NOTE: This is my translation of Pratap Simha’s column in Kannada Prabha published on 21 Sep 2013.
In Goa on 9 June 2013, Narendra Modi was appointed as the head of the BJP’s campaign committee. In the wake of this important development, Ross Colvin and Sruthi Gottipati from Reuters conducted an interview with him. Here’s one of the questions from that interview followed by Modi’s response to it:
Reuters: Do you regret what happened?
Modi: I’ll tell you. India’s Supreme Court is considered a good court today in the world. The Supreme Court created a special investigative team (SIT) and top-most, very bright officers who oversee the SIT. That report came. In that report, I was given a thoroughly clean chit, a thoroughly clean chit. Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.
Tell me what’s wrong with this response? Can someone show where in his entire response has Modi compared Muslims to dogs? Despite this, the media hollered on for days calling him an egomaniac and pronounced him as guilty. Long ago, Zafar Sareshwala who ran a shrill worldwide campaign to prosecute Narendra Modi in the International Court of Justice for his alleged complicity in the Gujarat riots had this to say now: “By his statement on ‘puppy’, Mr. Modi was just trying to show compassion towards the victims of the post-Godhra riots.” Zafar, the one-time strident Modi critic is now one of his biggest admirers. Meanwhile, the media cooled down after the issue satiated its lust for TRPs.
However, what exactly does the Jnanapith winner U.R. Ananthamurthy lust after? What is his purpose? Why is he twisting Modi’s response and spouting it in interviews to paper after paper?
Here’s a statement from the man: “So many people died in those communal riots. Modi likens them to dogs who came under the wheeels of a moving car…” Is Ananthamurthy completely devoid of conscience? If a litterateur–who’s supposed to be the conscience-keeper of the society–is himself devoid of conscience, what will be the fate of a society which looks up to such people for guidance?
Where in his response has Modi compared the riot victims to dogs? Has Ananthamurthy’s–who was a professor of English–faculties dimmed so horribly that he can’t understand the simple language used in the Reuters interview? Sriprakash Jaiswal who was the Minister of State for Home under UPA-1 in his 2005 report to Parliament on the Gujarat riots said, “252 Hindus died in the Gujarat riots.” In which case, Hindu organizations should’ve also created a ruckus if Modi had indeed compared the riot victims to dogs. The Jnanapith award is given to jnanis, learned people. Mr. Murthy why are you, a recipient of that award, lying in this fashion?
According to Sunil Rajguru, the media will be on the lookout for saying a couple of positive things in a 10,000 word speech by Rahul Gandhi. Equally, the same media will also be on the lookout for saying a couple of filthy things in a 10,000 word speech by Narendra Modi. Even if the media finds nothing objectionable, it will resort to the usual twists and turns and distorts anything Modi says. At least they have the excuse of TRPs. What’s your excuse, Mr. Murthy?
Let’s now look at the other thing that Ananthamurthy said: “I will not stay in India if Modi becomes the Prime Minister.” Everybody has the right to criticise and express their opinions freely in a democracy. However, there certainly is a big difference between freedom of expression and an expression of irrational hatred. In 2004, when it was almost certain that Sonia Gandhi would become the Prime Minister, Sushma Swaraj thundered that if that happened, “I will tonsure my head, wear white clothes, eat grass, and sleep on the floor.” Everybody knows the story of how she became an instant laughing stock by mouthing such a ridiculous statement. However, what is the exact meaning of your statement, which is several notches lowlier than hers, Mr. Ananthamurthy? Should we remind you, who calls Modi a dictator, of 1975 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi foisted the Emergency by suspending the Constitution? That was a naked display of dictatorship. Why didn’t you talk about quitting India then? In 1983, 3300 Muslims were massacred in Nellie in Assam in just 24 hours. The same Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister even then. Both the state and the central Governments were in the hands of the Congress party.
And to a question of “what would you do if Modi actually becomes the Prime Minister?” you reply, “what can I do now? Age is not on my side. However, if age had been on my side, I’d have surely stopped him from becoming the PM.” Really Mr. Ananthamurthy? When the Nellie massacre happened, you were still bursting with youth in the campuses of universities. Where had your prowess and manhood vanished back then? Or what were they restricted to? Even in 1984 when the Sikh genocide happened, you were still bursting with the same youthful energy. Why didn’t such fiery words emerge from your mouth even in that case?
Forget all this. 3 December 1983 is a day which no Indian or indeed, the entire mankind, should forget. That day, fatal toxic fumes from the factory of Union Carbide–a company belonging to US, the land you hate intensely–in Bhopal killed some 15,000 including children. People died in their sleep. About 3 Lakh people suffered lifelong after inhaling the killer fumes. Although the Madhya Pradesh government arrested Warren Anderson, the head of Union Carbide, the central Congress government ordered his release. Not just that: Rajiv Gandhi allowed Anderson to flee India in a private jet. Why doesn’t Rajiv Gandhi appear like a cold-blooded killer to your eyes, Mr. Ananthamurthy? You were still in your youth–why didn’t you campaign against Rajiv in the 1984 elections? Why didn’t it occur to you even then to migrate out of India?
