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Narendra Modi not disclosing marital status an offence: court

Ahmedabad, June 30, 2014
 Modi chalisarendra

A court in Ahmedabad on Monday held that Prime Minister Narendra Modi committed an offence by not disclosing his marital status in an affidavit filed with his nomination during the 2012 Gujarat assembly polls but the judge ruled out an FIR against him on the ground of time bar prescribed for such cases.“An offence is committed under section 125(A) (3) of Representation of People (RP) Act by not disclosing facts,” additional chief judicial magistrate MM Sheikh held, adding, “as per CrPC section 468(2) (B), the complaint for the offence has to be made within one year in cases related to the violation of section 125(A) (3) of the RP Act.

A petition seeking an FIR against Modi was filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Nishant Verma, who contended that Modi had “hidden important fact of his marital status in the affidavit filed before the election authorities in 2012.”

As the complaint was submitted after a year and four months of alleged offence, “cognizance of complaint cannot be taken and an FIR cannot be lodged now”, the court observed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi disclosed his marital status and the name of his wife Jashodaben for the first time in the affidavit he submitted while filing his nomination for Vadodara Lok Sabha seat during the parliamentary polls this year.

Earlier, he used to leave the column relating to the spouse blank while contesting Assembly elections in Gujarat.

Meanwhile, Verma’s counsel KR Koshti said his client may challenge the order in the Supreme Court.

Govt extends term of commissions

The Gujarat government on Monday extended by two months the term of Justice Nanavati and Mehta commission  dealing with the post Godhra communal riots in the state. A two member inquiry commission probing the snoopgate scandal, headed by retired Gujarat high court judge Sugnyaben Bhatt, has been given three months’ extension.

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Narendra Modi Regime – The Game Begins

modi

By Anand Teltumbde

11 June, 2014
Countercurrents.org

Now that people have voted for BJP beyond its own imagination and Narendra Modi got on to the business of ‘maximum governance’ many people thought that the old games associated with hindutva would no more be needed. Modi’s performance as far as his conduct and speeches are concerned has been simply superb. Even his worst detractors also were rendered confused by them. Indeed, many people who may not have voted for BJP also began feeling that perhaps Modi might really work. It was too early and too much to believe entirely his rhetorical declaration in an emotion laden speech in the central hall of parliament that his government would be dedicated to the poor and oppressed. Nonetheless many felt that perhaps, given his background, having come from an ordinary backward caste family and independent demeanours, he may really be more sensitive to the poor and oppressed. At the least, he would be sensitive to the Muslims, who have not voted for him and Dalits, who have massively voted for him, the communities who mainly constitute the subject of his dedication.

However, two prominent incidents happened during this week, among of course a spate of rapes and murders of dalits, tend to belie these expectations and create a contrary impression that perhaps the old games have begun.

Damn Dalit Demands

The horrid incident at Bhagana in Haryana in which four girls aged 13 to 18 were sedated, gang-raped, kidnapped by the culprits of the dominant Jat community, who abused them the entire night and threw them into the bushes near the Bhatinda railway station on 23 March was shocking enough to shame the country. However, what followed was far more revolting and shameful. The girls had to pass through humiliating two finger tests which have been officially banned for the rape victims during their medical examination. While the police had registered their complaints under pressure from dalit community, they took five weeks to apprehend the culprits. Whereas, the judicial process to get them released in the Hissar court had immediately begun, the Dalits of Bhagana, along with the families of those innocent girls had to go for sit-ins for justice. They were scared to go back to their village for the fear of reprisal by the Jats. Some 90 Dalit families from Bhagana, including those of the rape survivors, have been protesting at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar since April 16, with 120 others at Hisar’s Mini Secretariat. In the wake of this protest, many other horrid stories of rapes of minor girls came to the fore. As published on Rafoo, a Hindi blog (http://krsaroj.blogspot.in/2014/05/blog-post.html) A 17 year old Dalit girl from nearby Dabra village was gang raped by men of the Jat community in 2012 after which her father had committed suicide. Another 10 year old girl was raped by a middle-aged man. Yet another girl was raped by a Jat man who roamed scot-free, but the police arrested the girl and tortured her. All these girls are boldly fighting for justice and were part of the protests.

On 4 June, around 6 am, when most protesters were asleep, a large posse of policemen descended upon Jantar Mantar and pulled down their tents. They forcibly removed them and warned to vacate the place by 12 noon. At Hissar’s mini secretariat too they were evicted in similar manner. At both the places the police scattered and damaged their belongings. Small children including those nirbhayas (a media name for the rape survivors) were thrown on the street, where too police would not let them stay. The protesters accompanied by representatives of women’s, Dalits’ and Students’ organizations and led by mothers of the two of the rape survivors went to the Parliament Street Police Station at about 2 pm to present a memorandum to the officer in charge asking to be allowed to stay in Jantar Mantar since they had nowhere else to go. The group was stopped by policemen at the barricade outside the thana. As the women argued insisting on being allowed to go and meet the officer in charge, the policemen virtually mounted a sexual assault on them with an alibi of pushing them back. As per Kalyani Menon-Sen of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, who was also among the protesters, the policemen grabbed their private parts and pushed their hands into their anal region. The mothers of the survivors and several women activists (including Adv Pyoli Swatija of Samajwadi Jan Parishad, Ms Sumedha Baudh of Rashtiya Dalit Mahila Andolan and Ms Rakhi – of NTUI) were attacked in this foul manner. One senior police officer allegedly shouted out, “are ye aise nahi manenge, lathi ghusao.” (They would not listen this way, insert lathi into them”. After this foul attack, several activists were taken into custody and held for more than an hour.

During the neoliberal era, the democratic spaces for ordinary people were systematically curtailed and brought down to small designated areas in the capital cities of every state and Jantar Mantar in Delhi for the entire nation. People could gather here and shout at their hearts’ content surrounded by police without anyone taking note of them. This is the de facto face of the Indian democracy. In this terrible case, the entire village community having to resort to sit-in protest for nearly two months itself is revolting enough. Instead of taking note of their genuine demand –rehabilitation at safe place as they could not return to Bhagana– the government getting them brutally evicted from this last traces of democracy, is surely not assuring to Dalits of the ‘good days’ Modi regime promised. Delhi police is directly under the central home ministry and is unlikely to act in such an odious manner unless briefed as such. The most surprising thing is that both Delhi and Haryana police, although under the governments of rival parties seem to have acted in unison. The message is clear enough that the protests, etc. will no more be allowed. After all, how could anyone see ‘good days’ if Jantar Mantars and Azad Maidans still existed?

The First Wicket Falls

While the above was the direct act of the government, there were many insidious acts committed by the outfits emboldened by the BJP’s victory. Just two days before the Bhagana eviction, on 2 June, a 24-year old Muslim youth was killed by the mob belonging to Hindu Rashtra Sena, a decade old Hindu rightist outfit, protesting against the morphed pictures of Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray and Maratha icon Chhatrapati Shivaji on Facebook. According to the Pune police, the Facebook page with these morphed pictures had existed for over a year and had 50,000 Likes. This well appreciated page, was suddenly sent out on a fast chat application to fuel mob fury by the militants of the Hindu Rashtra Sena. They assumed that it was created and run by a Muslim ‘Nihal Khan’ but according to the police now, it was actually done by a Hindu youth Nikhil Tikone, a resident of Kasha Peth. These facts apart, the page was taken off social networking sites on Friday, soon after sensing trouble and hence there was no need for escalating the issue to a full-fledged protest. However, the goons of Hindu Rashtra Sena and Shiv Sena went ahead with protest on Monday. In the evening in Hadaspar on the outskirts of Pune they stopped a bike, took off its rider, hit him on the head with hockey sticks and stones, left him for dying while they went on rampage in the area. The victim, an IT-professional, Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh, did not have anything to do with the pictures in question. But just because he was sporting a beard and green Pathani kurta the attackers killed him. Shaikh’s cousin, who was accompanying him, escaped while the two others, Ameen Shaikh, 30, and Ijaz Yusuf Bagwan, 25, sustained injuries. The police initially reeled off an usual alibi that the protesters had gathered there following rumours that Shivaji’s statue had been desecrated and a Hindu girl had been raped by Muslim boys as though that justified the killing of an innocent youth.

