By Arab News
This appears to be the season of fasts in India. And lo and behold, now it is the turn of Gujarat’s Narendra Modi to come up with his own and that too in the name of “communal harmony!” The chief minister, who has been on and off in media spotlight since the state-sanctioned massacre of Muslims in 2002, has persuaded himself that he has been given a clean chit by Supreme Court. Hence the 3-day fast to celebrate the “peace and harmony” that his state is supposed to epitomize. Of course, the top court’s decision of throwing the ball back into the Gujarat court probing Modi’s complicity in the pogrom, specifically the cold blooded killing and burning of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, has stunned everyone. Jafri’s octogenarian widow Zakia, who witnessed the carnage along with the indifferent cops and has since been fighting for justice, is dejected but far from defeated.
Considering Modi’s reputation and the blatant attempts by the administration to silence witnesses and whistleblowers in numerous cases in the 2002 carnage, Zakia Jafri’s appeal was hardly unreasonable.
It’s been nearly a decade since the pogrom and justice still eludes more than 2,000 victims and thousands of families who fled their homes. Despite several inquiry commissions and top police officials going on record detailing how the chief minister and senior ministers let the frenzied mob rule the streets for weeks, killing Muslim men and children and raping women, killers remain in power and get more powerful by the day.
Indeed, now there’s open talk of fielding Modi as the BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate. Indeed, a US think tank now suggests that it will be Modi versus Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, in the 2014 battle.
What little progress has been made so far in courts against the powers that be, it is largely thanks to repeated interventions by the Supreme Court and relentless efforts by victims like Jafri and activists like Teesta Setalvad.
And now Modi has the cheek to come up with this fast celebrating his “victory.” And it’s shameful how the media and the BJP’s allies have rushed to join the fun proclaiming the tainted politician as the hope and future of the nation. Some of his apologists in the media suggest that the chief minister is sincerely trying to wipe the slate clean and “address the past.” With this fast, they argue, he is reaching out to the much harassed minority community. But antics like this do not “address the past.” They only pour salt over festering wounds. For all this talk of a “new beginning,” Modi hasn’t offered a single word of apology or remorse so far.
If true reconciliation is what Gujarat seeks, it must move against all those responsible for the 2002 genocide. If Gujarat and India is to move on, it will have to heal the wounds inflicted by the worst pogrom since the country’s independence in 1947. This is not merely about the quest for justice of a lone woman in her 80s or her community. This is a battle for India’s soul. Without justice there is no peace. And it’s about time the BJP, to which Modi belongs, realized that without an inclusive approach, it can never hope to carry all sections of the billion plus democracy, especially its oppressed communities, with it.