Shah 2002 Reference to Modi ‘Restoring Peace’ in Gujarat is ominous

By Arun Srivastava

With the Gujarat parliamentary elections reaching their final leg, the BJP Chanakya Amit Shah embarked on the familiar path of communalism, this time with the precise aim of uniting the Gujarati youth. With this mission, he even dug up the past and did not hesitate to tell the people that Narendra Modi’s government had brought peace to the state in 2002 and “taught a lesson” to the anti-social elements or rioters.

It is clear that Shah was referring to the riots in Gujarat that killed nearly 2,000 Muslims. If we are to believe what Shah said, the incidents of riots and violence were common in Gujarat as the Congress party encouraged it, but when the BJP government led by Modi came to power, peace returned to the state.

Despite the fact that even during his impeachment before the Supreme Court-appointed investigative body, Modi flatly denied any involvement in the riot or providing protection to the looters. But Shah’s remark makes it clear that Modi had played his part in giving lessons to the civil activists and individuals opposed to Hindutva politics. Shah should be applauded for the confessional story.

Yet another reason that has forced Shah to come out with this threat is the fear of opening several criminal cases that are gathering dust. The opposition parties have already demanded the review of several cases that coincided with the Gujarat pogrom. Two recent cases that have shaken people’s trust in both government and judiciary are; one regarding the release of convicts who raped Bilkis Begum and murdered her family, the second is the refusal to allow the murder of Congress Lok Sabha member to be re-examined by an independent body. Besides these two, there are many other cases.

There is little doubt that an opposition party coming to power will order a review of the matter. Sanjiv Bhatt, a senior officer of Gujarat’s intelligence agency, said he attended a meeting at which Modi allegedly said that the Hindus should be allowed to express their anger. In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, he said his position enabled him to collect large amounts of information and intelligence, including the actions of senior administrative officials, both before and during the violence. He had also claimed that Modi told officials at a rally the night before the riots that the Muslim community should be taught a lesson after an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.

It’s not that Shah was unaware of its implications while making this comment. But even then he resorted to this tactic. The importance of the Gujarat elections to Modi can be gauged by the simple fact that Modi has consistently camped in the state since the election was announced. He wants to win the elections in Gujarat at all costs.

With electoral stakes quite high, he had no options. At least two compulsions forced him to reveal the fact; and project Modi as the Hindu patriarch who can bring stability, peace and prosperity to the community. With the traditional voters showing their distaste for BJP, the desperation grew to let the younger replace them. This can be achieved by arousing the common feelings to vote the huge population of the first time.

The urgency to reach out to this new electoral power was driven by youth, particularly in the urban areas of the four major cities, becoming enamored with the AAP’s election promises and agenda. It was their inclination towards the AAP that the entire leadership and workforce of AAP had descended in Gujarat. The BJP emphasized development and growth during the initial campaign phase. But with young people showing their sympathy for AAP, the BJP forced to change its strategy and take the Hindu-Muslim magazine out of its old book.

In order to win the trust and support of the youth, it is imperative that BJP arouse their Hindu feelings and emotions. But to what extent Shah’s machination would succeed in achieving the motto is not certain. Experts also believe that just a week before the first round of voting, projecting Modi as the Hindu Hridaya Samrat would not be in the interests of the BJP. The young people of the state are quite angry with the Modi government for doing nothing to create jobs and opportunities during its 27-year rule. Some election observers believe it wouldn’t work if Shah resorted to this form of daring inventiveness to get first-time voters.

Shah is absolutely right that riots took place during the Congress days, but when the BJP came to power not in Delhi but also in other states, rioting has greatly decreased. An insight into the historical background of riots would reveal that almost all riots were caused by the RSS. Shah’s comment is quite loaded; “They were trying to create a problem for it [Prime Minister] Narendra Bhai [Modi], but he has taught them such a lesson that they have not dared to do anything until 2022”. The Gujarat riots were one of India’s worst outbreaks of religious violence.

Shah is quite sure that listing the economic achievements or counting the growth projects will not ensure victory. To win, it is imperative that common emotions are aroused. This has taken the development board to the back seat. JP Nadda, the party’s national chairman, vowed on Saturday to launch an “anti-radicalization cell to identify and eliminate all threats of destabilization, as well as the sleeper cells of radical groups, terrorist organizations and anti-Indian forces”. At a time when there was ‘permanent peace’ in Gujarat, as Shah had claimed, it is quite intriguing why Nadda set up an anti-radicalization cell. As if this wasn’t enough, Nadda said that “there will be a new law to help identify those who damage private and public property. These anti-Indian forces will be identified and punished.” (IPA service)

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