Why we cannot afford to forget and why we cannot move on. What Modi means for India, asks Amit Sengupta.
Those who have observed Narendra Modi have some revealing – and chilling – things to say about him.
Social scientist Ashis Nandy had interviewed Narendra Modi in the early 1990s. He came out of the interview shaken. In his own words:
“More than a decade ago, when Narendra Modi was a nobody, a small-time RSS pracharak trying to make it as a small-time BJP functionary, I had the privilege of interviewing him. . . . Modi, it gives me no pleasure to tell the readers, met virtually all the criteria that psychiatrists, psycho-analysts and psychologists had set up after years of empirical work on the authoritarian personality. He had the same mix of puritanical rigidity, narrowing of emotional life, massive use of the ego defence of projection, denial and fear of his own passions combined with fantasies of violence – all set within the matrix of clear paranoid and obsessive personality traits. I still remember the cool, measured tone in which he elaborated a theory of cosmic conspiracy against India that painted every Muslim as a suspected traitor and a potential terrorist. I came out of the interview shaken and told Yagnik that, for the first time, I had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.”
Another social scientist, Shiv Vishwanathan, recently called Narendra Modi an “uncivilized creature” on prime time TV. He said he was sure of this term because he has done “ten years of investigations” on Gujarat. JD(U) leader Shivanand Tewari had earlier said that Modi’s body language reeked of arrogance. He recently remarked (after Modi’s rather perverse and murderous ‘Kutte ka Bachcha’ comment during an interview with Reuters) that Modi should undergo “psycho analysis”.
However, we needn’t rely on these impressions – based, as they are, on body language and psychological profiling – to assess Modi’s character; we could simply look at the record of his conduct.
“What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared? Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity?“
There are no less than 45 authenticated reports meticulously documenting the Gujarat carnage, which was state-sponsored and masterminded at the highest level. The mass-scale violence was facilitated and executed by the Gujarat police and bureaucracy, including the top brass, and implemented on the ground by blood-thirsty mobs and gang-rapists of the Sangh Parivar, Modi’s ministers and Hindutva leaders. The documentation includes the NHRC report and the bulky volumes of the People’s Tribunal, comprising eminent former judges as members. There are also scores of eye-witness accounts, including those of women – such as Bilquis Bano and Zakia Jafri – who were victims of the state-sponsored violence.
Zakia Jafri’s court petition and the arguments and evidence being presented with it point to a nexus between the Gujarat government and the so-called rioters and to the fact that the violent acts were planned with detailed precision. Several indicators point to Modi himself. The meeting of the top brass in the government one day before the state sponsored killings is a crucial indicator.Other documents describe in detail the organized carnage and its aftermath in the tragic and inhuman mass refugee camps. People were hacked and burned alive. Swords ripped apart women’s stomachs. There were mass rapes and grotesque public spectacles of gang rapes. Kerosene-filled match boxes were put inside children’s mouths. Ravaged women and children were thrown alive into bonfires. All of this has been documented meticulously and extensively by journalists, activists, lawyers, witnesses, officials, filmmakers, and others.
One person to speak out was Harsh Mander, then an IAS officer, who wrote in Outlook (March 19, 2002) soon after the killings:
“ …I force myself to write a small fraction of all that I heard and saw, because it is important that we all know. Or maybe also because I need to share my own burdens.
What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared? Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity?
What can you say? A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead.
A family escaping from Naroda Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety’ and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.
I have never known a riot which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports everywhere of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver.
Women in the Aman Chowk shelter told appalling stories about how armed men disrobed themselves in front of a group of terrified women to cower them down further. In Ahmedabad, most people I met— social workers, journalists, survivors— agree that what Gujarat witnessed was not a riot, but a terrorist attack followed by a systematic, planned massacre, a pogrom.
Everyone spoke of the pillage and plunder, being organised like a military operation against an external armed enemy…”
Given all of this monstrous history, how is it that Narendra Modi, the architect and chief executive of that history, is being hailed as a successful leader of a state and considered a legitimate potential leader of the nation? Do we Indians really have such short memories? Or is it that this entire ‘Modi Shining’ melodrama is a transparent political stunt, concocted by vested interests in the corporate-media nexus, that might just boomerang in the days to come?
The myth of the ‘Modi miracle’ in Gujarat is as obviously fake as the Rambo Act in the Himalayas whereby he allegedly saved 15,000 marooned Gujaratis (only Gujaratis!) in one day. No wonder he is being called all kinds of things now: Feku, Fakendra Modi, Nambo Pambo Rambo, etc. His babbling bubble bursts every time he is confronted by an unrehearsed situation, like when TV journalist Karan Thapar reminded him about the ghost of Godhra in one of those rare interviews that was neither “paid news” nor fixed with pre-arranged content. Thapar reminded Modi of the Supreme Court observation that he was a “Modern Day Nero” who played his tune while people were burnt alive. Suddenly, all the arrogant muscle-flexing and thumping of his expanded 55 inch chest seem to elude him. He fumbled and fudged in bad English, started sweating profusely, asked for a glass of water and abruptly ended the interview seeking “dostana sambandh” (friendly relations).
