Tehelka, Journalists Lead Indians to Redeem Their values

Tehelka, the intrepid news magazine did what the Indian government should have done in the past five years. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to the editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal and reporter Ashish Khetan who took enormous risk to procure evidence on video tapes about the planning of the genocide perpetrated by the Gujarat state government in February – March 2002. The tapes also record admissions of suppression of evidence and bribery by the public prosecutors to protect the guilty.

The culpable Gujarat state government (still in power), got away with it, because at the time their party (BJP) was also in power at the center in Delhi. In 2004 elections for the central Parliament, the Indian electorate exhibited maturity by defeating the repressive sectarian coalition in favor of a secular coalition dominated by the Congress party. However the Congress has been reticent to bring the Gujarat government to the bar of justice. It is afraid of being falsely tarred by the fascists, as anti–Hindu.

That may not come to pass. In the past, when the Congress party was a large undefeatable behemoth, many in its cadre were extremist sectarians who had joined in pursuit of power and weakened the secularist principles from within. To the extent that in early 1990s, Narsimha Rao became the Congress Prime Minister, who by his calculated inaction allowed the demolition of the Babari Masjid, unleashing the demon of naked violence, aided and abated by the guardians of law and order.

Those chauvinists have left the Congress and joined the BJP. The Congress after a long time is again a secularist party and has garnered the votes in 2004 based on secularist values. There is always political danger in taking a principled stand. With the strong evidence provided by the Tehelka reporters, there is more political danger in not following the principles. BJP is widely perceived to be a fascistic party to the chagrin of many of its decent rank and file supporters.

BJP is widely perceived to be a party based on mass movement indoctrinated with the ideology that considers individual and social interests subordinate to the state. BJP’s version of the nation state is forged by the majoritarian supremacy based on interlaced religious, ethnic, racial attributes defined as culture. Those, it considers out side the pale are suppressed, often brutally as in Gujarat. Ordinary decent citizens not realizing the insidious nature fall for its seemingly benign propaganda.

Indian newspapers have reported for years that minorities, Muslims and Christians have been harassed in Gujarat since the BJP came to power. What was not well known is that BJP power brokers and their allies were prepared to unleash a state supported pogrom of death, burning and looting on the Muslims. They just needed an excuse. The burning of a train carriage at Godhra on February 28, 2002 provided the pretext. Local Godhra Muslims were accused of setting the carriage afire from outside.

Instead of taking time to bring the culprits to justice, Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat gave verbal license of unrestrained pogrom for three days. It has been known for years, the Tehelka reporter has provided the corroboration on the videotape.

In 2003 a forensic report from the Capital of Gujarat, Ahmadabad came to the conclusion that the fire was set from inside the carriage. In March 2006, a commission appointed by the Ministry of Railways, under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court Justice Banerjee came to the same conclusion.

The Gujarat state Police and judiciary under pressure from the Modi government have stymied the investigation for years; so much so that the Supreme Court of India passed strong strictures and ordered a proper investigation in the only case filed, because the government could not stop it.

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, V. N. Khare, referring to the Best Bakery Burning case, wrote on September 13, 2003, “Your rajdharma (governing principle) is to punish offenders and bring the guilty to book. If you can’t, you quit.” In the final judgment, the Justices Raju Doraiswamy and Arijit Pasayat, April 12, 2004 wrote, “The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.”

The Supreme Court can only pass strictures on the cases brought before the court. The court has provided the strongest directive to the government of India to take the rights of the oppressed minorities with utmost seriousness.

It is the duty of the state government to follow. In this case the state government is the chief culprit. This puts the onus on the Union (Central) government. The constitution provides for the Union government to intervene when the state government is the oppressor and the state police and judiciary are badly compromised.

The investigations that the Gujarat government suppressed and the Central Bureau of Investigation should have carried out long time ago were done by Ashish Khetan of the Tehelka magazine at enormous risk. Now the evidence is on the tape and cannot be ignored.  

Independent observers have widely reported the brutal killing of about 2000 Muslims and the burning and looting of more than 100,000 Muslim homes. The government is the culprit so its figures are suspect. Many of the looters were photographed while the police were looking on. Many social workers, most of them from the Hindu community have taken enormous risk in helping the helpless in preparation of cases and have become voices of the voiceless.  

This is not a struggle among the Hindus and Muslims, as the bigots would like to propagandize. It is a struggle of decent humane Hindus and Muslims against the oppressive wing of the religion gone astray within Hinduism and Islam.

The greatness of the progressive Indian democracy is evident in that Muslims have done better in India than in many Muslim countries. The struggle against the state sponsored pogroms by the Gujarat government controlled by a fascistic Hindu party is led overwhelmingly by the secularist as well as deeply religious humane citizens, rooted in the Hindu ethos. The Supreme Court Judges, the brave community activists such as Teesta Setalvad, Ram Punyani, V. K. Tripathi, and thousands others come from the Hindu tradition. Editor and brave reporters of the Tehelka Magazine and many other national publications such as “The Hindu” have an overwhelmingly Hindu staff.  

