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.
(This article was originally published on TwoCircles.net)