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Mainstream, VOL LII No 18; April 26, 2014

Know Your NaMo: Like ‘Father’, like ‘Son’ ?

Tuesday 29 April 2014, by Subhash Gatade

Not very many people—living outside Gujarat—know that Narendra Modi, the Parivar’s ‘PM in waiting’, also happens to be a ‘passionate writer, poet and a lover of culture.’ and how ‘[d]espite his busy, .. schedule,.. devotes time to ..writing, interacting with people on social media etc.’ (www.narendramodi.in) We are also told that he has been writing ‘since he was young’.

Let me admit at the outset that this poor pen-pusher was rather unaware of Modi’s writing prowess apart from one of his initial attempts to pen a book called Karmyog which had miserably backfired. It was basically a collection of his speeches to IAS aspirants and had to be withdrawn rather unceremoniously as it ‘glorified untouchability’. (http://blogs.timeso findia.indiatimes.com/true-lies/entry/modi-s-spiritual-potion-to-woo-karmayogis).

Coming back to Modi’s writing skills, recently I came across a series called ‘Modi and His Mentors’ (www.firstpost.com) where the would-be PM of this country has talked about many of those people who impacted his life in very many ways. He talks about one ‘Babubhai Oza, the other OBC luminary of the RSS’ or ‘Bachubhai Bhagat, the RSS mainstay for five decades’ and many other people. A journalist, Aakar Patel, has reproduced these excerpts from Modi’s Gujarati book Jyotipunj.

I was particularly struck by the manner in which Modi has talked about Prof Keshavram Kashiram Shastry or Keka Shastri, the famous Gujarati literary figure who had been the State President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for quite sometime and was part of its triumvirate alongwith its International General Secretary Praveen Togadia, and Jaideep Patel. He empha-tically mentions that ‘he was as a father to me’. According to Modi,

Keka Shastri is a chapter in our glorious legacy. He was a student of our culture and religion, observer of the Gita’s values, giver of benefit to countless generations to follow. He was as a father to me and we shared a loving relationship. He was a scholar and a scientist. (Read more at: http://www.firstpost.com/blogs/modis-mentors-kk-shastri-the-scholar-who-helped-save-the-gujarati-language-1433267.html?utm_source=ref_article)

Apart from discussing Shastriji’s long associ-ation with the VHP he also tells us how the State felicitated him when he turned 100.

...When he turned 100, unfortunately, some people did not like the state felicitating him. It is sad that we disregard even pure gold in our midst, as if it were plain copper.

When I rose to speak at this event, I said: “This is such a perverse mindset! Some people are offended by the felicitation of Shastriji. It is unfortunate, friends, very unfortunate! Such people are ignorant. They don’t know what a priceless gem of Gujarat this man is. Or they are victims of a perverse mindset. You ask why the state is doing this? Why public money is being spent on it? Arrey, the man who has given so much to Gujarat, can never be repaid enough. He is the pride of Gujarat, friends! ..” (-do-)

As a recap it can be told that the above-mentioned speech was made at a gathering in Ahmedabad which was held after the BJP’s humiliating defeat at the hustings (2004). It was the first gathering of its kind where many stalwarts of the Sangh Parivar had assembled to felicitate Keka Shastri. All the big names in the Parivar hierarchy like the ex-Deputy PM, L.K. Advani, Narendra Modi and the likes of Togadias and Singhals as also a galaxy of saffron-robed sadhus had attended the programme.

It would be opportune here to understand why Keka Shastri’s felicitation had irked very many people. Perhaps it had to do with the way he ‘arrived’ on the national scene in the aftermath of the carnage in Gujarat(2002).

Keka Shastri, essentially a litterateur and a scholar of the Gujarati language, inadvertently or so debunks the whole idea of spontaneity behind what is popularly known as the Gujarat genocide. Much before the ‘Tehelka’ expose (2007), which brought forth the role of the Babu Bajrangis and other fanatics—all illustrious leaders of the RSS and its affiliated organisations —in the killing spree of the innocents, he throws light on the planning which went into making that riot happen.

