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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 51, New Delhi, December 5, 2020

A few questions that would haunt the Prime Minister forever | Suresh Khairnar

Saturday 5 December 2020, by Suresh Khairnar


As a restless winter spreads across India, a blanket of anxiety, unease, and anguish hovers over us today. The violence unleashed on our consciousness with the images of farmers’ marches being met with water-canons, teargas shells, and unspeakable brutality, while we remain trapped in our homes due to the pandemic, is further intensified by the brazen display of insensitivity on the part of the ruling dispensation. Impervious to the massive and peaceful protests by farmers underway for several months, the Prime Minister took to his ‘mann-ki-baat’ monologues this week, exhorting the virtues of the new legislations which threaten the entire agrarian economy of India.The radio broadcast, amplified by almost all the media outlets and the deafening social media cacophony of the ruling party’s IT Cell, remains conspicuously silent about most questions that we face at the end of 2020. As someone who has been in public life for more than five decades, I am pained by the sheer lack of dialogue and healing touch that we desperately need at this juncture.

While the pandemic and the all-round misery it has unleashed found no mention in the Prime Minister’s speech, it was an exercise (as most of his speeches are) in self-aggrandizement on his efforts to find the vaccine. Even as the PM cautioned state governments on the uncertainty about the vaccine and instructed Chief Ministers to ensure that the mortality rate remains under 1% and the disease spreads to less than 5% of the total population, he conveniently forgot how garishly he had turned the vaccine into an election ploy in Bihar just a few weeks ago.

In fact, the entire political journey of Modi and his ilk thus far has been one of constantly changing goalposts and escaping responsibility. So much for those who swear in the name of Ram whose dictum was to keep the truth above one’s own life - ‘praan jayein par vachan na jaye’. Mr. Prime Minister, is your love for Lord Rama only for encashing votes? Mahatma Gandhi was the last man to live by these words. But then, you have deliberately ignored the fact that your ilk continue to glorify Gandhi’s killer. In a cruel irony, despite being involved in anti-national activities like majoritarian terrorism and conspiratorial activities, they have been rewarded with high constitutional posts in the national and state assemblies and ministerial berths.

While this week marked 70 years of the adoption of India’s Constitution, the Chief Minister of India’s largest state announced a ban on relations between consenting adult citizens. How can this happen without your active connivance from the very top? Amid the uproar against the bogey of ‘love jihad’, how can you feign ignorance? In your Bihar State Party election manifesto, you have promised to provide jobs to 19 lakh people – do you have a credible roadmap for fulfilling it? Or it is like the 2014 elections, when you spoke about generating two crore jobs every year and depositing 15 lakh rupees in every citizen’s bank account?

Will the construction work of Ramji’s temple solve all these promises in Ram Rajya? I grew up reading Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia’s philosophical essays on Ram, Krishna and Shiva. That is why I have been an advocate of these three symbols. But for the last several decades, the way your entire sangh parivar has engaged in a politics of communal violence, has brought infamy to these ideals. The utterly divisive role you played in 2002 as the Chief Minister of Gujarat – despite the reservations of the astute District Collector, you went to Godhra yourself and forced the administration to allow the VHP to take out hateful procession with the half-burnt bodies of Sabarmati Express victims in Ahmedabad city. You have never bothered to answer those questions. When the riots and massacres ensued all over Gujarat, in the cabinet meeting on the night of 27 February 2002, you said that no one should stop whatever happens in Gujarat from tomorrow! This had been reported by Haren Pandya ji in the report published titled ‘Justice against Humanity’. And the conscientious officer RB Sri Kumar has also documented the same turn of events in his book in this case.

