Since it is the season for writing open letters, I am humbly shooting off this missive to you.
I am no fan of yours, but even I can’t help admiring the way you took on the central government on the Lokpal issue and managed to snatch a semblance of victory. Your methods, though deeply discomfiting to me, have undoubtedly had an effect. Your brand of moral certainty and self righteousness, though terribly disconcerting and pretentious in my eyes, has certainly found ‘resonance’ with the masses.
Therefore, after much thought, I am convinced that you are the only person in the country today who can secure some sort of closure to the 2002 Gujarat riots victims by embarrassing Narendra Modi.
When one of the many anchors scrambling for an interview with the Gujarat chief minister on the occasion of his 5-star fast, asked him whether it was time to own up ‘moral responsibility’ for 2002, the reigning deity of Bapu’s home state replied with a chilling counter question, “What’s that?”
As I fell off my chair, appalled at the man’s breathtaking brazenness, I realised for the first time that he simply does not seem to have any concept of ‘remorse’, leave alone a conscience that yearns for ‘sadbhavana’.
Modi is basically like one of those medieval kings, who consider the slaughter of minority subjects as an inevitable part of ‘rajdharma’. The riots of 2002, according to his primer on ‘ruling’, were a harsh punishment in which a community needed to be taught a lesson they would never ever forget. Thus, where’s the question of expressing regret and making amends even 10 years down the line?
And it is precisely because one is dealing with a person who is unmoved by considerations of decency or humanity, that I turn to you, dear Anna. The UPA government bowed to you, not because of the moral force of your demands, but because of the tremendous televised furore your fast created and the palpable public anger against the social evil of corruption it set into motion.
Just think about it. Wouldn’t it also be the perfect strategy to reform Modi with? Why not launch an agitation against Modi now, demanding immediate, dignified rehabilitation of the riot victims as well as insisting on the setting up of a truth tribunal on the riots to prepare the ground for lasting ‘sadabhavana’?
Anna, you are a proven giant killer as well as the toast of television crews. No other Indian enjoys the kind of popularity, credibility and stature you have at the moment to successfully challenge the raw chauvinism that lies behind Modi’s appeal. Moreover, if you lead the fight, the middle class, which has more or less blinded itself to the horror of communalism just as ordinary Germans once did about anti -Semitism during the Nazi era, might just be forced to look beyond Modi’s carefully crafted image and recognise that communalism is at least as much an evil as corruption.
More importantly, Modi will not be able to shrug you off, the way he can ward off most political attacks aimed at him by other political parties. With you Anna, Modi cannot forego decency and resort to his usual macho Hindutva and Gujarat rhetoric, since as an adversary you belong to a different category altogether, apart from your own ability to deliver some earthy, knockout homilies to Modi in a language that might leave him speechless for once.
You also have people like Prashant Bhushan and Medha Patkar in your team who have had run-ins with Modi in the past and know a few chinks in his armour. Please Anna, you might just be able to pull it off and kickstart the process of delivering long-delayed justice for the Gujarat riot victims.
If you do that, Anna, you will have managed to deliver crippling blows to both the leading political parties in quick succession — to the Congress on corruption and to the BJP on communalism.
Wouldn’t that go a long way in sending a message all around and trigger a paradigm change in the politics of the country?
Do it Anna! India needs the ‘good’ fight against the likes of Modi too!
The writer is a Pune-based author and film-maker.