New Delhi, Dec. 27: Narendra Modi today said he was “shaken to the core” during the Gujarat riots of 2002 and he experienced “anguish in searingly sharp intensity” and he suffered in “solitude”.
“I was shaken to the core. ‘Grief’, ‘Sadness’, ‘Misery’, ‘Pain’, ‘Anguish’, ‘Agony’ — mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity,” the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister blogged.
The blog — the first by Modi on the riots — came a day after an Ahmedabad court said it could find no evidence to prosecute him in a massacre case. Modi suggested that the verdict implied a closure.
“Our judiciary having spoken, I felt it important to share my inner thoughts and feelings with the nation at large,” Modi declared in the preface to his post and added, “Gujarat’s 12 years of trial by fire have finally drawn to an end. I feel liberated and at peace.”
Modi’s larger point from the “space” left by 2002 was that it created a Gujarat of “shanti, ekta and sadhbhavana” (peace, unity and communal amity) that today made him a “satisfied and reassured man”. “I credit each and every Gujarati,” he stressed.
He said as he emerged from “this journey of pain” he prayed that “no bitterness” should ever “seep into my heart”.
As Modi poured out his “angst” through every possible noun he could marshal, he did not express regret or apologise in keeping with the stand articulated earlier that since he had not been found guilty of any wrong-doing, there is no need to seek forgiveness. Over 1,000 people were killed in the riots.
The concession Modi granted this time was not to equate the massacres with a car running down a “kutte ka bachcha” (pup) like he did in an interview to Reuters in July this year.
The closest Modi came to condemning the violence was claiming he did not want to put the “lives of innocents at risk” after the Godhra train carnage and his emphasis has “always been on developing and emphasising a spirit of unity”, encapsulated in the concept of “my five crore Gujarati brothers and sisters” he frequently bandies about.
What Modi tried to say was the violence — that came shortly after a devastating earthquake — was “mindless”. He worked hard to stop it by “fervently urging for peace and restraint” after Godhra. “I had repeatedly reiterated the same principles in my daily interactions with the media in those fateful days… publicly underlining the political will as well as moral responsibility of the government to ensure peace, deliver justice and punish all (those) guilty of violence,” Modi claimed. However, despite his best efforts, events happened.
BJP sources read the blog as a “salve” for potential allies who were still disconcerted with the ramifications of being seen in Modi’s company and for a larger “wavering” constituency that “despised” the Congress but could not embrace a Modi-helmed BJP because of 2002.
Stating that this was the “first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those days at a personal level”, Modi said he turned to the “wisdom” enshrined in “our scriptures” that explained that those seated in positions of power do not have the “right to share their own pain and anguish”.
“They had to suffer it in solitude”, he added and said whenever he recalled “those agonizing days”, his only “earnest” prayer to God was, “That never again should such cruelly unfortunate days come in the lives of any other person, society, state or nation.”
Playing healer and victim, Modi said his concept of “my five crore Gujarati brothers and sisters” had crystallised “from this very space” (Godhra and its aftermath).
If “all the suffering was not enough”, Modi said he was “accused of the death and misery of my own loved owns, my Gujarati brothers and sisters” (who presumably included the Muslims and Christians). “Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you?” he asked.
Modi invoked his favourite theme of conflating the personal accusations against him with the larger “pride” of Gujarat and its people, and implied that an attack on him was like inflicting a bruise on all Gujaratis.
Without identifying his detractors, he said: “What pained even more was that in their over-zealousness to hit at me for their narrow personal and political ends, they ended up maligning my entire state and country” and even “delayed the very justice that these people claimed to be fighting for”.
However, the self-flagellation splashed over Modi’s blog was not reflected in the words and postures he used in the 2002 aftermath.
He did not visit a single camp of the victims until the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee flew into Ahmedabad and took Modi with him to a shelter. As Vajpayee tried assuring Muslims that they were “not alone in this time of crisis”, Modi was hooted out.
Seven months later, after the elections were announced, Modi signalled loud and clear he was out to make political capital of the polarisation that had settled in. As his “gaurav yatra” (journey of pride) rolled into a town called Becharji, a temple town, he was quoted as saying: “And if we bring Narmada waters in the month of Shravan, then too they (his traducers) say they dislike it. So what should we do? Run relief camps? Should we open child-producing centres?”
The period of confrontation over, Modi’s blog was eloquent about reconciliation. “Gujarat, however, had decided its own path. We chose peace over violence. We chose unity over divisiveness,” Modi said and signed off expressing the hope that “no bitterness seeps into my heart”.