The rioting in Gujarat in the first three days after Godhra was a result of not just the massacre at Godhra. It was the result of something else. And this something else was the reaction of the Left-liberal-secular media.
The media in general and TV channels like Star News-NDTV (who then had a collaboration) in particular and all English newspaper editors of the print media, and all non-BJP politicians belong to this Left-liberal-secular brigade. And every non-BJP leader who came on TV rubbed salt into the wounds of the anguished people. This was done by rationalizing and justifying the Godhra carnage.
Vir Sanghvi is the Chief Editor of The Hindustan Times. He wrote an article titled “One way ticket” in The Hindustan Times dated 28 February 2002, i.e. he must have written it on February 27 itself, the day of the massacre in Godhra. This is the full text of his article:
“ There is something profoundly worrying in the response of what might be called the secular establishment to the massacre in Godhra. Though there is some dispute over the details, we now know what happened on the railway track. A mob of 2,000 people stopped the Sabarmati Express shortly after it pulled out of Godhra station. The train contained several bogeys full of kar sewaks who were on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the Poorna Ahuti Yagya at Ayodhya. The mob attacked the train with petrol and acid bombs. According to some witnesses, explosives were also used. Four bogies were gutted and at least 57 people, including over a dozen children, were burnt alive.
Some versions have it that the kar sewaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans; others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers. According to these versions, the Muslim passengers got off at Godhra and appealed to members of their community for help. Others say that the slogans were enough to enrage the local Muslims and that the attack was revenge.
It will be some time before we can establish the veracity of these versions, but some things seem clear. There is no suggestion that the kar sewaks started the violence. The worst that has been said is that they misbehaved with a few passengers. Equally, it does seem extraordinary that slogans shouted from a moving train or at a railway platform should have been enough to enrage local Muslims, enough for 2,000 of them to have quickly assembled at eight in the morning, having already managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs.
Even if you dispute the version of some of the kar sewaks – that the attack was premeditated and that the mob was ready and waiting – there can be no denying that what happened was indefensible, unforgivable and impossible to explain away as a consequence of great provocation.
And yet, this is precisely how the secular establishment has reacted.
Nearly every non-BJP leader who appeared on TV on Wednesday and almost all of the media have treated the massacre as a response to the Ayodhya movement. This is fair enough in so far as the victims were karsewaks.
But almost nobody has bothered to make the obvious follow-up point: this was not something the kar sewaks brought on themselves. If a trainload of VHP volunteers had been attacked while returning after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, this would still have been wrong, but at least one could have understood the provocation.
This time, however, there has been no real provocation at all. It is possible that the VHP may defy the government and the courts and go ahead with the temple construction eventually. But, as of now, this has not happened. Nor has there been any real confrontation at Ayodhya – as yet.
And yet, the sub-text to all secular commentary is the same: the kar sewaks had it coming to them.
Basically, they condemn the crime; but blame the victims.
Try and take the incident out of the secular construct that we, in India, have perfected and see how bizarre such an attitude sounds in other contexts. Did we say that New York had it coming when the TwinTowers were attacked last year? Then too, there was enormous resentment among fundamentalist Muslims about America’s policies, but we didn’t even consider whether this resentment was justified or not.
Instead we took the line that all sensible people must take: any massacre is bad and deserves to be condemned.
When Graham Staines and his children were burnt alive, did we say that Christian missionaries had made themselves unpopular by engaging in conversion and so, they had it coming? No, of course, we didn’t.
Why then are these poor kar sewaks an exception? Why have we de-humanised them to the extent that we don’t even see the incident as the human tragedy that it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP’s fundamentalist policies?
The answer, I suspect, is that we are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.
When this formula does not work — it is clear now that a well-armed Muslim mob murdered unarmed Hindus – we simply do not know how to cope. We shy away from the truth – that some Muslims committed an act that is indefensible – and resort to blaming the victims.
Of course, there are always ‘rational reasons’ offered for this stand. Muslims are in a minority and therefore, they deserve special consideration. Muslims already face discrimination so why make it harder for them? If you report the truth then you will inflame Hindu sentiments and this would be irresponsible. And so on.I know the arguments well because – like most journalists – I have used them myself. And I still argue that they are often valid and necessary.
But there comes a time when this kind of rigidly ‘secularist’ construct not only goes too far; it also becomes counter-productive. When everybody can see that a trainload of Hindus was massacred by a Muslim mob, you gain nothing by blaming the murders on the VHP or arguing that the dead men and women had it coming to them.
Not only does this insult the dead (What about the children? Did they also have it coming?), but it also insults the intelligence of the reader. Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women’s compartment suffered the most damage.
