arendra Modi's opponents, in cahoots with a partisan media, during the last decade have achieved great success in distorting the persona of the real Modi before Indians. This trend seems to be finally reversing.
This week, I had the privilege of releasing Madhu Kishwar's book, Modi, Muslims and Media. Kishwar has done great service by revealing to the public several facts that had been concealed from them deliberately, in a conspiracy between Modi's political opponents who fear him, but control the mechanisms of government, and sections of the media dedicated to divisive communal forces, blessed by certain external powers that seek to ensure that India remains the sick man of Asia forever. We have witnessed this conspiracy during British rule, and we are witnessing it today.
The facts relate to the Godhra incident and its unfortunate aftermath, and the man, Narendra Modi, his political background before he became Chief Minister, his performance as Chief Minister, and his actual interventions after the unfortunate Godhra train burning and the riots that followed.
These facts have been concealed from Indians by the media machinery of the Congress and its so called "secular", but actually communal allies, and snuffed out by influential sections of the public media who for reasons that became partners of the UPA in the demonisation of Modi. I have repeatedly stated in my articles during the last few years that one of the greatest successes of the UPA government has been its Goebbelsian demonisation of Modi. It lasted for a while, but it is clear that retribution is around the corner, and some of his greatest hired detractors, like Teesta Setalvad, are getting their just deserts. A large section of the public, especially the Muslim community have also realised that they have been taken for a ride by the Congress, which kept shoving false information down their throats, while they themselves were plundering the country, all the while perpetuating a schism between the Muslims and the majority community, to suit their political ends.
Let the people know what really happened at Godhra. The carnage on the Sabarmati Express, which was carrying karsevaks from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad, took place on 27 February 2002 at 8.30 a.m., as it moved about 500 yards from Godhra station and was stopped at a signal, through repeated chain pulling by the conspirators. A crowd of around 2,000 Muslims started stoning the train mercilessly and setting fire to the coaches, having prepared the previous night with petroleum and acid bombs. Compartment doors were locked from outside, and the karsevaks were trapped in the fire and smoke. 59 persons, including women and children, in four coaches, were gruesomely burnt alive.
The false defence put up by the criminals, aided and abetted by the Congress, when it came to power, was that it was an accidental fire, caused by a stove or an electrical short circuit. An intelligent fire, certainly, singling out only the karsevaks and their families. Do Indians know who defended the accused in the Godhra train burning incident? It was the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, and the Congress proxy NGO Jan Sangharsh Manch. The criminal conspiracy between Godhra train attackers and the Congress, and their complete lack of sympathy for the Godhra victims, needs no further explanation. Does their being Hindu have something to do with it?
Kishwar informs us of the troubled history of Godhra, and its long history of communal riots from 1925 till 1992, post Independence, all under the Congress government. The worst riots in post partition India happened in 1969 in Ahmedabad where 5,000 Muslims were killed with the Congress in power under Chief Minister Hitendrabhai Desai. Does anyone ask about what action was taken against the perpetrators, what charge sheets were filed? In 1985, under Congress Chief Minister Madhavji Solanki, again there was a major communal riot preceded by smaller ones, with curfew lasting over 200 days. 1987 and 1990 again saw communal riots in Gujarat, under Congress Chief Ministers Amar Singh Chowdhery and Chimanbhai Patel. Let the people judge for themselves who the real Maut ka Saudagar is.
Kishwar extensively quotes Zafar Sareshwala, a respected Gujarati Muslim entrepreneur, who started by wanting to take Modi to the International Court of Justice, and ended up by becoming his friend, after he met him in London in August 2003, and was astonished by his sincerity, his openness, and his good intentions for the Muslim community.
The people of India have never been informed regarding the circumstances under which Modi became Chief Minister of Gujarat. It was because of too much infighting within the Gujarat BJP; to revitalise the party, Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee decided to send Modi as the CM. Modi, who was then the general secretary of the BJP working from Delhi, had never fought an election before, had never handled administration or governance, and had not visited Gujarat for the last six years. It was on 7 October 2001 that he became CM. A complete novice, his first great challenge was handling the rehabilitation of the devastating Kutch earthquake of 26 January 2001, to which he announced he was according highest priority. Modi threw all his energy into this, visiting almost every village, including those inhabited only by Muslims, mourning and wiping the tears of the bereaved. He swore that he would convert the disaster into an opportunity, a word that he kept. Through dedicated and honest rehabilitation, villages such as Chobari and Trambe were resurrected, there came modernisation and economic resurgence, urban reconstruction and tourism, and Gujarat became a global role model for disaster management.
Modi's earliest statements after becoming Chief Minister are that of a statesman. They reveal his sagacity, patriotism and secularism, and not a trace of communalism is evident in them. He speaks of the common cause of Gujaratis, the power of oneness, combating corruption, farmers' concerns, border and maritime security, poverty reduction, rural uplift. His slogan was Sabka Saath, Sab ka Vikaas, and he used his leadership and the entire governance structures to translate this into action. Gujarat had 11 universities in 2001. Today, there are 44, including a Sanskrit university.
What the Congress and its communal allies (who derive their political sustenance only by keeping Hindu Muslim division alive for ever) cannot stomach is that Modi has kept Gujarat riot free for the last 12 years, something that never happened from 1925 for 75 years, the worst and with the most bloody riots happening under the Congress rule.
But even before that, the Congress felt severely jolted. They panicked at what Kishwar calls "whirlwind Muslim support" for Modi for his first election from Rajkot in February 2002. 28 Muslim organisations declared support for him, prominent Muslim leaders and Muslim women campaigned for him and in booths where there was more than 70% Muslim population he surged ahead. His subsequent election victories, despite BJP dissidents joining hands with Congress, confirm without doubt that Modi's government is completely inclusive, and Gujarat Muslims have not succumbed to Congress lies and hate campaign.
The Congress had to sever the friendship between Muslims and the liberal face of the BJP, and it was willing to play with fire to engineer the same, including hobnobbing with the ISI, or participate in the riots, for which there is evidence from none other than Maulana Madni, of Jamiat Ulema e Hind.
There is also enough evidence, corroborated by K.P.S. Gill, that Modi took every necessary step to ensure taking control of the situation — indefinite curfew, shoot at sight orders, putting the entire 70,000 police force on public duty, deployment of rapid action force and CISF, request to the Centre for 10 companies of CRPF. Army assistance was requested on the first day. Both the Nanavati Commission and the Supreme Court monitored SIT have found nothing against Modi, and have rubbished the canards spread by his enemies.
I appeal to the Muslims of India not to become victims of the hate propaganda and falsehoods that are being tenaciously and relentlessly pursued by the Congress against Modi. Please understand that the Congress aims to permanently convert you as the "other", so that you will always be on the fringes, and will always have to depend upon them for support. I suggest that you enquire from your brothers in Gujarat, and find out for yourself regarding whatever Modi has done for the prosperity of the Muslim community. Give him a drop of affection and trust and judge for yourself the goodwill he has for your community.
I have had access to most of the vital papers pertaining to the Godhra episode, and I can give a moral guarantee that I have not seen a single action or statement from Modi that suggests any communalism or divisiveness or hatred for the Muslims that the Congress has accused him of. And such a statement from me would carry some credibility, as one thing even my worst detractors cannot accuse me of is communalism. Many people may not be aware that my dear daughter Rani adopted from an orphanage a small Muslim boy of 6 months, and brought him up. My grandson uses my name, Ali Jethmalani, and even though he wanted to become Hindu, we counselled him to come of age and then choose. I need not say anymore.
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