May 14, 2002


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Rajeev Srinivasan

Predatory intelligentsia -- II

Predatory intelligentsia -- I

Now we come to Exhibit B, verbatim excerpts, as received via email.

Then about 7:00 to 7:15 am the train reached Godhra railway station. All the karsevaks came out from their reserved compartments and started to have tea and snacks, at the small tea stall on the platform, which was being run by an old bearded man from the minority community. There was a servant helping this old man in the stall. The karsevaks on purpose argued with this old man and then beat him up & pulled his beard. This was all planned to humiliate the old man since he was from the minority community. These kar sevaks kept repeating the slogan, "Mandir ka nirmaan karo, Babar ki aulad ko bahar karo. (Start building the mandir and throw out the sons of Babar.) Hearing the chaos, the daughter (16) of the old man who was also present at the station came forward and tried to save her father from karsevaks. She kept pleading and begging to them to stop beating her father and leave him alone. But instead of listening to her woes, the karsevaks lifted the young girl and took her inside their compartment (S-6) and closed the compartment door shut. The train started to move out of the platform of Godhra railway station. The old man kept banging on the compartment doors and pleaded to leave his daughter.

Just before the train could move out completely from the platform, two stall vendors jumped into the last bogey that comes after the guard cabin. And with the intention of saving the girl they pulled the chain and stopped the train. By the time the train halted completely, it was 1km away from the railway station. These two men then came to the bogey in which the girl was and started to bang at the door and requested the karsevaks to leave the girl alone....

Exhibit B is an unsigned Internet email that I got from some readers, purportedly written by Anil Soni, a PTI reporter. I contacted Anil Soni to ask about the veracity of this account. He said, "Some enemy of mine has done this to make life difficult for me. Do you understand, sir? I did not write this at all. I am a PTI correspondent. Yes, that is my phone number, but it is not my writing." He apparently had heard from hundreds of people, and he was very upset.

Exhibit B is clearly mischievous. It is almost believable: a key attribute of good propaganda. Goebbels would have approved. It was sent to me by a dozen people, who told me it was the true story of what happened. Clearly, it has made the rounds of the email lists. It can be seen that Exhibit B is basically Exhibit A with:

a. A number of little rhetorical flourishes added -- imaginative, creative fiction -- and some semi-literate writing added. A fine touch, that!
b. A master-stroke: a poor reporter's name and phone numbers, and that too valid ones, added.
c. An apologia for the Congress mayor of Godhra, a Muslim, who is accused of being the mastermind in the torching of the train, added.

No prizes for guessing who the anonymous author of Exhibit B might be. An axiom: what you see on email is not always the truth, the whole truth or nothing but the truth. See how easily Exhibit B has been manufactured; see how easily large numbers of people have apparently been taken in. And the beast refuses to die even when discredited.

Now we come to Exhibit C.

At Godhra, a similar scene ensued. The karsevaks, now noisily drunk, poured on to the platform, ordered more tea and snacks, consumed them, and then made difficulties. Exactly what transpired between the bearded Muslim stallholder and the travellers varies from one account to another. But all witness accounts seen by The Independent agree that there was a row. "They argued with the old man on purpose," one witness said, on condition of anonymity. "They pulled his beard and beat him up... They kept repeating the slogan 'mandir ki nirmaan karo, Babar ki aulad ko bahar karo'. (Build the temple and throw out the Muslims...)"

Suddenly the row took a dangerous new turn: the karsevaks grabbed hold of a Muslim woman. Her identity, and how she became involved, remains ambiguous, but four different witnesses mention this event. One says it was the 16-year-old daughter of the abused tea-seller. She "came forward and tried to save her father". Another mentions a woman washing clothes by the railway line being hauled away. A third describes how a Muslim girl wearing a burqa and taking a shortcut to school through the station platform was pounced on and dragged into the carriage. All agree that a Muslim woman was hauled into the carriage by the karsevaks, who slammed the door and would not let her go. Refusing to be quoted by name, a local policeman confirms the story.

The woman seized by the karsevaks was dragged into compartment S/6, and word of what had happened began to spread. "The girl began screaming for help," said Ahmed, a wood dealer who was waiting for a train going the other way. "Muslims who were travelling on the train got off. People began pouring on to the platform to try to rescue her. I ran home -- I could see trouble was brewing..."

The train moved off, and the gathering crowd began pelting the carriage with bricks. Inside the train, someone pulled the emergency cord; the train stopped, then moved off again; the cord was pulled again 1km out of the station, and this time the train stopped and stayed stopped. "People in the vicinity... started to gather near the train," says one witness. "The mob... requested that the karsevaks return the girl. But instead of returning the girl, they started closing their windows. This infuriated the mob..."

