Modi 'nauseated' Imran, but would Rajiv have, too?

A biography of Imran Khan, former Pakistani cricketer and politician, talks about how Khan was “nauseated” when he was suddenly asked to shake hands with Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at a public event in 2006.

Imran Versus Imran’s Indian author, Frank Huzur, tells the story thus: “When Imran saw Modi, a feeling of nausea hit him as he took his seat on the panel. It was overpowering and worsened when, to his dismay, he noticed Modi sprinting towards him… The Gujarat Chief Minister stood right in front of him, and Imran tried to look away, but Modi wasn’t deterred. He took Imran’s hands and shook them warmly….”

Imran’s fears on being seen and photographed with Modi are similar to the kind of fears other secular politicians harbour when they have to break bread with Modi. Nitish Kumar came close to damaging his alliance with the BJP when Modi published a picture of him and Nitish together at an opposition rally. Nitish was offended enough to return Modi’s cheque for flood relief in Bihar.

When Anna Hazare talked about the achievements of Modi in Gujarat, there was a secular outcry against him. To redeem himself, Hazare had to go to Gujarat to proclaim that it was one of the most corrupt states. Clearly, when it comes to Modi, you have to feign disgust.

When Imran saw Modi, a feeling of nausea hit him as he took his seat on the panel. Reuters

When Amitabh Bachchan was chosen as Gujarat Tourism’s brand ambassador, he was criticised as though he had personally supervised all the 2002 killings in Gujarat.

When the new Darul Uloom Vice-Chancellor, Maulana Ghulam Mohammed Vastanvi, had the temerity to say earlier this year that “all communities" were doing well in Gujarat and that there was no discrimination against “the minorities in the state as far as development was concerned," he was almost hounded out of his job. He had to backtrack and paint Modi as a villain.

Imran Khan, Nitish Kumar, Anna Hazare and Ghulam Vastanvi can be forgiven for treating Modi as a pariah because they have their own constituencies to cater to. Imran Khan had no option but to be “nauseated” by Modi because a photograph flashed back home of him shaking hands with Modi could have damaged his career – not that it was going anywhere at that point of time.

Ditto for Nitish Kumar. Or Anna Hazare.

India’s secular mafia have perpetrated a labelling system whereby any good word for Modi is like signing your political death warrant or sending in your resignation from the Good People’s Club. You will them be lumped with the Sangh parivar and labelled for life. You become a fascist. A card-carrying member of murderous Hindu mobs.

This is hypocrisy and illiberalism at its worst. For what it is worth, let me state upfront that what Modi did in 2002 (or did not do, ie, protect the minorities) was no worse than what Rajiv Gandhi did (or did not do) 18 years earlier. This is not the first time this comparison has been made, but it bears repetition precisely because of the similarities.

How these men got into trouble for praising Narendra Modi:

One, both communal incidents (the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi) were triggered off by a traumatic event. In Rajiv Gandhi’s case, it was his mother’s assassination by her Sikh guards. In Modi’s case, it was the incineration of 60 Hindu activists in the Sabarmati Express, with a mob outside pelting stones and imprisoning them long after the coach was set on fire (or had caught fire accidentally).

Two, in the aftermath, neither Modi nor Rajiv Gandhi showed remorse. Modi was supposed to have said that every action would have a reaction (though he denies it), and Gandhi said when a big tree falls, the earth shakes.

Three, both Modi and Gandhi used the trauma for electoral purposes – to gain a big mandate. Modi used the 60 Sabarmati Express deaths to instill the fear of Muslim mobs among Hindus and romped home. Rajiv Gandhi used his mother’s assassination to tap into latent Hindu fears about Sikh terrorism – then running rampant.
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Four, both used innuendo against the “other” to score communal points. Modi made frequent references to “Mian Musharraf”, and Gandhi to the “Anandpur Sahib” resolution, which called for a Sikh homehand. Since Hindus were the victims of terrorism in both cases, they tapped into the same Hindu fear of the “other”. Rajiv’s ad campaign, developed by Rediffusion, focused entirely on latent Hindu insecurities and nothing else. Sample this: “Will Your Grocery List, in the Future, include Acid Bulbs, Iron Rods, Daggers?” Or this: “Will the Country's Border Finally Move to Your Doorstep,” asked another.

Both Modi and Rajiv Gandhi followed the same trajectory in raking up communal issues for electoral gains, temporarily justified violence against a minority.Why, then, is Modi an untouchable and not Rajiv Gandhi. Getty Images

Five, once they won, neither Modi nor Rajiv beat the communal drum again. In fact, Modi put down all efforts to rake up communalism with an iron hand (in Vadodara, for example), and Rajiv went out of his way to solve Sikh grievances by doing a deal with Sant Longowal, who was gunned down by Sikh extremists for precisely doing this. But Rajiv Gandhi unleashed communalism again when he changed the law after the Shah Bano verdict. This set off a train of events which culminated in Hindu mobilisation for building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

In short, both Modi and Rajiv Gandhi followed the same trajectory in raking up communal issues for electoral gains, temporarily justified violence against a minority, and then, once their political future was safe, they went back to ruling non-communally.

Why, then, is Modi an untouchable and not Rajiv Gandhi?

This question reveals the true nature of secularism in India, and most observers are beginning to realise that. Hear some of them:

In an article in The Times of India some time ago, Madhu Kishwar said:

“Those who ask for Modi's head would do well to remember that hordes of Congressmen in Gujarat gleefully joined the BJP and RSS goons who went around massacring innocent people.

“The overall track record of the Congress in this matter is no better, if not much worse, than that of the BJP. In addition to the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in north India, it masterminded numerous other riots through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. None of the killers of politically engineered riots in Meerut, Malliana, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat and scores of others were ever punished.”

Columnist Swaminathan Aiyar had much the same thing to say:

“The post-Godhra killings in 2002 were horrifying. I fully agree with Sonia Gandhi that the BJP perpetrators were “messengers of death”. But were her own husband and partymen very different? When Indira Gandhi was killed by Sikh security guards in 1984, Congress party cadres went on a killing spree in Delhi, murdering 3,000 Sikhs. The PUCL (People’s Union of Civil Liberties) report showed that many Congress leaders were complicit in the killings, and encouraged, instead of curbing, murderous mobs, exactly as in Gujarat in 2002. According to data tabled in Parliament, the 2002 toll in Gujarat was 790 dead Muslims, 254 dead Hindus, and 223 people missing. Far more were killed in Delhi in 1984.

“Many critics call Modi a fascist who carries out pogroms. They do not apply the same label to the Congress. Yet, the 1984 data are more suggestive of a pogrom than the 2002 data. The Hindu casualties in 2002 were a quarter of the total, suggesting two-way violence (even though Muslims suffered far more). But no Hindus died in Delhi, so it looks much more like a pogrom.”

If this is the truth as seen by impartial observers who are no part of the Sangh parivar, it is time to ask ourselves what kind of secularists we have bred in this country, and how they have arrogated to themselves the right to decide who is touchable and who is untouchable.