New Internationalist

Why let a genocide get in the way of naked ambition?

Photo by Paulrudd under a Wikimedia Commons Licence.

The Gujarat genocide of February-March 2002, in which some 2,500 Muslims were brutally murdered, hundreds of women raped, and more than 200,000 families driven from their homes, didn’t make headlines anywhere in the world. Not even in UK publications like the Guardian or New Internationalist that are usually really clued up.

Our national Indian news networks for the most part, did us proud. The news of the genocide reached every corner of India. Yet as I speak, political pundits tell us there is a probability that Narender Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister, who many believe was the key figure behind the pogrom and who was indicted by his own senior police officials, is his party’s key prime ministerial contender for the 2014 elections. The thought makes me want to throw up.

Consider this, an excerpt from an article by Harsh Mander, an ex-civil servant and head of ActionAid India in 2002, which appeared in The Hindu soon after the genocide:

‘What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared? Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water…electrocuting them with high-tension electricity? What can you say?

‘A small boy of six in Juhapara camp described how his mother and six brothers and sisters were battered to death before his eyes. He survived only because he fell unconscious, and was taken for dead. A family escaping from Naroda-Patiya, one of the worst-hit settlements in Ahmedabad, spoke of losing a young woman and her three month old son, because a police constable directed her to `safety’ and she found herself instead surrounded by a mob which doused her with kerosene and set her and her baby on fire.’

The list goes on.

I was part of a fact-finding mission, reporting on the atrocities against women. Our report– ‘The Survivors Speak’– (brilliantly presented by Dr. Syeda Hameed, currently on India’s Planning Commission) made sickening reading. Women were raped and set ablaze. Hundreds of them. They were often brought in unconscious, left for dead. Their rapists, not content with merely raping them, had shoved cricket bales up their vaginas. Doctors described the horror of extracting splinters and bits of wood from them. Their screams of pain will haunt us forever.

Yet the politician exposed by countless media reports for refusing to condemn the attacks against Muslims is, nine years later, a serious contender for next Prime Minister of India. His party is presently over the moon because the latest US Congressional Research Service report, produced to brief US Senators and Congressmen on India, has declared him a laudable example of effective governance. Modi hires some of the best public relations companies to burnish his image. And he has welcomed foreign and Indian investors with open arms.

A closer look at the Gujarat scenario would unearth unsavoury facts about these best governance practices. But a good PR job can effectively sweep all that under the carpet.

Secular forces for freedom are trying to file a public interest litigation to prosecute Modi.

‘Modi has shown no remorse, made no attempt at reconciliation or justice,’ says a despondent Harsh Mander. ‘His actions have deeply polarized the state of Gujarat. His philosophy is not in keeping with India’s values as a country. Fight him we must.’

Modi is funded by rich Indians in the UK, US and India who also channel money to influential US senators and congressmen as well as UK politicians.

It promises to be a long and difficult fight.

Comments on Why let a genocide get in the way of naked ambition?

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  1. #1 HK 17 Sep 11

    Modi as Prime Minister? Do Indians want their own Gaddafi/ Mubarrak? Anyone with that sort of history has no right to govern a secular country.... even if he manages to modify his image.

  2. #2 Josantony Joseph 18 Sep 11

    The US briefing report and the support of industrialists like Ratan Tata and others are all examples of business first and people, if they are not a hindrance. later. And so it is quite expected that such groups which glorify profits before people would support Modi. After all Hitler did improve Germany's economy. But it seems to me that while people-first-economics may not always be successful, profit-first-economics will eventually always fall. Happened with Rome, or the British Empire, or the current US empire which is slowly careening out of control. And so will it be with Modi. Fortunately we have till 2014, and there is enough time to build up a groundswell of opinion to make sure the 'development' he has done is overshadowed by the evil that he has fostered.

  3. #3 gagan sethi 18 Sep 11

    for long i have maintained that a public apology is due from all heads of executive, ie police , ias, head of govt that is all political parties and the chief minister.i saw the PM's package as a way of saying I am sorry. the state govt and its head till today refuses to say ’sorry’.
    reconciliatiation truth commission, there are many ways, to achieve sad bahvna.
    personally its time to feed the children of 5000 families who stayed 10 years in make shift hovels. the present space for one person is more than the square metre in which all of the approx 30000 idp's of gujarat can live.

  4. #4 kavitha 19 Sep 11

    Ghastly indeed that the man who perpetuated such horrific crimes should actually be on a 'sadbhavana' mission. When I see him posing for photo ops with his muslim ’brethren’ who, he shamelessly claims have ’moved on’ after Godhra, it makes me want to throw up.

  5. #5 Cynthia Stephen 19 Sep 11

    Well, Why indeed! Not only is Modi trying to project himself as the BJP's next Prime Ministerial candidate, in a development that can only be termed pure Kafka, he is even sitting on a three-day fast for ’Communal harmony’!! A worthy practitioner of Goebellsian propaganda, it is good that he does these things so that his motives and potential for mischief is exposed to the world. There is clearly a kind of mass-hypnotic value in Modi's approach. But thank God for dissenters who work to keep us awake to his schemes - Mallika Sarabhai, a few of his former police officers, the judiciary, most of the media, and others have not yet bought into the concept of Gujarati Asmita (pride) that he tries to invoke at every opportunity. No, Modi, we will not and cannot forget. Nemesis waits at the door, beware!

