India’s bet on the wrong horse

One of the most controversial Indian politicians of his time, Narendra Modi, has been voted back for the third time as Gujarat’s chief minister. Most of us associate Modi’s name with the violent communal riots of 2002, while his supporters associate his name with ‘Vibrant Gujarat’!

In an article titled, ‘Why Modi appeals to Hindus’ (Rediff News, December 24, 2007), Mr B Raman analyses what the Hindu community sees in him. He asks: “His [Modi’s] simple and austere living…His reputation as an incorruptible politician…His style of development-oriented governance…The fruits of his policy, which Gujarat and its people are already enjoying…His tough stance on terrorism…His lucid-thinking on matters concerning our national security…His defiance in the face of the greatest campaign of demonisation mounted against him…?” And then Mr Raman goes on to give one other factor, which he says is more important than the ones stated above. That one factor is: “…for large sections of the Hindus – young and old, even more among the young than among the old – he gave them a sense of pride in their identity as Hindus. They feel that he removed from their minds long habits of defensiveness as Hindus, carefully nurtured by the self-styled secularists.”

After reading Mr Raman’s article, one is left bewildered about many things. One, how can someone have a “tough stance on terrorism” when he himself was responsible for state-sponsored terrorism? As far as Modi’s “defiance” in the face of a negative media campaign is concerned, it was not defiance, it was sheer obstinacy. And even if we concede that Modi possesses all these ‘qualities’, does that justify voting for someone who was responsible for the mass murder of thousands of Muslims? Are the Hindus so proud of Modi’s ‘qualities’ that they have put aside the secular ethos of the Indian polity and voted back an extremist?

If I was not aware that a lot of Hindus, inside and outside India, condemn what happened in Gujarat back in 2002, I would have gotten a negative impression of the Hindus because of Mr Raman’s article. To any ordinary reader, his article says that ‘all’ the Hindus are proud of Modi; that because of Gujarat’s economic success, Modi has been absolved of his sins and all the Hindus, inside and outside Gujarat, really admire him; and that anyone who denounces Modi or calls him names is just a pseudo-secularist. My question to Mr Raman is: how would killing, rather massacring, thousands of Muslims give the Hindus a sense of pride? If anything, it was something that brought them shame, not pride. It is just like saying that all the Muslims approve of what Osama bin Laden did in 2001 and that al Qaeda’s brand of ‘Islam’ is something to be proud of for all the Muslims, which is rather incorrect. Just like most Muslims condemn what Osama and his ilk did (and are still doing) in Islam’s name, I believe that most of the Hindus would denounce what Modi did in Hindutva’s name. About communalism, Mr Raman writes, “As if to proclaim one’s Hindu identity and to assert one’s rights as Hindus in their own homeland in which they are in a vast majority (80 per cent of the population) is to be communal, is to become an ugly Indian.” Are the 80 percent Hindus so insecure that they have to “assert” their “rights” by slaughtering the 20 percent Muslims? Is that the only way the Hindus can ‘safeguard’ their identity? By killing thousands of innocent people, what kind of ‘rights’ are the Hindus ‘asserting’? Going by Mr Raman’s logic, can then one justify the violence committed by Dawood Ibrahim to avenge the Babri Mosque episode? No. Dawood Ibrahim’s criminal act was not different from what Modi and his Hindutva brigade did. Some Indians at an online forum were of the view that since secular political parties like Congress have adopted ‘minority appeasement’ policies and give in too much to the Muslims to gain their vote-bank, a lot of the Hindus have become frustrated over the years. Granted that in a secular country, there should be no minority appeasement policies such as a reservations system, but that calls for finding a political solution, not a militant one. It is sad to see India, a country whose founders were known for their secular views, go the extremist way. Although it can be argued that Gujarat is just a state that has brought to power extremist Hindu forces, it should serve as a warning. If given time to nurture, extremism, like other vices, spreads its venom everywhere. The Indian electorate must learn from the mistakes of their Pakistani counterparts.

It is rather unfortunate that in India and Pakistan, religious extremism has been allowed to overturn the secular vision of the founding fathers. In Pakistan, the Quaid’s secularism was abandoned at the altar of expedient motives of the ruling elite, comprising the landed aristocracy and of course the military junta hewed to the policy of serving US interests in the country. It is a historical fact that in Pakistan religious fundamentalism was promoted by the US in the 1950s as a foreign policy plank to use it as a bulwark against ‘Godless’ communism – a policy harnessed during the days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. All governments in Pakistan lent covert and overt support to the fundamentalists, for which we paid a rather heavy price and are still reaping the bitter fruits of the original sin.

