By Teesta Setalvad


It is the voter that is the ultimate arbiter and itwill be the politically shrewd and savvy north-Indian voter of Uttar and BiharPradesh that will unequivocally decide the nation’s future in 2014. Unlike thetwo party options available in western India, the north has, post theBJP-driven bloody politics of the 1990s carved itself viable options that allowdiscontent to be channelized elsewhere. One divide or laxman rekha that seems non-negotiable is the secular-communaldivide, never mind the BJP’s Goebellian talent for anointing a lies, severaltimes spoken, as their version of the truth.


Five thousand caps and burqas we are reliably informed went waste as none, or very fewMuslims turned up for Modi darshan last Saturday. Kanpur where the rally washeld has eight lakh Muslim votes. The BJP desperate and wily, in playing itsdouble-games cannot escape the harsh questions that internet, television etcmake difficult:- questions like

BJP and VHp what’sthe rishta?

Ram Mandir yesor no? But Mandir apart what do Shah or Modi or Rajnath Singh or Jaitley haveto say about the demolition of the Babri Masjid, an iiilegal and criminal actunder Indian Law? Any answers? What about the party’s defiance of its ownassurance to the Supreme Court?

In short does the BJP believe in the rule of law andthe writ of the Constitution?


To win minority hearts and minds, a pamphlet isdoing the rounds in UP that attempts to paint more Goebellian lies about Muslimsafety, Muslim development and Muslim growth (not population!!) in Gujarat.


As a counter, here are some interesting facts:-


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)assessing the goals for poverty reduction in India among different sections ofthe population (February 2013) has analysed that the poverty head count forMuslims is  “very high in states ofAssam, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat”. In these states, nearly 50 percent of agricultural labourers and 40 per cent of other labourers are below thepoverty line in rural areas where households with primary level and lowereducation have the higher poverty ratio.” This certainly does not absolve otherparties especially the Congress, Communists but it does not show the BJP orModi up well either.


More specifically, there are recent studies that areinteresting.  Comparing the literacy rateof Gujarat’s Muslims which is at 73.5 per cent to Andhra Pradesh where it was68 per cent, Kancha Iliah attributes to the fact that in Gujarat, Muslims studyin Gujarati whereas in AP, education is divided into two languages. Telugu andUrdu. Hence while the basic literary level of Muslims was slightly betteroverall, in terms of each level of education Muslims in AP were doing muchbetter. Up to primary school, in terms of school attendance, the community inboth states were at the same level – 74.9 per cent in Gujarat and 74.7 per centin AP. Those Muslims who made it to middle school in Gujarat constituted 45.3per cent whereas in AP it was 52.6 per cent. Worse, as they move uptomatriculation, only 26.1 per cent of the Gujarati Muslim population passed StdX whereas in AP, 40.6 per cent succeeded. The dropout rate in Gujarat washigher but most surprising was the fact that barely 5 per cent of Gujarat’sMuslims completed graduation whereas in AP the figure was higher at 9.6 percent.


Gujarat surprisingly given other economic growth indicatorsemerges as a state with high levels of hunger while at the same time boastingof higher per capita income and consistent income stability. Gujarat’s hungerlevels stand side by side with Orissa and Bihar, only Jharkand, Chhatisgarh andMadhya Pradesh having worse levels.


Abu Saleh Sharief evaluating comparative data fromthe NSSO and NCAER sets right the false propaganda put forward by the BJPrelated to Muslims, Sachar Committee and Gujarat. Poverty among urban Muslimsis eight times i.e.800 per cent more than high caste Hindus, about 50 per centmore than Hindu OBCs and the SC/Sts. Over 60 per cent of Gujarat’s Muslims livein urban areas and they stand today as the most deprived social group inGujarat. Rural poverty amongst Gujarat Muslims is 200 per cent more. WhileMuslims have bank accounts proportionate to the size of the population, thedepth of institutionalised bias and prejudice is evident from the figuresrelated to access to bank loans, microcredit. Poor financial inclusion isevident from the fact that of the total, barely 2.6 per cent loans dished outby banks are the beneficiaries Muslims. So much for equality, fair play and alevel playing field. Muslims are also much more vulnerable to theft andburglary.


The most successful way to assess security andintegration is through the quality of life for one and all, the depth ofsocietal integration, mixed neighbourhoods and classrooms. The schools withinurban Gujarat, especially in the majority dominated areas rarely allowadmission to a child from this minority. Ghettoised existence has become areality within large sections of urban Gujarat as the term ‘borders’ is used todefine to segregation of neighbourhoods.

Pertinently, let’s ask, how many Muslims are part ofModi’s government, how many Muslim candidates did he field in 2012?  Modi has not a single Muslim Minister; infact during his 12 year old term in office in Gujarat, he has never trusted aMuslim as a ministerial post. But then how could he? When he has never fieldeda single Muslim candidate in the three elections in Gujarat that he has lordedover!!

Though 9.1. per cent Gujaratis are Muslim, they play nopart in Modi’s government or state legislature party. It is arguable anddebatable how many actually support him and his policies (this column willbring details on this one).

Today, as he desperately runs to keep in the race for2014, a moot question to him would be, why not a law to prevent targetedcommunal violence? A law that punctures the culture of impunity for theperpetrators of hatred and violence ?

A law that helps victims and complainants access the lawand ensure that the guilty are punished? A law that actually recognises theculpability of public servants and modifies the limiting provision undersection 197 of ‘sanction’ that acts as a barrier against prosecuting publicservants guilty of criminal acts? (Under the proposed law ‘deemed sanction’will be given by a judicial authority if s state government does not act; in2002, Modi as Gujarat’s home minister, despite the recommendations of seniorpolice officers like his own ADGP Intelligence RB Sreekumar and SP BhavnagarRahul Sharma, refused to grant sanction for the criminal prosecution of theVHP/RSS pamphlets containing hate speech and the Sandesh newspaper forspreading hatred and venom and violating sections 153a and 153b of the IPC) ?

A law that recognises command responsibility ofpolitical, bureaucratic and non-state actors? Will Modi’s BJP support such alaw? To ensure that no Muzaffarnagars, no Gujarats, no Bhiwandi’s, noHashimpuras, no Dellhis (1984) ever happen?

So far he has not let on what he thinks of such a lawwhen violence could be prevented and the guilty readily punished. So far he hassaid not a word on the violence perpetrated by BJP elected representatives inthe four districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Baghpat and Meerut. No prizes forguessing at the motives behind Modi’s mysterious silence.


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