  6. #6 Beulah Kaushik 19 Sep 11

    Very well written !!!
    BUT I blame the weak inefective government on bringing us to this impasse.... they are the ones who should be hounded. Series of scams and follies have left the people with no choice and no governance. Sad state of affairs.
    BUT I still have faith in my countrymen and hope to God things work out for the sake of INDIA.

  7. #7 john dsouza 20 Sep 11

    Even the media hype about his candidature, is part of the effort of market research on brand modi. Every now and then just before gujarat elections, these guys have done this.. result it has got all of us hyped up, and given a new lease of life to brand modi, the persecuted guy. I think it is high time we now just step back on the frontal attacks on 2002, and let the law and Congress do that. We need to concentrate on what the development/economic politics of brand modi is all about. So my plea is ’dont resurrect 2002’ at least just before the elections.

  8. #8 Thomas Antony 20 Sep 11

    Although free independent thinking and sensible people never welcome it, the probability of Mr.Modi becoming PM cannot be ruled out. In India people can be misled by false propaganda and carried by mass euphoria. We had PM like Mr.Dev Gowda and we nearly missed choosing Mr. Devi Lal as PM whose antecedents we all know. General tendency of people is unless it is gravely affecting them, they do not give much thoughts about autocratic rulers or the atrocities committed by them. To them examples of terrorist activities like bomb blasts killing innocent people weigh much. These anti national activities can be cleverly used by politicians like Mr.Modi to their advantage and can influence people at large.

    I feel it will a tragedy if Mr. Modi become PM of India. Communal harmony and peace will be destroyed and polarisation of society as happened in Gujarat can spread to other states.

    Thomas Antony

  9. #9 None 21 Sep 11

    Such a naive article. You are not only stupid you are utterly ignorant. What is the reason you are trying to portray a bad image of Modi? You getting kick out of it or being paid for it? Have you lived your life for 25 years in Gujarat to be in a position to comment about it.

    Gujarat is a great state which always boasted of a strong leadership. If you dont care for his leadership, then we will be happy to keep it for ourselves anyways.

    Poor man had no hands in the riot, even if he did, it was a nice scolding for his younger child who was misbehaving. In any case, please dont force your vocabulary and pieces of misinformation down on educated public. Keep it to yourself.

    It is hypocritical that a government is elected time and again after killing scores of Sikhs to avenge for a stupid leader.

    Today being a upper class, unemployed male, I feel marginalized and week in my own country. I have decided not to fall for the vote bank politics of Congress clearly sold to the muslims, and to stand up and speak for myself and my country.

  10. #10 ciderpunx 21 Sep 11

    Please remember to keep comments respectful, folks.

  11. #11 Samia Singh 21 Sep 11

    A beast can never pass through time and pretend nothing happened. He will never be able to pretend that he cares. Everyone knows its a lie.

  12. #12 Satya Banerji 21 Sep 11

    This is completely lobsided Propaganda, when you make a report on the killing of 2,500 Muslims in Gujrat by so called ’Modi’ which you and the commenters in the forum compare to ’Hitler’, Please Note that 5,000 Sikhs were Murdered by the ’Secular’ congress because 1 of them killed their leader, and unlike this matter which is still being investigated, that seem to be forgotten and just because we have a Sikh Prime Minister from the ’Secular’ Congress they seem to absolve themselves from that carnage. Similarly NONE of the Western Countries have no Right to talk about the brutalities here as ’Union Carbide’ as ’Dow Chemicals’ are now the American Dream which killed Thousands in Bhopal and has shunned away from responsibilities .... Its very easy to sit ... and Judge ... More People get killed in India on the Roads, Trains and other Places because the ’Secular’ leaders are too busy protecting the Secular Fabric of India and not concentrating on building better and safer .... Roads, Bridged and Infrastructure ... This is a Democracy ... We have a Democracy ... let the people chose their Leaders ... and live with it ... No one can say or point that they chose Wrong ...

  13. #13 Rohan 08 Feb 12

    what about godhra where first 59 Hindus pilgrims comprised of male and female both were burnt alive while 10 women were slit through their breasts and left to bleed till death and burnt then??

    Strange and pathetic to see such a bias article Modi did best he could and even after 10 years its great to see that he brought Gujarat to a path of progress.
    It's a democracy and we will decide what our future will be not some biased and soulless articles.

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About the author

Mari Marcel Thekaekara a New Internationalist contributor

Mari is a writer based in Gudalur, in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. She writes on human rights issues with a focus on dalits, adivasis, women, children, the environment, and poverty. Mari's book Endless Filth, published in 1999, on balmikis, is to be followed by a second book on campaigns within India to abolish manual scavenging work. She co-founded Accord in 1985 to work with Adivasi people. Mari has been a contributor to New Internationalist since 1991.

About the blog I travel around India a lot, covering dalit and adivasi issues. I often find myself really moved by stories that never make it to the mainstream media. My son Tarsh suggested I start blogging. And the New Internationalist collective are the nicest bunch of editors I’ve worked with. So here goes.

Read more by Mari Marcel Thekaekara

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