Madhu Mausi, Namo Mamu and the Ghost of Uncle Pepper


JUNE 18, 2013
t
by , kafila.org

I’ve been thinking a lot about magic lately. The kind of magic that gets pulled at fairgrounds and birthday parties, or on stage, where the impossible is made to appear possible, where material objects dematerialize and specters appear, tantalizing us into suspending our disbelief. Some magicians, including those I would like to think of as friends, do what they can with consummate skill, so that we attain a state of wonder while they effect transformations using ordinary things for extraordinary purposes. They make us inhabit parallel universes on a table top. There is a kind of poetry and grace in that kind of magic. That is the kind of magic that makes men out of god-men, and re-affirms even a non-patriot’s faith in the ‘waters of India’.

There is another kind of magic, a bag of tricks that relies on the cheapening of our impulses, on our addictions to false premises, on our giving in to our basest instincts. And because sometimes old cliches are useful, we could call this kind black magic. The greatest practitioner of this art, at this moment, seems to me to  be none other than the man who is setting himself up as the caudillo of the future, the chief minister of Gujarat, our prime-minister in waiting, Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi. We,a stunned would be electorate, are the rabbit he is aiming to pull out of his hat.

Magic works on simple principles, sleight of hand and sleight of mind, mainly to do with the magician doing the obvious under your nose, while you are distracted by his banter. Then, your expectations are played along, your fears, anxieties and desires are manipulated so that you see what the magician wants you to see, cleverly disguising what you overlooked while he did his thing.

One of the cleverest magic tricks is called Pepper’s Ghost – a nineteenth century technique for ‘materializing’ specters and apparitions on stage. Crucially, it requires the presence of chamber hidden in darkness, where an illusion can be staged and then reflected on to a revealed chamber – the stage –  adjoining it through cleverly angled twin mirrors. Sometimes, this effect is aided by generous amounts of smoke  – thereby giving us the expression – ‘smoke and mirrors’ -as shorthand for any elaborate con job.

What I am suggesting is simply this, NaMo Mamu, together with his extensive PR machinery, of which Madhu Mausi is now an important adjunct, is conducting a large scale Pepper’s Ghost-style Psy-Ops on the Indian electorate. I like to thinks of this as the Ghost of Uncle Pepper (If Madhu Mausi and NaMo Mamu, why not Uncle Pepper?)

This is not just a matter of NaMo being spectrally present and distributed (as he likes to be, through holographic projection in many places at once) but also a matter of the deliberate sleights of hand that produce the ‘lists’ of awards, distinctions and glowing testimonies to his regime.

What it conceals is a state that under-performs on many social indicators. (This has been highlighted in Kafila earlier, so I will not detail it here) What it concerns is the fact that the Modi government spends less than Goa or Karnataks on primary education, and administers some of the lowest minimum wages for agricultural and informal labour. All this while it claims to be generating huge amounts of revenue, through increased investment. If the investment is indeed as large as the Gujarat government claims it is, then the fact that the indicators of inequality are stable or rising means that in Gujarat, increased investment has not lead to a decrease in social inequalities. Is this the model of governance that Madhu Mausi wants for the rest of the country? That the rich grow richer, at the expense of everyone else?

The truth is, NaMo at the helm of the NDA is unlikely to come close to winning an absolute majority in the elections that will be held next year. If anything the mandate will be fractured giving neither the malgoverning UPA, nor the ambitious NDA, nor anyone else anything close to a shot at power by themselves. It is then that the jockeying for the minor players and parties will begin. A large faction of Corporate India, with its suitcases full of cash, emboldened by the kind of crony capitalism (the Adani-Ambani model of Public Private Partnership) that Modi presides over in Gujarat, will then make its bid. And if Namo Mamu wins, it will be because he, will have the backers with the fatter suitcase.

In that event, we will need many justifications to rationalize the sleight of hand that will bring NaMo into power. The Pepper’s Ghost spectacle that we are witnessing today, which seek to distract our attention from the darkness in Gujarat and direct it towards the bright lights that produce NaMo’s mirrored spectre is part of that game. Madhu Mausi, the magician’s faithful aide, is playing it, to the best of her ability.

Madhu Kishwar re-iterated her case for Narendra Modi and the ‘Gujarat Model of Development’ in a lengthy rejoinder to Zahir Janmohammed, which was published in Kafila (along with a response to the rejoinder by Janmohammed) last month.

In that text, Madhu Mausi (I am calling her Mausi, because she has tweeted about being more comfortable these days with people who, following ‘Bharatiya’ tradition, apply familial suffixes to women’s names, as a mark of their respect, rather than to those she considers to be ‘inauthentic’, deracinated feminists) has offered many reasons for why she thinks that Muslims in Gujarat have now decided to root for NaMo Mamu (if Madhu is Mausi, then, in the spirit of bhaichara, NaMo – Narendra Modi – must be Mamu, must he not? ). Part of her argument rests on what she did or did not see and hear in her walks and conversations in Ahmedabad, particularly in the Muslim neighborhood of Juhapura.

