When the Godhra riots took place in 2002, I, like millions of many other people, was convinced that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was guilty. That was the thrust of the entire media and intellectuals, led by the TV news channels in particular.
I was sure that he would step down and would probably be found guilty in the subsequent enquiries. The media hardsell was just too strong. I was working in a Delhi newspaper at the time and that was the general mood of the media.
The climax was probably when the then Prime Minister AB Vajpayee seemed to rebuke Modi in public.
But it has been 11 years since that and in that manner at least, everyone has been proved wrong. If you have a strong belief that Modi is guilty, then there are dozens of straws that you can clutch on to. However, in terms of concrete evidence to nail Modi, absolutely nothing has come up.
The damage has been done. The media convinced millions that year that Modi was guilty and those millions still stick on to their beliefs till the present day.
That has been the consistent pattern for the last 11 years. Shrill reports keep resurfacing that Modi is just on the verge of being nabbed. When nothing of the sort happened, many more reports appeared saying that "he has got away" or he has got a "reprieve" or is merely on the "verge" of being proved guilty.
Reports said that Modi justified the Godhra riots saying "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." It now appears highly doubtful that Modi had ever quoted Newton, but again the damage was done.
Best Bakery case. Naroda Patiya massacre. Teesta Setalvad. Sanjiv Bhatt...
Whenever any revelations came, many people like me believed Modi was guilty. It's a natural reaction. We have so little faith in our politicians that
whenever any breaking news comes against them, our first instinct is to believe it.
But there was never any concrete evidence presented in the curious case of Modi and in the end it all seems like a massive ideological witch-hunt. The so called intelligentsia leans heavily to the Left and Modi seems to lean sharply to the Right.
The same thing has now happened in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case.
One media publication said that the CBI could chargesheet an IB official who overheard one official tell the other that it had the okay of black beard and white beard. Black beard may mean Amit Shah and white beard may mean Modi.
That's really stretching things too far in the court of law and even that "far stretch" did not appear in the chargesheet. Ironically, the media house still claimed victory.
It's always a "Blow to Modi" and a "Victory to the media". That much has been consistent in the last 11 years.
Is Ishrat guilty or innocent? I have absolutely no idea.
But just take a look at the hole that the media has dug itself into.
Till many years back all manner of reports pointed to the fact that Ishrat was in league with terrorists.
Now all manner of reports say that she is innocent.
If she is guilty, then all the current reports are wrong.
If she is innocent, then all the previous reports are wrong.
Either way, it's a black mark for media reportage.
The only thing consistent is that Modi has to be attacked. When the chargesheet did not mention Modi's name on the day of filing, everyone passed it off as a "reprieve" for the umpteenth time.
When Modi visited Delhi the next day, many channels started with reports like, "A day after getting off the hook in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case..."
Now some reports indicate that he will likely be named in the supplementary chargesheet. So it continues indefinitely...
The "guilty till proved innocent" campaign continues.
The strategy is clear and goes by the following procedure...
First headline: Is Modi guilty?
Next headline: Evidence points to Modi being guilty.
Final headline: Modi gets off the hook due to lack of evidence.
Or it may be done in the manner of...
First headline: Modi flies out 15,000 from Uttarakhand.
Second headline: Modi's 15,000 claim total rubbish.
Third headline: What was the 15,000 source in the first place?
First headline: Modi to visit Ayodhya, angers minorities.
Second headline: Modi not to visit Ayodhya, angers Hindus.
Final headline: Was Modi not to have visited Ayodhya in the first place?
In between all these headlines, the Congress, other parties, the so-called intellectuals, liberals, seculars and many sections of the media rubbish Modi as much as they possibly can. It's always one thing after another and in a way a free for all non-stop carnival that has been going on for more than a decade now.
It's all about perception and all about headlines.
You can play it up absolutely any way you want it to.
If there are 3 suspected terrorists and one suspected helper, the media will invariably put "4 terrorists' in the headline.
But if they've got an axe to grind, it simply becomes...
"One innocent person along with three with suspected but unsubstantiated terror links".
It's like one of Zeno's paradoxes.
Modi's detractors point to a guilty sign. They take you half way there. They point to the sign again and take you to half way of the remaining distance. Then they go half of that and half of that...
If you know a bit of mathematics, then you can see that you can take an infinite number of steps without ever reaching the guilty sign.
If and when Modi become Prime Minister, the attacks will merely intensify.
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