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Debating Islam ( 10 Aug 2010, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Maybe a life in prison would be apt punishment for Narendra Modi

By Ruchir Joshi


I WAS brought up not to celebrate anyone’s death. As happened with many of the other sanskar given to me by parents and elders, this one too was modified in time. I now make an exception at the death of dictators and despots and suchlike, my reasoning being that their passing — whether violent or peaceful — allows a few more rays of relief if not exactly happiness to trickle through onto the longsuffering people below the smog of oppression, and that this momentary sunlight should be celebrated.

The first time this happened was when I heard about Sanjay Gandhi dying in a plane crash: I was in Vermont in north-eastern America, studying in college, when someone informed me a few days after the event and I felt something close to elation surge through me. Suddenly the fear of the dreaded Chhota Beta taking over the country and shafting us all for a second time evaporated. I actually got drunk that night. The next time I celebrated was after another plane crash. I could not believe the ghastly Zia ul Huq, President of Pakistan, butcher and zealot, had gone down, taking with him a few other generals and what I then thought was the CIA chief of operations in the area ( it actually turned out to be the US Ambassador, the CIA chief for some reason not being in the vicinity).

Similarly the happy demise of Ceausescu the Romanian dictator and the hanging of Saddam Hussein brought some joy, though in the case of the latter the execution did not a jot to alleviate the ugly mess of oil and blood the US- UK were gouging out of Iraq.


As I’ve grown older I’ve begun to enjoy a variation on these brutal endings of brutal rulers. While a death of a major villain is still satisfactory, I now realise that the end of a cruel regime is the main thing and if, as happens sometimes, the men who ran the regime survive then that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think back to the sad last days of Idi Amin and Reza Shah Pahlavi, the dethroned Shah of Iran; I remember the arrest and trials of Milosevic and Karadzic; and I savour the humiliation of Donald Rumsfeld and especially Dick Cheney and G. W. Bush as they sat at their dis- inauguration, forced to listen to Obama’s brilliant oratory pronouncing the death sentence on their ‘ideology’. There is a subtler, deeper satisfaction to be drawn from the knowledge that there is no easy escape for certain perpetrators of mass murder and war crimes, no quick way out via a plane crash or by being hung from a lamp- post. It’s in exactly this way that I want Narendra Modi to have a very long and, at least from now on, very painful life.

It’s beautiful watching the beehive of evidence suddenly start to buzz and release its successive, stinging swarms of revelations. It’s totally happy- making to

see the villains cowering and running, selling each other down the river, stabbing each other in the back, pulling each other back down into the cockroach- pit as one after the other of them tries to climb out. As an Indian I’ve been waiting for this to happen for eight years, but as a Gujarati it’s felt more like eighteen.

All through this time we’ve known that Modi and his gang of ministers were responsible for mass slaughter in 2002.

We’ve known that his ‘Proud Gujarat’ was the most shameful state in the country, with the majority of people actually willing to suspend their famed Gujarati common- sense and scepticism and believe in the façades of efficiency, anti- bribery, hygiene and progress. We know that, behind this mask, Modi’s government was dismantling all reasonable checks on business— in the process eviscerating the environment. It was fudging the figures about how many people were really Below Poverty Line. And they were doing all this on top of sabotaging investigations into the 2002 massacres and organising further extra- judicial murders.

Despite knowing this there was little the critics could do. The Congress was hogtied from 2004 till now in prosecuting Modi or any of his gang because of its own orgy of murders in 1984. In the kind of grotesque twist typical of fascist politics, Modi came close to becoming the Prime Ministerial candidate for the country’s chief conservative party. In spite of— or perhaps because of— these widely known facts, the Tatas, Ambanis et al feted Modi as a new Sardar Patel come to save India.


Thankfully, some arcane and obscure dominoes seem to have tripped in the black innards of the ‘deep state’ and this prosecution had finally picked up pace and sprouted some teeth. Maybe one day we will know exactly how this long overdue acceleration came about, perhaps we will not, but there’s little doubt that what is now happening is a good thing for any country claiming or dreaming to be secular, free, democratic and run under the rule of law.

I remember getting into an argument a few years ago, with a well- known PR millionaire at a journalist friend’s house. My panga with Mr PR Man that day was about his closeness to Arun Jaitley, the then Law Minister who had administered

no law against his buddy Narendra Modi and, in fact, done everything in his power to shield him from the fallout of 2002. ‘ I would put Modi against a wall and shoot him tomorrow,’ PR Man said, ‘ but Arun Jaitley is my friend and I will stand by him!’ And what about Jaitley’s loyalty towards Modi? ‘ Well, Modi is a friend of his and Arun doesn’t abandon his friends either! I respect that!’ With Jaitley now solidly caught in the rapidly expanding penumbra of implicated thugs I wonder what Mr PR now has to say. While what happens in Gujarat and to those still ruling it is crucially important, what happens when the storm hits New Delhi will be equally fascinating.

Whose friends will stay loyal to whose buddies who will stay the course with which associates should be a gripping saga.


In the meantime, several of us have fantasised about a fitting end to Narendra Modi. Now that this end looks like it might actually move out of the realm of fantasy into a realistic outcome we can take a small risk on being premature and argue about our preferred scenarios. There is, of course, a fear that the imaginary assassins Modi and his cohorts conjured up might become real, but the danger then is that a spent Modi would be recycled into a martyr.

Nobody sensible on the progressive side would want these would- be assassins to succeed.

Among those of us who want Modi alive and punished, there are those who would really prefer it if the man was sidelined by machinations within his own party, sunk into obscurity, and forced to see the dismantling of his poisonous dream and legacy. Then again, there are others, and this includes myself, who think this would be far too mild a punishment for such a heinous series of crimes. My own choice would be a trial (or a series of them), followed by convictions that lead to a life sentence in prison. It is not Modi but the idea that people high enough in the hierarchy can get away with murder that needs to be executed and buried. A Narendra Modi serving out his time in a long life sentence in rigorous imprisonment would be a good, living tombstone for that.

Source: Mail Today