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Mainstream, VOL LI No 21, May 11, 2013

Chanakya and Machiavelli Rolled into One

Saturday 11 May 2013, by Badri Raina

This piece was written quite sometime ago. It is being published now as it still retains its relevance.


I have no spur

To prick the sides of my intent, but only

Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself

And falls on th’other —

(Macbeth, I,vii)

“Intent” you will see is the horse that Macbeth wishes to ride to the glory of the Scottish throne. And the only spur he has to race that horse is his “ambition”. Wretchedly, he recognises this to be a “vaulting” ambition, and as in gymnastics, the momentum of intent in the athelete carries the gymnast past the vault to fall on the other side. Such Macbeth acknowledges to himself to be the force of his wanting, one inherently slated to “overleap” into disaster.

I have from very early on sought in the career of Macbeth a prescient type of the modern-day fascist imagination, and sought to draw lessons from Shakespeare’s exploration for our understanding of our own Narendra Modi phenomenon.

In one word, these are demonstrations of unmitigated self-regard that assumes to itself the right to trample the world to the pulpit of absolutism, sustained by a Dionysian/Nietzs-chean drive to the high morality of denying the powerless the right to exist at all. And getting to that goal without being hostage to any loyalty, if such loyalty thwarts the attainment. Thus, if Dionysus and Nietzsche define the goal—be thou the superman, and let women, the chosen ones, be the begetters of supermen, and eliminate all the rest—Chanakya and Machiavelli, bringing the East and West together, show the ways to the goal.

How else may one explain the stunning news now coming out of Gandhinagar, capital of Gujarat, to wit that the government there (read Modi) means to approach the courts for enhancement of the life sentences of Maya Ben Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi—two of Modi’s most blindly devoted action hands (recalling the murderers who are shown in such intimacy with Macbeth?)—to death sentences.

You have to do nothing more than resurrect the Tehelka Sting Operation Report (see Tehelka online for August 29, 2012 and September 8, 2012 for all the self-confessed details by Babu Bajrangi of his intimacy with Modi through the days of the Gujarat carnage—”Narendra Bhai nahi hote na to hum log bahar hi nahi nikaltee (had Narendra Modi not been behind us we could not ventured out to the killings at all, referring here to the Naroda Patiya massacre of some ninety or more Muslims where Bajrangi and Kodnani were found to be the chief butchers).”

Further, in translation, “it was only because of him (Modi)...otherwise who would have is all his handiwork...for if he gave instructions to police, they would have screwed our happiness.” Again “but for Modi, neither Patia nor Gulberg (where one of the victims sent to brutal wrack was a Congress party Member of Parliament, Ehsan Jaffri, incidentally a fine scholar of Sanskrit literature, among other things, and whose devastated widow, Zakia Jaffri, has now filed a Protest Petition in the local court contesting the conclusions drawn by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investi-gation Team—SIT—headed by an erstwhile head of the country’s premier investigating agency, the CBI, on the basis of new evidence of wireless messages and call details of frantic efforts by policemen on the ground on Februry 27 and 28 to persuade their superiors of the carnage that was already underway but denied by Modi’s chief law enforcement officers, barring some outstanding ones who later were to pay for their loyalty to their oath of duty.

It will be recalled that one of Modi’s ministerial colleagues, late Haren Pandya, had testified secretly to a civil society instituted panel of enquiry comprising three outstanding judges of the higher courts to the effect that Modi had, allegedly, at a meeting on the 27th with his core team of loyalists decreed a no action and hindrance course to be followed the next day when the VHP-called and BJP-supported Bandh call was to be implemented. Pandya was found out and killed shortly after. More recently, Sanjiv Bhat, an IPS officer, at one time close to Modi, has testified that he was actually present at that crucial meeting, corroborating what the late Pandya had said. He was suspended, then subjected to multiple legal harassments, like some of the other upright officers, like Rahul Sharma, who had stood up for the right and proper.

Meanwhile, Bajrangi, in that Tehelka Sting confession was to go on to laud his mentor Modi for stage-managing his arrest after he had been absconding for four months, and to say how “Modi manipulated the Gujarat judiciary to get him bailed out”. (The SIT took no cognisance of these confessions.) Also to underline that the Supreme Court in its remarks on the SIT closure report which thought there was no prosecutable evidence againt Modi had averred trenchantly that the SIT’s findings and conclusions seemed at complete loggerheads, which is the reason that the Supreme Court ordered the separate report filed by the Court’s Amicus, a highly reputed senior advocate who opined that Modi in fact could be prosecuted on the SIT’s findings such as they were to be made part of the record and passed on to the complainant.

Maya Ben Kodnani was only a member of the State Assembly when the Narodia Patia massacre happened under her gleeful watch and direction. And ah, so dear to Modi that she was subsequently inducted into his Cabinet of Ministers!

Babu Bajrangi was sentenced to full life in prison, and Kodnani to 28 years in the slammer, where they cool their heels as we speak.

