In 2006 and 2008, Muslims in the Maharashtrian town of Malegaon were accused of bombing their own graveyard and mosque. After seven years of blaming Pakistan and arresting and torturing Muslim suspects, in May 2013 the National Investigation Agency, India’s leading anti-terror agency filed charges against four Hindu radicals, all former Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh workers.
From The Times of India, January 8, 2011
Swami Aseemanand an RSS activist confessed to his involvement in the terror attack on Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid, while confirming that bomb attacks on the mosques in Malegaon (in 2006 and 2008) as well as the Samjhauta Express were carried out by Hindu radicals and he knew about it.
In jail, an ageing and ailing Aseemanand was looked after by a young Muslim prisoner. Before making his confession, Aseemanand reportedly told the magistrate that he knew he could be sentenced to death but still wanted to make the confession because of the arrest of the boy Kaleem, wrongly it now transpires, for the Mecca Masjid blast. Kaleem’s plight motivated Aseemanand to think of “atonement” so that innocents don’t suffer.
Aseemanand also linked Hindu radicals to the blast in Gujarat’s minority-dominated Modasa town. RSS pracharak Indresh, Aseemanand claimed, helped enlist members of the saffron terror plot, including Sunil Joshi.
From The Times Of India, September 17, 2014
RSS activist Sunil Joshi, a suspect in the Samjhauta Express blast case, was shot dead in Dewas in Madhya Pradesh on December 29, 2007. NIA charged Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and three others for the murder of Sunil Joshi.
According to NIA chargesheet, Pragya Singh Thakur, who is also a key accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast, got Joshi eliminated as she was wary of Joshi’s sexual advances and also scared that the plan for Malegaon blasts might leak.
Mumbai Police deployed Anti Terrorism Squad to assist the local investigating authorities in Malegaon. Police say that unsophisticated, crude bombs, identical to those that detonated in Delhi 3 days before, were used.
The investigation was led by Mumbai Anti Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who was later killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
The arrests of ex-army personnel by the ATS brought to light the workings of two groups, Rashtriya Jagran Manch and Abhinav Bharat. Abhinav Bharat derives its name from Savarkar’s Abhinav Bharat created in 1905. The president of the Abhinav Bharat is the niece of Nathuram Godse, married to Savarkar’s nephew.
Uma Bharti currently the Union Minister for Water Resources and the Shiv Sena, publicly defended the accused. Bharatiya Janata Party parliamentary leader, L. K. Advani, alleged that “It has become clear that the ATS is acting in a politically-motivated and unprofessional manner. I demand a change in the present ATS team.”
When serving Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit was arrested in Pachmarhi, learning Arabic, call records between him and Major Upadhyaya around the time of the Malegaon blasts were said to be incriminating. It later emerged that he, along with the sadhvi, may be connected to the Samjhauta Express bombings. Facing reports of at least three more Army men under scrutiny, Purohit’s counsel claimed that the ATS was acting in “utter haste” and alleging that Purohit could even be eliminated by the ATS.
The late Hemant Karkare, then chief of ATS investigating the blasts, came under severe attack from the Sangh Parivar. After Karkare fell to terrorist bullets in 2008 his wife, Kavita Karkare, refused to receive her portion of the Rs 1 crore reward announced by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The reason was stark. Modi along with other leaders of the BJP, including prime ministerial candidate L. K. Advan,i and the Shiv Sena had been baying for Karkare’s blood for his investigations into terrorist activities by the saffron brigade.
The global context
From Independence till the 1970s, India was at the forefront of the Non-Aligned Movement, equidistant from the USA and the Soviet Union. Internally, the economy followed a Nehruvian mix of public and private sectors.
The Bangladesh War of 1971 pushed India closer to the Soviets with the USA supporting Pakistan and threatening India with its Seventh Fleet. Indira Gandhi’s Emergency nationalised banks and favoured the public sector. After Indira’s assassination, the Congress under Rajiv Gandhi inched back towards the US, ushering liberalisation as per the orders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
In the neighbourhood, since 1947, Afghanistan had been under the influence of the Soviet government and received large amounts of aid, economic assistance, military equipment training and military hardware from the Soviet Union.
In 1979, United States President Jimmy Carter signed the first directive for covert financial aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. As Soviet troops entered to defend the Afghan government under rebel attack what followed was a proxy war between the USSR and Islamic militants promoted by the USA.
