December 06, 2007 23:27 IST
Those closely following the Gujarat election campaign maybe excused for believing that there is no sane voice coming out of the cacophony.
There are a few, actually, and the person well-heard among the usual noises about Hindutva, Sohrabuddin, riots, etc is the Ahmedabad-based Achyut Yagnik, 62, author, thinker and social activist.
On the eve of a crucial election to the Gujarat assembly, Yagnik appeared on the Rediff Chat to highlight issues that are getting lost in the din over personality-based politics.
Here's the chat transcript:
Achyut Yagnik says, Hello everyone, I am ready for your questions.
Saveen asked, What do you think are the good things done by the Modi government in the past 5 years?
Achyut Yagnik answers, It is difficult to give answer because he has raised Gujarati parochialism and supported only big industries. In the process poor communities of Gujarat like tribals, Dalits, fisher folks have been marginalized. At least 20 percent of Gujarati people are below poverty line.
Parab asked, Modi will win He will take 102 seats in Gujarat. He will be the chief Minister. This is my opinion
Achyut Yagnik answers, Situation is very fluid. So it is next to impossible to predict 102 seats for anyone.
l asked, r u from Gujarat? If yes moved out as it is not civil society...if no then stop as it is not your business
Achyut Yagnik answers, I am from Gujarat and I live in Ahmedabad for the last 40 years. When we use the term civil society, we are referring to voices other than state and market forces.
pkp asked, What Mr Modi said about Sohrabuddin Murder case is in retaliation to the Sonia Gandhi [Images] remark about him Mout ka saudagar. What you say?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Earlier Supreme Court also compared Modi with Roman Emperor 'Nero' who played music while Rome was burning. Sohrabuddin case is still pending in the Supreme Court and if you refer to that case it shows blatant disregard for the rule of law. Without rule of law, no democratic society can survive.
K Chakrapani asked, Sir, Is it true that average Gujarati has come to support Hindutva, loosing secular credentials. If not what was the reason for the failure of so called secular opposition?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Mostly, urban middle class supported Hindutva and development model prescribed by Mr Narendra Modi [Images]. The vocal Gujaratis have been communalized and there is a fear among sane Gujaratis to speak out against injustice.
vipul rajyaguru asked, on what basis you are saying that 20% of the Gujarati people living BPL -- I have numbers that will show that this number is just below 4-5%
Achyut Yagnik answers, There are number of studies showing the below poverty line people in Gujarat. Since last 25 years, my organization (SETU) is working with rural poor and I have seen with my own eyes the poverty in many parts of Gujarat.
vipul rajyaguru asked, what is your take on media collective taking anti-Modi side in election ? I believe that media should be impartial.
Achyut Yagnik answers, I don't think media is partial. I was a journalist for 10 years (1970-80). I can see that national media and language media operate on different premises.
rsm asked, Why congress is not referring to post-Godhra Riot in its election campaign. Do they think secular votes are their birth right or they are afraid that fundamentalists are in majority at Gujarat.
Achyut Yagnik answers, Congress is not referring to post Godhra riots because large number of Congressmen believe in soft Hindutva.
Mahendra asked, In my opinion, Hindus today are feeling insecure because of the biased shown by "Secular" parties against them. Note I'm not blaming Muslims for the current state of Hindus (excl. past, see history for past). In my opinion, if the 'Secular' term is removed from our constitution, initially we might experience some hick-up, but it'll lead to lasting peace and prosperity for ALL of her citizens. Your comment please.
Achyut Yagnik answers, Let me tell you that we always believe in Sarva Dharma Samabhav (Equal respect for all religion). Even in Gujarat, Narsi Mehta in 15th century or Gandhiji in 20th century advocated respect for all religion. And they both propagated peaceful and harmonious social relationship between all the communities. This suggests that secularism is inherent in Indian including Gujarati tradition.
HDave asked, Mr SOB, are you congressi or what? After Gujarat riots, there is no single incidence of riots reported in Gujarat.
Achyut Yagnik answers, I am not in Congress party and I have never been in any party. It is incorrect to say that no single riots took place in Gujarat after 2002. Vadodra witnessed bloody riots in 2006.
PrdGuj asked, Mr Achyut, I agree what ever happened in Gujarat after Godhra was wrong, but don't we have to put this in perspective of the atrocities committed through out India by Islamic fundamentalists? For ideology which resembles Hitler's [Images] own, we cannot apply Gandhian philosophy. It needs to be the Churchill's response.
Achyut Yagnik answers, I believe in Gandhian philosophy and I strongly feel that Hindu tradition always preached peace and non-violence. Please note, against Churchill Gandhi used non-violence as a weapon to free India.
ray asked, man i would suggest if your are in Muslim Majority country you don't have right to express freedom, Do u want India towards this MESS?
Achyut Yagnik answers, It varies from one Muslim country to other Muslim country. In Indonesia, the highest number of Muslims reside and you have hardly any complaints about discrimination either by christians or Hindus.
Plato asked, Isn't your response demonstrate your clandestine proximity towards Congress party?
Achyut Yagnik answers, I stand for liberal India and peaceful India. If Congress is not working towards equity and justice I will oppose and have done so in the past.
Viral asked, I remember being in Ahmedabad before Godhra riots. There will be a riot every six months and it was difficult for the people to reach the railway station during riots. After Godhra riots, Ahmedabad is virtually peaceful and developing. 5 years back people considered Ahmedabad as the worst city to live in India. Now it's one of the best cities. How do you justify that?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Living in Ahmedabad, I won't say it is the best city in India. Certainly, Ahmedabad is expanding but you find number of slums and marginalization of poor including Dalits. It is very difficult for a Dalit to get a house either on rent or purchase in so called posh locality of Ahmedabad.
