The recent drama that evolved when Anil Ambani, Sunil Mittal, Ratan Tata and other industrialists lauded Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at the investors" summit in Gujarat, claiming his leadership as "national level material" and wishing that "person like him should be the next leader of the country", was quite interesting and deserves an honest appraisal.
The unsuspecting media was totally unprepared for such accolades from the stalwarts of India Incorporate for the alleged "merchant of death". The next few days saw numerous news and articles popping up as to why Modi cannot be the Prime Minister of this country. Congress spokesperson called him a fascist and compared with Hitler. There were attempts to develop a rift between Modi and the BJP"s Prime Minister Candidate, Mr. L. K. Advani that lasted till Modi himself declared, much to the disappointment of the media, that he is not in the race for PM. An editorial in Times of India went to the extent of disqualifying him on the ridiculous ground that he was denied visa to the USA and thought that to be considered for the Indian PM post, Modi has to be acceptable to foreign countries. Coming from an editor of a national newspaper, it is intriguing how far one can lower one"s self and national esteem.
Narendra Modi and Gujrat Riot 2002
No discussion can happen on Mr. Narendra Modi, without talking about the Gujarat riot of 2002. Communal riots are not new in India or for that matter, in the state of Gujarat itself - it has happened since medieval times. Neither was the Gujarat riot of 2002 the largest in the history of the state - more extensive and more prolonged violence with much higher death tolls had happened in 1969 and 1985, under the rule of Congress governments.
Those who vilify Modi as a representative of Hindutva politicis of the BJP or RSS kind, fail to remember that Hindu - Muslim riots happened even before the RSS was founded in 1925 or the BJP in 1980. Hindus, known for their tolerance and faith in religious pluralism, are never known to be in conflict anywhere else in the world, but the same cannot be said of the followers of the Muslim religion, involved in religious (against Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, etc) and sectarian (Shia, Sunnis, Ahmedhias, Kurds, Baloch etc) violence, not only in the subcontinent of India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, but also in Afghanistan, Middle east, Russia, China, Indonesia, Bosnia, Nigeria and other places.
They also conveniently downplay or misrepresent the cause of the 2002 riot, not a few stones thrown on a procession or a petty quarrel or a temple bell interrupting the tranquility of the namaj, but the systematically carried out Godhra Carnage where three bogies of the Ahmedabad bound Sabarmati Express were set on fire by a Muslim mob, on 27th February, 2002, killing over 50 people, mostly women and children, mostly karsevaks, returning from Ayodhya.
Modi has been accused of permitting, if not directly and deliberately commandeering the portrayed selective massacre and genocide of Muslims, ordering his police force to turn a blind eye, delaying Army help and in the process causing the death of anywhere between 1000 to 5000 Muslims.
It is hard to get true accounts of events that erupted on 28th Feb 2002 and beyond, from reported news and stories, almost all of them tainted with a bias against the Hindus and the Gujrat Chief Minister. However certain facts do stand out, even from accounts in the English media, not particularly known to be generous to Narendra Modi.
1. The Congress Union Minister of State for Home, Shriprakash Jaiswal, in Parliament on 11 May 2005, said 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the riots. This is hardly consistent with a Muslim genocide.
2. The entire police force of 70,000 was deployed in Gujarat on 27 February itself in apprehension of riots. (The Hindustan Times Feb 28, 2002). Gujarat police fired more than 4,000 rounds in the first three days alone. Altogether the police arrested more than 27,000 people. National Minorities Commission Chairman John Joseph noted, "As on April 6, 126 persons were killed in police firing, of which 77 were Hindus." (The Telegraph, April 21, 2002.). This does not tally with the accusation of a deliberately inactive police force.
