(June 2006. This piece was originally written for Times of India upon their urging. It was never published)
Soon after becoming the Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, Adolf Hilter called for fresh elections to the Reichstag
- the German Parliament. On the evening of February 27, 1933 – six days before elections -- a massive fire broke out at the Reichstag
. The next day, the Reichstag Fire Decree
was signed which effectively suspended most of the civil liberties -- freedom of the person, expression, press, the right of free association and public assembly, the secrecy of the post and telephone, as well as the protection of property and the home.
Much in the same way that the Reichstag
fire gave Hitler the opening to tighten his stranglehold and paved the way for the creation of Nazi Germany, the Sabarmati Express fire gave Modi the opening to revive the BJP's floundering electoral fortunes in Gujarat and legitimised the advent of the saffronazi.
The parallels do not end here. Kristallnacht
(Night of Broken Glass) and the 2002 Gujarat carnage seem eerily similar. Considered a turning point in Nazi history, the organized anti-Jewish riots in Germany and Austria were a forerunner of Endlosung
or the Final Solution. Reinhard Heydrich (whose office oversaw the Gestapo, police and intelligence operations) sent a secret telegram to "all headquarters and stations of the State Police" with instructions for the immediate coordination of police and political activities in inciting the riots. "...the demonstrations are not to be prevented by the police... they are only to supervise the observance of the guidelines." The toll -- 36 Jews killed (some put this figures to 91), over 25,000 deported to concentration camps, 267 synagogues destroyed and nearly 7,000 Jewish shops, businesses and homes vandalized !
Closer home, survivors of the Naroda-Patiya massacre of Feb 28, 2002 recount the police reaction was far more direct, " Behnch**d, we have no orders to save you today." The Gujarat DGP P C Pande suffered memory losses while appearing before the Nanavati Commission, but an independent analysis of PCR wireless transcripts and cell phone records will confirm a chilling story of state complicity. Journalists and activists have repeatedly spoken of ministers leading mobs and supervising police operations. Hindutva
mobs razed 270 mosques and dargahs, burnt and destroyed hundreds of Muslim homes and specifically targeted Muslim businesses like restaurants and timber marts in cities and petty businesses including Bohra traders' shops in villages. A Bajrang Dal activist succinctly sums it all: "The idea was to finish them financially, so that they are not able to rebuild their lives." Coincidence?
The womb-that-produces-the-enemy was repeatedly defiled, in a well-orchestrated campaign of sexual violence against Muslim women that saw similar modus operandi in Ahmedabad and Baroda, the tribal Panchmahals belt and in other remote villages of Gujarat. The carnage left in its wake 2,000 people brutally killed or "missing". (Some of them are now being found, through DNA analysis of hurriedly buried remains, like in Lunavada last week). Nearly 200,000 people were displaced, forced into relief camps and according to the Concerned Citizens' Tribunal report, the state denied them "even basic rights like water, sanitation and food supplies." Remarkable coincidence?
On March 23, 1933, the newly elected German parliament Reichstag
met in Berlin and passed Hitler's Enabling Act
, fortifying his position as the Führer. Formally called the Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich
, it ratified restrictions on freedom of speech, press and demonstration, setting the stage for further revocation of rights. The Nazi Gleichschaltung
now began a massive coordination of all aspects of life under the swastika. A week later, a national boycott of Jewish shops and department stores was ordered by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
The terror tactics intensified with the April 1 campaign. Nazi brownshirts and the SA storm troopers carried posters: "Germans, defend yourselves against the Jewish atrocity propaganda, buy only at German shops!" 6 days later, Jews were removed from all civil service positions under a new law that made "Aryanism" a necessary requirement - The Law of the Restoration of the Civil Service
. Next, the Law for Preventing Overcrowding in German Schools
was passed on April 25 that denied non-Aryans admittance to schools. During the next few weeks, Jews were prohibited from serving as patent lawyers, dentists, technicians and doctors in state-run insurance institutions. Few months later, Jews were formally barred from becoming university professors or lecturers, journalists or government employees. They were banned from all cultural and entertainment activities including literature, art, film and theater. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws
denied Jews citizenship, leading to a time when a Jew would be forbidden even to sit with a non-Jew, let alone marry one. Because the German people still did not speak out, Hitler proceeded to prepare the nation for his Final Solution - total extermination. The Law for the Protection of the German People
did more than restrict freedom of expression -- it actually paved the way for the Nazi concentration camps and the Holocaust.