Immediately after killing Shaikh, an ominous sms was exchanged on mobiles, saying in Marathi ‘pahili wicket padli’(the first wicket has fallen). Going by the message and the weapons with which they attacked Shaikh, it was apparently a planned action. The Police however did nothing in taking preventive steps. It may however be said to its credit, particularly its Joint Commissioner of Police, Sanjay Kumar that he promptly acted in arresting 24 persons including Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai, and charged 17 of them with murder. Desai already had as many as 23 cases of rioting and extortion against him in different police stations in the city. The Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra would expectedly flex its secular muscle for its survival in the forthcoming assembly elections, but it does not portend well as far as the silence of the Modi sarkar goes.

The game seems to have already begun. It is to be seen what role Narendra Modi plays in it.

Dr Anand Teltumbde is a writer, political analyst and civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai.

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Can Modi be compared to Hitler?

 modi-hitler-2

Ram Punyani

The national daily Hindustan Times carried an article (‘Comparing Hitler’s Germany with India 2014 is odious’, Marcus Pindur and Padma Rao Sunderji, HT 23rd may 2014), the following is the response to that.

 

 

 

With Modi coming to power in the 2014 elections various analysts have been arguing about the shape of things to come in very diverse ways. Modi himself is being compared to the likes of Nixon, Margret Thatcher, Reagan on one side and Hitler on the other. His being compared to Hitler has met with severe criticism by many other commentators (‘Comparing Hitler’s Germany with India 2014 is odious’, Marcus Pindur and Padma Rao Sunderji, HT 23rd may 2014) have strongly come out saying that Modi is no Hitler and India of 2014 is very different from Germany of 1930s. The authors argue that after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, Germany was going through a rough patch which was worsened by the great depression of late 1920s and this created a situation of the rise of Hitler and his genocidal politics. The second factor which they assert is about the weakness of German Democracy where the Nazi’s with just 30% of the votes could come to power.

 

It’s true that no two political situations are exactly alike. What is also true is that despite the superficial differences there are deeply embedded trends which have similarity in more ways than one. While India has not seen the type of post First World War ignominy which Germans suffered, it is also true that during last few years, beginning with Anna Hazare movement and later through Arvind Kejrivals’ AAP party a serious sense of mistrust in the ruling party and the political system was carefully orchestrated. The moving force of Anna movement was Modi’s parent organization RSS. Through a vicious propaganda and spectacle of mass programs Anna movement practically constructed a severe mistrust in the present system; parliament and the ruling Party. Kejrival, by taking along a large section of civic society groups; took this discrediting of the ruling party to further limits.

 

As far as the democracy in India is concerned it is a process of evolution. Some steps forward: some steps back! On one hand we see that the democratic awareness is spreading far and wide, the keenness to participate in the electoral process is increasing by the day, which is a very positive trend. At the same time there is the Westminster model of electoral politics, which totally undermines the representative character of Indian democracy. In Germany Nazis could come to power with 30% of votes. Here in 2014 India, BJP with 31% of votes has emerged as the party with the simple majority! The other process undermining the character of Indian democracy is the prevalence of caste and gender hierarchy. This graded hierarchy prevalent in the society due to which women and dalits both are subject to the injustices, which are there but not perceived and projected so easily in the society. Yet another factor undermining Indian democracy is the communalization of state apparatus due to which religious minorities are not only subjected to regular repeated violence but are also deprived of justice. Many a youth have been recklessly arrested in the wake of bomb blasts, their social lives and careers ruined before the courts exonerated them on the ground as the evidence against them was totally fabricated one. Meanwhile the demonization of this minority goes up and they are relegated to the status of ‘second class citizenship’ at places.

 

While Hitler may have been an overt hater of Jews, Parliamentary democracy, Modi is deeply rooted in the ideology of ‘Hindu nationalism’, which regards Hindus alone to be the ones’ deserving to be the citizens of this country. The people of ‘foreign religions’ Muslims and Christians are regarded as the threat to Hindu nation. Golwalkar, the RSS ideologue outlined this in his book Bunch of Thoughts. Modi’s ideological foundations are in this ideology which again goes on to model itself on the lines of Hitler. Appreciating Hitler’s genocide against Jews. Modi’s ideological mentor, Golwalkar writes, “…To keep up the purity of nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of Semitic races-The Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how neigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by. (We or Our nationhood Defined P. 27, 1938)

Modi has shown this in practice in Gujarat, where nearly two thousand people were done to death by brutal methods and then large section of the Muslim community has been reduced to live the life of humiliation and deprivation, concentrated in the ghettoes. To think that Supreme Court has exonerated Modi of this carnage is again one of the biggest propaganda exercises of current times. The SIT was formed by Supreme Court. An Amicus Curie was appointed by the same court. SIT says that there is no ground to prosecute Modi but based on the same SIT report the Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curie says that there is enough evidence in the report to prosecute Modi.

 

When a German delegation visited Gujarat (April 2010), one of the members of the delegation pointed out that he was shocked by parallels between Germany under Hitler and Gujarat under Modi. Incidentally in Gujarat school books Hitler has been glorified as a great nationalist. (http://deshgujarat.com/2010/04/10/german-mps-mind-your-own-business/). The similarities with Hitler don’t end here. Like Hitler, Modi enjoys the solid support from the corporate World. Like Hitler Modi has deep hatred for religious minorities and he believes in Hindu nationalism, as per his own admission. His attitude to religious minorities and his own persona was best described the psychoanalyst Ashish Nandy, who interviewed him much before he presided over the Gujarat when the carnage was on, he wrote “…I had the privilege of interviewing (Modi)…it left me in no doubt that here was a classic, clinical case of a fascist. I never use the term ‘fascist’ as a term of abuse; to me it is a diagnostic category comprising not only one’s ideological posture but also the personality traits and motivational patterns contextualizing the ideology.”
(http://such.forumotion.com/t17216-ashis-nandy-narendra-modi-is-a-classical-clinical-case-of-a-fascist )

 

While Germany of 1930 and India of 2014 are different there are many similarities also. The context of Hitler and Modi is different but the underlying politics (sectarian nationalism) is similar, demonization of the ‘other’ is similar, charisma created around them is similar. The fate of the ‘largest democracy’ is in doldrums, the only thing which can help it is the rule of law, morality laced justice, revival of movements for democratic and human rights, to work for the platform of social movements which is inclusive and stands for the values of Liberty, Equality and fraternity in a substantive way.

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How will the king (Narendra Modi) be guided by his raj guru (the RSS)?

Of Dharma and Artha

Vol – XLIX No. 22, May 31, 2014


Gujarat 2002, India 2014: numbers seem to sanctify. Well, Gujarat 2002 did give the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) an absolute majority in Gujarat and ever since the rule of law has been on trial and found wanting. Manipulation of the investigations and legal machinery has made sure that the charges of gross criminal misconduct against the most powerful politicians in office would not even be allowed to come to trial. Now the most powerful of these politicians, Narendra Modi will soon, once more, be sworn into office, this time at the centre, with an oath to safeguard the Indian Constitution, including the goal of a “secular” republic that is enshrined in the Preamble, and, of course, the “Fundamental Duties” to “develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. Will he then, having taken such an oath, help subvert these provisions, just like the previous incumbent, A B Vajpayee, did, especially in the realms of home, education and culture?

