With the General Elections just around the corner, the BJP also stepped up with its best foot forward. The general public is being subjected to media shows and twitter campaigns, mobilised crowds and convincing speakers, all projecting Narendra Modi as the saviour. This is all part of a massive public relations exercise that is orchestrated by public relations firm APCO Worldwide, especially hired for a reported fees of 25,000 dollars per month. On the board of directors of APCO are retired officers of the Israeli diplomatic and security forces who have been hired in different countries by various dictators trying to whitewash their crimes. This company was known to play dirty tricks when it was exposed as having set up front organizations to support the American tobacco lobby to rubbish evidence that tobacco causes cancer. And today, here it is in India to promote the communal agenda of the Modi-led BJP.
The first bluff of this PR exercise that was called out was the claim that Modi had “saved” 15,000 Gujarati pilgrims by hiring 80 cars to bring them down from the hills, during the terrible calamity which hit the Kedarnath and Badrinath hill areas of Uttarakhand. People were puzzled as to how such a claim could be made when it took the army and defence forces ten days of constant helicopter sorties and transport to rescue around 40,000 people. In the course of events, after analysts made actual calculations and the BJP realised they were on sticky wicket, they were forced to backtrack and BJP President, Rajnath Singh in an attempt to save face, denied any such claim being made.
In fact all the Modi claims are filled with similar such falsehoods. But the packaging of Modi is not just a PR exercise, it is an exercise backed relentlessly by corporates both domestic and foreign. In an opinion poll conducted by the Economic Times among CEOs of the India Inc.; almost three-fourths of the 100 honchos want Modi as PM while, less than 10% want Rahul Gandhi as PM. The poll results can probably be attributed to the fact that, the CEOs see in the Modi-model an opportunity to fulfil their dreams of a corporate-led ‘reformed’ India. The campaign also has the backing of the RSS, impatient of the restrictions put by NDA allies on its core Hindutva agenda which it believes will be best safeguarded under the leadership of Modi.
India Inc.’s impatience in wanting Modi for ‘strong leadership, intent, decisions and action,’ is not misplaced. The Gujarat Model is rather generous to the corporates. Large tracts of land that, should have been distributed to the landless, are being given away to large industries at throw-away prices. This includes forest land. Thus, also violating the Forest Rights Act which, incidentally the state has the worst record for implementation of. As many as 1.20 lakh claims of tribals for land pattas was rejected arbitrarily by the Government.
On May 3, the Gujarat High Court accepted a petition and ordered that all these cases should be reconsidered.
Currently there is a big kisan movement against the forcible acquisition of 55,000 acres of land in the Bahucharaji area for the Special Investment Region to help corporates get land at low prices. In spite of opposition, Maruti Suzuki has already been given 750 hectares.
The compensation package is shamefully against the interests of the farmers and people of the area and much worse than even that suggested in the UPA government’s pending Land Acquisition and Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill. For example, there is no consent taken from farmers, leave alone the 80 per cent consent required under the proposed law. It may be recalled that in Singur there was over 90 per cent consent for the project. Also there is no compensation at all for tenants and agricultural workers. In all these cases, for the Gujarat Government the issue of consent or fair compensation does not at all arise.
These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. According to the CAG, Modi’s Govt. has bestowed around Rs 1275 crore rupees in dubious ways to benefit the corporate sector for the fiscal 2011-2012. The CAG report, which was recently submitted to the state assembly, says the chief gainers of Modi’s generosity are the Adani, Essar, Reliance, and Larson & Toubro among others. But obviously this report has been suppressed very well by the BJP making use of their majority.
Campaign Against Corruption Rings Hollow
Recently a senior Minister of the Modi Government, Babu Bokhiria was convicted by a Porbandar court in the 54 crore illegal limestone mining case of 2006. But the “clean” Chief Minister Modi has retained him in the Cabinet. This occurred at just about the same time as when, the BJP held up the Parliament demanding the resignation of Pawan Kumar Bansal in light of the charges of corruption against him.
