Guest Post: Tehelka’s Gujarat Expose and the Deeper Truth
I finished reading the Tehelka issue of the 3rd November, from cover to cover yesterday and sat benumbed. The words and images kept re-playing in my mind overnight. In the morning, as I normally do when there is too much mind-roiling data, I banished all of it to the background, leaving my conscious mind a blank black-board. Then I waited. The following major concerns emerged in the blankness:
1. Tehelka – now the mind thinks the medium more important than the message. It was not always so, but repeatedly being manipulated by the media, it has learnt to examine the source first. Tehelka has proved an honest broker in the past and the people it has quoted in this issue have painted a picture of their distorted inhumanity in their own words. However, its biases show, too.
In the normal course, the cause comes before the effect. In Tehelka it comes on page 80 and, then, too, tries to belittle the horror by putting it under a subtitle which says, “the diabolic lie”. This is an insidious and widely used propaganda tactic. The normal reader gets the impression that accusing the Muslim mob of burning the coach in Godhra is a diabolic lie. The words “diabolical lie” might be meant to highlight the accusation of pre-meditated arson, or the presence of certain people there, but its use as a title is deliberately misleading.
The story accuses Modi by innuendo of being guilty of getting the fire in the railway coach at Godhra started. This is done by the tactic of innuendo without proof – the common “some people say” gambit.
In an otherwise excellent expose, such manipulative strategems are unworthy of Tehelka and reveal its mindset.
2. The Provocations – There are two provocations mentioned. Tehelka has tried to excuse the Muslim mob by highlighting the clash of Kar Sevaks with Muslim tea vendors and quoting Sophia Bano saying that some karsevaks tried to drag her into the coach. In smaller text is mentioned that they let her go when she presumably shouted “bachao”.
These two incidents provoked the Muslims to collect in a mob of about 1,000 people into stoning the carriages, beating up people who alighted from the train and, eventually, burning a coach stuffed with three times its usual complement of passengers, most of whom were women and children returning from a pilgrimage. Tehelka mentions that it could have been just a burning rag thrown in, as if being burnt alive by a fire started by “just a burning rag” is somehow better than being burnt alive by a fire started by petrol.
This unquestionably inhuman act provoked the Hindu s to wreak another unquestionably inhuman massacre, with the State’s law and order machinery actively and passively helping in the ex ces ses.
Look at the progression. Arguments with tea vendors and rumours of kidnapping lead a Muslim mob to burn 60 people alive. The burning of 60 Hindu pilgrims results in carnage all over the state. It is a case of a petty incident leading to gross over-reaction, leading to a grosser over-reaction. It does not need too much intelligence to fix the blame where it belongs. Babulal Bajrangi was a mere symptom of the disease. The underlying causes are our lopsided politics of division along caste and religion and our skewed perception of the word “secular” since our independence.
3. The Personalities – Babu Bajrangi, Rejendra Vyas, Ramesh Dave, Madan Chawal, Mangilal Jain, Suresh Richard, Deepak Shah, Anil Patel, Haresh Bhatt and a host of others brag about their mindless brutality. These are heartless, psychotic deeds and cannot be excused by any justifications – not in the name of religion, nor in the name of extracting revenge for Godhra or anything else.
These people pose themselves as the Sword of the Hindu religion. They are full of righteous anger and project themselves as the guardians of my religion.
I would like to say to them – You sully my saffron. My religion and I do not accept venal cowards as our defenders. If you want to be a defender of my faith, stand upright, do upright things and then, like Bhagat Singh, go singing to your just punishment with your head held honourably high. You should not hide behind the corrupted legal machinery, or bring dishonour to my religion by raping women, killing innocent people and resorting to brutality. In a just State all of you would promptly get your well-deserved punishment..
4. The Lessons: The lessons the mind draws from all this are chilling. They are at many levels:
a. The Resentments – Lesson no. 1 - It is obvious that there is deep resentment amongst Hindu s at their treatment by Muslims who are emboldened by India ’s secular nature and its liberal intelligentsia. Hindu s view themselves as the subjugated people of India and are constantly reminded of this by the politicians and the media. I am talking of the “average” Hindu who eventually matter and not the urban Hindu intelligentsia who show remarkable unawareness of their own double standards.
Imagine a group of Muslims returning from the Haj, in Lahore . They are on a train and are chanting Allah O Akbar. The train stops at a station, some of the Hajis fight with a Hindu tea vendor, and a mob of 1,000 Hindu s collects and stones and torches the train. Would such a scenario be feasible in Pakistan ? No. But, in India , the reverse is easily accepted and no one appears to question the mindset of the Muslim leaders who encourage this or the Muslim mob which acts in this manner with seeming impunity.
