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Troubled Times for Advani & Modi


Satyam Eva Jayate

(The Truth is ever victorious).

 

I

 

It suits India’s elite opinion-makers always to characterize the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as India’s  “principal opposition party.”

 

Principal opposition, presumably, to “the natural party of governance,” namely, the Indian National Congress.

 

The years have shown that such characterization on fact is patently erroneous, especially over the last two decades of Independent India’s existence.  Be it market fundamentalism, or militarism directed at “terrorists” and “naxals” or love of American imperialism  there is little daylight between the Congress and the BJP.

 

Even on that “basic” postulate of the Constitution of India, “secularism,” one has always known that  substantial sections among the Congress party covertly share the majoritarian impulses of the BJP, even as the party as a whole swears by  the principle of secularism as an article of faith and a feature of its long history.  Which is not to deny that other sections within the Congress continue to remain laudably wedded to Nehru’s vision of a welfare state of which secular citizenship was envisaged as a founding bedrock.  Without question, this section within the Congress has the great good luck of having Sonia Gandhi as a bearer of that legacy.

 

Meanwhile,  corporate India and the elites who are their ancillaries continue to pursue their pet agenda of reducing  the Indian democratic system to a two-party structure, where the parties in question (Congress/BJP) alternate governance but essentially govern to the same purposes.

 

Which is why other parties that do in sharp ideological terms deserve the rubric of “opposition” to the Congress/BJP together never make that grade in official political discourse of which India’s “mainstream” media remains a bulwark. And notwithstanding the fact that such parties regularly poll a half of the Indian electorate come hustings.

 

II

 

As we contemplate the current troubles of  the two front-ranking BJP stalwarts—Advani and Modi—one who could not be prime minister and one who is slated to be,  it is good that we keep the above backdrop in mind.  Yes, as the adage has it, the truth does prevail, but it prevails in two different sorts of ways:  among the people at large who always know, and, less frequently, as a consequence of legal processes over which the state puts its official stamp.

 

The Babri Demolition:

 

Who doesn’t know that  Lal Kishen Advani was after all the chief instigator and architect of the demolition of the Babri mosque, not just in the two years leading upto December 6, 1992 but on the very day itself, as the entire top brass of the BJP sat, smirked, and watched in glee the domes falling one after the other?

 

That is the truth that the whole country witnessed on television; yet a truth that was hardly  transparent to the state and its agencies as legal proceedings began to be  initiated.

 

Over interminable  years and contestations, charges of conspiracy and direct culpability against Advani and the other top leaders were emasculated, and then dropped, until reinstated in a separate court at Rae Bareilly in 2005.

 

Then came the Liberhan Commission Report which, however belatedly, nailed the lies that had been deployed both in party and public circles.  All that despite the fact that Justice Liberhan did not in his Report take note of the most damningly direct and trustworthy evidence against Advani—that deposed before it by Ruchira Gupta who had been a reporter with Business India and a ringside witness to the event of the demolition (see my “The Mythology of Advani’s Sadness,” Znet, December, 18, 2009).

 

Yet, sadly for Advani, just the other day witness no.9 at the Bareilly court, one Anju Gupta, a very senior Indian Police Service officer at the time of the demolition, and then incharge of Advani’s securiy, came forth to testify boldly to the truth to which she had consistently testified before.

 

And at every point of her deposition, the testimony of this brave policewoman made independent corroboration of all the salient points Ruchira Gupta had made to the Liberhan Commission.

 

To wit:  that Advani had made an inflammatory speech on site, thundering that the Ram temple was going to be built at the exact site of the mosque; that far from being sad or despondent, he had wanted the dome breakers to step down   inorder not to save the mosque but their lives, since he knew that the mosque was being brought down from the inside the more effectively to collapse the domes; that as the domes fell, he like everybody else was cheery, as sweets went round in celebration; that at no point did he attempt to instruct either the complicit police force or the karsevaks (the labouring hands of the Sangh) to prevent the atrocity from happening.

 

 

With another forty odd witnesses still to depose, who knows where the case will go from here?  Already, the BJP, that party of dharma, is busy propagating in true Goebbelesian fashion how the IPS policewoman, Anju Gupta, is Anju Gupta Rizvi and hence a motivated witness!  Never mind that on affidavit her name is Anju Gupta merely, and  a  devout Hindu to boot. 

 

 

Which is not to say that had she infact been a Muslim, her evidence would have been any less truthful or damning, or worthy of admittance.

 

 

It thus remains to be seen whether at some point in future, in the Advani case, the Indian state will endorse the self-evident truth that the whole country witnessed in the years between 1990 and 1992. 

 

 

III

 

The  Gujarat

Massacre:

 

It will be fair to say that rarely in the history of lawful governance  has any democratic state in the world sought to subvert the ends of justice as Gujarat under Modi since 2002.

 

The story is by now too well-known to require  painful belabouring.  Some salient facts that are by now out in the open, thanks to the unprecedented perseverance of common  citizens,   voluntary organizations like the Citizens for Justice and Peace, damning sting operations conducted by the Tehelka media group, and the bold  public disclosures made by  upright officers who were then in the know of things, we know:

 

–that not without Modi’s say-so could the bodies of the burnt victims of the train disaster at Godhra have been brought all the way to Ahmedabad and paraded for public attention;

 

–that on the 27th of February, Modi took a meeting of his key ministers, aids and police officers, and instructed that Hindus were to be allowed to vent their anger against the train burning;

 

–that Modi’s erstwhile cabinet colleague, H. Pandeya who came to be suspected to have leaked information of  this meeting  fell into disrepute and was soon enough also found murdered;   note: to this day, his father accuses Modi of being behind that murder;

 