Kafila has carried responses to Madhu Mausi’s defense of NaMo Mamu by Aditya Nigam and Zahir Janmohammed and Dilip D’Souza.

My purpose is not to repeat the points that have been made in these other contributions, which have all been cogently argued. I intend to focus on the fact that in her defense of NaMo Mamu and the Gujarat Model of Development in Kafila, Madhu Mausi (other than her cheerful anecdotes about young women and men having cold drinks at night on the streets of Ahmedabad, and her observations born out of her ‘unguided’ tour of Juhapura) has basically one set of facts on offer. These are a long list of 21 awards, honors and distinctions that Gujarat has been lauded with in the past few years. I became curious about this long list of awards and laurels, and decided to try and find out what makes them so persuasive as evidence for the distinctions that Madhu Mausi claims for Gujarat.

United Nations Sasakawa Award in 2003 for outstanding work in the field of disaster management and risk reduction.

Best Investment Environment and Most Economic Freedom Award by India Today in 2005.

Best Bio State Award, 2007.

Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Conservation Award 2006, by Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.

E-governance award for the e-dhara project (aimed at computerization of land records).

CAPAM Gold Award from Commonwealth Associations for Innovation in Governance.

Asian Innovation Award in 2006 at Singapore from Wall Street Journal and the Financial Express for Chiranjeevi Yojana (initiative for reducing maternal and infant mortality rate)

India Tech Excellence Award in 2009 by India Tech Foundation for Power sector reforms and initiatives.

Nirmal Gram Award in 2010 to a village in Rajkot district in Gujarat by Government of India for sanitation facilities.

ELITEX 2007- Best E-government State Award from Government of India

Gujarat tops among 35 states of the country in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan

Gujarat ranks 1st in the country in “Implementation of the 20 Point Programme” in 2010.

UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award in 2005 for reconstruction of a Gurudwara damaged during the earthquake.

Modi was voted No. 1 Chief Minister by the people, thrice consecutively in five years in the India Today-ORG MARG Survey (a unique recognition ever achieved by any CM in the country)

Gujarat ranks No. 1 in The Economic Freedom Index instituted by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2005. However, the then Director, Bibek Debroy was forced to resign from his post because the Congress High Command got enraged at an institution presided over by the Nehru Dynasty finding anything praiseworthy in Modi’s Gujarat.

United Nation Public Service Award in 2010 for its role in transforming the delivery of public services and attention to grievances by application of technology.

Innovation for India Award in 2010 in the public services category for “Jyotigram Yojana” for power and irrigation reform. The award was instituted by the Marico Innovation Foundation.

Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd bagged an award in the category of “Best Renewable Energy Project in India and the World for 2012” for its 214 MW solar park, the largest solar farm in Asia.

Award in “Top Investment and Infrastructure Excellent State in Energy and Power” category for 5 consecutive times since 2008 when the category was first introduced.

Scope Award by Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Government of India 2008

National Award for Excellence in Cost Management in 2007 by the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India.

National Award to Power Utilities of Gujarat in 2011 by Ministry of Power, Government of India.

Award for Excellence in 2007 by Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India.

This list of 21 honors is long and impressive. Until one begins looking at them closely. And then you realize that they are the kind of awards that state government bodies get from Central Government ministries and bodies and various national and international foundations and organizations. I looked at eight of these twenty one awards and realized the following.

The United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Management and Preparedness which was won by the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority in 2003 (the GSDMA was set up by Modi’s bete-noire Keshubhai Patel during his tenure as Gujarat CM in the wake of the Bhuj earthquake) was also won, for instance, by the Bhubaneshwar Municipal Corporation in 2011. And yet, no one is plugging Naveen Patnaik for the post of prime minister.

The Nirmal Gram Puraskar (awarded to villages and settlements which eradicate open defecation by the Ministry of Sanitation of the Government of India) was awarded not as Madhu Mausi says to a village in Rajkot district in Gujarat, but  to 2808 village panchayats all over india in 2010. Of these Gujarat accounted for 189, while Maharashtra accounted for 694, Madhya Pradesh accounted for 344, Tamil Nadu accounted for 237. If one looks at a break up of Nirmal Gram Puraskars across states from 2005 – 2011, then we get 9523 NGP awards for villages in Maharashtra, 2385 awards for villages in Tamil Nadu and 2281 awards for villages in Gujarat. As of 2011, Sikkim became the first state to be free of open defecation. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are set to follow suit in 2012-13. No one is talking about the chief ministers of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra or Tamil Nadu as potential prime ministerial candidates.

