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Monday, April 25, 2011

Milli Gazette

By Firdaus Ahmed
According to an affidavit in the Supreme Court by a senior police official, he was witness to the chief minister in Gujarat requiring the police to stay out of violence that he expected Hindus to inflict on Muslims in wake of the burning of the train bogie at Godhra. This was intended to ‘teach the Muslims a lesson’. The police had been somewhat even handed earlier, as a result the Muslims had apparently been emboldened. The lesson would help put a stop to communal violence they indulged in.

The chief minister has since been reelected and has acquired a reputation for being strong on development. There is also the claim that Gujarat has since been communal violence free. A Muslim educationist heading a leading seminary has been under cloud for acknowledging that Muslims do not face discrimination in Gujarat. A leading industrial tycoon is seen in an advertisement praising the Gujarat administration for speedily granting his corporation land for completion of a car project. India’s top actor is a state ambassador for Gujarat. The cop in question has gone on record accusing the Special Investigation Team probing the cases of violence on behalf of the Supreme Court of being partial to the chief minister.

Clearly, the chief minister has done well since for himself and evidently for his state. The question is can the subsequent record help over-shadow the previous record. This is consequential since the chief minister may have ambitions for ruling from Delhi, particularly since his political party is short on leadership with an impressive record.

The answer is equally clearly in the negative. Justice has not only to be done, but seen to be done. The chief minister would have to pay for his acts of omission and commission. But only in case these are proven in court. The problem is that close to a decade has elapsed since.

This means ample time has been available for records to be set right, assuming there is truth to the charge in first place. That the police officer did not blow the whistle earlier indicates the atmosphere of fear in the state bureaucracies. That his own senior has contested his claim brings out the atmosphere of connivance prevalent. This environment of fear is perhaps that gets the bureaucracy working and in its working bringing compliments, if controversial, for development for the state. There is also the possibility, given that the people have reelected the party that within the state apparatus exists a considerable constituency subverted to the ideology of the political party.

In the immediate aftermath of the carnage, the prime minister, of the same political party, could not follow through on his preference of asking the chief minister to go for violation of what he termed as the ‘raj dharma’. The chief minister in the event was saved by the union home minister accepting his narrative of the events in Gujarat. This ability to handle Delhi, no doubt, sent the message to people and officials in Gujarat of the power of the chief minister.

The climate of fear has been extended over time by the earlier killing of the home minister during the carnage, Hiren Pandya. There have been periodic reports of killings of some Muslims in encounters, now being increasingly challenged as fake encounters. These cumulatively have possibly lent the chief minister an aura of invincibility. This perhaps explains the higher indices on development reportedly been notched up by Gujarat. No one in the administration would want to fall afoul of such a ruthless man. It is said of the Emergency that the trains ran on time.

In other words, the ‘development’ that is attributed to Gujarat is not through means that are worth replicating. If these are good enough for the Gujarati people and their state officials, these are not necessarily replicable across the diverse land of India. In any case the controversy that greeted even the revered Anna Hazare’s references to the chief minister’s record on development indicates that the record on rural development is not quite what it is made out to be.

There are three indicators to the contrary about the state of affairs in Gujarat. Firstly, the persecution of Christians in the tribal Dangs district indicates that all is not well in rural Gujarat. Swami Aseemananda, the mastermind who has confessed to his involvement in the right wing conspiracy to malign Muslims through terrorist bomb attacks, had his ashram there in Gujarat. Second is that there has been little done for justice and resettlement of Muslims effected by the violence. This means impunity for the perpetrators and by extension accretion in the aura of ruthlessness of the chief minister.

Lastly, there has been the case of bomb blasts in Ahmedabad as part of the series of blasts in cities across India in 2008. The curious part of this case has been that the only place these were detected and reportedly ‘defused’ was in Surat. The obvious implication is that these have been planted there to implicate Muslims yet again. The less obvious but more significant implication is that this may well have been to take the scent off the elements who had actually planted these. No wonder that the Center has had to create a fresh agency, the NIA, to look at the blasts of questionable origin. The fear is that the intelligence apparatus is so penetrated by subverted ideology if not elements that a fresh agency is required to pursue the ends of justice.

It is therefore important to restrict the chief minister’s shadow to his home state. It is for the people there to realize who they have as their elected head. As for the rest of the people of India there is no way their sense of justice and propriety will allow them to countenance such a person as their political leader. Ensuring that this does not come to pass due to democratic miscarriage requires that the truth in Gujarat be pursued to its logical ends. More need to follow the example of the brave hearts as Hemant Karkare and the whistle blower, Sanjiv Bhatt.

If truth was to prove elusive still, then regretfully it must be acknowledged that this nation needs no better a leader than the chief minister as prime minister.

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