Clip: Brezhinsky exhorting Taliban
In India, the fallout was seen in rising religious strife. Islamic militancy grew violent in Kashmir and a Sikh separatist movement in Punjab resulted in a horrific anti-Sikh massacre in 1984. That year was also marked by a Sangh Parivar meet which decided that razing a 16th-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya to build a Hindu temple to Lord Ram would be the fastest method of mass Hindu mobilisation. In the wake of mayhem, BJP grew from two to 88 seats in parliament.
The beginning of the liberalisation era thus curiously coincided with the rapid, though zigzag rise of Hindutva. The culmination of these twin trajectories is Narendra Modi, an RSS man who is also a darling of big business and the corporate media.
Modi’s ascent from a sangh pracharak to prime minister and “world leader” needs to be seen operating in two correlated ideologies. The one related with the Sangh has been elucidated sufficiently. The more recent one has emerged in the context of global environmental changes post 1985.
The evidence of rapidly decreasing natural resources led to the consolidation of business interests and their alignment with Western super powers. Oil is what drove the industrial revolution and since then, the world has already consumed half the available supply on the planet. Potable water is also running out, as are other raw materials. Milton Friedman and his Chicago Boys’ “Trickle Down” theory of development has been force fed into dominant economic discourse all over the world. The logic that “only if the rich get richer will the poor live better!” has been popularised by an oligopolistic media enterprise.
The sovereignty gained by Asian, African, South American countries during the 1950s present an impediment for profit-mongering for global business. The concept of Citizenship and Sovereignty that emerged during the 17th century have became outdated: they are a threat in the path of wresting complete control of fast-dwindling resources. The New World Order under the World Trade Order-General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs was launched to ensure that the rich would continue to get richer even as the pie began to crumble.
It needs to be understood that the financial power of the multi-nationals’ private business is huge. For example in 2007, the total volume of trade by private corporations the world over was over $1,171 trillion; the sum of the earnings of all countries was a mere $66 trillion, almost 20 times less.
Modi’s “development” ideology is not an accident. Nor were Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and P Chidambaram accidents. It is just that they could not quite keep pace with the ever-increasing demands of resource capturing corporates. So if a Modi did not exist, he would have been invented.
Handing over common resources by interlinking of rivers, mining projects and disinvestment corroborated by the stock market is not enough. The ideology must sink roots. The Gujarat State Standard VIIIth Social Science Textbook of 2013 in its eighth chapter of “Our Economy” is evidence of the pervasive ideas of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation as panacea for all the problems our country faces today.
Consumer rights are showcased, a few individual cases of poor girls and boys making it to an IIT are touted as victory of a just system, while on the other hand mechanisms and policies pertaining to food distribution, education, health care are deliberately downgraded and withdrawn. The idea that the Welfare State has failed its citizens is sold through the mechanism of the Public Private Partnerships, to pave the way for the takeover of public assets by private interests. In this scenario, a rags to riches story is the icing on a cake that few will actually taste. Modi’s triumph as a chaiwala’s boy becoming the PM fits the bill.
The current regime is in place to rapidly subsume any and all citizen’s rights at a faster pace than what the United Progressive Alliance could manage. Assurances of rapid environmental clearances for mega-projects, weakening safeguards in the Land Acquisition Act, withdrawal of the Gram Sabha’s right to decide the fate of mega-projects by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, handing over large tracts of reserved forest land to corporates like Adani, amending the Coastal Regulation Zone to allow coastal lands to fall into the hands of builders, promoting the production of petrol and diesel driven consumer cars and expanding the already vast network of expensive highways and flyovers, increasing the Foreign Direct Investment in Defence and Retail, accompanied by the dismantling of elements of welfare like the withdrawal of free medicines in Maharashtra merely two days after the new BJP government is sworn in and the alarmingly high rate of malnutrition in the model State of Gujarat – these are a few symptoms of a phenomenon reminiscent of the close embrace between Hitler’s Germany and the mega-business of his day.
Arms and the Man
With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the decline of the Soviet Union, the USA was already the best armed, pre-eminent super power. But as Gorbachev sued for peace and disarmament, Ronald Reagan and the neocon lobby of the military industrial complex that controlled him, had other ideas.
