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An Analysis of the Editors Guild Fact Finding Report into the Gujarat violence
Introduction On February 27, 2002, the Sabarmati Express, a train which connects Ahmedabad in Gujarat, with Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, was attacked by a mob of more than 2000 Muslims at Godhra in Gujarat. The target was the Ram Sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya after taking part in a ceremony at the Shri Rama Janmabhoomi. Fiftyeight of the Ram Sevaks were incinerated in the incident. Most of them were women and children. In the aftermath, there was a major communal riot in parts of Gujarat, leading to the death of nearly 1000 persons, and many injured. The Muslim casualties were nearly three-quarters of the total. The Editors Guild sent a team on ‘a fact finding mission’ into the riots in Gujarat, postGodhra, and the role of media in particular. The team consisted of BG Verghese (a columnist), Dileep Padgaonkar (Executive Managing Editor, The Times of India) and Aakar Patel (Editor, Mid-Day, Mumbai). In setting out in its task to report on the ‘Ordeal by Fire in the Killing Fields of Gujarat’, the Editors Guild Team follow the standard Marxist methodology. As Nikolay Valentinov (in ‘Encounters with Lenin’) recounts Lenin telling him, ‘Plekhanov (a Marxist theoretician) once said to me about a critic of Marxism, ‘First let us stick the convict’s badge on him, and then after that we will examine his case.? And I think that we must ‘stick the convict’s badge’ on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we do not go on to examine his case. That’s how every sound revolutionary should react.’ The Editors Guild Team put the label of a convict on the Gujarati language media, and then went about the task of evaluating their reporting. Therefore, in analysing the report prepared by the Editors Guild Team, we should first discuss the ideology of the English media in India to enable us to put forward our analysis of the report. This is imperative since all the three members are from the English media. To do this, we have to look at the way this media has treated issues relating to India in general and Hindutva in particular, even prior to the events in Gujarat. It is our contention that the English media seems to take a special delight in perverting issues, which not only trivialises, but also enables them to avoid dealing with the essence of the issues. In the process, it ensures that sane debates do not take place, and the society does not reach an enduring solution to the problem except in a muddled way.
In any case, even if we are to assume that the Editors Guild Report is valid in its damnation of the Gujarati language media, it was necessary for the Editors Guild Team to clearly establish that the English media in India is unbiased, instead of merely making an assumption that it is so. The Team did not even make an attempt to do so. The Hindu Vivek Kendra has made an analysis of the Editors Guild Report and is presenting the same here. The English media in India The English media in India is a product of the Macaulay system of education, which seeks to produce ‘a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, words and intellect.’ As the great philosopher, Anand Coomarswamy, rightly said in 1924 that, ‘it is hard to realise how completely the continuity of Indian life has been severed. A single generation of English education suffices to break the threads of tradition and to create a non-descript and superficial being deprived of all roots - a sort of intellectual pariah who does not belong to the East or the West, the past or future’. Of all Indian problems the educational is the most difficult and the most tragic.? (The Dance of Shiva, 1924.) The other feature of the English media is that it is dominated by those who go under the guise of left-liberal. For this class of people, there is nothing in our civilisation that the people of India can legitimately be proud of. In fact, this class will make a special effort of denigrating the past, and it has done its best to ensure that the children of this country are neither taught the essential features of our culture nor made to respect them. At the same time, it will go out of the way to project that the wisdom relevant for today lies outside the parameters of our civilisation. With the coming of Hindutva to the centre-stage, this class of left-liberals has changed their stance, and is now saying that the Hinduism projected by Hindu organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) does not form the core of our history. They will, however, not say what does form the core. This negative projection leads to confusion in the society since the people are told what is not but not what is. The alienation from our cultural symbols is best expressed by Dileep Padgaonkar when he wrote; ‘More than any other BJP leader, it is Murli Manohar Joshi who gets the goat of secular intellectuals. The very appears of the HRD minister - the dhoti, the angavastram, the prominent mark of the forehead and the choti - irks them no end.’ (The Sunday Times of India, April 15, 2001.) In the same way, Padgaonkar would consider Dr CV Raman lacking in intellectual merit merely because of his attire. This approach of Padgaonkar is nothing new. In July 1993, when he interviewed Sir Vidiadhar Naipaul in the aftermath of the events of December 6, 1992, he said: ‘The people who climbed on top of these domes and broke them were not bearded people wearing saffron robes and with ash on their foreheads. They were young people clad in jeans and tee-shirts.’ (The Times of India July 18, 1993)
What Padgaonkar was saying that anyone wears jeans and tee-shirts should think in the same way as he does. Thus Padgaonkar was stunned that the Kar Sevaks behaved in a manner he thinks as most inappropriate, even though they wore an attire approved by him. Here it would not be out of place to record how Sir Vidiadhar responded to Padgaonkar’s question: ‘One needs to understand the passion that took them on top of the domes. The jeans and the tee-shirts are superficial. The passion alone is real. You can’t dismiss it. You have to try to harness it.’ In its editorial ‘Political Aftershocks’, commenting upon the earthquake relief work, The Times of India said, ‘The RSS has been very active in relief and rehabilitation work’..? However, right in the next sentence it said, ‘There are, however, unconfirmed reports from Gujarat that the ideological bias of the RSS towards certain communities and castes is already evident even in the task of providing relief.’ (Feb 6, 2001) The spokesperson of RSS, through a letter printed on Feb 9 in the same newspaper sought to know the necessary details of the ‘ideological bias’, so that they ‘can address these lapses’ to be able to take the corrective actions for the future. No response was forthcoming. In order to nail the lie spread by the editorial, the President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for Maharashtra sent a picture to Padgaonkar which showed a Muslim family taking shelter, along with other Hindu families, in a large tent at a camp organised by the VHP. The picture was taken from the website (www.indiatimes.com) of a group publication of The Times of India. The reply from Padgoankar was quite amazing. In his letter to the President of VHP dated March 5, 2001, he said that he could not take cognisance of this photo, because his responsibility was limited to The Times of India. Given the organisational resources available with The Times of India in Gujarat, resources which were apparently fully used in preparing the Editors Guild Report, and gratefully acknowledged by the Editors Guild Team, one expected that Padgaonkar would have confirmed the unconfirmed reports on the basis of which he made the allegations about the ‘ideological bias’. It was astounding that even when the photo clearly disproved the unconfirmed reports, Padgaonkar refused to tender an apology for the malicious writings. Thus, when Sandesh (the Gujarati language daily that receives the harshest censure from the Editors Guild Team for inciting violence) is following a policy of not carrying corrections and clarifications, it is merely following in the distinguished footsteps set out by Padgaonkar himself. In the news item about the publication of the Editors Guild report, the Rediff on Net, has reported Padgaonkar saying the following: ‘I think if secularism became a selling proposition (the Gujarati) newspapers would become secular.’ (May 3, 2002). The Times of India is the most profitable publication in India, and is the largest circulating daily in the whole word. Is Padgaonkar accusing his own publication of not being secular’ What Padgaonkar does is not an exception but a rule amongst all his colleagues who subscribe to the same ideology that he does. The intention of stating the above two
cases is not to single him out, but to show the type of arrogance in the Macaulay class of Indians. A community which has suffered the maximum due to Islamic terrorism is the Hindus of Kashmir and the Pandits in particular. In 1989, a mass exodus took place in the Kashmir Valley, due to relentless persecution by Islamic terrorism, and 300,000 Pandits became refugees in their own homeland. The left-liberals did not even shed crocodile tears on the plight of these unfortunate citizens of our country. In fact, they have become the forgotten people for the English media. Even today, while copious tears have flowed from the eyes of the English media in context of the Muslim refugees in Gujarat, it has not found it necessary to deal with the predicament of the Kashmiri Pandits. There has not been any detailed reporting about the miserable conditions in the refugee camps, which are in existence for more than 13 years. No one talks about the trauma and the psychological scars borne by these Kashmiris, whose only fault was that they were Hindus. This behaviour of the English media is appalling considering that all the publications had letters printed, and also articles, written by respected journalists and social personalities, which brought out this hypocrisy in a glaring way. It seems that the English media has no concern for the views expressed by the Hindu community, even when they are right. This behaviour can only be explained in terms of the ideology that the English media follows. The plight of the Hindus in Pakistan and Bangladesh is quite well-known. From more than 20% in 1941, the Hindu population has become almost non-existent in Pakistan, with the present share being around 1.5%. In Bangladesh, the ethnic cleansing had not been as severe. However, the taking over of Khaleeda Zia as Prime Minister of Bangladesh in October 2001 with the active support of Islamic fundamentalists, has caused a qualitative change in the situation in that country too. There has been a big stream of Hindu refugees coming from Bangladesh to seek shelter in India. For the English media the desperate situation that exists in this neighbouring country seems to be of little concern. Except for one or two perfunctory editorials in each publication, the issue has been successfully down played so that it does not form a part of the national consciousness. Taking a clue, even the international media, and the various human rights organisations who take special cudgels even when there are minor abuses against the religious minorities in India, have had to be goaded to take the slightest of notice of the tragedy. The apparent lack of concern of the English media about the plight of the Hindus of Bangladesh is due to the fact that it evaluates issues not on the basis of the merit, but whether it will help or hinder Hindu organisations such as the RSS. This is admitted by Professor Ratneswar Bhattacharya who recently has authored a book on the cleansing of minorities in Bangladesh. He said, ‘Our intellectuals were apprehensive that hue and cry over the plight of Hindus in Bangladesh would only help the Sangh Parivar.’ (Times News Network, May 6, 2002.)
The atrocious role of the English media with respect to the hijacking of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in December 1999 was yet another example of journalism being governed by an ideology rather than the principles of the profession. Journalists were competing against each other to see who could most instigate the families of the hijacked passengers to force the government to yield to the demands of the Islamic terrorists. There were families of many of the hijacked passengers who were beseeching the government not to succumb to the pressure of the terrorists, knowing fully well that the consequences (in case the government submit to the demands) for the nation would be perilous. But these nationalistic views hardly came to be reported by the English media in India. The pressure on the government was so much that it finally surrendered to the terrorists. What was worse was that the very people who were instigating the relatives of the hostages to wave ‘Release Maulana Azhar’ placards before obliging cameras were equally vocal in deploring the capitulation to terrorism. A classic case of damn you do, and damn if you don’t. The perverted portrayal of the attacks on Christians was a deliberate attempt to damn Hindu organisations. The two classic cases were those of the rape of four nuns in Jhabua and the murder of Graham Staines. Within a few hours of the events, the English media had already identified the perpetrators of the crime - namely the Sangh Parivar. And a vicious campaign was let loose all over the country. The correspondents of the foreign media in India picked this up, apparently gleefully; enabling the enemies of our country took maximum advantage of the opportunity provided to them. When the facts came out, the English media behaved in a churlish manner. The rape in Jhabua was the handiwork of 24 tribal from the area, and half of whom had been converted to Christianity. The Wadhwa Commission, set up to inquire into the Staines case, has clearly stated that the alleged ring-leader of the group that murdered Staines had nothing to do with the Sangh Parivar. In following with its tradition, in neither case has the English media apologised to the Sangh Parivar for its false and malicious campaign. No corrections and clarifications were forthcoming. The Wadhwa Commission found it necessary to investigate the role of the media in the Staines case. Its recommendation in this respect was: ‘Media, both print and electronic, has also to exercise restraint. Screaming headlines should be avoided which have the effect of misleading the public and creating more tension and suspicion among different communities. News headlines in the cases of rape of nun and murder of a Christian boy and girl after rape have been noticed. One cannot imagine the damage that might have been caused to the polity by such headlines and reporting. Reporting of communal strife should not be done without proper verification or an ordinary crime given a communal twist.’ That the English media in India is anti-RSS has to be accepted. We have no objection for the media to take this position. What we object is that many times it is economical with the truth in trying to take its agenda forward. Another case in point is accusing the RSS of being involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. Even though there have
been court judgements exonerating the RSS in the case, this canard is carried on with impunity. Recently, for instance, The Statesman along with one of its columnist, AG Noorani, had to apologise for making this allegation. The point here is to be noted that Noorani refused to make even a single appearance in the court which had heard the case. Eventually, the court had to issue a non-bailable warrant against him. The English media refuse to do its homework in such respects. This is a deliberate attempt of perversion, because it knows that a sincere inquiry would mean that it will not be able to pursue its own ideological agenda. The instances mentioned above are only a tip of the iceberg, and they are the rule and not exceptions. They are narrated here to establish our charge of the ideological bias of the English media in India. If we are wrong, we should not be merely dismissed but told the reasons thereof. On two major negatives The Editors Guild Team noted with anguish the deafening silence with the respect to appeals for funds for rehabilitating the riot affected persons. It acknowledged that if an appeal was made, ‘few contributions might be forthcoming’. It further acknowledged that if this were to happen, it ‘would send out a wrong message.’ In spite of this, the Team recommended ‘that the Guild issues an appeal for a Fund for Gujarat through its members.’ (p. 28, 29) The logic of the recommendations seem to bypass us. An even more intriguing aspect to this, is the behaviour of two of the members of the team, Padgaonkar and Aakar Patel, who are themselves editors of The Times of India and Mid-Day, respectively. The former is a national paper, and the group has publications in languages other than English. The latter is the leading English eveninger from Mumbai, and has an Urdu daily which leads in Mumbai in terms of circulation. It is indeed surprising that these two members of the team have not taken a lead in implementing their own recommendation to the Guild. Did they realise that few contributions would be forthcoming? It would not be out of place to inquire why. Indeed, if the editors had even a modicum of sincerity, they should have already made a statement in this respect. Perhaps the experience of Professor Kunal Chattopadhyay, history professor and an activist of the Gujarat Solidarity Committee against Communalism in Kolkatta, has warned them of the public reaction. Those collecting relief for the victims of the Gujarat carnage in Kolkata have been confronted with the question, often laced with anger and sarcasm, why their conscience does not cry for the Hindus of Bangladesh who are subjected to continuous communal atrocities. (Times News Network, May 6, 2002.) Another clue can be given by what was written in the Gujarati media from Mumbai. A pertinent article is ‘Proved years before that secularists are anti-Hindus’ that appeared in the Gujarati Mid-Day, April 29, 2002, written by its editor Saurabh Shah. This publication
comes out of the same stable as the one edited by Aakar Patel, a member of the Editors Guild Team. Having said this, we recognise that in the issue dated June 12, 2002, The Hindustan Times has come out with a small announcement (8cms x 2 cols) on its Oped page issuing an appeal to its readers to contribute to fund started by it to help the victims of the violence in Gujarat. It is important to note that there was no mention about the amount that the publication itself was going to contribute as a starter to the fund.
Investigate why events keep on happening Whenever a fire takes place, the first thing to be done is to extinguish it, so that the damage is minimised. However, if one were to stop at this stage, and not inquire why the fire has taken place in the first instance, one is laying the groundwork for repeated occurrences of the blaze, causing greater damage in each subsequent happening. The inquiry into the cause of fire can often lead to finding out other possible causes. Thus for getting a long-term solution, the inquiry is essential. Often the case with the English media is that it has indulged in only dealing with the immediate instances, without trying to find out the background of the same. In this context, the question that the Prime Minister raised in Goa on April 12, 2002, asking who lit the fire in Gujarat is most relevant. Instead of heeding to this suggestion, the Prime Minister was criticised for bringing up this valid point. It would seem to us that the English media is happy to play a role of a fire-fighter rather than a fire-preventer. Here it would not be out of place to also inquire why the leaders and the cadre of the Congress party did not play a role of physical guardians of the Muslims, in attempting to prevent the riots that followed the Godhra massacre. This issue was dealt thoroughly with by MV Kamath in his article in The Times of India dated May 8, 2002. A similar point has been made by Abdul Rahman Antulay, while resigning as chairman of the minorities department the Congress Party. (The Indian Express, July 13, 2002.) Concern of Businesses The media has highlighted the concern of some business leaders who have expressed anguish about the post-Godhra events in Gujarat. However, the views expressed by T Thomas, former Chairman of Hindustan Lever Ltd, do not form part of the mainstream treatment of the causes behind the sad events. While the anguish of people such as Deepak Parekh and Anu Aga have been widely published, some of the important points they made are swept under the carpet. For example, Parekh said that ‘everyone knows Godhra is a volatile city’. (The Indian Express, March 29, 2002) Why is it volatile? This would have been apparent in a proper analysis of who lit the fire. Aga said, ‘If in the past the minority has been pampered and given concessions, it needs to be looked at afresh. If in the past, practices went against the majority, we need to have the guts to reverse them. Muslims will have to come out of the clutches of
fundamentalism. Let us have public debates on these issues.’ (The Indian Express, April 8, 2002) Will the English media in India take a lead in conducting these debates? Thomas, in his article ‘Can Muslims become secular’? said, ‘The antipathy towards Muslim is shared even by other minorities, like Christians and Sikhs. Secondly the Gujarat incidents and the reactions to them show how isolated the Muslim community has become.’ He then went on to make some important suggestions on how to retrieve the situation saying that ‘the purpose of (his) article is to examine with sympathy the steps the Muslim community can take to change the national perception about itself.’ (Business Standard, April 26, 2002) Forster’s quote The manner in which the English media reported about EM Forster’s quote in the English language question paper for the Gujarat Secondary Education Board for the 12th class shows its ideological inclination. The impression given by the English media in India was that this was a deliberate attempt on part of the Bharatiya Janata Party government to rub salt in the wounds of the Muslims in Gujarat. This particular exam was conducted on March 22, 2002, while the riots started about three weeks prior to this. Thus, if the accusation was correct, then it would mean that the question paper was set during the intervening periods of riots. The Editors Guild Report labels the question as ‘singularly insensitive’, clearly implying that it was deliberately included in the test. (p. 24) One has to wonder if the English media know anything about the manner in which question papers are set, and the time process involved. The examination board chairman was forced to come out with a statement that the papers were set in September 2001, and the particular question was formulated by a member of one of the minority communities. The Editors Guild Report compounds its ridiculousness by calling the official explanation as an attempt to ‘assuage’ (sic) the feelings of hurt. When the facts came out, did the English media admit that its treatment in this particular issue was wrong? But then admission of such a blunder does not form part of the journalistic practice of the English media in India. (Is it any wonder, then, that Sandesh follows such august tradition?) The exams in Gujarat The exams in Gujarat to be held in early March were postponed, due to the riots in the state. When the Gujarat government decided to hold the exams according to a revised schedule, the English media termed it as irresponsible, claiming that the situation was still not normal. As an intention of its sincerity, the government made special transport arrangements for the students, especially those living in the refugee camps and from the sensitive areas of the cities.
