Mainstream, VOL LII No 9, February 22, 2014
A Terror-tainted Prime Minister?
Saturday 22 February 2014
by Mustafa Khan
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave a call for a strike in Gujarat on February 28, 2002. It was the chief of the VHP in Ahmedabad, Jaideep Patel, to whom Chief Minister Narendra Modi handed over the 58 bodies of burnt passengers of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra. Again, the VHP was at the Goa conclave of the BJP to force the Prime Minister of India, A.B. Vajpayee, to abandon his determination to change the head of government in Gandhinagar a few months after the pogrom. Given this clout of the Hindu supremacist outfit, can a future Prime Minister so close to Hindutva even dream of following his executive discretion in strategic national interests, overriding religious affiliation and considerations?
When the official newsletter of the VHP headlined, “What Gujarat does, India will have to do tomorrow”, it was not a mere blueprint of town planning. Its said clearly that Hindutva alone mattered in the State and would matter in India if Modi came to power.1 Even Arun Shourie held out the threat that if Muslims persisted in demanding the implementation of the Sachar Commission recommendations, no one could stop Modi from marching to Delhi. The very day after the then PM, V.P. Singh, accepted the Mandal Commission report and agreed to implement it, L.K. Advani declared his rath yatra for building a temple for Ram at the disputed place in Ayodhya. After 1992 and 2002 is there a bigger bloodshed in the making?
It is not the VHP or the RSS which will bring matters to a head. It was Modi who decided to call the fire accident a terrorist attack to initiate the pogrom. The decision came from him. The “heart of darkness” is within him. He has decided to exterminate the “brutes”, much in the way that the former PM of Israel, Golda Meir, decided to exterminate the “rodents”, the Palestinians. The “brutes” were breeding fast and multiplying, as Modi never tires of repeating.
Modi’s hate ideology kept him from feeling remorse, and he will not in the future flinch from doing elsewhere in the country what he did in Gujarat in 2002. This is illustrated by none other than Swami Agnivesh and other members of a group who visited Ahmedabad on the eve of PM A.B. Vajpayee’s visit there on April 1, 2002. “On the second day,” says Swami Agni-vesh, “we were to stay for the night at a place called Eshwar Bhavan in Ahmedabad’s Navrangpura area. There, we were accosted by a group of well-dressed Hindu fundamentalists. They told us, point blank, that we were most welcome to stay in the Bhavan but our Muslim colleagues must go stay in a masjid. We said, ‘We are all together, we are here just to ask everyone to stop this madness.’ But they insisted that the Muslims must be separated from the rest. When we said that this was not acceptable, they warned us that if the Muslims stayed they would blast bombs at the site.” It was this experience that later made the Swami remark: “Modi can never become the PM because of his role in the riots.” He went further and told the press conference: “Modi’s Sadbhavana fast mission for promoting communal harmony was a drama and a stunt.”2
Before he assumed power as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi was a pracharak: and that is what he will always remain. What has recently come to light about “The Believer”, Swami Aseemanand, clearly points to this.
A crisis came in Aseemanand’s active life when Keshubhai Patel of the BJP was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and L.K. Advani was the Home Minister at the Centre. The violence against the Christians in Dangs attracted attention from across the seas. In this context Aseemanand remarks: “It was Jayantibhai of Navsari who had arranged for our meeting [his meeting with Pragya Singh Thakur]. You [reporter] should not meet him. He was a trustee of the Dang temple. He became anti-Modi, went to the Keshubhai team. So we all have distanced ourselves from him.
“When my conversion stories made national news and Sonia Gandhi flew down to make speeches against me, there was a lot of discussion about me in the media. Then Advaniji was the Home Minister and asked Keshubhai to rein me in. Keshubhai started stopping our work and even arrested my people.
“Then, Keshubhai left and Narendrabhai came into power. Even before he became the CM, Narendrabhai used to come to meet me and he told me, ‘I know that Keshubhai is troubling you. He will soon be out of power and I will become the CM. Phir aapka kaam hum karenge (Then, I will do your work.).’”3
The new Chief Minister of Gujarat donated huge sums of money to Aseemanand, apart from developing roads and infrastructure around the temple at Shabri Dham. The largess naturally made Aseemanand more generous with the work he was doing for the tribals and also with Sunil Joshi. They were doing the complementary jobs of converting people back to the Hindu fold and retaliating against others due to a perceived threat to the Hindus. On February 11, 12 and 13, 2006, Aseemanand arranged for the conversion of Tadwi Muslims living on the border of Gujarat and Mahrashtra around Nawapur. Muslims sensed the danger and became sensitive. Muslim social workers and NGOs organised an awakening movement to prevent the Tadwi Muslims from paying attention to Swami Aseemanand or attending the meeting he was inviting them to. On the day Aseemanand had arranged to convert them very few turned up and the event was called off.
The road from Dangs goes straight to Malegaon. Sunil Joshi and Pragya Singh and their associates took it. Joshi reportedly rode Pragya Singh’s motor bike, with her riding pillion. Narendra Modi maintains that road.
1. Kingshshuk Nag, The Namo Story: A Political Life, Roli Books, NOIDA, 2013, p. 175.
3. The Caravan releases transcripts of three of the four interviews with Aseemanand: http://www.caravan magazine.in/swami-aseemanand-interviews
Mustafa Khan is a former teacher who lives in Malegaon and blogs at http://commonalty.blogspot.in. He can be contacted at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org