GENOCIDE: The mass slaughter of members of the Muslim community in Ahmedabad has been confirmed by senior police officer Sanjiv Bhatt (who has been in jail custody for some time now) who testified that the deadly riots had the sanction of the then chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi.
By Rajan Narayan
In a clear case of bench fixing, Narendra Modi was given a clean chit by the Supreme Court on Saturday, June 25, 2022. This was possible after the retirement of the last independent Chief Justice Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana. This is with reference to the infamous case in which the PM was allegedly guilty for inciting violence against the Muslim community — in retaliation for the Godhra incident which happened on February 27, 2002 when a the train compartment in which kar sevak were returning by train from Ayodhya, was set on fire by miscreants. Even the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had held Modi responsible for the post-Godhra massacre of Muslims in Gujarat. It is a sign of the times we’re living in that Teesta Setalvad (granddaughter of the first attorney general of India MC Setalvad), who had filed a case on behalf of Zakia Jafri, and whose husband was one of the victims of the holocaust which followed the holocaust in Ahmedabad, was taken into custody soon after the judgement. This is an action replay of the slaughter of Sikhs following the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards within the prime minister’s residence on October 31, 1984 in New Delhi. But while in the case of the attacks on Sikhs where several senior Congress leaders were arrested, in this case the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, has been given a clean chit by a “kharedi” Supreme Court.
I WAS born on July 4, 1947 about a month before India attained independence. Which is why our generation was referred to as “midnight’s children” by famous British author of Indian origin, Salman Rushdie. Just when I completed my 74th birthday and began my “amarit mahotsav” — as the Hindutvadi call it, it would appear that I face the risk of losing the right to free speech. Just as I enter my 75th year of my existence, even my faith in the judiciary has been severely undermined.
I keep wondering whether I have lived long enough and more importantly whether I will be able to sustain the Goan Observer till at least 2024 which is when parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held. This has become even more imperative as the Goan Observer has been the only voice of clear cut dissent in Goa since 2003 when it started up as an independent political weekly. The BJP had not only won the parliamentary elections twice in succession, but it has also been using money power to topple all non-BJP governments.
The latest example is the BJP on the verge of toppling the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress (MVA) alliance government in Maharashtra. With one of the senior-most and highly respected members of the Shiv Sena, Eknath Shinde revolting and on the verge of walking into the embrace of Amit Shah, the freedoms guaranteed by democracy in India suffers another major setback. This comes in the wake of the BJP toppling several other Congress and Opposition governments in Rajasthan and the North East.
Several Supreme Court chief justices have repeatedly frustrated attempts by the Modi government to target the Muslim and Christian communities. The most recent example is of the Supreme Court objecting to residences and offices of Muslims being literally bulldozed merely on suspicion that they were party to protests against the government and also Agneepath scheme.
THE Agneepath which is aimed at creating a paramilitary force like the Nazi storm troopers will allegedly be accountable only the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP. The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to dissent and has pulled up the government for using Pegasus spyware against its political rivals. The Supreme Court has dismissed trivial cases filed against individuals for making critical posts on Facebook. We had presumed that the BJP had not been able to take control of the Supreme Court as it has done in the case of Parliament and the executive and perhaps even the Election Commission. We are not just shocked but petrified that despite conclusive evidence the three-member bench of the Supreme Court has given a clean chit the prime minister of India and that he is not responsible for turning a blind eye to the Godhra riots as chief minister of Gujarat.
In what is a clear case of blatant bench hunting, the Modi brigade waited for the retirement of the last independent chief justice, Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana. It is inconceivable that any honest CJ of the Supreme Court would give Narendra Modi such a clean chit for being a party to the Godhra riots no matter how remotely as chief minister!
EVEN scarier is that within 24 hours of the SC giving Modi a clean chit, the civil activist and secretary of NGO Citizens for Justice & Peace, Teesta Setalvad was arrested from her home in Juhu in Mumbai. Teesta Setalvad’s organisation had been formed to fight for justice for the victims of the Gujarat riots. Teesta actively campaigned for Zakia Jafri, the wife of the Congress MP Efsan Jafri who had burned to death in his house, a fire allegedly ignited by rioting Hindutva fanatic mobs. The activist was arrested and taken to Ahmedabad by the Gujarat police.
