I am not an admirer of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been denied entry into the United States by the US State Department. He gets on my nerves.
I look upon him as a Hyde Park orator, like many of his partymen whose Achilles Heel lies in their mouth. He is unnecessarily confrontational and often insensitive in his public remarks. He is India's Donald Rumsfeld, who has made more enemies through his mouth than through his actions.
I have been strongly critical of Modi after the widespread anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 and warned that the failure of the Gujarat police to effectively deal with the rioters could drive aggrieved Muslims into the welcoming arms of the likes of Osama bin Laden.
One has to see the riot, which was provoked by the gruesome killing of a large number of Hindus at the Godhra railway station in Gujarat, in the proper perspective, without trying to rationalise the incidents. India and every Indian, whatever be his or her religion, ought to feel ashamed of what happened in Gujarat, but unfortunately periodic eruptions of such riots have been a dark feature of Indian history ever since the country became independent.
We have had riots involving not only Hindus and Muslims, but also different castes among Hindus. When I was working as a sub-editor in the Madurai edition of the Indian Express in the late 1950s, hundreds of Harijans were massacred by their co-religionists belonging to the so-called upper castes. Many were burnt alive by the upper caste Hindus, with the police watching helplessly.
The late K Kamaraj, one of the most distinguished leaders produced by the Congress party, was then the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. He came in for strong criticism initially for failing to protect the Harijans and subsequently for permitting the police to use ruthless force to put down the rioters. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who is projected by the so-called secularists as an icon of secularism, did not demand Kamaraj's resignation.
Many of us were unhappy over and ashamed of what happened in Tamil Nadu, but we did not seek the assistance of a foreign power to teach a lesson to one of our own leaders because our prime minister had refused to act against him. Such a thought would not have even occurred to us. We would have considered it anti-national.
In the early 1960s, following rumours of the molestation of a Hindu girl by a Muslim boy in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, violent Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in the city that lasted days. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Muslims were killed by rioting Hindu mobs. I joined the state as a young assistant superintendent of police a few months after the riots and was posted in Jabalpur for training. My junior police officers, who took me round the town, told me it took them days to remove the dead bodies of Muslims which had clogged the town's drainage system.
When the police could not control the violence Nehru himself flew to Jabalpur and camped there to supervise the handling of the situation. He as well as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Dwarka Prasad Mishra, came in for criticism for failing to prevent the riots and for their ineffective handling of the situation. But it would not have occurred to any of us to seek the assistance of a foreign power to teach them a lesson. We would have considered such an attitude anti-national.
In the mid-1960s there were widespread anti-Hindu riots in then East Pakistan. Hundreds of Hindus were massacred, young girls were raped and their breasts cut off by rioting Muslims. This led to an exodus of Hindus into West Bengal. Nehru decided to re-settle the refugees in a special camp called Dandakaranya created for them in the Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh.
The refugees were moved by special trains from Kolkata to Raipur in Madhya Pradesh and transported by bus to Bastar. Wherever the trains stopped and the refugees narrated what happened to Hindus in East Pakistan, anti-Muslim riots broke out. Nehru and the chief minister came in for criticism for failing to anticipate the situation and to prevent the anti-Muslim riots. But it would not have occurred to any of us to seek the assistance of a foreign power to teach them a lesson. We would have considered it anti-national.
In 1984, after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, there was an outbreak of anti-Sikh riots in Delhi which continued for two or three days before the police acted against the rioters, many of them belonging to the Congress party. Dozens of Sikhs were killed and many were humiliated, their turbans removed and their beards cut off. Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother as prime minister, did not act in time and subsequently tried to rationalise the violence.
He and his officers came in for strong criticism for failing to protect the Sikhs, but it would not have occurred to any of us to seek the assistance of a foreign power to teach him a lesson.We would have considered it anti-national.
The destruction of the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh by a Hindu mob in December 1992 led to widespread riots by Muslims in and around Delhi and in Mumbai. Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao of the Congress party was strongly criticised for failing to protect the mosque and not preventing the subsequent riots. But, it would not have occurred to any of us to seek the assistance of a foreign power to teach him a lesson. We would have considered it anti-national.
Ever since the Gujarat riots of 2002, Modi has been the target of a campaign of criticism and condemnation by many sections of Indian civil society for failing to protect the Muslims and for exacerbating the situation through his oratory. No one can deny that initially the Gujarat authorities failed to deal with the rioters firmly. But subsequently, the police acted ruthlessly against the Hindu mobs.
How does one judge whether the police acted firmly or not in riots between members of two religious communities? From the number of people killed in police firing. It was reported that more Hindus died from police bullets during the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 than during the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1994 and during the anti-Muslim riots in Madhya Pradesh in the 1960s. Does this show culpability on the part of the Gujarat administration?
One of them is that the Christian influence on US policy-making and its political leadership was not as strong in the past as it is today. Another is that no Indian, whether living in India or in the US, would have ever thought of seeking the intervention of the US to teach a lesson to another Indian whom they disliked strongly.
Sections of the so-called secularists in India and the US, many of them Hindus, who cannot stand the sight of any party which seeks to articulate the feelings of Hindus and give them a sense of pride in their identity as Hindus. These secularists vie with one another in visiting Islamabad and getting themselves photographed with President General Pervez Musharraf as a certificate of their secularism. Has any one of them ever condemned Musharraf for his murder of democracy or for the continuing massacre of Shias and Balochis under his rule? Never. For them, Musharraf, or for that matter a Muslim or a Christian can do no wrong. All the wrongs in this part of the world are done only by the Hindus.
The Christian fundamentalist organisations in the US played an important role in ensuring the re-election of President Bush and he owes them a political debt. They have made it appear that their action in demanding that Modi be barred from entry into the US was motivated by their outrage at the plight of Muslims in Gujarat. The real reason is their anger at his alleged action to prevent foreign Christian missionaries from indulging in proselytisation.
For the so-called secularists of India and of Indian origin in the US, Christian or Muslim fundamentalism is all right but Hindu assertiveness is a sin.
Who are the people in the US whose help they sought to humiliate Modi and to teach him a lesson?
Those who supported the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Those who strongly opposed any action or even an inquiry against Rumsfeld and his senior officers for the gross violation of human rights of Iraqis. Those who justified or rationalised the inhuman treatment of Muslims by the US in the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Those who are supporting the call for a regime change in Iran.
These are the elements which are closest to the US administration, and their intervention against Modi at the urging of the so-called secularists, led to the humiliation of an Indian by the US at the instance of other Indians. They have not so far been able to succeed in their attempts to drive him out of power in Gujarat. So they sought America's intervention.
In the US, large sections of the population have been calling for action against Rumsfeld for the human rights violations in Iraq. They have not succeeded. Have they taken their case to a foreign government or court to teach him a lesson? No. And they never will. They would consider it unpatriotic.
Not in India and among sections of Indians abroad. If one Indian stabs another Indian in the back with the help of a foreign power, he is considered a progressive, a liberal, a secularist. Cry, the beloved country!