Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2009 > September 2009 > Something Rotten in the State of Gujarat

Mainstream, Vol XLVII, No 40, September 19, 2009

Something Rotten in the State of Gujarat

Monday 21 September 2009, by Badri Raina

I have supped full with horrors;

Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,

Cannot once start me.

— (Macbeth Modi)


Indeed, great is the temptation to write this account wholly in Shakesperian quotation.

Four new skeletons now rattle for justice in the Modi cupboard. And well might he be saying to himself:

...the time has been,

That, when the brains were out, the man would die,

And there an end; but now they rise again,

With twenty mortal murders on their crowns;...

A Judicial Magistrate in Ahmedabad, one good man Tamang, has held that the killing of the nineteen year old college girl, Ishrat Jahan, and three others in June 2004 was, after all, yet another “fake encounter” executed by high-ranked police Modi loyalists to curry favour with him and obtain preferment.

This on the heels of the earlier murder of one Sohrabuddin and his wife, Kausar Bi, acknowledged in court by the Modi Government to have been “fake encounters”. And by the very same police personnel as well, two of whom are now in the slammer for that killing. At least for now.

Speculation is rife as to how many official murders may have been effected by the Gujarat State since 2002, when the Gujarat massacre took place.

Speculation that has obliged the Supreme Court of India only yesterday to persuade the Gujarat prosecution, to transfer the Sohrabuddin case also to the Special Investigation Team that is enquiring into some of the more gruesome killings of 2002, and to come clean on all cases of fake exterminations that still lie stashed away in the Gujarat Govenment cupboard.

Persuasions stubbornly resisted by the Gujarat prosecution. Imagine a Macbeth, a Caligula, a Nero, a Hitler, or a Stalin agreeing happily to self-incrimination.

You must be joking.

And, pray, were such disclosures to be made, what would happen to the “vibrant Gujarat” project for which Modi has just been earmarked by the FDI magazine of the Financial Times group in London to be bestowed “The Asian Personality of the year 2009” award?

Clearly, the British of today have little use for their own greatest of thinkers. Long years ago, even at the point of the birth of Capitalism, Shakespeare had seen that one of its most inhuman consequences would be to “disjoin remorse from power” (JC). And that “conscience made cowards” of the Faustian man who was now set to conquer the world.

Not the British but an exiled German Jew saw the profound pointers in Shakespeare’s enactments, causing him to cite a whole long passage from Timon of Athens to explicate what Capitalism was slated to do to the human essence. (See Early Writings of Marx, Introduced by Lucio Colletti, Penguin Books, 1975, p. 376)

Thus, the FDI establishment argues that Capitalist “efficiency” must entirely be divorced from considerations of “remorse”, or else how does one effect the killings of “power”?

And we have no doubt that these must be people who are conscientious church-goers.


In the meanwhile, the Gujarat Government is busy on electronic channels making the point that even the Central Government in Delhi has acknowledged on an affidavit, dated August 6, 2009, that the four victims of the “fake encounter” had links with a terrorist group.

That the Judicial Magistrate has repudiated that contention is seen to be of secondary importance. Indeed, great is the animus of the Gujarat Government against the good man, Justice Tamang, for having delivered his verdict on the killings with unnecessary dispatch, even as not a day passes when the delays of the law do not come for reprimand.

It is also conveniently forgotten that the investigation of the latest fake killings are in fact as old as five years, and all that Justice Tamang has done is to do his duty by the people of India with commendable commitment.

Which is the last thing that the Modi regime desires.

The Central Government, thankfully, is underscoring the point that, regardless of what may or may not have been the antecedents of Ishrat Jahan and the other victims, extra-judicial killings on behalf of the state as by law established contravene the very raison d’ etre of constitutional governance.

Were the Gujarat Government’s propensity to kill off people without trial or due process to be held valid, then the lone captured terrorist caught red-handed in the carnage of Mumbai, November 26, 2008 should have been hung, drawn and quartered on the very day he was captured.

Thankfully, to the great glory of the Republic of India, as by law established, Ajmal Kasab is now being tried in Mumbai with all due right and opportunity to defend himself.

Which raises another question: should a lawfully constituted Republic enact draconian laws calculated to defeat lawfully the very purposes of a lawfully constituted democracy, such as the right to life (Article 21 of the Constitution of India), and the right to innocence till proven guilty? What we have in mind here is the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), operative in places like Kashmir and the North-East, that entitles the least man in uniform wielding an official gun to shoot to kill without fear of being held to account?

Monstrous contradiction there, and the sooner corrected the better for the Republic.

For when a state behaves like a rogue, it accords every credibility to those who seek to oppose it in like manner.


Whenever Narendra Modi has been asked any questions about the massacre of 2002, or the State of Gujarat’s Muslim citizens, a glaze overtakes the cocky sheen in his eyes, and not a word escapes his lips.

A state of impregnable and implacable hate that freezes the more you seek to melt it down, recalling to us Lear’s magnificently moving speculation with regard to his own daughter who has thrown him out of home and hearth:

Let us anatomise Reagan to see

What it is in nature

That makes these hard hearts.

How dearly we would like to know the answer to that one.

Is it to be thought that a day might come when Narendra Modi, as in the movies, or like history’s emperor Ashok, finally overwhelmed by self-loathing, and unable any longer to wash the “damned spot” may truly don some real saffron, abdicate his throne, and go off into a gurukul to expiate his doings?

Or will he reason with Macbeth: “I am in blood/Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er”?

Who knows but Narendra Modi, who, after all, is an honourable man; or thinks he is.

Perhaps only so long as he is able to brew and press into service the power of collective hate.

Perhaps the decisive loathing will come from the very people that he has thus far plied and profited by.

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