For the Indians there is still time before things get out of hand. They must get out of the web of self-delusion that they can control their zealots after allowing them to enter the tent. In Pakistan, successive governments accepted religious fanatics as a player in the body politic because of their power to intimidate the streets. President Pervez Musharraf did the same before reaching the conclusion that it could only end up moving Pakistan backwards. It is in the nature of the beast of extremism that it abhors ‘real’ progress. Musharraf had to call back Benazir Bhutto to lend him support of the moderate masses and help him wriggle out of the grip of religious radicals. Benazir Bhutto, to her misfortune, was assassinated by the militants, which sums up the argument that extremists are uncontrollable monsters. If India thinks it can move onto its ‘shining’ or ‘vibrant’ India road on the back of its radicals, it must perish the thought. Pakistan is proof.


Anonymous said…
Mehmi, you know I wouldn't say this lightly -- this is a simply excellent piece. Bravo!
Anonymous said…
Hello there,
This article on your blog is really mind blowing. I hope India won’t go by Pakistan’s way and fall into estimates' hands. Regarding Narendra was not directly he who was responsible for the Godhra genocide. The whole administration failed to maintain the situation. You can’t compare Modi with Bin Laden. Modi is not a consistent Muslim basher. He keeps himself away from religious politics and avoids ‘Hindu’,'Muslim’ words in his speeches. While Bin Laden always think about Islam and Muslims.
Anonymous said…
There is no evidence to suggest that Modi was responsible for the riots. That erroneous argument has been put forth by English media press in India. If it were the case, the Tehelka tapes would have been admissible in a court of law.

You also seem to disagree with Raman's arguments:

“…for large sections of the Hindus – young and old, even more among the young than among the old – he gave them a sense of pride in their identity as Hindus. They feel that he removed from their minds long habits of defensiveness as Hindus, carefully nurtured by the self-styled secularists.”

You need to read Thapar's history texts to see what he is talking about.
Anonymous said…
"One, how can someone have a “tough stance on terrorism” when he himself was responsible for state-sponsored terrorism?"

Pakistanis should not be in a state of illusion that there is state terrorism in India- whether it is Kashmir or is only an argument which your media uses to tell you that your muslim brother here are being harassed.

1. There are no 'muslim brothere' of yours here. Given a choice muslims in India would prefer India than pakistan.

2. Unlike in pakistan where you have dictators tearing down constitutions as they like, sacking judges at their whim and fancies and 'free press' whose bread and butter is supplied by the army, Our social structure is firmly rooted in principles of democracy, free press and independent judiciary. If there are any mishaps or wrong doings our institutions can handle them.

3. Pakistan will do well to bring its house in order than to lecture India on Human right violations. Can I ask what happened to the hindus who were minority in pakistan? Are there any trace left of them? Every country will have its power struggles, in India there is no apartheid or the so called state-terrorism or changing the demographics.

So better stop crocodile tears and see if u can improve the situation in your country.

"Are the 80 percent Hindus so insecure that they have to “assert” their “rights” by slaughtering the 20 percent Muslims? Is that the only way the Hindus can ‘safeguard’ their identity? By killing thousands of innocent people, what kind of ‘rights’ are the Hindus ‘asserting’?"

Please resist from using such language. If you are into sensational journalism then god save you and your country. It is the same kind of propaganda used by your army to create a phobia towards India and happily ruled over your country. Misinformation to such an extent that i heard you celebrate 1965 war a victory while every history record shows it was a debacle for pak.

You talk of peace and yet you start wars, You talk of secularism and yet you have eliminated your minorities...I think it is called hypocrisy.

You have compared Osama bin laden and Dawood Ibrahim to Modi. Can I ask you where these two thugs are give safe sanctuary? On one hand you condemn them like an angel and on other your country run organizations using their photos.

It is upto the people of Gujarat to elect their chief minister. Modi is a great administrator and gujarat is the fastest developing state in India. It is the elements who are coming across from our border who in the name of religion are poisoning the minds of muslims here and creating unnecessarily trouble. Gujarat riots were a retaliation of Godra attack on the pilgrims. Whether it is justified or not is not for you hypocrites to comment on.

"the Quaid’s secularism "
How can a man who divided the country on the basis of religion be secular? Its calling a man who culls chicken as their deliverer to God.

If the idea of your journalism was to get eye-balls then lets call it cool piece of India bashing. If there is soul and heart involved behind that piece of work, you can try to be more genuine.

For an average Indian secularism is nothing more than a circus by its politicians and journalists. We avoid trouble and choose the best from worst we have. Modi was definitely the best. Looking at the amount the violence and hate that is spilling over from the borders of both pakistan and bangladesh, you can expect India to harden its stand on islamic fundamentalism you may call the anti-secularism or something else.

Get your house in order. We are fed up of failed states in our neighborhood, who cannot even stand on their legs and yet try to measure up to India.