However, in Modi's Gujarat, you don't need to create new, formal laws to do any of this. Just read pamphlets or hear speeches calling for an economic boycott of Muslims. Or talk to school children forced to leave the Don Bosco school in Ahmedabad. Just visit Hindu and Muslim ghettos in Ahmedabad. Or accompany Muslim villagers back to their villages. Or try to find them a job under the National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. Or help them get a new ration card or treatment at a government hospital. Or attempt restoration of their homes and property taken over by the very people who killed and raped their families and friends.
The Supreme Court might be monitoring "riot cases" directly, but the saffron juggernaut rolls on in Gujarat. While upright police officers twiddle their thumbs in punishment postings, others like P C Pande survive and flourish. All critical voices are threatened, boycotted or labeled. Activist Teesta Setalvad and advocate Mihir Desai are labeled "enemies of Gujarat", Mallika Sarabhai braves harassment for speaking out and High Courts do not hesitate to formally make adverse comments, mercifully expunged by the Supreme Court. And now, it is Aamir Khan's turn.
Meanwhile, Congress governments bend over backwards to appease law-breakers. Illegal encroachments whether in Ulhasnagar or Delhi are regularized by ordinances. Yet it does not see any problems in evicting tribals and villagers from their homeland - the Narmada Valley - without making appropriate alternate arrangements. Its own Group of Ministers find rehabilitation to be woefully inadequate, yet the ex-World Bank official, now our Prime Minister, sees no cause to punish the guilty or announce a new package for the Narmada oustees.
Why not a new cess on those benefiting from the Narmada Dam so the people they have displaced are not forced to starve or migrate to urban slums. Why not ask the "5 crore Gujaratis" allegedly deeply offended by Aamir's remarks, to contribute Rs 10 each to create a corpus for rehabilitation? Or do they want watery graves to be the foundation for their own "progress"? Why don't the BJP Chief Ministers from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat sit together with their Maharashtra counterpart and sort out all issues concerning rehabilitation? Or is it too much to ask them to concern themselves with the welfare of the people?
BJP's youth leaders do not want Aamir's latest film Fanaa
or any earlier film to be screened in Gujarat. Cinema theatre owners have "voluntarily" boycotted Aamir. Hema Malini and Shatrughan Sinha of BJP ask Aamir to apologize. It is quite another matter that they failed to appeal to Modi to protect innocent Muslim women and children in 2002, or as party MPs, failed to apologise for the carnage? NSUI - the Congress youth wing is busy burning posters of Aamir while waving coke bottles. Vaghela sees a plot hatched together - "a conspiracy by the Producer and the BJP" for publicity; his colleague Yogendra Makwana wonders why "Aamir is talking politics". Is the Congress in Gujarat the new B-team for the BJP? Really, why should anyone have a monopoly over politics of intolerance? Lets learn our lessons from history.
Golwalkar, the RSS ideologue once said, "The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e. of the Hindu nation, and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race; or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment -- not even citizen's rights."
So, no rights for non-Hindus? Are Muslims, Christians and Parsis reduced to second class citizens? And what about the rights of anyone speaking out against injustice? Or hate and bloodshed? Do they become "enemies of Hindutva
or Gujarat"? Enjoy them while they last - you may soon have such rights in history textbooks, and that too, only till the saffronazis revise them!
But, till they do so, lets pay heed to Julius Caesar. "Beware the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded patriotism will offer up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."
Just substitute the term patriotism for Gujarati Asmita