Gujarat 2006— Same But Not the Same

It would be a grave miscalculation for the Indian State as well as
well-meaning secular and peace-loving Indians to be taken in by Narendra Modi’s seemingly conciliatory visit to the scene of the last round of violence  in Vadodra (in the month of May).. As Modi’s tendentious visit to Mumbai after the Bhiwandi episode and the train blasts draws justifiably skeptical notice, the coordinates of the earlier episode in Vadodra can help in contextualizing Modi’s foray into Mumbai.

With an approving NDA government and an applauding home
minister no longer available at the Centre,  Modi is  canny enough to know that whatever fresh pogroms he has in mind (with the Gujarat assembly elections  due next year) he must needs conduct those intentions with greater finesse and less triumphalist brutality than was possible in 2002.

The first blatant declaration that nothing had changed in Gujarat
comprised the   elevation of P.C.Pande  as Director General of Police—all that,  we must remember, in the teeth of  Supreme Court’s strictures on  Pande’s role during 2002.  In thus rewarding Pande, Modi   made it clear enough that his pursuit of the RSS agenda to ghettoise muslims and create two nations suffers no dent.  Sections of the  media have  noted that on the night of May 2 and 3, when  family members of the late Mohd.,Rafique Vohra were frantically seeking to call for help, neither the local police thana at Pani Gate, nor the home secretary’s or the chief ministers’ offices responded. Indeed, the local control room  made the succint suggestion ‘go to Pakistan.’

Clearly Pande’s elevation could not but be read by the likes of
Deepak Swaroop, Commissioner of Police, Vadodra, as a signal that he could hope  for similar preferment were he to emulate Pande’s silent subterfuge vis a vis the Gulbarga carnage in 2002 when he promised to bring help but remained absconding for a full day.

A string of facts highlighted by  the Citizens for Justice and Peace
leave scope for little doubt that the demolition of the Durgah Hazrat Rasiuudin in the Pani Gate police station area (perhaps the last remaining mixed neighbourhood in Vadodra) was no incidental or stray act  in pursuance of the government’s ‘developmental’ agenda, although sections of  the media are busy propagating precisely that benign view. These facts starkly suggest that the same old social forces and the  same old agenda inspired the demolition of the said Durgah.

Consider the following:
1. Modi government’s claim that the Durgah was an ‘encroachment’ is a pure historical distortion;  at least 200 years old, the Durgah is present in the 1911 Vadodra City Survey plans. At that time these shrines were located at the outskirts of the then village. It also needs to be recalled that as per law passed by parliament after the Babri demolition, status quo is to be maintained on all shrines which were in existence in 1947—barring the one case of the  Babri masjid.

2. That ‘neutral’ members of the Vadodra Municipal Corporation and the police were  accompanied by Nalin Bhatt (indicted by the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal for his involvement in the carnage of 2002) and  Mayor, Sushil Solanki, all of whom raised slogans calling the shrine a Mini-Babri.  The Mayor went on to declare that if the VMC did not demolish the shrine, the services of the VHP/Bajrang Dal could be called in.

3. Nalin Bhatt and Yogesh Patel (also indicted by the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal for his role in 2002) supervised the paving of the road over the demolished shrine, exactly replicating the procedure that was followed in the case of the demolished Wali Dakhani’s mazaar in 2002.

4. That the Commissioner of Police, Swaroop, relayed the inspired disinformation that the muslim community had sought a stay on the demolition, when infact they had agreed, however reluctantly, to the compromise formula that two and a half feet of the shrine that jutted on the road be dismantled.

5. That, contrary to the claim that twenty temples were also demolished,  the CP concealed the fact that these were infact ‘deras’—private temples installed  outside resident’s gates.

6. That, infact, two temples, one on Old Padra Road and another on the Ahmadabad-Vadodra Highway (as one enters Nizampura) which came up twenty years ago in the wake of Advani’s infamous rath yatra remain untouched and will remain so.

7. That on the night of May 2& 3, the same night that Rafique Vohra was burnt alive in his car by a mob of over 1000 people led by VHP/Bajrang Dal activists, Ajay Dave, owner of TNN Channel, Vadodra, was seen by residents moving around Ajwa Road area video-shooting the entry and exit points of Bahar and Kismet colonies (both inhabited by the minority community); this is ominously reminiscent of the modus operandi that was followed in 2002 in organising the carnage.

The inescapable fact is that far from making any attempts to assuage the fears of the muslims or seeking ways to reintegrate them into the mainstreams of social life subsequent to the carnage of 2002, the Modi administration gives every indication that the 2002 agenda will be carried forward.  There must be some reason why a leading electronic channel   felt impelled  to debate on prime time whether, after all, Gujarat is not a wholly ‘communal state.’

Modi’s Mumbai visit was, noticeably, calculated to carry his crusade on behalf of Gujarati  asmita  among the Gujaratis in Maharashtra, as a necessary step to reincubate communal politics there, as the Shiv Sena and the local BJP now seem unable to do so with any great consequence.  That an alert administration kept the Mumbai visit within manageable bounds was a happy development, exactly as the central governments’ successful inisistence in the first week of May to implant the troops in the city despite Modi’s visible reluctance  was a constructive departure from the events of 2002.

But, perhaps what bids fair to vanquish the Modi brand of  cynical fascism  is the heartening and concerted  assertion by ordinary working Hindus and Muslims in India’s cities and towns against vicious attempts to divide them on false premises.

This new sentient resolve may be said to have been  inaugurated by the holy city of Varanasi, where, after the  terrorist strike on the Sankatmochan temple, the Bandh call given by the Sangh affiliates and the attempt of Vinay Katiyar, of Babn demolition notoriety, to make trouble were rebuffed by  Hindus and Muslims who came together to celebrate the festival of Holi in the teeth of  the Sangh’s decision not to do so. In the process, the lost clout of the Sangh stood cruelly exposed.

And what the aftermath of  people’s response across communities to the train blasts in Mumbai has, as a threshold statement, sought to underline is that neither community is any longer willing to buy the thesis that the terrorists   represent any community interest.  Most significantly, Hindus—barring the communal fascists—seem convinced that India’s Muslims not only rue terrorism  genuinely but actually stand much more to lose by it.
There is thus a wave of sanity among the mass of the Hindu majority which  is forthrightly willing to repudiate the fascist thesis which has in the past so bedeviled both their and the nation’s perspectives. Needless to say, it   remains for all varieties of progressive politics to build upon these people’s assertions which can be seen now to draw common inspiration from histories of  pluralist living rather than from the arbitrary and shallow offerings of  ‘nationalist’ communalism.

Badri Raina
36, Anupam Appts.,
Vasundhara Enclave,

Ph: 22617543;  email:  [email protected]

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