Here’s listening to you, Mr Modi – Kapil Sibal


Narendra Modi, in an interview by Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati (Reuters), has unwittingly revealed his mindset. Let us examine some of his statements.
He refers to the targeting of Muslims in the aftermath of Godhra with an analogy. He states: “… if… someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not?… I’m a human being… it is natural to be sad.”
In the context of the car analogy, during the course of the 2002 riots, the person sitting behind the driver’s seat, we assume, was the chief minister of Gujarat. Only in two circumstances can a puppy be overrun by the car. First, the puppy is unwittingly run over, in which case, neither the driver nor the one sitting behind can be blamed. Second, the driver, rashly and negligently, seals the fate of the puppy.

The analogy is inapt in the context of the Gujarat riots. The members of a community cannot be unwitting victims of an accident. Therefore, in the best case scenario, the man sitting behind was aware that the driver was rash and negligent in snuffing out the life of hapless victims. What would a good Hindu have done? First, he would have immediately dismissed the driver. Then, he would have lodged an FIR for prosecuting him for rash and negligent driving, and thereafter directed the investigating agencies to expeditiously deal with the accused.

What did Narendra Modi do? First, he invoked Newton’s law of motion; the state then ensured that the investigating agencies moved slothfully. Thereafter, the state attempted to derail the investigation.

The consequence: the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court had to intervene when the courts found out that the investigators were subverting justice. Some cases were shifted out of the state. Some others were handed over to the SIT or the CBI, as the case may be. The puppy analogy discloses a mindset that is duplicitous and uncaring. What is expected of a chief minister, in these situations, is not an expression of pity for the victims, but to bring the accused to justice. The analogy is also inapt since the chief minister is not a passenger, but the driver, guiding the state to vindicate the cause of justice.
The second statement of the chief minister that evokes suspicion is his definition of secularism. “For me, my secularism is India first”. Then, he says, “our secularism (that is, the secularism of the BJP) is, “Justice to all. Appeasement to none”. “India first” should reflect the emotion of every patriot. But patriotism cannot be equated to secularism. A patriot may well be communal. He may well be a dictator. He may also be a fundamentalist. Such confused thinking is a disturbing attribute if the person aspires for national recognition.

Let us now turn to his party’s depiction of secularism: “Justice to all. Appeasement to none”. We will have to define what “justice” means in the context of what happened in Gujarat in the aftermath of Godhra. Justice meant protecting all those who mercilessly and wantonly extinguished the lives of children, women and the defenceless. That does not fit into the concept of “Justice to all”. When the state machinery defends criminals and the public prosecutors collude with the accused in certain cases and the victims are members of a particular community, then “Justice to all” is empty rhetoric. In Gujarat, it meant no justice to the minority community. In Modi’s mind, this might have amounted to appeasement.

The third statement that deserves attention is when he says: “I always say the strength of democracy lies in criticism. So, I am against allegations but I always welcome criticism”.

In the last few years, Modi’s diatribes against the Congress are based on mere allegations without substance. In Goa, he stated that the Congress party was using the CBI to prosecute the innocent. He did not inform the people that all investigations conducted by the CBI were pursuant to court orders; that too, when the court realised that the state investigating agencies were subverting justice. As chief minister, he is aware that the CBI cannot take over any investigation of criminal acts in any state. It is forbidden by law. Only in two circumstances can the CBI investigate. One, if the state consents to such investigation; and two, the court orders such an investigation. How, then, is the Congress using the CBI to prosecute the accused in Gujarat? On the contrary, the state was misusing its investigating machinery to protect the accused.

Modi further stated that: “[The] difference between the BJP and the Congress is that the BJP is a party with a mission whereas the Congress is a party of commission.” The BJP, undoubtedly, is a party with a mission. Spreading hatred and religious discord, indulging in state sponsored violence and fake encounter killings, and resorting to divisive politics, have been integral to this mission. The BJP’s acts of commission have been repeatedly exposed with their own party leaders being involved in such acts. In the case of Gujarat, Modi, in fact, created hurdles in the appointment of the Lokayukta. It is apparent that he didn’t want his government’s acts of commission to get exposed before the people of the country.

The fourth statement made by the chief minister is classic. He stated: “I am a Hindu nationalist because I am a born Hindu”. First of all, Modi does not understand the distinction between patriotism and nationalism. It seems the chief minister believes that every born Hindu is a Hindu nationalist. With respect, there are some born Hindus who are anti-national. Some born of other faiths are also anti-national. Nationalism has no relationship to birth and yet, the chief minister is convinced about his own nationalist fervour. Brand Modi is self-ordained.

Humility is an attribute of every good Hindu. Yet the chief minister says, “people have selected him as the best chief minister”. Which people? Certainly not the people of India. In his correspondence, he told Aroon Purie that “every time I’m a winner, so next time please drop Gujarat, so someone else gets a chance. Or else I’m just winning”. It is for the people of India to judge the qualities of a Hindu, who is obsessed with his own “success”.
If this is the leadership that he seeks to provide India, I can only pray for India. My abiding faith in the wisdom of our electorate is what gives me hope.
The writer is the Union minister of communications and information technology, and law and justice

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