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, who played a key role in the electoral victory of the BJP candidates, seem to have receded into the background for now. Varanasi, however, remains an important part of Hindutva’s symbolic narrative; who knows when the demand for the reinstatement of the icon of Vishwanath in the Gyanvapi mosque will return? They may once again manufacture “evidence” just like they came up with the archaeological “evidence” that the Babri masjid was built on the ruins of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

After the BJP-led government consolidated itself following the 1999 elections, appointments of intellectuals close to the RSS to head institutions like the Indian Council of Historical Research and the Indian Council of Social Science Research began. The then union minister of human resource development, Murli Manohar Joshi, consulted the RSS’s then organising secretary, K Sudarshan on most issues. Key RSS-affiliated intellectuals were placed at the helm of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, the University Grants Commission, the National Council of Educational Research and Training, the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. There were changes in the syllabus of primary and secondary schools, the works of important historians like Romila Thapar, R S Sharma and Bipan Chandra were removed from the list of school textbooks, authors such as Sumit Sarkar and K N Panikkar were harassed, and even death threats were sent to historian D N Jha for his researches that drew on ancient texts to show that beef was then part of the Indian diet. All these were the outcome of the BJP’s cultural and educational policies.

The BJP’s money has beaten the Congress’s money in the elections to India’s 16th Lok Sabha. It is now reasonable to expect that big business, which made available most of the money, will influence policy. The Vajpayee government did not go by the RSS’s then economic nationalism for it could not but be swayed by the sections of big business that had financed the BJP’s electoral campaign. So the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Bill to allow the entry of big business, including multinationals, into the insurance business was brought in, and the ceiling on the proportion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the paid-up capital of drugs and pharmaceuticals and a whole lot of other business sectors was relaxed, quantitative restrictions on the import of consumer goods were removed and a drastic reduction of customs duties on their import followed, all these despite RSS and Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh objections. So also now, the privatisation of public enterprises, the handing over of public sector banks to private managements after recapitalisation and, writing-off of their non-performing assets, a drastic reduction of food, fuel and fertiliser subsidies, a further raising of the caps on FDI – all part of big business’ demands – seem to be on the anvil.

Apprehensions are being expressed in progressive circles as to the fate of the Forest Rights Act, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREG) Act, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR), and the National Food Security Act, 2013. The kulaks had been complaining to the then union agriculture minister, Sharad Pawar, that the stipulation of payment of theminimum wage in the MGNREG works had led to a rise in the agricultural wage rate, and thereby affected the very viability of their agricultural operations, and he wanted to please this constituency but was apparently not allowed to do so. Big business had been complaining that the LARR will lead to inordinate delays and huge increases in the capital cost of infrastructural and industrial projects as a result of a three-to-four-fold increase in the cost of land, which would, it claimed, render the projects economically unviable, but the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had ignored their grievance. Attacks on the food security law have been vicious, especially by the votaries of fiscal conservatism (the “Treasury View”). Big money and the votaries of neo-liberalism had been immensely disappointed with the UPA government for bringing in these Acts, but now, with the BJP in power, they expect significant amendments to these laws or the rules governing them to be brought in.

Narendra Modi is, after all, beholden to both the RSS and big business – dharma and artha (the latter, the desire to accumulate material wealth). So it will all depend on how the RSS, the self-anointed spiritual counsellor of the rashtra, preserves the dharma even as it accommodates the artha. The king, in its view, must be guided by the raj guru in the preservation of the ideology of Hindutva nationalism.

 

Read mor ehere – http://www.epw.in/editorials/dharma-and-artha.html

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Narendra Modi and RSS: Is it the beginning of a difficult equation?

How Modi deals with the RSS leadership, in terms of personal ties and meeting expectations of the cadre will be among the key challenges before him.
How Modi deals with the RSS leadership, in terms of personal ties and meeting expectations of the cadre will be among the key challenges before him.
ET SPECIAL:
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

Narendra Modi may become prime minister. Such a victory would be due to several factors, but for the purpose of this analysis, it will owe a lot to Modi’s personal charisma and the micro-level campaign and management done by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its network of affiliated organisations. How Modi deals with the RSS leadership, in terms of personal ties and meeting expectations of the cadre will be among the key challenges before him. It will be similar to the test he faced, but failed, after the first electoral sweep in Gujarat in 2002. The immediate years following that victory were marked by a fracture in the relationship between Modi and Sangh Parivar. Would history repeat itself or have both Modi and the RSS leadership become more appreciative towards aspirations and compulsions of the other? If the latter is the case, can one then expect fewer fireworks within the RSS fraternity?

Narendra Modi was the first Pracharak to hold a constitutional post when he became chief minister. In the late 1980s when he was deputed to the Bharatiya Janata Party, he was a middle-level functionary of the RSS. In October 2001, Modi had no claims of being a mass leader and owed his ascendance solely to the RSS leadership which endorsed his claim. Because he derived strength from the organisation, RSS leaders – especially those in Gujarat – expected Modi to involve them in the consultative process.

Since Modi had not risen to the position of the state chief of RSS before his deputation, in the hierarchy of the RSS, he was considered junior to state leaders. But he had a different view and felt that RSS, after deputing a functionary, should not expect him to work within regulations of the RSS but should be allowed to function under the framework of the affiliate. Modi felt that his boss, if any, was BJP president and / or the prime minister and other senior leaders in government.

If Modi becomes PM, will RSS expect him to consider Mohan Bhagwat as his boss? Will RSS give Modi little elbow room, want him to engage with them regularly to discuss policy matters and immediately begin implementing the RSS agenda? The answer will depend greatly on the number of seats Modi has in his kitty, but he begins from a point of advantage when compared to 2002 when his problems with RSS began. Unlike the previous RSS top brass, Bhagwat is his contemporary whose father was one of Modi’s mentors and the two spent significant time together as youth leaders.

Secondly, Modi’s popularity is much greater and this combined with pressure from the RSS cadre to force the leadership to give the nod for his anointment as prime ministerial candidate of BJP. Modi however, is also aware that had it not been for Nagpur’s endorsement, his dream would have remained a chimera. Perforce, both will have to begin on a note of accommodation but time will tell if Modi finds the elbow room restrictive or if the RSS leadership thinks Modi is too much his own man. In almost nine decades of its existence, RSS has never successfully dealt with a leader with a mass following. Will it succeed now ?

Compared to Vajpayee, the RSS agenda is more a part of Modi’s genealogy. His recent utterances on immigration from Bangladesh are a case in point. Modi, like RSS glosses over the point if deportation and controlling the influx is attainable but presents the issue as part of strategy to alter demographic profile. This position has gladdened the RSS probably more than any other utterance in the course of the campaign.

But this is where exasperation at likely failure of a future Modi regime has the potential of becoming a point of discord. There are many other issues on which the RSS would like Modi to act with alacrity but which may not be possible, even if he has substantial majority in Parliament. Fringe forces will also want their aspirations to be addressed. But, Modi the campaigner will have to be different from Modi the statesman. The bulk of RSS cadre remains oblivious of compulsions of governance and this has the potential for conflict. Moreover, not all of Modi’s supporters endorse the RSS world view and instead see him as a political and economic moderniser.

As his campaign peaks, Modi has become more strident. But in this strategy lurks the seed of possible discord over failure to meet expectations that may have to be toned down for reasons of political pragmatism.

The witer is Narendra Modi’s biographer.

 Read mo ehere – http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/narendra-modi-and-rss-is-it-the-beginning-of-a-difficult-equation/articleshow/34805159.cms

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Could a Hindu Extremist Become India’s Next Prime Minister?

Zahir Janmohamed on May 13, 2014 – 0:36PM ET

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (second from right) waves to his supporters in Varanasi (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

Ahmedabad—In a recent interview, Narendra Modi, the man likely to be India’s next prime minister, was askedby a news agency why he long avoided questions by journalists about his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Despite YouTube videos showing Modi refusing to answer questions on this topic, Modi insisted, “I was not silent…. I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002 to 2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand the truth.”