Hindu s are not even permitted to enter Mecca but Muslims lay a claim to Ayodhya, the Mecca of the Ram Bhakts. All this births dissonance in the Hindu mind and the pressure keeps building up.
b. The Consequences :
Lesson no. 2 – When the cork is blown open by an incident like Godhra, people like Babu Bajrangi and his ilk emerge, monster-like, fattened on this resentment. Once the Djinn is out of the bottle, there is no saying what will happen. We must learn to identify and neutralise such Djinns before they emerge from the bottle or, better still, not even give them an opportunity to take birth.
c. The Deeper Truth:
Lesson no. 3 -. The deeper truth is that such resentments are building up all over India. The pressures of modern living, the proliferation of the media and its populist feeding frenzy, the minority- appeasing manipulations of political parties, the subversion of the bureaucracy and other such factors ensure that the detonator is well primed, the fuel is available; the cynical facilitators are all in place and only the trigger is needed.
5. The Need - Emotional Integration: The need, today, is for a quest for Emotional Integration. For this to come about, it is essential to face some unpalatable truths and come to grips with some very important and difficult to implement matters:
a. Primacy to the Indian Constitution over religious laws: Minority religions guard their turfs jealously, whether it is in the area of education or personal laws. Religious leaders keep propagating the fact that their religious laws supersede our constitution and the laws as interpreted by the Supreme Court. In many cases, such as the Shah Bano case, they have indu ced politicians to change the laws of India to meet their own requirement. Such religious jingoism encourages anti-minority feeling amongst the Hindu s.
b. Sensitivity towards the feelings of the Hindu faithful: Through their evil conduct, Babulal Bajrangi and his tribe have ensured that there will be no more Godhras in Gujarat . In 50 years of independence, should our leaders not have ensured this by peaceful, legal means? If they had paid half as much attention to Hindu concerns as they pay to the concerns of minorities, it would have been enough. All it needed was dealing in a sensitive manner with the feelings of the Hindu faithful and inculcating in them a comfort that they are in caring hands. They would not then look towards VHP or Bajrang Dal or even BJP to provide this assurance. Instead, Hindu s have been taken for granted and the minorities pampered, with catastrophic results as far as the average Hindu ’s mindset is concerned.
c. Ending the Politics of Appeasement: Special privileges – subsidies for pilgrimages, reservations in jobs, scholarships to minority students etc. need to be stopped. A secular state must only give special privileges only to citizens who are in financial need at this time.
d. A more responsible media: This needs no elaboration.
e. A quicker and more effective law enforcement and judicial system: When the citizens start thinking that mobs must do what the state is incapable or unwilling to do, then we have the Gujarat riots, the lynching of criminals in our towns and villages and even encounter deaths. This kind of disproportionate retaliation is a hallmark of frustration of the citizens with the legal machinery.
f. Imposition of minimum qualifications and law-abiding record for our legislators.
g. Improvement in our education system to promote self-esteem and regard for our nation-hood. Our education delivery system is pathetic and does not inculcate desirable values in our young. It does not encourage the feeling of emotional integration with others.
Education is propaganda and it conditions the young mind forever. Our education by rote and the politicised, Eurocentric curriculum is playing havoc with national self-esteem. Neglect of teaching as the most important profession in the country has made matters worse.
The above are not easy to implement. However, if we continue to proceed as we have, we will have other Godhras and other Gujarats all over India . Talk to the average, middle class Hindu anywhere in India and you will realise that this is sadly true. All that is lacking is for a charismatic leader to get up and start his speech by saying, “I have a nightmare……”
Tehelka has headlined its expose as “The Most Important Story of Our Time”. This is hyperbole. There are many more important stories of our time – the “Naxalite Menace”, the “Rampant Corruption”, “Judicial System in A Mess - Justice Delayed and Denied”, “The Trivialisation of Basic Indian Education”, “Terrorism Which Has Killed More Indians Than All Wars Combined” and so on. However, the Tehelka expose does point towards what could have been the most important story of our time – “Analysis of the Hindu Mindset All Over India vis a vis Other Religions”. In its vigilantism, Tehelka has focused on events, rather than deeper causes. However, all Indians must look deeper, into our own selves and at our politicians, media, judges and bureaucracy, if we have to avoid more bloodshed in the name of religion.
Kishore Asthana, earlier with Tata Administrative Services, is a management consultant and convener of Mensa, Delhi/NCR.