Whenever incidents like police encounters happen in Gujarat, the BJP has a standard argument: riots and encounter deaths have taken place in other parts of the country too, and the BJP never asked for the Prime Minister’s resignation. So why is Narendra Modi singled out for special treatment?
Apart from digressing from the main issue and creating confusion, the BJP’s argument serves no real purpose. If we carry the party’s argument to its logical conclusion, then it seems the BJP justifies repetition of Hitler’s ethnic cleansing, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Jewish pogroms. Such inaccurate reasoning only proves its guilt.
Isn’t there any difference between what has happened in Gujarat (Godhra riots and the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case) and similar incidents in other parts of the country? There certainly is. Though there are no foolproof mechanism to prevent such incidents, the difference between what is happening in Gujarat now and the past incidents is that, in other states, there was a sense of shame after the event, recognition of the illegality of the event and stern punitive, albeit post facto, action.
This difference can be illustrated by a telling comparison. South Africa practised apartheid, a form of discrimination against its black and brown population, for decades. India, too, practised discrimination against a larger section of the population for a longer time and such prejudices continue even now. But the difference between the two is that while apartheid had state sanction, discriminatory practices in India have always been legally and morally unacceptable to the establishment.
The evidence regarding the Godhra riots and the Sohrabuddin case is far too significant and all indications point towards one thing: the Modi government is practising state-sponsored terrorism against the minority community. Whatever happened to Sohrabuddin and his wife Kausar Bi could not have happened without the knowledge of the state machinery. It would not have been possible for plainclothes policemen from Gujarat to pick up a couple from a bus in Maharashtra, keep them at different locations in Ahmedabad, including at a farmhouse belonging to a BJP corporator, before killing them without the knowledge of state machinery.
Till date, no evidence has been produced in support of the police’s version: Sohrabuddin was killed when he started shooting indiscriminately in Ahmedabad. Interestingly, such encounters in Gujarat always take place at night and there are no witnesses or evidence. More often than not, those killed are always found with chits of paper having Modi’s name and address on it.
The state’s conduct after such encounters is even more telling. Nothing was done for months till a Supreme Court inquiry made police officer Geetha Johri file reports. These reports clearly prove the state’s complicity and concludes that the encounters were fake. As pressure mounted, there was an attempt to obstruct Johri from further investigating the case and the gutsy officer has recorded this too in her reports.
The Additional Solicitor General’s report also records denial of full documentation by the Gujarat government and asks the apex court to draw an adverse inference from it. Clumsy attempts were made to derail the Johri inquiry and she was removed from the case. The hand of the Gujarat Home Minister in such obstructive tactics has also been established.
Clearly, such conduct by the State is unique to Gujarat. There is no parallel in India, historical or contemporary, to validate the BJP’s line of reasoning. The Sohrabuddin case is not an aberration of a deviant and trigger-happy police officer; it shows an institutional disregard for human rights, especially of the minorities. Add to this the tenor of Modi’s statements, his hate campaigns and divisive politics to understand why Gujarat has no parallel. Repeated electoral victories cannot justify such incidents or approaches. They only illustrate the success of Modi’s Goebbelsian tactics, his success as a destructive and negative master strategist. But this is hardly any claim to fame.
Abhishek Singhvi is MP, Congress National Spokesperson and a senior advocate.