A concerted effort was made by various Muslim leaders and ‘secularists’ to create a sense of insecurity amongst the students. However, most of the students wanted to appear for the exam, and decided to use the transport provided by the government. The English media reported instances of some of the local Muslim leaders in Ahmedabad forcibly taking the children out of the buses. According to a report in The Indian Express (March 19, 2002) at some points, from where Muslim students were to be bussed under police guard to centres in the city’s riot-free western parts, some Muslim leaders stood by trying to coerce candidates to boycott the exams. Some of the students who were already in the bus, were forced to get off. The newspaper report says that the family members had to make their own private arrangements for transporting their wards to the examination centres. While The Indian Express reported that 9,000 out of 14,000 Muslim students attended the exams on the first day of the revised schedule, The Times of India said that only 10% did so. The latter in its editorial dated April 20 termed the 10% figure as ‘predictable’. Would it not be pertinent to ask who predicted it? It appears to us that The Times of India in particular seems to have made special efforts at creating tension in the minds of the Muslim students, so that their ‘prediction’ would come true. The English media in India found no reason to castigate the Muslims leaders who coerced the students of their community to boycott the exams. In fact, we get the impression that it was supporting such a blatantly anti-social activity. Similarly, there has been a report in The Hindu (May 13, 2002) that a politician from Kerala flew in Ahmedabad especially to scuttle a meeting of 35 imams called to discuss relief measures with the Chief Minister. This is another example of keeping the Muslim community away from the mainstream. This too did not receive any adverse comment from the English media.
The Gujarat Stated Education Department had asked the schools to conduct Dharti Puja in context of the first anniversary of the devastating earthquake of January 26, 2001. The Editors Guild Report uses this as an example of a ‘warped mindset’ being created, and implies that such a move will prevent India from going into the 21st century. (p. 25) This clearly exposes the cultural alienation of the Editors Guild Team as it uses a western idiom to explain issues to the people of this land. A puja for a Hindu has a cultural significance when used in the context it is being done. A temple is not just a religious structure, but also has social significance. It is no wonder that in the movie Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Ghum, in a song with the same name, we have the following words: Yeh ghar nahi hai, mandir tera....... (This is not just your home, but also your temple?.) Loaded questions by the English media
Rajdeep Sardesai, political editor of NDTV, seems to know what Justice KG Shah, appointed by the state government to inquire in the riots, will report even before the Shah commission has started its work. In the interview of Justice Shah, Sardesai asks how the report will differ from the one made by National Human Rights Commission, and ‘given’ that ‘the government’s link with the riots’ will ‘emerge’. This is reported on the NDTV website on April 3, 2002. Vikas Singh, in an interview of William H Lash III, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, USA, makes a special effort of trying to get Lash to say that investment in India will be affected by the riots in Gujarat. He asks, ‘Hypothetically, wouldn’t someone thinking of investing in India have second thoughts now’? Lash gives a brilliant reply: ‘I never discuss hypothetical questions. I never give hypothetical answers. I never engage in economic discussion of a human tragedy.’ (The Times of India, May 10, 2002) In a signed editorial ‘Is India Rwanda’? in Outlook, Vinod Mehta wrote: ‘.... Are we equating state terrorism with an act of terrorism committed by a group of crazy, bigoted individuals’ ... When law-abiding citizens are being burnt alive by mobs, objective journalism needs to be jettisoned; the media has no option but to tell the story from the side of the victims so that the country can see the grisly events.? (Outlook, March 18, 2002) However, Mehta would not apply these standards in case of the victims of the Godhra massacre or of the Islamic fundamentalists in Kashmir and other parts of India. In an article in The Times of India, Vidya Subramaniam said, ‘Godhra was an attack on Hindus that Mr Modi didn’t prevent.? What is implied here is that Modi KNEW an attack on the Hindus was going to take place, and that he deliberately did not take any action. (The Times of India, May 6, 2002) We wonder if it is at all possible to even come close to discussing such nonsense. These four examples are not exceptions, but the rule. It would seem that the various correspondents in the English media are competing with each other as to who can situate the events in a manner that would do maximum harm to the image of the country. It would not be out of place to mention that the journalistic unprofessional views expressed by Vinod Mehta, though quoted in the Editors Guild Report (p. 15) have not received any adverse comments from the Editors Guild Team. Pogrom, etc. The Editors Guild Report frequently uses words like pogrom, massacre, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, in describing the post-Godhra events in Gujarat. If these terms are valid for Gujarat, would it not be fair to say that it has an even greater validity in Kashmir, where the scale of deaths and refugees is much higher? However, the English media in India refuses to use the terms for Jammu & Kashmir.
This habit is nothing new. In March 1998, in context of the alleged attacks on Christians on a communal basis, Arun Shourie had narrated the following dialogue between him and an American journalist. ‘And what about the pogroms that go on from time to time’,? the caller asked. Late at night, an editorial writer with one of the world’s best-known papers was calling from the USA. It was becoming evident that the BJP would form the Government, he was gathering background information. ‘What did you say’,? I asked. Even though I had heard the word clearly enough, I wanted to see if he would repeat it. ‘Pogroms,’ he repeated. ‘What do you mean, ‘pogroms’’? ‘It is an East-European term....,’ he began. Now, even a brown Asiatic like me knows the meaning of the word. The person had lived in India for some time, as the India correspondent of this important paper -- enough years to know that even we know that it is a term which is used to describe the massacre of millions of white Europeans by white Europeans.? (India Connect, March 23, 1998) In an article in the Mid-Day, KR Sundar Rajan, wrote: ‘After (December 6, 1992), many (foreign) journalist flew down to report ... India’s impending collapse. But newsmen back home were disappointed. One told me he expected a Bosnian-type civil war between Hindus and Muslims. ‘We were influenced by what your own government and newspapers said, (who) painted a very depressing and unbalanced picture of India,’ he said.’ (July 13, 1993) It would seem to us that hysterical writings are a special feature of the English media in India. Perverting the Prime Minister’s pronouncements The English media make much of the report that the Prime Minister asked the Chief Minister of Gujarat to follow the principles of Raj Dharma in administering the affairs of the state. It was implied that it was the opinion of the Prime Minister that the Chief Minister had failed in his duty. However, this was completely contrary to what the Prime Minister had said. When a reporter asked if he had any message for the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister said: ‘I have only this message for the Chief Minister - that he follow Raj Dharma (The Duty of the Ruler). Raj Dharma. This phrase is sufficiently meaningful. I have been following it, I have been trying to follow it. For a ruler, for the Government, there cannot be any distinction and discrimination between one citizen and another. Neither on the basis of birth, nor on the basis of caste or religion. I believe that Narendra Modi is following it.’ (Emphasis added) (P. 21, Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Communal Violence in Gujarat, DAVP, April 2002) Similarly, in context of his speech at a public meeting coinciding with the Bharatiya Janata Party National Executive in Goa on April 12, 2002, the Editors Guild Report accuses the Prime Minister of speaking in terms of ‘we’ and ‘they’. (p. 29, 30) In this context, we would like to quote what Sajid Bhombal had to say in his column on Rediff on Net: ‘In my previous article, I had accused the prime minister of speaking in a ‘we and them’ language. That was based on media reports. Going by the actual speech he
delivered, made available very late, it seems he did not use that language. I apologise to the prime minister and the readers on that point, though I stand by my criticism of him on other points.’ (May 11, 2002) This opinion of Bhombal is reinforced by Shekhar Gupta, Editor-in-Chief of The Indian Express, in his article ‘Desi Punch, Italian Judy’. He says: ‘I finally heard the prime minister’s Goa speech and one has to concede that he has a right to complain over the way most of the media reported it and what are now popularly believed to be his sweeping remarks against all Muslims. He did use the expression ‘wherever Muslims live... there is discord... etc’. But if you heard the passage in its entirety, he was talking of militant Muslims. The offending sentence flowed from the main argument and his not qualifying the Muslims he was talking about once again as the jehadi/militant types. This was, at best, a sin of absent-mindedness. Though one might still question the prudence of raising the issue of militant Islam while Gujarat was still burning, and where more than 90 per cent of the victims were Muslim, you have to accept that on this particular remark Vajpayee had been condemned unfairly.’ (May 4, 2002) The English media is very selective in using the words of people to project its ideology. This, we think, is bad journalism. The case of the Newton’s Theory The English media in India gives an impression to be particularly upset with the Gujarat Chief Minister for his alleged use of Newton in explaining the Hindu reaction to the massacre at Godhra. The Newton analogy seems now to be part of the mainstream parlance in the English media when talking about the Gujarat Chief Minister and the violence. It is important to take note of the news item entitled ‘‘Newton’ Modi has a lot of explaining to do’, in which it would seem that the CM has specifically used the Newton’s third law (quoted in the publication as ‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’) to ‘virtually justify what is happening’. It is also pertinent to note the first sentence of the item - ‘Fish rots from the top, and if the ugly event unfolding in Gujarat over the past four days are any indication, the same holds true of governance too.’ (The Times of India, March 3, 2002) The Government of Gujarat, on the very day of the item having appeared, sent a letter to Dileep Padgaonkar, about the content and the tone of the news item. (The letter was published in the Guild report, P. 73, 74). This denial was not published by the newspaper even to this day. However, the Newton analogy is now being used freely all over the English media. Once again, it is clear that Sandesh is following the tradition of its national counterparts. The Annexure 4A of the Editors Guild Report in which a transcript of the interview of The Gujarat Chief Minister by Zee TV is given, the CM has said that though there is an action followed by a reaction, he wants neither the action nor the reaction to take place. He has not used neither the name of Newton to explain the situation, nor provided any justification for the riots that followed.
Quoting from known anti-RSS organisations The Editors Guild Report quotes favourably from the various reports of organisations like Sahamat and Communalism Combat. These organisations have the same ideological base as the English media, and therefore it is like patting oneself on one’s own back. Here we would like to specifically mention what Teesta Setalvad had to say on the massacre at Godhra. In a report in The Washington Post she opined on the Godhra incident that she condemns today’s gruesome attack but ‘you cannot pick up an incident in isolation. Let us not forget the provocation. These people were not going for a benign assembly. They were indulging in blatant and unlawful mobilization to build a temple and deliberately provoke the Muslims in India.’ (February 28, 2002), The Editors Guild Report talks about the report ‘Genocide, Gujarat 2002’, from the March-April issue of Communalism Combat. (p. 13) What is not mentioned is that this report talks about the Godhra massacre in terms of a reaction to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi movement, and that there are no photos of even the burning train, let alone the charred bodies of women and children. Temptation of the lucre The Indian Express and The Times of India and other newspapers have condemned the Narendra Modi government on many aspects related to the riots. They have alleged that not only did it not do anything to prevent the riots that took place after the massacre in Godhra but that it connived with the rioters in indulging in the vandalism. This was done not only in terms of the reporting made and the columns (by guests and staff writers) written, but also in harsh editorials, making a whole range of serious allegations. Yet, they accepted large advertisements from the Narendra Modi government purporting to show that it did fulfil its Raj Dharma and the economy of the state was hardly impacted by the riots. Does the lure of advertisement revenue so enamour them that they shamefacedly abdicate their alleged moral stand’ Projecting that the Godhra killing was due to provocation The Editors Guild Report refers to a news item in a Hindi daily Jan Morcha from Ayodhya, dated February 25, 2002. The news talks about letting loose ‘a reign of terror upon dozens of helpless Muslim passengers, burqa clad women and innocent children’ by Bajrang Dal activists going to Ayodhya on Sabarmati Express. (p. 4) There have also been reports of alleged misbehaviour of the Ram Sevaks on the Sabarmati Express which was torched at Godhra, prior to its arrival at this station. The news of this alleged misconduct had reached Godhra and it was this that motivated 2000 Muslims to gather to undertake the dastardly act.