Think of the background above, and imagine that the same Modi should now be seeking enhancement of their sentences to death. “O brave new world that hath such creatures in it.” (Tempest)

A flurry of speculation is now underway, and much of it germane. That on the seeming threshold of a call to leap to the centre of India’s political control come the next hustings in 2014, this is Macbeth-Modi’s way of saying what a secularist he is after all, with justice for the minority Muslims dearest to his heart. Catch: why now? And why in relation to two of his most devoted hatchet loyalists?

Here is what seems most likely to be the motivation: the Protest Petition filed by Zakia Jaffri, replete with damning evidence that the Gujarat Government had hitherto claimed to have been destroyed, and much of which the SIT had concealed, refusing to hand over all its papers to the complaining widow until directed by the Supreme Court to do so with rectitude and promptness, is due to come up in the local Gujarat court on April 24. News of the Gujarat Government’s intent to seek enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani came a day after the filing of the Protest Petition, long after time lawfully allowed for such revisions of sentence to be sought.

This may well be the onset of the last act of Macbeth: should the court in Gujarat, in view of the new evidence of damining complicity adduced in the Petition, take cognisance of the materials now before it, the only recourse for it may be to order the framing of charges against the 59 accused named by the com-plainant, Zakia Jaffri. And the first accused in that list is Narendra Modi.

Time therefore to argue before the court that a Chief Minister who is seeking enhancement of sentence on two convicted colleagues who had been as close to him as all the background etched above suggests, regardless of being staunch Hindutva votaries and cuthroats, could hardly have been guilty of complicity in the massacre of Muslims in the first place, could he?

Desperate times, desperate remedies, decreed both Chanakya and Machiavelli as courses to undertake by the one who would be Prince.

It is a sort of throw of the dice that we see increasingly happen towards the denoument in Macbeth. Already a chorus of disapproval of Modi’s “vaulting ambition” to be the Prime Minister, at least the prime ministerial candidate of his party which he thinks little of anyway and has decimated in his own State, grows louder not only among some of BJP’s chief and oldest allies, but within the BJP itself.

The engineered hype around Modi—engi-neered chiefly by India’s corporate electronic channels on the chamber music swell of India’s new urban elites, all of whom see this now as the moment to dismantle the Weimar republic; enough of democracy, bring in the war-mongering superman—thus is now at woeful loggerheads with Modi’s increasingly rougher truck and likely upcommance with the law, and with the factually limited expanse of his acceptability among the polity at large, about eighty per cent of which exists outside the world of the social media, and is devoted to imperatives that have little to gain from fascist consolidation. Simmering, and not so simmering, speculation is also under way since this news has come of how this seeking of enhancement of sentence on Bajrangi and Kodnani may play among the hard-core cadre Hindutva support for Modi, within and outside Gujarat.

It may not be anymore such a well-kept secret that Modi’s consecutive successes at the hustings in Gujarat have had little to do with claims of “development”, real or propagated—the stuffing of these claims has lately been taken out with calculated invocation of facts country- wide, and Gujarat has been found to be lagging in the ranks, be it in GDP growth, per capita income, or FDI inflows, not to speak of its abysmal record on malnutrition, gender ratio, anaemia among lactating women, and now a fatal lack of water accessibility to vast stretches of the State from whence tales of horrendous suffering arrive everyday—but with the silent fact that he is credited with having achieved that which even the RSS and other strident satraps of the Hindutva tradition never did achieve, namely, subjugating, then relegating, Gujarat’s Muslims with ruthless intent, and without fear, regret, or rethink, refusing, for example, to wear the Muslim skull cap offered him at his so-called “sadhbhavna” (harmony/reconciliation meet), and generally having sought with firm resolve to turn Gujarat into the sort of Hindutva land that the RSS chief, Golwalker, had envisioned in his 1938 book, Bunch of Thoughts, in which a whole chapter is titled “Enemy number one”, namely, the Muslims.

Given that context, it is more than likely that Modi’s move to have Bajrangi and Kodnani sent to the gallows may cause the deepest shock of recognition and heartburn among his Hindutva cadres. To think now that this man could, for his “vaulting ambition”, think nothing of dispatching his dear old loyalists as so often so eloquently is done by the successful individualists of the Shakespearean Renaissance. This will be galling indeed, and cannot but have decisive electoral fallouts.

There may also be some truth to the speculation that Modi may have an inkling that Bajrangi and Kodnani may spill some further beans on their own behalf. What better course than to project them now as unbecoming of earthly existence altogether.

Among these dark happenings, though, is the sterling light that shines from the corner opposed to Modi in these legal wrangles. They, all human rights activists at heart, have said they oppose the death penalty and, oppose it even if it be a Bajrangi or a Kodnani. Hallelujah! You show the way.

Clearly the days ahead will be full of interest. The local court in Gujarat, due to begin hearing the Protest Petition on April 24, means to carry on a day-to-day basis. Thus its determination of the new evidence and its decision should not take long in coming.

Whichever way that goes, there will no doubt be fresh appeals all the way again to the Apex Court. But should the lower court seek to frame charges, a sea-change cannot but happen both in the Modi saga and in the larger politics of Hindutva that has been so strident since 2002, and hand-in-glove, one might note with market fundamentalism and India’s affluent diaspora in the West.

Fingers crossed. May justice not only prevail but be seen to prevail.

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