Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Modi Fiction


Book Review


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.

22 comments:

  1. It is only a modern machiavelli or kautilya which can save india today. See what china s doing soon after he met indian pm. started attacking india. In such situation we need a strong shrewd leader. Modi is that leader. Academic geniuses like the former pm would have done nothing. Modi is going ways. let him.

    You are raising a impt question: means justify ends? Can one do anything in order to become the top? In politics do anyone look at morality?

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    1. Starting with your last line, if morality does not matter in politics it will not matter anywhere. People imitate their leaders. The leaders are their role models. Remember how people wore Modi masks and thus denounced their own individual identities? Do you want an India of Modis only?

      But you have a point, however. We need a strong leader. We need a Chanakya who can outperform Machiavelli. In short, we need Modi. What if he kills a few of his citizens provided he can save the majority? Democracy is all about majority, I guess.

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    2. Mr.Tomichand
      I liked the line leaders are their role models but it depends on which leader you choose to have as your role model, the one who will drowse in the parliament or the one who acts tough and takes the country forward.
      What is your post suggestive of? Why don't you write a post on the people who got burnt on that bogie on that unholy night, is it bigotry or communal to write about them.
      The verdict has been given and we look forward to move on even while we know that we had been invaded and abused for 800years whose gory we study as glory but the irony is the majority is branded as communal in our country for questioning the hypocrisies like article 377 and their likes.

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    3. The verdict has been given and the book is about that verdict precisely. It shows just what I'm trying to highlight: how a whole system can be subverted by a single individual.

      I'm not writing about bigotry, if you try to understand it rationally. Bigotry is too commonplace nowadays.

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    4. Rationality is subjectively subject to perception nowadays and perception is not reality but the harsh rational reality is India needs an economic makeover which the common man hopes to see the light of under Modi's rule, that's all, rest all is subversive politics suitable for the English knowing janta.
      Cheers

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  2. Well...with time people change and i hope our prime minister is not the same anymore as he was during the gujarat riots...

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    1. He is not. He need not be. He cannot afford to be. The world has changed. Today everybody has a mobile phone that can record anything at any time anywhere. Communal riots won't work. So Modi will have to try new strategies. But why will he? There are no skies to conquer except what China or Pakistan will leave us!?

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  3. All said (talking of contents of this book), so what does Mr. Manoj want us to do? I prefer a goodnight sleep than venturing out to hunt cobras at night...
    Happy Navratri Tomichan :-)

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    1. Wish you too a Devout Navratri, Anunoy. Well, Manoj Mitta is a journalist with a law degree. It's his interest and passion to follow certain legal events which are historically important. He wrote a similar book about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi (following Indira Gandhi assassination). I think such books are important because they remedy certain distortions that inevitably enter political histories.

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  4. I think that there are so many stories about politicians that show their machinations and murder games. It is a popular thriller genre in fiction. Obviously that fiction is based in the real-life examples and Mr. Modi may be a part of that group. On the other hand, from anicent times, we have parables of criminals turning into sages - like Valmiki & Angulimal. This keeps on raising questions in my mind about how should we look at "criminals-turned-good persons"? How to decide if it is only an act or it is a real conversion?

    Post elections, Modi has been coming out with much more conciliatory and inclusive words - perhaps over the next decade we shall be able to judge if it was an act or sincere.

    Finally, I think that riots are bloody business and Gujarat 2001 was a bloody business. However, I feel uneasy by the hyperbole. Modi evokes strong feelings so people do tend to hyperbole. Seriously, you wish to compare what happened in Gujarat to systematic killing of millions of people by the German state over a period of years? I think it is a way of banalizing what happened in Germany and it diminishes the credibility of accusations about what happened in Gujarat, and reduces the debate to a caricature.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Thanks, Sunil ji, for accepting my invitation. That's a nice gesture on your part.

      If you analyse my writing a little more critically you'll also find shades of admiration for Modi. His rise has been meteoric and strategies mind-blowing. The comparison with Hitler is not at all out of place, as far as I'm concerned. The number of deaths may vary significantly but the strategies are comparable. The vision is the same: one culture, one race, one nation.

      But I hasten to add that post election Modi is changing. He has started appreciating the Muslims, for instance. In that way, he cannot be compared with Hitler any more, perhaps.

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  5. Hello Sir, I am nominating you for the Liebster award. I would be glad if you could accept it, if it isn't against your blog policies.

    http://purposeofexistence.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/and-the-liebster-award-goes-to/

    See you around...

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    1. Thank you so much, Siddharth. I accept your nomination with pride. My only problem is whether I'll gather enough patience to follow it up with the 'terms and conditions' that apply :)

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  6. What happened in Gujarat, post Godhra was bad. Modi has given his position to law and order machinery set up under UPA government. It has not been proven that Modi has done things deliberately. May be he was guilty because he was the chief minister. Give him some benefit of doubt. He was new to his job.

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    1. Dear Abhijit, I'm one of the many people who followed very closely, through the media, what happened in Gujarat. A couple of years after the riots R B Sreekumar, police officer in Gujarat when the riots took place, wrote an autobiographical essay (almost a book) in Malayalam which I read. It proved beyond doubt the complicity of Mr Modi. Sreekumar also deposed before SIT. He was punished by Modi; his promotion was withheld and he later won the case in that regard. Sreekumar wrote much after that which also I read. I read a lot of other documents including the sting operations conducted by Tehelka. Now this book which is very well documented and Mr Modi's complicity is clear to anyone who is willing to suspend disbelief. I'm sure a future novelist will find Mr Modi a very complex character, a kaleidoscopically fascinating one. Let me not say more. He happens to be our PM.

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  7. It has always been this way, "history makes heroes." When I get disturbed by the immorality in politics and of the leaders, I remember Gandhi's quote:
    “Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.”
    In the end, history does differentiate between the good and evil, but the difference is identified after a passage of time. It's difficult to analyse contemporary history with an aloof mind.

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    Replies
    1. Kiran, you remind me of another quote. American philosopher (professor of philosophy) Barrows Dunham said, "Generally speaking, truth has been suffered to exist in the world just to the extent that it profited the rulers of society." Dunham was persecuted by certain vested interests in America for uttering such maxims. History is always written by the victor. Modi has rewritten his history in many ways. He will emerge a hero - he has already, in fact. It's good we have a hero as our PM. But as a writer I'm interested in the whole personality. I think more like a story writer than a historian. I try to understand life from a wider perspective than most people (forgive that self-flattery).

      My intention is not to heap blame on the man but understand him as he is - with his strengths as well as weaknesses. As a man rather than as a demigod which people are making him.

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    2. I still feel, it's early to comment. History is written and rewritten but that's beside the point.
      As a man, I feel Modi is created by our society. A hero who has in many ways done some unheroic deeds. Our society has progressed to a stage where notoriety is a ladder to success rather than good deeds. Modi has travelled the whole path from notoriety (the riots) to where people started noticing him. Since, people started noticing him, all he had to do was direct their attention to his good deeds rather than his evil. For an intelligent man like him, the rest was easy. This is just my perspective. :)

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  8. Isn't he doing waht a PM suppose to do? That's it. Give him time to work. Gujurat, Godhra these are mistakes. Lets dump those and move ahead.

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    1. Of course, he is doing what a PM is supposed to do. The whole India will give him time to work.

      The rest is up to each one of us.

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  9. I hope Modi realizes that running India is not the same as running Gujarat.

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