But it is not just Teesta who has held Modi responsible for the Godhra riots, senior police officers have testified at a meeting that it was Narendra Modi who directed the police not to take any action but to let the Hindutva brigade vent their anger. So the Muslim community in Ahmedabad was systematically targeted, allegedly in retaliation for the death of the kar sevak returning from Ayodhya in a train compartment – the BJP insisted that this was a deliberate case of arson by Muslims.
However, this was no proof and subsequently even the prime minister of the country who was a member of the BJP – Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee – had commented that Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi should have had better sense and since he had not upheld “raj dharma” he should resign. I was an eyewitness to this statement by Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the executive committee meeting of the BJP held at a five-star hotel in Goa when Manohar Parrikar was the chief minister of Goa.
MANY are shocked at the manner in which Teesta Setalvad, the daughter of a former Supreme Court CJI who represented the United Nations Human Rights Commission, has been arrested so vindictively. So am I as I enter my 75th year in my country India, I am desperate to preserve the only voice of dissent in Goa, the Goan Observer. Not for my personal interests but because I do not want a peaceful, cosmopolitan, secular Goa, to become part of an aggressive Hindutva country which will think nothing of bulldozing minority communities—like it happened in Gujarat after the Godhra incident.
Long before the Modi government managed to manipulate the Supreme Court into giving Narendra Modi a saintly clean chit in the on-going Godhra cases, the media was already widely subverted or co-opted in the ruling regime in the country. Today only the godi Godi media which is totally subservient and dependent on the Modi government which flourishes. The country’s most distinguished journalists and television anchors ranging from Pranoy Roy to Rajdeep Sardessai to Barkha Dutt to Shekhar Gupta have all been marginalised.
Even Faye D’Souza who anchored
Mirror Now’ was given her marching orders. TheTimes of India’ which calls itself the most trusted brand in the country owns `Times Now’ and its present anchor Navika Kumar instigated BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma to pass blasphemous comments on Prophet Muhammad. Those who are even mildly critical of Modi can expect the hospitality of the jails, but Nupur Sharma, accused in the Prophet Muhammad case, is yet to be arrested, let alone charge-sheeted!
CONTINUE THE FIGHT
TILL the Supreme Court gave Modi a clean chit in the Godhra case I was thinking it’s perhaps time to retire from journalism and life itself. But now I think I have to live a little longer to fight the good fight. To protect the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and worship. Fight to ensure that India continues to be committed to its democracy and secularism, to liberty, equality, fraternity — to ensure that Narendra Modi does not do to anyone what Hitler did to the Jews.
Narendra Modi has made it impossible for independent media to survive. Talking to the managing director of a leading Mombay-based paper, I was disheartened to be told that media cannot survive any longer. Newsprint prices keep going up steeply and it difficult increasingly to meet the cost of printing editions. Narendra Modi’s government has imposed a 12% GST on paper in addition to an extra 12% on printing and 5% on advertising. This effectively means that 30% of the cost of production goes towards taxes. Since newspapers have to be distributed and the agent asks for his commission of at least 25%, print editions have become unviable.
The only reason why the Indian Express and the Free Press Journal survive in Mumbai is because the then Congress central government had allotted them huge plots of land on which they could build high rise buildings like the 25-storied Express Towers at Nariman Point. It is the rent that these papers get on real estate that sustains them.
HELP `GOAN OBSERVER’
ON the occasion of my 75th birthday on July 4, 2022 I plead with Goan businessmen to help the Goan Observer stay alive and kicking. Advertise in the Goan Observer, help us with fixed deposits, as it is happening with several other publications putting up a fight for a level playing field for all. We appeal to Goenkar to become lifetime subscribers of the Goan Observer with a token Rs10,000 subscription-donation. Independent publications can only survive through convinced crowd sourcing. The choice is yours.
If it is Teesta Setalvad today it may be you and me tomorrow. If you do not want fanatics to go searching under churches and masjids for Hindu idols and ban the transportation and consumption of beef, and continue to undermine the only secular democratic state in the country – repose your faith in the Goan Observer. Our bank details are on Letter to the Editor page in every edition online currently and when we can afford it, in print. Please support all independent print and online publications ranging from The Wire to the Scroll, News Laundry and other publications brought out by Shekhar Gupta and Faye Dsouza!