Don't blame Modi for Godhra if you are ready to spare Gandhis

Every politician should be put under the microscope. However, outrage shouldn't be selective.

 |  4-minute read |   28-10-2015

In the post-Partition riots, lakhs of people were killed (some have put it at a million) in communal riots across India and Pakistan. Millions of others were displaced. Could the troika of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah have prevented this?

Could they have postponed the Partition by six months to prepare better and lessen the damages? Could they have beefed up security with the help of the armed forces and brought down casualties to a minimum? We shall never know because that's a taboo subject.

Gandhi was an apostle of peace and Nehru was an apostle of secularism. We have to leave it at that.

In the 1928 Godhra riots deputy collector Morarji Desai was found guilty of "going soft on the Hindus" and was demoted. In India's first major riots in Gujarat in 1969 where 1,000 might have been killed, Morarji's name cropped up in connection with his power struggle with Indira Gandhi.

However, nobody questioned Morarji's secularism and law and order credentials when he took over as the prime minister in 1977.

Three years after that, VP Singh took over as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. Within a few months, riots broke out in Moradabad in which more than 2,000 might have been killed. That's similar to what happened to prime minister Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat. But no tough questions were asked of VP Singh when he took over as the prime minister in 1989.

In the 1983 Nellie massacre in Assam 2,000-5,000 people (such is the range of estimates of those killed in rioting in India) lost their lives in a mere six hours. Such mind-boggling violence is forgotten as most Indians haven't even heard of Nellie, let alone the massacre that took place there.

The state was under president's rule and prime minister Indira Gandhi faced no major outrage. Her power tussle with Morarji was never questioned during the 1969 riots and she ripped apart the secular fabric of Punjab in the early 1980s. But she is by and large considered secular by India's secular lobby.

In 1984 the Bhopal gas tragedy ended up claiming thousands of lives while thousands were also killed in the anti-Sikh riots. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi let accused Warren Andersen go in the former incident. The Police watched silently in the latter.

Rajiv also dismissed the riots saying, "Jab bada ped girta hai tab dharti hilti hai" (The ground shakes when a big tree falls). The Kashmiri Pandits' exodus also began under Rajiv's watch and he also antagonised Muslim women in the Shah Bano case and the entire community by the act of opening of the Babri Masjid locks.

Rajiv was a rare politician who enraged the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs alike. Maybe that's why they have a Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award in his honour.

There are two other major riots that followed the above. The Bhagalpur riots of 1989 and the Bombay riots of 1992-'93. Who were the chief ministers of Bihar and Maharashtra during that period? Nobody knows. A point raised by legendary Bollywood icon Salim Khan.

(For the record they were Satyendra Narayan Sinha and Sudhakarrao Naik. Furthermore, Sinha reported to fellow Congressman prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.)

PV Narasimha also happened to be home minister during the anti-Sikh riots but nobody bothered to hold him responsible and he comfortably became the prime minister in 1991.

When the 2002 Gujarat riots happened, Modi was put through the wringer and attacked by the media, activists and all and sundry. Actually, that is the correct thing to do. Every politician should be put under the microscope.

How one wishes that Indira, Morarji, VP Singh and their kind had met the Modi treatment and then maybe riots would have lessened in India long back.

Now one death in Dadri has met national outrage. Editorials are being written. Awards are being sent back. Again, that is the correct thing to do. However, the outrage shouldn't be selective.

One hopes that Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal chief ministers Akhilesh Yadav and Mamata Banerjee respectively are also similarly grilled for the breakdown of law and order in their respective states.

From 2010-end, India started outraging over corruption.

From 2012-end India started outraging over rape.

From 2015-end India has started outraging over a single death.

That's good and will bring about a change.

India finally looks to be developing a conscience (zameer) if it starts outraging over a single act of corruption, rape or death.

However, there will be no solution if outrage continues to be selective. That's what we have to guard against!

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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