Right from the very beginning, the post-Godhra debate has been hijacked by the mainstream media, civil society and all other political parties. To give them credit, they have been consistently at it for more than 10 years now and still show no signs of letting up. That’s persistence for you.
The moment anyone praises Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s “development”, he is branded as communal, a right-winger, an RSS stooge, a BJP lackey and a person who supports genocide. After that even Modi’s so called “development” is rubbished.
It is almost as if a mafia has descended upon you.
Just ask Anna Hazare and many other political leaders from other parties who “dared” to praise Modi. It even happens in something as harmless as a Modi interview. Just ask Shahid Siddiqui.
Basically this is how Modi baiters have hijacked the debate. They tell you that there are only two kinds of people. One who believe that Modi is guilty and he should have stepped down in 2002 itself. Therefore he has overstayed his welcome at the CM’s chair by more than 10 years and counting.
The second group of people are those people who want to forget Godhra so that the decks may be cleared for Modi’s coronation at the national level. Note how they keep using the phrase “forget Godhra”. What they are implying is that these people accept that Modi is guilty but want it to be forgotten.
This is how the Modi-baiters have achieved the unique feat of having their cake and eating it too. The subtle nuance of their argument is this: 100% per cent of India believes that Modi is guilty. There are merely those who believe he should be forgiven and those who believe he should never be.
This is a spectacular success of the power of suggestion.
They have totally discounted the third category of debate. That Modi may be totally innocent in the Godhra carnage. Any other CM, even from the Congress, may have fared far far worse in his place. Say this and you will be scoffed at and not even entertained.
Has Modi ever been convicted by any court in India? There are more than a 100 parliamentarians who have been chargesheeted in the Lok Sabha. And yet Modi has not even been chargesheeted. But Modi is guilty till proven innocent, it appears.
How many people know that the biggest ever communal riot of Independent India (after the Partition riots, that is) took place in Gujarat in 1969? Around 650 people were killed in the riots which raged for more than a week and even reported some stray incidents a month later.
A judicial probe at that time had also questioned the role of the police in the riots. Some have said that this riot in fact led to a turning point in relations between the two communities of Gujarat.
In 1985, the Ahmedabad riots also saw more than 300 being killed. In fact, more riots were reported after that, though on a much smaller scale.
Other commentators also claim that Gujarat became polarized after the Babri Masjid agitation. But the Congress lost Gujarat for good in 1990, while the dome came down only in 1992.
In all the debates it is conveniently forgotten that Gujarat was communalized before the BJP era and Gujarat was polarized before the Modi era.
People forget that Modi was just 4 odd months in office when the Godhra riots happened. People keep brushing under the carpet that it was a Muslim mob which allegedly torched a train coach full of Hindu pilgrims that triggered the violence.
There is a chance that Modi tried his best in keeping down the violence which would have been far greater had he not done so. Some TV reporters even went on record saying during those days that they anticipated that the riots would have a far greater toll than the final one. When that didn’t happen, they refused to give Modi any credit.
Modi also called the Army in as quickly as he could and has gone on record saying that all the neighbouring States refused help since they were Congress ruled. That’s another angle which the media is not much interested in.
The conviction rate for Godhra remains the highest among all the sordid communal riots that have taken place in India. So much so that certain sections of the RSS had even labelled Modi anti-Hindu at that time.
But of course in the world of the Modi haters, Modi should have resigned, been declared guilty and been hanged to boot in 2002 itself. When none of that happened, a very lucrative, popular and powerful anti-Modi industry was created which has been going strong for more than 10 years now.
Whether Modi fuelled the riots or curbed them is an answer only he and a closed circle can answer.
Till then he remains innocent since he hasn’t even been chargesheeted by any court, let alone convicted.
That’s the way any democracy works anyway.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/