On his website (www.narendramodi.in), Gujarat’s chief minister uses these words to describe himself: “great dreamer”; “remarkable ability”; “hard taskmaster”; “strict disciplinarian”; “amazing”; “realist”; “idealist”; “clarity of vision, sense of purpose, diligent perseverance”; “excellent organizational ability: “rich insight into human psychology”; “sheer strength of character and courage”.
Perhaps he is possessed of all these things. Certainly every time I have met him, he has been punctual.
It is in the interests of maintaining this quality that Modi should fire his home minister for incompetence.
As cases from the 2002 riots come to judgment, one thing becomes clear. Gujarat’s home minister ran such a shoddy department that it is only due to an outside team of investigators that justice has finally come to a few. A judgment in the Naroda Patiya case, where 97 Muslims were killed, is expected this month.
Here’s the case for doing away with the home minister. First, the story of the poet Mir Taqi Mir wrote about: Khugar nahin kuchch yoon hi hum Rikhta-goi kay/ Mashooq jo apna tha, bashindah-e-Daccan tha (It’s not casually that I’ve been possessed by Urdu: He who was my love was that native of the Deccan).
The man Mir is referring to is Wali Muhammad Wali, who died in 1707. Wali is called Wali Daccani because he was born in Aurangabad, but also Wali Gujarati because that is where he lived and was buried. Did Wali acknowledge an inspiration? Yes, but not a person. I came across his work after the riots and was struck by how besotted he was with Gujarat. I translated two of his poems. One was a masnavi, Ta’arif-e-Shehr Sourat (In Praise of Surat City), the other, excerpted below, was a ghazal, Dar Firaaq-e-Gujarat (On Separation from Gujarat).
Parting from Gujarat leaves thorns in my chest
My heart—on fire!—pounds impatiently in my breast
What cure can heal the wound of
The scimitar of exile has cut deep
into my heart
My feet were bound, and in sorrow
I did tire
My heart singed rapidly, like a hair over fire
Gaze into my heart and see the garden of the lover
Where the flowers of winter riot in my blood’s colour
It is with regret that in the end I see my friends depart
So rise from the empty tavern and steady yourself, my heart
And thank God’s mercy, O Wali!
He let that passion remain
The heart’s still anxious to catch a glimpse of my Gujarat again
On 28 February 2002, a mob tore down Wali’s little tomb in Ahmedabad and dug up his grave. Overnight, the road was tarred and now no sign remains. Wali’s grave had stood outside the gate of the police commissioner’s office.
That morning a mob laid siege to former member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri’s house. He held them off for hours with his licensed rifle. The police arrived, led by K.G. Erda. The police fired 61 rounds at the mob. Every bullet missed. The police could not kill, wound or hit a single person. Seventy-three-year-old Jafri was called down and stripped. The mob cut off his fingers, paraded him bleeding and naked. Then they cut off his hands, then his legs and then his head.
Erda filed a report naming 11 people. He named two men twice by mistake. The home ministry promoted Erda to deputy superintendent.
Was this case an exception? No. On 12 April 2004, the Supreme Court sent the Best Bakery case out of Gujarat, adding a comment that “the investigating agency helps the accused”.
After the riots, Gujarat’s home ministry closed 2,000 cases, saying it couldn’t find the accused. On 17 August 2004, the Supreme Court took over and ordered them reopened. So shoddily were they found to have been investigated that the Supreme Court sent a team under former CBI chief RK Raghavan to reinvestigate the cases. This time, 1,255 accused were arrested. Action was ordered against 136 police officers. Another 72 face action. Gujarat’s home ministry has been unable to take the initiative. It has taken the Supreme Court to give justice to Gujaratis.
Raghavan found that on 28 February 2002, BJP minister Maya Kodnani armed and led a mob at Naroda Patiya that killed 97 people. On 4 January 2008, Modi made her minister for women and child development and higher education.
On 27 March 2009, justice DH Waghela said Kodnani’s actions were “nothing less than organized crime”.
On intelligence, execution, crowd control, investigation, Gujarat’s home minister has not been competent. Who was, and still is, Gujarat’s home minster? Narendra Modi.
Modi seems unaware of what his police is doing. It’s not just about the riots. On 30 April 2007, Gujarat admitted, after yet another Supreme Court intervention, that the chief of its anti-terrorist squad, DG Vanjhara, had executed a man, Sohrabuddin, in a contract killing. His wife Kausarbi was a witness. Vanjhara killed her too and then burnt her body. Under Modi, the police could not even find his own minister Mayaben for weeks. She fled after being charged with mass murder and surrendered after her bail was rejected.
A second leader, Modi’s deputy home minister Amit Shah, is on bail and has been banned from entering Gujarat. If this is not a damning reflection on Gujarat’s home ministry, it is difficult to say what is.
I read out Dar Firaaq-e-Gujarat to Modi once and asked him to guess who the poet was. He could not say. When I told him, his response was that the evidence that the demolished grave was Wali’s wasn’t clinching enough for him.
About his incompetence at running the home ministry, there is no doubt. He should step down as home minister immediately.