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India: Memory and Modi

by Mukul Dube, 23 March 2014

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Written 22/23 March 2014 for possible
publication in “Mainstream” Weekly

I see around me a massive failure of memory. Narendra Damodardas Modi headed the pack of which the Supreme Court of India said, in April 2004, “The modern day Neros were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning,...”
( The man is now considered by some to be good enough to be the country’s prime minister. He is called a “Vikas Purush”, the many large stains of blood on and around him having been painted over by his expensive public relations team.

I do not know who pays the dollars that this on-going spit and polish job costs. If it is not the BJP-RSS but the state of Gujarat, then we know where the money is going which could have achieved much, including a lowering of child mortality. Here is a newspaper report from September 2013: “In all, six districts in Gujarat had high child mortality rate, five in Andhra Pradesh, three in Arunachal Pradesh, two in Jammu and Kashmir and one each in Himachal and Karnataka” (

It has been pointed out that the vikas presided over by Modi has greatly enriched a few while pushing the poor into destitution or towards the only viable alternative, suicide.

“The ordinary people of Gujarat have paid a heavy price for its economic growth,” says Rohini Hensman. “Gujarat has one of the highest poverty levels of all the Indian states. Huge swathes of land allocated to corporates have displaced lakhs of farmers, fishermen, pastoralists, agricultural workers, Dalits and Adivasis.... Gujarat has the highest prevalence of hunger and lowest human development indices among states with comparable per capita income, its implementation of NREGA is the worst among large states, and Muslims, ‘in particular, fare poorly on parameters of poverty, hunger, education and vulnerability on security issues’” (

The media are now seen to be promoting Modi unabashedly. Television channels are more active in this than print publications, I am told (I do not watch television). Many of those who now push the man were critical of him in 2002 and later. Their memories appear to have failed them: they have forgotten that in the past they had called their new hero a criminal.

But there are many of us whose memories are better. We remember many things that point squarely to Modi’s being completely the wrong choice for any position of leadership.

If we grant, for the time being, that Modi did not tell his police and his administration to “allow Hindus three days to vent their anger”, that he cannot be called the architect of the genocide or even a witting “modern day Nero”, we are left with the inescapable conclusion that he is a crashing failure as an administrator. The rampaging hoodlums of Hindutva had excellent transport arrangements, but there was no sign of such for the army when it was called in — and was deployed much too late to have any effect.

We remember that Vajpayee, although himself also an RSS man, reminded Modi of raj dharma.

We remember also that Modi likened the camps where homeless Muslims were forced to live — camps which were run with no assistance from his state’s administration — to “child producing centres”. This was in his “Hum paanch, hamare pachees” speech at Becharaji on 9 September 2002 (

We remember, finally, the oath which every chief minister must utter at the time of being sworn in: “I ... swear ... that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India ... and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.”

We know that this Mister Modi is anything but even handed. Our memories are intact.