In fact, there have been multiple stories of ‘provocations’, and not just a single one. It would seem that the English media had gone on a competitive splurge of narrating all types of possible ‘provocations’. The classic case was that of the anonymous email which was circulated all over the world, and which was supposed to have quoted two Godhra based reporters, Anil Soni and his wife Neelam. Their report, according to the email, talked about the Ram Sevaks kidnapping a 16-year Muslim girl from Godhra station and later raping her in the S-6 compartment. The Editors Guild Report mentions this email and also the comments of Prem Shankar Jha in Outlook dated March 25, 2002, which rubbishes it. However, Editors Guild Team seems to be discounting Jha’s comments by saying that ‘nevertheless’ there have been other reports talking about ‘provocation’ by the Ram Sevaks. (p. 3, 4) It seems to us that the Editors Guild Team accepts that there was a ‘provocation’ by the Ram Sevaks. It will have to explain how this ‘provocation’ encourages 2000 Muslims in Godhra to gather to undertake the massacre of the Hindus on the train. While some of the ‘provocations’ are supposed to have happened a few hours before the arrival of the train at Godhra (incidents that would have happened, if true, around 4:00 am when the day had not yet dawned), others are supposed to have happened a few minutes before the gathering of the 2000 Muslims. Why does the English media find it necessary to undertake such a convoluted exercise? Projecting that the Godhra killing was not pre-planned After the known failure of trying to justify the massacre of the Hindus in Godhra, the English media has undertaken a programme to say that the Godhra massacre was not pre-planned. The perverted height was reached by an ‘investigative report’ made by Rajdeep Sardesai which was posted on the NDTV website posted on May 3, 2002. The various issues like the gathering of 2000 Muslims, use of kerosene, etc., had been raised earlier in various publications. Sardesai found it necessary to ignore these points; otherwise he would have had to accept that this ‘investigation’ was patently false. In terms of using information selectively, the English media make no mention of a letter by George Joseph, a resident of Godhra, in Mathrubhumi, (a leading Malayalam daily) dated 20th April 2002. The Editors Guild Team had the necessary resources to access and translates an item in a small Hindi daily, Jan Morcha, to justify their theory of provocation of the Muslims in Godhra; they seem to be unaware of reports that would repudiate their theory. Interestingly, the present Chairperson of the Editor’s Guild hails from the very state where Mathrubhumi is published. Projecting that post-Godhra violence was planned Even as the above two projects were going on, the English media went in top gear to project that the post-Godhra violence was pre-planned. It would then follow that the ‘provocation’ of the Ram Sevaks on the Sabarmati Express was also part of this planning,
since there was a need to have an excuse to indulge in the rioting. Again, one sees a fertile convoluted mind in the English media. While not related to the English media, it needs to mention that the supposedly leaked report prepared by the British High Commission ‘found’ that this violence was six months in planning. (The Hindustan Times, April 15, 2002) If the leaked report is true, we find it amazing that the team from the British High Commission has come to this startling conclusion in a matter of two/three days of visit to Gujarat. We find it even more amazing that the English media has lapped up the findings. Perhaps, given their ideological inclination, one should not be amazed. The Editors Guild Report says: ‘A Muslim liberal in Ahmedabad complained, more in sorrow than in anger, that many contemporary and contextual articles he had sent in recent times to the local English newspapers were never used. He pleaded that the media, especially the English language press with its national reach, should find space for local liberal, modern Muslim voices and enables them to network.’ (p. 16) Is this not a condemnation of the English media in India? And is this not the practice of the English media in India in all aspects relating to Islam and Muslim? The case of the foetus There have been reports about a pregnant Muslim woman whose stomach was allegedly ripped open, and her foetus was taken out, and both were burnt. To the best of our knowledge the first mention about this was in a report on the BBC around March 6. The reporter, however, said that this is uncorroborated, but he felt ‘duty bound’ to mention it. The next reference comes in an article by Harsh Mander in The Times of India dated March 20, 2002. Then there seems to be a pause, except for others using the Mander article as an ‘authentic’ source. Then we have a report dated April 16, and published on the Tehelka website posted on April 19. This report was prepared by six women and was sponsored by the Citizens’ Initiative of Ahmedabad. The Tehelka report has recorded a statement on March 27 by one Saira Banu, who talked about her ‘sister-in-law’s sister? (sic), Kausar Banu, as being the victim of the above related incident. The narration gives an indication that Saira Banu was the witness to the happening. In the very next paragraph, the report acknowledges that this story was heard from many others, but that ‘the details would vary - the foetus was dashed to the ground, the foetus was slaughtered with a sword, the foetus was swung on the point of the sword and then thrown into a fire.’ In the same report there was a recorded statement of one Jannat Bibi (along with Kulsum Bibi) both of Jawan Nagar, Naroda Patia, Ahmedabad. They talked about February 28, 2002, and the statement was recorded on March 27, 2002. They talked about being ‘confronted by a crowd of several thousands, armed with trishuls and swords’, that at least some of the crowd were wearing ‘khakhi shorts’, and that the
police had suddenly opened fire in which Muslim men (no women) were killed. There is no mention about any rape or any foetus being taken out of a woman’s womb. There is also a testimony of one Jannat Sheikh of Kumbhaji Ni Chali, Naroda patiya, Ahmedabad. The event of 28th February 2002 is titled ‘Rape of a Family’. It talks about two of the female members of her family being raped, and she witnessed to ‘unmarried girls from my street (being) stripped, raped and burnt.’ There is no indication whether either of these two Jannats have become the person who has petitioned the President of India and Sonia Gandhi, the President of Congress Party, or the one who has filed the FIR in the alleged case of the killing of the foetus along with its mother, Kausar Banu. (It needs to be mentioned that in an article in by Javed Akhtar in The Indian Express dated May 6, 2002, he says that the witness to the crime is one Amina of Husain Nagar.) It is only in the month of May, 2002, that there are flurry of articles about the alleged foetus case, with some of them converting this one crime into a number - vide Arundhati Roy, Gail Omvedt, Praful Bidwai, and Darryl d’Monte. We find all this very strange. Spit and run One of the features of the English media in India is to make some wild allegations, and then ask the opponent to prove it otherwise. In the process, the opponent has to spend a large amount of time and other resources to establish that the allegations are bogus. This ties up the opponent into an unproductive activity. In her article ‘Democracy: Who’s She When She’s at Home’?, Arundhati Roy begins with the following: ‘Last night a friend from Baroda called. Weeping. It took her fifteen minutes to tell me what the matter was. It wasn’t very complicated. Only that Sayeeda, a friend of hers, had been caught by a mob. Only that her stomach had been ripped open and stuffed with burning rags. Only that after she died, someone carved ‘OM’ on her forehead.’ And then she asks: ‘Precisely which Hindu scripture preaches this’? (Outlook, May 6, 2002) Fine words indeed. Also very moving. But what is the truth in this incident? Balbir Punj, a journalist and presently a Rajya Sabha MP from the BJP, wanted to find it out. In his article ‘Dissimulation in Words’, he writes: ‘Shocked by this despicable ‘incident’, I got in touch with the Gujarat government. The police investigations revealed that no such case, involving someone called Sayeeda, had been reported either in urban or rural Baroda. Subsequently, the police sought Roy’s help to identify the victim and seek access to witnesses who could lead them to those guilty of this crime. But the police got no cooperation. Instead, Roy, through her lawyer, replied that the police had no power to issue summons. Why is she hedging behind technical excuses’? (Outlook, July 8, 2002)
Punj further writes: ‘But this sort of sophism is not new for Gujarat. The people decrying Gujarat as a ‘fascist state in the making’ are the ones who spun stories about alleged attacks on Christians in Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra.’ In the subsequent issue of Outlook (July 15, 2002) Roy has responded to Punj’s article in her usual flippant manner. However, all that she needed to do was give the name and address of the friend in Vadodara who was weeping on the phone for fifteen minutes, and also the full name of the victim identified by only the first name as Sayeeda, as well as the address. There the matter would have rested as far as Roy was concerned. In the May 6 essay, Roy reports about the daughters of Ehsan Jaffri, the ex-Member of Parliament from the Congress Party, being killed along with him in Ahmedabad. The Jaffri family wrote saying that his children were not in the city at the time, and in fact one of them is living in the USA. When the discrepancy was pointed out she says that she got the information from two other sources ‘ one a report in the Time magazine of the USA, and another an ‘independent fact-finding mission’ which consisted of a former Inspector General of Police of Tripura and a former Finance Secretary, Government of India. Roy admitted her mistake in a letter to Outlook dated May 27, 2002. The amazing part of the apology letter is as follows: ‘This and other genuine errors in recounting the details of the violence in Gujarat in no way alters the substance of what journalists, fact-finding missions, or writers like myself are saying.’ Which means that one can have the facts wrong, but still hold on to the conclusion that is arrived at on the basis of the wrong facts. Or is it a case that one arrives at a conclusion and then find the facts that would fit the conclusion? This is a standard practice for the English media in India. Middle class participation in the Gujarat riots A feature of the riots after the massacre of Hindus in Godhra, is the large participation of the Hindu middle class, women, dalits and vanvasis. In some ways it has mirrored what happened in Mumbai in January 1993, after the burning of the Bane family in Jogeshwari. The participation of the middle class and women surprised the police, as has been acknowledged by the Police Commissioner when he said: ‘Surprisingly, these mobs were being led by educated people - advocates, doctors, and the rich.’ (The Times of India, March 15, 2002.) On this point, an avowed secularist wrote as follows: ‘Over the following weeks, the same people who denounced the backlash against minority communities in America following September 11 made statements like ‘the Muslims should be driven out of town’ and ‘the VHP should burn down two or three more mosques’. The people behind these words are not hooligans but kind, educated and generally reasonable people. And yet during these moments their eyes gloss over and create a thin film that
separates them from reality.’ (Reena Shah in Hyphenated homelands, The Week, April 7, 2002.) The English media has tried to give its own perverted spin to the participation of the dalits and the vanvasis in the riots, as being yet another example of the exploitation by the upper castes to do their bidding. They have said that there has been a deliberate attempt by the Sangh Parivar to indoctrinate these groups into hating the Muslims. They do not think that these have a legitimate reason for feeling antagonised by the actions of at least some of the Muslims that they have dealt with. The English media has found it inconvenient to make a proper inquiry into all these aspects. And in the process has ensured that it will refuse to do proper analysis into the causes, which in fact is the only way to prevent violence from taking place in the future. Biases in the report We have indicated in elsewhere in the analysis the manner in which the Editors Guild Team has dealt with various issues relating to the subject of the Report. For example, the Team does not accept that the Godhra massacre was pre-planned. The narration of the exam question relating to the Forster’s quote and of the conduct of the exams in general, would clearly indicate that there is a huge prejudice on part of the Team. Our analysis begins with the manner in which the Editors Guild Team set out in its task. The tactics used was similar to first call a dog mad, and then shoot it. The Section ‘The Fuse is Lit’ in the Editors Guild Report begins with the following: ‘Meanwhile, on February 27 itself, subsequent incidents of violence in Godhra town were brought under control but trouble erupted elsewhere in the district and other parts of the State. The torched carriage No. S-6 was detached and the Sabarmati Express continued its journey, disgorging traumatised passengers en route at Vadodara, Anand and Ahmedabad. Word spread. The return of badly charred bodies to, grieving families stirred passions. The VHP sounded a call for a Gujarat bandh on February 28 which was endorsed by the ruling party. An ‘ashti yatra’ was mooted but fortunately called off in time. However, Gujarat was already in flames.’ (p. 4) The manner in which the ashti yatra is mentioned would give an idea that it was part of a programme of February 28, the day after the massacre in Godhra. It is well known that this programme of the VHP was announced around mid-March and scheduled for March 20. As mentioned elsewhere in the analysis, the Editors Guild Report gives an indication that the team does not accept that the Godhra massacre was pre-planned. In the Editors Guild Report, it is said: ‘In Ahmedabad, the National Medicos Organisation on April 2 gave the Guild Team a ‘provocative’ Hindi leaflet ending with the slogan ‘Pakistan Zindabad’.’ (p. 20) We do not understand the need to use the word provocative in inverted commas. This has given us an impression that the Editors Guild Team does not accept that the leaflet is provocative. However, when a blatantly false leaflet allegedly authored by the RSS, the Team does not use any inverted commas
or any other sign, clearly indicates that the Team accepts the authenticity of such leaflets. The Editors Guild Report says: ‘The same ‘medico’ representation was strongly critical of the English press’? Here too the use of inverted commas for the word medico would clearly indicate the mindset of the authors of the report. In reference to the meeting with the editor of the Gujarati daily, Sandesh, the Report says: ‘We met this press baron on one of the higher floors of his plush and gleaming new office in Ahmedabad, far above the dust and din of the city sprawled below.’ (p. 6) The objective of this was to create an image of one who is not in touch with what is happening at the street level. It is also designed to give an image of arrogance on part of the editor of Sandesh. In case of those whom the Editors Guild Team would call secular, we do not see any inelegant imagery being created of the person. For example, in case of publications to which the Team has given a certificate of being ‘moderate and balanced in approach’, the Report merely says: ‘In Ahmedabad we, met editors of three other dailies, Sambhav (four editions), Prabhat (Ahmedabad, Mehsana) and Gujarat Today (which has a Muslim ownership).’ (p. 9) The Editors Guild Team calls Professor JS Bandukwala, of Vadodara, as ‘a man whose secular ethos continues to burn bright even after going through a terrible ordeal.’ (p. 17) In a letter to the editor of The Times of India, the same professor has this to say: ‘Muslims are desperate for socio-economic change, for good education and for economic development. The only condition which Muslims impose on a reformer is that he operates within the parameters of Islam.’ (June 10, 1994) It is thus clear that the professor can see Muslims only in terms of Islam, even on issues which are clearly of secular nature. A constant lament of the so-called secularists has been that whenever they talked about the post-Godhra events in Gujarat, they were asked about their views on the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits, 300,000 of whom have become refugees in their own country, and living in temporary camps for the last thirteen years. Instead of dealing with the issue, they merely mention their lament, as if the other person has no right of questioning them on the issue. We are amazed to find out that even as they have printed numerous letters on the apathy of the English media in India on the desperate state of the Pandits, no coverage has been afforded to this hapless section of our society. We have found no editorials, no analysis of the plight of the community and the hardships suffered by them, no picture stories of the wretched conditions of the camps, etc. We find this disregard callous. We feel that the members of the Team have an agenda in which truth has a very small role to play. It is indeed a reflection of the bankruptcy of intellectualism in India that the Editors Guild finds it necessary to have to publish such a document in the name of secularism. Conclusion
A feature in the Hindu-Muslim relationship in India is the occurrence of riots at regular intervals over the last at least hundred years. That such events keep recurring is a clear indication of what we have said that the analysis of why a fire takes place is rarely made. This confirms our claim that the English media in India is only interested in undertaking a role of a fire-fighter rather than a fire-preventer. The Editors Guild Report is yet another example of not doing the necessary analysis of what is happening. Furthermore, it seems to make a special effort of demonising the Hindu organisations and their supporters. And this is why we find the righteousness of Editors Guild Team to be phoney.
Author: Vir Sanghvi Publication: The Hindustan Times Date: February 28, 2002 There is something profoundly worrying in the response of what might be called the secular establishment to the massacre in Godhra. Though there is some dispute over the details, we now know what happened on the railway track. A mob of 2,000 people stopped the Sabarmati Express shortly after it pulled out of Godhra station. The train contained several bogeys full of kar sewaks who were on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the Poorna Ahuti Yagya at Ayodhya. The mob attacked the train with petrol and acid bombs. According to some witnesses, explosives were also used. Four bogies were gutted and at least 57 people, including over a dozen children, were burnt alive. Some versions have it that the kar sewaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans; others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers. According to these versions, the Muslim passengers got off at Godhra and appealed to members of their community for help. Others say that the slogans were enough to enrage the local Muslims and that the attack was revenge. It will be some time before we can establish the veracity of these versions, but some things seem clear. There is no suggestion that the kar sewaks started the violence. The worst that has been said is that they misbehaved with a few passengers. Equally, it does seem extraordinary that slogans shouted from a moving train or at a railway platform should have been enough to enrage local Muslims, enough for 2,000 of them to have quickly assembled at eight in the morning, having already managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs. Even if you dispute the version of some of the kar sewaks - that the attack was premeditated and that the mob was ready and waiting - there can be no denying that what happened was indefensible, unforgivable and impossible to explain away as a consequence of great provocation. And yet, this is precisely how the secular establishment has reacted. Nearly every non-BJP leader who appeared on TV on Wednesday and almost all of the media have treated the massacre as a response to the Ayodhya movement. This is fair enough in so far as the victims were kar sewaks. But almost nobody has bothered to make the obvious follow-up point: this was not something the kar sewaks brought on themselves. If a trainload of VHP volunteers had been attacked while returning after the demolition of the Babri masjid in December 1992, this would still have been wrong, but at least one could have understood the provocation.
This time, however, there has been no real provocation at all. It is possible that the VHP may defy the government and the courts and go ahead with the temple construction eventually. But, as of now, this has not happened. Nor has there been any real confrontation at Ayodhya - as yet. And yet, the sub-text to all secular commentary is the same: the kar sewaks had it coming to them. Basically, they condemn the crime; but blame the victims. Try and take the incident out of the secular construct that we, in India, have perfected and see how bizarre such an attitude sounds in other contexts. Did we say that New York had it coming when the Twin Towers were attacked last year? Then too, there was enormous resentment among fundamentalist Muslims about America’s policies, but we didn’t even consider whether this resentment was justified or not. Instead we took the line that all sensible people must take: any massacre is bad and deserves to be condemned. When Graham Staines and his children were burnt alive, did we say that Christian missionaries had made themselves unpopular by engaging in conversion and so, they had it coming? No, of course, we didn’t. Why then are these poor kar sewaks an exception? Why have we de-humanised them to the extent that we don’t even see the incident as the human tragedy that it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP’s fundamentalist policies? The answer, I suspect, is that we are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer. When this formula does not work -- it is clear now that a well-armed Muslim mob murdered unarmed Hindus - we simply do not know how to cope. We shy away from the truth - that some Muslims committed an act that is indefensible - and resort to blaming the victims. Of course, there are always ‘rational reasons’ offered for this stand. Muslims are in a minority and therefore, they deserve special consideration. Muslims already face discrimination so why make it harder for them? If you report the truth then you will inflame Hindu sentiments and this would be irresponsible. And so on. I know the arguments well because - like most journalists - I have used them myself. And I still argue that they are often valid and necessary. But there comes a time when this kind of rigidly ‘secularist’ construct not only goes too far; it also becomes counter-productive. When everybody can see that a trainload of Hindus was massacred by a Muslim mob, you gain nothing by blaming the murders on the VHP or arguing that the dead men and women had it coming to them.
Not only does this insult the dead (What about the children? Did they also have it coming?), but it also insults the intelligence of the reader. Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women’s compartment suffered the most damage. Any media - indeed, any secular establishment - that fails to take into account the genuine concerns of people risks losing its own credibility. Something like that happened in the mid-Eighties when an aggressive hard secularism on the part of the press and government led even moderate Hindus to believe that they had become second class citizens in their own country. It was this Hindu backlash that brought the Ayodhya movement - till then a fringe activity - to the forefront and fuelled the rise of L.K. Advani’s BJP. My fear is that something similar will happen once again. The VHP will ask the obvious question of Hindus: why is it a tragedy when Staines is burnt alive and merely an ‘inevitable political development’ when the same fate befalls 57 kar sewaks’ Because, as secularists, we can provide no good answer, it is the VHP’s responses that will be believed. Once again, Hindus will believe that their suffering is of no consequence and will be tempted to see the building of a temple at Ayodhya as an expression of Hindu pride in the face of secular indifference. But even if this were not to happen, even if there was no danger of a Hindu backlash, I still think that the secular establishment should pause for thought. There is one question we need to ask ourselves: have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than occasion for Sangh parivar-bashing?
