By Ram Jethmalani
17th April 2014
An unusual combination of communal incidents occurred recently. The first, Sonia Gandhi’s shopping spree for “secular” votes from a religious head, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari—the ultimate in surrealism—and in complete contempt for the Election Code of Conduct. As if the Imam is a wholesale dealer of vote banks, and she a bulk buyer. Yes, this is the same Imam who called upon Muslims to boycott the Anna movement against corruption, saying that Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata Ki Jai are against Islam.
The second was a strangely uncharacteristic article in The Economist, Bagehot’s child, universally respected for its erudition, analysis, and unbiased reporting. For reasons unknown, but full of sinister possibilities, the magazine thought it appropriate to give unsolicited advice to the people of India about who they should elect as their leaders. Almost, as if they were still the imperial power with complete authority to interfere in the election of their colony. Their lead article “Can anyone stop Narendra Modi?” arrogantly hectors that “though Modi will probably become India’s next prime minister that does not mean he should be”. Unseemly, to say the least, that a respectable magazine straight from the mother of democracy, believes its diktat can substitute for the democratic will and mandate of the people, as it did in the days of the Raj and Viceroys, when the white man thought he knew best what was good for his burden.
Why does The Economist disapprove of Modi? The reasons stated are almost a verbatim reproduction of the tired, Goebellesian broken record, repeated ad nauseam by Congress party spokespersons and their communal allies during the last decade—that “he is a man who has thrived on division” and that he is “still associated with sectarian hatred”. The usual unsubstantiated, false propaganda, or perceptional accusations without evidence, smacking of prejudice, which lead one to conclude that it could only be Goebellesian infection, if not mutation of the Murdochian virus.
The Economist, like its Congress party counterparts, blame Modi for the Godhra riots, showing no concern whatsoever about the 59 Hindu victims burnt alive by Muslim miscreants in the Godhra train; for the Ayodhya aftermath; for making communal speeches “early in his career”, without even verifying that his early speeches reflect only patriotism and secularism, without a trace of communalism—the common cause of Gujaratis, the power of oneness, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas.
It continues its false declarations with great authority and zero evidence that “one reason why the inquiries into the riots were inconclusive is that a great deal of evidence was lost or wilfully destroyed”. But what The Economist deliberately conceals is the conclusive evidence that much of the complaints and allegations against Modi were found to be false, fabricated and orchestrated.
Surprising that The Economist should find Modi seriously culpable for not explaining or apologising for the riots. It surely knew that over the last decade, Modi was swamped by enquiries and commissions from all directions, at all levels, including the Supreme Court, and that any public discussion of matters sub judice, is frowned upon by the courts as improper. These are practices of the Anglo-Saxon legal system adopted in India since British rule.
Clutching superficial symbolisms, the most serious charges that The Economist could ferret against Modi were the “Puppy” comment and the “Topi” event, while deliberately concealing the context of both instances. It chooses to ignore Modi’s concrete intent and action for the evolving positive Muslim-Modi dynamics in India, and makes its most incendiary statement that “Mr Modi might start well in Delhi but sooner or later he will have to cope with a sectarian slaughter or a crisis with Pakistan…” This can only be read as a shocking, inflammatory statement inciting Hindu Muslim violence. Any truly secular government worth its salt should have by now hauled them up for the gravest charges of inciting communal violence and rioting.
Hindu Muslim riots were a legacy left behind by the Raj who saw great merit in them for effective control over India. British India, across its length and breadth, was riddled with gruesome Hindu Muslim riots, costing enormous human lives. In accordance with British tradition of justice and fair play, The Economist could well start its search for accountability, responsibility, and apology with the “pogroms” that happened under British rule. To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t heard any apology yet.
India couldn’t care less whether The Economist backs Modi or not, or whether it prefers corruption to a firm, decisive leader who will take India forward. Fight your colonial hangover and concentrate on your own backyard, where religious riots get hidden under the euphemism of racial riots. And in keeping with your own advice and recommendations, the British Prime Minister could also be requested for explanations and apologies for the Bradford, Tottenham or Woolwich riots, to name just a few, or how to make British society more inclusive and less divisive. India will look after itself.
Strong Hindu leadership seems to make the world nervous. A strong India where majority of the people can move forward, united in harmony, disturbs the international balance of power. That is why lopsided double standards keep getting disseminated as articles of faith. No accusation of communalism is ever expressed at the Queen’s titles—Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, or at Margaret Thatcher extolling Christian values, or David Cameron saying that “the UK is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so”. Substitute the UK with India, and the word Christian with Hindu, and watch the “secular” explosion of double standards in the Western world, and in the divisive Congress party.
Let me put a very simple question to The Economist. Hindus constitute around 1.5 % of Britain’s population, the second largest religious minority. Can the UK identify the religious community with whom they have had no public order, racial or faith problems? So, if Hindus are such a tolerant and peace-loving lot in the UK, why does The Economist perceive them as otherwise back in India?
The concluding lines of The Economist piece describe it best—“there is nothing modern, honest or fair about that. India deserves better”. Yes, indeed it does.
Ram Jethmalani is a well-known lawyer and politician. He has served as Union Law Minister and Chairman, Bar Association.