While India is making great strides, some sectarian criminals in the provincial legislators have become an impediment to peace. Bal Thakary in the name of Hinduism has held the whole state of Maharashtra and its great city Mumbai hostage as his fiefdom. He has engineered riots where hundreds of people have been killed. Narendra Modi is still the chief minister of Gujarat and has used the levers of power to kill and deprive minorities of their constitutional rights.

Last week the Indian government awarded a well deserved national integration award to Professors Punyani and Bandukwala for giving voices to the oppressed. These well-deserved awards are not a substitute for justice.

The appointments of judicial inquiry commissions are used as sop. The retired judges do a meticulous job. T he inquiry takes a few years to complete. In time passions cool and the national memories fade. The government ignores the recommendations. The guilty not only go free, but also find encouragement to become even more brazen and bold in their evil deeds. It is time to bring cases before the courts to be pursued assiduously against all culprits, particularly those who have used power to spread mayhem and injustice.

Decent citizens of all religions and creeds should raise their voices against the terrorism by misguided individuals. The struggle for the soul of the nation becomes the highest duty when the state itself engages in planned terrorism, in our collective name. The religion we hold dear is besmirched when it is used to justify heinous atrocities. To raise our collective voices to bring the culprits in power to justice becomes imperative and the utmost duty. Those who keep quiet, or find excuses become supporters of the tyranny. 

Brave reporters of the Tehelka Magazine have blown the lid off a very well known secret. They have provided the evidence. If the government does not follow through, it will be terribly injurious to the foundational values of Indian democracy.


Editorials and articles in the Tehelka Magazine 
Spy-cam video of the culprits boasting of their heinous deeds

Published by

Mirza Akhtar Beg

A geologist for more than forty years. He believes that the composite multi-discipline approach of geology towards understanding nature through the 4.6 billion years of Earth history broadens one's view of history, our place in the scheme of things and deepens the respect of the enormous forces of nature. He is a firm believer in human rights, irrespective one's race, creed or religion or ethnicity. Besides writing about geology, for the last fifteen years he has written extensively on national and international political, religious and social issues. His articles have been published at various places including Indian Express, Al Jazeera, Daily News and Media Monitors.

15 thoughts on “Tehelka, Journalists Lead Indians to Redeem Their values”

  1. Beg:

    I do not agree with you that Congress is a secularist party. Congress is as opportunistic in its policies as any other political party. That said, it does not have a specific agenda against a particular community beyond winning elections. Congress’s communalism is part of its tactics. BJP’s communalism is part of its strategy.

    I feel surprised that people take Gujrat as Hindu-Muslim issue. It most certainly is not. It is an issue pertaining to every Indian citizen. It is an issue pertaining to rule of law. Will we as citizens of India be governed by rule of law or by whims of political leaders of this or that color? Whether BJP or Congress, whether Ahmedabad or Godhra, whoever was involved in criminal acts should be punished as per law of this country. If not, then we don’t deserve to be called a democracy. We are just another banana republic.

  2. Mirza, since you are discussing our values, one of which is secularism, i’d like to know one thing. some indian muslim visitors here claim that ‘islam is the most important thing for them’, are these people secular (i’m sure they don’t vote for BJP), given that islam prescribes an islamic politico – legal system?

  3. The main problem of this country is not any parties, not hindus not muslims. It is about attitude. We love sensationalism. For our failures we try to blame someone from within. When we go anywhere outside our country we behave as good citizens following all rules but in India we just don’t change our attitudes. Our problem is our mindset and not anyone else. BJP is an offshoot of that extremist attitude who rather than looking anywhere else has found Muslims as the main problem for this country.

  4. @Triple:

    “Mirza, since you are discussing our values, one of which is secularism, i’d like to know one thing. some indian muslim visitors here claim that ‘islam is the most important thing for them’, are these people secular (i’m sure they don’t vote for BJP), given that islam prescribes an islamic politico – legal system?”

    Maybe I am missing something here.

    Where is the conflict between my belief that “Islam is the most important thing for me” and “State should not discriminate among its citizens on basis of race, religion, gender etc.”?

  5. Asad, there is no conflict if I don’t believe in the state? If I believe in a religious system of social – political – legal governance (which Islam DOES prescribe in my opinion) and since that belief is more important than my belief in a secular nation state called India, then I’m still secular? I mean i’m having to follow the currenct system because I have no choice, but does that make me secular? If I think religious laws and governance in other muslim countries is OK, but I’m still secular?

    So if ones stance on secularism changes depending on whether they are a minority or majority – then still they are secular?

    The point I’m making is that we are perverting the idea of secularism by narrowing it to anti – BJPism. Its just hypocricy. If the writer believes in secularism as a value, then would he support common civil code, a secular demand? would he oppose affirmative action based on religion, a secular demand? would he also say that congress is a communal party as it seeks appeals from religious leaders for votes?