SOB asked, Hello Sir, I do not think that our country is going to improve in a 100 years here people hate each other in the name of religion and are ready to kill each other. They think Rama Allah and Jesus will come and do their development work. More than education, health etc they are more bothered about some stone temple or mosque. What is the future for a country like this? No wonder goons like Modi rule. What is your opinion sir?
Achyut Yagnik answers, It is for all of us including you to realize this and work towards better India. Future belongs to our generation and be positive and optimistic.
R Rahul asked, Are you blind to killings of hundreds of innocent people in Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Hyderabad, Coimbatore? Where is your secularism then?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Terrorist in India are coming from number of communities. While you find them in LTTE, all Hindus killing Rajiv Gandhi, you also find Sikh militancy. There is no point showing only Muslims in negative light. Even the Naxalites belong to number of Hindu communities.
dhaval asked, Dear Sir, Everybody talks about Secularism. Isn't congress and other party favouring one religion i.e. Muslim when they talk about providing reservation to them? What kind of pseudo secularism is that?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Muslim community are covered under other backward communities. Even today, 28 Muslim communities are getting benefit of reservation under OBC category.
kamath asked, Taslima was attacked in Hyderabad yet no case has been registered against her attackers. Is law only for Hindus? Also what about Muslims who offered reward for attacking Taslima? Are they not provoking people to take law into their hands?
Achyut Yagnik answers, In Vadodra, a backward Hindu boy was attacked by Hindutva mob. Instead of taking action against the mob that gate crashed 'fine arts faculty of MS University' that poor boy was arrested. As far as Taslima is concerned, I certainly believe that artistic freedom should be respected and Muslim liberal voices should also speak out against fundamentalist tendencies among their community.
viv asked, Mr Yagnik, compared to other states, I think Gujarat is doing a lot better for tribals and Dalits? When u see situation in India compared to Gujarat, Gujarat is much better off. Development of all the regions is a slow process. Don't you think Modi should be given more time?
Achyut Yagnik answers, If Dalits and tribals of Gujarat are better off the credit should go to Gaikwad (Maharaja of Baroda) who introduced free and compulsory education in the beginning of 20th century. And Gandhi who started constructive works among these communities.
Tarzan asked, What according to you is the fundamental difference between this Gujarat election & the last one? If the equations haven't changed much, which is my take, Modi still has a fair chance in spite of anti-incumbency. The media frenzy doesn't translate to change in voting pattern. Right??
Achyut Yagnik answers, Compared to last elections, Hindutva forces are divided. There exist three shades among Hindutva forces, soft Hindutva, Modi brand Hindutva and hard Hindutva represented by VHP and the Hindu saints who are opposing Narendra Modi.
Achyut Yagnik answers, Mr Modi has shown blatant disregard for rule of law in Sohrabuddin case. Congress has not taken up the issue and therefore no party will get any benefit out of the controversy.
ramankumar asked, sir , everybody is discussing post godhra riots and learned people r replying with great anxiety BUT no body is ref why it happened ???????
Achyut Yagnik answers, Godhra train burning incident is not forgotten in Gujarat. And the people who died in the train are forgotten even by Hindutva forces. The relatives of the deceased continuously complain about injustice meted out to them. And now, Nanavati Shah Commission is looking into that incident and they have already visited the site of Godhra.
Ishwar asked, Why u r so Anti Modi ? Where were you when congress ruled for so many years and riots in their rule...? U seems an old guy so u must have seen all these?
Achyut Yagnik answers, I am anti-Modi because he is authoritarian, megalomaniac and believes in personality cult. I was coordinator of Ahmedabad Ekta-a citizen's initiative right from 1985 and spoke against communal riots even during Congress rule.
mrk asked, Mr. Achyut, Has Mr. Modi done nothing good to Gujarat. You are only pointing out at these deficiencies
Achyut Yagnik answers, Modi has not done anything good for Gujarat. Corruption is part of the system; he has only supported big industrialists at the cost of medium and small industries. He is a demagogue and packages all his activities in attractive format to fool the people.
lucas asked, Do you think an Italian should be head of India' oldest party?
Achyut Yagnik answers, Sonia Gandhi is no more an Italian citizen. She is an Indian citizen and she belongs to a Gujarati Parsi family of Feroze Gandhi who was the husband of late Mrs Indira Gandhi [Images].
Pranav asked, Why the media is shy of depicting gory stories of riots of 1992 or 1987 When they are going ga ga ga over the incidents happened after Godhra Train Carnage? For example, the killings of people in Biscuit Gali in Ahmedabad and torching of 5 people in the house in Dabgarwad in Dariapur area of Ahmedabad? If you say that hundreds of Muslims are still living in relief camps what about those Hindus who were forced to sell their properties in walled city area of Ahmedabad at throw away prices after the riots of 1992 and the phenomenon is still continuing?
Achyut Yagnik answers, In Ahmedabad, Hindus and Muslims sold their houses out of fear to live in their own areas. Whenever any community finds that they are surrounded by other communities they vacate their houses and prefer to live among their own community or caste.
sandip asked, Why haven't social activists come forward when thousands of Kashmiri Hindus were literally massacred and forced out of their respective homes? Still 4 lakh Kashmiri Hindus are staying either in Jammu or outside Jammu as refugees. In Kashmir valley hundreds of Hindu temples have been destroyed by Muslims! What have so called social and human activists done for Kashmiri Hindus??? Or is it only Muslims in India have human rights?
Achyut Yagnik answers, There are number of human right organizations in Delhi and elsewhere in India who raised the issue of Kashmiri Hindu and Muslims. You can search that on Internet and get details.