The myth of the ‘Modi miracle’ in Gujarat is as obviously fake as the Rambo Act in the Himalayas whereby he allegedly saved 15,000 marooned Gujaratis (only Gujaratis!) in one day. No wonder he is being called all kinds of things now: Feku, Fakendra Modi, Nambo Pambo Rambo etc.
Such incidents are rare inside Gujarat, where Modi has clamped down on dissent, ushered in a totally one-man authoritarian rule, destroyed even RSS andVHP (his natural ideological allies) and subsidized and pampered a bunch of shamelessly greedy corporates who have learnt no lessons from history. Sources now say that these very corporates are subsidizing sections of the media into broadcasting ‘live’ Modi shows as uninterrupted media spectacles, which are clearly both paid news and advertising posing as news. The Feku Rambo story in a leading English daily from Uttarakhand is a brazen example of this practice.
Even Amit Shah, Modi’s best chum, who was jailed for the Sohrabuddin fake encounter murder case and may still go back to jail, is now being shown ‘live’ on some channels. As if, both Shah and Modi were personalities of such great charisma, scholarship, saintliness and vision, that the entire nation can be seduced into a collective, cathartic orgasm watching them ‘live’.
“Modi is digging his grave, slowly and systematically. He is like a robot, made over with Botox and silicone, rehearsed and limited. He is visibly uncomfortable outside Gujarat.”
Perhaps there is an undercurrent of excitement in the fickle, upwardly mobile classes in urban areas; but a nation-wide Modi wave is the figment of his own xenophobic imagination with some craftily manufactured consent of the media. The media and a few fat cat businessmen can’t win an election in a complex, fragmented, poverty-stricken and underdeveloped country like India. Remember India Shining in 2004?As the saying goes: once a mass murderer, always a mass murderer. And the people are not likely to overlook that fact. Even those who demolished the Babri Masjid and then went on a communal rampage of blood letting all over the country, know that the politics of bloodshed, hate and polarization is not the metaphysical stuff that will attract the soul of this country of deprivations and want. If that had been so, the BJP-RSS would have been ruling in UP and in India. If that had been so, the Ram mandir would have been built, at the very least.
Journalist Seema Mustafa recently posted a short comment, which ably sums up Modi’s media performance:
“Modi is digging his grave, slowly and systematically. He is like a robot, made over with Botox and silicone, rehearsed and limited. He is visibly uncomfortable outside Gujarat; good only when he has rehearsed a performance as in Delhi University; falling apart in interviews or un-rehearsed situations. He is bigoted and knows that even benign questions can bring out his divisiveness and hatred for those not like him. By the time elections come around, the BJP might just find him to be a bigger liability than an asset! At least India will.”
With his multi-crore PR machinery, Modi seem like The Invincible Iron Man, but it has only exposed the chinks in his armour. One international PR agency that managed his affairs at a huge cost (who pays these exorbitant sums running into millions?) to boost his ratings and that of the fraud that was ‘Vibrant Gujarat’, actually had an illustrious track record of showcasing the likes of George Bush and Dick Cheney, despite the war justified by WMDs that didn’t exist, despite the embedded journalists covering the “news” of that war, despite thousands of people massacred in ravaged Iraq, despite the propping up of notorious dictators and autocrats, and despite the shady agencies working for Mossad and Israel. A recent report in a weekly publication revealed how some TV media slots are being arranged and rearranged –‘Modified’ if you will– and how some anchors and editors are seemingly quickly shifting their political positions, under the influence of various corporate offers on behalf of Modi. The cases of Madhu Kishwar and Pratap Bhanu Mehta have come out in the open, and there is probably more to the story. On the platform of this paid-off “news media” Modi bluffs and blusters and reels off fake statistics on his “live shows” while millions of fake “likes” are generated on Facebook to glorify him.
But ultimately, the best PR machinery can’t find Modi the salvation he wants. There are too many sinister threads in which he is tangled. The carnage in 2002 is a living narrative and a grotesque memory which runs like a car driving over the ‘kutte ka bachcha’ and leaves a bloody trail of stories that just can’t be eliminated. One is reminded of the last sequence in the film Maqbool, when the blood just keeps appearing on the walls and no desperate efforts at wiping it away can keep it from coming back.
In any other civilized society, Modi would already have been driven out. He would have been treated exactly like the butcher Slobodan Milosevic or the ‘blood diamond’ criminal Charles Taylor. In other circumstances, he and his gangsters who masterminded the massacre and the fake encounters, would have been chased and persecuted like the mass murderers of the Holocaust. (Remember, the RSS founding fathers glorified both Hitler and the Holocaust. Yet, ironically, the Mossad is backing Modi!).Indeed, Modi has been blacklisted in many countries– including the US and certain European and Latin American countries –despite the fact that a cash-strapped UK’s Right wing PM David Cameron and some of his unethical and equally cash-strapped EU buddies are trying to create a bridge over the bloody waters in Gujarat by creating a ‘safe investment entry’ for Modi. For all you know, Modi might meet the fate of Augusto Pinochet if he gets trapped in a foreign country which genuinely respects human rights and opposes fascism. Except for cruel, totalitarian states like China (which loves him) and sundry dictators and ethnic-cleansing fascists, his geography of relocation would surely be a thing of uncanny predictability if he were ever to need an escape from India. Even the prospect of landing in the International Court of Justice at the Hague might not seem too far-fetched.
