Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Narendra Modi and Rajiv Gandhi

by India Unbound

The last few days have seen a lot of prominent voices in support of Narendra Modi as future Prime Minister of India. Since NDA has declared LK Advani as its Prime Minestrial candidate, these voices are not relevant at least in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. However, the onslaught of secularists against supporters of Narendra Modi exposes their hypocrisy. One could have understood their discomfort with the Chief Minister of Gujarat if they have had similar opinion about Rajiv Gandhi who was ruler of India during the 1984 Sikh riots, the worst ever riots after partition.

In fact the 1984 violence was so one sided that it was not a riot but a pogrom unleashed on the Sikh community by workers of the ruling Congress party to avenge the assassination of their leader Indira Gandhi who was killed by two Sikh terrorists. Very little is known about the extent of 1984 killings as there was no internet and no 24/7 news channels in those days. Khushwant Singh, then the editor of The Illustrated Weekly Of India and a Gandhi family loyalist had called up President Gyani Zail Singh, a Sikh, for protection during the riots. The President, who also happened to be commander-in-chief of our armed forces advised Khushwant Singh to take shelter in a Hindu house. Neither the Police nor any Government Department but a good Hindu friend was the suggestion by the then President to a fellow Sikh who had called up for help. We may be baffled at this helplessness of the President but he knew what he was talking for it was not a Hindu – Sikh riot and hence the advice to Khushwant Singh to take shelter at any Hindu’s house. The President also knew that the pogrom was being carried out under the watchful eyes of Delhi Police and hence did not advice Khushwant Singh to take the help of Police. In fact the day after Indira’s assassination, when the pogrom had just begun, a peace march by some residents of Lajpat Nagar, a Delhi locality was stopped as participants did not have official permission!! In many places Police took away kirpans from Sikhs and made the job of Congress workers much more easier.

For three days, killings continued unabated in the capital and around 3000 Sikhs were killed. But the national television did not show any footage of the riot (Doordarshan was the only Television Channel in those days). All that the state run TV channel showed was the dead body of Indira Gandhi and her mourners. It was as if the city of 9 million people was in the somber mood of mourning. The world was totally unaware of the happenings in the capital of India. People did listen to some Congress workers shouting Khoon Ka Badla Khoon Se Lenge (We will avenge blood with blood) well within the earshot of new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi but were unaware of the extent of the bloodshed as it was totally blacked out by the only Television Channel in the country.

The official toll by the Government immediately after the riots put the death toll at 425. Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was then the president of BJP contested the official death toll and asked his colleagues to collate figures. BJP’s total added up to 2800. The Congress quickly branded BJP as an anti-national party. Later the Ahuja Committee, appointed by the Government to compute the number of deaths, put the death toll as 2,733 in Delhi. Rajiv Gandhi and his Government never apologised or regretted for the bloodshed. Instead he defended the pogrom by saying, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.” Editors of national dailies rationalised the killings. Girilal Jain, editor of The Times Of India explained that the Hindu cup of patience had become full to the brim. N.C. Menon, editor of The Hindustan Times wrote of how Sikhs had clawed their way to prosperity and it was about time. When Khushwant Singh returned his Padma Bhushan award, Vinod Mehta, current editor of Outlook magazine and a shining jewel of the secular pack , wrote that when it came to choosing between a Sikh and an Indian, Khushwant Sikh chose to be a Sikh!!

During the Lok Sabha elections of 1984, Congress ran a hate filled campaign which included advertisements and posters that had a picture of a Sikh Taxi driver with the caption Kya Aap Ek Sikh Taxi Driver pe Bharosa kar sakte hain ? (Can You trust a Sikh Taxi Driver?). In Amethi, where Maneka Gandhi was contesting against her brother in law Rajiv Gandhi, slogans like Beti hai Sardar ki, Qaum hai Gaddar ki (She is the daughter of a Sikh, a community of traitors) worked and so did the hate filled posters in the rest of the country. Congress got 401 seats in the Lok Sabha; a feat which not even Indira Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru had achieved. Of course for a congress sympathetic mainstream media, this victory was result of a sympathy wave.

Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, HKL Bhagat who actively took part in the killings continued getting Lok Sabha tickets in successive elections. Jagdish Tytler was even made a minister in the UPA government. PV Narasimha Rao who was the Home Minister during the pogrom, was severely censured for his connivance with the killers, by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, hero of 1971 war, in his affidavit to Nanavati Commission . Not only did Rajiv Gandhi made him a cabinet minister again after the 1984 elections but he was also made the Prime Minister after the death of Rajiv Gandhi. Even today mainstream media criticises P V Narasimha Rao more for the demolition of a mosque in Ayodhya, in which non one was killed than for the 1984 massacre of thousands.

Now compare this with the Gujarat riots of 2002. According to UPA Government 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in the riots. Now if it was a state sponsored riots against Muslims how come 254 Hindus lost their lives ? Gujarat is the only state where many rioters have been convicted by courts whereas the first conviction in anti Sikh pogrom happened in 1997. Even during the riots a lot of rioters (both Hindus and Muslims) were killed due to police firing. The state has progressed a lot since the 2002 riots and hence Modi’s popularity has soared not just in Gujarat but in the entire country despite the fact that he is still held responsible for the riots unlike Rajiv Gandhi who was darling of the same section of the media. This double standard is unfathomable.

People who hold Modi morally responsible for the riots would be probably justified in doing so if they apply the same yardstick to Rajiv Gandhi and Congress regime of 1984. When they dont do that, they expose the hollowness in their secularism.

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