How PM Narendra Modi is not off the mark when he questions Opposition’s stand on terror

The Prime Minister recently said in a poll rally that the Samajwadi Party, main challenger to the BJP in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, is sympathetic to terrorists

Gautam Mukherjee February 21, 2022 16:56:09 IST
How PM Narendra Modi is not off the mark when he questions Opposition’s stand on terror

File image of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Image credit: Press Information Bureau

In the midst of this election season, a trial court verdict awarded the death sentence to 38 of 49 accused in the 2008 Ahmedabad blasts case. The quantum of punishment in the case followed on from the initial verdict on 8 February 2022. Another 11 were awarded life imprisonment for the length of their natural lives. There were 38 acquittals as well by Special Judge AR Patel in the Ahmedabad Sessions Court. Of these 38, as many as 17 will stay in custody over accusations in other cases.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, himself a target along with the top Gujarat leadership in 2008, hailed the long-delayed verdict. In an emotional speech on the campaign trail at Hardoi, Lucknow and Varanasi, he said that he had vowed that the perpetrators would be brought to justice, holding a fistful of the blood-soaked soil at the time. He then suggested that the Samajwadi Party (SP), main challenger to the BJP in the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, is sympathetic to such terrorists.

The announcement of the quantum of punishment in the Ahmedabad case coincided with the surfacing of a photo of Akhilesh Yadav, the SP supremo and former Chief Minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh, hobnobbing with Mohammed Shadab, father of Mohamed Saif. The latter is one of the accused who has also been condemned to death, not only in this case, but also the 2008 Jaipur serial blasts case.

Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath joined the Prime Minister by also accusing the earlier SP government of attempting to withdraw 13 cases against some of the Ahmedabad blasts and other attack accused terrorists who hailed from Uttar Pradesh. He also confirmed that Mohammad Shadab operated as an important functionary of the SP. Adityanath said that the judiciary refused the SP government’s requests to withdraw the cases in 2013.

From the SP point of view, such sympathetic posturing with jihadis is probably deemed essential to woo their minority voters. It has become something of a norm in some Opposition circles. After all, the Congress has long done it too. Most recently, they have offered full-throated support to the radical Islamic organisation, Popular Front of India (PFI), and its student wing, the Campus Front of India (CFI) — one of the main accused in the hijab row.

This too seems to have been timed to vitiate the election atmosphere amongst Muslim female voters in Uttar Pradesh. To avoid a ban, the PFI is distributing its activity into a number of NGOs at present. This, of course, is a tried and tested Pakistani terrorist organisation strategy.

The Congress is seen to be close to Pakistan as well as China and there are documented interactions between the grand old party and these enemy countries that suggest making common cause to bring down the Modi government. There is no attempt at a nationalist outlook. A senior Congress leader, both a Modi-baiter and a Pakistan lover, has recently questioned the Modi government’s accelerated militarisation programme. He wonders why it is needed.

The Shiv Sena is also seen pandering to minority concerns including those that emanate from Pakistan, in a marked departure from its stance when it was led by Balasaheb Thackeray. This is because it fears its erstwhile Hindutva favouring voters have abandoned it for the BJP. This, on the formation of the Aghadi government with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress.

Collectively, these politicians, with others fearful of their own survival such as KCR from Telangana, question and cast doubt not only on the Central government’s declarations, but even on those of the armed forces.

Meanwhile in the border-state of Punjab, also in these polls, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is accused by one of their estranged senior founder members of cosying up to the Khalistani separatists. The Union Home Minister has promised a detailed investigation.

Power at any cost seems to be the motto in much of the Opposition.

Minority attacks against innocent civilians, institutions, commercial areas, hospitals, restaurants, have been part of the discourse for many years now. These sometimes boil over into full-fledged riots and arson as well. This is in addition to military targets, particularly in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

All of this terrorist activity is aided and abetted by Pakistani terrorists, domestic moles, Bangladeshi terrorists, Maoists including urban Maoists (aided by China), Northeastern separatists, Maoist conclaves in Central India, and other fifth columnists, financed by foreign interests. The ones involving Muslims increased in frequency after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. And now there is a fresh grouse in certain radicalised Muslim quarters over the totally legitimate building of the grand Ram Temple ay Ayodhya.

But most of all, it is the BJP-RSS combine that is seen as a threat, not only by the minorities who see it as a loss of power and privilege, but the political parties that depend on them for their performance at the hustings.

The SP is a prime example. As is the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal. The Congress is furious too, but stands discredited amongst the bulk of the voters all over the country. The AAP in its bid to power in other states has added the Khalistanis to the Muslims it woos assiduously in the little half-state of Delhi it controls.

But those who depend on minority votes are willy-nilly drawn into anti-national activity they find difficult to defend when it comes to the surface in the judiciary and the media. This in turn hardens the attitudes of the majority community, unifying them over caste, region and the lure of the communists and the Left. This makes it increasingly difficult for Muslim-backed parties to come to power. There is, therefore, a certain desperation in the air that is resorting to violence.

While details of court submissions from the Ahmedabad blasts case from prosecution and defence lawyers over more than a decade and the sentencing order have not yet been put out in the public domain yet, the blasts were carried out reportedly in revenge for the 2002 post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.

There is open treason as well. The key conspirator, Sadar Nagori, leader of the banned SIMI, one of the 38 handed the death sentence, said that the “Constitution does not count for me”, after the verdict.

More than 246 were injured and 56 killed in the multiple blasts from more than 22 bombs in 2008, many of them concealed in bicycles and let off at crowded places in Ahmedabad.

In the context of thinly populated Canada’s recent firm handling of illegal blockades that brought the shenanigans to an end in under three weeks with no casualties, the Indian government’s soft stance on terrorists and their patrons may well need to be reviewed.

If the fear is that international media will rise up in condemnation, it might do some good to reflect on why our Gandhian approach is disregarded, and Modi is called a dictator and a fascist anyway. Surely it is agenda-driven, and the main task of the West, the Chinese, and certain Islamic countries is to retard the growth and strength of a resurgent India.

The Opposition, in cahoots with separatists and Islamists, suits them well. India is meant to be weak and biddable in their book. The New India is much too assertive for the neo-colonialists. And a Hindu resurgence is incomprehensible to many.

On our part, we seem to be changing too. The Modi Government is aware of the exasperated public opinion. Recent pronouncements of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on China and our neutral stance on Ukraine are neither apologetic, nor submissive.

The writer is a Delhi-based commentator on political and economic affairs. The views expressed are personal.

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