Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Land of Elite

Last few days there have been a series of articles saying how and why Narendra Modi cannot be and should not be made the PM. I wondered if this was just ideological disdain for Modi. If it was just disdain in terms of ideology, I am sure the writers, thinktanks, media barons (all now called The Elite in this post) cannot ignore the good he brings to the table. So naturally it is more than just ideological disdain. Then I looked at history, from 80s till today. Realised that there is a blanket dislike for any politician who was born and brought up in an average family in any far-off village or town. Such a person was an outside for these elites till the time he or she does not use his mass appeal and charishma to break into it like Atal Bihari Vajpayee did. Others like Advani, George Fernandes, Sushma Swaraj and many others have not been so lucky. Smallest of their error was magnified to manifold and achivements underestimated. The phrase 'benefit of doubt' is reserved only for the Gandhi family or the politicians who owe complete loyalty to Gandhi family or those from the charmed circles of the metros or from an established political family. Let's take some examples to expose the prejudice of the elite.

1. Just around the time, Mayawati was taken to the cleaners for the mega money garland, similar thing had happened in Maharashtra. President of Maharashtra Congress Manikrao Thakre was openly caught saying how much money he demanded from the CM and other ministers for a rally of Sonia Gandhi. Later at the rally in Wardha, Sonia Gandhi congratulated Thakre for 'arrangements' and patted his back. The same set of 'elite' who cried as if hell had broken loose in Mayawati's case did not utter a word against Sonia Gandhi though both Mayawati and Sonia were guilty of same crime. Just because Mayawati was a Dalit woman not born or married to a royalty? Or because she dared to dream of a place supposedly reserved for the Gandhi Family?

2. This has been long debated hence will be brief. The amount of flak Narendra Modi received for 2002 is multiple times more than what Rajiv Gandhi got for 1984. I have seen people like Vir Sanghvi defending Rajiv but absuing Modi.Again question is why? Just because Modi was a tea-stall boy who made it big and now threatens the Gandhi monopoly? Or because he is an OBC who has scored over all other administrators in terms of good governance?

3. The uproar that we heard when Yeddiyurappa was named in a scam and the relentless pressure that brought his downfall is completely missing when it comes to the far more corrupt deeds of Sheila Dikshit or Naveen Patnaik. Just because he was a rank outsider, a typical rural man with no pretensions to be a city slicker?

4. The set of elites who who sniggered at anyone who questioned the secrecy over Sonia Gandhi's health had no qualms about cracking jokes on Nitin Gadkari's surgery because here was an unknown man (for them) who has taken over a national party and is proving a credible opposition today. Just that fact that he came from a small city in Maharashtra and never hid his discomfort with the air kissing and hypocritical ways of the metro circles, meant he was an outsider and hence can be mocked.

5. R R Patil at the worst can be called an inefficient Home Minister. At no point can he be called a corrupt one. Yet he has drawn more criticism and ridicule from the elites than Prithviraj Chavan, Vilasrao Deshmukh who are equally inefficient and definitely corrupt in latter's case. R R Patil is a small village boy who made it good. His kids study in a public school in his village and RR can barely speak decent Hindi or English. And hence the mockery?

6. Let's see the list of CMs who are currently darlings of the elite (no pun intened). Prithviraj Chavan, Omar Abdullah, Sheila Dikshit are some names that come to mind. But a look at their performance and you will see they don't stand a patch compared to Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar, Raman Singh when it comes to governance. Yet, you will rarely see articles or shows critical of the darling CMs while others are either bashed or ignored

There are many such examples. The point is why such disdain for people from ordinary backgrounds, unknown families and not the so-called higher castes.

India is growing and with that aspirations of people are also growing. And aspirations do not discriminate on basis of family, caste, religion, region or language. We can no longer have a mentality that only some family., some people and some caste can rule India. It is an absolute insult of democracy to have that mindset.

I do not know if any elite would read this post. But if you do, I would be glad to see you prove me wrong with your counter views or atleast you can introspect on whether you are strengthening democracy or weakening it.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let Gujarat be

For long I have resisted the temptation of writing on this subject because a lot has been spoken and written about it. But today as the SC puts the wheels of justice back in place, I might as well pen down by thoughts gathered over these years.

