Mr Modi, you say it best when you say nothing at all

Prime Minister Modi has not made any attempt to come out strongly and be among the first ones to condemn or castigate communalism. (Image: Flickr)

Prime Minister Modi has not made any attempt to come out strongly and be among the first ones to condemn or castigate communalism. (Image: Flickr)

Post the Dadri lynching episode, which saw the brutal killing of Muhammad Akhlaq on the suspicion of beef consumption, the entire media discourse was concentrated on the appalling silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Being the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy, Modi should have led from the front in condemning the barbaric incident that led to an international uproar. It was incumbent upon the prime minister to visit Dadri and meet the family members of the deceased. It would have been a highly reassuring sight had Modi personally saluted Sartaj’s message of “Saare jahan se acha Hindustan humara” in his moment of agony.

Instead Modi chose battlefield Bihar to make a statement which made media headlines. The Prime Minister said that Hindus and Muslims can either fight each other or they can fight poverty together. It’s not the first time that Modi has uttered these words. He has made this statement during innumerable public speeches. It’s nothing but mere rhetoric! Does the statement in anyway condemn the murder of Mohammad Akhlaq? Does it suggest that people should have the freedom to consume beef, pork or whatever they wish to eat or does it even call for the swift prosecution of Akhlaq’s killers? Those who suggested that Modi had indeed condemned Dadri are wrong. He never did!

That’s the typical Modi style of dealing with fanaticism and fringe elements. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi made it a point to not talk about the 2002 Gujarat riots. If someone from the media asked him to apologise, he would plainly say that hang me if I am guilty or would simply stage a walk out. What would have happened had he humbly admitted that his administration failed to control the mayhem in 2002? He never retracted ridiculous statements like “Hum paanch, humare pachees” in which he mocked the victims of the riots by terming refugee camps as “baby producing factories”. Instead, he spoke of Gujarat’s pride during the Gujarat Gaurav Yatra wherein he constantly he talked about a canard being spread to defame Gujarat and its people.

When it comes to reining in right-wing Hindutva extremism, Modi’s strategy is clear. Give a superficial statement to appease what he terms as Lutyen’s Delhi’s “pseudo-secular media” but never touch upon the specifics. He has very carefully built upon a strategy of “semi-condemnation” during his stay at 7 Race Course Road. Prior to the Delhi Assembly Elections in February 2015, a number of churches in the national capital reported incidents of arson and vandalism. In December 2014, the biggest talking point was the “ghar wapsi” or reconversion of 250 Muslims to Hinduism in Agra by a group affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). News reports had suggested that the reconversion had taken place on the premise of providing Muslims with ration cards and other basic amenities following their conversion to Hinduism.

These incidents had painted a poor picture of India internationally. During his visit to India in January 2015, US President Barack Obama also said that India will progress as long as it is not “splintered” on religious lines. Eventually, prime minister Modi was also forced to react. At an event organised by the Christian community in the national capital, Modi said, “Government will not allow any religious group belonging to majority or minority to incite hatred against others overtly or covertly.” He added that every citizen had an “undeniable right to retain or adopt religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.”

If one looks at the two statements carefully, he would be able to realise that Modi successfully played a con on the entire nation. In no manner did he condemn the burning down of St Sebastian Church or other churches which were attacked, nor did he say a word against the Agra conversions in particular. The point to be noted is that in both the cases the community at the receiving end belonged to a minority group, yet Modi said that “neither majority or minority” would be allowed to “incite hatred”.

This is not to suggest that communal violence is only when the minority is attacked by the majority. In many cases, it’s the other way round. We should always condemn the wrongdoers irrespective of whether they form part of the majority or minority. But when the minorities are under attack, the prime minister should gather the guts to reassure them of their safety by addressing the crux of the issue and distancing himself from brute majoritarianism.

Modi’s statements hint at a clever strategy. Whether its ghar wapsi, church attacks or Dadri, Modi speaks only when the storm has subsided. He has not made any attempt to come out strongly and be among the first ones to condemn or castigate communalism. Secondly, even when he does speak, he gives a generic statement and refrains from responding to the incident at hand be it Dadri, ghar wapsi or church attacks. This is where the danger lies. The ambiguity which Modi’s statements leave behind gives many extremists the courage to carry out more Dadri-like incidents because they think that Modi is on their side.