Madhu Mausi tells us that Gujarat ranks No. 1 in the The Economic Freedom Index instituted by the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. This index is a measure of a state government’s willingness to go down the road of neo-liberal economic policies. It is not, and cannot be considered to be an index of choice or liberty for the general population, rather, it is often a measure of how clearly allied the policies of a state are to big corporations. However, even in this instance, the distinction is not Gujarat’s alone. Tamil Nadu, for instance has been ranked as No.1, not once, but twice in the same time period, in the same index, by the same organization. And yet, Madhu Mausi thinks that it is the chief minister of Gujarat and not of Tamil Nadu who should merit our attention.

The United Nations Public Service Award has been awarded not just to the Government of Gujarat, but also to the Government of Kerala and Delhi on different occasions in recent years. But Oommen Chandy or Shiela Dikshit do not quite cut it for Madhu Mausi in the same way as NaMo Mamu does.

The Innovation for India award instituted by the Marico Foundation was given to the Government of Gujarat for its Jyoti Gram Yojana, but it had already been given earlier to the Government of Kerala for its Kudumbashree Programme, begun while the LDF under E.K. Nayanar was in power in Kerala.

Madhu Mausi tells us that Gujarat Power Corporation Ltd bagged an award in the category of “Best Renewable Energy Project in India and the World for 2012” for its 214 MW solar park, the largest solar farm in Asia. What she does not tell us is who gave the award, and perhaps why. The award is actually the ENERTIA award, given by ENERTIA a trade journal in the power sector. The journal and the award are both backed by Patel Engineering Ltd. a Mumbai based Engineering firm. In 2007-08, Patel Engineering acquired 96% stakes in Patel Energy, which then entered into an MOU with the Gujarat Power Corporation, Government of Gujarat for establishing a 1,200 MW imported coal-power based power project in Ghogha, Bhavnagar. The ENERTIA award looks more like a quid-pro-quo, by way of recognition for services rendered (apparently) in renewable energy in exchange of a generous contract in fossil fuel based non-renewable energy.

Madhu Mausi informs us that the Government of Gujarat won an Award of Excellence presented by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India. That is true, so did many other state governments and bodies over the years. For instance, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation won it in one year. But no one now thinks of the now disgraced Yedurappa, or any other recent Karnataka Chief Minister as a potential Prime Ministerial Candidate.

I have taken just eight of the 21 ‘honors’ that Madhu Mausi lists, to demonstrate how hollow her claims are, and the information that I have found on them is readily available in the Public Domain, barely a few google-clicks away. If they are so inclined, insomniac Kafila readers can go through the remaining 13 honors to see what they are worth. Some may want to go a step further and Google some more and find out that every state wins many such awards every year. Perhaps that would give us a better indication of the distance that remains between illusion and reality when it comes to Madhu Mausi, Namo Mamu and Gujarat.

 

An open letter to Madhu Kishwar on her visit to Gujarat #Vaw #Development #NarendraModi


by- Zahir Janmohamed

JANUARY 15, 2013
Kafila.org

Dear Madhu ji,

I was very excited when I learned you were coming to Ahmedabad and I was honoured that you expressed interest in possibly meeting with me.

I was sitting with a journalist friend when I read your Tweet about visiting Ahmedabad and he told me you are a “pioneering feminist who did ground breaking work.” He also told me that in 2005 you signed a very strong petition calling for Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s dismissal because of Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. He also added that you have been veryvocal on behalf of Kashmiri Pandits. After I witnessed the Gujarat riots in 2002, I returned to the United States—where I was born and raised—and I gave lectures for six months about the violence I saw. In each lecture, an audience member would inevitably shout at me that I have ignored the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits. It is true. I know very little about Kashmir, and for that matter Kashmiri Pandits, and I would have enjoyed and benefited from listening to your views on the conflict there.

I understand from your Twitter feed that you have left Ahmedabad. I know your days in Ahmedabad were limited and I fully understand that you were not able to meet. Therefore in this letter I will try to convey some of the things I had hoped to tell you in person, in particular about your Tweets.

I am pleased that you have enjoyed your stay in Ahmedabad. To quote some of your remarks:

@madhukishwar: Friends say auto rickshaws never refuse passengers, never over charge in Ahmadabad or elsewhere in Gujarat. Why are Delhi autos lawless?

@madhukishwar: Photographs of young men and women past mid night having soda in Ahmedabad. Young men don’t have menacing presence

@madhukishwar: North Indian friends I’m staying with in Ahmedabad took me for midnight drive to see how safe is gujarat for women- even on  highway.

@madhukishwar: I am out on Ahmedabad streets past 1 am enjoying uniquely satvic nightlife of Gujarat. Will write more about it

Indeed, Gujaratis are exceptional with their hospitality and kindness. As a Gujarati whose grandparents are from Kutch, I am pleased you feel welcome here.

