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:
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)
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.