Ironically, YouTube clips of Modi’s speeches clearly show him calling for protection of cows and the valour which Maharana Pratap exhibited by protecting temples. If Modi can talk about these things then he can surely say that extra-judicial killing on the suspicion of beef consumption is wrong and so are attacks on churches. Why is the prime minister keeping silent? He has to avoid generalities and get to the specifics. “You say it best when you say nothing at all” is a beautiful line from a song by Irish musician Ronan Keating, but it doesn’t work that way in politics, lest one risks becoming another Manmohan Singh.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/dadri-lynching-mohammad-akhlaq-indian-muslims-bihar-polls/story/1/6738.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.)  

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How India can become the world’s greatest nation

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. (Representative Image: Wikipedia)

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. (Representative Image: Wikipedia)

The republic of India has officially turned 69. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi once said, “India is an old country but a young nation.” During its near seven-decade long journey as a nation state, this young nation has achieved multiple feats to be proud of. Following the brutal origins of the Partition, India was successfully able to lift itself out of the economic mess which the British Raj had resulted into. Today, India is the second-fastest growing economy in the world and is busy keeping the neighbouring “dragon” at its toes.

But India has its own set of Chinese walls to climb. Financially speaking, India is yet to eliminate economic inequality and redistribute wealth which has been pocketed by a few. On the other hand, a billion plus Indians have to remain committed to the mantra of secularism. What makes India unique is its plurality. The notion of our composite culture has often been challenged by fanatical elements who have unleashed a wave of violence on the society.

On India’s 69th Independence Day, let us take a pledge that we will never compromise on the principles of a multi-faith, multi-cultural India. As Indians, let us feel remorseful about the 1984 riots when innocent Sikhs were at the receiving end of a vicious campaign which can be best summarised in the words of Robert F Kennedy as a “mindless menace of violence”. We must reach out to our Sikh brethren who have lent in tremendous capacity to our armed forces and have toiled hard in their fields to grow food for us. Let us demand justice for the victims of 1984 riots and ensure that such a calamity never takes place again.

It’s been more than 25 years since Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of their homes in the valley. Isn’t that a blot on the secular fabric of our nation? Pandits have to be resettled as soon as possible in Muslim-majority Kashmir because without Pandits, “Kashmiriyat” is incomplete and so is India’s commitment to secularism. Let us demand justice for the victims of the exodus and ensure that no Indian is ever forced to leave behind his home and live in exile.

We must also come together to remember the carnage which transpired in Gujarat. The killers of innocent men and women cannot be allowed to roam around freely. Truth has to be firmly established and retribution extracted. Let us demand justice for the victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots. In fact let us demand justice for every untoward incident which has occurred during these seven decades. Be it the Hashimpura massacre or the Babri Masjid demolition, the Dalit killings in Laxmanpur Bathe or the anti-Christian violence in Odisha, all those who take law into their own hands need to be tried.

We must never allow Indian soil to be a place where justice is denied and people are massacred in the name of religion. Thou shall never fall prey to religious fanaticism should be an article of faith for every Indian. The barriers of sex, caste, region, religion and language have to be overcome if India wishes to see itself among the greatest nations of the world where economic progress is complimented by communal amity. We are nowhere close to it on our 69th Independence Day but let’s aim to be an example of toleration and justice by the time we are 75.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/69th-independence-day-india-religion-secularism-modi-sarkar/story/1/5690.html

(This article was originally published in DailyO.) 

Time has turned Hindutva fascist Vajpayee into a moderate

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s writings clearly indicate that he held both Muslims and Christians (more specifically Muslims) as foreigners and viewed their patriotism with suspicion. (Image: PIB)

The Narendra Modi led NDA government at the Centre has declared to bestow Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. With this award, Vajpayee finds himself amid the likes of several iconic Indians from various fields including BR Ambedkar and Sachin Tendulkar.

But was Vajpayee the kind of leader he is projected to be by the BJP today? Was he an accommodative consensus builder or was he just another Hindutva fascist, who has turned into a moderate with the passage of time?