But I take exception to your comment that women are safe in Gujarat or that “young men don’t have menacing presence.”

According to the National Crime Bureau, the number of rapes in Gujarat increased from 408 cases in 2010 to 439 in 2011. When we look at other forms of violence like dowry deaths, this number becomes more staggering.

From the Indian Express, March 28, 2008:

In a span of twelve years, more than 50,000 cases of violence against women have been reported from 12 districts of Gujarat. With 640 dowry deaths and 1,443 rape cases, the chart is topped by a staggering 14,998 cases of cruelty by husband and in-laws, followed by accidental deaths which is pegged at 14,631.

The article cites a report from an NGO called Navsarjan that conducted research in 12 districts in Gujarat during a twelve year period (1995-2007). According to the report, “7894 women committed suicide and 3,006 women were abducted during this period in these districts.”

In a December 28, 2012 story, DNA reported that in Gujarat only 1 out of 5 got life term for rape and that in over 50% of the cases, the rapist had to serve only 6 to 10 years in prison. Just this week, IBN-Live reported that an ex-MLA’s nephew and three friends gang raped a girl for over three years.

I recognize that these numbers might be better than other states in India but the statistics show that violence against women in Gujarat is increasing.

At a forum I attended this weekend sponsored by Apna Adda called “Rape and Me,” female students from various universities in Ahmedabad said they no longer feel comfortable going out alone or with only girls at night. One said she had faced so much sexual harassment in Gujarat that she is now advising girls to take self-defence classes. Another young woman told me that at her college an elderly man flashed his genitals to her on three occasions. She said she rarely goes out past dark alone for fear of these incidents happening again.

Parents at this forum on Saturday—many of whom were born and raised in Ahmedabad—said Gujarat was not always like this and that it is getting progressively worse. I am happy that you felt comfortable staying out as a woman at 2 am. In my two years of research, I have met very few women in Gujarat who would say the same.

*

However the main reason I write to you, Madhu ji, is to take issue with your Tweets about the “inclusive development of Gujarat”. Some of your tweets:

@madhukishwar: Modi sure knows how to address and strengthen self esteem of his people. Give hope and confidence

@madhukishwar: 2\4 If I as much as say Gujarat roads are best in country, see Modi’s inclusive development for urself I become political untouchable. Why?

@madhukishwar: Those upset at my Gujrat observations: challenge me on facts. Don’t hurl ideology or prejudice at me. I’ll be 1st to apologise 4 inaccuracy

Since you have requested facts, here are some to consider.

In an article in the Business Standard, Mihir Sharma takes issue with the notion that Gujarat is growing at a much faster rate than other states. He writes:

…between 2004 and 2012, Gujarat’s GDP growth left the national average, 8.3 per cent, far behind. It grew at 10.1 per cent. But, in the same period, Maharashtra grew at 10.8 per cent and Tamil Nadu at 10.3 per cent.

Sharma acknowledges that Gujarat has grown faster during the period of Modi’s rule but its rate of growth has not been as impressive as in other states:

Gujarat in 2004-12 grew 3.6 per cent faster than it did in 1994-2002. Meanwhile, Bihar grew 6.5 per cent faster, if from a lower base. But better-off Maharashtra’s growth was 5.8 per cent faster in that period, and Tamil Nadu’s was 4.7 per cent.

As a resident of Ahmedabad, I have seen much of the progress myself, something Sharma acknowledges in his piece. But should Modi be given credit for Gujarat’s successes yet be given a clean sheet for the state’s failures? Sharma notes:

Still, is this chief minister somehow special? The evidence seems indisputable that Gujarat’s bureaucracy is responsive, decentralised and innovative. It is possible that Mr Modi is somehow personally responsible for this; Professor Debroy says to deny him all credit would be unfair and uncharitable. I agree. Though I do note that less objective observers of Mr Modi than Professor (Bibek) Debroy are hypocritically happy to suggest that he is individually responsible for the emplacement of every handpump in north Gujarat, but somehow had nothing whatsoever to do with the complete failure of the entire state machinery in 2002.

In an article in Rediff, Shivam Vij writes cautions against simple explanations of Gujarat’s growth. He writes:

Look at the per capita net state domestic product, a better indicator of prosperity than the mere rate of growth. Gujarat has been occupying 6th or 7th rank on this list since the early ’70s and it’s not as if Narendra Modi’s leadership made Gujarat jump up to the top end of the list.

Given your claim of “inclusive” development in Gujarat, I want to point out to you some more numbers:

According to a study by Rakesh Basant of the IIM Ahmedabad University entitled “Education and Employment among Muslims in India: An Analysis of Patterns and Trends,” he concludes that Muslims carry a double burden of being labeled as “anti-nationalists” and being appeased at the same time.

