Former president of India Abdul Kalam is the antithesis of much that goes in conventional sense of religious or racial profiling. His faith, if at all, matters minimally so far he is concerned as a public figure. Neither does his appearance. Notwithstanding this, it was he who interacted with chief minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi and did not even evince any attempt to inhibit any feeling when he hobnobbed with the desi Milosevic. That was when he took over his august office after the pogroms against Muslims in 2002. Kalam was also the antidote of polarization. He along with his ancestral family lived and thrived in the environs of the sanctum sanctorum of a revered Hindu temple. How come then that his background comes in the way of his being profiled as he was frisked by the American airline company!
Much like him was Ehsan Jafri who lived in a middle class enclave of Gulberg society ensconced from the humdrum life of the otherwise dingy and competing and tension ridden life of the Indian streets. Secular in outlook and gregarious in nature, he could hardly be an example of polarization. Even police commissioner PC Pande came to save him but with a caveat, only he and his family members could board the ark of survival. Since the morning of February 28, 2002 the marauding crowd had been yelling for his blood. He made nearly 200 phone calls to those who mattered to save the life of the people who had sought refuge in his house. One such call was to Sonia Gandhi and the last was to Modi. Who torpedoed that ark which Pande had offered?
How could polarization stop by the killing of the MP and scores of those including children and women who were counting their every breath as the last in the Gulberg society housing complex! What subsequently happened there laid foundation of more polarization and deeper and even unbridgeable gulf!
The notification (No. GK/8/2009/COI/102009/33/A) dated June 5, 2009 of the Gujarat government of Chief Minister Narendra Modi establishing a commission to probe communal polarization is fraught with grave dangers. Nothing has been as dangerous to the country as anything that is communal because it divides the people vertically; the division of the land is consequent to this. Instead of learning the lesson right in the beginning of independence of India and avoiding it we have not only continued with it but also developed it as a mechanism for electoral gains (election in Gujarat December 2002). There are some whose survival hinges on this.
It would be wrong to trace every evil of today to 1947. The communal tendencies and mindsets were formed by then. The eighties were the opportunistic resurgence of the same. However, the anti-cow slaughter agitation of the late sixties and the anti-reservation agitation turning anti Muslim riots in Gujarat cross fertilized the Gujarat culture. Neither common language nor the so much vaunted Gujarati entrepreneurship could withhold the onslaught of communalism particularly that of the Hindutva brand.
Polarization on communal lines was planted and nurtured during this turbulence. The experiment in the laboratory of Hindutva was not of ideology but of means of removing physical barriers which were transformed as “the other”. Narendra Modi will go down in history as the most damnable architect of this. Now it is he who is asking for inquiry into the polarization which he himself so eminently brought about. Even praying for rain was used as an occasion of polarizing the society. Once he organized a huge pooja on the Sabarmati River to thank Hindu gods for the rains. He did not stop there. He threw a gauntlet to the Muslims to call upon their almighty to produce rain as the Hindus had done! He pooh-poohed them.
Why this fuss over polarization, then? It is not that he is perturbed by the pathological disturbance of his society there, but it is rather to play another Machiavellian role. For, the sangh parivar knows well that it gives rich dividends.
The dual aspects of the proposed inquiry which are highly charged in meaning are: “polarization of population on the basis of religion taking place in the State of Gujarat” and “the migration of the people following different religions taking place every 10 years after 15th August 1947”. As far as polarization is concerned the government is not disturbed by polarization that really exists because it has done nothing but to maintain that for its own hold on power. Ostracisation and boycott of Muslims is still enforced. What positive step let alone any “affirmative action” has Modi taken to remove it?
The basic premise of communalism in India has been a recourse to past which is quite too hazy at times to prove conclusively any issue that is occasionally raked up. Public memory is short and the communal leaders take this for granted and take the government and their opponents for a ride. This happened as recently as July 9, 2009 when LK Advani dug out a letter of the mayor of the French city of Marseilles written eleven years ago to Swatantra Veer savarkar seva Mandal of Vile Parle. The mayor wanted to know if the government would associate itself with the project. PM Vajpayee did not even bother to reply. However his deputy PM now wants to know if the government has any objection. The right wing deputy and his party are schizophrenic in this regard much like Amitav Ghosh’s vakil babu in the Shadow Lines.
