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home > News/Analysis  > Archive: Selected Analytical Articles  > Lies and Silence

Maun Mushtanda: The Strong, Silent Man
By Mukul Dube

Originally published in Mainstream weekly, vol. xl, no. 37, 31 August 2002. Reposted with Author's Permission

And how did the Government of Gujarat propose to spread the message of communal amity, how would it have applied the "healing touch"? Through ratha yatras, of course, that splendidly martial symbol of Hindu religious pacifism and good will towards all. And what of the pride and glory born of these, their gaurav? Hindutva is full of it.

Mr. Lal K. Advani, Home Minister and now Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of India, is for the most part a silent man. His statements are few and far between. The hush which follows them, which often engulfs even our otherwise increasingly noisy media, suggests that they are The Law. It suggests that Mr. Advani is a Strong Man. Therefore his pronouncements are anxiously awaited. They are widely taken to be barometer and windsock.

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To the simple mind, the Home Minister is meant to look to affairs within the country. In recent months hundreds, even thousands, of Bharatiya nagariks have died in Gujarat. The figures are disputed (Government of Gujarat vs. Rest of the World), but one thing is beyond dispute. It is that the aforesaid Lal K. Advani has been very coy indeed about visiting Gujarat, indisputably a part of India and thus within the jagir of the grihamantri – who, we should also note, owes his seat in Parliament to Gandhinagar in the same province.

Why did Mr. Advani not go and camp in Gujarat after the burning of kar sevaks at Godhra? An event of that nature and magnitude fell squarely in the lap of the Home Minister. Why did the HM not go and tangibly demonstrate his concern and ensure that investigations were launched?

I believe that the answer lies in the safety which distance affords, the safety of silence. Mr. Narendra Modi´s mar sevaks in Gujarat had for long been ideologically primed and physically armed to massacre Muslims. To the safai karmacharis, as these faithful are also called – because the safaya of non-Hindus is their purpose in life, their divinely ordained mission – Godhra was a godsend. Their impatience may have become difficult to control had they been kept waiting much longer. Hungry hyenas can attack one another, and even the Head Hyena is not safe.

The possibility is now being examined that Godhra was not a mere godsend, that it was the work of "human" agency; but that is not a matter which we shall discuss here, beyond saying that if the people in the burning carriage really were sacrificed – or sacrificed themselves – then never in history can there have been a more dishonourable cause.

It is true, of course, that the butchery, rape and burning which followed Godhra chronologically, because it was almost entirely of Muslims, did not cause the Hon´ble Home Minister to leave his important work of running the country. To the nikkardhari, a Muslim can be neither Indian nor even human: so Mr. Advani, whose closets and mind are brimful with the nikkars of Hindutva, would have had no reason to visit Gujarat just because several hundred Muslims´ lives had been snuffed out. There would be time enough later to celebrate the gaurav which came of that extermination of vermin.

Besides, the grihamantri´s boys in Gujarat were doing good work and needed encouragement. His comments from the citadel of Indraprastha were really the praise of a fan-financier-coach for his Dream Team – restrained praise, to be sure, but then the boys will have known that there were too many of the "pseudo-secular" enemy about to permit open speech and the public issuance of instructions.

Let us rapidly recount what was said and what was not done.

On 28 February, at 1605 I.S.T., Mr. Advani was reported as saying in Parliament that the Centre was "in touch" with the Gujarat government to find out if Godhra was what it seemed to be "or there was any other angle to it" []. It does not seem to have occurred to the Hon´ble Home Minister that the burning alive of Hindu religious militants could have unpleasant consequences in a province in which many Muslims lived. It was Opposition members who warned of the danger. What became of their warning? "The home minister then said that he was in touch with the chief minister and would ensure that necessary measures were taken to maintain communal harmony." []

The precise means by which Mr. Advani kept in touch with the Chief Minister of Gujarat - whether a Communion of Souls or a mundane procedure - are not known. What is known is that nothing whatsoever was done to "maintain communal harmony". On the contrary, the cell-phone-carrying, sword-wielding maniacs of Hindutva were left free to maraud, kill, maim, rape, burn at will - and, as some have suggested quite seriously, State apparatus was allowed or ordered to stand by and watch, and also to lend a hand, or a rifle shot, when that seemed advisable.