Secularists to blame
Author: Editorial Publication: The Free Press Journal Date: March 2, 2002 The naked dance of death in Gujarat must stop forthwith. If the frenzied mobs do not stop, they must be made to stop. That is the least the administration in Gandhinagar can do. For, whatever the provocation - and, we must grant, it was indeed great - no government worth its salt can allow marauders to take the law into their own hands. Chief Minister Narendra Modi owes it to himself as he does to the people of the State to restore order at the earliest. Already, the alleged laxity of the authorities on Thursday caused anarchy-like conditions in large parts of the State. In particular, Ahmedabad, that old cauldron of religious hatreds, bore the brunt of violent attacks. Incensed by the horrendously inhuman attack on the train bringing back ‘kar sevaks’ from the Ayodhya, on Wednesday morning, tens of hundreds of people in the Gujarat capital took to the streets, targeting shops, homes and other establishments of the minority community. In the surcharged mood of anger -when reason goes out of the front window - these mobs torched men and materials belonging to the minority community. Over one hundred people were reportedly killed in this macabre death of dance. The forces of law and order were found wanting in taming the tempers of the mobs who were provoked into action by the killing in cold blood of their co-religionists a day earlier in Godhra. While the reaction of the mobs in Ahemdabad and elsewhere in the State could be ascribed to the red-hot passions generated by the torching of the two compartments of the Sabarmati Express, the insanity behind the torching itself was hard to understand. What kind of a human being can set fire alive to young women, children and unarmed men in cold blood. And without any provocation. That of the 60-odd people killed at the Godhra station over 40 were women and children speaks of the barbaric mindset of the perpetrators. They were more like biped cattle than human beings. They had deliberately chosen to target the particular compartments because these were mostly occupied by women and children. And there was no denying a pre-meditated plan to torch them. After all, you cannot produce cans of incendiary material like petrol, diesel, etc. at the spur of the moment. A deeper conspiracy to cause a widespread communal conflagration in the country cannot be ruled out. The ISI finds it easy to penetrate sections of our people precisely because it uses the Islamic card to the hilt and deploys currency notes, genuine and counterfeit both, to turn Indians into traitors against this country. Unfortunately, this seditious compact between the ISI and a section of the Indian Muslims is wittingly or unwittingly aided and abetted by our misguided secularists. Notice the muted criticism of the horrific incident of cold-blooded massacre at Godhra
by the so-called secularists and compare it with the hue and cry raised by the same people at the doubtless gruesome killing of the Christian missionary Graham Staines a couple of years ago. Nobody in his right mind could have justified the killing of Staines. No, nobody. But, then, can anyone in his right mind justify the dastardly attack on ‘kar sevaks’ at Godhra? It seems our secularists have two sets of standards to gauge human tragedy. One is for people like Staines and other members of the minority community. And the other is for the large majority community. The cold-blooded massacre of the ‘kar sevaks’ does not evoke angry comment from the secularists and their accomplices among the editorialists precisely because they were ‘kar sevaks’. That would explain why the secularists did not stall proceedings in Parliament on the Godhra outrage though they were foremost in creating a nation-wide shindy over the tragic killing of Staines. In this context, the statement issued by the AIADMK Supremo, J. Jayalalitha, is most apt. Chastising political leaders for making a crass differentiation between violence perpetrated against the majority and minority community, she said the Godhra outrage should be viewed as a crime against humanity.? It is very strange and saddening to see that when such acts are perpetrated against the minorities, all political leaders rush to issue statements of condemnation. But when persons belonging to the majority are subjected to similar perpetration of heinous crimes, not a single political leader has so far issued a statement condemning this barbaric crime. Such acts of senseless violence should be condemned no matter who is responsible for them and no matter who the victims are...? For once, we wholeheartedly endorse Jayalalitha’s sentiments. Indeed, the failure of the secularists to condemn unequivocally the Godhra incident may well have exacerbated further the feelings of the majority community in Gujarat. Ordinary people felt so angry that they took to the streets to wreak vengeance on members of the minority community some of whose members had perpetrated the foulest of foul deeds in Godhra. The secularist argument that the minority community needed special treatment and protection has over the years created a Hindu backlash. The secularists with their blind opposition to anything which respects the sentiments and wishes of the majority community have only helped to justify the rise of militant Hinduism. The mealymouthed arguments of the secularist establishment fail to convince ordinary Hindus when they contemplate the grisly wreckage of the Sabarmati Express. Given the fact that Muslim communalism has acquired a sharper edge in recent years thanks to the influx of petro dollars, the ISI penetration and the general misuse of madrasas to foment anti-national sentiments, our secularists should pause and ponder the folly of their deeds. They have inflicted untold damage by wittingly or unwittingly providing succour to those who mastermind heinous crimes like the burning of innocent women, children
and men in the Sabarmati Express. They need not have died merely because they were ‘kar sevaks.’
Madam, will they be shamed by your blunt words?
Author: S Gurumurthy Publication: The New Indian Express, Chennai Edition Date: March 2, 2002 Commenting on the roasting alive of 60 persons inside the Sabarmati Express in Godhra in Gujarat, she said, ‘it is saddening and strange that when such acts are perpetrated against the minorities all political leaders rush’ to condemn. But when the majority is attacked, ‘not a single political leader’ condemns it. She rubbed it in further. ‘It is not as if crime is a crime only if it is committed against the minorities, and not so if it is committed against the majority community.’ She is also a politician. She is all set to become the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu again. That is Jayalalithaa. Indeed a stunning admonition of the secular pack by one from within. She has exposed and shamed the entire political class by this single statement. She has shown the courage to speak out on the malaise in our secular polity. But the malaise runs deeper. It is not confined to politics. It extends to the entire secular class. And a large intellectual class. It is founded on pseudo-intellectualism and pseudo-secularism that presently form the foundation of the public discourse. Let us analyze this in its full dimension. The reaction of Indian seculars to the gruesome killing of over 58 persons in the train in Godhra was predictable. From Star TV, for which anti-India campaigns are a hobby, to every small English newspaper, virtually it is the dead, that is, ‘the Ram sevaks’, who provoked the mob to kill them. Their thrust: ‘The Ram Sevaks shouted provocative, abusive slogans.’ So goes their report. ‘The local people in Muslim- dominated Godhra got irritated’. This virtually rationalises the rest. It means this: ‘Yes, the roasting of a hundred men, women and children is unfortunate, wrong, condemnable, but inevitable.’ That is, the Ram sevaks invited it upon themselves. Look at the first facts. The Sabarmati Express stops in Godhra for just three minutes. In three minutes a large mob of thousands of people cannot gather. It has to be a planned attack. From what the Home Secretary of Gujarat says and the news reports, a common thread emerges. First, when the train approached Godhra, some people had thrown stones at it. At this point there was no question of any provocative slogans being heard by anyone. Because, from a moving train nothing decipherable can be heard. Second, as soon as the train started moving out of the station, after its three minutes’ halt, some one _ unknown _ pulled the chain and stopped it. It is said that it could be the handiwork of an attacker who had got into the train. The train stopped near the
signal point. It is unlikely that passengers who were being stoned would stop the train to invite being hit. Particularly when the train had many women and children. They would have only liked the train to move away as fast as possible from the place. So the miscreant who stopped the train could not be the victim. He could only be the attacker. Third, as soon as the train stopped the mob did the rest. It rained stones on passengers. One of the coaches was doused with kerosene and petrol and set on fire. The fire, say reports, spread to more compartments. Many passengers jumped out. But those who could not, some 25 women and 15 children, were burnt to death. The sequence establishes not a spontaneous outburst as the seculars in the media attempt to make it out. It does establish a pre-meditated plan to attack the train. The secular media virtually rationalises the killings. Imagine it was the other way round. The passengers had been Muslims, and the attackers Hindus. All hell would have broken loose. ‘Hindu fundamentalists, blood thirsty Bajrang Dal goons on the rampage.’ ‘National shame.’ There would have been a national shutdown. Leader after leader and party after party would have trooped towards Godhra and Ahmedabad. There would have been global condemnation. The nation as a whole would have stood condemned. As chance would have it, those killed were only Hindus, irrelevant to secular India. If a Christian church in thatched roof were attacked, Christian governments in the west to US would pounce on us. If it were Muslims the entire Muslim world would converge on us. Because the burnt were Hindus there was no such danger of any one protesting too much. Even more fortunately, those killed were after all Ram sevaks, Hindu bigots. After all those who attacked them had enough justification because the Ram sevaks were provoking them. So no one was at fault, except those who provoked their own death. Like a victim of rape having invited it upon her. Compare the Godhra carnage with what happened when some tribals torched Staines and his children in Orissa. Hell broke loose. The entire country was set upon and came to a halt. ‘Hindu Fundamentalists, RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal’ goons have snuffed out a great social worker, shouted the secular megaphones _ the media, leaders and parties. Thanks to the media in India and missionaries, the entire world abused India as a country. Then came the report of the Wadhwa Commission on the Staines murder. The former Supreme Court judge ruled out the involvement of RSS or VHP or Bajrang Dal. He also held Staines responsible for effecting conversions, which was disliked by the local tribals. The findings completely falsified the concoctions of the secular media and the minority religious leaders. But the damage had been done. We were projected as a nation of religious bigots. Not a single word of regret from the media, which destroyed the nation’s image in its enthusiasm to finish off the Hindu movements. The same was the case in Jhabua rape. It was established to be an intra-tribal and intraChristian affair. But the secular media and the minorities blamed the Hindus and RSS.
Even after the truth was established the secular media would not report it, much less express regret. Every such concocted charge demeaned India and destroyed its brand. All thanks to the despicable role of the seculars in the media and the minority religious leaders. Christian nations of Europe who had in the past baked over 9 million women as witches and eliminated over 140 million native Americans to create the present Christian US - a historic fact which Bill Clinton recalled in the wake of the World Trade Center attack as what is haunting the US even now _ are advising us about religious harmony. So unlike the Jhabua rape, and the hyped Staines murder, the killing of a hundred Hindus will fortunately not smear the honour of India. For, those women and children, who have been reduced to ashes alive in Godhra, are not Christians or Muslims. So the nation’s name will not be tarnished. No one outside India will ask a question, as fortunately there is no Hindu nation in the world. No one will ask a question for they happen to be not just Hindus, but also Ram sevaks. Their right of existence is lost once they provoked the attackers. So even after being torched alive, the Ram sevaks will have to share the blame for their death. This is the real face of secularism as practised in India, of the secular media, of the secular leaders and of the secular polity. This is what the Ayodhya movement questioned. It is not just a movement for a temple. A temple could not integrate the Hindus as it has done. It is far more. Thanks to this the nation woke up to the pseudo among the seculars. But still the pseudo masquerades as the real. Perhaps the Ayodhya movement will continue as long as the very notion of secularism _ and who is the real secular and who is the pseudo _ is not defined, only to question it. If Gujarat is on fire today, and the country is witnessing fits of communal outburst the secular class has to accept its own share of blame. Jayalalithaa has implicitly condemned the entire secular class, not just the political leaders. Rightly. Will they be shamed into accepting the truth?
Author: Jaya Jaitly Publication: The Indian Express Date: March 7, 2002 Gujarat: the awful price of a skewed politics It is very easy to talk of communal harmony from Delhi and express anger about the failure of the BJP government in Gujarat and the rise of Hindu fundamentalist forces. Marches by Opposition leaders with Parliament and Rashtrapati Bhawan as backdrop, is comfortable politics. Our usual band of intellectuals take the easy route by occupying, as usual, the ‘Letters to the Editor’ columns to condemn and issue appeals. This only makes them look good in the eyes of the converted. It has no effect on inflamed mobs - only the police and the army can have that. There is a whole mass of feelings out there that all these people are missing, and will continue to miss if they remain comfortably secluded in their make-believe worlds. Before this writer is accused of having become saffron, let it be understood that the vast majority of people in India are secular, liberal, tolerant, in other words, normal. What binds all of them is their below-the- surface love for and pride in their country. Since it is so fundamental, it has hardly needed expression. The coming of the BJP to power in many states, and the NDA led by the BJP at the Centre, changed all this. Not because of the BJP and the ‘saffron forces’, but by the self-appointed secularists who politically opposed this combine. Herein lies the root of many pent up antagonisms of normal liberal Hindus who find that it is not the BJP that is encouraging extremist Hindus or terrorising the minorities but the out-of-power forces who must keep alive the fears lurking inside the hearts of the minorities. In this context, two incidents stand out vividly. In early 1998, there was a totally unnecessary furore about singing Vande Mataram in schools. Patriots who are ‘normal’ rather than ‘secular’ questioned: if freedom fighters of all religions sang this in the struggle for Independence, why do the secularists oppose singing it in schools now? Did any MP object when Parliament unanimously decided to sing it at the beginning of every session as suggested by the then Speaker and now Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shivraj Patil? It was a shame that the BJP retreated while the popular musician A.R. Rahman, a Muslim, popularised it amongst the youth. The second incident was when Graham Staines and his sons were burnt alive. Headlines screamed and saffron bogies were desperately sought. George Fernandes was criticised for saying that the widespread publicity given to this incident all over the world only suited the conspirators abroad. The Justice Wadhwa Commission was set up. When it found no complicity of any saffron forces, there was less than muted disappointment expressed by the Opposition. Various Christian platforms were set up from where many worthy gentlemen issued statements every time an unverified incident was reported. The Staines murder became a symbol of the ‘communal’ nature of the NDA and reinforced the idea internationally that it was a ‘Hindu nationalist
government’, as if those adjectives were dirty words in themselves. Since no further incidents happened and the NDA engaged itself with security, fiscal management and infrastructural development, the ‘Hindu’ label faded away. Then came the Godhra incident. The leader of the Opposition - who made sure she was seen going to Tirupati, Kumbh and recently to visit a Hindu seer - and her party were inexplicably reticent in their condemnation of the barbaric and obviously preplanned burning of 58 people in a railway bogey, including women and children. Considering it was Sonia Gandhi who had taken it upon herself to write to the prime minister to call an all-party meeting on Ayodhya and brought about a totally unnecessary adjournment of Parliament, on Godhra there was stubborn silence when the treasury benches begged the Opposition to join in an unanimous condemnation of the event. The frustration and anger felt by many gave rise to the intemperate actions of VHP members as also the eminently sensible and courageous sentiments voiced by Vir Sanghvi in the Hindustan Times. If the foreign-born leader of the Opposition does not sense such feelings but merely tries to be ‘politically correct’, she does not understand what is going on in Gujarat. It is this kind of skewed politics that irks the liberal Indian and activates the fundamentalist Hindus, giving rise to attacks that, for the first time, were not limited to cities and towns but spread to rural areas. Gujarat, from Delhi’s drawing rooms, is seen as a modern, developed state with a fairly efficient administration. This is still true but local perceptions have changed. It borders Pakistan, and like the states of Bihar, UP and West Bengal, has seen the rapid rise of unregistered madrasas, plush Muslim owned hotels and a new fiercely manifested Muslim identity. People are now wary of each other and are quietly moving to different locations. If this sudden and recent prosperity was indigenously generated, why should the Muslims fear BJP rule when they were prospering under it? The fact is that in many cases this prosperity has been brought about by large sums of money coming from across the border. This remains unnoticed to all but the normally peace-loving Hindus of all castes in Gujarat. People like the municipal councilor of Godhra, and other Muslim office bearers of the Congress party who are anti-social or foreign-funded elements taking refuge under the party banner, have spread across the state. The Hindus feel increasingly annoyed that nothing is done by the BJP government to stop their jehadi activities for fear of the secularist media, and the secularist Opposition turns a blind eye anyway. If anyone from the NDA mentions unregistered madrasas or the ISI, the Opposition response matches that of Pakistan’s President Musharraf or that of Alimuddin street in Kolkata when the hapless chief minister of West Bengal was forced by his own party to retract his factual statements. It is a combination of this simmering discontent over perceived inaction in dealing with ISI activities along with the traditional loot and arson that takes place during riots because of animosities between rootless anti- socials and the less than adequate response of the Opposition to the barbaric and premeditated events of Godhra that kept the violence fuelled in Gujarat. The government was unable to contain it; even the Congress is unable to provide a healing touch. We are left with ridiculous demands for the state to be handed over to the army, and celebrity activists who conduct self-serving
press conferences. The end result will be further polarisation and the rise of fundamentalists on both sides. If Godhra had been adequately condemned, perhaps the retaliation would have been more easily contained. If the intellectuals and the so-called secular Opposition leave it to the fundamentalists, violence is what we will get. Whether we like it or not, they were the only ones who reflected the anger against Godhra, when both the secular media and politicians had failed. (The writer is a Samata Party leader)
Godhra, ‘secular’ ‘progressives’ and politics
Author: Rajeev Srinivasan Publication: Rediff on Net Date: March 25, 2002 URL: http://www.rediff.com/news/2002/mar/25rajeev.htm As usual, during the bloodbath in Gujarat, the Nehruvian Stalinists in the Englishlanguage media showed their cowardice and bigotry by blaming the Hindus for all sorts of real and imagined faults. It never strikes them that the non- Hindus of India could possibly be anything other than victims oppressed by ‘cruel, medieval, casteist Hindus:’ never mind that such Hindus exist largely in their hyperactive imaginations. The Nehruvians twisted themselves into pretzel-logic in their eagerness to justify the unjustifiable: the carnage that was set off by the usual suspects, that is, Muslims with links either to Pakistani subversives or to the Congress party. The difference between the two groups is vanishingly small when it comes to pressing forward Muslim demands. Consider some implicated as suspects in the Godhra incident according to BJP sources, as reported by The Indian Express of March 5: * Mehmud Hussain Kalota, convener of the Congress district minority cell and president of the Godhra municipality * Salim Abdul Ghaffar Sheikh, president of the Panchmahal Youth Congress * Abdul Rehman Abdul Majid Ghantia, a known Congress worker * Farroukh Bhana, secretary of the district Congress committee * Haji Bilal, a known Congress worker Yet, the grave provocation of Muslims deliberately burning alive Hindu women and children did not lead to a communal conflagration in India in general. Can you imagine what would have happened if, say, black rioters had torched a trainload of white commuters in New York City? The entire country would have been in flames. Or, more to the point, if a bunch of Muslims had set fire to a Greyhound bus in Los Angeles? I can guarantee this: every Muslim in the country would have been rounded up and sent to a concentration camp (probably Guantanamo Bay these days), just like the Americans did to the Japanese during World War II. Yet, nothing like this happened in India. Things were more or less normal. So here are some headlines we did not see in the ‘secular’ ‘progressive’ English media of India, and which we, indeed, will never see: * In the midst of the communal disturbances in Gujarat, thousands of Muslim officegoers in Tamil Nadu went about their normal lives * West Bengal’s many Islamic madrassas functioned without hindrance
* In Hyderabad, no Hindus attacked Muslims even in Hindu-dominated areas * Thousands of Muslim mosques all over India, outside Gujarat, were unharmed and untouched by violence * 120 million Muslims all over the country went to work, prayed, went to the movies, ate at restaurants without being molested by Hindus And why is it that this was possible in India? Can you imagine the situation in reverse in Pakistan? That is, if a Hindu mob massacred 58 unarmed Muslim pilgrims, would the life of a single Hindu in Pakistan (of the handful that apparently live there, a rapidly decreasing number as their women are kidnapped and converted to Islam regularly) be in the least bit safe? In 1992, after the Ayodhya incidents, most Hindus in Pakistan were forced to take on Christian names like John and Joseph just to be allowed to live. Do note that, according to India Today magazine, the Muslim mob came equipped with crowbars to pry open the closed shutters of the S-6 coach, a reserved women’s coach, which is also in keeping with known modus operandi, to cause maximum offense (I had not heard about the abduction of young women until I read Varsha’s piece. I wonder where they are now.) Not to mention Molotov cocktails, quantities of kerosene, containers of acid, country-made bombs and so forth. I am sure rediff.com’s own Dilip D’Souza, whose heart bleeds constantly for anybody who is not a Hindu, would consider the train attack an excellent example of peaceful democratic dissent. I am looking forward to Anand Patwardhan making a movie about Hindu violence in Gujarat, while coyly omitting to mention the burning alive of Hindu pilgrims. Muslims massacring Hindus -- ah, but that is just business as usual: wink, wink, nudge, nudge, ‘boys will be boys.’ It is because of Hindu tolerance that the conflagration in Gujarat did not extend to the rest of India. It behooves the English media -- so quick to denounce Hindus in such harsh and unfair terms -- to remember this. Pakistan made a big show -- eyes firmly on such friendly media as the UK’s Guardian newspaper and The New York Times -- of ‘protecting’ Hindu temples in Karachi during the Gujarat troubles. Why don’t the Marxists ever wonder why it was not necessary to ‘protect’ mosques in India? Or why there is a Rs 350 crore Haj subsidy when no Muslim country gives such largesse? The problem in India is not the Muslims or Christians, it is the brown sahibs, Marxists and fellow- travelers in the media and the self-proclaimed ‘intelligentsia.’ These are the self-aggrandising monsters, spawned by the Jawaharlal Nehru University and sustained by shameless cronyism, who have hijacked the discourse in India to Orwellian Stalinist levels of bizarreness: war is peace. Murder is love. Pilgrims are terrorists. Terrorists who murder pilgrims are poor, oppressed, misunderstood, downtrodden minorities. There is a concept of ‘dhimmitude:’ an extension of the Oslo syndrome where a hostage develops an unreasoning attachment to the captors, much like what happened to Patty Hearst some years ago. See Bat Ye’or’s book at www.dhimmi.org or Sohail Ahmad Banglori’s article. This afflicts some section of India’s soi-distant ‘intellectuals’.
