The latest Tehelka expose, in which many Sangh Parivar leaders, Bajrang Dal and VHP activists are seen confessing to their crimes and Narendra Modi’s involvement in the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, does not reveal any ground-breaking facts. It simply reiterates what has been widely acknowledged all this while – that Gujarat CM Narendra Modi “sanctioned” the killing of hundreds and thousands of innocent Muslims in the state. The gag on the media, after news channels aired the expose and the content of the expose gave the nation all the more reason to believe that Mr. Modi was party to the meaningless violence that was committed. In fact, this is the second time in a week that the Gujarat CM has reacted vehemently to allegations of his involvement in the carnage. The first instance was his infamous walk out during a television interview, when the interviewer persistently questioned him about his role in the riots. These reactions force one to believe that there is more to the issue than what meets the eye. Of course, with the Gujarat elections round the corner, the timing of the expose is certainly questionable, but there is other evidence of Modi’s involvement in those heinous crimes. The BJP, to which Modi belongs, predictably rejected the expose and called it “sponsored journalism”. It is sad to witness one of India’s major political parties being so insensitive to such an issue. For one, it has not conceded that Modi did play a role in the instigation of the riots despite it being so obvious. Instead, the party rambled on about terrorism against Hindus (this is with reference to the BJP’s constant remarks on terrorist activities against Kashmiri Pundits in the valley). They, perhaps, don’t realize that though both brands of violence do result in killing of innocents, they are different in nature. From what the tapes and other evidence against Modi suggest, the riots were “ordered” out of angst against the Muslim community. Modi is an elected leader while terrorists do not enjoy such popularity. Clearly, Modi was popular during the riots and he misused it freely. Plainly, he insulted the trust of the very people who brought him to power. BJP, who attacks the government for being un-democratic on various issues, contradicts itself by supporting and even hailing the notorious Gujarat Chief Minister.
Many of the riot cases have been shifted from Gujarat to other states, including the much-publicized Best Bakery case. This is evidence enough that the judiciary is not acting independent of the executive in the state. Judges have been shifted innumerable times just to help the accused get away while the victims watched helplessly. The Supreme Court has had to intervene frequently to prevent further misuse of power by the Gujrat government, the best example being the Best Bakery case that was put back on track by the Supreme Court. Significant progress has been made in a considerable number of cases though many more lie unattended to. The expose has sparked off another debate on the Gujarat riots but the victims’ families’ only concern is whether the expose will speed up the process of justice or not. It is appalling to learn that the victims’ families have been given no or just a fraction of the compensation promised to them. Plainly, the government is still following a subtle policy of discrimination against Muslims in the state.
Ideally, a development like the expose on the eve of elections would have proved fatal to a politician but Modi is an exception to the rule. Mr. Modi is mostly likely to return to power because of three major reasons. Firstly, the expose is unlikely to have any effect on the voters as Modi has successfully divided Gujarat along communal lines. Moreover, the issue was not enough to remove Modi from power the last time the state went to polls while the riots were still fresh in the minds of the people. Hence, it is unlikely that a mere expose that does not reveal anything new will change people’s minds. Secondly, Modi commands respect among majority of the citizens of Gujarat for he has made Gujarat economically prosperous. Lastly, no other political party enjoys the kind of popularity that the BJP does in the state. The Tehelka investigations have provided fodder to political parties for attacking Mr. Modi but it will hardly make a difference due to the reasons mentioned above. The Congress is pushing Rahul Gandhi into the scene to turn around its fortunes in the state. However, given his record in the UP elections, his presence does not, in any way, endanger Modi. The support for the Left is negligible in a state where religion plays a mighty role in politics. Other parties will need to plan their campaigns extensively and work relentlessly in order to challenge Modi’s supremacy in Gujarat. As one of the confessors in the expose put it, “he (Modi) has done what no other CM ever has.” Very true indeed.