The Indian voters have asked the man the media have accused of ethnic cleansing to continue to be the Prime Minister a second time, much to the chagrin of self-styled liberal media at home and abroad. For seventeen years since Gujarat riots Narendra Modi, whom they fondly called Chaiwala, Hindu Fuehrer, double murderer, Gujarat Butcher and that elegant honorific Maut ka Saudagar, became a synonym for genocide, massacre, holocaust and pogrom in the eyes of the liberal media. Former Supreme Court judges abjured their own obiter dicta and judgments to preside over kangaroo tribunals to try him in absentia. Denominational groups traveled to Washington and European capitals asking their governments to stop the Gujarat mayhem. How?
A senior journalist met Bill Clinton and other activists besides consulting anti-India lobbies in the US. Three top editors flew into Pakistan and briefed Pakistani journalists and intellectuals on what happened to the minorities in Gujarat. Visiting Gujarat after peace returned to the troubled State one pacifist editor became ecstatic and referred to Gujarat as ‘killing fields’. These angels of peace forgot that such riots took place in Gujarat in 1964 and 69 under Congress administrations; in Delhi for three days under the very nose of Rajiv Gandhi following the assassination of his mother, in Calcutta and Naokhali in response to Jinnah’s Direct Action call a few months before the country gained independence. The Delhi and Calcutta killings took a toll several times higher than the Gujarat happenings. This not to defend Gujarat but to absolve Modi.
According to the statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s administration in Parliament 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed. At the beginning of the riots the liberal press reported that ten thousand Muslims had died. Who killed whom? It is common sense that in a clash between a majority group and a minority group minority casualties would be more.
How did the 2002 killings with Modi in power merit the label of genocide? For the benefit of the all-knowing English media, a judge of the Ahmedabad Metropolitan Court made clear the meaning of genocide while rejecting a widow’s protest petition to set aside a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team report declaring Modi had no role in the killing of Ehsan Jafri, a former MP who was the petitioner’s husband. What is significant is that the media have underplayed a crucial part of magistrate B. J. Ganatra’s observations made while dismissing Zakia Jafri’s petition. The magistrate referred to the terms ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’ used in Zakia’s petition and dismissed both terms as ‘foreign’ not applicable (to this case). There is no doubt that Zakia had lifted these terms from the English media that liberally used nonsensical epithets like pogrom, Holocaust, genocide, massacre etc. to describe Gujarat riots. The magistrate said, “Based on all the witness statements and documents on record, this court has to see whether the Gulberg Society incident (in which the petitioner’s husband was killed) was because of a conspiracy by powerful people in the state government or not. And whether, as the complainant says, this can be called ‘ethnic cleansing’ and ‘genocide’”.
The court examined the origin of these expressions and noted that ‘ethnic cleansing’ was first used during the struggle that broke out over the division of Yugoslavia, where people were killed based on the community they belonged to. And ‘genocide’ is a Greek and Latin usage which means the killing of people on the basis of race. Editorial narcissists have played a populist game in using the word ‘genocide’. In trying to selectively appease the victims, they dangerously pitted one community against another in order to either satisfy certain interest groups or promote electoral agendas.
These are divisive games that won for some of the activists Padma awards and membership in Sonia Gandhi’s brainchild the National Integration Council. The media failed to consider the implications of the word. First, genocide will attract the provisions of the 1948 convention and thus impart an international dimension to the problem (remember the Kashmir albatross), even though the guilty men can be tried in a domestic court. Second, it provides handle to anti-national forces to have the case heard outside the country.
It is the repeated use of this word that encouraged the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom to put India in the dock. The interest shown in the Gujarat riots by countries like Canada, Switzerland, European Union and the United States was only a preamble to seeking a full-fledged trial by an international tribunal.
As a result, the world would have tried not Modi but India. It is like the failed attempt of some divisive forces to project caste prejudices as racism and take the issue to the Durban conference on racism. If what the self-styled secularists want is punishment for Modi, the Indian Penal Code or even a law like POTA meets the needs. The hundreds of NGOs in the country and PIL lawyers can approach a domestic court. Any other action would imply lack of faith in our judicial system and an ardent desire to embarrass the country. Once the case is before a domestic court, the latter will decide whether it is genocide or some other crime (as did the Ahmedabad court) that can be tried under the law of the land. Imagine how unwittingly our media have fabricated all the evidence that the foreign diplomats needed to convince their governments of the fact of genocide.
Those who talk of justice forget the principles of jurisprudence and journalism too. Jurisprudence treats everyone as innocent till his guilt is proved. Trial by press violates the principles of journalism. The media must ask themselves why none of the newspapers or NGOs approached the Supreme Court, which has a history of taking up cases suo motu based on news items and post cards. While God alone can save this country from its politicians and, I may add, the media. I am reminded of an Oscar Wilde epigram: ‘In the olden days you had the rack. Today, you have the press’.