But he cautions us to think that the “appeasements” have helped Muslims in any way. He states:

The fact that the so-called appeasement has not resulted in any benefits is typically ignored. Identity markers often lead to suspicion and discrimination by people and institutions. Discrimination too is pervasive in employment, housing and education. Gender injustice is usually identified purely with personal law to the exclusion of gender-related concerns in education and employment that Muslim women do face on a continuing basis.

Basant acknowledges that while education rates for Muslims in Gujarat remain woefully low, the trends show that Muslims are improving in this category. But this is stymied, he argues, by “identity based discrimination (which) reduces access, enhances inequity and adds to insecurity.”

This inequity exists in other areas of life too. In an article in the New York Times, Hartosh Singh Bal writes that “Gujarat has an urban poverty ratio of almost 18 percent, compared with almost 21 percent for the country as a whole.” According to Bal, “42.4 percent of the Muslims in urban Gujarat are poor, compared with 33.9 percent of Muslims in urban India overall.” Bal illustrates the disenfranchisement of Muslims in Gujarat by citing the refusal of the Narendra Modi government to release 53,000 scholarships for Muslim students. Vij writes in his Rediff piece that “Gujarat is the only state to not have implemented central government scholarships for students from minority communities, started in 2008.”

Indeed in my neighborhood of Juhapura, often called one the largest ghettoes of Muslims in India, there are only four high schools for a population of 300,000. Of these four high schools, one is private, two are partly aided (ie the teachers salary is provided by the state) and only one is fully aided up to the 12th standard.

VK Tripathi, an IIT Delhi Physics professor, has been coming to Juhapura, the Muslim ghetto of Ahmedabad, every two months since 2007 to fight for schools. In a 2009 article in the Times of India, Tripathi says there were only “24 educational institutions for a population of more than 3.5 lakh.”

Most schools in Juhapura do not have paved roads, let alone enough class rooms, and Tripathi has been fighting the Gujarat government to provide better educational opportunities for residents of Juhapura. I saw Tripathi sahib just last weekend in Juhapura and he told me that while there is some progress, it is still “abysmally low”.

Muslims do not just lag behind in education. In an article in Outlook magazine in 2011 by Pragya Singh, she cites statistics from the Sachar Committee Report and the NSSO (61st round) that state that urban poverty among Muslims in Gujarat is 800% higher than upper caste Hindus; 50% higher than OBCs. Rural poverty among Muslims is 200% more than Hindus and about 60% of Muslims live in urban areas.

Citing research by Abusaleh Shariff for International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Singh says that Gujarat’s high levels of hunger are akin to Bihar, Orissa, and Maharashtra, and Karnataka. Singh writes that “Gujarat’s Muslims are most likely to be self-employed where wages have increased the least,” and that “Muslims are least likely to get organized sector and salaried jobs”.

For Shariff, who conducted extensive research on Gujarat’s Muslims, the explanation is straight forward: “The economic and social life of Gujarati Muslims is worse than in some least developed states. The reason is discrimination.”

*

I could continue to cite statistics but as one of India’s most accomplished social scientists, you know far more reports and statistics than I do.

What I really want to do in this letter is to explain what I would have shown you in Ahmedabad.

I would have taken you to Siddiqabad, a colony of about 200 homes built for survivors of theGulbarg and Naroda Patiya massacre. Siddiqabad is tucked behind the main road in Juhapura just down the street from my flat. Siddiqabad was meant to be temporary housing for riot victims. But it has been ten years and residents have grown weary of promises that they will get regular electricity, a gutter line, or access to a school nearby.

I would have taken you to Narol (Bombay Hotel), a row of homes occupied by survivors of the Naroda Patiya massacre. Narol is next to a massive trash dump and the builder, a Muslim, told me no one else wanted to sell land to him after the 2002 riots. Each year during the monsoon, water runs from the trash dump into people’s homes. As a result, children in Narol have grown up with deformities. When I visited, a young boy of about 12 years interrupted his cricket game to talk with me. “Yes we see dead bodies here all the time,” he said casually as he tossed a ball into the air.

I would have taken you to Vastrapur, where I lived last year for six months in an all Hindu building. My friend said I could live there on one condition: I could not use my real name. It was humiliating. It was also in Vastrapur where my friend Nida Yamin, an IIM research associate from Delhi, was recently denied housing because she is a Muslim. She left Ahmedabad after just a few months. “This place,” she told me, “is not for us.”

I would have introduced you to Asif bhai, the director of the Crescent School in Juhapura who built his school in 2008 because he realized that the Gujarat government was never going to build adequate schools for Muslims.

I would have introduced you to Kiran Uncle, a tireless advocate for secularism who has fought both Hindu and Muslim communalism and has been ostracized from his family for speaking out so vociferously for Muslims after the 2002 riots.