The interview Keka Shastri gave to the website www.rediff.com (It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots, Sheela Bhatt, March 12, 2002) was an admission for the first time by a leading member of the Hindutva brigade about his organisation’s direct role in the carnage which officially saw over 2000 deaths, uprooting of lakhs of people from their homes and hearths and loss of hope of a just and peaceful life for millions of people. ad.

Rarely had one come across an interview so direct and at the same time so chilling. He had told the correspondent that

[t]he list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself.

In the tape-recorded interview he said:

In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in advance.

When the correspondent asked him why they did it, he responded:

It had to be done, it had to be done. We don’t like it, but we were terribly angry...

When the correspondent asked him how he, a scholar and litterateur, could condone the burning of living innocents, he remarked:

The youngsters have done some things which we don’t like. We don’t support it. But we can’t condemn it because they are our boys.

He added for good measure:

We don’t believe that the boys had done anything wrong, because this was the result of an outburst.... We needed to do something.

The interview had also explained the inactivity of the police in simple terms by underlining that “they feared death” and “some of them were Hindus who thought let the mob do whatever it wants”. While talking to the interviewer his future prognosis was clear. He said the situation could get aggravated and bigger riots were possible.

There is no doubt that if the Parivar people would not have been in power this literary figure would have been immediately hauled up and put behind bars for his attempts at “promoting enmity between different religious groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language etc. and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony (Section 153-A, IPC)”, or “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class, by insulting its religion or religious beliefs (Section 295-A,IPC)”, or “uttering words, etc. with deliberate intent to wound religious feeling (Section 298, IPC)” or similar other provisions which have clearly laid down punishment for offences committed under such acts which ranged from three years to seven years rigorous imprisonment as well as fine.

But he was not even called to the police station to explain his utterances. It was as if he was putting it in black and white what others of his ilk were implementing through this ‘successful experiment’.

What is disturbing is that his was not the first or only admission about the role the VHP or the likes of Keka Shastry played during the carnage. In the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column Prof J.S. Bandukwala, Vice-President, PUCL, Gujarat, whose house had also come under attack during the Gujarat genocide, added that similar utterances were made by him in the print media. Prof Bandukwala, questioning the rationale behind the State Government’s felicitation ceremony, had said:

[T]his is the same gentleman who on March 4, 2002, praised those who carried out the Naroda Patiya and Gulbarg Society massacres. In his words, widely reported by the media, including The Times of India, “these were our boys, from respected families, who were trained to do this thing”. He never retracted this statement.. As expected, the Gujarat Government did not even file a case against him for incitement to murder and rape.

It is now history that the government led by Narendra Modi, which in the words of the Supreme Court, had metamorphosed itself into ‘modern-day Neros’, then did not find it fit even to register a case against Keka Shastry for making hate speeches which was mandatory for it as per its own constitutional obligations. Even the ‘Swayamsevak’ Prime Minister then, who had no qualms in advising Modi about his ‘Rajdharma’ during his visit to the Shah Alam Camp, did not deem it necessary to exercise the Central Government’s own powers under Section 355 wherein the Central Government itself could have made a decisive inter-vention disregarding the local goons of the Sangh Parivar in-charge of the State machinery then. The self-proclaimed ‘iron man’ also preferred to remain silent over this and rather concentrated on singing eulogies to Prof Shastry.

Modi ends his note in Jyotipunj by saying:

In another country, Shastriji would have been treasured. The world’s TV channels, doctors and scientists would have descended to find out the secret of his life. Over here, why do we often omit to do this? I cannot understand it.

Let us watch out for a ‘Bharat Ratna’ to Prof Keka Shastry—a small tribute from a ‘son’ to his ‘father’—if the ‘dear son’ manages to cross the 272 hurdle.

Subhash Gatade is a writer and Left activist who is associated with the ‘New Socialist Initiative‘.