I am sure that in the history of human discourse, somebody must have underlined the great paradox that informs not so much public killings but private murders.
That if the object of murder is to obliterate forever the “other”, the act of murder in fact has the consequence of not obliterating but perpetuating that “other” forever.
Public massacres have often been legitimized on one high ground of impersonal righteousness or the other: patriotism, racial purity, the moral good of mankind, the call of the divine, what-have-you, and often enough swallowed without much regurgitation by whole peoples and civilizations, and endorsed by the best of high-minded thinkers and philosophers.
But killings effected cloak-and-dagger in pursuit of personal safety or stature carry a troublesome load of universal denunciation, and, however thick-skinned, brazen, or conscienceless the agent that gives the sanctioning nod to murder, he faces his sleepless nights.
Think that in Shakespeare’s Macbeth (a text I keep returning to whenever I think of Modi’s Gujarat) of all the gruesome murders the most gruesome turns out to be that of sleep: “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Macbeth hath murdered sleep/ Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
So is Modi, who now smiles but rarely, losing sleep as he and his obliging minions have yet again been found out in the matter of the killings of Ishrat Jahan and four other young people?
Between 2002 and our moment, some 22 inconvenient human entities have been done to death in Gujarat inorder to secure Modi’s ‘safety’ and heroic enhancement so as he may strut the stage rather more stridently, even if shamelessly.
Not to speak of guiltlessly; do keep in mind that since the day his regime began, he has been the home minister of the state of Gujarat in addition to being the chief minister.
So what makes Modi tick?
Five things: one that he has been able thus far to sell private killings, read murders, to about a half of the Gujarati electorate as killings necessitated by the call to keep them safe from the forces of evil (did I hear you laugh?), and thereby as a tribute to his unbreachable local patriotism and machismo;
Two, that wide sections of Indian media to this day continue to buy this construction of eventualities inorder not to undermine what they see as the most puissant counter to the prospects of a wholly secular or leftward swing to India;
three, that in Gujarat there is no party, only neutralized, even dispatched, dissenters and Modi;
four, that thus far Modi has not been taken on by any organized political force within Gujarat, although this seems set to change;
five, because when all else fails, there is always the recourse to the time-tested “Hinduism under siege” hypothesis, one to which both India’s corporates and new middle classes resonate, notwithstanding their love of a market-driven modernity.
And, yet, the bards of old were not wrong: things are distinctly closing in on Modi.
Those heroic and recklessly fatal acts of resistance and exposure initiated by the likes of Teesta Setalvad and Citizens for Justice and Peace—the organization she runs—built upon through the last nine years by a gathering mass of caring and fearless citizens, and culminating in the unprecedentedly bold revolt of one serving police officer after another, Sanjiv Bhatt being the most daring protagonist here for now, coupled with the increasingly more forthright pronouncements from investigation agencies and courts of law, and a vastly more damaging national and international climate of opinion against Neros like Modi,–all this streaked with the congealed blood of one murdered corpse after another—bids fare to unravel the long years of Nazi rule in Gujarat.
If I am not mistaken, Ishrat in urdu has the meaning “happy consequence” or thereabouts.
Will Ishrat’s sacrifice prove the final bearer of happy tidings for a sane and secular India?
If it does, tomorrow, the next day, even a year from now, many of us might attempt a canonization.