I would have introduced you to Hemanshu Uncle, a restaurant owner in Ahmedabad. He tells me that every day someone comes into his restaurant and criticizes him for serving non-vegetarian food. Sometimes they tell him he is a bad Brahmin and he has grown tired of the “holier than though attitude of Gujaratis.” This is not the Gujarat, he tells, that he experienced in his childhood. It was more tolerant then.

I would have introduced you to Sheba ji, a remarkable advocate for women’s rights in Gujarat who has been working tirelessly to address Gujarat’s rising problem of violence against women. I would have introduced you to Sheba ji’s staff, many of whom themselves are survivors of domestic violence.

I would have introduced you to Pravin bhai, a film maker who has conducted extensive interviews with farmers in Gujarat who tell him farmer suicides are on the rise in this state.

I would have introduced you to Jila, a 24 year old Ahmedabadi who was displaced in the 1992 and the 2002 riots. She still hopes to live in a Gujarat where people don’t always look at her as a Muslim first.

*

Of course I know, Madhu ji, that you have met many Muslims here and I commend you for that. You mentioned businessman Zafar Sareshwala in one of your Tweets. Zafar bhai is a friend and I have no interest in criticizing him or anyone else. But I will say this: it has taken me an awful amount of time to get Muslims to open up about their experiences in Gujarat. When I first started conducting research in 2011, most of the Muslims I met told me that everything was great and that they have moved on.

But as I spent more time with them, as I shared my own horror story of watching mobs attack people in 2002, as I spoke about the depression that I plummeted in for years after the riots, as I talked about the counseling I went through to help me cope with the memories of dozens of women who shared their stories in the relief camps of being rapedduring the 2002 riots, then people gradually—and very slowly—people start telling me their own stories. But it has taken long, two years actually, to get to this point.

Gujarati Muslims are often afraid to say what they really think about Gujarat or Narendra Modi. In Gujarat, Modi has become a “god” for so many—given all the Muslims face in Gujarat, why should a Muslim face further isolation by criticizing Modi or life in Gujarat? I hear this all the time: “Zahir you can criticize Modi or the Gujarat state because you do not have family here. But for us, our life will become hell if we speak out.”

And yet the outrage, the anger of Gujarat’s Muslims is there in the pauses, in the things they are afraid to say, in the silent articulation of their faces.

Last year I interviewed a BJP Muslim politician, whose name I will withhold, and he kept praising Modi. I try to speak to everyone I can and his story was equally important to me. As we pulled out of his drive way, his car got stuck on his unpaved road outside his home in Juhapura. He pulled out his phone and called his friend in the government.

“About that paved road. Is it coming?” he asked. I could not hear the response on the other hand. When the BJP politician hung up the phone, he could no longer make eye contact with me. Two years later he still does not have a paved road.

*

I wish I could write more but there is no electricity in my flat in Juhapura right now and I am writing this sitting on charpai outside my building, trying to catch some light from my neighbor’s generator powered well lit bungalow. I have not had regular running water for the past two days (the same happened last weekend) and when I told my society manager, he told me “yeh hai Juhapura.”

That seems to be the root problem here in Gujarat: Muslims—and so many others in this state—have come to accept less, to ask for less, to be content with less, and then told by society that they should complain less.

I know you Tweeted that such problems do not exist in Gujarat.

@madhukishwar: 8\9 Modi doesn’t rest. Already every rural urban household has 24×7 power, most hv high quality piped water. But guj govt working on further

@madhukishwar: 9\9 Gujrat working on amazing improvements in water policy. It was water scarce state, today it is water surplus with water table rising

Perhaps we will have a chance to meet in the future and you can show me this Gujarat: where Muslims do not face prejudice, where women do not report that sexual harassment is increasing, where farmers do not feel that their livelihood is being threatened.

Yes, some people do indeed have more after Modi. But many others do not. This profoundinequity upsets me, not because I am a Muslim, but because I love Gujarat and my Gujarati people and I would not be writing this letter if I did not want more for Gujarat and all its people.

My invitation is still open to you, Madhu ji. I have emailed you my mobile number and it would indeed be an honor to meet you and to meet you in Ahmedabad.

With fondness and respect,

Zahir Janmohamed,
Juhapura,
January 15, 2013.

(Zahir Janmohamed is a freelance writer living in and writing about Juhapura, the Muslim neighbourhood of Ahmedabad. He previously served as the Advocacy Director for Amnesty International and Senior Foreign Policy Aide in the U.S. Congress. He tweets as @ZahirJ.)

 

Narandra Modi’s Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread


cartoon courtesy- satish acharya -cartoonistsatish.blogspot.com
By Raza Elahi

The recent article in a national newspaper by a Columbia University professor about the economic advances of Gujarat under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi has overlooked many hard realities that may not suit the later at a time when he is seeking votes.

