Manmohan Singh persists with his sanctimonious, self-righteous and intolerably smug pronouncements although his sententiousness increasingly rings hollow. One comment of the Prime Minister stands out for its sheer duplicity in the waffle that was billed as an exclusive interview by the Hindustan Times last week. It first pertains to India being shamed before the world on account of the riots that occurred in Gujarat in 2002.
“The image of India took a beating when the BJP tried to impose a monolithic view on the entire country. If people with extremist and bigoted views come to power, India’s image as a great, liberal, plural and secular democracy will be hurt,” Mr Singh told the newspaper. Such high falutin statements would no doubt impress those who can see nothing wrong with the Congress and a Prime Minister who has cravenly served the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty instead of performing his prime ministerial duties. Public memory being notoriously short, many would fail to recall the Congress’s innumerable sins of omission and commission. Those who came of age this general election would know even less about the Congress’s tainted past.
But since Mr Singh has chosen to raise the issue of “the image of India” taking “a beating”, it would be in order to record that the nation’s image has suffered far worse when the Congress has been in power. If the shine was lost when the BJP was in power — as the Prime Minister claims it was — it hasn’t exactly been restored with him at the helm of the UPA Government. We shall come to this later.
The violence in Gujarat was not, contrary to Mr Singh’s mumbo-jumbo, triggered by the BJP trying to “impose a monolithic view on the entire country”. That’s nothing but a crass attempt to re-write history, something in which the Congress excels, along with its admirers in the Left. The riots followed the torching of two bogeys of the Sabarmati Express, in which Hindu pilgrims were travelling, by a Muslim mob at Godhra on February 27, 2002. In the blaze 58 people were killed — 23 men, 15 women and 20 children. According to a statement made by Mr Singh’s Government in the Rajya Sabha, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus died in the subsequent rioting; 223 people were reported ‘missing’ and 2,548 sustained injuries. Clearly this wasn’t about the BJP “imposing a monolithic view on the entire country”.
If India’s image “took a beating”, as Mr Singh says it did, it was on account of the lies that were forged in the laboratory of neo-Goebbelsian propaganda owned by Teesta Setalvad and publicised as facts by the Congress and its drum-beaters in the media. Horror stories of murder, rape and pillage were put out that have now been found to be untrue. The report of the Special Investigation Team, set up by the Supreme Court, details instances of these lies. The Prime Minister has surely read the report, which, among other things, mentions how identical statements were prepared by Teesta Setalvad and ‘eyewitnesses’ were bullied into signing them. If India stands shamed, it is on account of amoral politicians and crafty activists slyly suppressing facts and manufacturing lies.
And, if the post-Godhra violence, in which both Muslims and Hindus died, resulted in India’s image taking a beating, then the nation’s image was tarnished beyond repair by the numerous riots since 1947 that resulted in thousands of deaths in States ruled by the Congress. We could go back to the distant past and recall the several riots that occurred in Gujarat when the Congress was in power and in which the death toll surpassed that of 2002.
Or we could go back to 1989 when the Congress Government in Bihar did nothing to quell the Bhagalpur riots in which, according to official figures, 1,070 people were killed and 524 injured. For the benefit of Mr Singh, it should also be recalled that 11,500 houses were destroyed, displacing 48,000 people, in those riots that couldn’t have enhanced, by his own logic, India’s image. Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, who subsequently came to power in Bihar, did nothing to prosecute the guilty or follow-up on eyewitness accounts; that task has now been taken up by the JD(U)-BJP Government. Mr Yadav, as we all know, is a senior Cabinet colleague of Mr Singh. Interestingly, participating in a parliamentary debate soon after the Bhagalpur riots, Mr Yadav had squarely blamed the Congress for the terrible blood-letting. “It is the Congress that has engineered most of the riots,” he had thundered. Of course, he wouldn’t recall that speech today.
We could also recall the Nellie massacre of February 18, 1983 in which 2,191 men, women and children, some of them suckling infants, were slain in cold blood. Doubts still persist about the actual death toll; survivors insist at least 5,000 people perished in that pre-dawn slaughter. That carnage could have been averted had Mrs Indira Gandhi, of whom Mr Singh no doubt cherishes fond memories, not insisted upon holding a bogus Assembly election amid the anti-foreigners’ agitation because she wanted the incumbent Congress Government in Assam to continue to remain in power. Nellie could not have given India a good name.
Mr Singh feigns amnesia, but he needs to be told that India did not quite come out smelling of roses after the 1984 pogrom in which more than 4,000 Sikhs were brutally murdered by Congress hoodlums led by those whom the party now lists as its ‘leaders’ and rewards them with tickets to contest parliamentary elections. Twenty-five years later, the victims still wait for justice. As do those who survived the Maliana massacre. Surely Mr Singh has heard of it?
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