3. "Shoot-at-sight" orders had been given in Godhra on February 27 itself. (Times Of India, Feb 27, 2002). 827 preventive arrests were made on the evening of February 27 itself, on Chief Minister Narendra Modi"s order. The State Government deployed the Rapid Action Force in Ahmedabad and other sensitive areas and the Centre sent in CRPF personnel, on February 27 itself even before a single riot had taken place. (The Indian Express, Feb 28, 2002)
4. Narendra Modi, frantically called the Army units to Ahmedabad on February 28th (The Hindu, March 1, 2002). Army units started arriving in Ahmedabad on the night of February 28th. On 1st and 2nd March 2002, riots took place even in places where the Indian Army was present, i.e. Ahmedabad and Vadodara, and close to 100 people each were killed, despite the presence of the Indian Army.
5. Only 2 deaths were reported on 3rd March in the entire state, and the main violence ended on 3rd March 2002. After 3rd March 2002, riots took place almost entirely in those places where the Army was posted. Subsequently there were 157 riots and all of them were started by Muslim groups (India Today, June 24, 2002).
6. As early as 5 March 2002, out of the 98 relief / refugee camps set up in the state, 85 were for the Muslims and 13 were for the Hindus. As on 17 March 2002, as per The Times of India, 10,000 Hindus were rendered homeless in Ahmedabad alone. As on 25 April 2002, out of the 1 lakh 40 thousand refugees, some 1 lakh were Muslims and 40 thousand were Hindus. Again this is not consistent with the unilateral Muslim sufferings that have been portrayed.
7. India Today weekly in its issue dated 20 May 2002 clearly admits that, far from being anti-Muslim, the Gujarat police did not act speedily against Muslim fanatics and rioters, for fear of being called anti-Muslim by the biased and partisan media
As for the issue of deployment of army, this is what India Today reported on its 18 March 2002 issue .
FEB 27, 2002
8.03 AM: Incident at Godhra claims lives of 57 kar sevaks.
8.30 AM: Modi is informed of the carnage.
4.30 PM: Modi gives shoot-at-sight orders to the police.
10.30 PM: CM orders curfew in sensitive places and pre-emptive arrests.
FEB 28, 2002
8.00 AM: Special control room set up in CM"s house.
12.00 PM: Modi informally contacts Centre for calling in army.
4.00 PM: Modi requests army deployment following consultations with Advani.
7.00 PM: The Gujarat Government"s formal request for army deployment is received in Delhi.
11.30 PM: Airlifting of troops begins
MARCH 1, 2002
2.30 AM: A brigade reaches Ahmedabad.
9.00 AM: Discussions between representatives of the army and the state take place, followed by troop flag march in Ahmedabad."
Thus, contrary to the accusation of the "fiddling Nero", Mr. Modi did act timely, spontaneously and with due importance to the seriousness of the matter. The National Human Rights Commission and the Minorities Commission "accepted the Gujarat government"s contention that it did foresee trouble and took precautionary steps to check it, but was caught by surprise and overwhelmed by the mob fury erupting on February 28."
That the retaliation of the Godhra train carnage was overwhelming for the available resources at his disposal was obvious, but to blame the Chief Minister or his administration for that would be as unjustified as to blame the Prime Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, for the recent obvious sloppiness and intelligence failure that one saw during the recent Mumbai terrorist attack of Nov 2008. Yet that has been and is still being done in such vigor that even most Hindus feel that it is the truth and are probably shameful about Mr. Narendra Modi.
Contrast this with the largest riot that happened in recent times, the anti Sikh riot in Delhi in 1984, in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi"s assassination. In that incidence, officially 3,000 Sikhs were killed and may be 10,000 in actual number. Not a single Congressman was killed, not even one person was killed in police firing, and not even a single government relief camp was organized for the Sikhs in 1984. The joint report on the riots, by the People"s Union of Civil Liberties and the People"s Union of Democratic Rights, mentioned the names of 16 important Congressmen and 13 police officers among those accused by survivors and witnesses.
The Army was deployed but was not allowed to act without permission of senior police officers and hence was ineffective. And this was the justification of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, "Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji ... it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little."
So, can one accuse that there was deliberate failure of administration in the anti-Sikh riots? Can one be justified to call it a Congress-sponsored genocide and pogrom? Did anybody dare to challenge or disqualify Mr. Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister then?
