All the Perfumes of Arabia
By Justice Markandey Katju
Narendra Modi is being projected by a large section of Indians as the modern Moses, the messiah who will lead the beleaguered and despondent Indian people into a land of milk and honey, the man who is best suited to be the next Indian Prime Minister. And it is not just the BJP and RSS who are saying this in the Kumbh Mela. A large section of the Indian so called 'educated' class, including a section of our 'educated' youth, who have been carried away by Modi’s propaganda are saying this.
I was flying from Delhi to Bhopal recently. Sitting beside me was a Gujarati businessman. I asked him his opinion of Modi. He was all praise for him. I interjected and asked him about the killings of over 2000 Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. He replied that Muslims were always creating problems in Gujarat, but after 2002 they have been put in their place and there is peace since 2002 in Gujarat. I told him it was the peace of the graveyard, and peace can never last long unless it was coupled with justice. At this remark he took offence and changed his seat on the plane.
The truth today is that Muslims in Gujarat are terrorized and afraid that if they speak out against the horrors of 2002 they may be attacked and victimized. In the whole of India Muslims (who are over 200 million of the people of India) are solidly against Modi (though there are a handful of Muslims who for some reason disagree).
It is claimed by Modi supporters that what happened in Gujarat was only a 'spontaneous' reaction (pratikriya) of Hindus to the killings of 59 Hindus in a train in Godhra. I do not buy this story. Firstly, there is still a mystery as to what exactly happened in Godhra, and who was responsible for the killings. Secondly, the particular persons who were responsible for the Godhra killings should certainly be identified and given harsh punishment, but how does this justify the attack on the entire Muslim community in Gujarat. Muslims are only 9% of the total population of Gujarat, the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2002 Muslims were massacred, their homes burnt, and other horrible crimes committed on them.
To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 as a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht (see online) in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalized, etc after a German diplomat in Paris was shot by a Jewish youth whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazi Government that this was only a 'spontaneous' reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs.
I have said in my article 'What is India?' (see on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in as well as on the video on the website kgfindia.com) that India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and consequently it is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence the only policy which can hold it together and take it on the path of progress is secularism and equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our Founding Fathers (Pandit Nehru and his colleagues) who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy our country cannot survive for one day, because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc.
India therefore does not belong to Hindus alone, it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains etc. Also, it is not that only Hindus can live in India as first rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first rate citizens here. The killings of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities on them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Modi in this connection.
It is said by his supporters that Modi had no hand in the killings of Muslims in 2002, and it is also said that he has not been found guilty by any Court of Law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, and the horrible events happened on a large scale in Gujarat Can it be believed that he had no hand in the events of 2002? At least I find it impossible to believe it.
Let me give just one example. Ehsan Jafri was a respected, elderly former Member of the Indian Parliament living in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His house was in the Gulbarga Housing Society, where mostly Muslims lived. According to the recorded version of his elderly wife Zakia, on 28.2.2002 a mob of fanatics blew up the security wall of the housing society using gas cylinders, they dragged Ehsan Jafri out of his house, stripped him, chopped off his limbs with swords, etc and burnt him alive. Many other Muslim were also killed and their houses burnt. Chamanpura is barely a kilometer from the police station, and less than 2 kilometres from the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner's office. Is it conceivable that the Chief Minister did not know what was going on? Zakia Jafri since then has been running from pillar to post to get justice for her husband who was so brutally murdered. Her criminal case against Modi was thrown out by the district Court (since the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court found no evidence against Modi and filed a final report), and it is only now (after a gap of over 10 years since the incident) that the Supreme Court set aside the order of the trial Court and directed that her protest petition be considered.
I am not going into this matter any further since it is still sub judice.
Modi has claimed that he has developed Gujarat. It is therefore necessary to consider what is the meaning of 'development'. To my mind development can have only one meaning, and that is raising the standard of living of the masses. Giving concessions to big industrial houses, and offering them cheap land and cheap electricity can hardly be called development if it does not raise the standard of living of the masses.
Today, 48% Guajarati children are malnourished, which is a higher rate of malnourishment than the national average. In Gujarat there is high infant mortality rate, high women's maternity death rate, and 57% poverty rate in tribal areas, and among Scheduled Castes/Backward Castes. As stated by Ramchandra Guha in his article in 'The Hindu' today, (8.2.2013) in Gujarat environmental degradation is rising, educational standards are falling, and malnutrition among children abnormally high. More than a third of adult men in Gujarat have a body mass index of less than 18.5 – the 7th worst in the country. A UNDP report in 2010 has placed Gujarat after 8 other Indian States in multiple dimensions of development e.g. helath, education, income levels, etc. (see Hindustan Times, 16.12.2012 P.13)
Mr. Guha further states in his article: “As a sociologist who treats the aggregate data of economists with scepticism, I myself do not believe that Gujarat is the best developed State in the country. Shortly after Modi was sworn in for his third term, I travelled through Saurashtra, whose polluted and arid lands spoke of a hard grind for survival. In the towns, water, sewage, road and transport facilities were in a pathetic state; in the countryside, the scarcity of natural resources was apparent, as pastoralists walked miles and miles in search of stubble for their goats. In terms of social and economic development, Gujarat is better than average, but not among the best. Kerala, Himachal Pradesh and Tamilnadu are the three states which provide a dignified life to a decent percentage of their population”.
Business leaders no doubt claim that Modi has created a business friendly environment in Gujarat, but are businessmen the only people in India?
To those who talk of development of Gujarat under Modi I ask this question: Should the malnourished children of Gujarat eat the roads, electricity and factories which Modi has created?
I appeal to Indian people to consider all this if they are really concerned about the nation’s future, otherwise they may make the same mistake which Germans made in 1933.
(An edited version of this article published in The Hindu on February 15,2013)