unspeakable atrocities against women. After September 11, he said all Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.
A life-long RSS pracharak, Mr Modi has never hidden his hatred of Islam which he equates with violence, while condoning the violence of casteism.
Mr Modi’s is a fit case for hate-speech prosecution. His government recently took undemocratic steps such as ordering "dharti mata" yajnas in state-run schools to "prevent" earthquakes, and compelling Adivasi children to carry the Gita as a sign of loyalty to a religion they don’t practise, being nature-worshippers.
For Gujarat’s religious minorities, Mr Modi’s rule is no different from what Mr Slobodan Milosevic’s reign was for Serbia’s ethnic minorities. Both meant mass murder. Each day of Mr Modi’s continuation in office means more violence.
Mr Modi must be sacked. His rule is incompatible with fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This is not a party-political, but a civil society, demand.
Gujarat faces the kind of emergency for which Articles 355 and 356 were envisaged. These empower the Centre to dismiss a state government or deploy troops to enforce Central orders.
Article 355 specifically says it is the "the duty of the Union to protect every State against ... internal disturbance" and ensure that its governance "is carried on in accordance with the ... Constitution".
The Centre in 1992 pleaded helplessness in dealing with the Ayodhya campaign, on the ground that an elected government existed in Lucknow. This dishonest plea must not be repeated today.
Mr Modi’s dismissal has become more urgent with reports that 40,000 Muslim refugees are being treated like concentration-camp prisoners. His government and VHP are even blocking food supplies to them.
Mr Modi is shamelessly discriminatory in awarding Rs 2 lakhs as compensation for the Godhra dead, and only half the amount for others-if they are given anything at all.
Putting Gujarat under President’s rule won’t be enough. The Army must take over law-and-order. We also need assurance that Gujarat will not be further communalised under Home Minister Advani’s tender mercies.
This can happen if there is an all-party committee to monitor and advise the state administration Alternatively, the Supreme Court must direct Mr Vajpayee to restore normalcy and bring the guilty to book.
The first is unlikely, given the BJP’s track record. The second is eminently worth trying.
These are not "normal" or "standard" solutions. The President is not the court of last resort. Nor is the Supreme Court meant to advise on administrative matters. Nonetheless, in exceptional circumstances, such institutions can play slightly larger roles.
Gujarat is an exceptional situation of communalism eating into the state’s vitals. This will undermine numerous institutions-police, political parties, impartiality of government vis-à-vis ethnic-religious groups, and freedom of expression.
These institutions must be energetically defended. So must ALL citizens.
It is equally vital to prevent the Vajpayee government from cynically using Gujarat as an excuse for a dishonourable "compromise" on Ayodhya, by illegally transferring some of the 67-acre land and allowing bhoomi pujan on March 15.
That would violate the 1993 land takeover law. Worse, it would appease some of the worst enemies of Indian democracy.
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