Now let’s come to your story of Sonia Gandhi’s “forgiveness and regret.” You’ve claimed that “the Sikh massacre in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s death is certainly tragic. However, Sonia Gandhi has repented for that.” When exactly did Sonia Gandhi seek forgiveness from the Sikh community? When exactly did she repent? Can you give us some proof? On 12 August 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while speaking to Parliament said, “I have no fear of asking the Sikh community to forgive me for 1984. Indeed, I seek forgiveness from not just the Sikh community, but the entire nation.” This was projected as though the entire Congress party had sought the said forgiveness. Sonia Gandhi had sought forgiveness for Operation Bluestar. Indeed, if Sonia Gandhi had really repented for the 1984 Sikh massacre, why would she have given tickets to Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, the leaders of the Sikh bloodbath, in the 2004 elections? Why would she have made Jagdish Tytler the Minister of State for PIO?
Let’s now examine the story of why Manmohan Singh apologized to the Sikhs. In 2000, Prime Minister Vajpayee appointed the Nanavati Commission to reinvestigate the 1984 Sikh genocide issue. The Nanavati Commission submitted its report in February 2005. The Opposition parties insisted on a discussion about the report in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. That included the Left as well. The Congress was thus forced to put the report up for debate given that the survival of the UPA depended then on the backing of the Left parties. The Nanavati report had severely castigated Jagdish Tytler in its report, a point which the Opposition used to demand his resignation. With no other option remaining, Jagdish Tytler resigned on 11 August. The next day proved even worse for the Congress: this time, the Opposition demanded yet another reinvestigation. That was when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh opened his mouth and said he wasn’t scared to apologize to the Sikh community.
Indeed, if Sonia Gandhi had really felt any remorse over the gory massacre of the Sikhs, if she had really wanted to heal the wounds, why did she allow the CBI to give Tytler the clean chit in 2009? Why did it withdraw the cases against Tytler and Sajjan Kumar? How many people who participated in the massacre of Sikhs have been punished so far? Why has justice been denied to the Sikhs despite having a Sikh as the Prime Minister for nine long years? Mr. Ananthamurthy, have you read the book, I Accuse, authored by Jarnail Singh, the journalist who threw his boots on P. Chidambaram? If you had indeed read that book, there’s no way you could’ve said that Sonia Gandhi has expressed repentance. Forget that, but tell me, what was the necessity for you to take cudgels on her behalf?
Next you said, “I have never seen such uncouthness in any politician as I’ve seen in Modi.” Mr. Ananthamurthy, tell us when have you met Mr. Modi? Or if you’ve indeed met him with requests to grant you land or bungalow, has his refusal to bestow you with such favours made him uncouth in your eyes? Of course, it’s nobody’s argument that one can decide whether a person is uncouth or not only by meeting him/her personally. But then, from what perspective did our dear Mr. Ananthamurthy perceive Mr. Modi as uncouth? In a 2012 interview that the editor of the Urdu paper Nai Duniya, Shahid Siddiqui had with Modi, here’s what Modi told him: “If it is proved that I had a role in the Gujarat riots, please hang me publicly. That will serve as a lesson to others in future.” Instead of seeing the candid honesty and humility in a person who declares thus openly, how does Mr. Ananthamurthy perceive uncouthness? In 1984, “the earth shakes when a big tree falls” is how Rajiv Gandhi justified the wanton massacre of Sikhs. How is it that Mr. Ananthamurthy doesn’t see the cold heartlessness in Rajiv Gandhi in this instance but sees it in Modi who has submitted himself to open, public scrutiny? And then we have the “I am not a custodian of files” statement from Manmohan Singh over the missing Coal scam files. Equally, the statement from the same Prime Ministerial eminence that “Money does not grow on trees” when questioned about the abysmal economic situation India is currently in. Oh! and when questioned as to why the price of onion has touched the skies, Union Minister Kapil Sibal thunders that “the Government does not sell onions. Ask the merchants.” Why doesn’t Mr. Ananthamurthy detect an iota of the arrogance and the absolute vulgarity in these people?
Mr. Ananthamurthy, Modi hasn’t made you the Vice Chancellor of any university. He will not award you the Karnataka Ratna in future. It is the Congress which will dole out such goodies to you. Indeed, the path you have chosen is the right one. And then it is an acceptable social custom and convention to address people in the singular in an intimate/friendly setting. However, when you’re on a public stage, when you’re giving interviews to the media, how acceptable is it to address the Chief Minister of a state and someone who’s set to become the PM in the singular? Rahul Gandhi too, is the Congress party’s undeclared PM candidate. Would it be acceptable if people who oppose him begin to refer to him in the singular in the media? Given this, how does the fact that Mr. Ananthamurthy referring to Modi in the singular reflect upon this “eminent” litterateur?
In the end, a question for you, Mr. Murthy: you have been yelling from the rooftops that in the last 10 years, Karnataka is fast becoming a hub of communalists. Indeed, you intensified this hollering relentlessly for the five years that the BJP was in power. And now, the Congress has come to power. The NIA which is firmly under the Congress’ control recently said that “Mangalore is dangerously becoming a haven of terrorists.” The NIA had visited Mangalore as part of its investigation after Yasin Bhatkal’s arrest. So why aren’t you now saying that our coast is now home to traitors and terrorists?
You might spew poison in your every utterance. You might display your naked intolerance at every step. You might voice insulting nonsense at all times. If possible, come to a public debate with people with whom you disagree instead of spreading canards through your associates and disciples. Let people know the truth. Are you ready?