In Manoj Mitta’s new book The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra, published by Harper Collins India, Mitta argues that if there has been no real attempt to get to the truth of Modi’s actions during the riots, it’s because of the “cavalier” approach to justice. Through extensive documentation, Mitta shows that Modi might be on trial today, as opposed to campaigning for prime minister, if only he had been asked the right questions about his role in the riots.

Mitta is a senior journalist with the Times of India who specializes in human rights reporting. His first book,When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, examined the investigation into the anti-Sikh pogrom in India’s capital of Delhi, when about 3,000 Sikhs were killed after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard. It was co-written with H.S. Phoolka, now a senior advocate with the Supreme Court, who fought for over a decade, to little avail, to get justice for the victims of the 1984 massacre. Mitta has said that his third book will examine India’s problem of caste violence.

In his latest book, Mitta focuses his attention on Modi. The timing could not be better. India’s elections began on April 7 and conclude on May 12, with results to be announced on May 16. Modi, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat since 2001 and is running under the banner of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has a 78 percent favorability rating, according to the Pew Research Center. His key opponents are Rahul Gandhi of the left-leaning Indian National Congress Party and Arvind Kejriwal of the anti-corruptionAam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party. Many of India’s 814 million voters view Modi as capable of rescuing India from the economic slump it has been in under the incumbent Congress party, which, with the Nehru-Gandhi family, has ruled India for most of its sixty-seven-year post-independence history. But a major cloud still hangs over Modi’s head: the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The violence was sparked after a train was set on fire in the Gujarat city of Godhra. Fifty-nine Hindus were killed, most of them known as kar sevaks, who were on their way back from Ayodhya, in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. The kar sevaks were helping to build a temple to the Hindu deity Lord Ram on the site of the religiously contested sixteenth-century Babri mosque, which was razed by tens of thousands of Hindus in 1992.

Retaliatory violence broke out in Gujarat soon after the Godhra arson, resulting in the death of over 1,200, most of them Muslims. Human Rights Watch said in its 2002 report, “The attacks against Muslims in Gujarat have been actively supported by state government officials and by the police.” Particularly gruesome was the scale of violence against women. “Among the women surviving in relief camps, are many who have suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence—including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their body, stripping, molestations. A majority of rape victims have been burnt alive,” a report by a collection of India-based NGOs said. In 2005, the US government denied Modi a visa, the first time in history Washington has blocked entry because of religious freedom violations.

Modi, who was born in Gujarat in 1950, has been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, since his childhood. The RSS was started in 1925 as a paramilitary Hindu nationalist group and today it runs around 45,000 camps where Hindus are trained in various physical activities ranging from yoga to evenweapons training. In 1948, one of its members, Nathuram Godse, assassinated India’s nonviolent independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Modi remains an ardent follower of the RSS and a champion of Hindu nationalism, which argues that non-Hindus may live peacefully in India so long as they accept the superiority of Hindu culture. It is this belief that led a young Modi to join the senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, who became India’s deputy prime minister in 2002, on a procession across India to build support for the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

For many, including the Indian sociologist Ashis Nandy, Modi’s proclivity toward ultra-religious nationalism has always been visible. Remarking in 2002 about his meeting with Modi in the early 1990s, Nandy wrote, “I had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.”

How, then, did Modi transform himself from a human rights pariah to being cleared by India’s legal system? Mitta begins by probing the Godhra train tragedy. Within hours after the attacks, dozens of Muslims were arrested, despite the fact that there was scant evidence of their involvement. That afternoon, the dead bodies from the Godhra incident were handed over to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an extremist Hindu nationalist group, and placed on display eighty miles away in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s most populous city, where Hindu-Muslim clashes erupted in 1969, 1985 and 1992. And that night, Modi called the arson a “terror attack,” before any investigation had begun.

P.C. Pande, then the Ahmedabad commissioner of police, was critical of the decision; he “feared serious repercussions because Ahmedabad was a communally sensitive city… like a tinderbox.” Mitta challenges the belief that Modi showed respect for the legal system and called for calm. If anything, the opposite was true, Mitta argues, suggesting that it may have been the Gujarat government’s decision to bring the bodies to Ahmedabad and place them on display.

One of the most shocking things Mitta reveals is that the forensic team that was assigned to examine the burnt train coach arrived only two months later, and the train coach had been left out in the open. Whether this was a case of incompetence or willful neglect, Mitta reminds us that the best way to memorialize the Hindus who died is to seek answers about their killing through a proper investigation. “The casualties in the Godhra arson deserved better fact-finding, especially under a government that derived so much political mileage from their tragedy,” Mitta writes.

Nine years later, thirty-one Muslims were convicted in 2011 of a “pre-planned conspiracy” to attack the train. But what of the sixty-three Muslims who were acquitted, including the alleged mastermind? Mitta writes, “These false arrests were a measure of the prejudice likely to have been caused to the investigation by Modi’s hasty declaration on the first day that the Godhra incident was a terror attack.”

The bulk of Mitta’s book, however, focuses on the violence that followed the train arson. On February 28, 2002, a day after the train fire, a mob gathered in the affluent Muslim neighborhood of Gulbarg in Ahmedabad where Ehsan Jafri, a member of India’s Parliament, lived along with other Muslim families. Jafri made frantic calls for help to the police commissioner and to the chief minister’s office, but no one responded. When the mob surrounded his home, Jafri fired a gun in hopes of dispelling it. In 2007, the Indian investigative magazine Tehelka reported the testimony of one of Jafri’s assailants: “Five or six people held [Jafri], then someone struck him with a sword… chopped off his hand, then his legs… then everything else… after cutting him to pieces, they put him on the wood they’d piled and set it on fire… burnt him alive.” Jafri was 73.

Several years later, India’s Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by R.K. Raghavan, the former head of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. Mitta brings Raghavan’s impartialityinto question. Not only was he indicted for the security lapses that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a Congress party leader, in 1991, but Raghavan’s career was resuscitated in 1999 by Modi’s party, the BJP.

The SIT questioned Modi in 2010, asking him seventy-one questions, including about the Jafri case. Modi claims he did not know about the incident until five hours later, though he admitted that as chief minister of Gujarat, he was in constant contact with his police officers, who were monitoring that day’s events. Police officers have also come forward and claimed that Modi instructed them to “let Hindus vent their anger,” although the veracity of this has been contested.

Nonetheless, Modi’s claim to not have known about the killing does not square with his infamously autocraticstyle of rule and his tendency to know every detail about Gujarat’s events. In this election, Modi has boasted that as chief minister, he is one of the most efficient and attentive leaders, but these are two qualities Modi did not show on the day of Jafri’s killing.

Unfortunately, the SIT’s questioning of Modi was of little help in discovering the truth: “At no point did AK Malhotra [a member of the investigating team of the SIT] make the slightest effort to pin Modi down on any gaps and contradictions in his testimony,” Mitta writes. Furthermore, Mitta believes that “had the SIT not balked at asking questions on issues of far greater consequence, Modi would have most likely been facing a trial.”

Modi, however, has emerged unscathed, while others have been convicted in the Gujarat riots cases, including Maya Kodnani, who led a mob in Gujarat at the bloodiest incident during the violence, the Naroda Patiya massacre, where ninety-seven Muslims were killed. Kodnani was BJP legislator at the time and in 2007, Modi promoted her to Minister for Women and Children Development, despite pending charges against her for inciting the worst violence during the 2002 riots. (She was convicted and sentenced to twenty-eight years in jail in 2012.)

But assessing Modi’s guilt is not the purpose of Mitta’s book, and Mitta deserves credit for his restraint. At times the book is dense and bogged down with technical details, which can be daunting for a non-specialist audience. I do also wish Mitta had zoomed out a bit more to examine broader issues, such as the culture of impunity that is so widespread in India as well as the role of the Indian bureaucracy in religious riots. That said, given how emotionally charged these elections are, Mitta deserves credit for not making any bold proclamations about Modi, and he deserves praise for his lack of rhetorical bombast, something rare in these discussions.

