By Zafar Sareshwala
In a recent interview given by film script writer Salim Khan to a leading journalist he has an interesting comment: "Does anyone remember who the Chief Minister of Maharashtra was during the Mumbai riots which were no less deadly than the Gujarat riots of 2002? Does anyone recall the name of the chief minister of UP during Maliana and Meerut riots or Bihar CM when the Bhagalpur or Jamshedpur riots under Congress regimes took place? Do we hear the names of earlier chief ministers of Gujarat under whose charge hundreds of riots took place in post-Independence India? Some of these riots were far more deadly than the 2002 outburst. The state used to explode into violence every second month. Does anyone remember who was in charge of Delhi's security when the 1984 massacre of Sikhs took place in the capital of India?"
Why just distant riots, does anyone remember the fate of hundreds of thousands of Bodos and Muslims who were uprooted from their villages in July 2012 because their homes were torched and destroyed? As of August 2012, over 400,000 people had taken shelter in 270 relief camps, after being displaced from almost 400 villages.
The Assam chief minister delayed deployment of the Army by four days even though a large number of army units were stationed right there in Assam. Thousands are still living under sub-human conditions in refugee camps. Why are those riots already forgotten?
The political discourse in India is so vitiated by Modi phobia that even if you express happiness at the quality of roads in rural Gujarat or 24×7 power supply in the villages and towns of Gujarat, you are branded a "supporter of fascism." To say a word in appreciation of governance reforms in Gujarat is to commit political hara-kiri - you are forever tainted and tarred with the colour of fascism.
I also found it puzzling that almost all of those who have led the Hate Modi campaign are neither Muslims nor residents of Gujarat. Three of the most prominent figures of the anti-Modi Brigade from within Gujarat are not Muslims. Then there are those Muslims who have hardly visited Gujarat and do nothing more than sit in TV studios either abusing Modi or abusing Muslims who work to build bridges.
Some Hate Modi campaigners are those Muslims who don’t even visit India. Sitting in the US and UK, they run a five-star armchair criticism industry and don't want to do anything tangible for the Muslims of Gujarat or anywhere.
Wherever a Gujarati Muslim has tried to speak in a different voice, he has been attacked viciously and made to pay such a heavy price that people just shut up in terror. The highly respected and eminent Muslim scholar, Maulana Vastanvi, was forced to resign as Vice-Chancellor of Deoband simply because he said Gujarati Muslims had benefited from the inclusive development policies of Modi's government.
Shahid Siddique, the editor of an Urdu daily, was attacked and abused endlessly for simply doing an interview with Modi in which Modi defends himself ably.
And now, very recently, noted scholar Zafar Mehmood from Delhi is being hounded for having a dialogue with Modi. Zafar Mehmood had come to Gandhinagar to make a presentation as a Speaker at a Youth Conclave where Modi too was one of the speakers along with the ex-President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, renowned banker Deepak Parekh and several others.
Although his presentation was very scathing against the BJP and he put several questions regarding the Muslim development and state of the riot victims, he was still vilified just because he shared the stage with Modi.
Young Maulanas who had come to the Youth Conclave from Hyderabad were made targets too, to the extent that they had to give interviews to the media saying "Have I committed a sin by meeting Modi?".
The large number of Muslims included in the Youth Conclave was for the first time and it was not possible earlier. These are signs of changing times and new political evolution. And yet it would be very unfair to target this Youth Conclave as an exercise to present Modi. It was an apolitical conclave where Modi was rather a silent listener for the whole day and spoke only for a few minutes towards the end.
Over a period of time since 2003 interactions have been going on between Modi and various Muslim groups. Apart from his non-partisan schemes for all Gujaratis, Modi has extended his hand to interact with Muslims. So far more than 178 different groups of Muslims have met Modi on different occasions, taking their issues of schools, colleges, madarsas, jobs, jails, housing, etc, to him.
Modi has every time heard the delegation patiently and has taken prompt action wherever required. To one group he had said about 2002 that "yeh mere kaal kaa kalank hai, mujhe ise dhona hai." His actions have spoken more than words. Modi has expressed his remorse several times in the past during his television interviews and also at his victory speech on the 20th of December 2012, where he said: “Mere haathon se kisi ko bhi takleef pahunchi ho to mein kshama chahta hun".
As recently as his latest interview given in late June to Reuters, Modi was compassionate and was expressing his pain. But, as usual, his remarks were unnecessarily distorted and maliciously presented by one and all.
Muslims judge Modi by his actions and they will judge any other politician by what they do and not by what they say. The best parameter to judge a leader will be by his deeds. So the whole debate of saying sorry ends here. The consistent and growing electoral support to Modi from Gujarati Muslims shows that Muslims have already moved on.
I would sum up this point in the words of Mahesh Bhatt, who said in 2012 why the Hate Modi closure in not happening.
"Unfortunately, there are some conflict entrepreneurs who live off conflicts. Like, the war industries would cease to exist if human hatred evaporated. They have a tremendous investment in this hatred, so to keep the demon alive is to keep their God alive. They draw sustenance from this hatred. Those who talk of secular values need to go back and study the Mahatma because in the pages of the Mahatma there is no concept of the kshatru (enmity)."
(Zafar Sareshwala is a Gujarat businessman who has confronted Modi on 2002, but later decided to build bridges with the Gujarat government in order to be of practical help to the community.)