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Thursday, August 20, 2015

An upright officer illuminates the true face of Indian state at the present

Which one is the real Modi? One ranting against the 'invaders' in aftermath of Gujarat riots or the statesman all set to deliver staggering growth and development to India?

Let me start with this. Some time before 'Modi wave' in India changed into a definite wave--with real people passionately wishing to see him as the future prime minister of the country--from a vague perception, I wrote this in December 2013 in Asia Times Online:

Most of his young and educated supporters feel that so long as Modi can deliver good governance and robust growth, issues such as his role in the 2002 Gujarat pogroms remain immaterial, nuisances at worst. 
But given that India is a functioning democracy and with extreme diversity and many faultlines (contrasted to China where an authoritarian government has been able to deliver impressive growth for decades), the trajectory of such a delivery in India is likely to be very different, both from China and a host of other East Asian countries. 
Moreover, what is conveniently forgotten about the 2002 Gujarat violence in discourses today is that, for Modi's brand of politics, 2002 was not a point of time when things went out of hand. This was beginning of an era of a massive social engineering that molded the entire population into a particular shape, dismantling the tolerant and pluralistic fabric of the society. 

If anything goes awry in future and a Modi-led BJP exchanges the apparently harmless developmental agenda with a less wholesome but potentially efficient alternative of another attempt at such social engineering, then that is likely to threaten the pluralist and secular fabric of the Indian state itself.
Ever since, I have half believed and half wished that I would be proved wrong. Whatever Modi's track record before the momentous elections in 2014, he is the only man in the planet to be elected the executive head of 1.3 billion people. 

In fact, it appeared for quite some time after Modi's crowing as the PM of India that he was there for a better and brighter India, cleaner and wealthier India. 

I might not have been entirely wrong while assessing him earlier, but as people often do, he might have changed radically, I said to myself. 

But slowly and inexorably, I started having some doubts as to whether Modi was a truly transformative leader as proclaimed by his supporters or he was the mere caricature of it: the RSS pracharak with a lopsided vision of the world as the one neatly divided dichotomously between benevolent, oppressed and resurgent Hindus and belligerent, decadent and oppressor others. 

Those suspicions were strengthened by a slew of media reports including this one by Soutik Biswas in BBC.

Then there was this tantalizing piece in The Telegraph by Mukul Kesavan.

There were also a series of reports about hounding of human right activist Teesta Setalvad. Host of other news emanating from India were no more encouraging. 

These developments were enough for me to ruminate whether my instincts while writing the Asia Times piece were entirely accurate.

Then came the undeniable evidence about what the new regime in India stands for: the news about the dismissal of Gujarat police officer Sanjiv Bhatt "on the basis of a sham inquiry and fabricated charges."

With this, I am in a dilemma as to whether to totally revert to my earlier judgment of Modi as a person based on his conduct during the 2002 riots. As a citizen in a neighboring country, I wish Modi had really undergone transformation from within. For the executive chief of the most populous democracy in the world, his belligerent post-2002 self is an outrageous misfit. 

To my utter dismay, though, evidences seem to be pointing to the other side. These two poignant Facebook posts of dismissed IPS officer Bhatt say a lot about the status quo in India now, more than what a million words of praise can say. 

    Many friends have been asking me for my reaction on my removal from the Indian Police Service. All I have to say is that, at the age of 24, with a passion and fire that still continues to rage in me, I chose the Indian Police Service because I saw it as a career that would add action and purpose to my life. And I have not been disappointed one bit. In fact, I have enjoyed every moment of the last 27 years in the IPS. The Government of the day has decided to remove me from service after conducting a sham, ex parte inquiry on completely fabricated charges of 'unauthorised absence from duty'. Mind you, this so-called 'unauthorised absence from duty' pertains to the period when I was deposing before the SIT (investigating into the Zakia Jafri complaint) and the Nanavati Commission (inquiring into the Gujarat riots). Be that as it may, the bottom-line is that if the Government of the day does not require my services...so be it. I pray to God that He may continue to kindle and stoke the passion and fire that has possessed me all these years. May He continue to lead me in my just pursuits.


    News Feed

    My son, Shantanu, was at King's Cross Station, London, when he learnt about my being removed from service. He sent me this message from the station. Shweta and I are to proud to have a loving son like him.
    On this sad day, when the Republic of India loses one of its brightest, most intelligent, upright and courageous officer. I would like to salute you dad, I would like to salute you and thank you, as your son and as an educated, aware and responsible citizen of this wonderful country, for doing what was right without even thinking once what effects it might have on you and your career as an Indian Police Service Officer. I would like to thank you for standing up for the people whose screams for help and protests fell on deaf ears! I would like to tell you today, how proud of you I am for fighting an uphill battle against a well equipped and dangerously subverted system with all your might and vigour, but let me remind you that the battle is not over yet! It has just gotten dirtier and more dangerous, but you still stand where you stood 14 years ago in 2002 and with the same courage and fearlessness that you had when you entered the Indian Police Service 27 years ago, ready to take on even the most pernicious government which presides over the Republic of India at the moment. We as a family have always stood behind you, supporting you and we will continue you to do so, the reprobate people running this government might try even harder to unsettle us a family now, But let me tell them that we are a family bound by undying love, trust and respect for each other, vain yet consistent attempts to break you and break us will only make us stronger and unflinching in our support towards you and the cause you are fighting for! And lastly, I would like to congratulate you for getting freedom from the shackles of this rancorous government which tries to break and antagonise anyone who tries to speak up against them, or tries to stand up for what is right! In this new chapter of your life, I would wish you all the very best for pursuing whatever makes you happy and satisfies you and we as a family will always be behind you, supporting every decision you take!
    Lots of love and respect,
    Shantanu Bhatt
    (An extremely proud and loving son)
    — with Aakashi Bhatt.

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