THE WEST’S NEW BOGEYMAN
THE NEW BOGEYMAN OF THE WEST
For the past few months now, when we at TGC have been ‘googling’ the Indian election on foreign versions of the popular search engines, we have found stories rife with criticism of Narendra Modi, some comparing him to Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussain combined. These are typically in countries with large Islamic minorities like the UK. (It is a sanctimonious view, denying the history of the west’s never cooperated with despotic leaders in the past).
But do the epiteths ring true? Two decades ago, these were the same accusations being levied at L.K. Advani, who since then got into trouble during a trip to Pakistan in which he extolled the virtues of Mohammed Ali Jinnah, father of that state.
This is something that irks veteran journalist Mark Tully who, born in Calcutta, has deep roots in India spanning more than fourtyyears. “As long as they can make the debate about secularism vs. Hindudtva, the Congress can scare voters into place. But that’s not happening.”
Renowned Journalist, Author, and Global Calcuttan, Mark Tully (he was born in the city)
Modi is accused of failing to stop the massacre of some twelve to fifteen hundred people, around eighty percent of them Muslims during a retaliatory riot for the killings (burning alive of 58 Hindu pilgrims on a train). I asked Mr. Tully during an exclusive interview earlier this yeaer whether such revenge killings were unusual in the context of state politics, and whether the scale actually makes Modi rise to the level of devil. He remarked that Congress did the same thing when Sikhs were massacred en masse after Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984. Mentioning that Rahul Gandhi had said that the Sikh killings were stopped and Godhra wasn’t Mr. Tully’s response is glib “That is utter nonsense. They stopped the killings against Sikhs after maximum carnage was achieved, and the fact that they were able to do so very quickly – let’s remember they had the army at their disposal whereas Modi did not – demonstrates that they could have stopped the carnage much earlier. In fact, arguably, what Congress did in 1984 was worse than what Modi failed to do in 2002. In sheer numbers, around 10,000 Sikhs were killed to one thousand Muslims in Godhra, a difference of ten fold. Does that mean that one muslim is worth the lives of 10 Sikhs as far as electoral politics is concerned? “Yes, says the World Sikh Organization” who is trying to keep the orchestrators of the massacre like Kapil Sibal out of the United States just as similar campaigns were organized for Modi.
Tully continues: “Moreover, it is wrong for any group to murder innocent civilians, whether they are Sikh shopkeepers or Hindu Sevaks – why should a population stand idle when the press reports that nearly 60 religious workers were burnt alive in what would likely have been one of the most cruel and painful ways to die! Would this not cause a riot in other countries?”
In fairness to Modi, he had just come to power, and was still leveraging his hold over the civic machine. Others accuse him of calling up Muslim leaders and taunting them before ordering their bodies to be hacked to death. There has been no evidence of the latter, and Modi was absolved in an inquiry on the matter. But he remains the bogeyman
Sen and his selective outrage
Nobel Laureate and professional opiner, Amartya Sen remarked that he was not in favour of Modi’s premiership, and when asked the credentials of Rahul Gandhi to rule, given his avoidance of responsibility, a lack of running any ministry despite ten years of Congress governance, he remarked “I knew him as a nice affable young man at Harvard.” Hardly a ringing endorsement of his capability to lead; still, he goes at great pains to say what nice guy Rahul is.
Interestingly, Sen, champion of minorities uttered not a single word in criticism of the Congress Government during the Sikh massacres of the 1980s unlike his colleague Jagdish Bhagwat another prominent US-Based economist. The words of Edward Said about the industrial academic being vested with the corridors of power and the organic intellectual who seeks knowledge for its own sake become especially prescient when considering this situation.