But, the hypocrisy of the BJP does not end here. The CAG made a damning indictment of an agreement reached between a company called Geo Global and the State PSU-GSPC. Without any tenders the Geo Global, a dubious company registered in the Barbados, a self confessed novice in gas exploration was given a 10 per cent share in an expansive gas field worth billions of dollars. Within days of signing this agreement Geo Global transferred 50 per cent of its shares to another shell company in Mauritius. As the CAG report points out, this company had no expertise or funds and in fact the GSPC had to hire another expert at its own cost to do the work Geo Global was supposed to have done. At the time of incorporation its value was barely a cent for a single share. By 2008, within five years after the agreement it went up to a high of 14.92 US dollars.
Modi’s Role in the 2002 Genocide
Even if one were to overlook the pro-corporate and corrupt nature of the Modi Government. But, how could one possibly look past how the law enforcement machinery of the Government not only permitted a free run for the most rabid organisations of Sangh Parivar but actively connived with them in many places?
Narendra Modi reportedly gave instructions to top officials not to take action against the rampaging mobs already on the streets. Also, trained volunteers led these mobs and most of them knew they had political patronage. Since there was systematic erosion of the rule of law in maintaining state ‘neutrality’, the anti- minority bias had become part of the state policy.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) was setup by the Supreme Court in April 2009 to reopen investigation into nine crucial cases including the Gulbarg Society massacre. And in the records of the SIT new and more unambiguous evidence has been uncovered that, highlights the role of Modi and other high-ranking Government Officials in the tragic events of 2002.
On April 15, 2013 Ehsan Jafri’s (Former Congress MP and leader who, was one of the 70 people to be beaten and burnt alive in the Gulbarg Society massacre) widow, Mrs Zakia Ehsan Jafri, filed a protest petition against the SIT’s clean chit to Modi and other Government Officials. This protest petition went into great detail, relying on documents from the investigation papers, on how the administration and police were deliberately paralysed and neutralised by the conspiracy hatched by Modi and the others. The court had accepted Mrs. Jafri’s appeal and made all documents available to her and therefore all those documents which were kept secret by the SIT were brought into the public domain. They are a damning incrimination for the Modi model of governance.
On 27th February, 2002 the catastrophic Godhra Incident took place where, the Sabarmati Express carrying karsevaks from Ayodhya was attacked just before the train reached Godhra station. 58 people including women and children were killed. Subsequently over 100 Muslims were arrested. 31 have been convicted and the rest acquitted.
At the time of the horrific attack on the train, Narender Modi was the newly elected Chief Minister of Gujarat. Phone records from that day show that, even before Modi contacted Government officials, he spoke to Jaideep Patil, the General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parsihad who has been chargesheeted as a main accused in another case of the killings of eleven Muslims. At that time reports were reaching Modi’s office of the grossly provocative, communally rabid and bloodthirsty slogans being raised by crowds being mobilized by the VHP. But Modi refused to act on the stream of reports being sent by field operatives of the State Intelligence Bureau.
In the statement prepared by the Modi Government and read out in the Assembly which was in session, the Home Minister deliberately concealed the fact that both the District Magistrate of Godhra and the officer in-charge had repeatedly reported the communal slogans being shouted by the karsevaks.
But when Modi arrived in Godhra later that evening, he held a mini- cabinet meeting which decided to hand over the bodies of the Godhra victims to Jaideep Patel, the leader of precisely that organization which had already started drumming up communal hatred through slogans and speeches.
Secondly while Modi himself was in Godhra, he permitted the postmortem of the Sabarmati train victims to be performed in the open on the railway platform in front of the growing frenzied crowds. This was an unprecedented action which stoked the flames of the communal fire.
Even more damning, the Chief Minister held a meeting at his residence later that night in which, as suggested by the evidence given by a senior police officer that, the Chief Minister effectively neutralized any action the police should have taken.
In the light of this clear evidence, the CPI(M) has reiterated its demand that Modi’s name be added to the chargesheet at present before the court and that he should be tried for his leading role in the conspiracy of the worst communal carnage this country has seen.
Drawing comparisons: 1984 and 2002
Defenders of the BJP and Narendra Modi cite the 1984 carnage against the Sikh community led by Congress leaders following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. But, what the BJP fails to realise is that, two wrongs don’t make a right. The public apology of the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his expressions of regret for the 1984 massacre would have had more meaning if strong action had been taken against the top leaders involved instead of giving them party tickets. Modi of course has not expressed a word of regret leave alone an apology for the 2002 genocide. Even today he flaunts Ministers involved in the killings as his closest aides.