  6. First, condemnation for perpetrators of violence. Also, however, recognition that sometimes, the most-narrow minded men can, actually, be good at governance, and so manage to stay in power. When I was in Italy, I saw Mussollini’s palace – and it was gorgeous -and some Italians remember him well, not because he was a fascist, but because “he made the trains run on time.” And Saddam Hussein was actually liked by all kinds of people in the 70’s, because of his administrative skill, even though he was an evolving despot.

    So, a critical piece in dis-empowering those who did this is going to have to be to provide economic and development management that is equal to or better than what they have done. Otherwise, even if they lose, they will be back very soon – and perhaps stronger than before.

    Triple – I understand your angle, but I’ve given up on that part. I don’ t think Muslims believe in secularism; Indian Muslims included. These things you mention are true; if they were secular they would demand a Uniform Civil Code, together with equal treatment; instead they demand a law based in religion, and then complain when they are treated by others as being separate and different. We can harp on it all we want, but the truth is, we will never get anywhere.

    Many of them, however, harbor attitudes compatible with co-existence, and we can focus on co-existance, while also protecting ourselves from modern Islam’s ongoing political project. This is probably not as inspiring as what Gandhi or Nehru wanted, but I am sure they did not anticipate that subcontinental Islam would move in the direction it has.

  7. This is discusting and just to imagine about what would had happen to those who had suffer from there they may muslim or hindu or some one. Such type of people like narendra modi should be hang and main thing is that it should be infront of the people of the country. These should be hang infront of the public so that no one can try to do it again to any one.
    And there after people will also trust the law of india.
    One message to all indians only indians that stay togehter like a family.

    I am an indian and i am proud to be an indian.

    Jai Hind

  8. One other notable thing here is that Bal Thackeray harped on the marathi pride which did not even spare south and north Indians of any caste or language…..Narendra Modi on Gujarati Pride…..Same case as in 1960’s where we had a Tamil Pride in south India…

    These are sure extremists because they are trying to divide society on multiple lines….something which we see in pakistan….battle against Urdu, balochis, Bengalis, Mohajirs and still a Muslim Pride.

    It is very true that no extremist can be trusted…I remember a colleague in my school days who used to be a terror and one of my friend used to always support him because of sense of fake ego he used to get. However, when time came my friend was the first who became the victim of his terror. What happened in Pakistan where the same terrorists who were freedom fighters are going about freeing Pakistanis of their lives. I just hope my hindu friends dont become polarised and find themselves in yet another fascist division which can never be good for a plural India. Also, need of the hour that more muslims come out in every field and prove that patriotism is just our habit but we are far more forward in development and growth of this country.

  9. Triple:

    I would like to know in what way your beliefs have helped you become a more patriotic citizen of India that I have somehow failed in. Apart from being born in a particular religion, if you have anything more substantial to share, I would like to hear.

  10. Asad,

    triple is asking about secularism, not patriotism. And in that, faith does play a role. Defensiveness aside, surely, you must know this? That a secular democratic order comes more easily to some religions than others?

  11. Disagree Chirag/Triple. It is not the religion but a person’s own morale that makes him secular or human or whatever. The other thing is just basking in a false glory of what their religion stands for. Followers of all religions do that mistake. I do not consider a Brahmin secular who thinks he is in the top in Hindu hierarchy. Uniform civil code or even Haj subsidy issues are more of politically motivated and those politicians who have always considered Muslims as seperate from India. If socio economic issues could have been addressed right from day 1 then India could have been the best example of secular democracy not that it is very far behind now. Let us work towards removing ills from our own societies rather than pointing fingers. Please work towards the biggest evil that plagued hindu society and led to eventual downfall of India which is casteism . Muslims on their part are also realising that education and improving their conditions and working within Indian issues first rather than getting associated worldwide is necessary in getting themselves branded secular.

  12. “I would like to know in what way your beliefs have helped you become a more patriotic citizen of India that I have somehow failed in. Apart from being born in a particular religion, if you have anything more substantial to share, I would like to hear.”

    Asad, I’ve NEVER made any such ridiculous claim. So lets not digress.

    All i said here is that the author is making claims that secularism is an Indian value, however if its a value, then i just wanted to point out that as a value its greater (and less convenient) than just opposing BJP. I was hoping to know the authors definition of secularism and hence i asked the questions. its only fair that for such an important indian value we should be seeking clarity and a common understanding, isn’t it?

  13. Secularism is not a respect for religion between peoples. It is the division between the state and religion, not respect for religion. The people of India need to be able to come together as Indians rather than a divisional religious believer. A Hindu Republic cannot reward Indian Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Atheists for their hardwork. India works only because it is secular, democratic republic. The freedom’s offered the news magazine is only there because of freedom. One of freedom’s pillers is secularism; the English Common Law, the Media, Government, and Democracy being the other pillers. Indian Muslims are in a special position to influence changes to the current order in the Middle East region. They could help expand the values of Indian secularism, which would be a wonderful thing.

  14. I’d suggest an open thread called “What does secularism mean to you?” and let everyone express their opinion. Just reading these 14 comments, it is quite obvious that everyone has a different idea of what “secularism” is, its priority in Indian society as a citizen and how it should manifest itself.

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