A vendor arranges masks of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at his shop in Ranchi. (PTI Photo)
When I interviewed Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in 2012, I had no inkling that this would turn into such a huge controversy. As a journalist, this was a great opportunity to put Modi in the dock and question him on his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Like most of the journalists and secular liberals, I held Modi responsible for the killings that followed the Godhra train burning. Just a week earlier on a TV discussion, I was calling him a fascist. In fact, it was a great surprise to me that he had agreed to grant me an interview.
The way Modi replied to all my questions and allegations calmly was a bit surprising for me. He was logical, factual and rational in replying to most of my queries. After this interview, I started questioning my own inferences about the Gujarat riots and Modi. I realised that they were mostly based on a biased and predetermined image of an RSS pracharak. As liberals, we looked on all of them as communal, bigoted, narrow-minded and anti-minority devils.
I started asking myself: Were these the only riots where justice had been denied to the minorities? Were these different from the Bombay, Bhagalpur or Meerut riots? The argument was that in Gujarat the government and administration allowed the rioters to perpetuate all sorts of atrocities on the Muslims. Compare these to the Meerut Hashimpura killings in 1987, which I had covered extensively. The Provincial Armed Constabulary picked up 70 young boys from their houses and shot them dead though there was no provocation. Not a single police officer or constable was indicted or punished. In the Bombay riots of 1993, the police killed people in Bhindi Bazar at Minara Masjid, according to the Justice Srikrishna Commission report, but no one was ever punished for it. The recent Muzaffarnagar riots proved to be the last straw on the ‘secular’ camel’s back.
In Gujarat the justice system and investigative agencies had done their best to put Modi in the dock. However, they had failed to build up a credible case against the Gujarat chief minister. He had virtually been given a clean chit by all the courts, including the Supreme Court.
I have been asking a question for quite some time: How long are Indian Muslims going to be the slaves of this ‘electoral secularism’, the sole purpose of which is to create fear in the minds of the minorities?
Elections are all about options but for Muslims these options are closed in the name of saving them from communal devils. Those who have pushed them into the worst possible deprivation and backwardness claim to be their only saviours and therefore the only claimants of their votes. Any Muslim who dares to question these is dubbed a communal agent. It is time Muslims stopped supporting or opposing any party or leader unquestioningly.
This is also the moment for the BJP leadership, especially Modi, to understand that governance is not only about forming a government and becoming prime minister; it is also about taking different groups and communities that make a nation along with him.
Shahid Siddiqui is a former MP and editor Nai Duniya. The views expressed by the author are personal.