Lets take a look at one issue on which this election is going to fought on.
On 27th February 2002, the Sabarmati Express was stopped at a crossing just after it passed the Godhra Railway station by a “Muslim” mob. The coach numbered S6, was first stoned and then set on fire killing 58 men and women onboard, most of them “Ram Sevaks”, political activists belonging to the VHP, a part of the Sangh Parivar which today rules India by proxy.
This event was used as an excuse to embark on a campaign of rape and murder on a scale that was never seen since Partition. The administration actively participated in the arson directed against the Muslims. And after the violence subsided, the CM of the state began a blatantly communal campaign (“Hum Paanch, Unke Pachis”) that was clearly aimed at polarizing the communities further. The resulting polarization of communities resulted in a landslide for the CM, who was widely tipped to lose the elections due to his poor record in administration. Because the elections were NOT fought on governance, but on Communal polarisation. Fittingly, the state where we first saw this example on how the Sangh Parivar intends to implement it agenda was Gujarat, which our “Iron Man” once described as the Laboratory for the Hindutva ideology.
There are many theories as to what really happened at the Godhra Railway Station that day. First the theories that the Sangh Parivar put out. The Sangh Parivars “Iron Man” and the Union Home Minister said that the “needle of suspicion pointed squarely towards Pakistan”. The Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi called it the work of “Jihadi mentality”. The Sangh Parivar has doubtless managed to use its Goebbelsian tactics quite effectively to “market” this Pakistan theory.
However till date the Govt has NOT made any serious efforts to get at the truth of what really happened. The Railways (coming under the Central Govt) has detailed lists of the passengers who traveled by coaches S5, S6 and S7 on that fateful day and survived the violence. Many of them were not members of the VHP or any organ of the Sangh. They could undoubtedly have told the truth about what really happened. Not only did the Govt itself refuse to act, the police also threatened some of them and warned them not to speak to the media, as one investigative report by a TV channel showed. An investigation by a respected organization like the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), which conclusively proved the fire in coach S6 COULD NOT have been set from outside, and had been set by someone inside the train, was rubbished by the Sangh Parivaar, including the so called “moderate” PM of India as the work of “perverted pseudo-secularists”.
While the Govt of Narendra Modi intentionally is going slow on the investigation into both Godhra and the subsequent violence, the so called “moderate” Vajpayee has, instead of launching an investigation, actually justified the carnage saying that “every action must have a reaction. The Muslims started it!” THIS is Moderate?
This is what a “moderate” Vajpayee actually said in his speech to the BJP National Executive meeting in Goa on 12 April 2002 (Indian Express dtd 13 April). Like Golwalkar, who believed only Hindus are true Indians, Vajpayee used words like “us”,”our”,”Hindus” and “Indians” interchangeably. India, he said, “was always secular and remained so until Muslims and Christians set foot on her soil. They had the freedom of worship. No one among us thought of converting them by force, because this is not practiced in our religion, and in our culture, there is no use for it.”
The PM was trying to contrast the “tolerance of hindus” with the alleged intolerance of Muslims and Christians. The references made by the Vajpayee, like the destruction of Temples and Idols by Muslim invaders and Christian Missionaries, is a standard part of RSS arsenal. At the root of major incidents of violence, he said, was “growing intolerance”. Since Hindus were, by his definition, tolerant, his obvious inference is that the growing intolerance was of the Muslims.
Continuing... ” What happened in Gujarat? If a conspiracy had not been hatched to burn alive the innocent passengers of the Sabarmati Express, then the subsequent tragedy in Gujarat could have been averted. But this did not happen. People were torched alive. Who were the culprits?”
So here we have the “moderate” presenting his own spin on the Newtonian theory that the RSS propagates! He made NO ATTEMPT to differentiate between the criminals who were behind the burning of the train, and the innocents who suffered in the state-backed violence that followed only because they were Muslims. Then he went from Bad to worse.
He continues...” Wherever Muslims live, they don’t like to live in co-existence with others, they don’t mingle, and instead of propagating their ideas in a peaceful manner, they want to spread their faith by resorting to terror and threats. The world has now become alert to this danger they pose”
Classic hate speech that would have been more appropriate in a Nazi convention! But when the local media had a field day with his speech played live on Television (Articles like “The Mukhauta is slipping.”), in classic Vajpayee fashion, he retracted his statement by saying that he had only meant “militant muslims”!! The PMO even issued an updated version of his speech, which we were told was to be the true record henceforth!
Apologists for the Sangh Parivar, especially the sub-type which resides in Umrikaa and gets the most easily swayed by the Goebellsian propaganda of the Parivaar, say that all this communal hatred was an aberration, and as the elections to the 3 states proved, elections “need not” be fought on communal lines. The issues were Roads, Electricity and Water. Or so we are told! Just take a look at what the 3 BJP CM’s have done in the past 100 days since they were voted into power. The Rajasthan CM, Ms.Raje dropped all cases against anti-nationals like Praveen Togadia, who has since returned to Rajasthan with his agenda of hatred of the “The kill all Muslims, and purify their women with the pure sperm of Hindu Manhood” variety. She has actually ordered the dropping of “anti-Hindu” cases like the cases against those propagating crimes like Sati (Bride Burning)! This by a woman CM! Small incidents are being blown out of proportion and serve as excuse to rape and butcher innocents. Take Jhabua in MP. A girl gets sexually assaulted by a (hindu) Vegetable Vendor, and this incident is used as an excuse to burn down a church, attack the Christian Community living in Jhabua and generally raise the level of communal tension. And what does the “sexy sanyasin” CM of the BJP do? She condemns the incident as a plot by “Christian Terrorists to destabilize her government” and warns the Christians to behave!! And like in Gujarat, the police who dared to implement the law and arrest the perpetrators of the violence were instantly transferred and all cases dropped!
