The Fiction of Fact-finding
Author: Manoj Mitta
Publisher: HarperCollins, India
Pages: 259, Printed price: Rs. 350
“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through,” wrote Jonathan Swift three centuries ago. Our jails are full of petty thieves and proxy prisoners. The wasps and hornets establish business empires or occupy political thrones. A few are worshipped as gurus and godmen. Some go on to become historical heroes.
In his classical work, Civilizations, historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto says that “Heroes do not make history but history makes heroes.” Hitler would not have become a hero for the Germans unless the economic hardships of the time had not conspired against the German Jews who were relatively better off. The Jews became a convenient enemy for a people who needed a scapegoat to carry away all their grief and sins.
Seven decades later Hitler’s experiment was replicated in Gujarat on a smaller scale but with remarkable success. The man who cloned the historical episode obtained his lucky opportunity when some Muslims attacked a group of Ayodhya kar sevaks in Godhra. The history of the country took a dramatic turn from that day. In the days that followed the Godhra episode a few hundred Muslims were killed in Gujarat, hundreds were thrown out of their homes, and their women were raped/killed. The Supreme Court of India would later write about the incident: “The modern-day Neros were looking elsewhere when innocent children and helpless women were burning and probably deliberating how the perpetrators can (sic) be protected.”
The Gujarat state police and Special Investigation Team which was set up to identify the culprits failed to do their jobs. Manoj Mitta’s book is about those failures. He gives a detailed account of how Narendra Modi subverted the entire system of politics and judiciary in order to help the culprits escape.
The book shows how a charismatic leader can rewrite an entire history even after the events took place and people know the truth. Public memory is brief and facile. It forgets thing quickly, especially those things which are not convenient to remember. Modi rewrote the entire history of the communal violence that rocked his state. One of the first things he did after the tremors settled down was to demand an early election so that he could reap the dividends before the public memory might conveniently forget what he did not want it to forget. When the Election Commissioner, J M Lyngdoh, refused to grant Modi’s demand, Modi formulated the script for his historical drama, “Someone asked me, has Lyngdoh come from Italy? I said we would need to ask Rajiv Gandhi. Some asked, is he a relation of Sonia Gandhi? I said, perhaps they meet in church.”
Mitta’s book shows how Modi created a perceived enemy out of every non-Hindu in India so that the Hindus in the state would visualise their Messiah in him. His bigger game plan was to project himself as the Messiah of the Hindus in the entire country and not just the state of Gujarat. The book implies that he succeeded in achieving his goal.
Modi’s exercise on the last Teacher’s Day was a step ahead. He was roping in the impressionable young minds in ways that would have left Machiavelli and Chanakya baffled.
Those who were following the Gujarat violence and its aftermath in the media may not find anything new in Mtta’s book. But the book is necessary since most of us tend or like to forget many things conveniently. The book is a necessary reminder that our idols may be stuffed with straw in places where pulses are required. The book is a reminder that the fiction written by Salman Rushdies may be truer than much written discourse in history.