The answer unfortunately rests in the fact that Vajpayee was as foul mouthed a leader as the likes of Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti. In an article titled ‘Sangh is in my soul’, Vajpayee had written, “… We don’t want to destroy this diversity. The other task is to assimilate the non-Hindus, like Muslims and Christians in the mainstream. They can follow the faith of their own conviction. No one can object to it. We worship trees, animals, stones, and what not. We have hundreds of ways of worshipping God. They can go where they want. But this country must be looked upon as the motherland for them. They must have a feeling of patriotism for this country. But the Islamic division of the world into ‘Darul Harb’ and ‘Darul Islam’ comes in the way.”

He had further stated, “Islam has yet to learn the art of existing and flourishing in a country where Muslims are in a minority. They cannot convert the whole of India to Islam. After all, they have to live here. So they have to recognize this fact. And today it has become a matter of grave concern and deep thinking in the Muslim countries. Because Quran offers no guidance in this regard, it only talks of killing kafirs or converting them to Islam. But they cannot do it always and everywhere. How can they do it where they are in a minority? If they try to do it, a major clash will take place and only the members of the minority will be killed.”

Vajpayee’s writings clearly indicate that he held both Muslims and Christians (more specifically Muslims) as foreigners and viewed their patriotism with suspicion. Moreover, Vajpayee made certain highly misleading remarks about the Quran, the holy book of Muslims. The Quran speaks of religious freedom in numerous verses (2:256 & 109:6) wherein it states that “there is no compulsion in religion” and “to you, your religion and to me, mine” but Vajpayee sought to make hysterical remarks like the Quran sanctioning murder of non-Muslims.

Vajpayee’s tone seemed to be similar to that of AIMIM leader Akbaruddin Owaisi as he spoke of a “major clash” between Hindus and Muslims. The only difference in Vajpayee’s prophecy being that such a clash would lead to the killing of “only the members of the minority.”

Further, Vajpayee was often touted as the “right man in the wrong party” vis-a-vis the issue of Babri Mosque demolition. After all innocent Vajpayee wasn’t even present in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 when his party was at the forefront of crucifying Indian secularism by razing the Babri Masjid to the ground! But was Vajpayee really innocent?

In a rally held on December 5, 1992 (a day before the demolition of the Babri Mosque) at Jhandewalan Park in Lucknow, Vajpayee had said, “There is no question of stopping. By doing kar seva in Ayodhya we will not be disrespecting any court order, by doing kar seva we will be respecting and obeying the Supreme Court order.”

Vajpayee went on to state that the court had allowed them to conduct “bhajan, kirtan programmes” at Ayodhya but they could not be done by “one person” nor could they be done by “standing”. He argued that there was a need for “even more people for kirtan”, which was a clear nod for mobilization of large number of Hindus before marching to Ayodhya.

Thereafter, through appropriate use of concealed language, Vajpayee gave the nod for the demolition of the Babri Mosque by saying, “There were sharp stones that came out, no one can sit there, the ground has to be levelled, it has to be made fit for sitting.”

The Liberhan Commission set up by the Government of India to investigate into the demolition of the Babri Mosque was clever enough to see through Vajpayee’s bluff. It not only indicted Vajpayee for being a part of the conspiracy to destroy the Babri Mosque but also labelled him as a “pseudo-moderate”.

A lot of people consider Vajpayee to be secular because he apparently asked Narendra Modi to do his ‘Raj Dharma’ in the aftermath of the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. But if one sees the complete video of that press conference, then in the end Vajpayee expresses his confidence in Modi and says that the he is doing his ‘Raj Dharma’. It doesn’t end over here. People’s Democracy (Vol 26, No. 22, June 9, 2002) reports the controversial remarks of Prime Minister AB Vajpayee at BJP’s summit in Goa on April 12. He is on record having said, “Jahan jahan Musalman hain ghul milkar nahi rehte hain” (wherever there are Muslims they don’t live in peace). He added, “They don’t want to mix with others. Instead, they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the minds of others.”

Does such a man deserve the Bharat Ratna?

The BJP is merely interested in furthering its political legacy. But the sad reality is that this award would make Vajpayee a national icon in the eyes of several generations to come. But the truth is that he was an Islamophobic, hate monger. With the passage of time, the masses seem to have forgotten Vajpayee’s views.