Coming in the middle of these elections, Mitta’s book is also an important corrective to the way Modi speaks about the 2002 riots today. In a recent interview, Modi said, “I have taken it [moral responsibility for any person killed in Gujarat] since day one.” This past December, Modi claimed he was “shaken to the core by the riots.”

The reality is quite different, Mitta reminds us. On the day of the Godhra train attack, Modi traveled eighty miles to visit Godhra but did not initially visit any of the relief camps in Ahmedabad, an hour away from his residence. A few months after the violence, Modi was dismissive of those camps, where tens of thousands of displaced Muslims lived for as long as ten months. “Do we go and run relief camps? Should we open child-producing centers?” Modi said.

These stories are well known, at least in India, but it is the lesser-told stories that make his book stand out. For example, on February 28, 2002, the Gujarati newspaper Sandesh ran a headline that said, “Avenge Blood with Blood.” On March 1 Sandesh featured a story that, as Mitta writes, “taunted Hindus for [their] absence of reprisals.”

The Editors Guild of India, one of the nation’s most respected journalist associations, condemned the paper, along with another Gujarati publication, as a “notable offender” of media freedom. Modi saw the coverage differently, and on March 18, 2002, Modi wrote to Sandesh praising its coverage. “I am happy to note that your newspaper exercised restraint during the communal disturbances.” While India’s English print and TV journalists were sharply critical of Modi during the riots, the vernacular press contributed to the anti-Muslim fear in Gujarat—and earned Modi’s compliments in the process.

By focusing on Modi’s response and the subsequent investigation into his actions, Mitta is able to raise a larger question: why does the Indian legal system so often exonerate its political leaders? Mitta offers one explanation. “When it came to the high and mighty, the system betrayed a deep-seated inhibition to take the evidence to its logical conclusion. This is a commentary on how little the Indian legal culture has evolved where it really matters,” Mitta writes.

In 2012, on the tenth anniversary of the riots, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch said: “Modi has acted against whistleblowers while making no effort to prosecute those responsible for the anti-Muslim violence. Where justice has been delivered in Gujarat, it has been in spite of the state government, not because of it.” Indeed, when the Gujarat government pursued cases relating to the 2002 riots, it resulted in a paltry 5 percent conviction rate, but when the Supreme Court examined these cases, the rate was 39 percent.

The Gujarat government is not alone in being lackadaisical in its commitment to human rights. Across India, too often the legal system privileges the politically connected, the majority communities, the high castes and males. Gender violence is rampant in India, for example, because there is little political will to tackle the culprits. Addressing this topic, Harvard Law School’s Jacqueline Bhabha said, “Reducing impunity is imperative: more effective arrests, more police accountability, speedier trials, consistent and appropriate sentencing policies, adequate criminal justice resources so that gender justice is not only delivered, but seen to be delivered.”

Another problem is that the accused are too often favored. “The rates of judicial attrition continue to be high. The criminal justice system is not victim friendly and focuses on the rights of the accused alone,” said Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of the Supreme Court of India, speaking on gender-based violence.

This is one of the strengths of Mitta’s book. He reminds us that even if there were irrefutable evidence of Modi’s guilt, the history of the Indian justice system shows that it seldom pursues those at the top.

* * *

In this election, Modi has tried to convince voters that he was pained by the riots, unaware of the riots, helpless in the face of the riots. It is a useful campaign strategy, as Modi wants to convince voters he is capable of leading a country as diverse as India. But Tanveer Jafri, whose father Ehsan Jafri was killed, is not convinced. “When there was a bomb blast at Modi’s rally in Bihar, he went to comfort the victims. But Modi has never once reached out to my family. Instead he has tried to blame us,” Jafri said.

This is a tactic commonly used by Modi: to stigmatize the complainant. As he told his biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, “There is one conspiratorial group which keeps this emotional hurt business alive by digging up the wounds. When that group stops their work, the wounds will automatically get healed.” But as Mitta reminds us, society can only reach closure when it confronts—rather than denies—its problems.

Modi would rather the critics remain silent. It is through our acquiescence, he believes, that India will advance. This may be the biggest tragedy. Many in India are no longer able to find the space to question Modi. Journalists have reported that they are under pressure to mute their criticism of him. Publishers are fearful too: a biography of Modi by French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot, one of the world’s leading experts on Hindu nationalism, has been delayed because many are weary of releasing anything critical on Modi at this time.

For the Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, a Modi victory would be to “risk everything that is beautiful about a free society.” In a speech delivered on April 28 at the Pen World Voices Festival, Rushdie observed, “A disturbingly high percentage of the Indian electorate wants a strong man leader, is willing to turn a blind eye to his past misdeeds, even if those include genocide, believes that dissenting intellectuals should be put in their place, critical journalists should be muzzled, and artists should behave themselves.”

Indeed, here in Gujarat, the victims of the 2002 riots are all but silent. On the morning of February 28, Justice Akbar Divecha, a Muslim, saw a Hindu mob gathered outside his house in Ahmedabad. He called Modi’s right-hand man at the time, Ashok Bhatt, for help, but Bhatt said he could not do anything. Divecha and his wife managed to escape to the all-Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad known as Juhapura. A few hours later, his house was burned down. “Even the car the government provided me was attacked,” Divecha said. “My wife lost it. I don’t think she has still accepted that this could happen.”

One of Modi’s defenses is that the Gujarat government was not aware of the violence that day. Divecha sees it otherwise. “The [Gujarat] government was responding all day to my calls. They were just not acting,” he said. He wrote a chilling letter of complaint to the Gujarat government and thought that as a retired high court justice they would sympathize with him. No such compassion was shown. His house burned down, they told him, because he should not have left his home.

This has been a tendency of all Indian political parties and indeed of Modi’s government: the fingers always point outward. Tragedies happen because the victim did or did not do something. Jafri was blamed for staying home and firing a gun; Divecha was blamed for leaving his home.

Today Divecha lives a few blocks from my apartment in Juhapura, where around 400,000 live with with limited government provided schools, roads, and sewage lines. All throughout Divecha’s house are chains hanging from the ceiling that he uses to stabilize himself when he stands, one above his chair, another above his breakfast table, another by the door. He is 80 years old and when we met, he sat in front of a coffee table full of medication.

“I am tired,” he said. “I served India all my life. Is this any way to treat a high court justice?”

 

Read more here-  http://m.thenation.com/article/179821-could-indias-next-prime-minister-be-hindu-extremist

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Modi has no regard for any kind of court, least of all judiciary

The refrain that democratic institutions will survive him ignores how weak they are.
Written by Nandini Sunder | May 2, 2014 , Indian Express
Modi has no regard for any other kind of court, least of all a constitutionally appointed judiciary.
Modi has no regard for any other kind of court, least of all a constitutionally appointed judiciaryThe refrain that democratic institutions will survive him ignores how weak they are.In a competitive bid to bare each other’s dirty linen this election season, political parties have raised the ghosts of 1984 and 2002. Each party claims that the other is guilty but as for itself, it has been given, in that peculiarly Indian phrase, a “clean chit”. Narendra Modi tells us he will be found innocent in the “people’s court” and was “waiting to hear their verdict”. Clearly Modi has no regard for any other kind of court, least of all a constitutionally appointed judiciary. He is not alone in this — every major political party seems to believe that winning elections is an alternative to judicial accountability. The one point where Modi is right, of course, is when he asks, “What is the system of pardoning people through apology?”

