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Modi on the mat

There are many things in common between the mass violence against the Sikhs in 1984 and massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. If we had done the right thing in 1984, we would not have the same kind of thing repeated in 2002. Khushwant Singh elaborates.

india Updated: May 08, 2009 23:54 IST
Khushwant Singh
Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

There are many things in common between the mass violence against the Sikhs in 1984 and massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. If we had done the right thing in 1984, we would not have the same kind of thing repeated in 2002. Let me elucidate.

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards, a strong anti-Sikh sentiment was prevalent because of the unpunished crimes committed by Bhindranwale’s followers against Hindus.

It only needed a spark to ignite a blazing fire of vengefulness. The government should have been prepared to face the flames of hatred before they became an inferno. Far from being ready to put it down, the government became a party to it. Word came from one among the topmost of leaders: “Teach the Sikhs a lesson.”

The Delhi administration and the police became parties to the looting and killing of innocent Sikhs. Police stations refused to register FIRs, rampaging mobs ignored the so-called curfew, army help was sought for, but when it turned out to be a unit of the sikh infantry, it was ordered back to the barracks.

Men like HKL Bhagat and Jagdish Tytler, named for leading mobs, remained members of the cabinet. Sajjan Kumar was re-elected to the Lok Sabha. To this day very few people have been punished for those heinous crimes. It was inevitable that if murderers could get away so lightly in Delhi, they could get away with such crimes elsewhere in India. So they did in Gujarat.

After the burning of a bogey of the train at Godhra, we are still not certain who set the compartment on fire or the identity of the victims; word went around: “Teach the Muslims a lesson.” As in Delhi, so in Gujarat the administration, police and the law courts became subservient to the wishes of the rulers and let the mobs run riot.

There is plenty of reliable evidence to nail Narendra Modi and his minions: sting operation, carried out by Tehelka, in which perpetrators of murders admitted they had been given the green signal to go ahead with their devilish crimes without fear of persecution, the case of Zahira Sheikh who was bribed to renege from her earlier statements; disclosures made by a senior IAS officer Harsh Mander and much else.

No one expects the BJP to take a moral stand on the issue. Its leaders LK Advani and Narendra Modi have a symbiotic relationship — you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Modi sees that Advani gets elected to the Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar; Advani comes to Modi’s rescue whenever he is in trouble. He is in one now and BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley and Arun Shourie are poohpooing the charges against Modi as a pre-election stunt.

The all-rounder

Abhishek Singhvi, chief spokesman of the Congress Party, is an eminent lawyer and a politician. We see him on TV screens all the time. Law and politics are perhaps the two most soulless professions in the world. They have no room for art, poetry or music. So it was a pleasant surprise when my niece-in-law Malvika Singh, who knows everyone who matters, brought Abhishek’s wife Anita to my home one evening.

She seemed to have no interest either in law or politics. She was into Urdu poetry and singing ghazals. It was strange that with a Marwari background and never having learnt Urdu or Farsi, her taluffuz (pronunciation) of both was perfect.

Anita was born in Jodhpur and opted for classical Indian music in school. Starting with a Pandit of the Gwalior Gharana, she went to the Bhatkhande Sangeet Institute in Delhi. She got enamoured of ghazals, memorised verses by Amir Khusro, Ghalib, Daagh, Meer, Iqbal, Faiz and many lesser known poets.

She is gifted with a melodious voice and has held concerts in most Indian cities, Europe and the United States. She has 3 CD’s in the market; a fourth is due to be released soon. And she has an abundance of awards showered on her. She is the mother of two sons, one with a Cambridge tripos, the other at University College, London.

She looks ten years younger than her age. I asked her how she managed to combine housekeeping, looking after her husband, keeping an eye on her sons and giving concerts at different places. “I am 50, full of music. I want to explode with song if I have an audience,” she replied. “Who would you like to hear?” she said. “Ghalib is always my first choice,” I replied. And so it was: “Muddat huee hai yaar ko mehmaan kiye huey, (It has been a long time I had my lover as my guest) and went on to others. Her preference is Allama Iqbal; so she sang Iqbal and many others in Urdu and Persian. It was a music-filled hour which seemed to pass too quickly. “Lucky husband! He can hear you any time he likes,” I remarked. She roared with laughter and replied: “He doesn’t think so. He tells everyone, others hear her music, I have to face it.”

For shoe throwers

Hey! Nab that man who threw the shoe
We have no time for shoe diplomacy
Put him behind bars, charge him with IPC
Take off the blinders it’s a conspiracy
All throwers should be tried and hung
In a democracy shoes are not flung
In a democracy people speak barefooted and unarmed
In a democracy ministers speak helmeted and armed.

(Courtesy :Sami Rafiq, Aligarh)

First Published: May 08, 2009 23:44 IST