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On Tehelka's Gujarat Sting

By Mukul Dube

29 October, 2007

Shortly after the telecast of the Tehelka sting operation on
Gujarat 2002, a friend telephoned to remind me of a discussion
some of us had had in the middle of 2004. We had agreed that
despite the dismal situation at the time, with the new
government in Delhi making no effort to do anything about the
Gujarat massacre, sooner or later the truth would come out. What
we counted on was the certainty that at least some of the many
functionaries of the Sangh Parivar who must have been involved
would boast about their exploits and about their closeness to
those at the top of their hierarchy.

As we had predicted, mean-minded braggarts have emerged to
describe how well organised and blood-thirsty they had been, how they had had the support of the police and the administration,
and how they had won the praise of Emperor "Nero" Modi himself. We had expected such boasting in dribs and drabs, and it is to the credit of Ashish Khetan of Tehelka that he managed alone to open so many mealy mouths.

As was to be expected, the Sangh Parivar immediately began
attempts at a cover-up. For example, the man who had gloatingly
described, on camera, how he cut open the stomach of a pregnant woman now says that he was only quoting from the charges made against him.

Predictably, the BJP's spokesman attacked Tehelka. All he could
do, however, was weakly to ask why Tehelka had not so far
launched a sting operation against the Congress party. State
level elections are due in Gujarat, so naturally the timing of
the revelations was questioned: as if that has anything to do
with their substance.

In Gujarat, where the ideology of Hindutva is pervasive and its
hold is seemingly absolute, the Parivar should not find it
difficult to twist the Tehelka revelations to its advantage. How
this will be done remains to be seen, but many have already
voiced the fear that a damning indictment will be turned into an
electoral trump card.

The first step, of course, was seeing to it that the Tehelka
revelations did not reach the people of Gujarat. Cable TV
operators across the state are said to have blocked the report,
and in Ahmedabad the District Magistrate issued an order banning the broadcast of material which was “not as per programming code.” This is precisely the kind of control over the media that was exercised in Gujarat in 2002 and later. The “friendly” press of the state is sure to join in, putting out its lies and poison.

Over five years after the Gujarat genocide, it looks as if a
beginning has been made to bring to book those who were
responsible for it. It would be premature, though, to think that
the battle is won. Our legal system is well known for its slow
functioning. Worse, while the recorded admissions of criminals
damn them personally, the evidence that Tehelka's work has
brought out against Modi, for example, must be described as hearsay.

It is probable, however, that Tehelka has a great deal more
material than was shown on television. It is also probable that
that material is much more incriminating than what was telecast.
In particular, it is to be hoped that material yet to be made
public will be of the kind that can be used in courts of law.
For example, the statement of “Babu Bajrangi” that Modi hid him
for months in Gujarat government accommodation in Rajasthan and, after his arrest, changed three judges before one was found who was amenable to giving him bail, can be verified from records.

In May 2005, commenting on the criticism made of the handling of
the “riots” by former Gujarat governor (and long-time RSS
member) S.S. Bhandari and BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, and on the reactions this brought from sections of the Sangh Parivar, I
wrote, “It is not only that the rats have begun to scurry madly
among their lies now that the truth is coming out. The rats are
also attacking one another.”

Once again we can expect the brave soldiers of the Sangh Parivar to push forward others from among their fellows to face the law. Narendra Modi himself will have many to point to, if it comes to that, for he cannot have handled such a massive operation by himself. The names of many of the top organisers have long been known, as was most of what Tehelka has now presented on tape.

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