Haren Pandya’s father Vitthal bhai Pandya ji had specially invited me to speak in a program on the Gujarat riots, and soon after my speech, he approached me in the middle of the program and shared with me his submission in which he had written clearly that Narendra Modi had killed his son. Is all that a lie? Similarly, in Gulmarg Society, Ahmedabad, more people were burnt to death than Godhra and the former MP, Shri Ehsan Jafri kept calling you relentlessly, besides calling the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner, Home Secretary, Chief Secretary, and the Congress Party President, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi. You deliberately ignored these pleas and allowed the people who were stuck in Gulmarg Society that night to be brutally murdered instead of providing them security! Is this charge also untrue? When the 3000 soldiers of the Indian Army had landed in Ahmedabad airport on the evening of 28 February to prevent further violence, you did not provide them any logistical support until three days. Lt Gen Zamiruddin Shah, who led that army operation, has recorded this heart rending fact in his book Sarkari Musalman and reiterated them in his interview available on YouTube. Is all this a lie? In her book ‘Gujarat files’, Rana Ayyub has reported how Dr. Maya Kodnani, who was once the health minister of your cabinet, had repeatedly insisted that Ms. Ayyub should not leave Gujarat without meeting “Mota Bhai". Kodnani took pride in narrating how the government under your leadership led the violent pogrom against Muslims. If these assertions are fabrications, then why have you not taken any legal action? Why are you not banning that book especially now that your dominance is near-complete over the entire institutional spectrum?

DG Vanzara, a police officer in Gujarat, revering you almost like a God, executed all your orders and has narrated it all in a ten-page letter from the Sabarmati Jail, explaining how and under whose direction he conducted encounters from Sohrabuddin Sheikh to Ishrat Jahan. It is clear that the letter reached you. What is your answer to it? In the same way in our Nagpur city, after the cover story of Caravan magazine by our journalist friend Niranjan Takle regarding the death of Justice Loya, his book has also been published and is now on sale. The main accused in the case is in your cabinet – the strong-arm Home Minister, Mr. Amit Shah, who has been entrusted the responsibility of law and order in present times. Niranjan Takle has raised serious charges in his book about the death of a legal luminary like Justice Loya. You should either take action against Amit Shah or if what he has written is a lie, then action should be taken against Niranjan Takle. You do neither because you have always held yourself over and above the law of the land – you have quelled dissent and disloyalty through extra-legal means.

There are a lot of other questions about your educational degrees, handling of elections, undermining the Reserve Bank funds for the first time, whereas in your Mann ki baat, and elsewhere you ironically talk about transparency repeatedly. Why can’t you come clean on these issues with the people of the country? It is commonly heard that you do not follow any rules and procedures be it the party or the Cabinet or the Parliament. But I still remember how you loved getting yourself photographed bowing before the steps of the Parliament House when you first entered it. So, if you really consider the Parliament a temple of democracy, and your first act was to prostrate yourself before it, why do you not have the humility to accept parliamentary dignity?

You have been mouthing accusations against the Congress party practically all the time, and you haven’t tired of accusing it of the politically motivated use of the ED, IB, CBI during its rule. But among the first things you did was to conduct a raid at the house of Teesta Setalvad immediately after your swearing-in May of 2014. Selectively choosing your political opponents and media outlets who have dared to criticize the misdeeds of your government, and raiding their premises and denying them government advertisements, has become your routine and favoured strategy to exact revenge – much like you locked up the offices of newspapers like Kashmir Times. There is ample proof around us that an undisclosed emergency is going on today. These tactics define your brand of politics – something that was raised even within your party following the Gujarat riots when your resignation was demanded. Lal Krishna Advani mentioned it in an interview given to Shekhar Gupta on the completion of forty years of Emergency. Was he uttering a lie? Similarly, you said a lot about your poverty during the election campaign but even after more than six years since you have taken over the power of the country, no program or plan is visible for the poor.

However, from opening all the banks for capitalists to the open plunder of water, forest and land, especially by changing the laws and handing over almost the entire property of the country to corporate lobbies is continuing brazenly before our eyes. At this rate, there will be no need for governments in the coming times because all the country’s resources and institutions – education, health, industry, agriculture, science have been offered to these corporate lobbies. You have built a cave for yourself in the Himalayas, and now seeing the length of your beard, it seems that you will soon go to the Himalayas!

While the underwhelming feel at the end of 2020 is palpable all-round us, the year should have ended at least with a healing touch, the pause that the pandemic has pressed upon us should have been an occasion for more open dialogue and hand-holding. The easiest thing, however, would be to rest every responsibility at the doors of the unprecedented pandemic. A country of more than 100 million people must ask these questions from those who are ruling us today.

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