It is disheartening to see how the Bharat Ratna has been politicized. Equally disheartening is the manner in which it is being handed out. The Congress government made the timing of the announcement of the award coincide with Sachin Tendulkar’s last test match. BJP has followed their footsteps and made the announcement just one day before Vajpayee’s birthday.

Such ceremonial announcements seem to erode the credibility and stature of the award. Why should the timing coincide with an event concerning the awardee – be it his last test match or yet another birthday?

But such is politics and it would continue to be so.

http://twocircles.net/2014dec27/1419700335.html#.VJ7pEF4AMA

(This article was originally published on TwoCircles.net)

When Karan Thapar forgot about the Modi interview

The date was 18th November, 2013, and the world’s largest democracy was inching closer to holding its General Elections in the following year. At that time, I was an undergraduate student of Journalism at the University of Delhi. A couple of days back, while casually browsing on the web, I came across an important bit of information from the perspective of a curious media student. The famous Australian talk show ‘Q&A’ was coming to India and was scheduled to hold a programme to be telecast live on ABC and Doordarshan.

In order to participate in the programme, one was supposed to register with Q&A and forward their questions to their team via email. Six renowned public figures from India and Australia were chosen as panellists – Shashi Tharoor, Karan Thapar, Swapan Dasgupta, Shoma Chaudhury, Stuart MacGill and Pallavi Sharda. I had previously been to several talk shows, including NDTV’s much-celebrated programme ‘We The People’ ,but so far, I had never got an opportunity to participate in an international talk show. Hence, I prepared a set of questions and forwarded them to Q&A.

I prepared five different questions for the panellists. Thereafter, I received an email stating that one of my questions had been selected and I was supposed to come to Kingdom of Dreams situated in Sector 29, Gurgaon, on 18th November, 2013, to pose my question to Shashi Tharoor.

The day finally arrived and I decided to travel to Gurgaon via Delhi Metro. This was my first visit to Gurgaon and I must admit that I was impressed on seeing the infrastructural might of the buildings in the city on my way to Kingdom of Dreams. After reaching the venue, I was received by crew members of Q&A who handed over to me a cue card on which my question had been printed. It read the following: “For Shashi Tharoor — Unlike Indian democracy, Australia isn’t infected with dynasty-ridden politics as exhibited through realpolitik feuds between Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. In your article, “Shall We Call The President”, you had advocated that a Presidential System would provide India with much needed political stability, but will it be able to institutionalize inner party democracy in India’s dynasty-plagued political system?”

After a brief interaction with the organizers, the audience was ushered into the auditorium much before the arrival of the panellists. The organizers saw to it that the ones whose questions had been selected were seated in different parts of the auditorium and that the boom mikes were well in reach of them and so were the cameras. The programme began at 3 PM with Tony Jones as the host. During the course of the programme, the panellists deliberated over a range of issues starting from the retirement of cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar, to the safety of women in India.

One of the most polarizing points of discussion was concerning the current India Prime Minister Narendra Modi. At that point in time, Modi was BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, and far from having achieved the tally which he did during the elections. A certain Mr. Ajoy Roy questioned the panel in regards to Modi and Rahul in the context of 2014 General Elections. He said, “What does this panel know about the credentials of Mr Rahul Gandhi and Mr Narendra Modi and its implications for the people of India and Australia if one of them is elected as the next Prime Minister?”

The question provoked sharp responses from the panel members. Reacting to this query, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor claimed that the “disregard for historical facts that Narendra Modi shows every day has rubbed off on his fans.” On the other hand, right wing commentator Swapan Dasgupta supported Modi and suggested that his emphasis on minimal government, high growth and honest leadership were the reasons why he happened to be “a favourite to win this election.” Dasgupta also drew comparison between Narendra Modi and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot.

However, this did not go down well with Aussie spinner Stuart MacGill, who said, “You can’t go on criticising our Prime Minister and comparing him to a man that has been involved in something that was really quite offensive to a big part of your population.” Soon after, news anchor Karan Thapar too shared his views in regards to the subject. He declared that neither Modi nor Rahul deserved to be the Prime Minister. He said that Modi carried the “moral responsibility” for what happened in Gujarat during 2002. He added, “The Supreme Court had gone on record in April 2004 in a specific judgement — it wasn’t just a comment made in court — to call him and his government, modern-day Neroes.”