The Congress has tried to apologise its way out of 1984, as if that’s all it took to repair devastated lives. In Bastar, the Congress candidate, Deepak Karma, admitted that Salwa Judum was a mistake, even as he was given a ticket precisely because he was Mahendra Karma’s son, a man who pillaged his way through his own people. The word that is curiously missing in all this is “justice”. When liberal commentators tell us that we need not fear for India’s democratic institutions under Modi, one wonders which institutions they are referring to. In truth, almost every major “pillar” of Indian democracy — political parties, the media, the judiciary, even the electoral system — has been rendered so fragile over the years that it will not need too drastic a push to render them impotent. Already people have begun to censor themselves, to “balance” their previous criticism with high praise and to urge forgiveness for 2002 as if it was theirs to forgive. Almost all the major political parties are headed by individuals whose personalities outweigh any institutional process. For long, the BJP prided itself on its collective decision-making, but that is clearly a thing of the past. Modi appears larger than life, especially to himself, with his narcissistic illeism or references to himself in the third person. It is hardly surprising that his immediate model is Indira Gandhi. Not only do we have the Emergency-era promise that he will make the trains run on time, but like her, one of the first things he has done is destroy his own party. Just as the Congress has never recovered from Indira, it is hard to imagine what a post-Modi BJP might look like.

The media is a player in the electoral process, rather than a watchdog of democracy. It is hardly an impartial mirror to the elections. The “news” as it comes to us is an endless repetition of X “slammed” Y, Y denied Z, with none of the parties being forced to provide a clear vision on the important questions facing the country like the environment, job creation, health or education. Social media is not an alternative, given the symbiotic relationship it has with mainstream media, with the same personalities and issues dominating in both. Of course, there are some important exposes and many brave journalists, but it is precisely because of them that the more substantial propaganda functions of the media get by. Even if ministers who swear on the Constitution when taking oath forget the basic principle of separation of powers, the judiciary has not performed too well, either, in calling politicians to account. Some of this may be due to the enormous burden of cases that the courts face, but if 10, even 30, years on, the victims of 1984, 2002, Pathribal, Salwa Judum or the Kandhamals remain without justice, surely the judiciary cannot escape blame. In a wonderful essay, English historian Douglas Hay shows how 18th century courts consolidated a belief in the impartiality of law, even at a time when laws were changed to expropriate peasants and capital punishment was freely prescribed for crimes against property. A few good judgments, a few capital pardons and a few rich men hanged were enough to make people believe in the majesty and mercy of the law. Little has changed up to the 21st century.

The electoral system is held hostage to money and to the first-past-the-post system. A recent analysis in The Times of India, based on 2009 Lok Sabha figures, showed that barely 22 per cent of MPs polled more than 50 per cent of the votes cast. Given that 60 per cent is considered a high voting rate, most winning candidates actually have the support of very small minorities in their constituency. The EC is a remarkable institution, but its omnipotence during elections and the fact that it is not always right in its judgement shows up some of the deeper biases in the electoral system. Door to door campaigning, which is the preferred option of the poor, is banned just before voting, but full-page newspaper advertisements that invade one’s home on polling day are not. The AAP certainly provides hope that democracies can throw up surprises. However, the very fact that many AAP candidates — activists, lawyers, journalists and even corporate stars —  are contesting because they feel that they can change the system only through politics, tells us how poorly other professions fare. It is time we stopped expecting elections to deliver democracy by themselves, and woke up to the state of our institutions. Whoever wins, they may be tested so much that they may not pass.

The writer teaches sociology  at Delhi University

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The Resistible Rise of Narendra Modi

modi-hitler-2

Economic & Political Weekly, Vol – XLIX No. 18, May 03, 2014 | Sumanta Banerjee

Commentary

A rereading of Bertolt Brecht‘s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941) and Sinclair Lewis‘s It Can’t Happen Here (1935) is helpful in understanding the social psyche in India today that is being moulded by Narendra Modi and is greasing his – and his party’s – path to power. It can happen here.

Sumanta Banerjee ([email protected]) is a long-time contributor to EPW and is best known for his book In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India (1980).

A rereading of Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (1941) and Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (1935) is helpful in understanding the social psyche in India today that is being moulded by Narendra Modi and is greasing his – and his party’s – path to power.

It can happen here. It takes a great deal of optimism to imagine the next government at the centre without the disquietingly looming presence of Narendra Modi. Yet, such an eventuality could have been prevented, and its onward rush can still be resisted. We are paying the price for forgetting a not too distant past.

The heading of this article is a rephrasing of the title of Bertolt Brecht’s play The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Bertolt wrote it in 1941 after escaping from Germany, and while in exile in Helsinki, waiting for a visa to enter the United States (US). Curiously enough, during Brecht’s stay in the US (1941-47), the play was never staged there. Another work of fiction – this time by a famous American author – shared a similar fate of boycott by the establishment in his country. This was the novel, It Can’t Happen Here,written by Sinclair Lewis in 1935. Both the play and the novel were written during a period which saw the rise of Nazism and its consolidation as a ruling power in Germany.

A rereading of the two may help us today to understand the social psyche in India that is being moulded by Narendra Modi, and which in its turn is greasing his – and his party’s – path to power. The rereading should also awaken us to the need for resisting in India the repetition of a political experiment that gained currency in Germany and Italy during 1930-40, but which ultimately ended up in a global disaster. Thankfully, the Hindu right has not yet been able to assume that monstrous global dimension.

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

To come back to Brecht’s play, significantly enough, he chose for his hero an American gangster. He situated his story in Chicago of the 1930s, and moulded the character Arturo Ui on the model of a typical small-time mobster who takes over the city’s grocery trade, by aligning with a corrupt local administration and by ruthlessly destroying all opposition. We also discover shades of the well-known contemporary mafia don Al Capone. It was a satirical allegory of Hitler’s rise to power, which was taking place in Germany at the same time. But the message of Brecht’s play moves beyond the contemporaneity of his days. We recognise in Arturo Ui the all too familiar local gangster-cum-politician who gets elected to today’s Indian Parliament. We discern today the same fears and compulsions among the common citizens, whom Brecht portrayed as victims of economic recession, who were either frightened into submission to Arturo Ui, or lured by money to join his gang.

Brecht probes into this mass psychology that bolsters fascism, by pointing to the propensity among the underprivileged to respect and worship the local gangster, who enjoys power at the micro level thanks to the support that he gets from those in power at the macro level. Yet, Brecht reminds us, the rise of Arturo Ui (alias Hitler) could not have been possible without the connivance of the common people and their local politicians. All that is necessary for the triumph of such creatures is that the majority of people hesitate to oppose them, and thereby acquiesce in their rise.

But it is not popular opposition alone that can resist the rise of the types of Arturo Ui. It is also the responsibility of states which swear by democracy, to oppose fascism. When Bertolt Brecht wrote this play on his way to the US, he had the American audience in mind, and expected them to understand what was happening in Germany. He tried to present it in terms of the American experience of mobster politics, so that they could pressurise their government to resist Hitler. The US till then had remained a silent spectator to Hitler’s genocide of Jews within Germany, and increasing territorial ambitions abroad – in the surreptitious hope that Hitler would destroy its main enemy, the Soviet Union. It was only after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941 that the US joined the war. Not surprisingly therefore, as mentioned earlier, this play of Brecht’s was never staged in the US during the 1940s. It cut too close to the bones of the ruling syndicate of US senators and the mafia.

It Can’t Happen Here

The next work of fiction that I am taking up was written by the American author Sinclair Lewis who won the Nobel Prize in 1930. Five years later – in 1935 – he wrote this semi-satirical novel, against the backdrop of the rise of fascism in the international arena, and the simultaneous consolidation of the mafia-politician nexus within the US. It is significant that the locale chosen by both Bertolt Brecht and Sinclair Lewis for the operations of their respective heroes/villains is the US.

Sinclair Lewis’s novel describes the rise of Berzelius Windrip (popularly known as “Buzz”), a fictional US senator who during his election speeches promises drastic economic and social reforms, while promoting a return to chauvinist patriotism and traditional conservative values (anticipatory echoes of Narendra Modi?). Once he gets elected as the president, Windrip takes complete control of the administration, and imposes totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force. Although fictional, the character of Windrip was based on a real life politician – Huey Long, who was preparing to run for president at the time when Lewis was writing the novel.