Godhra 2002 and the riots after that were a blot on society just as Sikh Genocide of 1984 or Mumbai riots or Neyveli, Meerut, Bhiwandi, Bhagalpur riots or ethnic cleansing of Pandits in Kashmir. But the fact also remains that this incident has drawn more attention that all other cases of violence in India put together. The skewed attention matrix does draw suspicion to the political and social interests' behind keeping the wounds open.

No discussion of a riot can be complete without understanding the social dynamics at work behing it. Gujarat has seen the maximum number of riots in post independence India. Right from 1967 till late 80s, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat were waylaid by bloody riots every year. Ahmedabad in particular used to witness riots on every Jagannath Rath Yatra. The underworld of Gujarat for long was controlled by gangsters like Latif who enjoyed open political patronage from then Congress governments. This changed in the period post 1990. Congress lost power to JD and BJP alliance. Contrary to the popular belief that Advani's Rath Yatra was divisive, in Gujarat it actually united the otherwise highly fragmented Hindu community. It started the period of Hindus asserting their religious identities. First glimpse of this aggressiveness and anger against local Muslim community (mainly because of the belief that Latif and gangs troubled Hindus the most) was seen in 92 riots. In a way, Gujarat for long was on a tinterbox of Hindu anger and that exploded in 2002. It was also the period when anti-Islamic sentiments were at the peak due to 9/11 and other local reasons mentioned below.

India was out of a bloody war with Pakistan. Kandahar hijack was fresh in public memories and the Parliament attack had happened just a few months ago. The subsequent deployment of the forces on the India-Pakistan border meant there were not much forces to be used within the country at times of an emergency.

After the incident at Godhra happened, it is well-known that Gujarat did ask Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra for additional forces and those states refused the plea. Is it sheer coincidence that all the 3 states were then ruled by Congress? The delay in deploying police and other forces led to the riots spreading across the state except for some parts of Kutch and Saurashtra. Though this can't be a justification, it also means that administration or the ruling class was not hand in glove with the rioters. At the worst, it shows administrative inefficiency and nothing more. But to call these riots a genocide is unfair. 11,000 rounds were fired and most of those killed were Hindus. So in no way was the administration trying to shield the majority community. Also one can rioting happened from both the communities and hence high number of deaths on each side. Figures have no emotion nor any bias and they just tell you the sad story as it was.

Once the riots were over, the long road to recovery meant 3 things - Legal Justice, Political Justice and Reconcilliation. Narendra Modi did the right thing by dissolving the assembly and calling for fresh elections. Only the people of Gujarat had the right to say then if they believed their leader was a murderer or not. Once that was done, he set on to the path of rebuilding Gujarat and confidence of its people. Today that is showing results. Muslims in Gujarat as far more in the mainstream (socially, economically) than most other states. The inclusive development of the state has ensured that the community which languishes in despair in other states is living a life of dignity and prosperity in Gujarat.

Coming to the critical issue of legal justice. Of all riot cases in Indian history, Gujarat riot cases have seen the fastest trials anc convictions. Many of it even before activists like Teesta came to fore. Compare this to 84 where no chargesheet too was filed and hardly anybody has been convicted. Or with Bhagalpur where justice took nearly 2 decades. Congress-NCP government in power for nearly 15 yrs after Mumbai riots have not pushed for legal closure to the cases. More than 4000 cases registered and nearly 25000 people were arrested and brought to trial. More than 40 cases have already seen convictions. This cannot happen if the state is trying to prevent justice. Also point to note is that those arrested and facing trials include politicians both from the BJP and the Congress. Process of Justiceujarat riots cases has been the most unbiased and the faster in the country till date.

For long Narendra Modi has been suffering at the hands of those who believed that justice has to be subservient to their instints and beliefs only. By readily co-operaitng with the probe agencies he has shown his willingness to confront the blot and come out clean. And by ensuring the smooth reconcilliation process he has ensured that hurt feelings of a community are healed.

Now it's only good for India if the vested interests let Gujarat be.