This statement was factually disputed by Swapan Dasgupta who claimed that “it was not a judgement” but “was a stray comment of a judge.” Dasgupta’s fierce opposition infuriated Thapar who went on to say, “Forgive me, April 12th, 2004, the Zaheera Sheikh judgement in the Best Bakery case. I assure you I am right. After the show is over, I will send you the judgement.”

The programme soon concluded and went off-air. I wasn’t able to pose my question as the show had run out of time, but I thoroughly enjoyed the lively discussion. Thapar and Dasgupta immediately left the auditorium, but I wanted to talk to them in regards to the subject which had generated a war of words between the two. I followed them on the way out and managed to tag alongside them as they were moving towards the main gate. I reminded Karan Thapar that in his famous Narendra Modi interview, wherein the then Gujarat Chief Minister made an unceremonious exit, Thapar had referred to the same quote of the Supreme Court wherein the Gujarat administration had been referred to as “Modern Day Neroes”. I, however, insisted that during the course of the interview, Thapar had claimed that that particular statement of the Supreme Court was an observation and not a part of the judgement.

Thapar disagreed with me and asked me to check the judgement online. He said that he referred to that quote as a part of the judgement of the Supreme Court, and that it was Modi who disputed it by claiming that it was an observation. I said that I would willingly do so but then I told him that I clearly remember him agreeing with Modi on the subject and saying that it was an observation. Thapar, being in a hurry, left early and so the conversation came to an end.

After I came back home, I once again saw the much talked-about Karan Thapar — Narendra Modi interview. On seeing the video, I realized that I was correct. When Thapar brought up the issue of the Supreme Court drawing parallel between Modi and Nero, Modi rebutted by stating, “I have a small request. Please go to the Supreme Court judgement and is there anything in writing, I’ll be happy to know everything.” Thapar responded by saying, “It was not in writing. You’re absolutely right, it was an observation.”

But the story does not end here. I researched further and tracked down the Supreme Court judgement Thapar was referring to. To my bewilderment, I realized that the Supreme Court judgement in the Best Bakery Case (2004) indeed makes certain crude remarks against the Gujarat government and said, “The modern day Nero’s were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.” I was stunned. The pressure of delivering news consecutively for 24 hours and on all 7 days of a week is so huge that even iconic television news moments like Karan Thapar interviewing Narendra Modi end up being factually incorrect.

Who would believe that during the course of the interview, both Modi and Thapar were wrong on facts? Who would believe that Thapar doesn’t even remember what he said during that interview which won him so much of journalistic appreciation? Who would believe that Thapar would advocate to have said something else? I wouldn’t! Would you? The point over here is that both television anchors and politicians awfully get their facts wrong in today’s age of incessant media coverage. What is worse is that a couple of years down the line, they tend to claim that they had said something else!

http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2014/09/karan-thapar-narendra-modi-interview/

(This article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz.)

Auto Driver Sajjan Singh claims Narendra Modi helped rioters during 2002 Gujarat riots

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: AP)

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. (Image: AP)

It was on the night of 6th January that I and my friends were returning from a shopping mall called Great India Place in Noida after celebrating the birthday of one of my classmates. We boarded the metro station at Sector 18, Noida and went up to Akshardham metro station located in East Delhi. Thereafter, we de-boarded and decided to travel back to our homes using the auto-rickshaws as it was getting late. It was 8 o’clock and the capital city of India begins to start chilling from that point of time onwards. Two of our friends got an auto for South Delhi and left. One friend lived nearby and had to travel back alone. I and two other friends of mine had to travel back to Vasundhara Enclave and Ashok Nagar, respectively.

We stopped an auto driver and asked him whether he would drop us to Vasundhara Enclave. He said that he would be more than willing to do so but he would charge Rs 80 for the same. We told him that since Aam Aadmi Party had come to power in Delhi, he should start working a bit more honestly and use the meter installed in his auto and charge us accordingly. Surprisingly, the auto-driver agreed and so our journey began. Before starting his vehicle, he pointed out to the fact that he was himself a supporter of the Aam Aadmi Party and showed us the sticker he had pasted on his vehicle to promote the newly-born political outfit of Arvind Kejriwal.