They are in thrall to the Islamic idea of superiority, and they accept Islamic prejudice that non-Muslims have no rights, and that they live at the whim and sufferance of the Muslims. Many of India’s ‘secular’ ‘progressives’ suffer from self-imposed dhimmitude. Others among them are Judases, seduced by thirty silver coins from the Chinese. There is a famous newspaper in India, which would not survive for two months without infusions of capital: for it has no readers. I suspect it has no more than a thousand readers, mostly on the JNU campus. But it continues publishing, often mouthing unedited garbage verbatim from China’s Xinhua propaganda agency, sometimes giving it the bylines of its own stringers. And it claims moral superiority. I suspect this is another form of China’s well-thought-through infiltration and encirclement of India, at low cost to itself. Intellectual colonisation of an Indian ‘elite.’ It is intriguing that some of India’s ‘leaders’ and ‘intellectuals’ fly off to China frequently: it would be extremely interesting to correlate these trips with unusual political happenings in India like governments being toppled. And they accuse Hindus of ‘violating the law’ in Ayodhya. They may have heard of a certain gentleman, one M K Gandhi, who violated a law banning the making of salt by individuals. He invented a certain concept of ‘non-violent non-co-operation’ where you peacefully object to a law that you do not agree with. This is quite similar to what was going in Ayodhya in early March: there was no violence, and people were courting arrest. I tell you, I have had it with all these morally superior people: the ‘secular’ ‘progressives’ who pontificate at length get on my nerves. They need the injunction: ‘Why dost thou see the mote in thy brother’s eye, but not the beam in thine own’? Given the fact that Muslim Congress party ‘leaders’ are the prime suspects in planning the pre- meditated and organised attack on the Sabarmati Express it is highly likely that there was a large element of political calculation in the barbaric attack. Here is a scenario, based on conventional wisdom, that I think is worth considering: * The BJP has been humbled in mid-term assembly elections especially in Uttar Pradesh, and also in Punjab and Uttaranchal which it used to rule. Perhaps this means the trusted Hindu vote-bank of the BJP is deserting it in droves, as they are tired of its unresponsiveness to its needs * The Congress is suddenly in power in as many as 13 states. The BJP has only one major state, Gujarat, under its control. So what better than to topple the BJP government of Gujarat through violence? This reminds me of the time when, in 1956, an unholy alliance of Christians and casteist Hindus fomented violence and toppled the E M S Namboodiripad government in Kerala -- the first step down that slippery road to the unprincipled use of Article 370. And note this was done by none other than that paragon of democracy, Jawaharlal Nehru, on the advice of his daughter. * Why not take this one step further and attempt to make life so difficult for the BJP that they will be forced to step down at the Centre? This will make it possible for the
Italian from Torino, Madame Gandhi the Younger, to become prime minister, as has been ordained in the Gospel According to Nehru: it is apparent that non-Nehrudynasty rule in India is an unfortunate aberration. The ruling class, i.e. the Nehru dynasty (their humble origins as ferrymen and policemen forgotten) need to take its rightful place in Indian politics once again. * If there is a general election, the Congress, with its new-found strength as reflected in the assembly elections, will win an absolute majority in Parliament. Unfortunately, this scenario is debatable. Consider the following alternative scenario: * The BJP lost the elections in UP etc. not because they are too Hindu, but because they aren’t Hindu enough. It is now apparent to a lot of Hindus that the BJP are only marginally more sympathetic to their cause than the Congress is. The BJP merely recognised the Hindu vote- bank and used it for their meteoric rise to power. * A recent issue of India Today had a cover story on the Ayodhya issue. They made the surprising discovery that at least according to their polls, the emotive issue of the building a Ram temple there is important to a plurality of Hindus if not a majority, despite what the JNU- coffee-house would-be urban guerillas think. Thus, it can be concluded that there is simmering resentment against the BJP for not having followed upon its election promises to take the temple forward. * The Hindu vote-bank that the BJP had managed to construct got dissipated in UP, primarily due to adroit politics by Mayawati who ran a more-Hindu-than-thou campaign, cobbling together a coalition of ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ Hindus (I used these terms for want of better, cogent terms, not as value judgments) * However, the same Hindu vote-bank recognises that at the national level, it makes no sense to bring back the Congress raj, with its attendant Marxist parasites. Even at its worst, the BJP is still better for Hindus than the Congress is. Therefore, it is likely that a new general election will not improve the Congress’ position * Sonia Gandhi and her progeny have not embarrassed themselves publicly lately primarily because they have not been in the spotlight. Once there is a brutal election campaign, people will focus on their incompetence, and the fact that none of them has lifted a finger to do anything for this country, other than live in regal splendour that is beyond the wildest dreams of the Maino family, humble builder and follower of Mussolini that Sonia’s father was. I wonder what Sonia’s horoscope looks like: surely, to be this lucky she must have an incredible fate line. In addition, there is real and palpable Hindu anger over the Godhra incident, and in particular the reaction to it and the ensuing mass violence. Everyone recognises that the majority of the Hindus and Muslims who were killed in the days of terror were innocent bystanders. No sane individual could condone their killings: because they are people like you and me, people just going about their business, who were, to use the Americans? infelicitous phrase, ‘collateral damage.’
Hindu anger is not directed at ordinary Muslims, whom Hindus know as neighbours, friends and colleagues; but at those who perpetrated the violence, and at those who, instead of condemning it, bent over backwards to justify it. As a Hindu, I am appalled both at the burning of the train and at the orgy of violence that followed. Innocents were hurt in both, Hindus and Muslims alike. The anger is directed at the perpetrators, and at those who betrayed their journalistic integrity by being utterly biased. The perpetrators were those that would see India destroyed, fragmented: and this has to be a loose coalition of Pakistan-sympathisers and China-sympathisers, for these are the forces out to damage us. There were elements among the Muslims, the Congress, and the Marxists, I suspect, that were involved in a plot. The objectives were manifold: 1. Create violence in India as a diversionary measure to take the world’s spotlight away from Pakistan and its state apparatus for terrorism and to paint India as a land of equal barbarism. 2. Generate an escalating sequence of terror and counter-terror that would provoke a mass slaughter of Muslims. For, the Pakistanis and their surrogates have no love lost of Muslim Indians in general, viewing them as traitors who did not accept the siren song of the great ‘Land of the Pure.’ Besides, they want to tell them: ‘Look, we told you so, we told you the Hindus would slaughter you.’ The intention was to generate a groundswell of sympathy from Muslims especially from West Asia, to loosen a few purse strings, generate a few more motivated holy warriors, and generally breathe fresh life into their currently flagging jihad against India. 3. Create a massive swing in public opinion away from the BJP and Hindu-oriented groups. The Chinese are quite upset with the BJP for actually daring to test the nuclear weapons, go ahead with weaponisation of the Agni, and allying with the Americans to project Indian power into the Bay of Bengal and the Straits of Malacca. They have generally succeeded in objective number 1. The Ugly Journalists of India have successfully projected India to be the equivalent of Pakistan. This is libel, but this is what the editors in the US want to hear too: for example, see a hatchet job by Pankaj Mishra in The New York Times. They did not succeed in objective number 2. It must be a great disappointment to the Pakistanis that Hindus do not react like their own robustly blood-thirsty Muslim selves that go into unending orgies of violence, destroying everything in their paths. No wonder they blames ‘vegetarian Hindus’ for all sorts of sins. It should be a matter of great pride to Hindus and Indians that at the end of the day we are a civilised people. Yes, there were the desperate acts of revenge, but put yourself in the shoes of a Hindu whose wife has been burnt alive by Muslims, and imagine how compassionate you’d feel towards Muslims -- any Muslims -- in the immediate aftermath. But, by and large, reason prevailed. This is cause for celebration. They also did not succeed in objective number 3. In fact, the result may well be diametrically the opposite of what they anticipated. I suspect that the BJP and Hinduoriented parties will now find that Hindu anger and anxiety will translate into greater
support for them and their policies, whether or not the BJP is actually interested in Hindu affairs. It may, in fact, be a windfall for the BJP. As Oliver Goldsmith said in Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog: But soon a wonder came to light, That showed the rogues they lied: The man recovered from the bite, The dog it was that died. The mad dog analogy may be especially appropriate here in the case of India’s Ugly Journalists. Educated as well as they are, morally upright as they claim to be, their judgment has been so clouded by their dhimmitude and their Marxist dogma that they can no longer recognise their own lies. They are secure in the certainty of their utterly wrong convictions. It is time they saw the writing on the wall: they are a liability to the nation. The contrast between their crocodile tears when one Australian missionary was burnt to death with his children, and their reaction when the coach load of Hindus was burnt alive, has shown them to be intensely hypocritical. Has even one English newspaper published a list of the dead at Godhra, their photographs and biographies? Do we know what motivated them, what they loved, who they were loved by? Do we know their names, even? Their ages? Are they unwept, unhonored, unsung? In contrast, we know in great detail all about the missionary’s sainted wife, who goes about ‘forgiving’ all and sundry anon and anon. Where was their righteous wrath on February 27th? They only bestirred themselves when Muslims started getting killed in retaliatory riots. Shame on you, rogue journalists! From the Christian scriptures: Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows? houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Postscript I have been startled by the sudden appearance of the word ‘medireview’ as an apparent synonym for ‘medieval’. No, there is no such word, although it is appearing quite regularly: and I thought the historians of the world had gotten together and churned out this new one to keep us non-historians on our toes. It turns out this is a gremlin introduced by a virus-detection program. In order to defang potentially lethal viruses, certain web servers automatically began to replace ‘expression’ with ‘statement’ and ‘eval’ with ‘review,’ the latter being less powerful terms in the computer languages viruses are usually written in. Do to an error in boundary-checking, the ‘eval’ in ‘medieval’ was also replaced by ‘review,’ thus leading to the neologism ‘medireview.’ A number of people wrote to me questioning my suggestion in an earlier column Religion is like soap- powder that Marxism is a semitic religion. Here is further evidence of the truth of that claim. In Islam, the provision for apostasy is death: that is, if a Muslim converts to another religion, his punishment is death. It turns out that
Marxists believe apostates die, too. There are many murders of RSS workers by Marxists in Kerala’s Kannur district. Turns out that many of these are apostate Marxists. That is, if you convert out of Marxism, you will be murdered.
Prime Minister’s speech at a public meeting in Goa on April 12, 2002
Publication: Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the Communal Violence in Gujarat, DAVP, April 2002 At the outset, my New Year greetings to all of you. May the New Year turn out to be auspicious for all of you. Gudi Padwa is being celebrated wherever India lives, in whatever form, and wherever Indians live. I was in Cambodia just recently. It is the Kamboj state of the past, where magnificent temples that kissed the sky were built in the 10th and the 11th centuries. It had Hindu states ruled by Hindu kings. There were others too among the citizens, but there was justice towards all. Sometimes the kings also used to fight among themselves. The wheel of victory and defeat rolled on. But during their centuries’ long history there isn’t a single instance of a Hindu king destroying temples or breaking idols when he attacked another Hindu king. The kings who were victorious used to build a new temple. If Vishnu was being worshipped there earlier, later Shiva began to be worshipped. If Shiva was being worshipped at one time, then other deities began to be worshipped later. Nevertheless, no king destroyed a temple or damaged the deities’ idols at the time of attacking another king. This is our culture. This is our outlook, which treats all faiths equally. Yet, accusations are being hurled today that secularism is under threat. Who are these people accusing us? What is the meaning of secularism for these people? India was secular even when Muslims hadn’t come here and Christians hadn’t set foot on this soil. It is not as if India became secular after they came. They came with their own modes of worship and they too were given a place of honour and respect. They had the freedom to worship God as per their wish and inclination. No one thought of converting them with force, because this is not practised in our religion and in our culture, there is no use for it. Today the 100 crore people of India are engaged in creating their future on the basis of their own culture. Sometimes, minor incidents do take place here and there; sometimes these take the form of major incidents. But if you go to the root of these incidents, you will find intolerance, you’ll find them to be a manifestation of growing intolerance. What happened in Gujarat? If a conspiracy had not been hatched to burn alive the innocent passengers of the Sabarmati Express, then the subsequent tragedy in Gujarat could have been averted. But this did not happen. People were torched alive. Who were those culprits? The Government is investigating into this. Intelligence agencies are collecting all the information. But we should not forget how the tragedy of Gujarat started. The subsequent developments were no doubt condemnable, but who lit the fire? How did the fire spread? Ours is a multi-religious country, a multi-lingual country, we have many different modes of worship. We believe in peaceful and harmonious coexistence. We believe in
equal respect for all faiths. Let no one challenge India’s secularism. I have read somewhere in the newspapers that the Congress Party has decided not to try to topple my Government. Shall I thank them for this? Or shall I say that the ‘Grapes are sour’? How will the Government fall? Once they did topple it, but they couldn’t form one themselves. Then a fresh mandate from the people was called for, and the people once again gave us an opportunity to serve them. For us, the soil of India from Goa to Guwahati is the same, all the people living on this land are the same. We do not believe in religious extremism. Today the threat to our nation comes from terrorism. Wherever I went around the world, the heads of state or of elected Governments complained to me that militant Islam is sowing thorns along their paths. Islam has two facets. One is that which tolerates others, which teaches its adherents to follow the path of Truth, which preaches compassion and sensitivity. But these days, militancy in the name of Islam leaves no room for tolerance. It has raised the slogan of jehad. It is dreaming of recasting the entire world in its mold. You will be surprised to hear this - indeed, I too was surprised - that some terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda were arrested in Singapore. The rulers of Singapore couldn’t even have imagined that Al-Qaeda would be active in their country, too; that Al- Qaeda would hatch a conspiracy in Singapore too. Some fifteen or sixteen persons were arrested; an investigation is underway, which will reveal the truth. The same is happening in Indonesia. The same is happening in Malaysia. Wherever such Muslims live, they tend not to live in coexistence with others, not to mingle with others; and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats. The world has become alert to this danger. As far as we are concerned, we have been fighting against terrorism for the past twenty years. Terrorists have tried to grab Jammu and Kashmir through violence, but we have countered them. Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, and will forever remain so. No other country’s dream will ever come true. Now other nations in the world have started to realize what a great mistake they did by neglecting terrorism. Now they are waking up, and are organizing themselves. They are putting together an international consensus against terrorism. We tell them through our own example that a large number of non-Hindus live in our country, but there has never ever been religious persecution here. We have never discriminated between ‘our people’ and ‘aliens’. The modes of worship may differ, but God is one. Only the paths to reach Him and realize Him can be different. It is for this reason that India’s prestige is growing, India’s reputation is rising. I have also had an occasion to visit many other countries. Everywhere Muslims live in large numbers. And the rulers in those countries are worried lest those Muslims embrace extremism. We told them that they should educate people on the true tenets of Islam, that they should teach science in madrasas, and that they should also teach other subjects in madrasas. Islam too should be taught, but emphasize that people
should live together and that it is necessary to accept that faith cannot be propagated on the strength of the sword. (This is the first half of the speech)
‘What Really Happened At Godhra’?
