Kathua, Unnao rape cases: The Prime Minister and his crocodile tears
Politicians are chameleons by temperament. They change colour according to their interests. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no exception to this Machiavellian principle of politics, writes Zafar Agha
Politicians are chameleons by temperament. They change colour according to their interests. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no exception to this Machiavellian principle of politics. When it suited him in Gujarat in 2002, he did not care about ‘civilised behaviour’ and showed little or no sympathy for rape victims then. Even Kathua and Unnao rapes, one suspects, did not cloud his conscience much till citizens and Opposition parties including the Congress took to the streets and put him in a spot. Narendra Modi initially maintained stoic silence. But little less than 24 hours after the Congress protest at India Gate on the night of April 12, Prime Minister Modi, like Kumbhakarna, woke up from his deep slumber and declared, ‘no civilised society can tolerate what happened to our daughters’.
Mr Prime Minister, you spoke the truth for once, perhaps after a long time. “No civilised society can truly ‘tolerate’ what happened to the eight-year-old girl in Kathua. Not only was she gang-raped but her rapists were defended by a pro-BJP rally, that was addressed by BJP ministers who were forced to resign only after people of India cried out ‘enough’ and the Prime Minister was obliged to come up with an apology of a regret. What happened in Kathua and Unnao and Surat cannot be condoned by any civilised society. But what about Gujarat 2002, Mr Modi?
Gujarat riots were nothing short of organised ethnic cleansing of Muslims in the then Modi-ruled state. Over 2,000 people, an overwhelming majority of them Muslims, were killed. Muslim women were chased and raped in broad daylight. It was for the first time in Indian history that such rapes were filmed in the city of Surat. Who can forget the brutal killing of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. He was cut to pieces by a frenzied mob for trying to protect over 70 men, women and children in his colony from a murderous crowd. Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat had no remorse at that time. His only reaction to the Gujarat massacre was recalling Newton’s principle of Physics and tell the world: ‘every action has a reaction.’
Many a political commentator laments that Modi reacts to tragic events like Kathua rather late. Kathua for Modi is as normal as Surat rapes were to him in 2002. If he could keep quiet on Surat rapes being filmed, keeping mum over Kathua and Unnao should come naturally to him
Modi clearly justified Gujarat riots in the guise of the action-reaction theory and conveyed in no uncertain terms that after the allegedly Muslim-initiated Godhra ‘action’, they deserved the rape and rioting as the Hindu ‘reaction’. Mr Modi then was not concerned about ‘civilised behaviour’. He was not concerned because his political plan then was to carve himself into the tallest Hindu leader in the country. He had no mass base of his own in Gujarat or any other part of India in 2002. He had just arrived in Gujarat as the chief minister. The ambitious politician in him knew that he needed a vote bank/constituency of his own to last in politics and move up the ladder. The only short-cut to that constituency was to emerge as the Hindu saviour amidst the madness of Gujarat riots. The way to be Hindu Hriday Samrat (darling in Hindu hearts) then was to look the other way while Muslims were killed by thousands.
Gujarat riots did transform Modi into a Hindu hero, the image that he assiduously cultivated to graduate to the national stage as the Prime Minister of India. Even during the run up to the 2014 parliamentary elections, he did not give up his Hindu vote bank strategy. Remember how coolly Modi told an interviewer in 2014 that he was ‘as sad about Gujarat riots as he could be over the death of a puppy in a car accident’. Could any ‘civilised’ politician have said what Modi said about Gujarat killings in 2002?
Frankly, Narendra Modi comes from a school of politics where the primer begins with ‘hate Muslims’. Once you are schooled in this brand of politics, demolition of Babri mosque, mob lynching, rapes, riots come naturally. Because the entire civilisational premise is based on ‘hating your enemy’ who should be killed, raped or destroyed by any means. Because hatred is a part of his political DNA inherited from the Sangh.
Many a political commentator laments that Modi reacts to tragic events like Kathua rather late. Kathua for Modi is as normal as Surat rapes were to him in 2002. If he could keep quiet on Surat rapes being filmed, keeping mum over Kathua and Unnao should come naturally to him. Hate is the core of Sangh-BJP politics. Modi has been a Sangh pracharak for long. He played a key role in LK Advani’s rath yatra that culminated into Babri mosque demolition and eventually into a blood bath. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when another bloodbath took place there under his watch.
Modi’s statement on rapes of ‘Indian daughters’ was highly unlikely to have been caused by genuine remorse. He was merely covering his flanks before leaving on his foreign trip. He was also possibly trying to rescue the BJP’s alliance in Jammu and Kashmir where the BJP is sharing power for the first time
I am sure when Modi condemned the rape in Kathua, he was not really pained at the tragic incident of an eight-year-old girl being raped. He was merely playing to the gallery. He was not genuinely repentant about Kathua or Unnao. He would have kept quiet even now because it gels with his Hindu Hriday Samrat image that helps him win elections. His gallery this time round was not Indians but Europeans. Modi was to visit Sweden and attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in England. He could not afford to keep quiet on the brutal rapes and face western media on their soil. Pakistan being a Commonwealth member too could have embarrassed India by raking up the rape in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir. Modi’s statement on rapes of ‘Indian daughters’ was highly unlikely to have been caused by genuine remorse. He was merely covering his flanks before leaving on his foreign trip. He was also possibly trying to rescue the BJP’s alliance in Jammu and Kashmir where the BJP is sharing power for the first time.
Those who care about ‘civilised behaviour’ cannot afford to be selective. If Modi is sincere about civilisation put to shame in Katuha and Unna, he should be equally ashamed of Gujarat 2002 where India was put to shame. Let Narendra Modi express his apologies over Gujarat first; only then will Indians believe in the genuineness of what he said about Kathua and Unnao and accept that this was indeed his ‘man ki baat.
No, Mr Modi, you have no regrets over Kathua. You are a chameleon like any other politician. But your problem is that people have seen through you. If you are hurt with rapes in 2018 as the Prime Minister, why were you unrepentant about rapes in 2002 as the Gujarat chief minister then? Will you ever let go of double standards and hypocrisy?
This article first appeared in National Herald on Sunday dated April 22, 2017
Zafar Agha is Editor-in-Chief of National Herald, Navjivan and Qaumi Awaz
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- Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
- India Gate
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi
- Hindu Hriday Samrat
- Bhartiya Janata Party
- Machiavellian principle
- Gujarat 2002
- Congress MP Ehsan Jafri
- brutal killing
- Gujarat Massacre
- Advani’s rath yatra
- Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting
- Muslim hate