Though Modi and his PR exercise have been successful in projecting the positive economic indicators during his tenure since 2001, yet it is also a fact that Gujarat was a much better state before Modi. The state has, in fact, slipped many notches in various economic and social parameters since Modi came to power.

During the period 1960–90, Gujarat had already established itself as a leader in various industrial sectors – textiles, chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering, cement, dairy and gems & jewellery, etc. The Congress’ economic liberalisation policy further boosted the state’s economy. Between 1994-2001, Gujarat’s state domestic product grew at 10%-13%, much higher than the all-India average. In manufacturing sector during 2000-01, Gujarat’s share at the national level was an impressive 28.71%. All these happened before Modi took the charge of the state. 
But Modi’s Gujarat is now ranked sixth among major states in terms of per capita income (PCI). In 2011, its PCI was Rs 63,996, after Haryana (Rs 92,327), Maharashtra (Rs 83,471), Tamil Nadu (Rs 72,993), Uttarakhand (Rs 68,292) and Punjab (Rs 67,473).

In terms of annual rate of growth, Gujarat under Modi regime (2001-10) stands third at 8.68% after Uttarakhand (11.81%) and Haryana (8.95%)during the period.
On industrial growth front, too, Gujarat with 12.65% growth between 2005-09 lagged behind smaller states like Orissa (17.53%) and Chhattisgarh (13.3%) during the period.

There are many more indicators like manutrition and literacy rate, where `Vibrant Gujarat’ story looks hollow. According to latest government data, about half of Gujarat’s children under five are short for their age or have stunted growth. Modi, who is aspiring to become prime minister, recently gave a childish and immature reasoning of `beauty conscious’ behind this problem. Does anyone know in which part of the world five-year-old girls are known to be figure-conscious?

Further, the argument that Gujarat’s progress in literacy rate, compared to its low literacy level during Independence, looks more impressive than that of even Kerala is another example of good PR skills. The truth, however, remains that in literacy rate, Gujarat today remains below Kerala and Maharashtra.The Gujarat’s growth story as propagated by Modi and his cronies deserve to be countered as it is not the story of all-inclusive. How can one beat the drum of his own success when many sections of the society — tribals, dalits, Muslims, women and farmers — suffer due to his government’s indifference?

Despite all the claims, it is a truth nothing but a truth that the 10 most backward talukas in the state are the tribals. Apply any indicators and parameters and you can find that the tribal regions and people there are the most backward in Gujarat.What Mr Modi’s slate say about the suffering of cotton farmers? The Maharashtra government declared a package of Rs 2,000 crore for the cotton-growing farmers, but the Gujarat government’s silence on helping them deserves to be condemned. Prior to Modi, the state government used to purchase cotton from the farmers through state federations. But Modi government has closed down all the federations.

The conditions of women, too, in the state have deteriorated during the last decade. According to a recent report, the percentage of women suffering from anemia in the state has risen from 46.3% in 1999 to 55.5% in 2004.While there is not much development in tribal areas of Gujarat, many Muslim pockets in the state lack even basic amenities. The Muslims claim whether it is the state’s biggest Muslim pocket Juhapura in Ahmedabad or Muslim localities in smaller towns of Nadiad and Godhra, all are being denied safe drinking water, street lights, drainage facilities and good roads. Many of them believe that the state government discriminates these pockets in opening up schools and dispensaries.

Post-Godhra riots, Muslims are still struggling to regain some space in the state’s socio-economic fabric. The government’s inability to protect them and their businesses during the riots is still fresh in their mind. Prior to the riots, Muslims dominated the state’s textile, diamond cutting & polishing, pharmaceuticals and processing industries etc. But their share in these manufacturing and organised sectors in the state is now just 13%, compared to all-India level of 21%. The Gujarat figure is much lower than Maharashtra (25%) and West Bengal (21%).

Does Modi not bother about their safety and growth? Is he simply trying to rehash the pages of history to project himself as “Vikas Purush”.

Goodwill Hunting – #NarendraModi


 

By Amit Sengupta, in Kindle Magazine

This is the memory which moves in the darkness of the corridors and ravaged inner spaces of life and architecture, like a burnt family picture, or the three birds in flight on the ‘drawing room’ wall. Or like the books stacked in a corner, neatly arranged, because the handsome father with spectacles on, his refined face was also a poet, a scholar and a trade unionist. You can still see the mother, and you know that he was a good man, that she will never forget his presence, that his absence stalks her like the sound of a cracked mirror, falling onto the ground, the sound of silence reminding you of glass.

Her daughter told me the story. She described it in graphic detail, as if she has written down everything in an invisible diary inside her mind. The wounds were so fresh in 2002 that even memory seemed impossible; it almost was like a documentary with its raw footage painstakingly edited, sound becoming silence, and the story becoming a silent movie where every still and moving image has already crossed the crossing. I saw it in her eyes, the story of her mother perhaps: the story of a massacre in bright daylight.

