The Indian political establishment has reacted with shock to the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in a suicide attack today. Terming it “a cowardly act by desperate individuals”, a senior Congress party leader expressed hope that the people of Pakistan would overcome this tragedy with maturity and poise. “When Indiraji was killed, Rajiv was a political greenhorn, but we stood by him and he soon matured into a great leader. And when Rajiv was killed, we hoped Sonia-ji would take over immediately. If she had done so, the Congress party would have reaped a massive sympathy vote in 1991 and would have been stronger than it is today.”
“Everybody reacts to grief differently, you can’t fault Sonia-ji for not taking reins of the party after the shocking loss of her husband”, another leader intervened. “But all said and done, we were always faithful to the family that has given its all to the party. Now, with Rahul being active politically and Priyanka ostensibly ready to jump in when necessary, we feel more secure than ever, the drubbing in Gujarat notwithstanding.”
The BJP reaction has so far been muted, save for a one-line press note: “The party extends its sympathies to the family of Ms. Bhutto and the people of Pakistan”. A source close to the party leadership said the party is torn between two camps:
i) the peacenik camp, which wants to play the gentleman and express sympathies & support;
ii) the Akhand Bharat camp which wants to exploit the ensuing turmoil to invade and annex Pakistan.
Our source confided:
The peacenik camp thinks an invasion would be quixotic, but the Akhand Bharat camp has the support of the BJP Chief Ministers of (the border states of) Gujarat and Rajasthan who think a cause for invasion can be manufactured. In fact, Narendra Modi was confident that if the Indian forces marched into Pakistan, they would be greeted as liberators. And Keshubhai Patel is Okay with this plan as long as Modi doesn’t lead them into Pakistan. VHP leader Praveen Togadia has also strongly supported the invasion on the grounds that if we were to take Pakistan now, Godse’s ashes can finally be immersed in the Indus river (while it’s a part of India, as he wished). Both camps have been lobbying hard, and senior RSS, VHP and BJP leaders are currently meeting to decide on the future course of action.
Senior leaders from Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party have begun parleys to decide on the transfer of PPP leadership to one of Bhutto’s children. “It’s irresponsible to claim that any of them eat pork. They can soon learn to speak chaste Urdu and quote the scriptures as well. The PPP will stand by the Bhutto family in its hour of need“, one of the leaders said in a voice choked with emotion. “So what if they ate pork? Jinnah feasted on pork & wine, and spoke broken Urdu“, a bystander blurted out almost involuntarily and soon had to run for his dear life.
In the US, President Bush sported a stunned look and observed in a sombre tone:
More than six years ago, we asked the question, “Why do they hate us?” We now need to add to it another question, “Why do they hate those who work with us?” Three months ago, it was Abu Risha who paid the ultimate price. Now it’s the turn of Benazir Bhutto. I just posed these questions to God, I encourage you to do the same. In the meantime, I urge the people of Pakistan to show the same composure that we showed at a time of national tragedy.”
A White House spokesperson later clarified that when the President said “same composure“, he actually meant “same composure sans the Afghan bombing, suspension of civil liberties at home and so on“. A White House source confided on condition of anonymity that plans are afoot to soon launch “Operation Infinite Hatred” to hunt down every last one of the haters.
December 5, 2007
Shri N. Gopalaswami,
The Chief Election Commissioner,
The present chief minister, Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi has reportedly used a blatantly communal angle in his speech at Mangrol in South Gujarat on December 4, 2007, saying that “Sonia Gandhi spoke of terrorism. But she has no right to talk of this the Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But it should explain what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms?? You tell me what should be done?” and the crowds reportedly shouted back, “kill him kill him”.
Sir, we believe that this is an open exhortation to violence, an illegal act by a person seeking re-election to a powerful and responsible position in the state. It also amounts to an Unconstitutional and Unhealthy attitude in a leading politician in a polity. We also believe that this amounts to blatant misuse of religion for political ends and is violative of the Election Code of Conduct since indirectly Shri Modi is only referring to ‘Sohrabuuddin’ a Muslim was killed and not of the manner in which his wife, Kauserbi, an innocent was killed as also was Tulsiram Prajapati, and Mahendra Kadhav, Ganesh Kunthe (in other incidents of encounters) . In any case, an illegal act by agents of the state (Modi and his chosen policemen) is illegal regardless of who the victim is and which community he/she hails from. To equate and justify a criminal act with a particular community is nothing short of introducing communal politics in the electoral arena and fomenting hatred against a section of our people.
Sir the Election Code of Conduct, Rule 1 (2) and 1 (3) in General Conduct clearly mentions this.
Thirdly, the crude stance of Shri Modi is contrary to what the state of Gujarat has stated on affidavit admitting the illegality of the killing of Sohrabuddin (the rape and) killing of his wife, Kauserbi and the similar illegal encounter killing of Tulsiram -all by policemen commandeered to do so!! in the Hon’ble Supreme Court indicating that Shri Modi is resorting to both desperate and unhealthy measures to garner votes. It also means that either the state of Gujarat is misleading the apex court, or the chief minister is so far veering from the truth to make cheap electoral forays!!