Post-2002: Sabotaging Justice
Since 2002, governments in Gujarat under Modi have taken a minimalistic approach to rehabilitate the 70 odd colonies of approximately 5,000 families of internally displaced.
Muslims have been pushed to the ghettoes which are poor in hygiene and distant from any civic amenities. Many social facilities like banking, schools, mobile-phone services are denied to them. Even the minority scholarship scheme funded by the Central Government has been rejected by the Gujarat Government and not implemented depriving thousands of Muslim students of its benefits. In fact the case is presently before the Supreme Court.
The most shameful subversion of justice came when, the Modi Government assigned public prosecutors - in cases carried over from the 2002 genocide – of whom many were known to be supporters of the communal genocide and pressurising the judiciary. At many instances, the Supreme Court of India had to step in to prevent complete sabotage of the judiciary.
In the Best Bakery Case, where the Modi Government forced the witnesses to change their statements, the Supreme Court stepped in and ordered a retrial, citing “no confidence” in the Gujarat Government.
Terror and Hindutva
The RSS hate agendas against Muslims in India taken to its extreme forms by its front organizations like the VHP, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini etc. has also spawned terrorist groups swearing by Hindutva. The bomb blasts in Mecca Masjid, Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Samjhauta Express targeting Muslims have been organized and implemented by these Hindutva terrorist groups. BJP leaders had defended them, visited them in jails. Narendra Modi himself has never uttered a single word against them although he does not tire of his propaganda accusing the Central Government of running a “soft State” against terrorists.
Innocent Muslims jailed.
The double standards, with respect to the fight against terrorists is also reflected in the arrest and victimization of Muslim youth because they are Muslims. Whether in the Malegaon case or in the Mecca Masjid case where Hindutva terrorist groups were involved in the bomb attacks, or in other cases of terrorist attacks, in the first instance it is Muslim youth who are arrested and jailed for, in some cases between ten to fifteen years as undertrials and then finally acquitted by the courts. In fact scores of such cases where Muslim youth were wrongly arrested have come to light. While both the BJP and the Congress has remained silent on this grave miscarriage of justice and the profiling and the victimization of young people only because they are Muslim, the CPI(M) has waged a campaign both inside and outside Parliament for justice to these young victims, even taking their case up to the President of India. Even though the Home Minister finally had to make a statement on the floor of parliament that in such cases compensation and rehabilitation would be done, this has not yet been implemented. Thus innocent people suffer and their lives are destroyed.
The Governance of Encounter Killings
There have been a large number of fake encounter killings under the Modi Government in which a large number of the victims are Muslims. Top police officers and aides of the Chief Minister including Amit Shah a former Home Minister in his Government, are the main accused in some of the cases. Amit Shah, who is now out on bail, has been appointed as the in-charge of functioning of the BJP in UP.
A petition in the Supreme Court praying for an inquiry into 22 such encounters was accepted by the Supreme Court in January 2012. It ordered the Monitoring Authority led by a retired judge of the court Justice H.S.Bedi to inquire into the encounters mentioned in the petition. Justices Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai commented “It has happened more than two times in this court. The State initially stoutly and vehemently denies it. When the matter is scratched even slightly the fact comes to light and then the State Government admits it is a fake encounter.” (The court was referring to the cases of Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Ram Prajapati. Both of them along with Sohrabuddin’s wife Kausar Bi were cold bloodedly shot dead by the Gujarat police led by senior police officials.)
It is hardly surprising that there should be so many such killings because the Chief Minister himself had in an election rally in 2007 stated that Sohrabuddin “got what he deserved” —a clear message of encouragement for illegal killings. Encounter killings have become an acceptable form of Governance under Modi.
After the 2002 genocide it was a matter of great shame that the then Central Government under Atal Behari Vajpayee and all the allies at the time, kept silent while the great cover–up of the responsibility of the State Government was done. L.K. Advani was the prime mover as the country’s Home Minister in this cover up, much like APCO Worlwide’s role in the 2014 General Election Campaign. But, the BJP must attribute a little bit more intelligence to the general public and realise that, it won’t be long before they call out Narendra Modi’s bluff and calls of “NaMo NoMo’ (No More)!” reverberate through the entire nation.