Narendra Modi - the person
Mr. Modi has been described as a phenomenon of a kind India has not seen for a long time. Born on 17 September 1950 to a middle class OBC family in northern Gujarat, he has a Masters graduate degree in Political Science from Gujarat University. Having an RSS background, he was a student leader of Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad and played a prominent role in the anticorruption movement in 1974 in Gujarat. He later joined the BJP in 1987 and became a National secretary of the party in 1995. Later in 2001, he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The biggest challenge which Narendra Modi had to face when he took over as the chief minister was the reconstruction of the earthquake affected areas. Bhuj was a city of rubble. People were living in temporary shelters without basic infrastructure. Earthquake recovery became his first priority. His dynamic vision and quick decisions have put Gujarat Reconstruction Program as one of the best reconstruction programs on the global map and set a benchmark for reconstruction and disaster recovery, not only in India, but also in the entire Asia, for which he achieved global recognition.
He is perceived as an honest, capable man who has taken Gujarat to greater heights of prosperity, since then. He was reelected for the third time in 2007 after a hard fought battle of ballots, in which he single handedly fought not only the Congress lead opposition but also the biased and prejudiced media and his own disgruntled party members.
With a reputation revolving around his incorruptible image and ascetic style of living, he is a workaholic, with a no-nonsense attitude who is unafraid to call a spade a spade. A person who cares less for political correctness and social connections, he is a patriotic karmayogi, whose vision is to make Gujarat at par with developed nations. A proud nationalist, on being asked whether it hurt him that he couldn"t get a US visa, he responded, "I take this as an opportunity. I want my India to be so strong and prosperous that Americans will queue up to come to India. A day will come when Americans will yearn to come to Gujarat."
It is this passion that makes Modi different - a passion for developing Gujarat, a passion to uplift the living standards of its people, a passion to place his Bharatmata back to her days of glory again. And this he tries to do with action and not false promises or gimmicks.
After the Gujarat riot, he has been the target of pathological hatred of the leftist, pseudo-secular, sociopolitical crowd and specially the English media and has been ornamented with numerous chosen abuses like a mass murderer, a dictator, a fascist, a Hitler, an ugly Indian, a maut ka saudagar, but all that has increased his resolve and his determination that he took back to his voters, who returned him stronger and triumphant with their love and respect.
He remained untouched by all the filth and unfazed by all the accusation and lies thrown at him. "Do you think the Centre would have left me like this if they had any proof against me? I have a government that is unfavourable at the Centre and their quietness says it all", He once shot back to an interviewer.
"We have a vibrant media, an active judiciary and global human rights groups working in the country. If there was even the slightest evidence that I had committed a crime, I would have been hanged long since", he said to another.
The Gujarati people have probably found in him what they like to see in any Indian politician - leadership, transparency, accountability, incorruptibility. He is unshakable in his commitments, to the extent of being arrogant, yet humble and down to earth. "I didn"t become CM on 07-10-2001. I have always been CM, I am CM today and shall be CM forever. For me CM means not Chief Minister but Common Man." Many can say but not many can act that way.
There are not many leaders in our country that spends his New Years Day with BSF forces at the border and feels and acts for the simple rights of the soldiers to have access to basic amenities like drinking water, electricity and telecommunications services to talk to their families
It is been hitherto a rare combination in the current Indian sociopolitical scene where one denounce a crime but not the powerful criminal, condemns a terror act but delays punishment of the terrorist, criticizes corruption but fails to indict the corrupt, where a politician is selected because of his popularity, even if it is for a wrong cause or because of his families and contacts and where a significant percentage of politician have pending cases against them on charges as varied as briberies, extortions, rapes and even murders.
No doubt he is endorsed by his party senior, Mr. Advani, "I can think of no other example in Indian politics of a leader who, after being subjected to a malicious and prolonged campaign of vilification, has been able to impress even his critics with his determination, single-minded focus, integrity and a wide array of achievements in a relatively short time"