Fourthly, of the officially admitted 21 encounters in Gujarat between 2003 and 2007, in which 5 Hindus were also killed it is emerging that grossly unlawful and unconstitutional means have been used. Therefore, can the CM of a state justify illegal murder lawlessness and extrajudicial killings?? Does his speech not just violate the rule of law enshrined in the Indian constitute but criminal law and the election code of conduct?
We urge that action should be demanded and taken against him for fomenting hatred and violence against a particular community . We urge action by the Election Commission in this regard.
Sir, Gujarat has had a legacy of sever communal strife and polarisation since 2002 when one of the worst ever post Partition genocidal carnages took place. Even today victims live like refugees in their own land. There have been no attempts by the state to re locate them with dignity. Today’s blatantly crude, desperate and communally surcharged speech of Shri Modi is an attempt to bring Gujarat back to the dark abyss of violence and polarisation yet again. It is also an attempt to win an election by foul means if not fair!! As the Constitutional body in charge of the state we urge the Election Commission to step in sharply and clearly in this regard.
December 6th, a day that will live in infamy. Fifteen years after the Sangh Parivar demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid aided and abetted by those in power, and goaded on by those who went on to become deputy prime ministers and the like, the event remains a scar on the body politic. It marks the violent entry of the Sangh Parivar and its fascist project into the corridors of political power culminating in the rise of a BJP led government six years later. December 6th and the organized killings that followed in Bombay and other cities throughout North India, made the pogroms of Gujarat 2002 possible – from the relative margins of the political consciousness, an ethic that valorizes fascistic brutality, hate-filled visions of power, and an aggressive desire to dominate and crush those demonized as cultural others came to center stage where it continues to exist despite temporary setbacks. Three years into supposedly ‘secular’ UPA rule, and there is still no hope for justice for either the victims of 2002, nor those of 1992.
Yes, December 6th, 1992 is remembered all over India by Sangh Parivar supporters as a day when their repressed feelings of inadequacy got a small jolt of feigned manhood. But it is also remembered by Muslims and secular Indians, as a day that will live in infamy, and a day in which the quest for justice and equality should be energized.
A brief report on a demonstration led by TN Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.
Around mid-day, it began. A stream of autos, motorbikes, and scooters with large black and white flags brought about a hundred slogan-chanting people from Nagore, a largely Muslim town, to the bus stand area in Nagai’s town center, in front of the courthouse. Here the caravan joined a couple of hundred people already assembled in front of the courthouse, as minivans and cars also brought in more people from other places. There were a large number of women who assembled on one side. Slogans were chanted, and after the loudspeaker jeep managed to navigate its way to the front of the demonstration at the polite urging of the organizers, the proceedings began. Several speeches followed interspersed with slogans.
Speakers reminded the demonstrators that their anger was against the Sangh Parivar and not Hindus. One speaker said Muslims sacrificed so much to bring freedom for the country and were yet treated worse than second class citizens in today’s India. There were several chants denouncing Advani, MM Joshi and Modi. There were also calls for rebuilding the Babri Masjid, and bringing the Sangh Parivar leaders and their foot-soldiers to justice.
A large police presence did not deter the demonstrators, and some of the police were also polite to demonstrators; one cop chatting with a man holding a TN-MMK flag smiled and asked him to raise the flag higher! After several speeches, the demonstration ended. From the intense passions visible in this demonstration, it is clear that December 6th will continue to be remembered as a symbol of the marginalization and oppression of Muslims throughout India.
Conspicuously absent was any contingent of leftist and liberal voices in solidarity. Nagai has a CPIM MLA, and the CPI has a strong, historical presence in this region and Thanjavur. Neither did the powerful DMK have any presence at the demonstration. Why did these parties not think it necessary to stand in solidarity with a significant part of their own constituency on an issue that they all theoretically agree on – the defense of secularism? It is this indifference that strengthens the view among Muslims that nobody but Muslims give a hoot about what is happening to them in this country.
A TOI report (reproduced below) hypothesizes on why Modi justified the killing of a Gujarati Muslim businessman, Sohrabuddin, and his wife, Kauserbi.
On Monday, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi owned up to killing Sohrabuddin, saying he “got what he deserved”, to packed crowds at a rally in Mangrol, in south Gujarat. Within 24 hours, on Tuesday, the issue — an emotive one and seen as a return of the communal agenda — vanished from his speeches as he addressed rallies in central Gujarat, including Godhra.
But, this was no aberration: There is a method in Modi’s apparent madness. While in rebellion-ridden Saurashtra or Surat, where he has failed to cast a spell, he threw the Sohrabuddin bait; but once out of rebel strongholds, he bypassed Sohrabuddin and talked in general terms about terrorism.
In short, Sohrabuddin was the rallying point in places where Leuva Patels have risen in rebellion against Modi, and which didn’t see much bloodshed, post-Godhra. He resurrected Sohrabuddin, the man his government branded a terrorist and killed in a fake encounter, according to its own admission before SC.