American arms manufacturers export one-third of the world’s weapons, often supplying to both sides in a conflict. If the collapse of the Soviet Union and the big bad commie reds had ushered decades of peace, it would surely have been bad for business. A new public enemy had to be invented. Islamic jihad stepped up just in time.
Overnight, friends became foes and vice versa. The Bin Ladens were partners with George Bush Sr. in an oil company in Texas. Osama Bin armed and abetted by the CIA became a champion jihadi in the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
After the defeat of the Soviets, Osama turned against America and soon graduated to the post of the elusive arch enemy, taking care to pop up on videotape a few days before Bush’s precarious re-elections, to guarantee him victory.
In oil-rich countries that dared to nationalise, the fatwa was out. So fell Mossadegh in Iran in 1956, Saddam Hussain in Iraq in 2003, and Gaddafi in Libya in 2011. The coup in Venezuela to displace Hugo Chavez failed but in the Middle East the sectarian conflicts of Islamic jihadis could be used to weaken any nation state. Today Osama is dead but his Al Quaeda, morphed into ISIS, can still be used in various theatres to serve the interests of America, Saudi Arabia, Israel and their allies, as it was in Libya and now in Syria.
If occasionally, they behead some white reporters, it only adds to the dread of the jihadi and serves to sell weapons, or buy sovereignty
In India it was image makeover time. For Modi to become PM or even, just to get a USA visa, the first requirement was a clean chit about the massacre in Gujarat. What he got instead was the absence of a clear guilty verdict. The Supreme Court’s amicus curae had found enough evidence to prosecute Modi but the Special Investigation Team did not agree. The SIT report confirmed that while Modi claimed to have been unaware of the Gulbarg Society massacre which in Ahmedabad for as long as five hours after the atrocity, in a contrary finding, Modi was shown to have held meetings with police officers throughout the day in order to continuously monitor the violence. The SIT also confirmed that Modi’s Gujarat state government was guilty of destroying a huge amount of incriminating evidence, including completely destroying the records of police communications and government meetings during the riots. For a relieved corporate media, all this passed as “a clean chit”.
The “clean chit” for Modi’s closest aide Amit Shah, is more astounding. He is accused of being a key player in the cold-blooded false encounter killings of Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bi and Tulsi Prajapati. The case is still going on even though Amit Shah has been strangely allowed to skip court on a regular basis. Despite the grave charges against him Modi chose him to be BJP’s star campaign manager in Uttar Pradesh.
Under Shah’s watch, there was a communal riot in Muzzaffarnagar and polarised voters gave BJP a landslide victory. Shah was then elevated to BJP President and delivered further victories in Haryana and Maharashtra.
Amit Shah. Credit: IANS
Corruption and control
It is common to think that the main reason for the rout of the Congress was corruption. Corruption is really a non-issue, or rather, like black money, merely an issue with which to fool the public. There is so little to choose between the Congress and BJP alliances. For every A. Raja, Ashok Chavan, Ajit and Sharad Pawar in one, there is Yedurappa, Nitin Gadkari, Manohar Joshi and Shivraj Chauhan in the other. When the US power fir Enron came to India, they bribed the ruling Congress/Nationalist Congress Party to get a foothold in Dabhol. The BJP/Shiv Sena then defeated the Congess/NCP by promising to scrap Enron, but just “renegotiated” to expand the Enron project. Today the Dabhol plant lies abandoned and rusting having eaten up our millions.
Indeed the real high-level corruption is not even called corruption because it involves changing the law or changing policy. Once this is done, what should have been illegal is declared to be legal. Imagine the money that can be made from building a giant mega dam or better still, embarking on an environmental disaster by interlinking rivers. The large loot that happens in this country is largely legal.
With so many ministers still facing charges, the executive has revealed an urgent desire to control the judiciary and the legal process. Following Modi’s election as prime minister, India got a new Attorney General in Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer who defended and facilitated the original acquittals of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, ringleaders of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms (although investigations of Tytler and Kumar were later reopened). More pertinently, Rohatgi defended Modi’s Gujarat state government against prosecutions by victims of the 2002 riots.
Gopal Subramaniam whose appointment as a Supreme Court judge was blocked, had appeared against Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. On the other hand senior lawyer Uday U Lalit, who had appeared for Amit Shah in the Tulsi Prajapati encounter case was appointed as a Supreme Court judge.