But ultimately, the best PR machinery can’t find Modi the salvation he wants. There are too many sinister threads in which he is tangled. The carnage in 2002 is a living narrative and a grotesque memory which runs like a car driving over the ‘kutte ka bachcha’ and leaves a bloody trail of stories that just can’t be eliminated.
But will he ever need to contemplate running from India, where power rules justice by apparent subterfuge and the likes of Narendra Modi can be treated like respected public figures? Perhaps that day will come. After all, even a monster will eventually find his rat traps. Like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler of the Congress, accused in the state-sponsored carnage of Sikhs in November 1984, Modi too will escape only to be trapped yet again.
Life is short. And not even Modi is immortal. Anything can happen.
For instance, the murder of Haren Pandya, top BJP leader, former minister of state for home in Gujarat and Modi’s powerful rival, is a mystery that can suddenly reopen, even inside the RSS and BJP. Whispers within the BJP in Delhi often speak the unspeakable. Pandya’s father had openly alleged that Modi was behind the murder. His wife too recently met the alleged ‘jailed murderer’ and clearly suggested that she believed he has been implicated wrongly. So who murdered Pandya?
Moreover, the Zakia Jafri petition may bring to light events from Modi’s past that would be very difficult to gloss over by flashy media blitzes.
The facts recited in the petition raises the questions like why did Modi send VHP rabble rouser Jaideep Patel to Godhra on the tragic day when people were burnt in S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express? I contend – as I have argued in more detail in my July column in Hardnews – that Patel was sent to stir up the violence.When the public discussion of Modi begins to focus on these events, many more questions will begin to arise. How is it that Modi had no clue about the sinister doings of Jaideep Patel, or Bajrangi, or his favourite minister Mayaben Kodnani– and their involvement in the massacres? Why did he keep Kodnani in the cabinet for so long even after the carnage? Why was Patel strutting around Modi’s fake Sadbhavna Mission stage in Ahmedabad as a hero? How is it that Modi had no clue how Ishrat Jahan or Sadiq Jamal (who was proved innocent) were on a ‘Mission Assassination Modi’, and that they were bumped off by his favourite top cops after spells in custody in shady farmhouses etc? Good governance? Or plain murder?
If we take Modi’s assertions of innocence at face value, do we not necessarily have to also conclude that he is simply a clueless incompetent? Twenty-two encounters – many of them proved fake – have taken place during his regime, while he was holding the home ministry; his top cops were committing crimes (for which they have been subsequently convicted and jailed); there have been a procession of witnesses and ‘approvers’ testifying to the multiple, cold blooded murders that happened on his watch; and he knew nothing? That in itself is unforgivable.
Mukul Sinha, a lawyer, fighting the encounter cases in court, says these people were killed by the Gujarat police to profile Modi as a great Hindu leader.
And what about Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kausarbi, and Tulsiram Prajapati, and the entrenched extortion and smuggling racket in which a former BJP minister from Rajasthan and Amit Shah were apparently involved? Many of the same cops murdered them one by one, in which similar farm houses in the outskirts of Ahmedabad were the locations of custody and perhaps torture and rape. No remains of Kauserbi have been found, though there are pointers that she was killed and burnt and then the ashes destroyed in DG Vanjara’s village.
Perhaps the PM’s post is Modi’s the only way out of these traps. That may explain the desperation. And yet, Modi refuses to meet the press, address press conferences, or do Q and A sessions in public or private. Perhaps he will do it with only those whose favours he has already purchased. That is why his manufactured lectures with fake statistics are always one-dimensional and unilateral; there are no questions, debate, dissent or discussion, even in spaces where he is treated as a prophet, and the “discourse” is totally stage-managed.
Let Modi do a press conference in every state capital and give journalists the freedom to ask diverse questions. Let him come to an open debate – ‘live’, say – in JNU, or at the Press Club in Delhi, or in Calcutta’s Presidency University. Let him come in for a live interview with Karan Thapar once again.
The Reuters interview is a give-away. Every time a bigoted hate champion driven by an expensive PR machine speaks off-script to an intelligent query, he will showcase his authentic inner self, crude fantasies and fascist perversities. The kutte ka bachcha statement was no slip. It was a lucid revelation of the man’s pathological mind and soul, and the RSS’s civilizational politics of hate. It also tells a god-damned bloody story, like the blood sticking on the wall in Maqbool.
Every time a bigoted hate champion driven by an expensive PR machine speaks off-script to an intelligent query, he will showcase his authentic inner self, crude fantasies and fascist perversities. The kutte ka bachcha statement was no slip.