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Secular lies, communal truths in Incredible India

Author: Tavleen Singh
Publication: Niticentral.Com
Date: February 27, 2014
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2014/02/27/secular-lies-communal-truths-in-incredible-india-193870.html

At Mumbai airport some days ago, I accidentally met the Gujarati businessman who has gone from being Narendra Modi’s biggest critic to being his biggest Muslim supporter. Zafar Sareshwala was on his way to Ahmedabad and I to Cochin but before we went our separate ways he gave me his number and we arranged to meet when we returned to Mumbai. Over a cup of coffee that lasted for more than an hour he told me his story. He said that he came from a business family that had lived in Ahmedabad for more than a 100 years and that every time there were Hindu-Muslim riots in the city they were directly affected so it came as no surprise when their factory was burned down by Hindu mobs in 2002. Zafar was living in London at the time and decided that it would be wrong to do nothing about the terrible violence in his home State so he began a campaign against Modi that was supported by high officials in the British Government and the British media. He told me that it was partly on account of his aggressive lobbying that Modi was denied a visa to enter the United States but as time went by he began to feel the need to work for peace in Gujarat. So, he sought a meeting with Narendra Modi when he was next in London.

He told me that he made it clear to Modi at the outset that although he was working to bring peace between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat, he did not believe there could be peace without justice. Modi assured him that justice would be done and told him that he believed the violence was a stain on him personally that he, more than anyone else, felt deep anguish about. In Zafar’s words, “He said he was going try and wash this stain away not just by words but by actions and in the past 10 years he has lived up to this by ensuring that there has not been a single day’s curfew in Ahmedabad.

When there is curfew it is the poorest Muslims who suffer the most. In 1987, there was curfew for 200 days and this brought immense suffering. And, there has been justice.’ Zafar reminded me that 63 people including former Minister Maya Kodnani, had been sentenced to life imprisonment for their roles in the violence and that 13 IPS officers were still in jail. He added that in the long history of communal violence in Gujarat justice had never been done before and said that the reason why he had become a supporter of Modi was because he believed he was being targetted by the Congress in a way that no Congress Chief Minister ever was despite much worse riots having taken place in Gujarat in 1969, 1985 and 1987. These happened under Congress Governments. In 1969 alone, 5,000 Muslims were killed in Ahmedabad. It is important, incidentally to remember that there have been other major communal riots in India and never have officials or police officers been punished.

The reason for recounting my conversation with Zafar Sareshwala today is because of the blatant distortion of a recent speech made by the BJP’s president Rajnath Singh. If you read any of the national newspapers on Wednesday you would have seen headlines of this kind. “Willing to say sorry for any mistake, Rajnath Singh tells Muslims”. As someone who believes that it is justice that victims of communal violence want and not apologies I was appalled by the BJP president’s speech and tweeted against him. Within seconds someone tweeted back a video of the full speech and I realised that the entire national Press was lying about what he said.

Far from offering Muslims any kind of preferential treatment, he reiterated the line Modi has taken ever since he began his campaign to become India’s next Prime Minister. This is that to him secularism means that all Indians should be treated equally and that there should be the same rights for all of India’s citizens. Rajnath Singh pointed out that the Congress leaders went on these days about the pitiful conditions in which the majority of Muslims lived and asked if this were true then whose fault was it. If Muslims lived in desperate poverty after 55 years of Congress rule then the blame had to lie with the Congress. He appealed to Muslims to stop buying the propaganda that their lives were not safe under BJP rule and pointed out that there had been no communal riots in States ruled by the BJP. At the very end of this speech, he said if ever the party were to make a mistake in the future then it would never hesitate to apologise for it.

He was not apologising for past mistakes or apologising on Modi’s behalf for what happened in 2002 but you would not know this from reading the newspapers. So, why was there this deliberate distortion? For the same reason that there has been the demonisation of Modi and for the same reason there continues to be an attempt to somehow implicate him personally in the violence. These things are happening because no political leader has threatened the dominance of the Congress more than Modi has and so he has to be stopped at any cost. In this ‘secular’ enterprise, the services of newspaper owners and journalists has been enlisted and in the name of saving secularism.

In this exercise if someone like Zafar Sareshwala comes along and attempts to tell the truth about what really happened in 2002, then he risks being labelled ‘communal’. The same is true for journalists who dare to say that the demonisation of Modi is wrong because there is no political lobby more powerful in India than the ‘secularism’ lobby. It includes not just politicians from the Congress and the Left but journalists, intellectuals, academics and TV anchors. In the name of protecting ‘secularism’ they are prepared to tell lies, fabricate stories and even sup with the devil. It has always been this way but the coming election campaign is likely to be uglier than past ones because for the first time in Indian Parliamentary history there is a BJP leader who is trying to become the Prime Minister without talking about temples and mosques, Hindus and Muslims. Ironic, is it not, that the communal card is being played this time by our supposedly most secular political parties. Incredible India indeed!
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