The title of the novel reflected the mood of complacency of the American liberal-minded voters at that time, who felt that such authoritarianism could never be possible in a democracy like the US. While it did not indeed happen then, a little over a decade later, Lewis’s nightmare turned out to be true, when under the rule of a president that they had elected – Harry Truman – Americans had a taste of authoritarianism. In 1947, Truman introduced a number of measures that destroyed civil liberties, leading up to the virtual control of the administration by the House Committee on Un-American Activities which inaugurated the notorious McCarthy era of the 1950s (named after the Republican senator who unleashed a ruthless campaign against communists and liberals, and persecuted eminent writers like Lillian Hellman and film personalities like Charles Chaplin).

Sinclair Lewis, when writing his novel in 1935, had a premonition of the things that were coming. Observing from close quarters his contemporary American middle classes, he could discern their smug self-contentedness and indifference in the face of the growth of corruption and gangsterism among their own politicians – tendencies that were to fertilise the seeds of the McCarthy type fascist order that emerged in the US in the 1950s.

These two literary works, in their respective ways, reawaken us to our responsibilities today in resisting the rise of a new ruling dispensation in India that threatens the secular fabric of our Constitution and the pluralistic culture of our society. We can go on quibbling over the question whether “fascism” is the appropriate term to describe it – an exercise which certain intellectuals are fond of indulging in. But the stark reality is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders by their announcements, and their cadres by their acts, demonstrate the same personality-based political strategy of combining populist rhetoric from public platforms at the macro level, and intimidation and terrorisation of the citizens at the micro level that Hitler and Mussolini followed in the 1930s.

Neo-Hindutva in the Era of Neo-liberalism

Narendra Modi, who has been chosen by the Sangh parivar as the prime ministerial candidate, has turned out to be the best exponent of this strategy. Following in the footsteps of those two notorious global personalities, he has managed to project himself as the man for all seasons and all classes. He uses the harangue of Hindutva when wooing voters in the cow-belt (where he berates against the enemies of go-mata), the rhetoric of economic development (a la the Gujarat model) when addressing the corporate sector, the discourse of governance to assure the middle-class voters of efficiency in administration, the militarist bombast of defending the nation to draw support from the armed forces and their top brass, and invokes his childhood memories as a chai-walato solicit votes from the poor. Like his German and Italian predecessors, he also uses his foot soldiers – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-Bajrang Dal goons – to bulldoze into submission those who oppose him. He eminently fits the standards laid down in an ancient Sanskrit proverb: “Manasya-anyad, bachasya-anyat, karmanya-anyad, duratma-nam” (A villain’s thoughts, utterances and actions differ from each other).

But there is a method in this contradiction in Modi’s strategy and tactics, by which he had built up an image that has elevated him from a villain (of the 2002 Gujarat genocide) to a hero (of economic development) in the popular psyche. The mainstream media, bankrolled by the corporate sector, are fostering his electoral potentialities, picking upon only those aspects of his party’s agenda that suit them (like promises of industrial growth) while ignoring the other controversial aspects (like his promise to build a temple on the disputed site of Babri masjid, abrogate Article 370, and impose a uniform civil code). The media hype around Modi is reminiscent of the role of the European press in the 1930s, when it continued to depict Hitler and Mussolini as amiable guys who were expected to defeat the communists, till the Axis powers reached right on the doorstep of the Western capitalist states.

But while recalling the past and identifying the similarities, we should take a more astute view of the Hindu right in India today. It is not an exact replica of the fascist forces of the past. As its most powerful representative, Narendra Modi is refashioning the strategy and tactics of a populist chauvinist nationalism (the ideology that was followed by the Axis powers in their respective states in the 1930-40 period – and by the Hindu right in India) within the present order of globalisation. He has developed a concept of neo-Hindutva to suit the demands of the neo-liberal economy. While remaining loyal to the Sangh parivar’s basic strategy of establishing a Hindu theocratic state of Ram rajya (a parallel to the contemporary Islamic project of creating a sharia-based political order), Modi is coming up with tactics to accommodate foreign multinationals and the indigenous corporate sector. Under his leadership, the Hindu right is thus attempting a mix between Reliance and Ram Janmabhoomi. It is adopting the neo-liberal order in economy, while retaining its core ideology of Hindutva to establish its hegemony in the sociocultural scene. By occupying a leading position in the institutions of power, it plans to reinforce its values and norms all over society.

‘It Can Happen Here’

To take the cue from Sinclair Lewis’s novel, if a Narendra Modi-led BJP comes to power, we can be sure that the following things “can happen here” – (i) the imposition of a Hindutva-based curriculum in educational institutions (signs of which were evident during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime); (ii) clamping down on cultural works that may be deemed offensive to the Sangh parivar’s ideology of Hindutva (like banning of books, vandalising of art exhibitions, suppression of historical research – policies and practices followed by the BJP in states which it rules, and by its foot soldiers in other states); (iii) infliction of patriarchal diktats on all expressions of female self-assertion, and deprecation of women’s rights (remember Modi’s infamous statement that women in Gujarat were malnourished because they chose to be slim!); and (iv) most dangerously – the intimidation of the minority communities into total subjugation (the notorious example being the “final solution” type experiment carried out against Muslims in Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat in 2002, which by threatening them has compelled their leaders to accept Modi as their protector).

Despite this horrendous record of the BJP, and Narendra Modi in particular, certain sections of the Indian intellectual milieu are veering towards Modi – some openly joining his party, and some through specious arguments in newspaper columns. One such argument is that once Modi comes to power, he will be chastened by the rules of the Indian Constitution by which he will have to operate within a democratic structure. These commentators suffer from a self-induced amnesia by conveniently forgetting that Modi and his party had always got away by violating the rules of the Constitution – whether by demolishing the Babri masjid, or by presiding over the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat.

The delusion (or opportunism?) of these liberal sections reminds us of the same American middle-class complacency that Sinclair Lewis exposed in his novel. In India today, given the tottering and corruptible base of the institutions that prop up the democratic structure – the legislature, the bureaucracy and the judiciary – would it not be a cake walk for Narendra Modi, if he comes to power, to bend them to serve both his megalomaniac ambitions and his party’s ideological goals?

Past Misdeeds and Future Responsibilities

In fact, the rise of the BJP and the legitimisation of its ideology of Hindutva and politics of violence in the 1980-90 period, were made possible by a series of misdeeds of a professedly secular Congress government at the centre, beginning from the opening of the doors of the Babri masjid to the Hindu religionists. It then allowed the BJP-RSS-VHP axis to drum up Hindu sentiments over the Ram Janmabhoomi issue under their pilot L K Advani, whose ratha-yatra left a bloody trail of communal riots in its wake. Even after having witnessed the murderous consequences of such public demonstration by the forces of Hindutva, the Congress government in New Delhi accepted at face value their assurances of peaceful behaviour, and allowed their leaders and goons to assemble in Ayodhya, demolish the Babri masjid, and reopen the wounds of Indian history’s most shameful chapter of bloody Hindu-Muslim conflict in colours of mass violence not seen since the days of the 1947 Partition. The left and other democratic forces also failed to mount a counter-offensive against this march of the Sangh parivar’s juggernaut that was taking place under the benevolent auspices of the Congress regime’s policy of soft-Hindutva.

It is an uphill task now to make amends for the wrongs and failures of the past, and reverse the process of distortion of the Indian polity by a class of criminals who have risen to positions of atrocious eminence – whether from the BJP, the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, or the various regional formations. To suit their interests, and bereft of any ideological commitment, they tend to join any national formation – the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the NDA – or flirt with other national alternatives like the “third front”, or the newly floated idea of a “federal front”. The next Lok Sabha thus may become a choice terrain for intrigues among these abominable effluvia of self-serving, criminal and corrupt politicians which will flow from the ongoing polls.