In 2002, several of the captains of industry had reacted to the Gujarat riots in horror and had been openly critical of Chief minister Modi. They included people like the head of HDFC, Deepak Parekh and Adi Godrej. Today they are all part of the widespread pro-Modi business chorus.
In 2005, US officials denied Modi a visa just as he was preparing to travel to New York to address Indian-Americans at a rally scheduled in Madison Square Garden. The State Department invoked a US law passed in 1998 that makes foreign officials responsible for severe violations of religious, ineligible for visas.
The lobby to get Modi’s US visa drew not so strange bedfellows. Congressman Joe Walsh of Illinois, one of the loudest Tea Party Republicans in Congress, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking that Modi be granted a visa. Walsh told local reporters that he felt comfortable with Modi as someone “kind of like a Tea Party free market guy in India, which I found very appealing.”
With Modi unable to go to the US, his place was filled by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation. During a long interactive session with nearly 4,000 delegates of the Asian American Hotel Owners Convention Sri Sri was asked his views on Modi. He said “I don’t comment on individuals because individuals are just part of one wholeness.”
Sri Sri, the darling of the international corporate glitterati who has addressed the United Nations and the World Economic Forum in Davos, added “Everybody is what you call a nimitta ‒ an instrument of the divine ‒ so branding someone good or bad or right or wrong and boycotting them is meaningless, is useless.”
Sri Sri then went on to talk about the unprecedented progress that was occurring in Gujarat under the Modi administration. He noted that more than 40,000 dams had been constructed in just one year. “The water level has come up in Gujarat so much. People are so happy”. No one seems to have told him that dams do not create water, they just take it away from those who cannot pay and give it to those who can.
“People are so happy” is now the theme song of our corporate-controlled media. Those who refuse to sing it, or sing it out of tune occasionally are already getting the boot. I will not list the casualties.
In 2002 Celia Dugger of the New York Times had interviewed Modi a couple of months after the riots. “I asked [Modi] if he had any regrets about what had happened in his state in that period: Women openly raped, hundreds of people killed. He told me his greatest regret was that he didn’t manage the media very well.”
It is a mistake he would never repeat. No media from TV to radio, print to internet is now left out of the ambit. Paid advertising has been taken to new heights. For weeks before the elections right up to polling day, full-blown Narendra Modi ads were on all the front pages. If the funds available seem inexhaustible so do the acolytes. Even with an X ray machine, it is hard to spot a backbone.
And just in case some truths manage to rise to the surface, there is the triad of state censorship, extra state censorship and self censorship. Shubhradeep Chakravarty’s documentary that exposed how the riots in Muzzaffarnagar were engineered is banned by the state. Following threats, Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism is voluntarily pulped by her publisher. And no mainstream paper deems it worthy to report that outside the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, even as Devendra Fadnavis takes the chief minister’s oath in a lavish ceremony, 50 people are arrested for protesting the killing of three Dalits. Sunil Jadhav and his parents were brutally hacked to death because he allegedly had a relationship with an upper caste girl whose family is now BJP but was earlier with Shiv Sena and NCP. No one has been arrested.
In 2009, Modi hired the American APCO company. Famous for doing public relations for dictatorships, APCO is a strong advocate of expanding armaments and the US military role in world affairs. Amongst its many notorious business clients is Monsanto. Its network and affiliates include conservative pro-Zionist lobbyists and consultancy groups including Henry Kissinger Associates, Heritage Foundation and the Jewish Policy Centre.
The makeover is remarkable. Modi wears different cultural hats (though his upbringing made him rebel when offered a Muslim one), garlands the statue of Ambedkar, talks to children on TV, picks up a broom to clean India, a feat that will remain purely cosmetic until the caste system itself is destroyed.
Modi even takes a photo op with the Chinese premier while spinning Gandhi’s charkha. This last photo is breath-taking.
Not only was Gandhi the one his mentors murdered, the spinning wheel was the symbol of Gandhi’s challenge not just to the corporate world but to the industrial revolution itself. It anticipated peak oil, global warming and the ravages of mad consumerism. I don’t suggest that we go back to the charkha literally, but it clearly points to an ideal of sustainability. The development model that Modi follows can only speed us along our way, over the edge.
With grateful acknowledgements to Ram Punyani, Shamsul Islam, John Dayal and Simantini Dhuru.
This is the concluding part of award-winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan's address to the Editor's Guild on November 17. The first part can be read here.