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Saluting Bilkis Bano:
Reflecting On Gujarat

By Ram Puniyani

26 January, 2008

After a long time one has come across the delivery of justice in the cases pertaining to Gujarat carnage. Bilkis Bano, a pregnant young woman was gang raped and her family was wiped out in the Gujarat carnage, which was engineered on the pretext of Godhra train burning. Despite all the obstacles posed by Gujarat police and state, finally her tormentors have been held guilty (18th Jan 2008) and given the punishment. Even in this the involved police personnel and doctors have got away despite their complicity in the crime. All in all despite this lacuna, it is a heartening respite in the prevailing dismal scenario. One recalls that there are thousands of cases which have neither been properly registered nor are being pursued despite the best efforts of social and legal activists in Gujarat.

In this case it the grit, determination and strength of the victim, Bilkis bano, and the support of civil rights group which supported her, are crucial factors in getting the justice. The justice in this case stands out as a small ray of respite, in the gloomy scenario of Gujarat, where by now justice for minorities is conspicuous by its absence.

This case also brings to our notice that while this underbelly of Gujarat is visible to those who care, for a section of people all over, Gujarat is being presented as a model state under the efficient leadership of Narendra Modi. It is under his patronage and leadership that the state had witnessed the carnage. This carnage, the worst in recent memory, fractured the whole Gujarat society along religious lines. The post violence obligations of state were turned into further means of intimidation and marginalization of minorities, who by now have been made to bend their knees if they have to live in Gujarat. The all round boycott, marginalization and gheotttization of Muslim minorities has reached levels which are unprecedented in India so far and all this has been projected as a successful experiment of Hindu Rashtra.

Same Modi who led the carnage and post carnage humiliation of minorities with extreme cruelty romped home to electoral victory, which is being celebrated far and wide, by a section of people and section of media. His victory has given signal of revival of the aggressive designs for Hindu nation. Narendra Modi is emerging as the sole leader of BJP, endowed with appeal to a section of middle classes. He is being upheld as the brave man, with 56 inch chest, a lion, an honest, efficient, incorruptible man, but while his chest is visible his blood soaked hands are hidden. His fan following is peaking to new heights. A section of media is also projecting him as the hope of the future. Incidentally he has been named as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the future by RSS, the patriarch of communal fascist politics in India.

It is important to look at Modi's role as the charismatic leader of a party BJP, which is wedded to Hindu Rashtra, a Hindu fascist state, is on the upswing. He seems to be fitting the bill of an authoritarian leader perfectly. India's well known post modern social scientist Ashish Nandy after interviewing him said that Modi is a classic fascist personality. A bit of a peep into his personal life is important for understanding what his persona means. He abandoned his wife long ago and is a full time RSS prachrak. As per the usual norms of a pracharak has been living a life cut off from family ties. This fact of his breaking the family ties is also being glorified. In the ideology of RSS family ties for a Pracharak are regarded as a drag for achieving the goals of Sangh (RSS).

From all accounts he is an autocrat who is using democratic space to grab the power to abolish democratic space itself. Keshubhai Patel the previous chief minister described Modi's rule as mini emergency. Most of the decisions from top to bottom are taken by him alone. Modi has been boasting that he neither takes money nor lets others do the corruption. This authoritarian control on corruption is flimsy as the opaqueness of such an administration leads to levels of corruptions which are too big in proportions, like control of the whole state machinery by big industrialists and business houses. Transparency is the key to eradication of corruption, but in Modi's scheme of things, since the affairs are controlled exclusively from top, transparency has no place as such. Lot of these traits are similar to what were seen in Hitler's Germany.

Gujarat is being ruled by BJP form last several years. With Modi coming to the helm of affairs, the section of affluent middle class is too happy as its interests are safe and secure at the cost of interests of poor dalit, adivasis and minorities. This section of middle class which is very dominant, has global connections, and can smell dollars, is rising in other parts of the country as well. The response which Modi got in Chennai or the type of hype which was created around him in Mumbai for his rally (January 23, 2008) signifies that the new middle class, cozy in its privileges and scared of the rise of dalits and poorer sections of society is eager to welcome him as the messiah. It is another matter that these material interests of this section, the base of 'Shining India', are couched in the language of protection of Hindu religion.

The biggest success of RSS propaganda work is that over a period of years, it has succeeded in promoting the ideas of social status quo, conservatism in outlook, and total opposition to any affirmative action for weaker section of society. Interestingly this politics does talk about poor, but in the language of patronage. For this politics patronage is dished out as a substitute for promotion of their human rights. It is no wonder that the language of religion which is spoken by Dharmagurus (clergy) has no concept of rights; it revolves around the notion of duties and respect of traditions. These shri shri's, acharyas and bapus are dime a dozen, promoting the culture and values which suit the material interests of sections of middle classes, and political interests of the likes of Modi. Needless to say their preaching aims to promote traditions which einforce thesecondary status of dalits, women and other weaker sections of society. With times, RSS politics has succeeded in co-opting sections of deprived and minorities, and there is a difference between cooption and notion of equality.

While maintaining status quo of social hierarchies, and suppression of human rights of weak is the core agenda of sectarian political outfits, irrespective of the race and religion in whose name they are unfolded, the same is presented in the language of religion or race. The same is built around the 'Hate other', minorities, and this serves to create hysteria to suppress the democratic space. This is precisely what Modi has brought in. Through the carnage he has broken the values of pluralism and national integration. He has instilled the communal divides on permanent basis, so now he can talk of development. A prominent academic describes Modi brand of politics as 'communal body with the mask of development'. Modi has projected the interests of few industrialists, some NRIs and some affluent sections as the development of Gujarat. Needless to say here also, as in other parts of India, there are farmer's suicides and rising poverty of poor and destitution of marginalized, running parallel to the 'development' as understood in the language of globalization.

Are we witnessing the rise of a Hitler? Hitler who crushed democracy under his boots in the name of solving the German national problem of Jews, Communists and minorities? There is a sense of de ja vu in the rise of Modi, more so since he has started picking up charisma, more so because now the minorities in his state dare not even ask for their citizens rights as they know that none exists for them unless some one like Bilkis bano, assisted by human rights groups, can take it up to the highest levels of battles. And other such cases are doomed to disappear in to oblivion over a period of time. Bilkis bano case is the mirror of Gujarat. By its presence it is showing us how other cases have been suppressed by the trishuls of Modi associates. While he can bloat his chest to 56 inches and pose as the temporary savior for some, this politics will ultimately break the integration of the nation, which has been won the hard way by the democratic streams, political streams, which fought for nation's independence and its values, represented by the likes of Bhagat Singh, Gandhi and Ambedkar!



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