03 March 2002

'Newton' Modi has a lot to answer for

3 March 2002
The Times of India

'Newton' Modi has a lot to answer


New Delhi: Fish rots from the top, and if the ugly events unfolding in Gujarat over the past four days are any indication, the same holds true for governance too.

Even after four days of senseless violence, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is yet to reassure the five crore people of his state that he is the guardian of their lives and property. The past four days have made it clear that the dividing line between the government, the police, the BJP and other fronts of the Sangh Parivar like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal have got totally blurred in Gujarat.

Asked about the violence, Modi quoted Newton's third law - "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" - to virtually justify what is happening.

In the case of the lynching of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffrey, he was quick to point out that it was Jaffrey who had first fired at the mob. He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas.

When the attack on the train took place on February 27 and the VHP called for a bandh, Gujarat BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana was quick to announce the state BJP's support for the strike, giving clear signals to the administration that it need not take a hard line against those who enforce the bandh. By noon on Thursday, shops owned by Muslims were broken open in Ahmedabad, Rajkot and other cities even as the police looked the other way. At many places, the police mingled with the vandals and pleas for help went completely unheeded.

While Vadodara police imposed curfew early in the morning, the police commissioner of Ahmedabad took time in following suit. It is easy to blame the police commissioner, but there are clear indications that his hands were tied by the minister of state for home, Gordhan Zadaphia, who has risen from the ranks of the VHP. Zadaphia is a supporter of the international general secretary of the VHP, Pravin Togadia, at whose insistence the home portfolio was given to him when Modi became chief minister.

It was only when the situation had gone sufficiently out of hand that the police tried to intervene. But by that time, it was too late and the mobs had swelled to enormous proportions. The sparse police presence looked like a drop in this ocean of violence. And what did the chief minister have to say about what was happening? He said, "The five crore people of Gujarat have shown remarkable restraint under grave provocation."Hhe went on to blast the Godhra killing of kar sevaks while brushing aside the equally brutal retaliation that was taking place against Muslims.

If the Central government was speaking about not allowing VHP activists into Ayodhya, Modi said that police protection should be given to them en route. If the people of Gujarat were expecting a reassuring face, what they got was a Sangh pracharak on television who has perhaps forgotten he is now chief minister. Incidentally, Modi has yet to see mobs because he has not visited the worst-affected areas. If only he had the courage shown by George Fernandes, who carried on his tour of the riot-hit areas despite being mobbed and stoned.

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