Sohrabuddin’s dead wife Kauserbi has become Modi’s biggest weapon to fight the Congress/ rebels with, who are now fighting on Congress tickets mainly from Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Modi knows only too well that development won’t sell in these parts because the rebels have already burst his development bubble.
Places like Visavadar, in Junagadh, where a Keshubhai Patel man is fighting on a Congress ticket; Wadhwan in Surendranagar where rebel BJP MLA Dhanraj Kella is contesting as an Independent; Jamnagar and Mangrol in South Gujarat, are the places where Modi has told the crowds how his police killed Sohrabuddin. His speeches usually end with a submission: “The Congress is ruling at the Centre, it can hang me!”
But watch him in Panchmahals — where the intensity of riots in 2002 has ensured a clear polarisaton and there’s no sign of dissidence — and Modi is back with his tirade against terrorism, aimed a wooing back the estranged VHP members.
Social scientist Achyut Yagnik seems to concur:
In the 2002 elections, Hindutva forces were united. But during the past five years, three shades of Hindutva emerged — hardline, Modi’s own brand and soft Hindutva. Modi carried on with Gujarati pride factor for a long time, but he has now realised that his development plank is not working and he would have to speak the language of the hardliners. After all the cadre are mostly hardliners.
A few weeks ago, the Tehelka expose shocked many when Baju Bajrangi enthusiastically described slitting pregnant Muslim women. Now, by justifying the cold-blooded murder (archive) of a Muslim couple, Modi has once again shown himself to be no different. More suave than Bajrangi, of course, but that’s about it.
While the Arun Jaitleys of the Sangh would rather have Modi fulminate on Mohammad Afzal, Modi understandably preferred something local that he could take credit for. With the likes of Uma Bharti calling him a pseudo-Hindu, what better way to buttress his Hindutva credentials than asserting that his hands are bloodied? And now that he has been forced to back-track by the Election Commission, he has volunteered to hang Afzal!
Blood and gore are constant companions of Hindutva, more so in election times.
In the case of Sohrabuddin et al, the Gujarat government had admitted (archive) in the Supreme Court (on March 23, 2007) that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that the encounter in which alleged LeT operative Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed in November 2005, was a ‘fake’. Two months later, Gujarat Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri’s report on the fake encounter pointed to the collusion of [the] State government in the form of Shri Amit Shah, MOS for Home and noted that the episode makes a complete mockery of the rule of law and is perhaps an example of the involvement of [the] State government in a major crime. (Also see the Wiki page and the chronology on NDTV)
Modi’s audacious claims on Sohrabuddin need to be seen against this backdrop:
“What should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition ?” Modi reportedly said. “You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin ?… Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”
It’s almost as if Muslims are guilty until proved innocent, and if killed, guilty by definition. That he could whip up communal frenzy portends an ominous future for Gujarat:
He managed to whip up such a communal frenzy with his words that the crowd begin to chant “kill him, kill him” in response to Modi’s question on what should have been done to Sohrabuddin.
And when the people shouted “kill him”, Modi said: “Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission to do this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”
As the elections approach, NRI sanghis have sought to aggressively market Modi as a visionary leader who has been subjected to malicious propaganda. The more enterprising ones even wear Hindutva as a badge of honor. Unfortunately for them, the likes of Modi and Bajrangi continue to reveal the seamy side of Hindutva. Ratan Tata might want to invest in Gujarat — You are stupid if you do not invest in Gujarat, he allegedly said (archive) — but can Muslims live free from fear in Gujarat?
Even as Modi continues to stoke the Hindutva fire in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, his Sanghi buddies seem to have put behind their differences and ensure his re-election. A VHP press release dated Nov 21, 2007, which surprisingly has not made it to the Net yet, reads:
The Standing Committee of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in a meeting held at New Delhi, on November 21, 2007 declared the position of VHP with regards to the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.
The meeting was presided over by Shri Ashok Singhal. Also present in the meeting were Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Shri Vedantamji, Dr. Pravinbhai Togadia, Dr Maheshbhai Mehta (Global Coordinator) and 35 other members. All the members present in the meeting expressed unequivocal support to Hindu forces in the coming elections leading the pro-Hindu candidates to a landslide victory, giving crushing defeat to all anti-Hindu candidates.
The VHP further emphasized the need to keep Hindu votes undivided ensuring stable governments in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and give a befitting reply to the anti-Hindu and “So-called Secular” forces.
Mahesh Mehta, listed as Global Coordinator of the VHP, is a founder and past President of the VHP-America (archive). That the VHPA works in close coordination with the Sangh in India should come as no surprise, despite VHPA’s claims to the contrary (archive):
Though inspired by the same ideals as those followed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Bharat, VHP of America is distinct, legally separate and operationally independent Non-Profit organization in its own right within the USA.
Hmm, operationally independent perhaps means the contrary in Sangh-speak. All said, I think VHPA still has some wiggle room left. It’s not clear whether Mahesh Mehta is still a VHPA officebearer, so it could possibly — if need be — distance itself from the PR (and Modi). Of course, it’s not as if the media is keeping tabs on the VHPA, so this instance of cross-border Sanghi coordination will most likely go uncommented.