The handful of honest and courageous individuals who may get elected to the Lok Sabha, will stick out as sore thumbs from the midst of this cesspool. But they can make a difference if they are sincere in their commitment to the secular and democratic values embedded in our Constitution. They will have to combine their debating skills on the floors of the legislature with their ability to mobilise the masses in the streets, in order to resist the domination and criminalisation of society by religio-political groups like the Sangh parivar, as well as the corruption of our political system by the corporate boss-politician-bureaucrat nexus. Sumanta Banerjee ([email protected]) is a long-time contributor to EPW and is best known for his book In the Wake of Naxalbari: A History of the Naxalite Movement in India (1980).

 

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Modi- #Hatespeech – Should We Run Relief Camps? Open Child Producing Centres?’ #NOMOre_2014

Poster by Amir Rizvi

Poster by Amir Rizvi

Excerpts from a translation of an audio recording of the infamous speech, courtesy NDTV and Indian Express.
  
On September 9, Narendra Modi’s  Gujarat Gaurav Yatra rolled into Becharaji, where he delivered his by now infamous Hum paanch, hamare pachees speech — that the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) wanted a text of for its apparently inflammatory content.The speech that the Gujarat Government claimed it had been unable to trace a copy of.Indian Express reported: “Modi’s Principal Secretary P K Mishra had earlier told The Indian Express: ”Since the government has neither any tapes nor a transcript of the CM’s speech, it is not in a position to send the same to the NCM.”

Excerpts from a translation of an audio recording of the speech, courtesy NDTV and Indian Express

 

Power hungry people are out to defame Gujarat. At such a time, the five crore people of Gujarat will gain strength from the blessings of Becharaji to build tomorrow’s glorious Gujarat.

We are dubbed Hinduwadi because we have allocated Rs eight crore towards the development of Becharaji. Is it our fault? Are we communal?

The Congress also accuses me of bringing the Narmada waters to the Sabarmati river in the month of Shravan. But the dam has already been built… I want to ask the Congress, why do you object if people on the banks of the Sabarmati derive spiritual peace through the Narmada waters brought in the month of Shravan? When you come to power, you are free to bring water during Ramzan.

When we allocate funds for Becharaji, they do not like it. And if we bring Narmada waters in the month of Shravan, then too they say they dislike it. So what should we do? Do we go and run relief camps? Should we open child producing centres?

We want to firmly implement family planning. Hum paanch, humare pachees (We five, our 25) (laughs). Who will benefit from this development? Is family planning not necessary in Gujarat? Where does religion come in its way? Where does community come in its way?

The population is rising in Gujarat, money isn’t reaching the poor? What’s the reason? They make a beeline, fix cycle punctures (Audience laughs).

If Gujarat is to be developed, then an economic system has to be developed where every child born in Gujarat gets education, manners and employment. And for this, those who are multiplying population at a rapid rate will need to learn a lesson. If we object to population growth, then too they dislike it. Will someone please tell me is there any (such) country in the world? Is there BJP rule in China? Yet, China has enacted laws to control population growth. Arrey, what does religion have to do with this?

We talk of madrasas. Madrasas have flourished in Gujarat. A child has a right to primary education. But a child going to a madrasa is deprived of primary education. What will such a child do once he grows up?

Those who have got no education, and got only religious education, would they not become a burden on Gujarat?

We started thinking about madrasas in Gujarat. When we express concern over madrasas, they call us communal. Why? The Communist government in West Bengal applies laws in madrasas, curbs their activities, and it is still secular? And if we try to regulate madrasas in Gujarat, we are dubbed as communal? After all, any institution has to be regulated.

If Gujarat needs peace, a long-term plan has to be drawn. The merchants of death will not be allowed to run their activities in Gujarat as they like.

And as I sit here at this seat of strength, standing at the feet of mother Becharaji, I want to assure you that the high seat (of power) may go today or tomorrow, but I will not allow the merchants of death who want to destroy Gujarat and harass the innocents to settle here.

Gujarat needs prosperity, it needs peace. Gujarat is forging ahead on the unity and strength of its five crore people. The days are gone when Dawood Ibrahim sitting in Karachi could instruct the merchants of death here and Gujarat could be set on fire. We will not allow this.

What for? For power? Power may go today or tomorrow. We have not applied Fevicol on the chair. We are sitting at the feet of the people of Gujarat. If people feel we are performing, they will welcome us, otherwise they will throw us out.

If the Congress is afraid of going to the people, then they should come out openly and say that since they are sure of their defeat, the election should be delayed. Indira Gandhi had done it too. You do it, who’s stopping you?

But no, they abuse Gujarat and Gujaratis instead. If you abuse Gujarat, that is not acceptable to us. Come out openly and give us a fight if you are strong enough. Why do you escape instead?

It is I who has been defamed. Yet, I am ready to go to the people. You go straight to Italy, plead with the Election Commission to stop polls. But we are not like you, we are proud of approaching the people. We take pride in applying the dust from people’s feet onto our foreheads.

Italy’s daughter has insulted Gujarat and its five crore people. The land of Sardar Patel is insulted. This has got to be explained. Sanjay (Gandhi) was only Maneka’s husband. Yet, it is hissamadhi that lies in Delhi, not that of Sardar Patel. The Congress is out to erase Sardar Patel’s name, but beware.

 

Read mor ehere — http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?217398

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Poem – If we are to believe Mr. Modi … #NaMo #Feku

 modimask

(Translated from Gujarati)

Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah

16 February 2014

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much so that it would do if Gujarat’s development goes dieting for months together.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed so much that Gujaratis can do without Food Security Act.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that Gujaratis can do without government hospital, medicines and doctors.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that Gujaratis don’t mind closure of government schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that Gujaratis don’t mind exorbitant fees of private schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that it is ok if only tuition classes teach instead schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that it is ok to appoint only ‘sahayak’ (assistant) on all key government permanent posts.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, in Gujarat it is ok for industries to go for wage cuts as wages in state are very high.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, wages are so high that it does not matter if inflation does not decrease.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, employment rate is so high in Gujarat, it is ok to have VRS i.e. compulsory retire those in mid forties.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much that Gujarati girls prefer dieting to eating nutritiously.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, women in Gujarat are so secure that it is ok not to worry about skewed sex ratio.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, tribals have developed so much that is it ok not to implement Forest Rights Act, 2006.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that it is ok not to talk about law and order, justice or 2002 carnage.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok not to have an ombudsman (Lokayukta) in the state.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, that it is ok for Dalits to give up their rights.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, there are so many shopping malls now in Gujarat, that is ok to finish-to do away with the street vendors, pushcarts and handcarts.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, there are so many houses in Gujarat, that it is ok if all slums are demolished.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has so smooth roads that it is ok if one goes all boneless.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok to turn rivers into canals.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok to dump poisonous industrial waste in her rivers.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok to have ground water contamination.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed” so much, it is ok for her fisher people to starve as polluted river and seawaters abound.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok to consider pollution irrelevant for development’s sake.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok to sell off farmland cheaply to the industries.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok not to give any subsidies or welfare schemes to the ordinary people.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, it is imperative to subsidize big mega industries to ensure Gujarat’s development.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok not to account for the chief minister and ministers’ spending.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much it is ok not to be accountable when people seek information under the RTI Act.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok for government to take key decisions in Vibrant Gujarat industrial fests instead of State Assembly.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok if state government only have department of industry and shuts the rest down.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok if Gujarat government organises only festivals, jamboree events and makes merry with song n dance.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok if Gujarat chief minister is away from state for months together.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has developed so much, it is ok not to have any minister other than chief minister.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, it is ok not to have any one else in government if Mr. Modi becomes prime minister.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, it is ok to do away with Parliament if Mr. Modi becomes prime minister.

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