 

Her father pleaded with the mob. The police commissioner dropped in. He knew so well, the inevitable consequences of this predictable moment. But the top cop, he chose to ignore it, wilfully, deliberately, systematically. All the neighbours were now huddled in their house. Her father made several desperate phone calls, across the political spectrum, perhaps also called the local political and police establishment. He was a former Congress MP, an influential person. No response. It was as if there was nobody on the other end. The line was dead.

 

When it was all over, she came down. The mother. Alive. Among the survivors. They shut her eyes, as she crossed burnt bodies, hacked limbs, scattered skulls, bloodied faces, broken bangles, torn clothes, distorted, blackened bodies, viscous, vicious layers of blood, on the walls, on the floor, on the doors. She moved in a haze, choked, her eyes shut. But she saw everything, and she knew that Ehsan Jafri, too, among 69 others, were butchered in a public spectacle which only barbarians could indulge, in the brutish spectacles of the medieval past. She later told a court: ‘Mob dragged my husband, stripped him and chopped off his limbs before burning him alive.” She came down from the first floor in the evening, when finally the police arrived. On the verandah she saw the mutilated bodies of her neighbour, Kasambhai’s wife and his pregnant daughter-in-law – she was slashed in the abdomen with a sword.

 

For Zakia Jafri, this walk from eternity into the dead-end of barbarism, through blood and gore and dead bodies, remains a memory, which is like a long insomnia, a silent wail in the dark, saline waters choked inside the eyes, all hopes crushed and massacred in this moment of ravaged revelation. In the eerie, suffocated silence of the lambs, in tyrant sociopath Narendra Modi’s Hindutva laboratory of State sponsored mass murders; there is not the remotest possibility of any Sadbhavana, nor truth and reconciliation, not the remotest trace of justice. At its purest moment of Nazi ethnic cleansing, it’s like the SS and Gestapo in saffron colours, eternally flexing muscles, pumping chests, literally, sinking, sinking, drinking the blood of its own people. Like the blood smashed on the walls of Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad.

 

No one lives here anymore. Except Kasam Allahnoor Mansoori, 68, who walks through the grass, and looks inside the window from where Ehsan Jafri would gaze outside, a book in hand. Mansoori lives here like the shadow of a memory which touches him everyday like the grass touches the heat and the twilight. He knows the feeling of this twilight zone, its inner meaning, the absence of presence. His wife, a son, a daughter, three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren were among the 69 butchered by the Hindutva mob under state patronage.

 

Don’t ask him the meaning of ‘Sadbhavna Mission’, and all the spirits of the loved ones will move into his ravaged home in a long silent procession. Between home and the world, can we see this procession, of people, human beings, and those six grandchildren? If children are the faces of god, than who is Modi’s god? Who is Modi’s anti-god? What is the religion of barbarism and bestiality?

 

It’s in a to and fro loop, this bitter memory of bitterness and angst and anger, layered into multiple layers of injustices and unfreedoms, moving from the burnt out Best Bakery in Baroda with burnt bodies of people who were alive, to the long film of brutality which Bilquis Bano saw with her own eyes, her own body, like Kausar Bi in Naroda Patiya, and others in Juhapura, Panchmahal, Dahod.

 

Tough, resilient Bilquis. She and her husband fought till the end. I touched the hand of her little child once. The child smiled. Perhaps the most sublime smile I have ever seen.

 

Also, the first deaths by fire, inside Coach S-6, Godhra. Some of the dead were reportedly found in the middle of the coach. Why? The doors are not locked from outside. Why didn’t they rush to the door?

 

And why were the dead bodies brought to Ahmedabad in a public display? And who planned and executed Operation Gujarat Genocide on February 28, 2002, like seismologists look at a map pinned on a drawing board, pointing out the minutest details of the faultlines beyond the epicentre?

 

Mass murder as an electoral trump card. Hum paanch hamaare pachees! First, a mass murder in full public view. Then, painting an entire community with the brush soaked in blood, hounding them, pushing them to the wall, pissing on their wounds, humiliating and degrading them, wilfully blocking justice, while patronising and protecting the murderers of the Sangh Parivar, calling the vast refugee Shah Alam camp with thousands of homeless and brutalised, orphaned and ravaged, as nothing but a baby producing factory. Sadbhavna?

 

So what do you do with babies? Throw them into a furnace? Or, inside a gas chamber?
Or simply put kerosene in their mouths, with a lighted matchstick inside? So how many new ways of hacking, burning, raping and butchering became the final experiments with truth in Modi’s Gujarat? Ask Kausar Bi. She will tell you how it feels.

 

Or ask Zakia Jafri. Waiting for justice, as long as she is alive. The smell of death lingering in the air, like burnt books of a poet whom she loved.

 

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