Cut out of Ram temple inauguration, Advani and Joshi deserve no sympathy

While I dislike Modi utterly, that feeling of schadenfreude also includes satisfaction that the insult to Advani is coming from none other than Modi, who was his protègè

PM Modi (left), seen here with LK Advani on the latter's 94th birthday in 2020, is showing no gratitude to Advani for having saved his job as Gujarat CM after the 2002 riots (photo: @narendramodi/X)
PM Modi (left), seen here with LK Advani on the latter's 94th birthday in 2020, is showing no gratitude to Advani for having saved his job as Gujarat CM after the 2002 riots (photo: @narendramodi/X)

Sujata Anandan

I do not know if ‘schadenfreude’ is how I can describe the feeling of utter satisfaction I have today about LK Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi getting the cold shoulder from their own party and being left out of the Ram temple inauguration ceremonies in Ayodhya next month. It's hardly an exaggeration to say that these two characters, who presided over the demolition of the Babri Masjid, are the original carriers of the Hindutva virus that seems to have colonised our democracy today.

Narendra Modi I look upon as a believer who really does not know what he is doing — in every aspect of governance, destroying democracy, our social fabric, and tanking the economy. But Advani and Joshi? Here are two stories from two press conferences they held in Mumbai in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition.

First, Dr Joshi. It was the Mumbai media’s first exposure to him, and curiosity was rife about what kind of doctor he was. “Oh, I am a PhD in physics from Allahabad University. And I can tell you there is no greater satisfaction than seeing matter broken down to the smallest atom in the laboratory.”

He quoted a Sanskrit shloka which demonstrated this principle of physics, to tell us how everything was linked to the other and dependent on each other for full realisation of potential. No one in the room understood the shloka, and looking at our blank faces he said, “ Oh well. I will simplify it for you with a saying from the Bible. It says, ‘From ashes we have come and to dust we shall return’. That is what matter and atom are all about.”

Now Mumbai journalists were rather more inquisitive than the media entourage from Delhi that Joshi and Advani always carried with them to events in Mumbai. They asked only the weakest of questions, and their main job seemed to be to prevent the inquisitiveness of Mumbai’s reporters from getting their benefactors into trouble.

After a few seconds of stunned silence at Joshi’s answer, one journalist asked the question that was bothering all of us. “If this is what you think, Dr Joshi, then what is this difference that you are making between Hindus and Muslims and other communities? By your theory, aren’t we all one?”

Taken aback by the directness of the question, Joshi’s reply was spontaneous. “Oh, this is what I (he stressed the ‘I’) believe. That is for public consumption!”

Instantly, another saying from the Bible came to my mind, and I thought this man should never be forgiven, for he knows exactly what he is doing.  

But Advani topped the hypocrisy of Joshi, who was at least honest about his beliefs. At his press conference a few weeks later, Advani did not step back from insulting Mahatma Gandhi, who was the antithesis of the RSS and never had a divisive bone in his body.

The Western press had just taken to calling the BJP a 'Hindu nationalist party', and Advani said he was happy about that because when Gandhiji had died, the Western press had described him as the greatest Hindu nationalist leader who had ever lived. He was convinced that soon, the world would be looking at the BJP as they had at Gandhi, and it would also be seen as 'secular' and 'inclusive'.

Now here is where it got intense between me and Advani. As no Mumbai reporter challenged the sophistry, unlike at Joshi’s press conference, I jumped to my feet to ask, “Forgive me for not understanding your statement, Mr Advani. Did you just say Gandhiji was the greatest Hindu leader of this country? Now this event happened before I was born and I have read about it only in history books. So I would like to know, if you really think Gandhi was the greatest Hindu leader, how do you justify RSS involvement in the assassination of that ‘greatest Hindu leader' when it calls itself a Hindu organisation? Can we expect more such killings of Hindu leaders from the RSS?"

There was a thunderous silence before the BJP’s Mumbai spokesperson rushed to me and tried to remove me from the room. But I had one more question and I got that in. Advani had been referring to the Babri Masjid as a ‘structure’ throughout the press conference and I asked, “Isn’t it a fact that the ‘structure’ you refer to was actually a mosque? If you had perceived it as anything other than a mosque, as a school, a hospital, or even a toilet, you would not have brought it down. Had Gandhiji been alive today, that greatest Hindu leader would never have allowed it.”

As Advani turned red (I admit I was rather direct), the press conference broke up even as I was hustled out. But that run-in hit the headlines the next day. 

“Why are you so adamant on bringing our skeletons out of the cupboard?” one spokesperson asked, even as another threatened to get me out of my job. My editor came to my rescue when I narrated the incident and the threat to me. Tickled pink by the entire story, he said, “I was looking for a good anchor this evening. This is great. Write it down for me exactly as you have narrated it.”

“But they are threatening to have me fired from my job!” I protested.

“Reporting the truth is your job. Deciding on policy is mine. You go ahead and write it. Leave the rest to me.” 

I did, and have been unwelcome on BJP portals ever since.

And Modi’s vindictiveness against the media that we talk so much about today? Well, when Advani became Union home minister, the then Maharashtra home minister told me he had received a note from Delhi asking them to keep an eye on me. "Advani is still smarting at how you took him on at the press conference and your editor would simply not relent to the BJP over terminating your employment. So please be careful in future.”

As unbelievable as I found that vindictiveness over one question, I believe it is Advani who sowed the seeds of everything that is happening with Muslims and the media in the country today. Modi has only amplified that and used technology to greater effect than Advani. And while I dislike Modi utterly, that feeling of schadenfreude also includes satisfaction that the insult to Advani is coming from none other than Modi, who was his protègè.

Modi is showing no gratitude to Advani for having saved his job as Gujarat chief minister after the 2002 riots, against all efforts by then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to hold him responsible for the bloodshed. Had Advani not done that — again for selfish interests because he needed Modi to win from Gandhinagar — Modi would never have made it to the office of prime minister or been in a position to destroy the country. Or even deprive Advani of the fruits of his labour, eating them himself.

So I believe it is poetic justice that Advani, who lived by the Hindutva sword, is now being cut down by the same sword. He will not be at the Ram temple inauguration. Perhaps the gods themselves have denied him entry for spilling innocent blood for personal and political gains?

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