First start of 'not' by measuring yourself with India which is basically to derive some superiority complex and see how India is able to manage cultural variation which is equivalent of 50 pakistans with relatively stability and growing prosperity and see how you can help your people by replicating some of the things in your country to avoid problems like balochistan. India wishes for a stable and prosperous pakistan.
Anonymous said…
hello mehmal my name is praveen i have read about your article in my local paper. in every sentence of your article you have mentioned that hindus created the communal holocaust.but there were 25% hindus in pakistan atthe time of independence and now there are hardly 1% ofthem what happened to the rest of the hindus,either they are killed by so called peace loving muslims or they have been forcefully changed to islam. and you the plight of kashmiri pandits,they are living as refugees in their own country due to our peace loving muslim brothers.
Susmit said…
What happened in Gujrat is sad and most sensible people including Hindus do not approve of it. But you should not forget the prelude to the Gujrat riots. It started with the massacre of the Kar Sevaks (Hindus) by the burning down of the Godhra Express. And that is what has happens most of the times due to the insensibility and over-aggressiveness of some sections of the Muslim community who think that they can get away with everything. The fact of the matter is that they though the same for Godhra as well but it was foolhardy for them to expect that such a stupid act will not have any repurcussions. And it did which was wrong and sad but you should not try to judge Gujrat or the Gujratis or Indians just by that. The Gujratis are one of the premier business communities of India and Gujrat is one the most industrialised and developed state of India and both the Muslims and Hindus of Gujrat are and will enjoy the benefits of that. Even the Tatas are setting up the Nano car plant in Gujrat and no industrialist or businessman worth his salt invests in an unstable state. Gujrat has come a long way from 2002 to 2008. And India will do well. Rest assured. Inshallah. We have our ills but we also have democracy, secularism and independent media and real people who believe in them and work towards them. Credibility does not come from talking and finding fault in others it comes from your actions and track record. It is what you do that defines you. That is why India has secured the NSG waiver but Pakistan will not (at least not very soon)because the world believes in India and it's intent and knows that India will never be a rogue state.
vichchoobhai said…
I agree with you by and large. But donot use the words "If India thinks" You cannot collectivise the opinion of a few to that of India as a whole. We are not all Hitlers here implementing a final solution. That was done by the British colonisers in USA by mercilessly killing the red Indians much before HItler arrived on the scene. They also annihilated the Maoris and original inhabitants of Australia and Newzealand. The real owners of USA Aus and NZ are now museum pieces. Except perhaps Turkey the rest of the Muslim countries are not treating people of other faiths on par with their citizens. It has fallen to the unfortunate lot of India to practise secularism in an increasingly jingoistic, ethno=-centred world. And we are taken to task when there is an aberration. It is really tight rope walking even for a diehard secularist let alone an amorphous mass of 100 crore people of all colours and hues and religious faiths. It is a miracle that India is still intact as a nation.

Violence everywhere has to be condemned. But let us not be carried away by religious sentiment which put blinkers on our eyes and does not permit a balanced outlook.

Otherwise your piece was a good one. I totally agreee that Modi looked the other way while the goons slaughtered innocents. It has hasppened on a much larger scale in Serbia, Herzagovina and in some African states where tribal rivalry rather than religion played the villain.

Anyway, debate is better than fisticuffs and I do hope that a calm assessment of the situation on either side will help better our relations.
Devanshi said…
I don't get your point over here...are you trying to raise your voice against judgement of more than 80% of the Gujarati by raising your finger towards Mr.Modi. I hail from Gujarat and have seen Gujarat 2002 riots very closely..u read n understand wut media shows you in your country but facts r far more bitter than what you know... No Gujarati encourages what happened in 2002 but certainly its not just Muslims who were killed...if u sit n check history of riots in India since independence you wud have refrained from making this statement abt Hindus radically killing Muslims...but we don't think who was killed in which riots...for us its loss of Indian Community on the whole...

And ur stands of how can Mr.Modi have tough stand against terrorism and comparison with Laden...Laden is a demon who wants to destroy humanity and divide world into fragments and Mr.Modi believes in development for which the world has seen him and his stand his against terrorism,the whole world saw how he tackled situation after terror attacks in Ahmedabad and how in 15 days master minds were captured...

And when u ppl talk abt secularism,it doesn't suit you since one shud know proper meaning...reading the definition given in textbooks and actually living in secularism is different thing which you may not know... Secularism at times turns dangerous thanks to certain preference giving parties...

And a correction, not only Hindus outside n inside Gujarat admire but it an average aware Indian be it from Kashmir or Gujarat or Maharashtra admires Modi for whatever he has done for the state and overall for coutry.

And abt the title... India has huge populas.. and 80% out of it can't b wrong when they bet on a horse.
Anonymous said…
Last month there was a communal Riot in Assam. Muslims were killed and so were Hindus. This is a perspective of the media. But the fact is that the riot was not communal but geographic. It was not a riot between Hindus and Muslims but a riot among Indians and illegally staying Bangladeshis.

Now the media may say the same thing in a different way but the fact is that the movement someone says that Muslims are killed people think its just Hindus did that.

These are sensitive issues which needs a wider view, which people in a multicultural county like India(or rather only Indians) can understand.

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