Author: George Joseph Publication: Mathrubhumi Date: April 20, 2002 Since the last 12 years, I have been carrying on a small business, near the Godhra Railway Station. I am detailing below those same incidents, which are constantly appearing during the last few weeks, through different media reports and statements. I am a living eyewitness of the Godhra carnage. Godhra, a Muslim dominated area, is a place, which has been experiencing a deep communal divide and tension since the last many years. Hence we have been living there under great fear and constant tension. If communal violence erupted in any part of the country, its immediate drastic impact was witnessed at Godhra also. The Congress Councilor, who has been the main culprit behind the Godhra carnage, is a ‘no.1’ hoodlum of the area. The Councilor’s cronies have, so many a times, indulged in the most condemnable rowdy acts in the station surroundings. I have been an eyewitness to many such acts. Today I would not have been alive to write this letter, had I opposed them, by giving some complaints. The attack on Sabarmati Express was a pre-planned exercise. They made careful plans for the same, many weeks before the incident. It was impossible to witness before the naked eye, the incidents that took place on that day. Thousands of people, shouting slogans in favour of the Babri Masjid were present in the railway station surroundings, on that fateful day. Why the police did not try to control them? The Congress Councilor was the main reason for that. Even the police did not have the guts to touch him. Those people who managed to jump out of the burning bogie were mercilessly stoned to the ground. Even little children were not spared. I ran for my life as it was impossible remain there as an eyewitness for a longer period of time. Why is the Congress Party not prepared to condemn and expose the real colour of the culprits? Why the media is selectively avoiding eyewitnesses like us? All these exercises are for votes. We are not ready to go back to Gujarat till the problems are completely resolved. The reason is, in Godhra only Muslims can live. Through experience I am attesting to this truth. When communal problems take place, it is not correct to make a pre- judgement without actually analyzing the real root of the problem. There are many people who still justify the merciless acts of burning alive the passengers of Sabarmati Express with kerosene and petrol. The reason I am writing such a letter is that, none of the media could highlight the real problem. Medias like the Mathrubhumi should have the guts and the conviction to come out with the real truth behind such problems, irrespective of religion, caste and creed.
George Joseph, Pazhoor (This is a translation of the letter)
Can Muslims become more secular?
Author: T Thomas Publication: Business Standard Date: April 26, 2002 Introduction: In a secular country, there should be no special laws based on religion. What was happened in Gujarat has once again brought into bold relief the two unfortunate characteristics of India society. Firstly there is the latent but strong antiMuslim feeling among Hindus in several parts of this country. It erupts into cruel violence from time to time in several states. The antipathy towards Muslim is shared even by other minorities, like Christians and Sikhs. Secondly the Gujarat incidents and the reactions to them show how isolated the Muslim community has become. There has been no rush of voluntary agencies to go to the aid of the Muslim victims of genocide in contrast to the response to last year’s earthquake. The purpose of this article is to examine with sympathy the steps the Muslim community can take to change the national perception about itself. My views are based on my experience as a member of another minority (Christian) community. The first steps is to put an end to the separation of Muslim children from children of other communities while in school Muslims should ensure that their children go to school with children from other religious groups. That is where we all get to know about the beliefs and practices of other religious group. It is through the friendship we make in school and college, and through teacher of other faith whom we respect, that we begin to understand and respect the beliefs and practices of other groups. It does not mean that Muslim children should not learn the Koran. These can be taught in a special class for Muslim children either in the school itself or in the mosques. It will be like the scripture or moral science lessons in Christian school. It is not a compulsory subject but in many Christian school Hindu children join such classes out of intellectual curiosity. As a matter of fact, the scripture prize in Cathedral school in Mumbai is often won by Hindu students! Muslims should consider opening up their School for the general education of children from all communities, and restrict classes on Islamic subjects as an optional item. This change in the conduct of Islamic schools will go a long way to integrate the community. Another useful step will be for Muslims charities to establish charitable hospitals accessible to members of all communities. They present a face of compassion to the community in general. Rich Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia should be told by Indian Muslim leaders to direct their funds to building such hospitals rather than building more opulent mosques in India. In fact the building of such affluent mosques in poor Muslim mohallas and fitting them with elaborate loudspeakers that blare out at odd times of the day and night are a source of irritation to many non-Muslim neighbours. Islamic funds from abroad can be more usefully directed to less obstructive use.
A third step will be for Muslims to adopt in their business and professional life a dress code that does not mark them out as being different from the rest. Is it really necessary for men to have a beard or wear caps and long shirts or for women to wear a burqa or head scarf to show that they are Muslims? These dress and appearance codes were at one time probably appropriate for people who lived in the Arabian peninsula and in a community where women had to hide their form for their own safety. Beards as a symbol of religious identity also belong to that era. Is it relevant today in this country? Equally, is it not necessary for a Christian to wear a cross so prominently that everyone can recognise him as Christian, or for a south Indian Brahmin to wear a caste mark on his forehead to proclaim that he is a Vaishnavite or a Shaivite. One could argue that Sikhs are recognisable by their turbans and that they do not face the same hostility and isolation as Muslims. This may be because 1. Sikhs are much more integrated in many other ways with the rest of the community and 2. They are a much smaller community whose presence is mainly in and around Punjab. A fourth step will be to disabuse the rest of the India that imams and mullahs do not represent or speak for the Hindus or Christians of this country. There should be cadre of secular leader who will represent their views along with views of other communities. Namaaz several times during the day is another habit which sets Muslims Apart, and can prove to be an irritant where office team work is involved. Can Muslims not offer their prayers briefly in silence without having to interfere with the activities of their team mates? Flights to Mecca with concessional fares for Muslim pilgrims going on Haj is an irritant to others who do not obtain such concessions to go to Mansarovar or Tirupathi or Bethlehem. It may be advisable for Muslims voluntarily to give up this discriminatory privilege. Let the intending pilgrims save and pay their way as others do for their pilgrimage. Another major step will be the voluntary adoption of the uniform civil code by Muslims, while at the same time campaigning for the abolition of special laws for other communities-like the Hindu Undivided Family provisions, or the Christian Marriage Act. If we are truly a secular country there should be no place for such special laws based on religious divisions. The perpetuation of such laws will only lead to communal divisiveness. What we need is the freedom to practice each one’s religion in a peaceful manner that does not interfere with other communities. Since that is guaranteed under our constitution, what is the need for civil laws that perpetuate divisions along religious lines? Muslim women need to organise themselves more forcefully to demand greater freedom in their personal lives. Women are the best instruments for reforming any community because of their innate ability to influence children, husbands, brothers and parents. Leading activist among Muslim women should try and focus on this issue within their own community. Lastly there is the question of religious conversions, which applies to Muslims as well as Christians. It is resented by Hindus because of the fear of being diminished in
numbers. I believe it is wrong for any religious group, either through compulsion or through inducements. Christ was born a Jew and died a Jew. In fact he never founded a religion called Christianity. This was created by his disciples well after his death. He never asked anyone to convert his fellows Jews to Christianity. Coming nearer home, Mother Teresa never converted any one; she merely set an example for others to follow. I am Christian through accident of birth, not out of choice or after studying all available options. I am sure this applies to most of us - whether we are Hindus, Muslims or Christians. Once we recognise and accept this fact, viz that we belong to particular religious group (just as we belong to a particular racial group) purely by accident of birth, then our ability to tolerate others from a different religious affiliation will be much greater. The majority Hindu community cannot wish away or even suppress 130 million Muslims. If they try to do so they will create domestic Al-Qaedas. Nor can the Muslims live forever as an embattled community that isolates itself through its superficial symbols of education, mode of worship and appearance - all of which have nothing to do with one’s innate beliefs. With enlightened secular leadership these communities can exist peacefully. And that is essential for the progress and longer term prosperity of our country.
Press, Polity, People
Author: Dasu Krishnamoorty Publication: Rediff on Net Date: April 26, 2002 Time and the compulsions of life have dissipated the fires of hatred in Gujarat. But the editorial ire of the English press is still raging, prodding them to send squads of news dogs to sniff relics of the old rivalry and report cases of fresh villainy threatening what S Jaipal Reddy pompously calls the secular fabric of the country discovered by Jawaharlal Nehru. Every day, leader writers, commentators and analysts remind the reader of the real nature of our polity, our society and our press. Obviously, their thirst for bad news is unquenchable. Riot after riot, the press repeats the performance of our parliamentarians who stall business in both Houses of Parliament to prioritise religious issues. Like the sandhya vandanam for the Brahmin, the editorial parrots must chant the hate mantra every day. Majority, which is the essence of democracy, rankles their ‘secular’ conscience. Paradoxically, what troubles the English press does not trouble the language press. Less secular? Jokes apart, let us see the performance of the mainstream Indian media. Did Gujarat happen suddenly or was it in the coming for a long time? Find the answer in the terrorist attack on a church in Pakistan followed by a swoop on the famous Raghunath temple in Jammu claiming 12 lives. These killings are not new or recent because they have been happening with sickening frequency since the direct action launched by Husain Shaheed Suhrawardy in 1946. What is new today is the affiliation of the media to a new philosophy of religious conflict, which is a negation of the basic tenets of journalism -- objectivity and impartiality. Any erosion of these two values will affect the quality of media content, leading to further conflicts and unrest. Sadly, the fierce neutrality in reporting news, a great tradition of the Indian press, has begun to dissipate. If you are liberal, you can attribute it to the challenges posed by the magazine boom of the late seventies. The focus on sensationalism adopted by the magazine press has become a model for news reporting in the daily press also. The media’s love for religion came in for criticism by the Press Council of India, which always included several leading journalists. Pained by the new trend of conflictual journalism, the Council pilloried the most venerable English newspaper in the country and its editor for its reporting of the Delhi riots of 1984. However, this criticism never made an impression on the press, which continued to highlight the politics of the religion. Thus the press, and the media generally, found themselves in the questionable company of political parties that set one community against another and draw electoral mileage from such divisive politics. Such parties are as good or as bad as the others on the other side.
Who denied the minority community the benefits of the Shah Bano judgment; who sabotaged the women’s reservation bill and who shared power with religious parties in coalitions led by them? What secular tradition compels the newspapers to openly take up a cause close to the heart of religious parties and find fault with others for doing the same? If objectivity is still a desirable goal, the media can ensure it by providing its audiences, among other things, a complete version of not only a single event but also history of such events and treating the single event as part of a serial and not as complete in itself. If tragedies are to be measured merely in terms of numbers, the Gujarat backlash is worse than the Godhra arson because more people died in the reprisals than in the Sabarmati Express. According to this logic, the Gujarat violence merits condonation in comparison to the massacre of October 31, 1984. The emphasis on killings of one kind and oversight of another kind do not increase the credibility of the press, nor do they strengthen its non-partisan credentials. Can we separate the Bombay killings of 1993 from the Bombay blasts or the Coimbatore killings from the Coimbatore blasts? Can we separate cause and effect and yet arrive at a tenable conclusion? To portray communal conflict as a chapter separate from the history of Partition amounts to rewriting history. One wonders if massacres become more acceptable if they are not related to religious discord. Using such terms like pogrom or genocide or to seek international intervention in domestic conflicts without realizing the implications of such sloganeering is a sign of mental imbalance. Objectivity is the dividing line between journalism and pamphleteering. Anyone, whether it is a newspaper or a political party, loses its right to be called secular (please see the dictionary for the pristine meaning of the word before it was ravished by both the Indian press and polity) if it takes sides in communal conflicts or is obsessed with religion to the exclusion of such pressing problems like poverty, the status of women or child labour. The press has to explain to the public why it has failed to report the speech of a Samajwadi Party MP in Parliament declaring that the time has come for the birth of another nation. And, another Jinnah? Or why it has failed to flay the government for subsidizing religious pilgrimages or for entering the area of religious endowments. As a resident in America, I do not have access to the Indian print media but if I am permitted to treat their on-line editions as their abridged replicas, I get before me a picture not very flattering to them. To quote an eminent columnist, ‘Even a cursory glance at the online newspapers convinces the reader of their commitment to partisan politics, contrary to the understanding that newspapers should inform and inform objectively and abjure denominational allegiance in reporting news. If newspapers have a policy, it certainly finds accommodation in the editorial page, though views and opinions today have begun to spill into other pages in the guise of news analyses. A major change that has overtaken the press today is the reporter encroaching upon the domain of the editor, who is the views man in the newspaper. Reporters no more report news but make it more often than they report.’
Going by the headlines and reports in the press on the Godhra and Gujarat violence one finds an unflinching devotion of the press to the cause of denominational strife. When the mobs in Godhra set fire to a train carrying kar sevaks, reporters of the mainstream press were not sure who the arsonists were and therefore called them ‘a group of persons,’ ‘a mob,’ and ‘unidentified persons.’ Next day, when there were brutal reprisals in Ahmedabad, the newspapers found no difficulty in identifying not only the rioters but also their religion and political affiliation. USA Today, perhaps not as committed as the newspapers in India, carried this banner: 57 Killed As Muslim Mob Torches Train Of Hindus In India. The first reports gave way to editorial fury. The editorials, in the case of the Godhra incident, generally blamed the Sangh Parivar and the VHP to the exclusion of the arsonists who it believed were the victims. One newspaper found the VHP guilty and warned the government against any witch-hunt of a particular community. Two dailies took an entire day trying desperately to invent a discourse that can convert attackers into victims. They condemned the Godhra carnage but treated it as a sequel to the Ayodhya movement. One of them, however, admitted that the Godhra ‘mob assembled there with clear intentions to kill.’ Soon, it made amends to this assessment. A departure from this chorus was the editorial of the Free Press Journal that declared the media and the secular parties as the main culprits. To me, it seemed that the media were very happy that several hundred members of the minority community were killed because it provided a big stick to beat the majority community with. Then followed an avalanche of articles, analyses, interviews and reports unearthing incidents that led to the Godhra rampage and evidence to condone the carnage. The essence of these exercises was to show, however paradoxically, that Ayodhya was enough provocation to the mob in Godhra (the two separated by more than 1,000 miles) and not to the mobs in Faizabad, a stone’s throw from Ayodhya and witness to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The following weeks witnessed further evidence of the print media’s loyalty to politics of the questionable kind, one which does not ask why several lakh Kashmiris are refugees in their own country or why Jammu and Kashmir had never a chief minister belonging to the minority community. Do we deserve this kind of press? It does no credit to the mainstream press that it does not readily entertain an alternative view that blames the media and the political parties for condoning communalism of one kind and condemning communalism of another kind. One need not study the theory of communication to know the effects of such journalism on social harmony. The performance of both the daily and magazine press stokes the fires of communalism instead of dousing them and worse, the journalists know it. Dasu Krishnamoorty was a copy editor and an op-ed page editor at three national dailies -- the Indian Express, The Times of India and Patriot. He was also a senior political commentator for nearly a decade at All India Radio. He taught at the country’s most prestigious mass communication school, the Indian Institute of Mass Communication as associate professor between 1984 and 1989.
Proved years before that secularists are antiHindus
Author: Saurabh Shah Publication: Gujarati Mid-Day Date: April 29, 2002 Who comprises the ‘secularist’ group? They are the ones who are malicious towards the Hindu society, who abhor the Hindu culture, and who are ashamed to call themselves Hindu. The intelligentsia which call themselves rationalists and atheists can also be included in the ‘secularists’ group. One can also include socialists and Marxists who, without any remorse, readily enjoy the five star facilities financed by others. Last not least, NGO’s which were funded by doubtful external sources. Hindus are disgusted with the TV channels of these secularists. The anti-Hindu stand taken by anchors of Aaj Tak, Star News and Zee News is reducing their credibility to zero. These diaper clad and immature ‘pseudo secular’ boys and girls don’t have any intellectual background. From where do they learn all their secular lessons? Of course from their seniors whose ‘intellectual capability’ is well known. If I start listing their names, more space will be needed. Therefore I have decided to take just one example and that of the former chief secretary of Maharashtra, JB D’souza. It has been proved beyond doubt that how the so-called secularism of these people is unnecessarily biased and spiteful of Hindus, and excessively appeasing and yielding to Muslims. The former chief secretary of Maharashtra Mr. JB D’souza and business journalist Dilip Thakur etc. had filed a petition against. They contended Bal Thackeray had written inflammatory articles in his daily ‘Samna’, igniting Hindus to attack Muslims. The petitioners alleged that Mr. Thackeray was the mastermind of the communal riots that took place in Mumbai in 1992-93. These writers repeatedly called Mr. Thackeray and the Shiv Sena ‘opportunist and communal’. Here I am not trying to defend Mr. Thackeray or what he had said or written. But I am going to deal with two questions here. First, how clean and upright are the people who have objected to him? Secondly, do they really have equal sympathies for all religions? Let’s see. During the Shrikrishna Commission deposition, the advocate for the Shiv Sena, Adhik Shirodkar had cross-examined Mr. D’souza. As an advocate, Shirodkar wanted to prove that D’souza was highly prejudiced against the Hindus in general and the Shiv Sena in particular. Mr. Shirodkar asked Mr. D’souza whether he had written any articles on the burning alive of seven Hindus in Jogeshwari and the killing of two Mathadi workers during the riots in Mumbai in January 1993. D’souza replied. ‘Although the incidents were distressing, I did not write anything against it in the newspapers’. (Readers please take note).
