People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXI

No. 17

April 29, 2007

GUJARAT

 

BJP And Modi In Soup

 

Babulal Likhure

 

THE ruling BJP in Gujarat is in a soup once again this week. As though the arrest of its MP for human trafficking was not enough, two of its senior IPS officers have also landed behind the bars for killings of innocent Muslim youth in fake encounters.

 

Dahod MP Babubhai Katara might have been immediately suspended from the BJP, but that doesn't impress any one who has any rudimentary knowledge of the party's dependence on people with muscle and money power.

 

Incidentally, the arrested MP from Dahod and the 'encounter' specialist D G Vanjara arrested this week both happen to be close confidantes of chief minister Narendra Modi who had been talking of high moral standards in governance.

 

Being a tribal MP from a remote area, very little is known about Katara but whatever is known exposes the BJP and its 'icon' chief minister. Whatever high moral ground the BJP might strive to occupy now by suspending Katara from the party, it is unlikely that the party and its 'efficient' chief minister was ignorant of his activities.

 

It could be anybody's guess that of the Rs 30 lakh charged by Katara for human trafficking, a substantial part could have gone to the party's coffers. The party with 'high' morals should have become suspicious about why Katara required to visit Canada and the US.

 

Katara was a law unto himself with his brother-in-law having usurped all powers in the tribal area, dictating terms to the people and running extortion rackets. The 'ashramshalas', residential schools for tribal children run by Katara, too were allegedly sources of corruption. Funds from the government flowed to these schools due to Katara's political influence but the teachers were not paid duly.

 

Since chief minister Modi is now engaged in wooing the tribals, Katara's arrest and the exposure of the rackets run by him would be a roadblock in the BJP's game-plan in the region in the election year.

 

On the other hand, the arrest of IPS officer D G Vanjara is a bigger jolt for Modi as it now gives credence to all the allegations about the 'encounters' being fake. Almost all the 'encounters' staged by Vanjara in his capacity as the chief of the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) had coincided with Modi being in deep trouble either from the dissidents in his own party or having been slapped with strictures from statutory bodies like the National Human Rights Commission or Supreme Court.

 

With Vanjara as the ATS chief, the 'encounters' leading to death of Muslim youths allegedly coming to Gandhinagar 'to kill Modi' had become very predictable with the same sequence of events described every time. It was the same story of the 'terrorist' opening fire on being intercepted, the police returning the fire killing the target instantly and no cop receiving even a bruise in the 'encounter'.

 

This happened every time Modi was in trouble for his own misdeeds since he engineered the anti-Muslim riots to divide the society for getting votes by exploiting communal sentiments.

 

ANTI-MODI MOOD PICKS UP

 

Battle-lines are once again being drawn in Gujarat as secular forces are gearing up to take on the communalists spearheaded by 'Hindutva' poster boy Narendra Modi who is now reportedly positioning himself for a higher post in the BJP hierarchy.

 

With the next assembly elections due later this year, the protagonist of the hard-line Hindutva has unleashed a dual strategy of wooing industrialists on the one hand while keeping the communal cauldron boiling by tinkering with the secular fabric off and on.

 

Trying to project himself as a 'development' man, Modi pats his own back for having attracted several thousand crores of investments to the state but remains blissfully ignorant about the plight of thousands of Muslim families who are still unable to return to their home and hearth even five years after they were displaced due to the unprecedented riots engineered to create a communal divide that could fetch votes for the saffron party.

 

Several strictures passed by Supreme Court as well as other statutory bodies like the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and National Commission for Minorities have had no impact on Modi's administration which relentlessly continues to ignore its obligations to its citizens who happen to be Muslims. 

 

Despite being pointed out by NGO reports that nearly 4,500 families are still living in unhygienic and inhuman conditions in more than 65 camps spread over nine districts of central Gujarat, the Modi government has first refused to acknowledge their existence altogether and then denied extending any facilities.

 

Though a delegation of parliamentarians too have endorsed the findings of the NGO study about these camps, the Gujarat government under Modi has cited several alibis for denying facilities like sanitation, drinking water, health services and primary education in these camps.

 

Besides the problems relating to the living conditions in these camps, which can often be attributed to routine administrative lethargy and lapses, more fundamental issue in case of these camps in Gujarat is the reason which is forcing the riot survivors to languish in these camps for so long. The activists of the BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal combine, who should ideally be behind the bars for their roles in the anti-Muslim mayhem of 2002, are not only roaming free but are also threatening the riot survivors to withdraw their complaints as a precondition for return to whatever is remaining of their homes.

 

Obviously, the riot survivors living in these camps are in a Catch 22 situation either to forego their fundamental right to get justice in order to get back home or to give up the idea of returning home if they want to pursue the prosecution process which, in any case, has been sabotaged by the local police under the saffron regime.

 

So chronic is the situation in these camps that the Nanavati-Shah Commission inquiring into the 2002 Godhra riots too has asked the Government to furnish a detailed report about their living conditions and also to probe the allegations that the Muslims are unable to return to their original homes due to threats from the accused.

 

But, despite such continued pursuance of the saffron agenda by the Modi administration and its police, the mobilisation of secular forces in the state is growing. Besides several well attended rallies and public meetings organised by the CPI-M during the last few months, movements by other secular forces too are making their mark.

 

On the fifth anniversary of the post-Godhra riots on February 28, several thousand Muslims and Hindus had walked hand-in-hand through the very streets of Ahmedabad which had seen the worst possible communal violence five years back.

 

Apart from these efforts of restoration of communal amity, there are other ominous signals for the saffron brigade's biggest icon whose vitriolic speeches had earlier kept the listeners spellbound. It is no longer so as recent instances have shown that people start leaving midway through Modi's speech.

 

Unnerved over the possibilities of loosing his grip on the people's sensibilities, Modi is currently on an over-drive to woo different sections of the people. Starting with the tribal belt in the eastern range, Modi is busy addressing rallies to woo the voters in every way possible.

 

But the size and success of the rallies being addressed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi is becoming the cause of concern for Modi and his saffron party. Though the dismal state of Congress in the state is a blessing in disguise for Modi and his party, the people at large are getting disillusioned despite the hype created by Modi about bringing investments. The success of the two rallies of Sonia Gandhi ---- one at Dohod in east and the other at Porbandar in west ---- have indeed sent ominous signals to Modi that all is not well.