People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
November 04, 2007
Tehelka Expose: Centre’s Apathy ‘Reprehensible’
DISTINGUISHED speakers on October 31 expressed their outrage at the dehumanisation of the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat State machinery as brought out by the Tehelka expose and voiced deep concern over the centre’s dismal failure to act on incontrovertible evidence against the perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage.
They were speaking at a seminar on “Ramifications of Tehelka expose on Gujarat”, organised jointly by the Delhi Union of Journalists(DUJ) and the Kerala Union of Working Journalists(KUWJ) in the capital.
Noted jurist Prashant Bhushan said that the importance of the Tehelka expose on Gujarat carnage of 2002 was that ‘for the first time, we have the truth coming straight from the mouths of perpetrators of the crime, and seeing them confessing to it. The expose is also a graphic confirmation of reports of various other commissions and human rights bodies who had probed the incidents.
Bhushan also said that the expose brought out the fact that the riots were not spontaneous but stage-managed and fully aided and abetted by the chief minister and the state administration.
Terming the Congress and the prime minister’s response as disappointing, he said the expose should have led to immediate action on the part of the central government as it was a fit and textbook case for bringing the state under President’s rule. The expose, he said, had made it clear that the government in the state could not be carried on in accordance with the Constitution. .
In his address, former chief justice of the Delhi High Court and renowned human rights activist Justice Rajinder Sachar lamented the perceptible lack of political will to fight the forces of communal fascism. Even as he praised the role played by media and civil society in exposing the Gujarat carnage, he said the principal battle has to be fought by the political parties. No sting operation is bad because it brings out the truth, he said.
Recounting how the idea of the expose on Gujarat originated and the painstaking work done by the reporter Ashish Khetan, Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal said the story had now become a benchmark for the magazine.
Refuting the criticism in a section of the media about the timing of the story, Tejpal said it had nothing to do with the forthcoming elections in Gujarat. Had the work on the story been completed two months earlier, it would have immediately been put out.
Tejpal said the story clearly established that whereas the Godhra train fire incident was a spontaneous reaction, the riots that broke out in its wake were conspiratorial and planned by the State machinery.
Tejpal regretted that even after six days of publication of the story, the prime minister has not said a word about it. The media, which should have picked it up and campaigned relentlessly for bringing the guilty to book, had also not risen to the occasion.
Eminent writer Arundhati Roy said the age of moral outrage was over. The Gujarat carnage was very much a part of the election campaign and were engineered to polarise voters on communal lines as Modi had lost the earlier municipal elections.
The terrible pogrom has raised a few questions, said Arundhati. Is Gujarat a part of India? Do the laws of India apply there? What should the Muslims of Gujarat do? Where should they go? And how should they live? asked an anguished Roy, adding that the prime minister must answer these questions. “There is gangrene in India and it is spreading fast,” said Roy adding that “when fascism comes, it does not help being a Hindu.”
In her paper sent for the occasion, eminent lawyer and civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad said: “Ironically, to be rational and honest, however, Gujarat only capsules sharply and encapsulates what in acute measure has been insidiously and openly growing within the Indian polity, gaining sanction and legitimacy over the past decades. “
“Bombay 1992-1993 pre-cursed Gujarat 2002 and the guilty of anti-Muslim pogrom won political power and also escaped punishment. Policemen accused of active participation in the violence escaped any punishment”, Teesta said.
A resolution moved by DUJ president S K Pande condemned the attempts by the Gujarat government to muzzle the press by imposing bans on TV channels. The resolution expressed dismay at the ‘ominous silence’ of the central government on the issue.
Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) president Prashant Raghuvamsham proposed a vote of thanks.