Mr. Shirodkar reminded him of the killing of three Hindu constables in Paydhooni and Behrampara and the attacks on the police colony in Bhendi Bazaar. To this Mr. D’souza, who had worked as the chief secretary of the state, said that he was not aware of those incidents. The advocate also reminded him of the Shah Bano case, a seminal instance of minority appeasement. D’souza said, ‘Yes, even at that time I felt it was very sad.’ ‘Did you write any letters protesting it at that time’? queried the advocate. ‘No’, said the secular D’souza. The advocate drew attention to an attack by Muslims on the poet and journalist Dom Moraes. Mr. Moraes was carrying his relative to a hospital in a critical condition and he found a huge mass of Muslims were offering Namaz on the road. He protested and they attacked. Mr. D’souza recollected the incident and even admitted that he knew Dom personally. ‘We have met formally at one or two occasions, but I neither gave a courtesy call to Mr. Moraes nor did I write an article or letter criticizing the incident.’? Mr. D’souza even admitted during the cross examination that he had not written any article or letter criticizing the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid for opposing the Republic Day function by waving black flags in 1993. Mr. D’souza said that he did not hold high opinion about the Shiv Sena or Mr. Bal Thackeray. Mr. D’souza also admitted that he was the chief executive of a big housing project at Dindoshi in Mumbai and people such as Mrinal Gore, PB Samant and Suresh Narvekar were its trustees. When Justice Shrikrishna objected to the question, Shirodkar replied that it was necessary to throw light on the political connections between Janata Dal leaders Mrs. Mrinal Gore and Mr. Samant at the one hand and Mr. D’souza at the other. Mr. D’souza also admitted that he had not filed any petition or raised any voice against the provocative statements made by the Shahi Imam and other Muslim leaders as he did against Mr. Thackeray and Samna. He also said that the riots in Mumbai on March 12, 1993 by Muslims were sad but still he did not write any letter or article against it. When Mr. Shirodkar asked ‘Why’?, Mr. D’souza said, ‘I was too busy in my work.’ Advocate Mr. Shirodkar proved before the Shrikrishna Commission that Mr. D’souza had only written letters and articles during the communal riots blaming the Shiv Sena and its leaders. (All his articles and letters were anti-Hindu) Lastly, it also became evident during the course of the cross-examination by Mr. Shirodkar that Mr. D’souza was managing the administration of Jaslok hospital in Mumbai as the chief executive of the hospital and the Shiv Sena leader Sudhir Joshi (who was present in the court at that time) used to see him occasionally to represent workers, to settle labour issues with the management. After detailing the cross-examination, there is hardly a need to comment on the credibility of Mr. D’souza. The secularists and rationalists criticizing the Ayodhya issue should learn from the D’souza episode that they can also be cross-examined in the
same way and exposed. The people, who kept mum about killings of 40,000 Hindus in Kashmir and burning alive of 58 Hindus in Godhra, should be cross-examined like this. Then it will be clear how poor is their understanding of culture and sentiments of people, and they are ones who create furor over the deaths of 900 people in Gujarat, on the issues of Hindutva and nationalism. (The writer is editor of Gujarati Mid-Day.)
Correspond to values
Author: Francois Gautier Publication: The Pioneer Date: April 30, 2002 Dear friends - India’s image in the West has never been so bad. We, the foreign correspondents, have been propagating in the last few weeks a picture of an intolerant Hindu majority, ruthlessly hunting down the Muslim minority. Not only has this falsified public opinions abroad about India, but has also put pressure on governments to bring out so-called Human Rights reports on Gujarat, whereas they have no right to interfere in India’s affairs, given the fact that it is one of the very few working democracies in Asia. Would the British, who left a mess wherever they colonised, dare to interfere in such a way in China’s affairs, whose human rights record is a million times worse than India’s? This is unfair: Those of us who have lived long enough in this country, know that not only have Hindus historically been extremely tolerant, accepting the fact that God manifests himself at different times under different forms, but also that, in spite of the bureaucratic hassles, the dirtiness and the heat, we westerners are living in a paradise of freedom compared to what would be our lot in, for instance, China. Here we can criticise as much as we want, slander even, without fear of reprisal. As a foreign journalist having covered India for the last 25 years, I am shocked by the ambivalence of our standards when it comes to writing or reporting on Hindus. There were 400,000 Hindus in Kashmir in 1947; there are only a few hundreds left today. All the rest have been made to flee through terror in the late 1980s and early ‘90s. I remember the time when Muslim militants would stop buses in Kashmir and kill all its Hindus occupants - men women and children. None of the foreign correspondents and diplomats protested about human rights the way they are doing now, after the Gujarat riots. There are 400,000 Hindus who are refugees in their own land, an instance of ethnic cleansing without parallel in the world. Why are none of us interested in highlighting these facts? Do we know that Hindus themselves have been for centuries the target of a genocide at the hands of Muslim invaders, and that today in Bangladesh and Pakistan they are still at risk? In Assam, Tripura, and Nagaland, Hindus are being outnumbered by Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and terrorised by pro-Christian separatist groups, such as the Bodos or the Mizos, while local governments often turn a blind eye. Are we playing our role, which is to inform and educate our fellow countrymen, who are generally totally ignorant about India? Many of us are using the word ‘genocide’ to describe the riots in Gujarat, or even making comparisons with the Holocaust. But do we tell our readers that Jews in India were never persecuted and that they lived and prospered in total freedom till most of them went back to Israel? The same cannot be said about my country, France, where even today they face problems. We do not care to balance our articles: We take an isolated incident such as the murder of Graham
Staines or the riots against Muslims in Gujarat, and we make it look, as it is a whole, telling our readers abroad that Christians and Muslims are persecuted in India. When the Ayodhya mosque was brought down, it was as if eternal shame had descended upon India. ‘Death of secularism’, ‘Hindu fundamentalists have taken over the country’, ‘Black Day in the history of our democracy’, we screamed... However unfortunate, the Ayodhya episode was, nobody was killed there; but the terrible Bombay blasts which followed, orchestrated by Indian Muslims, with the active help of Pakistan and the silent approval of Saudi Arabia, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent Hindus, never warranted the kind of moral indignation which followed the rioting against Muslims in Gujarat. Why does nobody bother to say that, maybe, the tolerant, easy-going middle class Hindu, is so fed-up with being made fun of, hated, targeted, killed, bombed, that he is ready to take to the streets? If you dare say that there are 850 millions Hindus in this country and that they not only represent the majority culture, but also a tradition of tolerance and gentleness, and they cannot be the fundamentalists that the Press makes them out to be, you are immediately branded as an RSS spokesman or a VHP lover. Why this primitive labels? In the West we are not ashamed to call ourselves a Christian civilisation: The American President swears on the Bible when he takes office and look also how all European children, be they Italian or German, are brought-up on the values of Christianity and the greatness of Greek philosophy. It would be impossible, in France for instance, for the Muslim minority - immigrants from France’s ex- colonies such as Algeria or Morocco - to impose their views and culture on the government. In fact, Muslim girls are not allowed to wear a veil when they go to French school: ‘You are in France, you have been given the French nationality, so behave like a French first and like a Muslim, second,’ they are told bluntly. Would that be possible in India? Does any Indian, except the much-maligned RSS, have the courage to ask Muslims to be Indians first and Muslims second? Or tell Catholics and Protestants that they have to revert to a more Indianised Christianity, such as the one that existed in Kerala before the arrival of the Portuguese Jesuits? And see how stridently Muslims and Christians - backed by most of the foreign media react when Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi wants to teach Indian children a little bit of the greatness of their culture! I know that many foreign correspondents arrive here with an aspiration to understand India and to report on it fairly. The problem is that there is no way we are going to know India if we stay in Delhi, or fly all over the place, staying in five-star hotels, to do features which give justice to a civilisation which is 5,000 years old. It is also true that in Delhi, an arrogant, superficial city, we are never in contact with the real India, and always hear the same stories in the journalists? parties, or diplomatic cocktails, about secularism, the Sangh parivar or human rights in Kashmir. We should take some time off the political situation and go out to the South, which is so much more gentle and easy-going than the North.
Write, for instance, some features on Kalaripayat, Kerala’s martial art that gave birth to kung fu and karate; or on Ayurveda, the oldest medical science still in practice; or see for yourself the extraordinary Ayyappa festival in the mountains bordering Tamil Nadu; or witness one million Christians who descend every year on the ‘Lourdes’ of India Velangani on the Coromandel coast. There you will discover that the genius of India, its tradition of tolerance, hospitality and gentleness lies in rural areas, amongst the humble people - and not in the arrogant westernised cities that have lost contact with their own roots. Or else, do an Art of Living basic course and learn first-hand India’s ancient traditions of meditation and pranayama... For the truth is that if you want to know and understand this country in some degree, you have to live India from the inside.
A Blame Game: Congress could have curbed the riots
Author: M V Kamath Publication: The Times of India Date: May 8, 2002 One question that keeps recurring on the recent riots is the role of the opposition parties and the indifference, if not total cowardice, they showed during all those grim incidents. What, for example, is the nature of the Muslim psyche in Godhra? Since Independence there have been at least four major communal riots in this town. It has a centre for Islamic studies, the funding of which remains a mystery. According to reports, the Muslim community is divided in Godhra, and as recently as December 2001, there were apparently clashes between the liberal and reactionary elements among the Muslims. Reactionary Muslim elements have apparently again made Godhra their home and no doubt the burning of Sabarmati Express coaches was at their instigation. As of the moment, no newspaper has considered it worth its while to make a study of Godhra in all its ramifications. A similar study is called for of the mindset of Hindus in Ahmedabad vis-a-vis Muslims; why is it that Ahmedabad is so prone to communal riots? Are we to believe that it is only after the BJP came to power that communal rioting became fashionable? And would it be correct to say that only Hindus belonging to the sangh parivar took to the streets in an orgy of burning, looting and killing? What, one would like to know, were Hindus who are politically with the Congress and other opposition parties doing when the killings were going on? Why did they remain silent? Surely, Hindus allegedly belonging to the sangh parivar are drawn from the same economic class as the Congress or CPM Hindus? Why didn’t these Hindus rush to the streets to stop the rioting? Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi is being pilloried for not calling in the army within minutes of being informed of the rioting. But couldn’t the local Congress party have summoned all Congress Hindus to come out and defend Muslims? Is that too much to ask? And what was Congress president Sonia Gandhi doing? Couldn’t she have put in a phone call to the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee chief and ordered him to send every Congress MLA and every municipal corporator to march unitedly to the riotprone area in an effort to restore peace and goodwill? Additionally every Congress MP - not to mention every opposition MP - should have made an immediate beeline to Ahmedabad to defend Muslims against the alleged sangh parivar onslaught. Sonia Gandhi should have arranged it at short notice. What is the point in mocking Gujaratis for taking to violence in Gandhi’s Gujarat? And where were Gandhian Congress Hindus when the killings and arson were going on in the city? What kind of Gandhian spirit did they exhibit? If one Gandhi could march
through Noakhali to restore peace there, surely there must be at least a few hundred Congress Gandhians who could have braved the wrath of the rioters in Ahmedabad? If no one else would have dared to, shouldn’t Sonia Gandhi at least have flown to Ahmedabad to organise resistance to the rioters? Time was when the Congress had a volunteer organisation called the Rashtra Seva Dal (RSD). Volunteers of the RSD were always available to control massive crowds that came to hear Congress leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru. The RSD was a disciplined organisation and its volunteers had a vision - the liberation of the country. Following Independence, the RSD fell into disarray and now has practically vanished. Why hasn’t the Congress made any effort to resurrect it? Could it be that the Congress knows that such a body would attract no one from among the youth? There reportedly is a Congress youth association. The English media obviously is not aware of the fact that there is growing resentment against it among substantial sections of Hindus, transcending party lines. When Hindus - not just of the sangh parivar - are attacked day in and day out by the Englishspeaking chatterati that control the English media, tension builds up among all Hindus, irrespective of their political affiliation. According to knowledgeable sources, the rioters were from all classes and parties. The damage unwittingly being done to the Hindu psyche by the so-called secularists needs to be understood. It has so far gone unchallenged. The majority of the Hindus feel assaulted from all sides. The silent Hindu majority is quivering with anger at the writings of some of our English national dailies and some of the television channels. A foreign writer, Koenraad Elst, has described this tendency among Hindus in India as ‘negationism’. The Hindus revel in self- flagellation. It results in two developments: One, it encourages Muslims to extremism and unwillingness to compromise, and two, it further deepens Hindu resentment against Muslims. We know with what disastrous consequences. It is very noble on the part of educated Hindus to take all the blame for any rioting on themselves. But these educated Hindus look down on those less fortunate than themselves, attacking their religiosity in unbecoming ways. Here is an instance of action and reaction: The more the chatterati look down on the hurt feelings of those who strongly believe in their religion and their gods, the greater is the reaction of the latter and the vicious cycle steadily gets enlarged until emotions explode in unmitigated fury. This is not to suggest that Hindu communalism should be condoned but one wonders whether this would have reached the depths it has, had it not been for the feeling that for 50 years in free India, Muslims have been pampered beyond limits. The media focus has been almost entirely on so-called Hindu communalism, which one national paper has been pleased to dismiss airily as majoritarianism. It is as if in India it is a crime to belong to the majority religion. On the Ayodhya issue, for instance, the national press has been uniformly hostile towards the VHP which has only served to
strengthen its resolve to fight more bitterly than ever. Meanwhile, the question of helping all those who have suffered grievous losses during the Gujarat riots needs to be addressed. Every MP gets Rs 2 crore each year for spending in his constituency. The amount due to all Gujarat MPs must now be diverted to the relief and welfare of the riot victims. Indeed, if MLAs get similar benefits from the Gujarat legislative assembly, those allowances too should be diverted to aid the riot victims. That is the least that one can do to help them get back on their feet.
Fiddling With Facts As Gujarat Burns
Author: Balbir K Punj Publication: The Outlook Date: May 27, 2002 Introduction: The Roys in the media are harming India with half-truths and worse. “Gujarat, the only major state in India to have a BJP government has, for some years, been the petri dish in which Hindu fascism has been fomenting an elaborate political experiment. Last month, the initial results were put on public display. Within hours of the Godhra outrage, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal put into motion a meticulously planned pogrom against the Muslim community. Officially, the number of dead is 800. Independent reports put the figure at well over 2,000. More than a hundred and fifty thousand people, driven from their homes, now live in refugee camps. Women were stripped, gang-raped, parents were bludgeoned to death in front of their children. Two hundred and forty dargahs and 180 masjids were destroyed - in Ahmedabad the tomb of Wali Gujarati, the founder of the modern Urdu poem, was demolished and paved over in the course of a night. The tomb of the musician Ustad Faiyaz Ali Khan was desecrated and wreathed in burning tyres. Arsonists burned and looted shops, homes, hotels, textiles mills, buses and private cars. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. A mob surrounded the house of ex-Congress MP Iqbal Ehsan Jaffri. His phone calls to the director-general of police, the police commissioner, the chief secretary, the additional chief secretary (home) were ignored. The mobile police vans around his house did not intervene. The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burnt them alive. Then they beheaded Jaffri and dismembered him.” That was the Goddess of small things, Arundhati Roy, painting the big picture of Gujarat in Democracy: Who’s she when she’s at home? (Outlook, May 6, 2002). Roy sums here neatly almost all the charges against the Sangh Parivar. When a reputed weekly like Outlook publishes a Booker Prize-winner, it is meant to be serious commentary. And concomitantly, Roy has put her brilliant linguistic skills to the service of ‘truth’. Read her graphic details – “The mob broke into the house. They stripped his daughters and burnt them alive”. Roy speaks with the confidence of an eyewitness. Alternatively, she must’ve access to an eyewitness. Anyway, it reads heart-rendingly honest. Heart-rending, yes, but honest, no. Jaffri was killed in the riots but his daughters were neither ‘stripped’ nor ‘burnt alive’. T.A. Jafri, his son, in a front-page interview titled Nobody knew my father’s house was the target (Asian Age, May 2, Delhi edition), says, ‘Among my brothers and sisters, I am the only one living in India. And I am the eldest in the family. My sister and brother live in the US. I am 40 years old and I have been born and brought up in Ahmedabad.’
