Dr Jay Dubashi
Those who once refused to give him a visa to visit their country, are now putting him on magazine covers. The US news magazine Time has splashed Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, on their cover this week, but has not really done justice to him, or to his work.
Surprisingly, it is not much of a story – a text that is less than two pages or 2,000 words, with just two pictures, one of Modi himself, sitting Buddha-like on a straight-backed chair you find in Parsi households, and, surprise of surprises, four geese, yes, geese, twaddling towards him on his right. What is Modi doing with all those geese is not explained. Does he breed them? Does he give them away as presents? So what are they doing on his spacious lawn? Is the picture – full two pages of it – telling us that somebody’s goose is being cooked?
Inside, it is predictably all about Godhra, and the ensuing chaos in the state, with, of course, Modi’s alleged role or involvement in the riots that followed. In fact, the write-up is a kind of an essay on Hindu- Muslim relations in Gujarat and how, despite the fact that the state is doing so well economically, the relations between the communities remain as tense as ever, and so does Modi himself, when discussing or dealing with them. Incidentally, for the sake of record, the word “Muslim” occurs 22 times in a story of 2,000 words and the word “Hindu” 15 times.
Consciously or otherwise, the reporter, a lady called Jyoti Thottam, presumably an Indian or Indian-born, does not do justice to Hindus. On February 27, 2002, goes the story, two train carriages carrying activists from a Hindu nationalist group was set on fire at the Gujarat town of Godhra, killing 58. That’s all. The story does not say, deliberately or otherwise, who set the carriages on fire and who killed the 58 Hindus and why. A reader, ten thousand miles away in the US, might be led to think that the Hindus set fire themselves and committed hara-kiri, as Easterners, and particularly Hindus, often do, in a spiritual frenzy for which apparently there is no explanation.
The Hindus were not killed accidentally nor did they commit hara-kiri. As the story says, they were set on fire, but by whom? The story does not say. Why is the reporter so shy about saying that they were set upon by a mob of Islamists who set the carriages on fire and incinerated the Hindus inside. It is not clear why the reporter, who mentions Muslims, one way or another, 22 times in the story, should suddenly feel so shy about naming them as the authors of the crime, which ultimately led to retaliation and riots.
Had the Hindus not been massacred in Godhra, there would have been no riots, either in Godhra or elsewhere, and no killings. Hindus don’t go about killing people; it is not part of our culture. They don’t hijack planes and ram them into towers in a busy city and massacre thousands of innocent people going peacefully about their jobs. They do not plant bombs in underground railway stations and blow up the passengers. They do not paddle in specially made boats into crowded cities and shoot up petrified tourists and Jews in their lodges. They don’t go and hide in Islamic countries near military neighbourhoods and plan killings. Who does all this? Not Hindus. They were returning home after a pilgrimage when they were ambushed and killed near their homes.
As I said, without Godhra, there would have been no riots, and no killings. What happened was a tragedy of the worst kind, but we should know why it happened and who started the whole thing. The reporter, in all fairness, should have told us how it happened, who started it, who pressed the switch and started the fire that engulfed the state. Those who go on and on about Gujarat and have created a whole encyclopedia of communal riots and massacres, and they include our holier – than – thou secularists, conveniently fail to mention how it all happened, and, deliberately or otherwise, refuse to mention Godhra, and if they do mention Godhra, refuse to mention that the whole thing began with the planned murder of Hindus returning from a pilgrimage.
This does not, of course, absolve them of the charge of committing atrocities on some minorities, for which, of course, they should be held responsible and punished. But facts are facts and one expects reporters not to push them under the carpet.
I have a feeling that the Americans and the multinational companies who control the US government have now realised that whatever happened in Gujarat, and who was responsible – or, not responsible – for the riots, Narendra Modi has come to stay and cannot be wished away. He is perhaps the most popular Chief Minister in the country and one day the Americans will have to do business with him. They have also realised that the days of the Gandhi dynasty are over, that the Congress party has no future and among the people who will step into their shoes will be people like Narandra Modi, whether he becomes Prime Minister or not. This may happen sooner than you think, for politics, like time, waits for nobody, and there may be a brand new government in Delhi before you can chant the secular mantra again.
I have also a request to make to all these Americans who lecture us day in and day out on communal harmony, as if they had invented it. For God’s sake, don’t underestimate Hindus, and don’t lecture us on piety and good and evil, as if you have a monopoly of such things. And don’t call us communal, for we are not a community; we Hindus are a nation, and we were not born yesterday. We were a nation long before the world even suspected there was a continent called America. And don’t talk about communal peace, or, for that matter, any peace. We didn’t go to Iraq to kill Iraqis, and we didn’t go to Vietnam to massacre poor Vietnamese. Peace comes to us naturally, for it is part of our culture. We don’t send our armies to foreign countries and we do not maintain armies on foreign soil. We don’t set trains on fire nor do we set off bombs in distant lands.
But, as I said, for God’s sake, do not underestimate us. Do not provoke us for, when roused, we can be as fierce as lions. Gujarat, incidentally, is the only place in Asia that breeds lions!