writings of ali ahmed, PhD (JNU), PhD (Cantab), with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Download books/papers from dropbox links provided. Twitter: @aliahd66
Also see blog-www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in. Former UN official, academic and infantryman. Author India's Doctrine Puzzle: Limiting War in South Asia (Routledge 2014). All views are personal.
A video on youtube.com
shows Vajpayee at a press conference in which in the context of the Gujarat
carnage that led to the press conference he reminds the Gujarat government of
its obligation to observe raj dharma.
As Vajpayee makes the point, the Gujarat chief minister is seen interjecting with
the claim that his government in its tackling of the episode had indeed
respected the tenets of raj dharma.
Clearly, there was a divergence
on what constituted raj dharma
between the two members of the ruling party respectively heading the central
and state governments. What Narendra Modi meant by raj dharma remains consequential and worth interrogation, if only
because he is auditioning across the country for yet another five years in
which to practice it.
In the Gujarat carnage, over a
thousand died, with the unofficial figure being double. This was the formative
event in the creation of the strong-man myth
that has politically propelled Modi to power at the Center. Therefore, how Modi
perceives his role in the event is key to understanding him as a person and
It appears that understanding
Modi has generated a cottage industry of writings, both complimentary and
critical. Early in the course of the Modi era, a slew of books appeared making
much of the so-called Modi doctrine.
One strategic affairs stalwart
has begun his latest tome by courageously admitting that Modi’s showing at the
helm has proven him wrong in his earlier appreciation of Modi prior to the 2014
Given that many are disappointed
with Modi’s performance,
a flurry of perception management activity is likely impending. The first salvo
has already been fired in publicity surrounding the soon to be released book
by a right wing think tank and members of the NITI Aayog, reportedly objectively evaluating Modi. Since the idea
behind the information war is to influence voters, voters need reminding
alongside the manner Modi acquired and retained power.
The latest episode the ongoing
saga going back to the Gujarat carnage has three judges
recuse themselves from hearing a case in which an activist alleges that Judge
Loya, the judge who died when hearing the Sohrabuddin case involving an alleged
encounter killing of a gangster by a police official, DG Vanzara, an acolyte of
Modi and his right-hand man, Amit Shah.
Developments in the case
on the killing of Haren Pandya, a former party rival and minister of Modi in
Gujarat, have it that he was allegedly killed on orders of the Gujarat
supercop, Vanzara. The official narrative put out then was that he was killed
by Muslim terrorists out to avenge the Gujarat carnage. The counter narrative
has it that he was an early source of information in the open domain of the
at Modi’s residence at which majoritarian extremists were given 72 hours of
impunity to carry out the pogrom.
Modi in his interjection at his prime
minister’s press conference during Vajpayee’s visit to the state made the defence
that he had followed the precepts of good governance. Vajpayee was elaborating
that the state cannot discriminate between citizens on any basis. Modi was
making that claim that his police in stanching the violence was equally firm
with both the communities.
It missed Modi that the Muslims,
at the receiving end of mass violence, needed state protection and therefore
were to be spared the equal treatment his police supposedly meted out. As Zamir
Uddin Shah, the general commanding troops responding to an aid to civil
authority appeal, points out, the police were selectively violent, reserving
their brutality for Muslims. Modi was either ill-informed or being slippery.
This makes clear that Modi did
not have in mind the raj dharma
Vajpayee supporters attribute to Vajpayee. So, what exactly is the raj dharma Modi as chief minister was
upholding and has likely practiced over the past four years at the national
helm and is poised to replicate over the coming five?
Modi’s flock of devotees is not
on account of his strongly putting down mass violence. Instead, it is their
approval of his keeping the state off their backs while they were at it and in
preserving them from the consequences. This provides a clue on Modi’s
definition of raj dharma.
The raj dharma Modi was implementing was to turn India into a
majoritarian democracy. This is the Hindutva project and Modi, a self-confessed
Hindu nationalist, has been at its vanguard for the past three decades.
His early showing as a foot-soldier
was in organizing his mentor, LK Advani’s yatra
at the launch of the BJP’s Mandir campaign. Soon thereafter, his role in the
bringing down of the Babri Masjid was in organizing the storm troopers from his
state for the event. The seminal event was in his being placed at the helm in
Gujarat, propitiously a few months prior to the Godhra incident. A lifetime
opportunity was offered by the incident that Modi - well prepared – seized. It
was his blow for rajdharma.
To him, propagation and
self-perpetuation of Hindutva is rajdharma.
If this was all, it would yet redound - if perversely - to Modi’s credit for
ideological commitment. It also explains his lack of remorse for the deaths in
the pogrom, likened inimitably by him when asked as to how he felt, to a
passing mood resulting from a speeding car going over puppies.
The question of seemingly inter-related
killings beginning with Haren
Pandya, going on through Sohrabuddin
to end up in the alleged killing of Justice Loya,
yet needs disposing off. To devotees, this would be justifiable as a small
price to pay in pursuit of the larger project of rescuing Mother India from
liberal, inclusive democracy. To the extent the allegations are plausible, this
would prove Modi’s personal risk taking, called for by the higher ideal. It is
to embrace without qualms the realism that under-grids politics.
By this yardstick, they were
necessary to coverup the tracks leading back to the late night meeting the day
the coaches of Sabarmati express caught fire. If the tracks were not swept
over, the state apparatus could have gone down the rule of law route and upset
the Hindutva applecart. Thus, in the imagination of believers, Modi has
fearlessly rescued the Indian state, to deliver it for constitutional
reengineering in the Hindutva image.
There is another possibility,
that of Modi being an imposter, an opportunist who finding himself at the eye
of a storm chose to get on the Hindutva tiger and is unable to get off. This is
some what remote considering that he has had an infrastructure within the
government to help along the route, that has included the likes of Vanzara, in
the bureaucracy, the police and intelligence agencies.
A pretender could have attracted people
with charisma, but not the close camp followers who have helped along the way
to the ‘wave’, by participating, covering up tracks or looking the other way.
The Supreme Court now readying itself to address a case alleging 22 fake
encounters in Gujarat when Modi was making his image as Hindu Hridaysamrat by
disposing off Muslim terrorists out to get him.
Neither possibility – ideology or
the lack of it - is edifying. Modi is at a final hurdle, an election with
make-it-or-break-it portents for the Hindutva project. It is no wonder his
national security advisor,
similarly motivated, has asked for a strong dispensation – presumably centered
on his boss Modi - over the coming ten years.
Since the development promise will
not figure high in electioneering, Modi’s version of raj dharma – a pathway to Hindu
Pakistan – should substitute. Even if it appeals to many as an
attractive end, the means should lend pause.