Where then are we headed? Chamchas will point out the great economic progress that has been made under the “dynamic” leadership of Vajpayee. But would the economic miracle not have happened under a secular government (which started the reforms process in the first place!!)? And where is this communal hatred, this attempt to destroy India’s secular constitution and turn India into a Hindu version of Pakistan going to take us? Where is this spread of communal hatred going to take us? Can economic growth and consolidation happen in a situation of communal instability?
I am willing, for a moment, to believe that Vajpayee does not subscribe to the more extremist views in the rest of his party. Then why has he been an impotent observer as the rest of his party continues to spread this virus of communal hatred? The issue at hand is not what his personal beliefs about Muslims and Christians are, but whether he, as PM of an India that still has a secular constitution, is prepared to defend the constitutional rights of all citizens of India. Whatever his own personal views may be, as Prime Minister, he cannot speak for a certain community alone. The biggest question is did Vajpayee even endeavor to punish those who commited these terrible crimes against humanity? I think we all know the answer to that one!
Do the Muslims and Christians living in India have the right to their personal security? Are all communities in the country equal before the law? These are the questions that have come up today as a direct result of Vajpayees six years in power. They should never have arisen in a secular country. But they have, and that in itself says a lot about Vajpayees record in power.
And even if Vajpayee protestations of being a “moderate” are to be taken at face value, the question still remains as to how long he is going to survive, given the state of his health: physical and mental. Here is a man who is 79 years old; a diabetic who according to his own admission loves sweets and snacks fried in ghee! A man who cannot climb stairs and needs a motorized lift to accompany him everywhere! A man who despite his ill health, is known to enjoy his daily peg. A man who has been known to forget his lines mid-speech, and forget even the names of his own cabinet ministers! By all indications we see, he is not going to last beyond the next 2 years! And he asks for a mandate of 5 years? So after him who? Advani? Uma Bharati? Or (God Forbid!) Narendra Modi? Who? Who after Vajpayee? And what happens to our Secular Constitution after the exit of this so called moderate? If the moderate was like this how would the hardliners be? IF this was the trailer I shudder to think what the whole film would be like!
Sean: Winning or Losing is beside the point. I don’t take sides depending on who is winning or losing. I am talking of defending a principle here. The Congress has not been a saint as far as protecting Secularism is concerned, and I am sure BarfBag can conjure a number of examples here but the Congress is the best hope for secularism that we have. Minorities are under attack as the RSS seeks to impose its perverted ideology. Do you think that if Gulmarg Society could be ravaged in Feb of 2002, then Pali Hill would be spared if these people began an anti-Christian pogrom in Mumbai? Secularism in India is under serious threat and people concerned about it must not keep quiet. There is too much at stake here to keep silent.
And the situation is not exactly rosy for the BJP. True, the urban voter will mostly go with the BJP and even about that there are serious doubts. And the poor and tribal population are expected to solidly rally behind the Congress as before. Last time around, the Congress fought alone, while the BJP had all the allies I the critical states. Now the situation has been reversed. In my state Maharashtra, the Congress won 28% of the votes, and the NCP won another 22-23% while the BJP-Shiv Sena combination got merely 27% together! But the BJP-SS still managed to walk away with 28 out of 48 seats simply because the Cong and the NCP fought against each other in all these seats. A similar story was repeated in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, UP, MP etc where SP, AIADMK and JD(S) played the spoilers. This time the congress has sown up solid alliances to ensure that the secular vote does not get divided. And not projecting Sonia as PM helps cultivate more potential allies who are now with the fascist BJP, but are more ideologically close to the Congress. So the way is not paved with roses for the BJP which explains the flood of sops. And just how effective could the Priyanka factor be? The welcome she received in Amethi, and the panic reaction from the BJP’s potty mouths Pramod Mahajan and VK Malhotra to news of her entry into politics is just one indication.
The BJP has been using the power of the state to try and influence the voters. They have used their time in office to appoint people with an RSS background in key areas of the Government machinery from Information and Broadcasting to the Election Commission to the Finance Ministry. There are already reports coming in of mass anipulation of electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. Worse, 150 crores of public money has been spent in the “Shining India” campaign which itself shows their desperation. This is going to be an election between Fascism and a Secular model of Governance and ultimately the voter will decide. Are the chips in favor of the BJP? Undoubtedly, it seems that way right now. But Indian elections, like the Assembly Elections in the 4 states, have never been predictable and always been full of surprises! Only time will tell!
(PM’s speech was taken from various Indian Express clippings of the period.)