Any media – indeed, any secular establishment – that fails to take into account the genuine concerns of people risks losing its own credibility. Something like that happened in the mid-Eighties when an aggressive hard secularism on the part of the press and government led even moderate Hindus to believe that they had become second class citizens in their own country. It was this Hindu backlash that brought the Ayodhya movement – till then a fringe activity – to the forefront and fuelled the rise of L.K. Advani’s BJP.
My fear is that something similar will happen once again. The VHP will ask the obvious question of Hindus: why is it a tragedy when Staines is burnt alive and merely an ‘inevitable political development’ when the same fate befalls 57 kar sewaks?
Because, as secularists, we can provide no good answer, it is the VHP’s responses that will be believed. Once again, Hindus will believe that their suffering is of no consequence and will be tempted to see the building of a temple at Ayodhya as an expression of Hindu pride in the face of secular indifference.
But even if this were not to happen, even if there was no danger of a Hindu backlash, I still think that the secular establishment should pause for thought.
There is one question we need to ask ourselves: have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than occasion for Sangh Parivar-bashing?”
As we see, when he had written it, no riots had taken place in Gujarat at all. But close observation of his article indicates that he knew that a backlash would take place in Gujarat- after the inhuman response of the ‘secularist’ brigade to the inhuman massacre in Godhra.See his two sentences “Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women’s compartment suffered the most damage” and “My fear is that something similar will happen once again”.
What Vir Sanghvi wrote in that article really explains everything, not just about Godhra but everything that followed after Godhra too. And not just that, but the behavior of the newspaper editors, who call themselves ‘secularists’ on all major issues too is explained and exposed by this self-confessed article, such as their response to all major communal riots in India and all clashes between the Hindus and other minorities.
Let us see his statement: “We are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in the simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.”
This is the first and biggest admission of pseudo-secularism from Vir Sanghvi, not just for himself, but also for his entire fellow ‘secularists’.
When any person views any happenings in a biased way, i.e. one person suffers and the other provokes, it also shows his moral and mental bankruptcy. Irrespective of whether a VHP member thrashes a Muslim or whether Muslims thrash or burn alive a trainload of VHP members, the ‘secularist’ newspaper editors will continue to bash the VHP and hold it responsible for all the troubles. He will not even bother to see who has suffered, and try to investigate who is at fault, but simply close his eyes and blame one group- i.e. the Hindu group during the Hindu-Muslim conflicts.
Something similar was written by the great Congress leader Kanhaiya Lal Munshi to the Congress Party’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a strong letter dated 23rd May
1962: “Whenever there is any inter-religious conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of what happens”.
Inability to judge any situation on merits, whether XYZ person attacked ABC person and killed him, or it was the other way round but simply judge it on the names of the persons- ABC or XYZ or the identities of the persons- Hindu or Muslim- i.e. ABC provokes and XYZ suffers- shows that the ‘neutral’ observer (in this case, the ‘secularists’) is partial with prejudice and jaundiced vision.
In reality, the Hindu- Muslim relations in India have been exactly the opposite. It is in fact most often a case of Muslims provoke, Hindus suffer. The Madan Commission appointed by the Congress government in Maharashtra to probe the riots gave the report that riots are invariably started by the Muslims. Ganesh Kanate, a staunch anti-BJP and anti-Sangh Parivar journalist with Communist leanings, wrote in his weekly column in the Nagpur-based English daily ‘The Hitavada’ dated 15 August 2003- “The Muslims are the most foolish of the lot. They always start the riots and then suffer heavily because of the riots which they themselves start.” Even a Communist like Ganesh Kanate had to admit that Muslims start most of the riots. Deep down, all the newspaper editors like Vir Sanghvi and all self-proclaimed secularists also know this. Even the Congress’ Home Ministry report of 1969 blamed Muslims for starting 23 out of 24 riots in Ahmedabad between 1968 and 1970, which was quoted in Parliament by Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 14 May 1970.
We would like to make it clear that we do not hold anyone or any community as responsible for all conflicts, but we have simply quoted the statements of some people like Ganesh Kanate, Madan Committee or the Congress’ Home Ministry report. In our opinion, in case of any conflict every case has to be judged on merit to decide who is at fault.
How that mentality affected their reporting on Godhra
His one-sided vision in seeing Hindu-Muslim relations is amply clear by his as well as all other pseudo-secularists’ reaction to Godhra.
Nearly all the media rationalized Godhra. Mind the word rationalized and not justified. Because after rationalizing Godhra, all of them added that they are by no means ‘justifying’ it. To say that they all justified Godhra will be a bit too harsh. But there is absolutely no doubt that they all rationalized Godhra and in parts, partially justified it.