FACT: It is not astonishing to see the media level absolutely false and wrong charges on the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. But what is astonishing is the extent to which the media goes in putting unbelievable factual errors and sticking to them, and believing its own lies. These days, the livid media and political parties opposed to Narendra Modi have all made full use of the myths and lies concocted on him. Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi has said many times,”BJP never expressed regret for the Gujarat riots”. The much-repeated claim that Narendra Modi never expressed regret at the Gujarat riots before December 2013 is absolutely wrong.
Narendra Modi has expressed regret for the riots and termed the riots as ‘unfortunate’ . In an interview to Aaj Tak‘s Prabhu Chawla on its program Seedhi Baat, the excerpts of which were published in India Today weekly dated 4 Nov 2002, Narendra Modi was asked “Prime Minister Vajpayee and Home Minister Advani have said that whatever happened in Gujarat was wrong” to which he said, “I say the same thing. The communal riots in Gujarat were unfortunate and we are sad they took place.”
After the 2002 Gujarat riots Narendra Modi made a statement in the State Assembly (Vidhan Sabha) in March 2002. One paragraph from that statement is: “Are we not supposed to soul-search ourselves? Whether it is Godhra incident or post-Godhra it does not enhance the prestige of any decent society. The riots are a stigma on humanity and do not help anyone to hold his head high. Then why is there a difference of opinion”.
When Narendra Modi went on his “Sadbhavana fast” in Gujarat in 2011,some newspapers said ,
“In a statement interpreted as his first sign of regret over the 2002 post-Godhra violence, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi Friday said the pain of anyone in the state is “my pain” and he had a duty to do justice for everyone.”Constitution of India is supreme for us. As a Chief Minister of the state, pain of anybody in the state is my pain. (Delivering) Justice to everyone is the duty of the state,” Modi said on the eve of his three-day fast.”
It wasn’t merely this paper, almost the entire media said the same thing. What a ridiculous interpretation from the media, and how factually incorrect it reported! The 2011 statement was not the ‘first sign of regret’, he had directly expressed sadness and condemned riots many times before, right from 2002. The BJP’s public relations work truly doesn’t seem to be up to the mark. How it allowed such a massive lie to crop up without ever bothering to try to bring out the truth is beyond comprehension.
What is correct is that Narendra Modi has not apologized for the Gujarat riots, and rightly so. Apology is given when someone does something wrong, makes a mistake and asks for forgiveness for a mistake. What wrong has Narendra Modi done? He actually has done an excellent work in controlling the 2002 riots, his administration saved more than 24,000 Muslims and many Hindus too, the riots were controlled in 3 days while weeklies like India Today and Outlookpredicted weeks of violence on 28 Feb, he frantically called the Army to Ahmedabad on 28 Feb 2002, ordered preventive arrests of 827 people on 27 Feb itself, gave ‘shoot-at-sight’ orders in Godhra on 27 Feb itself (primarily aimed at Hindus who could have retaliated in Godhra). His government spent more than 204 crores rupees on relief and rehabilitation measures, built houses, opened relief camps, etc. Strong action was taken against the rioters, with as many as 35,552 arrests made as of 28 April 2002, including 27,901 Hindus. Already, in just 11 years at least 443 people have been convicted in at least 50 cases for the riots, including 332 Hindus and 111 Muslims (including 31 Muslims for Godhra and 80 for post-Godhra). The media’s argument often is “The Congress has apologized for the 1984 riots. Will the BJP apologize for the 2002 Gujarat riots?” This was asked by Arnab Goswami to BJP leader Nalin Kohli on 16 May 2009 on TV after the BJP’s massive debacle in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
There is absolutely no need to equate the two. Firstly there is not a single parallel between the post-Godhra riots of 2002 and the 1984 riots. We have seen the contrasts between these two riots. Secondly, Congress apologizing for the riots is not an action of credit. Apologizing means accepting culpability in the 1984 riots in which 3,000 Sikhs were killed. Is the sin of killing 3,000 forgivable by merely issuing an apology? Accepting culpability for the death of 3,000 people means the party deserves severe punishment. 3,000 murders cannot be pardoned and condoned by an apology. The then Congress Government took no action against the rioters, hardly any arrests were made and hardly 30 people in 12 cases have been convicted as claimed by CNN-IBN in 28 years, till August 2012. For what should the BJP or Narendra Modi apologize? They have done absolutely nothing wrong, controlled violence in Gujarat in record time even after a shocking massacre like Godhra, while it took previous Congress Governments several months to stop riots in 1985 and 1969 even without any cause like Godhra.
It should be remembered that not a single English newspaper actually accused the Chief Minister Narendra Modi of any wrongdoing on the actual days of the riots, i.e. 28 Feb 2002 (Thursday), 1st March 2002 (Friday) and 2nd March 2002. As a matter of fact, not a single newspaper, except for The Indian Express, accused the police of any inaction on the day of the worst violence i.e. 28 February in its report the next day. All English newspapers, like The Hindu, The Tribune etc reported that the violence was out of control, the police were overwhelmingly outnumbered, the fire brigade ran out of water, and still the police did its best, arrested 700 people on 28 Feb, shot dead at least 10 people in police firing, the Chief Minister Narendra Modi frantically called the Army units to Ahmedabad, etc.
See the report of The Hindu and The Telegraph dated 1st March 2002 covering events of 28 Feb. Do any of them accuse Narendra Modi or the police of any deliberate culpability? After this day, 28 Feb, no one, not even The Indian Express accused the administration or police of any inaction. In fact, The Indian Express reported on 2nd March 2002 that on 1st March 2002 (Friday, the second day of the riots), “The police, its credibility at its lowest, tried to salvage its reputation intervening in some clashes by opening fire. 20 were killed in police firing across the state, 12 in Ahmedabad.” All accusations on Narendra Modi and demands for his resignation, dismissal started AFTER the riots. This was because, the media wanted some scapegoat to be made for the riots. It wanted Modi to sack a few police officers, drop a minister or two. But Modi did nothing of the sort. He did not blame anyone, did not make anyone a scapegoat. In an interview to NDTV broadcast in March/April 2004, Narendra Modi said to Shekhar Gupta (Editor of The Indian Express), “You all wanted that someone be made scapegoat. I did not do that. I allowed you to break all pots on my head alone. You have all decided, all these riots happened under this man (Narendra Modi). Until this man is removed from the Chief Minister’s post, we will not rest in peace. My best wishes to you in your mission.” Narendra Modi did not resign, and the BJP did not dismiss him, so the media was livid.