–that the outstanding police officer, Sreekumar, has testified to illegal orders being issued which he for one refused to obey, incurring the implacable vendetta of the state affecting his status and service;

 

–that, despite the Bandh call given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, no instructions were issued to prevent the mayhem that was intended, especially in Ahmedabad;

 

–that key operators like Babu Bajrangi were given personal assurance by Modi that the law would not reach them, and judges were repeatedly transferred by the chief minister until one was found who issued bail orders to Bajrangi—the animal who, self-confessedly in the Sting tape (which has been declared admissible evidence)  ripped Kauserbano’s womb, took out the foetus on sword point and flung the same in the fire;

 

–that a key aid, Haresh Bhatt is plainly heard to say in the tape that without Modi’s clearance and support, nothing could have been done, since the rioters would have surely been bashed by the police and prevented from carrying out the  butchery;

 

–that victims of the massacre, those that survive, have publicly stated from diverse platforms how the police, even as they put in an appearance, blandly either lied to them, or told them plainly that they were slated to die;

 

–how at the Gulbarg Society massacre, where the then Congress member of parliament was dismembered to smithereens, the said M.P. Ehsan Jaffri had made close to two hundred calls, including to Modi, for protection; how Modi abused him, and how alongwith him another 68 people were put to the sword and the fire; regrettably, to this day, the record of calls made on the 27th and 28th of Feb.,2002, including by and to Modi, remain to be examined.

 

–that one of his erstwhile cabinet colleagues, Maya Kodnani, has already been found complicit and sent to jail, and three others are willing and ready to testify to the truth (Nalin Bhatt, Goverdhan Zadaphia, Jaideep Patel).

 

Indeed, the revolting episode  comprises by now too many sordid narratives to recount here.

 

And yet, these things were, if anything, only to steel further the resolve of Modi’s adulators to stand by him, and the BJP to laud him; not once has either he or the party expressed the barest remorse for the massacre, not to speak of admitting responsibility, or seeking reconciliation with Gujarat’s Muslim citizens who remain ghettoized, ostracized, and discriminated in work-related  issues.

 

And throughout the investigative/legal proceedings, the Gujarat state agencies have sought at every conceivable stage and in every conceivable way to deflect the due processes of law—reason why the administration of justice there has had finally to be literally taken over by the Supreme Court of India which, besides, transferring some key cases outside the state and ordering retrial in more than a thousand others, appointed a Special Investigation Team to re-try some eight of the most horrendous cases, among them the Gulbarg Society massacre.

 

Ehsan Jaffri’s widow, Zakia Jaffri,  thus sought to file a complaint before the then DGP of Gujarat (june 8, 2006), in which she desired, among other things, Modi to be investigated as “accused number one.”

 

Rejected.

 

A writ was then filed before the Gujarat High Court with the same plea.  Rejected  in November, 2007.

 

Which is when Zakia Jaffri and the Citizens for Peace and Justice filed a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court of India directly (SLP 1088, 2008); this time the plea was admitted and the SIT  appointed previously by the Supreme Court directed to investigate the charges made in the SLP.

 

Thus it was that Modi was summoned to appear before the SIT any day between March 21 and 31.

 

IV

 

Summoning at first pliable sections of the media to his aid, Modi sought to make much of some confusion in the dates on which he was to appear.  As his party drummed up the so-called controversy.

 

We now know that he sought to persuade the SIT to examine him either at his home or in his office.  The plea was rejected.

 

Finally, on the 27th of March, Modi made another record; he became the first serving chief minister of an Indian state to be summoned for quizzing on charges of criminal conspiracy in a massacre.

 

We now know that he was grilled for some ten hours or so in two separate sessions, and that, if need be, he could be asked to appear again.

 

Any chief executive worth his salt may in such circumstances have offered to demit office till cleared by the enquiry; not Modi.  Never in India has skin been so thick or conscience so  wholly atrophied as not to exist at all.

 

The chief of SIT  is due to submit his report on the investigations to the appointing authority, the Supreme Court of India,  by end of April; and there is reason to believe that this will be done on time.

 

But here is the million dollar question:  will it transpire that Modi has provided magical answers to what must seem allegations signed and sealed by an already existing preponderance of evidence, direct and circumstantial, demolishing the case of the butchered, the victim survivors, the people, or will it truly turn out that the truth that has been out in the open for years now will also be inscribed in the  report that will go to the Supreme Court?

 

On the answer to that speculation may depend much more than the fate of Modi and Gujarat.  Indeed, should Modi’s corporate and celebrity admirers and  closet communalists in high office succeed in  doing dirt on the ends of  justice, India’s   polity and state may be seen to kiss good bye forever both to democracy and to secularism.  Indeed, the continued unity of the realm may itself come into real question.

 

If on the other hand, the truth  does prevail in law as it does in common knowledge, India would have struck a decisive blow on behalf of secularism, democracy and the rule of law, lifting the polity to a level of belief that may bear the promise of legitimizing and consolidating the lawful state and lawful institutions to unimaginably salutary  consequence.

 

Never may as much of a nation-state’s future have  hung in the balance on the contents of  a single report as it does on the Report of the SIT,

And never may have any group of a dozen or less investigators into collective criminality stood to lose or win as much verity and honour as does the SIT.

 

So low has been brought the esteem of  probity in Indian national life that it would be a recklessly naïve citizen who would say on this day that the right and proper is about to see the light of day.  Even as the  conduct hitherto of the SIT has, barring aberrations, thus far inspired confidence.

 

The country trusts them to know that rarely has the fate of so many depended on so few.

 

Should justice come to be disfigured, it may transpire that those who have eyes only for India’s  Gross National Product  will see both India and its GNP come crashing in sad and irreparable ways.

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