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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Sadly, the Congress, like other political parties, has lost moral authority having tolerated all manner of disgraceful conduct in other States even by its allies. There is also a strange electoral calculus that trumps constitutionalism.

Naked And Unashamed in Gujarat

The Congress is fast losing its moral authority as the BJP side-steps key issues and Gujarat critics turn a blind eye.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald / Tribune, 5 November, 2007

Bob Dylan was right. There are so many times, everywhere, when men turn their heads, pretending they just do not see. But there is no escape from the truth, for the answer is indeed “blowin’ in the wind”. And so it is in Gujarat where Tehelka has in a chilling exposure reconfirmed the gory, gloating details of the 2002 pogrom in the first person singular.

BJP critics have cried foul, castigating the sting as entrapment. This it was not, as no money or allurements   were offered. Tehelka’s Ashish Khetan won the confidence of the BJP, VHP, Bajrangi and RSS actors by pretending to be an acolyte eager to learn and record the heroic deeds of the faithful. The ploy worked. The conspirators found catharsis in boasting of their exploits, their raw emotions uncorked for the first time in five years in what they thought was the safety of time and the subversion of truth and justice by their mentors in the Party and State.  

BJP-VHP allegation of a dark media-Congress conspiracy to overthrow Narendra Modi’s Government. was unsustainable and soon discarded in favour of the “democratic” argument that Modi had been re-elected with a thumping majority after 2002 and that the electorate would no doubt once again give a fitting answer to Tehlka’s latest sting this coming December. The argument is perverse. The Gujarat pogrom involves grave issues of criminal justice whereas general elections mandate political choice. None can commit murder and claim criminal exoneration if elected. 

Some have argued that the Tehelka revelations should not be pursued as this will reopen old wounds and revive communal tensions. This suggests that anybody able to evade justice should gain immunity on the plea that it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. This is specious reasoning. Still others have argued the case for imposing President’s rule in Gujarat or at least launching proceedings against functionaries who stand self-condemned.  That a Commission of Inquiry is sitting is irrelevant. It is no more than a fact finding body and has no trial or penal powers whereas those caught on the Tehelka tapes have indicted themselves criminally and confessed on camera.

Why President’s rule today if it was not imposed in 2002? No action was taken in 2002 because the Centre was not just supine but complicit, with the then Home Minister, L.K. Advani showering testimonials of good governance and law and order management on Modi. Every canon of administrative duty, the rule of law and common humanity were systematically flouted, with not a word of regret or restraint from the Government. Prime Minister Vajpayee lamented the loss of raj dharma but backed down abjectly when the RSS intervened. Modi conducted a Gurav Yatra, trumpeting hate, and won an electoral victory. 

Modi spoke to the people of Gujarat over Prasar Bharati on February 28, 2002. He said, “Gujarat shall not tolerate any such (Sabarmati Express) incident. The culprits will get full punishment for their sins. Not only this, we shall set an example that nobody, not even in his dreams, thinks of committing such a heinous crime like this…”.  And later, “If raising issues of justice or injustice adds fuel to the fire, we will have to observe restraint and invoke peace”. In effect he promised to teach the Muslims (who for him were the culprits) a terrible lesson, telling them that “peace” demanded their craven submission.

That was the motto the administration adopted. In the interests of  “peace”, FIRs were watered down and, rendered vague where specific, if registered at all. Parivar loyalists were appointed State prosecutors. Lawyers and witnesses were intimidated. Relief camps were discouraged. The economic boycott of Muslims was tolerated. Compensation was denied, delayed or minimized. Innocents were picked up on random charges while named criminals were granted  bail. Indeed, the situation was so bad that the NHRC and Supreme Court were compelled to take adverse notice. 

The UPA took office after Modi’s re-election but could hardly intervene at that stage. Meanwhile, the derailment of justice and suborning of witnesses continued and the State has admitted to continuing extra-judicial killings during 2003-05, instances of which are before the Supreme Court. It is in this context of Modi’s unremitting “peace” process that the Tehelka tapes must be seen. The horror of 2002 continues in 2007. This unprecedented and unremitting breakdown of the constitutional machinery surely merits President’s rule. Elections should appropriately follow a clean up. .

Sadly, the Congress, like other political parties, has lost moral authority having tolerated all manner of disgraceful conduct in other States even by its allies. There is also a strange electoral calculus that trumps constitutionalism, good governance and decision making at every turn. The Liberhan Commission on the Babri demolition has been granted its 42nd extension since 1992! There is an inexplicable fear of elections  on the part of  so-called democratic parties and leaders for whom power for pelf and grandstanding means more than principle or purpose. Never has politics in India fallen so low. We are all naked but unashamed.  Beware, it is later than we think.

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