Friday, September 04, 2015

Patidar agitation: Chinese scholars draw parallel with 2002 communal riots, wonder if this is "vibrant Gujarat"

The Chinese paper cartoon in the wake of Patidar agitation
By Our Representative
Two recent commentaries in China’s state-controlled English language newspaper, “The Global Times” have talked of “rampant violence in Ahmedabad” in the wake of the Patidar agitation on August 25, pointing towards how they were the result of poor governance under Prime Minister Narendra Mod’s state.
The titles of the articles themselves are significant. While of them reads, “Caste contentions deepen as Modi struggles to deliver campaign promises”, the second one’s heading says, “Unemployment, youthful population drive riots in Modi’s former province”.
The first article, authored by a PhD scholar, Xie Chao, advises Modi that “development” cannot solve social problems. “Will development solve all problems? Can social problems be solved if the economy simply grows? Obviously, the answer is more complicated than such a simple solution of development”, it says.
Recalling that “at least 10 people” were killed in the wake of the Patidar agitation, the article says,
“The tragic event reminds us of the same state in 2002, when a succession of inter-communal riots caused hundreds of casualties.”
“In 2002, Narendra Modi, currently Indian prime minister and then the chief minister of Gujarat, was widely criticized for his mishandling of the situation after government inaction let violence against Muslims go unchecked”, Chao says.
According to the scholar, “If police inaction caused widespread violence in 2002, it was the excessive use of police force that plunged the state back into violence 13 years later”.
The scholar says, “Amid waves of criticism of the heavy-handed police reaction, Modi came out to endorse the local police and cleared further responsibility for more government attention to communal issues by saying that India needs development.”
Qualifying the talk of development as "the only solution of all problems" a mere “rhetoric”, the scholar says, it has “failed to console the state's minorities.” He adds, “Economic development won't solve all problems. The fact is that fast-growing Indian states cannot save themselves from communal violence, let alone those which are struggling in poverty.”
“Gujarat, after decades of fast development, is now ranked as one of the most prosperous states in India, but the nightmare of communal confrontation continues to haunt it”, the scholar says.
Coming to the Patidars, the scholar says, it is “among the richest” communities in Gujarat, adding, “Historically, they were landowners and farmers and now constitute a visible presence in Gujarat's economy.”
“National brands such as Nirma detergents and Zydus Cadila pharmaceuticals, and 70 percent of the US motel industry, are in their hands. But they are now standing among the fiercest in fighting for reserved places”, the scholar says.
He underlines, “While Modi and some others believe that the 2014 elections were about the economy alone, caste politics still prevails. The current communal upheavals also call into question the image of a prosperous and vibrant Gujarat that Modi tried to sell to the world.”
The scholar adds, “If the Gujarat model was so successful and so transformative, how could this caste-centric mobilization erupt and end so violently? Why should other states buy into the rhetoric?”
The second article, authored by Zhao Gancheng, director of the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, is a little controlled in tone.
Calling Patidar agitation "riots", Gancheng says, “The riots in Gujarat are harmful to Modi's image, since he is a former chief minister of the state. One of the main reasons for Modi's victory in the 2014 general election is the achievements Gujarat has gained under Modi's leadership. But the riots have struck a heavy blow to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

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