Monday, July 28, 2014

Mani Shankar Aiyar - Silence From Modi, Great Social Media Mogul

Eleven Shiv Sainiks go on the rampage in New Maharashtra Sadan, stuffing chapattis down the gullet of a Muslim canteen-wallah protesting that he is keeping the roza in the middle of Ramzan - and the Great Communicator keeps his mouth shut and his twitter on silent mode. An innocent Muslim techie in Maharashtra is murdered in Pune for the sin of wearing a skull-cap and growing a beard - and the Social Media Moghul has nothing, absolutely nothing to say on his Face-book - even in Hindi. 19 boys - all Muslims - are hauled up by the police in Kerala for a spoof on Modi, and Modi has nothing to say about Fundamental Freedoms. 

His supporters cover his tracks by saying that all three incidents took place in Congress-run states and the Prime Minister is only being discreet in the interests of "cooperative federalism." The same argument is trotted out for his silence over the outrageous remarks of Trinamool MP, Tapas Pal. There too the Government is not the BJP's. In which case, why has he spoken out only on the rapes and murders in Badayun, where the Samajwadi Party, not the BJP, is in power? Only because 'Maulana' Mulayam is a soft target? 

A minister in Modi's government is accused of rape - and with a mulishness more becoming of a worthier cause, the Prime Minister refuses to sack or even suspend the man. And even when a BJP member of the Telengana Assembly utters scandalous, defamatory remarks against a youth and women's icon like Sania Mirza, thundering is the silence from PMO. Is it only incidental that Sania is a Muslim - and does he share his MLA's view that she is to be deleted because she has had the temerity to marry a Pakistani? 

Is it no surprise then that the massacre of 700 Palestinians does not evoke even a simper of sympathy for the innocent victims? The same person who thundered from every election platform about the venality of the Congress, and furiously twittered away about this, now silences his mobile and locks up his lap-top? Is this because, as his defenders claim, he is suddenly overwhelmed by his official duties? Or is this the Silence of the Lambs?  

Much as he would like everyone to forget the past and move on to the future (as he pleaded in the Rajya Sabha in his reply to the debate on the Motion of Thanks), the past will not cease to haunt 7, Race Course Road until he owns up to his responsibility - at least his constructive responsibility - for the 2002 massacre. This is not a stick to beat him with but an empathetic reflection of the widows who still cry and the mothers who will never see their sons again, and the newly-married girl whose womb was sliced open and the foetus tossed into the sky. 

For any reconciliation to begin, there has to be humble acceptance of at least constructive responsibility, an expression of genuine compassion for all those who suffered and are still suffering, massive rehabilitation for those who lost their homes and livelihood, a reaching out to them, and retribution for those who caused and undertook the carnage. Begum Jaffri needs to be comforted for what her husband told her was the response when he called the Chief Minister - "What, they haven't got you yet?" Those are scars that will not heal merely by forgetting and asking others to forget. Forgiveness requires genuine repentance, not mocking the victims as puppy dogs.

Modi's apologists will, of course, point to his "exoneration" by the courts. He has not been exonerated. A local court has held that proceedings cannot go forward because the Special Investigation Team set up by the Supreme Court has said they have not been able to find any "prosecutable evidence" against him. They have not said there is no evidence against him; they have only said they have not been able to unearth any prosecutable evidence. 

The amicus curiae, on the other hand, has reported in a quite different vein to the same Supreme Court that appointed both him and the Special Investigating Team (SIT). He has held that there is damaging, even damning evidence of both omission and commission against Modi. There are two levels at which culpability might be established: one is the legal level; the other is the moral level. While at higher levels of the judiciary, a quite different verdict of legal responsibility might be returned, at the moral level, the argument is crystal clear: the dreadful pogrom occurred on his watch; ergo, some responsibility must attach to the chief minister. 

A moral man would unhesitatingly accept moral responsibility; a moral man would at least not appoint as minister one of his closest colleagues who has since been pronounced guilty and sentenced to a virtual life-time in prison. But Modi takes no responsibility, not even moral responsibility.  Indeed, for a month after the massacre began, he refused even to deal with relief and rehabilitation of the victims. It is only when he was almost bullied by the then PM that he began taking some desultory action. It is this dereliction of moral duty that has led to such a sharp division in Gujarati society that Muslim areas of cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodra are routinely referred to as "Pakistan". 

The communal divide has paid Modi huge electoral dividends, first in Gujarat, now in the country as a whole. But the nation has suffered. The suffering continues. That is the price that a want of morality in the leadership extracts.