The auto driver told us that though he supported AAP vigorously, it was Congress leader Hasan Ahmed who was elected MLA from his constituency. He further stated that his name was Sajjan Singh and he hailed from Farrukhabad, the place which India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid represents in the Indian Parliament. As our vehicle began to gain speed, we began talking about politics. Somehow we started talking about St. Stepehen’s College in Delhi and were discussing on the names of all those great stalwarts who had graduated from the prestigious institution. My friend from Haryana was of the opinion that bulk of the greats whom I had named were either Congressmen or stooges of India’s Grand Old Party. I replied by naming Arun Shourie, who graduated from St. Stephen’s and served in the Vajpayee Cabinet. I pondered further on the viewpoint of my friend and said that many of BJP’s leaders did indeed come from a non-Stephanian background. I named Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley, an SRCC graduate, who was the President of the Delhi University Students Union when the Emergency was imposed. I then mentioned Subramanian Swamy who initially took admission in St. Stephen’s but moved to Hindu College. I was awestruck by the auto-driver’s political knowledge when he intervened and said that Subramanian Swamy was not originally a member of the BJP and had joined the saffron outfit quite recently. Before joining the BJP, Swamy served as the President of the Janata Party.

Sajjan Singh’s intervention brought to light his deep interest in politics. I built up on that opportunity and asked him about his political affiliations and loyalties. Sajjan Singh told us that he was an abashed BJP supporter and had always casted his vote for the BJP except for on three occasions. He mooted the formula of Kejriwal for CM and Modi for PM. The conversation had become quite exciting by now. I asked Sajjan Singh why was he so much fond of the BJP. What was it about the BJP which fascinated him? Sajjan Singh replied by saying that the BJP is the only party which talks of Hindutva. At that moment only, I realized that this auto-driver was a picture perfect example of a militant BJP supporter. I quizzed him further. I said that India’s constitution stands for secularism and not Hindutva so should we keep our constitution as it or amend it to declare India a Hindu Rashtra. With a great cheer, Sajjan Singh replied that India should be converted into a Hindu Rashtra. I asked him about the Kashmir problem and wanted to know from him how should we deal with Pakistan. The answer was blatant and called for annihilation of Pakistan but like the previous time, the answer wasn’t completely his as my friend had echoed such views first to spur the jingoist within Sajjan Singh and he joined in the chorus.

The auto-driver then told us that his support for the BJP had also landed him in jail. He said that in his village the Muslims would never allow a particular Hindu “pooja” to be performed. During the Ram Janmabhoomi Movement, he said that there was a conflict between the two communities. The Muslims had beaten up some Hindus and to avenge the insult, Sajjan Singh and his friends vented out their anger on the Muslims. In this case, Sajjan Singh was caught by the police, fifteen men including him were sent to jail where they spent about four days. My friend from Haryana who happens to be a BJP supporter was quick to question about the fate of those Muslim goons who had started the ugly episode. He was sure of the fact that the police must have allowed them to walk off freely. Sajjan Singh stated that it indeed happened this way and started taking pot-shots at the Muslim appeasement going on in India.

Our auto had reached near Mayur Vihar metro station and then suddenly Sajjan Singh told us that he was in Gujarat when the deadly communal riots had taken place in 2002. I asked him whether Narendra Modi helped in the carnage which unfolded and he replied with an emphatic yes. At this point in time, I switched on the recorder of my phone to record Sajjan Singh’s description of the riots (transcript of which has been produced below). He told us that if the rioters happened to be Hindus, the police would allow them to go scot free. He said that though he was not sure of Narendra Modi’s involvement but the fact that the police was acting in a totally sectarian and partisan fashion was self sufficient to state that Modi was aiding the rioters. My friends began defending Modi by stating that the Supreme Court appointed SIT had given him a clean chit. They also started talking about what happened in Godhra and how Hindu pilgrims onboard Sabarmati Express were burned alive in an act of absolute barbarism.

