The observations on Narendra Modi in the article “All the perfumes of Arabia” (Feb. 15) are not convincing. Not so long ago, Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister despite being the leader of the party that was in power during the horrendous massacre of Sikhs in 1984. No one cited Nazi Germany even though Rajiv Gandhi reportedly said that the earth shakes when a big tree falls.
Contrary to what Justice Markandey Katju says, the minorities are better off in Gujarat as compared to the rest of India. It is noteworthy that large sections of Muslims voted for Mr. Modi in the recent Gujarat elections. India will always remain a secular state.
Justice Katju’s anecdote of the Gujarati businessman, obviously a Hindu, gives the impression that he approved of the Godhra pogrom. With due respect to Justice Katju, I feel he should have refrained from narrating the episode since it will rouse undesirable feelings. All cases relating to the 2002 killings are sub judice. His observation that he finds it “impossible to believe” that Mr. Modi did not have a hand in the 2002 Gujarat killings is unwarranted and unfair. Though it is true that Gujarat has problems like malnourishment, there has been no major scam in the State. Mr. Modi is undoubtedly cleaner compared to other contenders for the post of Prime Minister.
That Justice Katju would, like many other English speaking intellectuals, dismiss the burning of the train at Godhra as a mystery but would talk in detail about the post-Godhra killing of Muslims was only expected. While he points to the development index of Gujarat, he dismisses the approval of the industrial/business community as not a big deal. Surprisingly, he does not say anything about the Congress and its role in the 1984 massacre — there has been no conviction of any significant Congress leader till date.
Justice Katju’s assessment of Mr. Modi is apt. He is right in saying that giving large acres of land with cheap electricity and water are not the criteria for development. Gujaratis are very enterprising. Even when an earthquake shook Gujarat in 2000, Gujaratis were confident that they would bounce back in five years. This mindset is not the making of Mr. Modi. To attribute Gujarat’s prosperity and development to him is, therefore, wrong.
It is not only the 200 million Muslims but also supporters of all major secular parties who oppose Mr. Modi as Prime Minister. The thinking of the businessman who was on a plane with Justice Katju is the thinking of the sangh parivar.
A casual onlooker may mistake the calm supposedly prevailing in Gujarat. But the anger, resentment and despair simmering under the illusory calm cannot escape the eyes and sensibilities of people who care to look closer. One wishes Mr. Modi and his followers would understand that it is not a few happy businessmen who render a State or nation prosperous; it is the collective trust of the masses borne out of their deep-rooted confidence in a system which they know will bestow equal care and respect irrespective of their social status, religion, creed or community that does.
We have failed to create a culture of Indian-ness. For political or personal reasons, our leaders divided citizens into the majority and the minorities. I believe Justice Katju should not limit his concerns to the Gujarat riots or the Gujarat government. I have never seen people so concerned about the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. We should be concerned about the rights of Indians, not Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians, being violated.