LET ME BEGIN with a question. Do you think the 2002 Gujarat riots would still have served as fodder for the cottage industry of stone-throwers if someone called Narendra Modi was not the prime minister? If the answer is no, you are to be complimented for having correctly sized up the busybodies masquerading as faux secularists. But should you answer in the affirmative, you will only prove my point. Which is that selective outrage at the tragic loss of life in the nth religious violence in free India barely masks the hidden agenda of the Modi critics. Unable to get the better of him politically/electorally, perforce they rehash the tired old charges of complicity. Even though for a full decade between 2004 and 2014, a self-avowedly hostile Central government had left no stone unturned in its administrative and judicial arsenal to have him certified guilty. It rankles the small but well-knit community of professional Modi baiters that despite their desperate attempt to tar him in the darkest of hues, he carries on unscathed, moving from one success to another. In one word, it is Modi’s success that hurts these worthies who rely on a hostile Western media, still harbouring a colonial mindset, reserving its viciously prejudiced slingshots for a homespun leader rooted in the indigenous culture and values of India. It would rather have as prime minister its favoured Western-educated “akhbari neta”, who gets good marks for his table manners but is completely divorced from the ground realities of the country he aspires to rule by sheer dint of his birth in a now fast-fading political dynasty.
Someone asked following the brouhaha over the BBC documentary whether 2002 was the first and only communal riot in the last 70-plus years in free India. In the Gujarat riots, as per the official government figures, 1,044 people were killed, including 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus. And you insist on calling it a pogrom. Very well, then. In the 1984 Sikh riots, again officially, 2,800 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone. Not one was a Muslim, a Hindu, or even security personnel. What would you call it: A ‘love fest’? Again, who was the prime minister in 1984 who said: “nani yaad kara denge”? And rationalised the wholly one-sided carnage, saying “jab bada ped girta hai to dharti hilti hain”?
I remember Doordarshan showing frenzied killers shouting “khoon ka badla khoon” at the precise moment when President Giani Zail Singh was being waylaid outside AIIMS by a mob menacingly wishing death to his community. The 1984 anti-Sikh riot was the only one in which a solitary community was the victim. All other riots before 2002 and after had victims on both sides, in lesser or larger numbers. But the bleeding hearts of secularism would bleed only for the 2002 riots, and, presumably, only for the victims from the minority community. I heard a secularist pundit justify the regurgitating of the same, and thoroughly disproved, charges against the prime minister, arguing that there was no closure for the 2002 victims. Whose failure is that? Besides, is the 2002 riot the only one in which victims were denied justice? Go and ask the 1984 widows in the capital’s Tilak Nagar and other Sikh-dominated colonies to find out for yourself if they had found justice.
Why this obsession with the Gujarat riots alone? Our post-Independence history is replete with periodic communal violence but full justice has invariably eluded the victims. A documentary on the unending series of riots with a focus on the inherent suspicion and distrust between communities born of the bloodied Partition of the subcontinent would require hard work and painstaking research. But lining up the same old secularists whose views are so predictable that they invoke a yawn was lazy and propagandist journalism. Not Modi but BBC and its favourite enablers in India were exposed as purblind purveyors of untruth and plain lies to serve their political agenda. Victims of the Gujarat riots were far from their line of vision. They may want to move on and rebuild their lives but the anti-Modi elements wouldn’t leave them alone. Sorry is the state of the opposition, stuck like a broken record in 2002, while Modi might be looking ahead with confidence to 2024.