The journey was now heading towards it conclusion. We had reached near Dharamshila Hospital in Vasundhara Enclave. I asked the auto driver as to how would a Ram Temple be constructed in Ayodhya when Narendra Modi is not willing to openly endorse the same. He told us to wait and watch and sounded confident about the construction of a Grand Ram Temple in Ayodhya after the coronation of Narendra Modi as India’s Prime Minister. The conversation then drifted towards the proposed Communal Violence Bill and the absurdity associated with it. We were unanimous in our assertion that it was dubious to assume that the victims of communal violence or targeted killings could only be members of a minority group as the supposed draft bill defines. Ashok Nagar had arrived and my two friends de-boarded the auto at their PG residence. I continued the remaining one-minute journey to a nearby apartment in Vasundhara Enclave in Sajjan Singh’s auto. During this time, Sajjan Singh spoke about how despite being in a statistical majority, the Hindus continued to be dominated by Muslims in India. He said that once when Narendra Modi had refused to wear the skullcap, the secularists had created a huge hullabaloo but it was a thing to be proud of as Modi showcased his Hindu-ness by refusing to embrace Islamic culture.

The journey had come to an end as the society where I live had arrived. The meter read Rs 71 and I paid Sajjan Singh his due. We were going through our last bit of conversation when Sajjan Singh claimed that if he was running the country, he would line up all skull-capped men and shoot them. I once again switched on my phone recorder (transcript is attached below) and stated that India should be declared a Hindu Rashtra. I further stated that Muslims should leave for Pakistan and if they wanted to stay here, they should convert to Hinduism. Sajjan Singh kept nodding all this while and said that they (Muslims) can also go to Bangladesh. I bade farewell to Sajjan Singh by saying “Jai Shri Ram”. He started his auto and began moving. I tried to note down the registration number on his number plate. He moved away so quickly that I could not be sure of what I had noted down but the number plate supposedly read “DL1RJ2835”.

For me the question is not whether Narendra Modi was involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots or not. The question is how we should deal with the kind of intolerance and prejudice which an ordinary auto-driver like Sajjan Singh keeps in his heart. He supports Narendra Modi because he talks of Hindutva and he thinks that it was rightful on Modi’s part to aid the rioting mobs in Gujarat. He does not believe in India’s pluralism and wants India to be declared a Hindu Rashtra. He talks of shooting Muslims or exiling them to Pakistan or Bangladesh. This is not the kind of India which people would want to live in. Such Modi supporters should realize that this kind of an attitude is unacceptable and totally undemocratic. No matter how many times the courts proclaim Narendra Modi’s innocence, he would not stand justified and guiltless until and unless he keeps deriving support from individuals like Sajjan Singh who love to hate. Narendra Modi might have been given a clean chit by the SIT but he will not stand vindicated until his supporters stop viewing what happened in Gujarat with pride.

Transcript of Recordings:

Recording 1:

Me – Acha, toh agar Hindu hota tha toh usko chhod dete the. (If the rioter used to be a Hindu, they (police) used to leave him.)

Sajjan Singh – Chhod dete the. (They used to leave them.)

Me – Aur aur jo hai Narendra Modi yeh sab karwaate the? (And Narendra Modi used to get these things done?)

Sajjan Singh – Bhai, chaal toh unhi ki hogi bhai. Ab yeh nahi kaise keh sakta hoon, jab main wahan rehta nahi… (Brother, this must have been his trick brother. I can’t be sure of this. When I wasn’t there…)

Friend – SIT ne toh clean chit de di usko. (SIT gave him a clean chit.)

Sajjan Singh – Haan (Yes)

Friend – Ki usne kuch nahi kiya. (That he did nothing.)

2nd Friend From Behind – Lekin Godhra bhi toh hua tha. Pehle toh Godhra hua tha. (But Godhra also took place. Godhra occurred first.)

Friend – Pehle toh, pehle toh Godhra hua tha na usmein matlab ek poori bogey jala di thi kar sevako ki. (At first, Godhra took place in which one train bogey full of pilgrims was burnt.)

Sajjan Singh – Haan, Sabarmati Express mein. (Yes, inside Sabarmati Express.)  

Friend – Toh unke baarein mein toh koi poochta nahi. Woh marein hain, zinda hai, kahaan hai?, (Nobody asks about them. Whether they died or they are alive. Where are they?)

Sajjan Singh – Nahi, yeh poochtein hain. (No, he asks about them.)

Friend – Toh Modi ne woh kyun nahi karaya ki woh zinda hai ya margaye hai unko koi muawza dena chahiye. Poochne toh gaya nahi woh. (Why didn’t Modi get that done? Are they alive or dead? They should have been given some compensation. He didn’t even go to ask about them.)

