Monday, October 15, 2012

‘Why should I feel regret? Why should I be forgiven?’

Gujarat CM blames media for projecting him as communal and biased

Narendra Modi has no regrets about the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. So, the question of apologising — to Muslims or to the country — does not arise for the Gujarat chief minister.
“If my government is at fault... I have committed this crime, then I should not be forgiven, I should be hanged in public in such a way that it remains a lesson for 100 years so that nobody dares to [commit such a crime],” he said in an interview to Urdu weekly Nai Duniya. Speaking to Shahid Sidiqqui, editor of the weekly and a Samajwadi Pary leader, Modi fended off questions with his own logic, which often did not follow what the RSS has maintained for years.
Though much of what Modi said about his government’s role in the riots was not new, the interview was significant because he aired his views to an Urdu weekly for the first time and the editor of the periodical is a Muslim and a former MP now with the Samajwadi Party.
Modi’s assertion appeared to be a veiled challenge to anyone holding him responsible for the riots to prove beyond doubt that he was at fault. Activist Teesta Setalvad said Modi need not have been so melodramatic in the interview, which is “clearly a PR exercise keeping elections in mind”.
“All that Modi has to do is to surrender himself before the magistrate’s court hearing the Zakia Jafri case and say he is willing to be prosecuted under sections 166 and 153 (a&b) of the IPC, as recommended by amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran,” she said.
Siddiqui, who has been at the centre of a storm for speaking to Modi, told DNA that he went to Gandhinagar as a journalist and not as a Samajwadi politician. “As a journalist, I have certain responsibilities as well as freedoms,” he said. “I interviewed Indira Gandhi soon after she lost power in 1977. Later, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani as well.
“I had set a condition before Sanjay Baosar, Modi’s secretary, that his boss would answer all my questions and that he would not leave the interview midway in a huff.”
Blaming the media and people with vested interests for projecting him as communal and biased, Modi said his government boasts of 12-13% Muslim employees when Muslims constitute only 9% of the population in Gujarat. In West Bengal, Muslims constitute 25% of the population; but their presence in employment is only 2%, he said. And Bengal is not the only state with such figures; there are many other “secular and progressive” states where only 2-4% of state government employees are Muslims.
Modi highlighted what his government had done for Muslims: at least 36 Muslim biradaris in Gujarat enjoy reservations and the dropout rate of girl students is down to 2% from 40%, he said. Rejecting allegations that the army was called in late during the riots, he said Ahmedabad and other cities were in the army’s control on March 1, a day after riots broke out on February 28. “My detractors forget that February has just 28 days. They need to think before abusing me on this count."

Riot trial
The Gujarat government has secured conviction in 50 cases, which is higher than in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “The media persecutes me for two cases which were taken outside Gujarat. But it forgets that even in these cases, the courts relied on the investigations of the Gujarat police,” he said. “In the Bilkis Bano case, you will be surprised to know that those convicted were arrested by the Gujarat police and those acquitted were the ones arrested by the CBI.”

Fake police encounters
The courts were adjudicating 12 encounters allegedly engineered by the Gujarat police. But what about the UP police’s 393 encounters when Mayawati was the chief minister, Modi asked. “Even the NHRC has termed 400 encounters that took place in the past decade fake. All those should be investigated,” he said. “Why single out only Gujarat encounters?”

No Akhand Bharat
He rejected the idea of the RSS and other Hindu organisations of uniting India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to form Akhand Bharat because it would only lead to a Muslim majority in the region. It would be a continuous source of friction and tension, he said. Those with an imperialistic mindset in Pakistan were campaigning for the unification of these countries.