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Gujarat Elections:CONGRESS LOSES INITIATIVE, by T.D. Jagadesan,10 December 2007 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 10 December 2007

Gujarat Elections


By T.D. Jagadesan

No soon do elections come around that the political parties start looking for the voters they had discarded five years ago. This time round, nothing is more blatant and insulting than the Congress Party’s attempts to “appease” the Muslims in Gujarat.

Five years of silence has suddenly been broken by the half-hearted attacks on the ‘Ugly Indian’ (read Narendra Modi), even as Congress leaders are secretly in touch with the ‘supposed’ rebels in the BJP. Notwithstanding, that the rebels are as culpable as Modi for the ‘pogrom’ that shook the foundations of secular India.

Opportunism and tokenism might or might not win an election, but it definitely does nothing to strengthen secularism in the country. The fight against the communal forces should have been waged as a virtual war from the day innocent citizens were brutally mobbed, raped and murdered. Instead of the Congress, Lalu Yadav and others addressing the minority constituency now and taking up cudgels against the perpetrators.

The battle had to be fought relentlessly, but every political party claiming to have stakes in Gujarat, let the people of India down. They let the State be run by the ‘Ugly Indian’, who was in fact, hailed by representatives of the Congress-led UPA coalition as a “great administrator.” Who allowed the minorities to be reduced to second-class citizens.

It is not as if the Congress and its leaders did not know what was happening. But they couldn’t care less, as elections were still far away. The PM, Congress President and the Prime Minister-in-waiting who now appear to be interested in making some kind of a show in the beleaguered State, stayed away for a full five years. Even as activists staged demonstrations, moved the courts and tried to get some justice for the traumatized people of the State.

They have been left alone to deal with the trauma of death and insecurity, and know, as did Ashan Jafri in his last hours before the mobs butchered him, that the Congress is in no position to help. The Tehelka exposure that is suddenly exciting comment uses the same group of BJP perpetrators to disclose what the victims have been stating from the day mob fury broke out.

Why? Because confessions by criminals are more honest than the testimonies of the victims. There is enough on record to nail the ‘Ugly Indian’ and his conspirators in crime and one does not need to depend on these statements, which in any case, are relevant only to bring the murders to book. They cannot be taken into the secular fight for justice.

But that has not happened. No one in the Government or in the Congress has the courage to use the Tehelka tapes to imprison these rebels. All they are dong is to “shush” the BJP, make a few speeches lauding their own commitment to secularism, and using the tapes to score points. Rather than pointers for direct action.

Communalism cannot be fought by soft communalism. The RSS and the BJP cannot be countered by a Congress that is always looking over its shoulder for votes, frightened that by speaking for justice and the security of the minorities would alienate the majority. A Party which lost its ideological moorings a long time ago today cowers the moment it hears a communal “boo.”

The Muslims are not fools. Except for the highly ‘purchasable’ imams and maulanas, the Muslim janata knows that the sudden interest being shown by the Congress has all to do with the forthcoming elections and nothing to do with their real problems. Topping the list is security.

The term of the Liberahan Commission has been extended by another two months. This is over 15 years after it was appointed on the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Some one is running sacred, and it is definitely not the BJP.

Either the Commission has allowed itself to be buffeted by political considerations, or it has not done its work while drawing the perks of office. Or it has come to no conclusion as it does not want to displease any political power. Or the Congress is running sacred and does not know how it will handle what will definitely be a controversial report, regardless of what the Commission says or does not say.

Justice again is being denied, and not to the Muslims, but to the Indian nation, for which secularism and democracy are as vital as oxygen is for its citizens. On the Srikrishna report, the Congress made some noises as it felt that the implementation of the recommendations of the Report could bring it some goodwill from the minorities.

But after a few tentative statements, the Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and his mentors in Delhi backed off with the babus preparing to cover the Srikrishna report again in a white cloth that substitutes rather effectively for a coffin.

Sadly, scores of reports on communal violence, be it by the PAC in Uttar Pradesh or against the Sikhs in Delhi, lie forgotten. And if there is any movement forwards it is only because of vigilant social groups and occasionally the judiciary.

Security is the issue that is foremost on the Muslim agenda. It cannot be addressed by “appeasement” which basically means token statements, announcement of useless schemes that are never implemented, conferences targeting the minorities, high-level appointments, visits to Muslim shrines etc.

No doubt some imams will appear to stand by the side of the Congress leaders as cameras click, just as they did when BJP’s Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. There is no dearth of these gentlemen willing to sell their souls for recognition and more importantly, money.

But all this does nothing for the angry young people in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh who find the State pitted against them. Who find that they are the first suspects in any terror attack. Who find that their tomorrow is not guaranteed as the State conspires with the communalists to push them back further into the ghettos from which they have been trying to escape.

They say the ‘Ugly Indian’ is a good administrator. In fact, Congressmen who head the campaign in Gujarat assert, “Of course we know what he has done, but you have to acknowledge he is a great administrator.”

Is he? Can a Chief Minister who has ensured that a large section of the population cowers in fear, and is denied its rights, be a good administrator? Is this the way Governments are judged today, only by statistics and not by the reality on the ground?

Growth statistics, regardless of deepening poverty; good administration, regardless of the pogrom and the continuing exercise of State terror. Globalisation has certainly changed definitions and shifted indicators of growth from the people to paper.

The elections in Gujarat are not about Hindus and Muslims. The elections in Gujarat are about justice and injustice. The ‘Ugly Indian’ through sustained propaganda has kept the communal fires simmering. The Congress, sacred and uncertain, has lost the initiative and has no idea where to start the campaign from even now. Precious days have been lost and the Congress has little to offer except a few emotional speeches in the hope that this hoodwinks the Muslims masses outside Gujarat at least.

The Mulims are Indians. And Indians are not fools. --- INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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