Next time intellectuals complain about Gujarat, can they provide some evidence?
The intellectual letter season is in full bloom. It must be because along with spring, fascism is around the corner. No matter which left turn you take — JNU, The Hindu, Oxbridge, The Guardian, and even the nominally not left-wing The Economist — you have intellectuals dreading the future — Narendra Modi as authoritarian, as dictator, as the great divider, as apocalypse personified. And just two days ago, we had no less an authority on learning and intellectuals than Father Frazer Mascarenhas, principal of one of the most prestigious colleges in India, St Xavier’s in Mumbai, pontificating to his students. In a letter leaked to the nation, Mascarenhas pleaded and cajoled his students to “choose well”, to make a choice which “will see India prosper or flounder on the precipice”.
Each and every missive recently sent out by the intellectuals (at least six in the public domain and countless others in equally misleading conversations) contains mandatory and aggressive references to the 2002 Godhra riots. Such condemnation is very desirable in a democracy like ours because such events should never happen in a civilised country, and never again. The prestigious Salman Rushdie, Anish Kapoor et al letter to The Guardian reminds us that “it is crucial to remember the role played by the Modi government in the horrifying events that took place in Gujarat in 2002”. However, not one intellectual letter contains any reference to the larger-scale riot, actually worse, pogrom, that took place in 1984 in Delhi, when members of only one community, the Sikhs, were the “victims of pillage, murder and terror”. For those keeping count, over 8,000 Sikhs were killed nationwide in 1984 and over 3,000 in the capital alone.
Two wrongs do not make a right, but isn’t it a terrible wrong for the intellectual to not even mention, let alone acknowledge, that a major wrong took place in their (the Congress’s) secular India in 1984? They know full well that the Gujarat rioters took many cues and directions from the Delhi pogrom murderers — they got their strategy of pinpointing victims (from the addresses on electoral rolls) and their belief that they would not be punished for their crimes because nobody had been punished for the 1984 riots. Indeed, the accused political leaders involved in the 1984 riots had been given cabinet posts in subsequent Congress administrations. If these intellectuals had acted post the 1984 riots with even a quarter of the dedication they are mustering now, maybe, just maybe, Godhra 2002 would not have happened. And yes, how many of the oh-so-secular-intellectuals have noted continued…