[Promotional flyer used for Prime Minister Modi's 'Mann ki Baat' scheduled to be aired on February 26, 2017 (Received via e-mail)]
On February 16 when I logged in to my email account, one message which popped up on my computer screen was from the Prime Minister's Office. The message, sent every month, asks for suggestions on 'Mann Ki Baat' - the monthly radio show aired ever since Narendra Modi has become the prime minister.
Three days later on February 19, while addressing an election rally in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh Prime Minister Modi was talking of 'Electricity during Ramzan and Holi' and 'Land for Qabrastan and Shamsan'.
On February 22 Amit Shah, BJP President and his close aide, was invoking Ajmal Kasab - the Pakistani terrorist convicted in Mumbai terror attack case and later hanged, to attack his political opponents.
Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah both of them have been since 2012 when the former decided to enter into the national politics talking about development, and about their worries and urge for the empowerment and betterment of '125 crore Indians', in their own words 'Sab ka saath sab ka vikaas'.
Modi organised 'Sadhbhavna' rallies in Gujarat, and while campaigning for the 2014 General Elections vociferously coined 'Acche Din', 'development of 125 crore Indians', 'Sab ka saath sab ka vikaas' and other such 'appealing' slogans - all this efforts aimed at image makeover from 'Maut ka saudagar' to 'Vikas Purush'.
Modi's efforts did not go in vain. For, trusting his words and relying on his assertions, millions of Indians, including traditional and diehard supporters of other big and smaller political parties, lined up outside polling booths to extend their support to the newly born 'Vikas Purush'.
Such was the magic of Modi and wave in his favour that people were had little concern about the BJP or the candidates in the fray. For them, the two represented Modi and hence deserve their votes. I especially remember a case when a woman, in her 90s, came to the polling booth and asked the polling officer not about the name of the candidate or the BJP party symbol, but for 'Modi ka button kaun sa hai'.
Modi has changed, most of the people believed after he became prime minister. Their belief became stronger when Modi invited SAARC leaders including Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif for the swearing -in ceremony, when he entered the Parliament for the first time – bowed down and his forehead touching the stairs of the symbol of Indian democracy, and when he set on a series of foreign tours one after the other, for what the country was made to believe, to assert India's clout at international forums and get foreign investment, and hence bring a kind of 'economic revival' in the country which none of his predecessors had done in the past.
Simultaneously on the home turf Modi announced and launched in mega events various schemes with interesting and appealing names to strengthen his image, though his opponents accused him of repacking and renaming the UPA schemes, and being an ‘event manager’.
On one hand Modi was busy strengthening his new avatar, his fellow party men were engaged in hate mongering, even targeting and killing innocents in the name of 'love jihad', cow slaughter and the likes. Allegations of intolerance were raised through various platforms and by renowned scholars, academicians and dignitaries.
Against this backdrop, it was expected from Modi, now the prime minister, to speak out. Expectations were high especially when he addressed the nation on occasions like from the Red Fort on the occasion of Independence Day. But, he maintained a guarded silence. Being insisted, he shrugged off by maintaining that his mission is only development, development and development of the 125 crore Indians.
In between though he fumbled, like his infamous refusal to don a cap during his Sadhbhavna rally and failed to hide his true self. Recently when he expressed concerns over the attacks by cow vigilantes on Dalits while addressing the BJP conclave in Hyderabad but skipped referring attacks on Muslims because of the same reasons. This was pathetic for a prime minister to talk like this, especially for someone who never missed an opportunity to coin his opt-repeated 'sab ka saath sab ka vikas' mantra.
However, his Fatehpur speech on February 19 was devoid of any hidden intent. It was plain, open, brazenly targeted and deliberate. Hence it reminded us of his past and the way he alleged to have used politics of violence, hate and division to build his career. On top in the list is 2002 Gujarat riots when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat and more than 2,500 Muslims were brutally killed and thousands of others were injured, left homeless and without any livelihood right under his nose.
There were also instances of rape, children being burned alive, and widespread looting and destruction of property. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, was accused of initiating and condoning the violence, as have police and government officials, who allegedly directed the rioters and gave lists of Muslim-owned properties to them, according to various reports.
True, Modi is not alone who has been accused of using violence and riots for political mileage. There are others like Advani and his team for their ‘Hate Yatra’ and Babri Masjid demolition movement, P Chidambaram for his alleged role in Hashimpura massacre of Muslims in 1987, the alleged involvement of Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath and others in anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and the alleged role of Bal Thackeray and his team in 1992 Mumbai riots.
But, doesn't Modi as Prime Minister realise that Muslims, Dalits and other minorities have suffered in India and one reason why they are at the bottom of the economic pyramid is the targeted violence against them? We can’t expect from a BJP leader or RSS Pracharak to acknowledge this open reality, but as a concerned Indian, we must from a Prime Minister.
Last month Prime Minister conveyed his best wishes to students in his 'Mann ki Baat' as it coincided with their annual exams. The month of February coincides with the 2002 Gujarat riots. Let us hope in his 'Mann ki Baat' tomorrow Prime Minister Modi talks about communal riots and gives a call to eliminate this menace from the country.
Footnote: Muslims are always advised to ‘forget and move on’. Strangely, the same people who give this advice to Muslims, commemorate, remember and mourn …. what? Check the calendar. There is a huge list.
[Aleem Faizee is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be reached at email@example.com]