See how Peter Popham has further embellished the story that Rajeel Sheikh invented? These anonymous 'witnesses' may well be telling a well-rehearsed lie. I am reminded of "lithe and strong like a tiger" from the great Costa-Gavras film Z. This is also an excellent example of how the Western media and Indian media live off each other's lies. Francois Gautier has more than once made the point about the venal foreign press corps in India. Popham seems to be one of the worst offenders:

Now Exhibit D.

GODHRA, India, March 5 - For two days, as the Sabarmati Express snaked across northern India, some Hindu activists in cars S-5 and S-6 carried on like hooligans. They exposed themselves to other passengers. They pulled headscarves off Muslim women. They evicted a family of four in the middle of the night for refusing to join in chants glorifying the Hindu god Ram. They failed to pay for the tea and snacks they consumed at each stop. When the train pulled into this hardscrabble town in Western India on the morning of Feb. 27, the reputation of its rowdiest passengers preceded it. When they refused to pay for their food, Muslim boys among the vendors at Godhra station stormed the train....

'Hindu activists' were 'hooligans', but Muslim 'boys' (so innocent!) stormed the train. Clearly, the wives and daughters of the 'hooligans' deserved to be incinerated by the offended 'boys'. Chandrasekharan claims that Hindus stockpiled rocks on the train. Yes, in the ladies' reserved compartment. He also claims that there were cooking gas cylinders and kerosene containers on board the train, and that these were what had caught fire: not firebombs and Molotov cocktails thrown by the Muslim mob. Innovative, inventive fiction writers indeed are the purveyors of 'secularism'!

If this reporter had been in Rwanda during the time of their troubles, I suspect he would have accused the Tutsis burned to death in churches of provoking their Hutu murderers by, among other things, pleading for their lives. Or then, maybe not: his contempt is reserved for Hindus.

Not once does Chandrasekharan, or anybody else, mention that the murdered were Hindu pilgrims, going at their own expense on a long and tiring rail journey to a site holy to them. They are 'activists', 'extremists', 'fundamentalists'. In contrast, Muslim pilgrims going on pilgrimage to their holy sites get a subsidy from the Indian government to fly in comfort to Jeddah. This probably wouldn't strike an impartial observer from Mars as entirely fair.

Let us remember that Rajiv Chandrasekhar was in the news during the Afghan war for getting kicked out of Pakistan by Musharraf's minions, for the 'crime' of being of Indian origin. His behaviour here smacks of someone trying to demonstrate that he is more sympathetic to Islam than Muslims themselves are. Dhimmitude (or is it 'dhimmitva'?) leaps to mind. Maybe Musharraf will now invite him to Pakistan, now that he has demonstrated what a good little 'secularist' he is. All is forgiven, Rajiv!

Finally, Exhibit E is in a class by itself. It is not about Godhra, but about the riots in Gujarat that followed. It is written by a person who got a lot of credibility solely (and this is a critical point, as nobody had heard of Harsh Mander before) by identifying himself as a serving IAS officer who is on deputation to an NGO.

This brings up some interesting questions right there: why are IAS officers deputed to NGOs? Why this straddling of two worlds? We have heard a lot about NGOs being tools for all sorts of Western agendas, especially evangelism, in India.

Numbed with disgust and horror, I return from Gujarat ten days after the terror and massacre that convulsed the state. My heart is sickened, my soul wearied, my shoulders aching with the burdens of guilt and shame. As you walk through the camps of riot survivors in Ahmedabad, in which an estimated 53,000 women, men, and children are huddled in 29 temporary settlements, displays of overt grief are unusual. People clutch small bundles of relief materials, all that they now own in the world, with dry and glassy eyes. Some talk in low voices, others busy themselves with the tasks of everyday living in these most basic of shelters, looking for food and milk for children, tending the wounds of the injured. But once you sit anywhere in these camps, people begin to speak and their words are like masses of pus released by slitting large festering wounds. The horrors that they speak of are so macabre that my pen falters in the writing. The pitiless brutality against women and small children by organised bands of armed young men is more savage than anything witnessed in the riots that have shamed this nation from time to time during the past century...

What can you say about a woman eight months pregnant who begged to be spared. Her assailants instead slit open her stomach, pulled out her foetus and slaughtered it before her eyes. What can you say about a family of nineteen being killed by flooding their house with water and then electrocuting them with high-tension electricity...

I have never known a riot, which has used the sexual subjugation of women so widely as an instrument of violence in the recent mass barbarity in Gujarat. There are reports every where of gang-rape, of young girls and women, often in the presence of members of their families, followed by their murder by burning alive, or by bludgeoning with a hammer and in one case with a screw driver....

