Thursday, October 25, 2007

Narendra Modi: Face of Religious Terrorism or Modern Gujarat?

On 27th February 2002, 58 people, including 25 women and 15 children were burnt alive in a train coach at Godhra Station during an altercation between Kar Sevaks on board the train and local Muslims. In an act of retribution execution squads composed of the cadre of Hindu organizations — the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bajrang Dal, the Kisan Sangh, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party, carried out the carnage of innocent and unarmed Muslims. Prominent political and religious leaders orchestrated one of the greatest tragedies India has ever seen. Their directions were to inflict the maximum possible destruction to Muslim property and life in any way possible. The barbaric mobs murdered Muslims by shooting, stabbing, mutilating, lynching and burning. All these cold blooded murders were carried out with a sense of pride and duty. One suspect recorded by "Tehelka" (in a recent undercover hidden cam expose) describes how a Muslim Member of Parliament was lynched limb by limb until the pile of his body parts were set on fire.

Sitting at the helm during the three days of bone chilling murders and violent riots was Gujarat’s Chief Minister (CM) Narendra Modi. He and his government have been accused of everything from inciting, perpetuating and enabling the incidents. The Tehelka tapes provide further credence to these views. The CM was also refused a visa to visit the US citing his role in severe violations of religious freedoms. Mr. Modi has been a hero among the hardline Hindu parties for his unabashed pro-Hindu stance. His complicity during the riots has most likely further strengthened his clout. His website claims he is on "a ceaseless journey in quest of progress of the society". Clearly his quest for progress has been stifled by his hardline Hindutva agenda. The Hindutva ideology is supposed to be a way of life that is based on the cultural and spiritual ethos of Hinduism, instead it has morphed into an intolerant form of fascism. People like Modi clearly also use their misguided beliefs towards a political end. On one had he is willing to accept the gains for society through modernity (science, technology and industrial development) but on the other hand he adopts and advocates an archaic, extra-religious and conservative form of Hinduism. His love for expensive clothes and designer accessories or that fact that he married a woman who teaches in a poor Muslim area of the Gujarat capital are either ignored or dismissed as not relevant. (Hindutva promotes bachelorhood)

The Hindutva ideology has also become institutionalized with a well-defined structure of several political and religious parties that work together in great coherence. There ability to communicate quickly and effectively through all levels of the institution- from Modi to its foot soldiers- was evidenced during the riots. There was a systematic flow of information, dispersal of orders and weapons and in some cases actual directing of the mobs to Muslim dominated areas.

The events of those days brought to the forefront the threat that Hindutva has become to the nation. Instead of being reflective of the morals and peaceful ideals that make up Hinduism, its self-professed protectors take to brutality and murder. Karma is the centerpiece of Hindu philosophy. If its retribution they wanted then who better than the torchbearers of Hindutva to know Karma would take care of it.

Unfortunately the Hindutva agenda has the likes of Modi to call their own. Modi has great political appeal. His oratory skills are impressive and he has proved to easily rally the supporters and earn new ones. Under his leadership Gujarat has also attracted huge financial investments that makes him popular among the business community. After the riots, Modi was re-elected to power as Chief Minister and yet again he finds himself in a favorable position in the upcoming elections. He has muted his religious views and claims to be for all of Gujarat. Political power must be a strong drug.

Hindu's and Muslims in India suffer from a great mistrust of each other. It is not uncommon to find a loathing for each other even among the educated elite. The divide is historical and not a recent phenomenon. A country that prides itself on its secular nature and is home to people of all the world's religions is being torn apart from inside in the name of religion. Modi’s action or inaction on those fateful days is inexcusable and directly or indirectly the man has blood on his hands.

His popularity among Indians and politicians is a poor reflection on our society. It shows the apathy of many Indian citizens towards the underprivileged minorities that face grave and excessive forms of brutality. In that thirst for dollar investment and industrialization many see Modi as the face and hope of a new modern Gujarat rather than the face of intolerance and religious terrorism. Hopefully history will get the story right and Modi will get his place in the pages of infamy and injustice.

1 comment:

Amar said...

Modi failed his people, both Hindu's and Muslim's died, he needs to take responsibility for those days.