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Have we been unfair to Narendra Modi?

Last updated on: September 16, 2011 08:48 IST

Have we been unfair to Narendra Modi?

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Vivek Gumaste.

Calling Modi a Hindu Fuehrer doesn't make him one unless one can substantiate the claim. The law demands hardcore evidence shorn of the dramatic and fantastical nuances of journalistic scribblings. That is where the campaign against Modi comes up short, says Vivek Gumaste.

Like a cat with nine lives, Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, has successfully dodged or countered according to one's perspective, every deadly and defamatory missile hurled against him in the last nine years, post 2002 riots, leading one to this binary conclusion: either he is the craftiest man alive with deceptive skills that surpass the cunning of Machiavelli and Chanakya which no investigatory body can unravel, or he is truly innocent.

Maybe it is time to give Modi his due and the Supreme Court did precisely that when it failed to censor him for his supposed inaction during the riots and refused to recommend an FIR against him.

These were not random decisions but pronouncements that factored in the paucity of culpable evidence in the Special Investigation Team report that had been re-examined by court's own amicus curiae. This puts Modi one step closer to being absolved of the heinous charges related to the Gujarat riots.

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Image: Gujarat CM Narendra Modi has successfully dodged every defamatory missile hurled at him
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters
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'Disinformation disseminated to obtain an ideological advantage'

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It is imperative at this stage to refocus on one of the most sensational and most highlighted incident of the riots to appreciate the magnitude of falsehood and disinformation that was deliberately disseminated post the riots to obtain an ideological advantage: the alleged evisceration of a fetus from the womb of a pregnant woman. Kausar Banu.

The SIT report 'found no truth' in the charge that 'a pregnant Muslim woman Kausar Banu was gangraped by a mob, who then gouged out the foetus with sharp weapons.'

I reproduce another news report (OutlookIndia. March 17, 2010. Naroda Patya: Doc Says Kausar Banu Died of Burns) to corroborate this finding:

"Dr Jayant Kanoria, who was in-charge of post-mortem at the city civil hospital in 2002, today told designated judge Jyotsna Yagnik that he had conducted the post mortem on the body of Kausar and two others on March 2, 2002. He said Kausar, who was pregnant, died due to shock after she sustained third degree burn injuries. Kanoria further told the court that there were no external injury marks on her body and the foetus which was also dead was inside her womb."


Image: A policemen walks past a building which was burnt during the post Godhra riots in Gujarat
Photographs: Reuters
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'It has not been a quest for justice but a witch hunt'

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Right from the beginning the hate campaign unleashed against Modi has been both duplicitous in design and vindictive in character, replete with half-truths, hyperbole and blatant lies. It has not been a quest for justice but a witch hunt.

A democratic society prides itself on dispensing justice to one and all, subjecting both prince and pauper to the same legal process and applying the same standards to each one of them. Nowhere has this system gone so awry or made to go awry as in the case of Narendra Modi.

In a democracy, every man is presumed innocent until proven guilty. But with Modi the dictum stands reversed. He has been deemed guilty until proven innocent.

Modi has been subjected to one of the most uncouth and by far the ugliest trial by media that modern India has seen; a trial unfettered by ethical probity;  blatantly one-sided in its approach and one that has rarely provided scope for rebuttal by the accused.

Modi has even been physically hounded out of television studios without being allowed to have his say: not something a democratic country can be proud of.

The media must facilitate the process of justice not usurp its role by playing judge, jury and hangman-all rolled into one. In the case of Modi, the media exceeded its brief by a mile.


Image: A woman protests against atrocities committed during the Gujarat riots
Photographs: Reuters
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'1984 anti-Sikh riots were by far the worst pogrom'

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Calling Modi a Hindu Fuehrer doesn't make him one unless one can substantiate the claim. The law demands hardcore evidence shorn of the dramatic and fantastical nuances of journalistic scribblings. That is where the campaign against Modi comes up short.

With an inimical government at the Centre for the last seven years, one can be rest assured that Modi would have long been confined to a penitentiary, had even a shred of evidence tying Modi to the barbaric crimes of Gujarat 2002 been unearthed.

Comparison with other notorious riots is essential to expose the willful targeting of Narendra Modi. In the Mumbai riots of 1992 that followed the Babri-Masjid demolition, nearly 900 people died: 575 Muslims and 275 Hindus.

In Gujarat 2002 there were 1044 casualties with Muslims accounting for 794 deaths and Hindus 254. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were by far the worst: 3,000 killed with zero Hindu deaths: it was a pogrom in the truest sense of the word. But yet it is only Modi who is held up as the arch villain.


Image: The 1984 anti-Sikh riots were by far the worst: 3,000 killed with zero Hindu deaths

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'Lynching is not compatible with a democracy'

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Nevertheless, Modi cannot exonerate himself from the executive responsibility, distinct from criminal liability; he must bear for the ghastly riots that occurred on his watch. But the extent and magnitude of the blame heaped upon him must be the same as that which can be ascribed to either Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister of India during the anti-Sikh carnage of 1984 or to Congress CM Sudhakar Naik for the Mumbai riots of 1992-1993. Nothing more nothing less.

The recent Supreme Court decision is not the only one that slants in Modi's favour. The Nanavati Commission constituted on March 6, 2002 by a decree in accordance with the constitution of the country to investigate the post Godhra riots cleared Modi of any criminal wrongdoing after painstakingly interviewing 1,106 witnesses and examining 46,000 affidavits.

No part of this discussion is meant to mitigate or justify the horrendous tragedy of Gujarat 2002. Riots should have no place in a modern, vibrant India, period. All riots must be condemned fair and square. These arguments are put forth to view events in the right perspective so that we can firm up the foundation of our democracy.

You can hang Modi from the highest tree in the land only after he has been found guilty by a fair process in a court of law. If not it is called lynching and lynching is not compatible with a democracy.


Image: Modi must bear for the ghastly riots that occurred on his watch

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