I'm afraid Harsh Mander's report is also literally incredible, but it shows a flair for fiction. The purple prose and hyperbole, the wringing of hands and beating of breasts, the stories about pregnant woman being disembowelled and mass rapes, and in particular the truly novel bit about mobs dressed in khakhi shorts and wearing saffron sashes (RSS uniforms, to the uninitiated); all this seems a little overblown. Mander has taken reports from every known pogrom and attributed them all to Gujarat, with a little local colour thrown in about saffron sashes. I like that detail: as though the RSS were stupid enough, with plenty of television cameras around, to parade around in their regalia even if they were the culprits.

Consider, for example, Mander's assertion that sexual violence against women in Gujarat was on an unprecedented scale (this is calculated to get emotions running high in the Muslim community which is very proprietary about its women's virginity and chastity: note the honour killings of women that take place widely in Muslim nations). The National Commission of Women said "that the reports on crimes against women belonging to the minority community are exaggerated and that sexual violence did not take place 'on that scale'."

What is also interesting is how his righteous indignation at minorities being hurt was not triggered by the December 2001 incidents of Hindus being murdered, raped, ethnically cleansed and deported from Bangladesh, even though he is responsible for the entire subcontinent for his NGO. Also, where was his indignation when in 1984 several thousand Sikhs were massacred by Congress goons in Delhi? Why, is it only Muslim pain that causes Mander to hurt?

Mander is with ActionAid, a British 'charity'. Is Mander's anguish the official voice of ActionAid? If so, why is a foreign NGO, especially one that has been accused of covert Christian evangelism, interfering in India's internal affairs? If not, why does ActionAid refuse to distance itself from Mander's reports? (Krishen Kak, a retired IAS officer, who filed a complaint about Mander, did contact them several times, but they refused to comment.) Is the alleged fact-finding mission's report from Britain that has caused such a furore based on ActionAid/Mander's liberally embroidered 'findings'?

I would also like to know what ActionAid does for the Hindus and Sikhs being massacred systematically and regularly in Jammu & Kashmir. What has Mander done for the 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits in refugee camps? Without evenhandedness, Mander is grandstanding. I wonder if he has political ambitions. I have seen his email that suggests he decided to abandon the IAS two years ago, but chose to have his cake (the IAS as a fallback option with full pension and benefits) and eat it too (enjoy the lavish MNC perks of an NGO). Perhaps like Arundhati Roy he is also planning to become a martyr en route to greater things (Nobel Peace Prize in her case, politics in his?). His highly publicised 'resignation' from the IAS may have been part of this planned show of conscience.

With motivated friends like these 'intellectuals' above, who says India needs enemies?

Let me also give you a few other snippets I have gathered with much trouble from the media. These relate to the events in Godhra before the train was attacked.

1. A group of outsiders from the extremist Deobandi Tableeghi Muslim sect had taken over the mosques in Godhra and deliberately inflamed passions (India Today, March 18, 2002)
2. 500 cows were slaughtered illegally in Bharuch in February. Cow slaughter is prohibited in Gujarat, and Hindus consider this a deliberate provocation by Muslims (Outlook, April 1, 2002)
3. Firefighters testified that when their tenders rushed to the scene of train fire, they were prevented from reaching the scene by a mob led by Haji Bilal, one of the main accused (India Today, date unknown, and The Hindustan Times, March 18, 2002)
4. The original plan was to torch the entire Sabarmati Express at a place called Chanchlav, near Godhra. This was revealed by a SIMI militant named Hasim, alias Syed Raza. The plot was foiled because the train was late by five hours (The Pioneer, April 18, 2002 and Gujarat Samachar, date unknown).
5. The intent was to create massive communal disturbances all over the country (The Pioneer, April 18, 2002 and Gujarat Samachar, date unknown).

So why are these apparent facts, which buttress the suggestion that the Godhra massacre was not spontaneous, but part of a planned communal conflagration, not debated in the media? The intent, and to some extent the outcome, are clear: to divert all of India's attention away from the war situation with Pakistan; to cause yet another Budget to become ineffective; to help the Congress come to power; to make Indians defensive and thus more likely to cave into pressure on other items.

Finally, I repeat myself: why has nobody published the details about the nameless victims of the Godhra massacre? Why is it that the public is being told to think of them as mere numbers, in fact 'Hindu militants', 'Hindu activists', etc which imply that they got what they deserved? These were just pilgrims; despite looting Hindu temples, the Indian State does not provide Hindu pilgrims with subsidised travel, for instance to Manasarovar.

I repeat myself again: the English-language media and the alleged 'intelligentsia' of India are a major part of the problem, as they suffer from self-imposed dhimmitude and the Marxist propensity for lies on a gross scale. Until they learn to at least have a semblance of evenhandedness, they will continue to be mere Pied Pipers: evil people, Ugly Journalists with no ethics, leading people to their doom.

Gujarat: The complete coverage

Rajeev Srinivasan

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