Thursday, September 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


S P E C I A L   E D I T O R I A L

Modi's Gujarat: whose failure is this?
Hari Jaisingh

The indiscriminate killings of devotees in the Akshardham temple complex in Gandhinagar are too shocking for words and deserve worldwide condemnation. The gruesome incident once again brings to the fore the serious flaws and distortions not only in governance in Gujarat but also in political thinking and responses. After the traumatic Godhra incident on February 27 and the other subsequent developments, Gujarat should not have been treated as a fiefdom of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his patrons in New Delhi. The state's problems of communalism and terrorism, posing a big challenge to the entire nation, ought to be faced ruthlessly and in a determined manner. This is not a matter of mere post-mortem of the rights or wrongs on either side of the communal divide. Terrorism is no one's friend. It cuts across geographical and community lines. So, what is relevant is the evolution of a rational and national perspective which alone can set the Gujarat house in order. Regrettably, nothing has been initiated for the purpose. The basic problems remain unattended.

Mr Narendra Modi has been more preoccupied with his Gaurav yatra than addressing himself to the state's problems. His priority should have been law and order, correct intelligence flow and prompt rehabilitation of the riot-affected. Apparently, he and his administration were busy with his Gaurav yatra.

The moot question is: Gaurav yatra for whom and for what? As it is, the "gaurav" (pride) of Gujarat is badly wounded. Mr Modi's yatra can no longer restore the shattered image of Mahatma Gandhi's Gujarat. The Mahatma's spirit of ahimsa today stands battered.

Instead of gearing up the police force and working out counter-strategies to meet the ISI's sinister designs, the BJP leader has preferred cheap gimmicks and given the impression of being obsessed with his vote-bank politics. Missing in the process is the much-needed healing touch. In any case, the way the terrorists have struck at the temple complex shows poor house-keeping by the government.

Pakistan's notorious intelligence outfit (the ISI) obviously took advantage of the chinks in the security system. What is distressing is that the Chief Minister even ignored the intelligence reports that had warned him of such brazen attacks.

The lesson is clear: since Gujarat has virtually been earmarked as a second playground for Pakistan-sponsored militant outfits, the state's security and intelligence networks have to be totally overhauled. It was pathetic to see the antiquated rifles in the hands of police personnel while the terrorists were armed with AK-47s and deadly explosives. How did they get into the temple complex? How big was their backup network? All these matters need to be looked into immediately.

The failure of the Modi government is total. No excuses can be entertained on this count. He has lost the moral authority to rule the state which was once the pride of the nation. It needs to be realised that the problem of terrorism is not a matter of shadow-boxing for the benefit of our politicians. Look at the reaction of some of the political leaders like Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. Equally disgusting are the bandh calls given by the Congress, the VHP, etc.

Bandhs do not provide an answer to terrorism. What the nation needs right now is concerted thinking and united action to meet new challenges. It also needs to be remembered that any provocative reaction directed at any community will not be in the nation's interest. Communal harmony and peace alone can help Gujarat face the spectre of terrorism and other problems boldly and squarely.

In this context, it is necessary to urge US President George W. Bush to reassess his policies and postures with regard to Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf. The General may be serving the USA's immediate strategic interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere. But in the process Mr Bush has, wittingly or unwittingly, become a party to General Musharraf's sins of terrorism for which India has been paying dearly for over a decade in the form of the blood of its innocent citizens. It will probably be easier for the people here to appreciate President Bush's role if he stops swearing by democracy of which we all are proud! We have shown to the rest of the world how to counter terrorism and ensure the triumph of the ballot over the bullet in Jammu and Kashmir.

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