On 1 March, in seeking to establish that State machinery had not been a mute witness or worse, Mr. Advani cited the 77 deaths which had occurred due to firing by the police [several published sources]. He did not say that of the 40 people thus killed in the first two days, 36 were Muslims. Had he been pressed, perhaps he would have explained away the four tragic deaths as unfortunate accidents of the kind which happen because innocent bystanders always suffer.

On 3 March, Mr. Advani pronounced that Godhra was a "pre-meditated attack", while what happened later was "nothing but communal violence" [several published sources]. In the months since, the Hon´ble Home Minister has produced no evidence to substantiate his claim of premeditation. Nor has he done anything to counter the charge levelled by various individuals and groups that the violence against Muslims was genocide meticulously planned and carried out with the passive and active connivance of State machinery.

On 13 April in Goa, while the National Poet-Statesman Shri Atal B. Vajpayee, he of the trembling knees, fulminated, though in prose, against Muslims the world over, Mr. Lal K. Advani said that the BJP should not be apologetic about its agenda and about Hindutva [several published sources]. It should not be surprising if his mar sevaks took this to be praise of their mayhem-as-nationalism approach to the greater glory of Ramji.

On 1 May, Mr. Advani opined, as always suavely and sagely, that it was the responsibility of the Gujarat administration to restore peace and communal harmony [Hindustan Times, 2 May]. Law and order is a state subject, after all. This was said in the course of denying any need for intervention by the Union Government. He was in fact saying, "My boys are in full control" – and so they were, of course they were. He had to concede that there had been "administrative and police lapses" [Indian Express, 2 May], but the implication was that these were of the order of minor clerical errors, petty bungling which the majestic ship of Hindu Rashtra need not trouble with.

On 16 June in Ahmedabad, Mr. Advani said, "The government´s efforts for rehabilitation is [sic] satisfactory." However, there was a need for the building of "harmony, amity and trust." That same day, by a strange coincidence, the Qaumi Relief Committee of that same city spoke of "broken promises and unfulfilled assurances" and announced that it planned a dharna for the next day [Hindu, 17 June]. Clearly, that Committee was far from satisfied.

But Mr. Advani had said that he was satisfied. He may be a man easy to satisfy: or else he may have been too busy with weighty matters to notice. For example, there was a Tuberculosis Research Bhavan and ayurvedic hospital to be inaugurated, no doubt to bring secular relief to Hindu lungs damaged by the toxic fumes of burning Muslims.

In an interview given to a troublesome U.S. magazine shortly before this, Mr. Advani had said that it had given him "satisfaction that the government took action against the wrongdoers" [Time, 17 June]. Why, then, are Gujarat´s Muslims still afraid to venture out on to the streets, afraid even to return to their own homes? What was the action taken? That we do not know: the strong, silent man never amplifies. It is enough that the world will have read that this had been said by an important man who will have been presumed to be honest and truthful. The honour of Brutus?

But one editorial has described Mr. Advani´s expressing satisfaction with largely or entirely imaginary rehabilitation measures as rubbing salt in the wounds of the victims, nearly all of whom are Muslims [Hindu, 21 June].

And how did the Government of Gujarat propose to spread the message of communal amity, how would it have applied the "healing touch"? Through ratha yatras, of course, that splendidly martial symbol of Hindu religious pacifism and good will towards all. And what of the pride and glory born of these, their gaurav? Hindutva is full of it.

Should we think it a coincidence that the Maun Mushtanda is the Original Latter-Day Maharathi, the noise alone of whose Ratha Yatra in 1990 struck terror in the hearts of so many – including, despite his eminently Hindu name, the present writer?