So, Roy is lying-for surely Jafri is not. But what about the hundreds of media lies that haven’t been exhumed as yet? Her seven-page long (approx: 6,000 words) hate charter against India and the Sangh parivar is woven around just two specific cases of human tragedy, one of which-by now, we know for sure-is a piece of fiction. The rest is hyperbole, punctuated with venom and vitriol to demonise the parivar. Precisely this type of demonisation had resulted in the macabre incident at Godhra. The vicious propaganda unleashed by the secularists for over a decade had made ordinary and gullible Muslims see the innocent Ram sevaks as demons who deserved to be burnt alive. She terms Gujarat the ‘petri dish’ of the Sangh parivar. The fact is that Godhra has been used as a crucible by the secular fundamentalists. No wonder, after the roasting of the Ram sevaks, they, while condemning the crime, blamed the victims. Many of them invented events such as a quarrel with hawkers, misbehaviour with women and shouting of provocative slogans to justify the horrendous crime. And Roy continues the demonisation in this flam as well. Of all the politicians, she sees hope only in Laloo Yadav, the man responsible for dividing Bihar’s polity on caste lines, vertically and horizontally. He lords-through his wife-over the province where ‘the state has withered away’ and has since been replaced by senas of various hues. Roy quotes Laloo, ‘Kaun mai ka lal kehta hai ki yeh Hindu rashtra hai’ Usko yahan bhej do, chhati phaad doonga’ (Which mother’s son says this is a Hindu nation? Send him here, I’ll tear his chest open). Her fascination for Laloo obviously stems from his call, pregnant with possibilities as it is of more Godhra-like situations. I discern a sickly ghoulish mindset in that. Roy’s flim-flam is replete with words like ‘fascism, planned pogrom, gang rape, genocide’. About the ‘98 Pokhran nuclear tests, she says ‘bloodthirsty patriotism became openly acceptable political currency’. Incidentally, her perception on these issues is fully shared by Musharraf, Pakistan’s martial president, and partly also by certain sections in the West and the US. But was what happened in Gujarat a ‘pogrom’ targeted at Muslims? Loss of 900-odd innocent lives (both Hindus and Muslims) is definitely not a ‘genocide’ of any one community. Yet it is one more shameful event in the long and unfortunate chain of communal riots in India, since the 1893 Bombay and Azamgarh riots. Beginning from the 1714 Holi riots in the Mughal period, Ahmedabad itself has witnessed no less than 10 major recorded riots. The Sangh parivar was not there in 1714, nor was it a dominant force during the ‘69 and ‘85 riots. So what explains these riots when Gujarat was not a ‘Sangh parivar petri dish’? Out of those who perished in the communal frenzy, over one-third are Hindus. Following Godhra, massive spontaneous violence broke out in various parts of Gujarat against the Muslims. Since the rioters were mainly Hindus, they also accounted for
about 75 per cent of those who fell to police bullets in the first three days. In fact, till April 18 Hindus accounted for more deaths in police firing than Muslims. But for almost three weeks now, the violence has been led by Muslims against Hindus and, naturally, a bulk of the casualties are accounted for by them. The police have booked 34,000 rioters, majority of whom are Hindus. Both communities have suffered heavy loss of business and property in the arson and looting. While rioters are communal in picking their targets, looters are not-and they target at random. One lakh Muslims are struggling in relief camps, but so are 40,000 Hindus. This is a horrible riot, which is sad enough, but why call it a genocide? Whom does it help? Not the riot victims, only our enemies across the border. The country hasn’t suffered so much loss of face in the world as it has now, though it is like one of the scores of riots India has seen. Why? The obvious culprits are those who set ablaze a compartment full of innocent kar sevaks at Godhra and those who indulged in the senseless violence in the following weeks. But the real villains in tarring India’s image are the Roys in the media and a section of public life, who mix half-truths with fiction to settle their ideological or political scores with the Sangh parivar. Roy (a role model for several in the secular pack) opens her hate charter with the case of a woman named Sayeeda ‘whose stomach was ripped open and stuffed with burning rags’. I heard similar horror stories in Parliament. The most frequently quoted were the cases of women raped (in some cases gang-raped), their stomachs ripped open, foetuses taken out and paraded on swords or trishuls. But no one was able to give me even one specific case with all the particulars. Roy gave one, but it proved to be a piece of fiction. The secular pack is not only guilty of parading half-truths but also of condoning and inciting violence. The banner headline of the Hindustan Times (February 28) reporting on Godhra set a trend for secularists when it said ‘Gujarat hit by Ayodhya backlash’. Scuttling beyond the ‘first-information-report’ with a cult of shady intellectualism, it thus immediately established a connection between the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the gruesome carnage. Or how will you opine on the Siddharth Varadarajan report in the Times of India: ‘BJP fiddles while Gujarat reels under killings’ (March 1, 2002). It says: ‘dastardly attack on train passengers in Godhra... while official inquiry will establish the extent to which the attack on the Sabarmati Express was premeditated, there can be no doubt about the planned nature of violence directed against Gujarat’s Muslims...?. The report, carried just two days after Godhra, mentions the murder of Ram sevaks only once in the 450-word plus report. What is important is that Varadarajan, sitting in Delhi, makes readers ‘doubtless’ about the planning in the backlash while defending Godhra, the indefensible. Blatant myths and fiction have lacerated the facts on Gujarat. The ToI (March 3) reported Modi’s much-publicised misquote of Newton’s third law-‘Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. In fact, the CM had never said such a thing and no other paper except for ToI had carried the misquote in its original reportage. But later on,
numerous editorials were penned on the basis of this canard. All his denials were thrown in the dustbin. We live in a time of televised war (Kargil), live terror attacks (WTC) and televised riots (Gujarat). Visuals have a hundred-fold greater leverage in shaping our responses. News channels are in a 24-hour rat race with each other, with a killer instinct to be the first with the news. In the process, at times they throw caution to the winds, particularly in a crisis situation. The channels added fuel to the fire during the riots by recklessly showing footage of gory scenes. Contrast it with coverage of the WTC attacks and the Afghanistan war by CNN and BBC. How many gruesome scenes did you see? The Editor’s Guild came down heavily on the Gujarati press and hailed the role of the English press in coverage of the riots. The former might have been guilty of exaggeration but I am sure it has not concocted stories the way the Roys did in the English media. Surprisingly, the Guild has nothing critical to say on the role of the electronic media and of the Roys, guilty of blackening India’s name, generating more communal hate at a critical time and demonising a section of citizens through halftruths and complete lies. Some rioters may be guilty of rape and should be punished for their heinous crimes, but what about those who have raped the truth and the country in the last two months?
Divide & Rue
Author: T R Rajan Publication: The Times of India Date: June 29, 2002 Vidya, This is with reference to your recent open letter, ‘Disunited Indian Family’ (May 15). The thrust of your missive to us is that post-Gujarat, families like ours have become worryingly anti-Muslim and that we are falsely accusing the secular press of bias. Besides, in your eagerness to defend Muslims, you have all but portrayed Hindus as bigots and obscurantists. Let me list out the issues involved: One, perceived anti-Hindu stance of the national press. Two, the loss of Muslim lives in the Gujarat riots. Three, feeling among many Hindus that Muslims are anti-national. Four, prevalence of Hindu symbolism in India. First Gujarat. The Godhra massacre was unpardonable, whatever the alleged provocation by kar sevaks. The riots that followed were a bigger shame. The Gujarat government is squarely responsible for not providing security to its people, Hindus and Muslims. Nonetheless, in my view, the media went overboard in portraying the sangh parivar as the only villain of the piece. This caused it to lose credibility among the common Gujaratis; indeed, among those who accuse the media of bias are many locals whose objectivity I could vouch for. The riots went on and on even as intellectuals debated the culpability of one individual: Mr Modi. And just when it looked as if supercop K P S Gill would sort out the mess, the secular Congress stepped in and refused to release battalions of the Punjab police. Obviously, the Congress couldn’t afford to let peace return to Gujarat. And no, the secular press won’t be bothered with writing any of this. Incidentally, why do you say only Muslim lives have been lost in Gujarat? Twenty-five per cent of the dead are Hindus. More on the secular press. Just like the Godless Dravidian parties drove Tamils to embrace God and religion (the shriller the DK’s and the DMK’s atheistic rhetoric, the louder the devotional music from temple loudspeakers), the Congress and the Left with their votebank politics, ably assisted by the secular media, have driven secular Hindus into the arms of parties (like the BJP) that profess to protect their interests. The media and such parties will refer to Hanuman as the monkey god and Ganesha as the elephant god, even if that hurts Hindu sentiments. Yet, they would not dream of ever referring, even in passing, to Virgin birth (the Bible) or divine revelations (the Koran) in less than glowing terms. And why is so little written about caste and untouchability practices among Muslims and Christians? The liberal media barely protested when Rushdie’s Satanic Verses was banned. But it raised a din when SIMI was banned. Can you truthfully say that the media treatment is even-handed? Oppression of Dalits and burning of women for dowry are condemnable and must be prominently reported. But why not equally the undesirable activities of some of the
madrassas and some Christian missionaries spreading canards and disaffection? The wonderful educational and medical services rendered by the more laudable of the various missions are nullified by the activities of the fringe orders among them. What rankles many is the pregnant silence of the secular media. Loud demands for the ban of outfits like the Bajrang Dal are seldom made against their Islamic clones. As for the perception that Muslims are anti-national, this probably arises because of factors that go back by centuries. Although both Islam and Christianity are transnational in character, the former has embraced many local customs. Many Muslims see red when a lamp is lit at an inaugural function. Many of our forefathers have seen their temples destroyed by their Muslim rulers. This hangover had almost vanished, but has been resurrected by the secularists, assisted by extremists, both Hindu and Muslim. Add to this the birth of Pakistan and behaviour of organisations like the OIC. Although India has the second largest Muslim population, the OIC will exclude India (because it is secular). The Muslims you have quoted, Sameena, Yaseen, Ayesha etc may form the majority in their community, but they are non-visible. I agree with you that anti-Muslim prejudices can drive secular Muslims to despair. But anti-Hindu tirades similarly affect the Hindus. Historically, thanks to Islam’s transnational characteristic, some of its adherents do have adjustment problems. Certain aspects of Islamic practices may have been perfectly justified in 7th century Arabia, but surely not today. Just imagine, if practices dictated by Manusmriti were followed in letter and spirit by Hindus today. I will come last to the prevalence of Hindu symbolism like lighting of lamps at public functions (which you characterise as Hindu; shorn of religion, it is an Indian custom). Let us accept one thing. We are a predominantly Hindu country, not in the religious sense but as a culture. Many of the practices you see as Hindu religious symbols are cultural, and are what signifies the country as a nation. I used to consult for a large Christian corporate group and later for a Muslim Gujarati business group. Ayudha pooja and Saraswati pooja were big events for both, and the latter’s accounting year began on Diwali day. To hold our practices to ridicule till they are endorsed by foreigners is an affliction most of us suffer from. Yours Rajan
Fuelling the Fire
Author: Uday Mahurkar Publication: India Today Date: July 22, 2002 Introduction: The forensic report on the Godhra massacre has come in handy for rival politicians ‘The Godhra incident and the subsequent communal riots were a state-sponsored conspiracy by the Government of Gujarat in connivance with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its associate organisations to ruin the Muslim community.’ -A report of the legal cell of the Islami Relief Committee, which is helping the riotaffected Muslims. ‘The Forensic Science Laboratory report only indicates that there was deeper planning on the part of the attackers in the Godhra incident.’ -Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani. Over four months after 59 passengers were burnt to death in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, the question of Godhra continues to haunt the nation. Last week, the mystery deepened as a report of the Gujarat Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) said that the inflammable material used for the attack could not have been thrown into the train compartment from outside. Their finding: that at least 60 litres of petrol were carried into the compartment and poured out before the flames were lit. The FSL report has predictably opened up a Pandora’s box, with politicians on either side of the political divide selectively picking portions of the report to suit their viewpoints. Congress leader and former chief minister Shankersingh Vaghela sees the report as proof that the Godhra massacre was a conspiracy engineered by the Hindutva brigade to foment communal tension. ‘Rubbish,’ is the retort of the BJP camp, which feels that the massacre was a meticulously planned operation by Muslim fundamentalists. As charges and counter-charges flew thick and fast, India Today tried to corroborate the FSL findings with first person accounts of the survivors and railway employees who were present at the site. To recap: at 7.42 a.m. on February 27, the Sabarmati Express arrived at the Godhra railway station, nearly three and a half hours behind schedule. Among its passengers were hundreds of karsevaks, returning home after performing puja at Ayodhya. On the platform, a minor scuffle erupted between the karsevaks and some tea vendors, most of whom were Muslim. After a halt of five minutes, the train pulled out but stopped again when the alarm chain was pulled. Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered and began to pelt stones at the train. The karsevaks, now heavily outnumbered, got into the coaches and shut the doors and windows. The train resumed its journey but was again brought to a halt after covering barely half a
kilometre due to a mechanical snag. A mob, said to be more than a thousand strong, then rushed towards the train and again began to pelt it with stones. It targeted three coaches which carried karsevaks and set fire to coach S-6, killing 59 passengers. The FSL team reached Godhra hours after the tragedy occurred and promptly took samples of, among other things, jerry cans that they found near the railway track. Several survivors of the massacre said they had seen the attackers, both men and women, carrying jerry cans as well as swords and steel and iron pipes. Among the measures that investigators took to unravel the mystery was to recreate the entire scene with the help of FSL experts. An experiment on an empty rail coach requisitioned from the railways convinced the forensic experts about one thing: though cloth soaked in inflammable liquid might have been thrown into the coach through the windows, the fire was fuelled by the petrol that had been poured inside. The exercise threw up other notable findings. One, that as the train windows were at a height of 7 ft from the ground, it would have been impossible for the attackers to throw enough fuel through the windows to cause the inferno. Two, the portion of the coach beneath the window on the exterior was not fully burnt. There were burn marks only up to the level of the flooring of the coach. Experts surmise that if the liquid had been thrown from outside, the entire exterior of the coach would have been scorched. This indicated that the coach had burnt only to the level of the compartment’s flooring because of the heat generated from inside by the massive fire. Even as the exercise was being conducted, one of the 72 arrested in the case (the investigators will name him only in the second chargesheet which they are expected to file soon) made a revelation which backs the FSL theory that the coach was set on fire after petrol had been poured from inside. He is reported to have said that when he, along with a few fellow attackers, could not enter the compartment through the windows they had broken, three of them ran to the rear of the bogie. Carrying jerry cans filled with petrol, the trio had slit the canvas cover of the rear vestibule of bogie S6 with a sword. They broke open the door and entered the coach. Sensing the attack, the passengers had already moved forward, leaving the rear berths vacant. So when the attackers entered, they faced no opposition. They then opened one of the coach doors to let in three more attackers who carried with them more petrol-filled jerry cans. The cans emptied, they stepped out of the coach while the mob outside used burning cloth tied to bamboo sticks to ignite the petrol. Within minutes, coach S-6 had become the funeral pyre of the Ramsevaks and their co-passengers. Investigators also traced another witness-again the police would not divulge his name, only letting out the fact that he was a Muslim-through an army jawan whose life he had saved. The witness, who had also saved the lives of two other travellers, identified three of the attackers who had got down from the train after dousing coach S-6 with petrol and were part of the mob trying to kill the jawan. This account is among many that have helped the police in their investigations. Says Crime Branch Deputy Inspector-General Rakesh Asthana: ‘We are on the verge of cracking the case. There are only a few loose ends left. The way the attack was
executed, we have little doubt that the planning must have been done at least a day in advance or even earlier’. Then there are the eyewitness accounts of the survivors as well as the two drivers of Sabarmati Express, Rajendrarao Jadhav and Mukesh Pachauri, and two Assistant Station Masters (ASMs), R.P. Meena and A.K. Sharma. The two ASMs were on the second floor of the A-cabin signal tower near which the train was brought to a halt. Jadav told the investigators that when the train stopped, the two ASMs gestured to him, asking him to take the train ahead. Meena and Sharma told the investigators that from their high perch, they had seen armed mobs rushing towards the train, shouting slogans like ‘Kaat dalo! Maar dalo!’ so they motioned to the driver to move the train forward. But because of a mechanical snag in the engine, the train stalled. In no time, a group of attackers had reached the drivers and ordered them to remain in the engine. The frightened duo complied. Survivors’ accounts too seem to support the view that the coach was burnt from inside. Businessman Bachubhai Ladva, 46, was standing near one of the entrances of coach S6 when it stopped. He remembers mobs running towards the compartment and pelting stones at it, forcing the passengers to close the windows and doors. Within minutes, the attackers had broken 12 of the 18 windows on one side of the coach. When some of the passengers retaliated, using whatever they could lay their hands on and hurling them out of the broken windows, Ladva says he heard an attacker saying, ‘Chalo, peeche se koshish karte hain.’ He then saw some assailants going towards the rear of the coach. Vandana Patel, 21, was sitting on the lower berth of cabin three. When the attackers tried to break the window grilles, she and her co-passengers tried to block the attack by using mattresses and suitcases. But when a burning rag landed in the cabin, Patel ran towards the door and managed to escape. Hetal Patel and Janak Panchal, fellow passengers in coach S-6, also gave similar accounts. The theory that there was a conspiracy behind the massacre gains credence in the light of the accounts of the five firemen who fought the blaze. They have told investigators that Haji Bilal, Godhra municipality councillor and prime accused in the case, obstructed their fire tender and tried to prevent them from putting out the fire in the coach. Vijay Sharma, one of the firemen, says Bilal had called the fire brigade on the night of February 26 and asked for the names of the firemen who would be on duty the next morning. Coincidentally, that same evening a water tanker attached to the fire station and a fire tender both developed serious engine snags. It would, of course, be naive to think that conspirators depend on coincidences to accomplish their deadly missions. Note: The following passages were edited in the English version. However, the Hindi India Today (July 22, 2002) published the complete report. We have translated relevant passages from Hindi. The recent findings on the coach S6 burning in Godhra have been a great revelation.
Particularly, those who were exploiting the FSL report to put blame on the Sangh Parivar for killing their own volunteers in order to provoke the anti-Muslim sentiments cannot stomach the new evidences. The FSL report was gleefully used by the Islami Relief Committee engaged in relief for the Muslims in Gujarat and the members of Tabligi Jamat. The latter is a fundamentalist group steadily spreading its roots in others parts of the country. Incidentally Ghanchi Muslims of Godhra, and several accused in the burning of hapless bogie of the Sabarmati Express, are the followers of the Tabligi Jamat. The interesting fact is that the campaign of these organizations on the Godhra is similar to what Jehadi organizations were preaching on their websites. These websites are mainly operated from Pakistan and the Gulf countries. For example, the founder of Pakistan-based organization Lashkar-e Toiba, Hafiz Saeed had written an article (posted on the organization’s web-site) that regarded ‘the Godhra incident was a part of a big conspiracy of the Hindutva organizations to spark anti-Muslim riots in India.’ It is a co-incidence that the campaign of these Muslim organizations on the Godhra incident has been fashioned similarly what we saw after the attack on the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. Some international Islamic organizations had repeatedly claimed that the attack on the twin towers was a handy work of the Israeli detective agency, Mosad, so that America would be forced to act against Muslim world. Actually after the Godhra incident, some selfish interests purposely spread a rumour that the Ram Sevaks had dragged a 16 year old Muslim girl inside the bogie at Godhra station. And they cite this event to justify the Godhra massacre. But this rumour and others too, quickly faded when some secularists declared them to be a fiction. A noteworthy part is that the police investigated all the rumours of alleged agony and persecution of the Muslim passengers by Ram Sevaks. However, some of them were true but most of them were baseless. In fact the police found the behaviour of the Ram Sevaks very normal towards some of the Muslim passengers. Imdad Ali, for instance, who travelled in S2 compartment, did not get any trouble from the Ram Sevaks. Later the railway authorities reported that a loud speaker on top of the mosque behind the cabin A was continuously screaming, ‘Islam is in danger, Kill the Kafirs.’
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