Sajjan Singh – Nahi, woh poster voster lage the unke. (No, their posters were put up.)

Me – Acha yeh batayein bhaiya, chodiye, jab danga ho raha tha toh aapne apni aakhon se danga hote hue dekha? (Alright brother, did you see the riots happening before your eyes?)

Sajjan Singh – Dekha (I saw)

Me – Kya ho raha tha dange mein? (What was happening in the riots?)

Sajjan Singh – Jo main bata raha hoon wahi ho raha tha. (What am I telling you that was happening.)

Me – Matlab jo hai Hindu maar rahe the. (That means Hindus were killing.)

Sajjan Singh – Haan zyadatar maar kya rahein the, maar bhi rahe the pakad bhi rahe the. (Yes, mostly they were killing, they were killing as well as catching hold of them.)

Me – Haan. (Yes)

Sajjan Singh – Hindu nahi, Mohammedan.(Not Hindus, Muslims)

Me – Mohammedan! Aur jo police kya kar rahi thi? (Muslims! And what was the police doing?)

Sajjan Singh – Police yahi kar rahi thi. Kabhi kachcha utarwa ke bhi check karte the. (Police was doing this only. At times, they would even check by getting their boxers removed.)

Me – Acha (Alright)

Sajjan Singh – Haan (Yes)

Me – Toh katua hota that toh kya karte the. (If they were circumcised (Muslims), what did they used to do?)

Sajjan Singh – Lo, waha jo Hindu samarthak the woh waha ke paas hi khade hote. (The Hindu sympathizers used to stand nearby only.)

Me – Haan (Yes)

Sajjan Singh – (Audio Unclear)

Me – Baap rey baap. Toh aap wahan se kab wapas aaye? Yeh Ahmedabad ki baat hai?  (Oh my God! When did you come back? All this happened in Ahmedabad?)

Sajjan Singh – Nahi, hum toh Bharuch district mein the. (No, I was in district Bharuch.)

Me – Kaun se mein? (Where?)

Sajjan Singh – Bharuch District

Me – Acha acha (Yes)

Me – Toh Sajjan Singh ji aapka naam hai. Bade aap, bade pahuche hue aadmi hai bhaiya. (So your name is Sajjan Singh. You are a big shot, brother.)

Sajjan Singh – Pahuche hue nahi, bhai driver aadmi hoon wahan conductory karta tha. (No, I am not a big shot. Brother, I am a driver. I used to be a conductor there.)

Me – Acha, wahan conductory karte the. (Alright, you used to be a conductor.)

Me – Acha acha yeh baat hai. Toh bhajpa aaegi? (Alright, this is the case. So BJP is coming to power?)

Sajjan Singh – Dekho bhai, keh nahi sakta. Jahan aap, wahan hum. (Let’s see brother. Can’t say anything! Me and you are in the same place)

Me – Haan, chaliye. (Alright, keep going)

Recording 2:          

Sajjan Singh – Aur kya ho gaya? Unka (Muslims) alag Rashtra ghoshit karo. Aur kya! (What else? A separate nation should be declared for the Muslims. What else!

Me – Hindu Rashtra ghoshit karna chahiye na bhaiya. Humko bhi lagta hai. (India should be declared a Hindu Rashtra, brother. I also feel so)

Sajjan Singh – Hmmm  (Hmm)

Me Aur ya toh katuo ko Pakistan bhej dein ya yahan rukna hai toh, yahan apna dharma badal ke rahein phir. (Or else the circumcised men (Muslims) should be sent to Pakistan or if they want to live here, they should change their religion.)

Sajjan Singh – Ya Bangladesh rahein. (Or live in Bangladesh)

Me – Ya Bangladesh rahein ya Pakistan rahein yahan toh rahein hi na. Sahi baat hai. Chaliye (Either live in Bangladesh or Pakistan but they shouldn’t live here. It’s correct, alright!)

Please Note – The views which I have expressed through my comments in this audio were made in disguise to make the auto driver comfortable and to extract his views on the subject.

*Disclaimer – The author cannot ascertain the veracity of the claims made by Sajjan Singh. The audio recordings are a bit unclear and disturbing. Any corrections in the transcript are most welcome. The intention is not to make any wild charges against any individual, group or organization. It’s just an attempt at narrating a real life incident.