Gujarat chief minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has chosen the perfect moment. After an Ahmedabad court rejected the protest petition of Zakia Jafri over his alleged complicity in the 2002 Gujarat riots along with others on Thursday and he had run the legal gauntlet unscathed, he has decided to speak his mind and his heart. The liberals had for the last 11 years wanted him to utter the mea culpa and peccavi after the electoral triumphs in 2002, 2007 and 2012. He did not oblige.
He had made the Twitter statement where he repeated the national motto, Satyameva Jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs) after the court’s pronouncement on Thursday. Now that he has an unambiguous “not guilty” from the judicial quarter, he has chosen to bare his soul to his heart’s content. And he showed no restraint as what he has written seemed to be a literal outpouring of pent-up words. He wrote: “…the mindless violence of 2002 had dealt us another unexpected blow. Innocents were killed. Families rendered helpless. Property built through years of toil destroyed...I was shaken to the core. ‘Grief’, ‘sadness’, ‘misery’, ‘pain’, ‘anguish’, ‘agony’ - mere words could not capture the absolute emptiness one felt on witnessing such inhumanity.
The syntax seems to be Modi’s own. No ghost-writer has worked at it. The stylists might frown at this but he seems to have resorted to some sort of gruff sorrow. And he knows the media trope of disarming confession: “This is the first time I am sharing the harrowing ordeal I had gone through in those days at a personal level.”
He cleverly explains the silence of the years over the event. He cites the scriptures and says that those in power cannot express their agony and sorrow. Modi says: “During those challenging times, I often recollected the wisdom in our scriptures; explaining how those seating (sic) in positions of power did not have the right to share their own pain and anguish. They had to suffer it in solitude. I lived through the same, experiencing this anguish in searingly sharp intensity. In fact, whenever I remember those agonising days, I have only one earnest prayer to god. That never again should such cruelly unfortunate days come in the lives of any other person, society, state or nation.”
Modi has also placed the tragedy of the 2002 riots on the same continuum as that of the Bhuj earthquake of 2001. He said that the state faced one calamity after another. He says, “On one side was the pain of the victims of the earthquake, and on the other the pain of the victims of the riots. In decisively confronting this great turmoil, I had to single-mindedly focus all the strength given to me by the Almighty, on the task of peace, justice and rehabilitation; burying the pain and agony I was personally wracked with.”
And he takes pains to explain that right from the day of the Godhra incident he had appealed for restraint and peace. He writes openly than ever before that he was concerned about the riots and that he had spoken out against them. He says that “it was from these very built up emotions that I had appealed to the people of Gujarat on the day of the Godhra train burning itself; fervently urging for peace and restraint to ensure lives of innocents were not put at risk.
I had repeatedly reiterated the same principles in my daily interactions with the media in those fateful days of February-March 2002 as well; publicly underlining the political will as well as moral responsibility of the government to ensure peace, deliver justice and punish all guilty of violence.”
And he says that he had reiterated the same emotions at the Sadbhavana fasts. And in his peroration, he exclaims, “However, as if all the suffering was not enough, I was also accused of the death and misery of my own loved ones, my Gujarati brothers and sisters. Can you imagine the inner turmoil and shock of being blamed for the very events that have shattered you!”
It appears that he was waiting for this moment of vindication to give free vent to his thoughts and emotions. Will the Muslims be moved by Modi’s contrition? Even if they do not, Modi must heave a sigh of relief that he has come out of the public tribulation of the last decade with his unscathed credentials as a chief minister.