Saturday, March 3, 2012

Godhra poses questions for Gujarat model


Ten years on, what does Godhra represent in the collective life of

the country? The burning of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra, and
the horrific state-wide riots that followed, shocked the nation as
they represented the first mass upsurge of communal violence in the
era of 24x7 television news coverage. While the violence was limited
by the state’s boundaries, they were broadcast into the nation’s
drawing rooms. And that itself is a suspicious circumstance – why, if
the violence was spontaneous as sangh parivar proponents claim, did it
confine itself to the territory administered by the Gujarat state
government, where chief minister Narendra Modi’s writ ran? Direct
culpability of the Modi government in the riots hasn’t yet been proved
in a court of law. Indeed, top politicians and administrators are
rarely indicted in India on charges of provoking communal violence,
which is one reason that they recur. But a recent Gujarat high court
judgment came close, censuring the Modi government for inaction and
negligence during the riots and ordering it to pay compensation for
over 500 razed religious structures.
Indeed, the wealth of circumstantial evidence that has emerged of
state complicity in the riots can’t simply be countered by claiming
that people are ‘conspiring’ against Gujarat or against Modi
personally, as his supporters tend to do. Whenever governments are
stuck in conspiracy theory mode, you know that something is fishy. The
taint hanging over Modi’s government is a tragedy, as it has
demonstrated good governance in so many other respects. Having clocked
10% growth annually over the last decade, Gujarat’s economic
performance stands out. Had the 2002 riots – which sowed fundamental
doubts about Modi’s intentions – not occurred, he could easily have
leveraged Gujarat’s economic miracle to promote himself as the BJP’s
front-running prime ministerial candidate. Instead, he finds himself
reduced to fasting and sulking alternately.


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