Narendra Modi recently said that in the last ten years there had been no riots in Gujarat and there had also been no “curfew like” situation either. I would agree with the first contention (though with several caveats!), while I would totally disagree with the second.
Coming to the second one first, the fact is that there is a very sinister curfew imposed on anyone who speaks anything against Modi or the Gujarat government. It doesn’t have to be an attack; it may be a mere criticism of something that is considered close to Modi. For eg., someone pointing out the flaws of the BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System) in Ahmedabad could be “muted” quickly because that would be considered criticizing a special Modi project. It doesn’t matter that the BRTS has been funded by the Central government. And it doesn’t matter either what the criticism is. It may well be a suggestion for further improvement of a scheme that has admittedly been run quite professionally. How is the person who criticizes muted? Quite simply, the person is gheraod (on phone, online and on media as well) and pressurized into giving up the criticism. Usually, this happens in the online world, where everything written about or against Modi is monitored and responded to with a heavy hand. Suddenly a thousand “dislikes” pop up against a story that criticizes. Suddenly a hundred nasty comments are posted by “independent” citizens of Gujarat who are actually ghostwriters for Modi.
Take the first claim now. Yes, there have indeed been no riots in Gujarat since Modi has taken over. But that precisely proves the point that the minorities have been totally “subdued” under Modi. The Godhra violence and the continued attacks on Muslims in general (remember the fake encounter cases?) have put the community into a complete fear psychosis. Besides, how can there be any riots when the ones who conduct the riots are now the rulers themselves? For anyone who lives in Ahmedabad knows what I am saying. It is widely agreed that the 2002 Godhra riots were “allowed” if not downright “orchestrated” by the Gujarat police, under instructions from the political higher-ups. And anyone who has dared to speak about this has been effectively arm twisted. Whether it is Sanjiv Bhatt or RB Sreekumar. Or Haren Pandya.
The theory goes that Haren Pandya was gunned down because he had started squealing about Modi’s involvement in the Godhra riots. Modi’s involvement was never established, but what points to a possible link is that Pandya had started to squeal on Modi’s sinister handling of the post-Godhra riots and had secretly deposed before the Citizen’s Tribunal comprising several eminent judges. As per a Hindustan Times story of May 11th 2012, “One of the judges on the citizens’ tribunal, justice Hospet Suresh, told Hindustan Times Pandya had alleged that Modi asked the police not to take action against the rioters. Modi allegedly gave the instruction during a meeting with top police and government officials on February 27, 2002, the day the riots started after the burning of a train coach near Godhra station.” But then this is a typical response once can expect in Gujarat. Speak against Modi and face the consequences.
The claim about not having had riots is something akin to the Iranians saying that they have had no terrorist attacks in Tehran! Or the Afghanis saying the same thing before the US invasion into their country! That may be a fact, but it doesn’t prove it’s a safe, liberal place!
The fear of attacking Modi is such that it even keeps away usually aggro civil society activists like Anna and Kejriwal. Notwithstanding the fact that Modi did not appoint a Lok Ayukta in his state for more than 8-9 years, there was only very muted criticism from Anna. And though Kejriwal has now made some accusations (inane as usual!) against Modi, there is no way that it will get enough push from him. Kejriwal’s style is somewhat similar to Modi’s – which in turn is similar to George Bush’s especially after Sept 11, when he famously stated that “you are either with us or against us”.
The media is part of the conspiracy theory. By schmoozing media and threatening it in turns, even the media has been substantially muted. An aggressive PR machinery run and operated by Americans (check out ET of yesterday’s) works overtime to ensure that every criticism of Modi is rebutted. A rumor has it that “many crores” are spent every month on just “managing” the internet. This much I can say from personal experience. Write against Modi and face the wrath of the online audiences! Genuine or fake, one can only guess. As per the TOI “According to an internet tool, Status People, launched by a group of engineers in London, Modi's account has 46 per cent fake and 41 per cent inactive users”. I suspect the fake users are the ones who impose the online curfew. This extensive PR machinery is responsible for projecting tall claims made by Modi which are often not true. A joke doing the rounds is that Modi is claiming success for having launched the IPL. That it was Lalit Modi is a matter of detail!
To be fair, Modi is tough not only to the outside world but to his own BJP and RSS as well. Ask Haren Pandya’s wife what she thinks of Modi. Ask Sanjay Joshi who was thrown out of the BJP specifically because of his issues with Modi. Ask LK Advani who wasn’t allowed to start off his india-wide rathyatra from Gujarat (now that he is seen as a competitor of Modi for the PM’s post). Or ask Nitin Gadkari who faces grave charges of corruption, rumored to have been orchestrated by Modi for being a secret challenger to him.
The real truth is that when Modi says there is no curfew in Gujarat, he is only talking of the physical form. In the virtual world, or when it comes to those who oppose him, there is a virtual curfew all the time. Modi is bound to win the Gujarat elections, and my compliments to him for that. But he cannot get away by making such pompous statements.