The Gujarat government notification also speaks of allegations made against it that it is responsible for the current division “such allegations and unscientific conclusions create heart burning and distance among the citizens”.
Heartburning is envious discontented feelings usually caused by disappointment. Going by this definition of the word, is the Gujarat government capable and fit morally to ascertain whose discontented feeling or disappointment it is and what has caused it for which he has migrated to that state and, more pertinently, what role his faith has played in this?
There is much deeper polarization of which Modi is most directly responsible. He is as the accounts in the news go subverted the administration of justice. His most notorious speech of how the relief camps of Muslims were baby producing factories was widely reported verbatim and yet his police failed to supply the cassette when the courts and the election commission demanded it. Many were arrested or outright killed in fake encounters by his encounter specialists like DG Vanzara and Narendra Amin. It is now open secret that the pogroms of 2002 against Muslims were state sponsored. Quintessentially he is largely to blame for polarization of the administration. He has not learnt any lessons from history of even recent past that the Great Divide of India was precipitated by the polarization of the administration. It was not for nothing that south Indian police were deployed in the north and west during the partition period.
If the 9/11 supplied the pretext to wreak havoc on Muslims so did the ignominious extraordinary renditions or outsourcing torture. People far from Gujarat were arrested and taken to Ahmedabad and tortured. Among them were the innocents of Hyderabad and Delhi. On July 24, 2009 a judge acquitted Shahid Ahmad Bakshi from Juhapura in Ahemdabad, Farhan Ahmed Shaikh and Hafix Mohammad Tahir from Moradabad, UP whom DIG DG Vanzara had framed for plotting to kill Modi. Don’t forget that he even killed many on the same pretext. The “kidnapping” of and rape and torture and murder of Kauser bibi wife Sohrabbudin is nothing less than the extraordinary rendition. Both were incarcerated in private farm houses before being brutally killed.
There were bomb blasts in Malegaon of Maharashtra and Modasa of Gujart at the same time on September 29, 2008 on the eve of Id. People were killed and injured but the kind of professional and dedicated investigation that Hemant Karkare made was not matched by KK Mysorewalla. This notorious police officer of Gujarat has earned the distinction of having his sentence denying help to hapless Muslim women victims at Naroda Patia making the headlines of Human Rights reports. He is still there, and so is Babu Bajrangi, thanks to Modi. If this is not polarization what is it then?
The cure to this malaise of polarization is to ensure that justice prevails and is also not delayed. The former cannot be assured by the kind of bills that Gujarat government passes cocking a snook at the central government or in defiance of civilized norms. The latter is impossible unless we wash our Augean stables. The kind of public prosecutors that Modi appointed and the judges that he changed frequently to get Bajrangi out of jail and the police officers to turn blind eye to his evil deeds are playing havoc with the unity and integrity of the country. For the larger good of the country what we need is to refurbish “the idea of justice”: “justice has much to do with everyone being treated fairly.” (Amartya Sen) Paying victims of pogroms half of what you pay for others because they are Muslims is not justice. Justice also has “to pay attention to the kind of lives people are actually able to lead.” What kind of lives people in refugee camps were leading in 2002 that made the prime minister of India feel shame and Modi feel no shame?
The great grandson of Babur was the last Mughal Bahadurshah Zafar. He pined for two feet wide land for his grave in the homeland which he and his ancestors adopted. That wish of Zafar the British did not allow to take shape as they executed him in Rangoon. The fate of Wali Gujrati was worse. The hordes of Hindutva under Modi dispensation dug out his mortal remains and paved the shrine with hot mixture in minutes and left no trace that such a poet ever lived there! Which land in square meters will Judge BJ Sethna of the proposed commission measure to find out the polarization?